Saturday, December 15, 2018

MN. 27.02.1997. Radio Euskadi, the Voice of the Basque underground

We thought we had found the last of the Media Network tapes, but a new batch has been discovered. The late John Campbell mentioned the clandestine radio station, Radio Euskadi several times in the 1980's and early 1990's. But, thanks to the help of Eric Beauchemin, we eventually discovered the secrets of this rebel voice of the Basque underground. And Eric saved the tape, so now we can play it again.

Indeed, in the next half an hour, we’re going to dig deep in to the history surrounding a clandestine radio station, which is now a legal public broadcaster. Like Radio Netherlands, this station is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Radio Euskadi is the public broadcaster in the Basque Country of Spain. The Basque language branch started broadcasting in 1980, when the Basque Country achieved the status of an autonomous region within Spain. The Spanish-language station was officially established two years later. But, in fact, the roots date back half a century and have clandestine radio connections. Recent research in the French and Spanish parts of the Basque Country by Radio Netherlands’ Eric Beauchemin reveals the full story of how the Basque underground fought for an independent voice in Spain.

The Voice of the Basque underground has a colourful history, spread over two continents. If you’ve ever heard of the name Radio Euzkadi before, it could be because you came across a shortwave signal in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s when the station broadcast from Venezuela. The Venezuelan operation went off the air 20 years ago this week, on February 28, 1977. But the first clandestine Basque broadcasts came from southern France.

The origins of Radio Euzkadi date back to 1939 when General Francisco Franco came to power. His army had defeated the forces of Spain’s legitimate government, the left-wing Popular Front.

Franco’s repression was brutal. Trade union leaders and intellectuals were relentlessly persecuted as were the nationalist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country. Both regions had obtained a good deal of autonomy during the Popular Front’s rule, and both the Catalans and the Basques were loath to give it up.

Franco’s repression was particularly harsh in both areas, and many Catalan and Basque leaders and intellectuals fled abroad. Among them was Joseba Rezola who became the exiled Basque government’s information and propaganda director. He was keenly aware that since the Basques only had one source of information, the Spanish government-run media, they might eventually start believing Franco’s propaganda. Rezola got the green light from the Basque government in exile to purchase a surplus transmitter from the American military. José María Lasarte, a member of the Basque government in exile, who was on a visit to the United States, was asked to take the transmitter back with him in his luggage. Inaki Durañona was Mr. Rezola’s personal secretary, as well as a member of the Basque nationalist party.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

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