Radio Waves: Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio
Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers. To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’sRadio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Jonathan Marks, Kim Elliott, and Dennis Dura for the following tips:
Michael Pack’s stormy tenure over the federal agency that oversees government-funded broadcasters abroad – including the Voice of America – appears to be coming to a close. Yet President Trump’s appointee has sparked an internal outcry by taking bold steps to try to cement his control over at least two of the networks and to shape the course of their journalism well into the Biden administration.
Pack, the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, also serves as chairman of the boards of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. Pack and the members of the boards have now added binding contractual agreements intended to ensure that they cannot be removed for the next two years. Pack stocked those boards with conservative activists and Trump administration officials, despite a tradition of bipartisanship.
In other words, although President-elect Joe Biden has already signaled he intends to replace Pack as CEO of the parent agency soon after taking office next month, Pack would maintain a significant degree of control over the networks. Pack and USAGM declined requests for comment.
NPR has reviewed the language of the contracts, which have yet to be signed by the new presidents of the two networks – both of whom were appointed by Pack this month. The Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contract was slated to be approved on Wednesday but appears to have been withdrawn from consideration after internal objections and inquiries from Congressional aides, NPR and other media. It is unclear what the future holds for the initiative from Pack.[…]
Click here to download the RFE/RFA protest letter.
The postwar American presence on Berlin’s airways that began in the summer of 1945 when the city was still digging itself out of the rubble of World War II ended this month as the last U.S. radio station in the German capital ceased operation. For years, the station, known in its final iteration as KCRW Berlin, offered listeners a daily helping of local English-language news and eclectic music.
The idea behind the station was to deliver Berliners a dose of unfiltered Americana and to serve as a transatlantic bridge. Even in an era of podcasts, the offering found a loyal if small audience, from daily commuters to American expats.
“It’s a sad moment embodying the end of a tradition,” Anna Kuchenbecker, a member of KRCW Berlin’s board, said, blaming the shutdown on the pandemic. KCRW Berlin was operated in partnership with a California public radio affiliate with the same call sign. The economic fallout of the coronavirus forced the U.S. station to make steep cuts, including layoffs.
The closure comes at a time of deepening estrangement between the U.S. and Germany following years of Donald Trump’s attacks on Berlin. The longtime allies have recently been at odds across a range of issues, from climate policy and trade to foreign policy.
KCRW Berlin wasn’t eligible to receive any of the billions in broadcast fees the German government collects in order to finance domestic public television and radio. Former station officials say it would have been up to KCRW in California and NPR, which is partly funded by the U.S. government, to save the Berlin operation.
“The pain that we are feeling with KCRW Berlin going away is something that is not necessarily felt in the U.S.,” the station’s program director Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson said.
But even in its home city, the station’s death received little attention; Berlin media barely took notice of KCRW’s shuttering or what it signified, noting the move only in passing.[…]
Many thanks to Jonathan Marks–former host of RNW’s Media Network and curator of the Media Network Vintage Vault–who kindly shares the following videos from Radio Netherlands.
The first video is from the 1960s and promotes RNW’s move to the Witte Kruislaan building. The second video highlights the Radio Netherlands Flevo Transmitter Site and also includes a lot of “B roll” material (without audio) that Jonathan commissioned.
Check out the videos and Jonathan’s descriptions below:
When Radio Netherlands moved into their new building in Witte Kruislaan in 1961, they asked Pete van der Kleut to make a film to help in promotion. He shot it in a couple of days on zero budget and a few rolls of film- it was pure theatre with people in various departments doing all sort of things on cue. Everybody is incredibly busy discussing things, the head of the newsroom is correcting copy before it is broadcast, and the poor guy in the newsroom doesn’t know which phone to answer first. Women play only support roles, tidying up, typing and organizing things, The problem was that until the mid nineties this was the only footage of Radio Netherlands in the national sound archive. And when cuts came that were reported on the NOS Journaal, the same 60’s footage was often repeated – confirming the picture that RNW was stuck in the past. Again, the be fair, the sound has been changed on this version. The original over the top commentary was in Dutch.
Radio Netherlands Flevo Transmitter Site and B roll material
During my time as Programme Director at Radio Netherlands I commissioned various video clips to make sure we had current video material of the building, newsroom, continuity, and documentation. This was just raw footage done one day in July 2001 and 2002. This sequence starts with video from the Flevoland transmitter site when it was fully operational. Transmitters have since been removed and the site is silent.
Thanks so much for sharing these videos, Jonathan! As I’ve mentioned many times before, you’re doing such an amazing service to the community by curating, archiving and sharing all of this RNW media. Thank you.
Many thanks to Jonathan Marks–former host of RNW’s Media Network and curator of the Media Network Vintage Vault–who kindly shares a collection of photos he took in 2001 and 2002 at RNW’s headquarters in Hilversum.
Click on the images below to enlarge:
The RNW Newsroom in August 2002
The BVN Television Crew in 2001
Amazing photos–thank you for sharing these, Jonathan! You’ve done such an amazing service to the community by curating, archiving and sharing RNW media. Thank you.
[Additionally] I have started the prequels to Media Network’s return in 2017.
