Over the past few months, there’s been a flurry of media attention focused on the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Some reports describe it as a “little-known” agency and, in fact, it may seem mysterious to many in the United States, since it oversees international broadcasting programs all over the world, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
USAGM has been in the news following the appointment of new CEO Michael Pack, subsequent personnel changes, and even a congressional hearing on September 24. This week we explore the history of USAGM and talk about some of the recent changes at the organization. We are joined on the show by Jane Curry (Professor of Political Science at Santa Clara University), Mark Pomar (National Security Fellow at Clements Center for National Security at University of Texas, Austin) and Brandon Burke (Associate Archivist at the Hoover Institution Archives). Jennifer Waits and Eric Klein host this week’s episode.
Portrayals of radio in popular culture provide an interesting glimpse at radio’s role in society. At Radio Survivor, we’ve long been fascinated by radio depictions on both the small and large screen; so it is a treat to dive into this topic with Hemrani Vyas, Programming Coordinator at Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Vyas curated an entire day of radio-themed films for the cable network, focusing on the era of 1930 to 1950. This week we talk about some of the featured films and also dig into a broader discussion about the changing images of radio in the movies.
Last week, I had the honor of speaking with Eric Klein and Jennifer Waits on the excellent Radio Survivor podcast. It’s rare that in one show I get to spread so much shortwave radio love–thanks for making that happen Radio Survivor:
Perhaps you are like me and you have wished that you could go back in time and spin a radio dial and just listen to and browse the full radio spectrum from another time and place. Our guest on the show, Radio Anthropologist Thomas Witherspoon, is building a website for just such a thing. It’s called the Radio Spectrum Archive and it is not magic, it uses a piece of technology called a software defined radio that makes recording a full spectrum of Shortwave, AM and even FM radio (if you have the computing power to handle the load) a very real possibility. Thomas Witherspoon is also the primary contributor to The Shortwave Listening Post (www.swling.com) so we are going to learn a few things about the wonder that is shortwave radio on planet earth.
The FCC has proposed to de-fund community media through an arcane rule that determines how contributions from cable companies to public-access, educational and government (PEG) stations are counted. Because it’s arcane, the effort is flying under the radar. But we have two community media advocates to help explain what’s at stake.
Martin Jones is the CEO of MetroEast Community Media in Gresham, Oregon, just one of hundreds of PEG stations that would be affected. Sabrina Roach serves on the board for the Alliance for Community Media Foundation, the charitable arm of the group that represents and organizes PEG stations across the U.S. They tell us how proposed changes to the “franchise fee” structure would deprive PEG stations, as well as internet access at libraries and schools, from direct funding. If passed, this would decimate both community media and digital equity in most communities that have it. They also explain what steps we can take to oppose this change.
Inspired by an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, we travel all the way to Antarctica to learn about mysterious community radio station, Ice Radio. Sadly, we learned of Anthony Bourdain’s death on the day that we recorded this episode.
Ice Radio is the latest iteration of a radio station that began more than 50 years ago at McMurdo Station. Our guest Elizabeth Delaquess is a Broadcast Engineer at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, working at both the radio and television stations there. She also shares some tales about her magical encounters with shortwave radio stations while “on the ice.”
There are more unlicensed pirate radio stations in New York City than licensed stations. The borough of Brooklyn is a particular hotspot. Producer and journalist David Goren has been researching and recording these stations so that their ephemeral nature isn’t lost to history. To help preserve this legacy and make it accessible to a wider audience he’s constructing an interactive map of Brooklyn pirates, due to be released later this year.
David joins us on this episode along with Prof. John Anderson of Brooklyn College, who has been tracking and researching unlicensed radio for two decades. We discuss the unique qualities of Brooklyn pirates, and how they fulfill the needs of communities that are underserved by other media, why it’s important to preserve their legacies, and why the expansion of low-power FM failed to provide sufficient opportunities in cities like New York.