Tag Archives: Radio Liberty

Radio Waves: Tribute to Gene Pell, Dangerous AM Demonstration, White House Criticism of VOA, and Essex Online Classes Break Records

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’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Troy Riedel, Dennis Dura, and Dan Robinson for the following tips:


Ernest Eugene “Gene” Pell 1937-2020 (Radio Free Europe)

As noted in this obituary published by his hometown newspaper, The Paducah Sun, Ernest Eugene “Gene” Pell, 83, died quietly on April 7, 2020, at his home near Syria, after a 3-year battle with cancer. Pell served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) from 1985-1993, leading the Radios during the peaceful revolutions that occurred in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union from 1989-1992.

In Tribute to Gene Pell

In 1989, we who were privileged to serve in the management of RFE/RL as Gene Pell’s colleagues watched the awesome professionalism of RFE/RL’s broadcasters as peaceful revolution swept from the Baltics to the Balkans, and the Radios helped each country share with others the power – even the slogans – of peaceful protest, and the wisdom of restraint by police and armed forces.

Romania was a tragic exception. Ceaucescu’s regime was doomed by RFE’s broadcast of a recording of the shooting of civilians protesting in Timisoara. As Ceaucescu fled Bucharest, and violence by unknown combatants erupted, Gene ordered a million watts of shortwave power from our transmitter stations across Europe diverted to the Romanian service. Before long, Romanian army commanders seeking to restore calm established phone contact with the service in Munich.

In the immediate aftermath of the liberation of Eastern Europe, and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Gene saw the need and found the resources to open bureaus across the region and begin on-the-ground reporting by talented local journalists – and local rebroadcasting of RFE/RL programming.

And he persuaded the U.S. government to allow RFE/RL for the first time to broadcast to the former Yugoslavia, during the Bosnian War, with a new, multi-ethnic service led by Nenad Pejic*.

On Gene’s watch, Lennart Meri, Foreign Minister of a newly free Estonia, nominated RFE/RL for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Gene’s leadership was crucial as another struggle soon ensued, this time in Washington, as efforts arose to save the federal government money by shrinking or closing the Radios, on the premise that if Europe was free, why did we need Radio Free Europe (and Liberty)? Support from new democratic leaders across the region, notably from Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel, helped convince a Presidential Commission addressing this question that the Radios’ mission should not end but evolve, as it has.

The views of these freedom leaders were decisive in keeping RFE/RL on the air and positioned to win the enormous multi-media audience it enjoys today. Gene Pell’s vision is alive for future generations.

Two of my closest colleagues, Ross Johnson and Kevin Klose, join me, as I am sure many others would, in saluting Gene for his contribution to a freer world.

— Robert Gillette []

A Dangerous Demonstration of the Power of Radio (Hackaday)

Terrestrial radio may be a dying medium, but there are still plenty of listeners out there. What would a commute to or from work be without a check of “Traffic on the Eights” to see if you need to alter your route, or an update of the scores from yesterday’s games? Getting that signal out to as many listeners as possible takes a lot of power, and this dangerous yet fascinating demo shows just how much power there is on some radio towers.[]

White House Criticism of VOA, Unprecedented in its 78 year History (Public Diplomacy Council)

The Voice of America is the nation’s largest publicly-funded international broadcaster, reaching 280,000,000 multimedia users in 47 languages each week, many of whom access it daily for honest, balanced and accurate world news.

To most senior VOA officials, past and present, including this writer, an unsigned White House blog on April 9, 1600 Daily, omitted or misstated vital information about the scale and original date of the coronavirus outbreak in mainland China. That blog asserts in a bold headline: “Voice of America spends your money to speak for authoritarian regimes.”

But that attack was just the beginning.

President Trump went even further at his daily news briefing on April 15, largely devoted to the coronavirus. “If you heard what’s coming out of the Voice of America, it’s disgusting”. The President then assailed Congress for failing to take up his nomination of conservative Michael Pack as chief executive of all five U.S. funded multimedia organizations, the U.S.Agency for Global Media, until recently known as the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors.

The USAGM is the oversight body of five overseas multimedia U.S.-funded networks: VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Network in Arabic, and Radio/TV Marti in Spanish to Cuba. Research in approximately 100 countries indicates that collectively, the five networks reach 350,000,000 people abroad every week.[]

Essex Ham Foundation Online Training breaks all records (Southgate ARC)

The Coronavirus outbreak and the RSGB’s introduction of online exams that can be taken at home have led to a surge in demand for free online amateur radio training courses such as that run by Essex Ham

Volunteers from Essex Ham run a completely free online training course for the UK amateur radio Foundation exam.

A record breaking 260 people enrolled on the course that started April 5 with a further 164 waiting to start the next course.