I found a great cassette sent to me by Africa media correspondent Richard Ginbey in 1989. Richard was a music presenter, first in South Africa, later moving to Windhoek. But I guess his passion was listening to his shortwave radio. And with nothing more than a cassette recorder he put together some fascinating portraits of broadcasting history as observed from a listeners’ perspective.
Richard also made features which traced the history of broadcasting in Africa, making some recordings which track the path to independence for many countries. I’m pretty sure many of these bandscans from the 1980’s and before have long since disappeared from official archives. So, here’s a chance to listen again to Richard Ginbey’s media view. I’ve put together several episodes back to back. Enjoy.
Thank you so much for sharing this, Jonathan. I might contact you soon about adding those cassette recordings to the shortwave archive. Absolutely priceless stuff! And the return of Media Networks? Please keep us informed!
A radio Christmas spent in the Media Network studio way back in 1996. Sounds like we were having fun! I look back on this period as perhaps one of the golden years for Dutch external broadcasting, producing a range of documentary productions in English and Spanish and recording great concerts, both classical and jazz.
This programme focussed on answering listeners’ letters on subjects like satellite television in Australia (DW was organising a bouquet of signals) and the major changes to the commercial radio scene in New Zealand. The auction of FM frequencies in the Netherlands and shortwave stations that sold radios were also topics for discussions. RBI archives have, for the most part, been destroyed. Swiss shortwave listeners were quizzed on their listening habits. The 410 ft tower formerly used by AFN has been dynamited out of existence. Capital Radio in South Africa is in trouble.
I met the late Harold Robin a couple of times at his home in Tunbridge Wells, UK. He was a brilliant Foreign Office engineer who built the wartime Aspidistra transmitter famous for its clandestine work out of Crowborough. Have a listen to the programmes Wartime Deception and you’ll see what I mean.
Although his work during the war is well documented in books like “The Black Game”by Ellic Howe, I think we managed to capture the other stories from later in his life. For instance, how he invented the “Picolo” modulation system as used by the diplomatic service to communicate text over shortwave between embassies. He also built the BBC Overseas relay station in Oman, and the external service of UAE Radio from Dubai. This edition, recorded after Christmas in 1995, looked at the story of the British response to the declaration of independence by Ian Smith in, what was then, Rhodesia. Harold talks about setting up a mediumwave transmitter in a matter of weeks in the town of Francistown, in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now called Botswana. Thanks also to Colin Miller for some of the recordings of the RBC. It seems that one of the two transmitters was sent to Cyprus after the World and Rhodesia operation ended, the other ended up in Ordfordness for some experiments on 648 kHz. You might also want to check out the video of Margaret Howard, who refers to a special programme transmitted over this MW sender. It was called the World and Rhodesia and was more of a UK government editorial than any programme the BBC would make. The programme concept didn’t work although it seemed to have taken the British government a couple of years to find out. Harold refers to staying in theTati Hotel River Lodge, about 8 kms outside of Francistown. Sure enough, it’s still there.
I picked this recording out of the archives because it has a nice capsule summary of the major media stories from 1982. The highlight was, of course, the Falklands-Malvinas “conflict”. This programme contains clips from the FIBS, RAE Argentina and the BBC’s Calling the Falklands Programme. We also looked in some detail at the short-lived Radio South Atlantic which broadcast in May and June 1982 from a requisitioned BBC transmitter on Ascension Island. We asked the British Ministry of Defence to explain how the station was operated. We also analyzed a transmission broadcast on May 20th 1982 (the second night of transmission).
But it was also the last programme in which Wim van Amstel appeared as RNW Frequency Manager. It was certainly not the last time he was heard on the programme, though. Again it is striking to hear some of the predictions – and how they were spot on. The call with Arthur Cushen in New Zealand is rather like making contact with the moon. Cannot believe how fast time has flown.
At the time of publishing this podcast, I was also sad to hear of the passing of BBC correspondent and broadcaster Brian Hanrahan, who famous line when broadcasting under censorship from the Falklands Fleet was brilliant. Unable to reveal how many British aircraft had been involved in the conflict, he reported that after one sortie he “counted them all out and I counted them all back.
This was a news show 1.6 million tune in to Radio Netherlands in Dutch during their summer holiday. WWV and WWVH have had problems with their automated time announcements. Drum recorders are back on line. Victor Goonetilleke has news about Cambodia. VOA is having challenges building its transmitters at a new site 50km North of Colombo.
Why did we broadcast all these numbers? People forget none of the listeners had access on-line and only a fraction of the audience had access to printed DX bulletins. Andy Sennitt reports on what is in the 1992 World Radio TV Handbook. James Robinson reports that several UK local radio stations are leaving mediumwave. WLS 890kHz is scrapping its FM format. A new Catholic SW station WEWN was being built in Birmingham, Alabama. (The late) Dave Rosenthal reports on an experiment in McMurdo. Remember this show is 24 years old!
Vasily Strelnikov signs off at Radio Moscow World Service and recommends people to tune into Radio Netherlands. Radio Moscow staff watch the red flags of the USSR being lowered.
Thanks so much for sharing these, Jonathan–and Season’s Greetings to you!
I’m looking forward to several hours of listening over the coming days.
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