Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Russians are coming....again

So what's new?

History keeps repeating itself, both on the ground and on the radio. The theatre going on in Crimea and Ukraine at the moment remind me of other situations. But there is a difference. The programmes below were all made when the Russian's had an external broadcasting service called Radio Moscow, later renamed as Voice of Russia. Just as Voice of America shouted at the Russia, so Voice of Russia shouted back.

That was before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can along and disrupted traditional international broadcasting out of existence. By creating Russia Today, the Russians found the way to influence was by joining in other conversations, producing shows that others were not expecting and making the audience into the distribution system. It's a sharing strategy which works in an era of influential social media. Rolling news networks in the West are facing declining audiences because audiences are getting better than broadcasters in just reporting the events. Russia Today has realised they can trigger a discussion by putting their arguments in a surprising embeddable context. BBC World Service and US International broadcasters are still shouting. They don't know how to engage.

Remember 1968? This is the complete edition of a documentary called Truth Shall Prevail, the engaging story of Radio Prague in 1945 and 1968. I discovered a rather large set of recordings in Dutch archives in 1988 because, it seems, there was an agricultural conference going on in Prague at the time when the Russians invaded in August 1968. I have also managed to do a video interview with Peter Skala, the frequency manager of Radio Prague and the founder of the Radio Prague Monitor Club. He is just fascinating. He confirmed that many of the educated guesses we made at the time in 1988 were correct. If you're interested in more of this, check out the interviews I made with Wolf Harranth, former DX editor at the ORF in Vienna. He followed those eventful days very closely, being so close to the Czechoslovak border.

A visit with Wolf Harranth, OE1WHC, Dokufunk Curator from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo

Dokufunk Part 2: More from the Vienna radio vaults from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.

A few nights before the Americans went into Kuwait in January 1991 to liberate it from the Iraqi's, Russian troops went into Vilnius, the capital of what is now the independent country of Lithuania. This is the story of that Russian invasion as recounted by Radio Vilnius, operating at the time from the recording studios of the blind foundation. Transmission date January 20th 1991.

A year later there was a chance for follow-up, after the situation had got back to normal. 15 minutes into the next programme there's an interview with the new boss of Radio Vilnius who told us the inside story on what happened when Soviet troops raided the station the year before and how they broadcast from the blind institute not knowing if their voices were being heard. I find that sign-on music they used to be very haunting.

We had no idea of what had really happened in the Ukraine at the end of April 1986. I remember that when the news broke, we were celebrating Queen's Day in the Netherlands (April 30th). I tuned into Radio Moscow and Radio Kiev, but they didn't give us much detail. I love the offhand way the announcer in Kiev says "and now sports". The programme also had contact with Pat Gowan, G3IOR a radio amateir in the UK who monitors and contacts Russian amateurs on a regular basis. He confirmed that amateurs in Kiev made no mention of the situation.

And so back to the present. It seems that a Ukrainian pirate radio station has been on the air, asking the West for support. Best way to do this now is via Twitter rather than shortwave radio. And it is ironic that many of us found out about it by screening what appears on Youtube. Recording made on Monday March 3rd 2014.

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