In response to the demand Essex Ham are running an additional course, open to anyone in the UK, starting on April 19.

You can find out more about online training and register to join a course at
https://www.essexham.co.uk/train/foundation-online/

Essex Ham
https://www.essexham.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/EssexHam


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Platja de Pals: Once a Cold War “front line” for Radio Liberty

(Source: CNN via Tracy Wood)

(CNN) — It’s March 23, 1959. The radio waves crackle and broadcast begins: “Govorit Radio Svoboda” (??????? ????? ??????? – “This is Radio Liberty speaking…”)
From the other side of the Iron Curtain, the radio broadcasts of US-funded Radio Liberty reached deep inside the Soviet Union. This was an opening line destined to enter Cold War folklore.

What most of those clandestinely tuning in could not possible imagine is the unlikely location those broadcasts were coming from.

This quiet beach resort of Platja de Pals, Spain, tucked between the Mediterranean Sea and the greenery of pine groves and rice paddies, makes for an unlikely Cold War front line, but this is exactly the role it played for nearly half a century.

At this spot, some 150 kilometers north of Barcelona, Catalonia’s rugged Costa Brava opens up into a large bay lined by a long sandy beach, the perfect location for what was to be one of the most powerful broadcasting stations in the world.

Strategic location

In the mid-1950s, and after nearly two decades of international isolation for Francisco Franco’s Spanish dictatorship, the increasing tensions of the Cold War provided the background for a rapprochement between Spain and the United States.

In this new Cold War context, Washington took an interest in Spain’s strategic location. General Franco, himself a staunch anti-communist, was happy to oblige. In a landmark deal, the United States was provided with a string of bases on Spanish soil, while Franco’s dictatorship would see its relations with the West restored.

The setup of Radio Liberty’s broadcast station in Pals was a side effect of this new geostrategic reality.

From 1959 to 2006, this beach was home to 13 massive antennas (the largest of them 168 meters high, or more than half the size of the Eiffel Tower). This spot was favored not only because of the availability of space — the antennas were laid out in a mile-long line parallel to the shore — but also because it provided direct, unimpeded access to the sea. A physical phenomenon called tropospheric propagation makes it possible for radio waves to travel further over water.[…]

Click here to continue reading at CNN.

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Radio Free Europe “set to restart in Hungary”

(Source: Budapest Business Journal)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the U.S. government-funded organization that broadcasts news and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East “where a free press is banned or not fully established,” is set to restart in Hungary, following recent relaunches in Bulgaria and Romania.

During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe – whose motto is “Free Media in Unfree Societies” – was broadcast to Soviet satellite countries. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it wound up the service in Hungary in 1993, considering the collapse of communism to be mission accomplished, recalls a report in The New York Times (NYT) dated September 6.

The article comments that the move to relaunch the service by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, an independent federal agency, reflects Hungary’s drift away from a free and open government under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán[…]

“We’ve done our homework, and we know this has broad backing, and we’re preparing to move forward,” the agency’s chief, John Lansing, is cited as saying. He adds that the service’s initial budget could run up to USD 750,000, and that a bureau would be established in Hungary. He expects a soft launch of the service in May 2020, with a hard launch one year from now.[…]

Continue reading the full article at the Budapest Business Journal.

Note: I seriously doubt “restarting” RFE for Hungary would include any shortwave radio broadcasts. I suspect this would equate to their website and streaming media.

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Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) rebranded as U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM)

(Source: BBG/USAGM Press Release)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2018

John Lansing (Source: BBG)

Effective immediately, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent U.S. government agency that employs thousands of talented journalists, storytellers, and media professionals, is now the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).

The U.S. Agency for Global Media is a modern media organization, operating far beyond the traditional broadcast mediums of television and radio to include digital and mobile platforms. The term “broadcasting” does not accurately describe what we do. The new name reflects our modernization and forward momentum while honoring our enduring mission to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.

We recognize the overdue need to communicate the evolving, global scope of our work as well as our renewed, urgent focus on the agency’s global priorities, which reflect U.S. national security and public diplomacy interests. USAGM is an independent federal agency that provides accurate, professional, and objective news and information around-the-globe in a time of shifting politics, challenging media landscapes, and weaponized information. Our identity and name will now address these realities.

The decision to change our name was a result of thorough research and extensive consultation with numerous internal and external stakeholders, including the BBG Board of Governors, agency staff and leadership at all levels, the five networks, Congress, the Administration, and interagency colleagues.

As with the BBG, the U.S. Agency for Global Media encompasses five networks: the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Television and Radio Martí), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). These networks collectively reach an unduplicated weekly audience of 278 million people in 59 languages and in more than 100 countries. Insulated by a firewall from political influence, these networks will continue to deliver truth and professional journalism to people living in some of the world’s most closed societies.

Now more than ever, people around the world need access to the truth. USAGM continues to tell the truth, and illuminate the world like no other news organization in the world.

Video: Lansing On USAGM

Click here to view on YouTube.

Learn more about U.S. Agency for Global Media 

For more information

Nasserie Carew

US Agency for Global Media Public Affairs

202-203-4400

publicaffairs@bbg.gov

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RFE/Radio Liberty add transmitter in Lithuania

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kim Elliott, who notes that Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty have added a new transmitter in Lithuania:

(Source: The Baltic Course)

A new transmitter will be launched in Lithuania this week for broadcasting the Russian and Belarusian-language services of the US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) aimed at countering Russian propaganda, reports LETA/BNS.

It will replace a 52-year-old transmitter in Sitkunai, close to Kaunas, that has been transmitting programs for listeners in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova at a lower quality.

The medium wave (AM) transmitter was manufactured some five years ago and was used by the US Defense Department in Western Germany to broadcast a radio program for American troops stationed abroad.

The transmitting power of the new device is set at 75 kilowatts, the same as that of the old one, but it can be increased up to 300 kilowatts if needed, Rimantas Pleikys, the owner of Radio Baltic Waves International, said.[…]

Continue reading…

Kim noted that the US Embassy in Vilnius also reported on the RFE tower dedication. Click here to read the post.

Thanks for sharing, Kim!

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Cold War Broadcasting: Two articles feature RFE & Radio Liberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares the following article from the website Journalism Is Not A Crime:

From Propaganda to Journalism: How Radio Free Europe Pierced the Iron Curtain

The end of the Second World War signaled the beginning of an information war in Europe. As the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its main western allies — the United States and Britain — came to an end, the USSR backed small communist parties that asserted ever-tighter control over much of Eastern Europe.

Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” of totalitarian control sealing off half the continent. His speech heralded the beginning of an ideological “cold war” that would last for more than 40 years, a struggle in which citizens of the eastern camp were only meant to hear one side of the argument.

“We talk about the Iron Curtain as a physical barrier, but it was also an information curtain,” says A. Ross Johnson, a former director of Radio Free Europe and author of a history of RFE and its companion station, Radio Liberty, which broadcast into the Soviet Union. “All the communist regimes saw control of information as a key to their rule.”

Continue reading…

An SWLing Post contributor also recently shared the following PDF article by A. Ross Johnson for the Wilson Center. Here’s the summary:

To Monitor and be Monitored– Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War

Monitoring of Soviet bloc radios was an important input to Radio Free and Radio Liberty broadcasts during the Cold War. RFE and RL also monitored the official print media and interviewed refugees and travelers. Soviet bloc officials in turn monitored RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasts (while jamming their transmissions) to inform themselves and to counter what they viewed as “ideological subversion.” On both sides, monitoring informed media policy.

RFE and RL monitored their radio audiences through listener letters and extensive travel
surveys, while the Communist authorities monitored those audiences through secret police
informants and secret internal polling. Both approaches were second-best efforts at survey
research but in retrospect provided reasonably accurate indicators of the audience for RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasters.

Click here to download the full Wilson Center article as a PDF.

If you’re interested in Cold War broadcasting, I would also encourage you to check out Richard Cummings’ blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

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Washington Post: “A big change to U.S. broadcasting is coming”

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares this editorial from the The Washington Post:”

“FOR YEARS, members of Congress have fumed about what they regard as ineffective U.S. public diplomacy, including the failure of broadcasting operations such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to match the reach and apparent influence of networks such as Russia’s RT and Qatar’s al Jazeera. A frequent and arguably fair focus of criticism has been the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body created to supervise government-funded media outlets while serving as a firewall between them and the political administration of the day.

A radical change to that system is now coming — and it looks like one that Vladi­mir Putin and Qatar’s emir might well admire. An amendment quietly inserted into the annual National Defense Authorization Act by Republican House leaders would abolish the broadcasting board and place VOA, RFE/RL and other international news and information operations under the direct control of a chief executive appointed by the president. The new executive would hire and fire senior media personnel and manage their budgets.

[…]The point of board governance was to prevent direct political interference in programming by the White House, State Department or other agencies. It was a guarantee that for decades has helped to attract journalistic talent to the broadcasting organizations, as well as listeners seeking reliable information. The board of governors had serious problems: Its members served part time, and not all took their duties seriously. But the system’s biggest flaw was remedied three years ago with the creation of a chief executive position.

The new reform, driven by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), enhances that executive’s power and makes him answerable to the White House rather than the bipartisan board. A new advisory panel will be created, but it will be toothless: Its members will also be nominated by the president from a pool provided by Congress.[…]”

Click here to read the full editorial at The Washington Post online.

Also, Richard points out this article in BBG Watch which highlights comments from Dan Robinson.

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