RE: One man’s quest to get his news unfiltered

james armstrong james36armstrong at
Sat Dec 18 10:40:14 GMT 2010

Hello ,
I had just posted this letter (below)  to BBC when I read of Roberts' work.
One comment.  I listen to Overses Service of BBC on shortwave. Also China etc.
I found out OS service of BBC was till this year paid for  not from  BBC license fee but from the  Foreign Office budget. 
I think we can guess that in retun they control the output, which would explain why the massive UK and world-wide anti-war demos were not broadcast on bbc neither at home nor on world service. 
Here is my letter to Feedback.

“Information is the life-blood of democracy” says John Pilger.

On that count BBC is often a killer drowning  information is a barrage of verbiage. 

Information was the first of 
the Lord Reith’s principles for 

Although a daily listener to Radio Four, I often find myself
switching off when I hear 

heated arguments . Only now can I understand and vocalize

In  so many BBC
interviews two opposing views are  aired-
yet the information of which listeners are unaware and keen to imbibe is lost
in a  noisy slanging match.

In others , powerful pressure groups dominate with their one
sided view. 

This happens endemically on Farming Today, where the principle?
 means of subsistence of the UK farming
industry- the £3.4billion annual CAP benefits , are ‘off-air.”  (The footpaths subsidy of 90p per metre
mentioned to-day was a welcome exception)  The interviewer should have gone on to inform
listeners how much  the farmer gets from
CAP cheques each year-  information which
is publicly available but effectively suppressed on  air.  –
and on the flagship farming programme.  

And  the farming lobby
NFU, CLA and CPRE , to a man beneficiaries and lobbyists  for 
CAP,  get almost daily FT air-time-
and this un-announced. The Cap background is not set by the interviewer.

Never once in  a
thousand FT and Countryside programmes have I heard the  contrary case spelling out present  monopoly landownership which we ‘enjoy’ in UK
.-and  that all mankind has as a human
right , the right to responsible access to all land and use as a common
resource, which  is  jeopardized by its present regard as a
commodity to be bought and sold off for exclusive monopoly private gain..   Is this position news to FT ?   

On Radio Four, information is  subordinated to – what is it? – entertainment?-
or worse-  mis-information? On Today to-day,
as Pilger stated,  and  especially  on  coverage of demonstrations, information  is lost or a long way secondary. 

One million peaceful marchers in London
and UK cities
and world-wide  marching against war were
ignored by BBC in 2003 and their views unheard. 

Eighteen Gurkhas  outside parliament, plus  Joanna Lumley got repeated coverage.

Who stated the case against 
privileging Gurkha ex-soldiers depriving the Nepal
economy of the benefits of their pensions if they resided there?  Not BBC. 

                 As  the public service broadcaster BBC has a duty
, first and foremost to inform.   Without
information , voting , the bedrock  of
our democratic process, is reduced to empowered prejudice.  Following ‘news’ stories is a secondary
consideration, presently dominant on BBC


I obviously need to spell it out for BBC.

The interviewer should set the scene by informing the
listener by a researched prepared text – it need not come over formally- before
the antagonists are let loose. The  text
should be hot on facts and prepare the listener to look for  mis-information.  It will attract criticism but BBC should,
like government (also paid for by the public), defend itself.   

Something like this   should be the standard form on controversial
issues. Add to  this failing by the BBC
the weight of the  massive spin machine
of the government and the  cozy  media 
response which Pilger describes and you have the present situation- Propaganda
and noise and mis-information .

   A public service
broadcaster is justified only by its democratic role."

James Armstrong                                                                  


To: diggers350 at; dialectradio at
From: tony at
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2010 02:09:14 +0000
Subject: [Diggers350] One man’s quest to get his news unfiltered

Big Stories, Shortwaves

One man’s quest to get his news unfiltered.

Music & Audio, Cassandra Roos, Emerson College, Feb. 28,

February 28th, 2006

One man’s quest to get his news unfiltered.

By Cassandra Roos, Emerson College

We’ve all had moments of aggravation with the news offerings in this
country, particularly as the mainstream media landscape becomes ever more

Even when you flip through reputable papers like the New York
Times do you get the sense that you are only getting America’s point
of view? Are you curious about what international news our mainstream
media skips altogether or how the same news events might be covered half
way across the globe? Well you aren’t alone…

Progressives and curious people around the country want to get foreign
news unfiltered. So how can ordinary people do this on the cheap? One
option is shortwave radio. Until recently, I’d never heard of shortwave
myself. When I think of radio, I mostly think of NPR, a smattering of
great indie college stations, and then the drivel of right-wing talk
radio and homogenous corporate rock stations. (Check out the

Campus Progress crib sheet on Payola)

But shortwave radio is sort of like the wild west of the dial. You can
find anything on it. In addition to finding plenty of mountain-dwelling
conspiracy theorists, American evangelist programming, static, and weird
beeping sounds, you can pick up the widest range of global programming
available in any medium. You can listen to

everything from BBC World Service, Channel Africa, China Radio
International, Kol Israel (Voice of Israel), Islamic Republic of Iran
Broadcasting, Laser Radio Latvia, Radio Afghanistan, Radio Cairo, Radio
Finland, Radio Free Iraq, Radio Havana, Voice of Mongolia, Vatican Radio,
BBC World Radio and Voice of America, the official broadcasting service
of the U.S. government.

To figure out where to start, check out

OutfarPress: a short, summarized audio compilation of snippets of
news from radio stations around the world. The programs are a mixed bag.
Though our intrepid and discriminating readers will come across detritus
like a Cuban broadcast about the need for the world to rise up against
American imperialism, the offerings are eclectic and
fascinating. is the project of Dan Roberts. Dan lives in a cabin
which uses only solar energy in Mendocino County, California. He runs 65
feet of wire from one end of his house to the other and it is connected
to a $1500 shortwave radio which can pick up stations from around the
world.  Some, like Radio Havana Cuba, are not available in the U.S.
on the internet or through any other form at all. 

Roberts has elaborate audio equipment in his cabin that allows him to
record international broadcasts, edit them together and create his weekly

Roberts has been creating his shortwave reports for about eight years
now and he has elaborate audio equipment in his cabin that allows him to
record international broadcasts, edit them together and create his weekly
rebroadcast called the Dan Roberts Shortwave radio report. His report is
currently run on 50 licensed US radio stations, not including illegal
stations or international stations. 

Roberts explains “basically most radical big international voices aren’t
on the internet… the American population think[s] shortwave is something
that happened a long time ago [but] shortwave has stayed popular in other

One of the reasons that shortwave radio has remained so popular outside
of the U.S. is because, unlike the internet, it can be listened to with a
cheap, compact and portable receiver (around $50) in rural areas, on the
ocean, and in regions that have no internet access at all. Many
Americans, if they are aware of shortwave radio at all, tend to think of
it as a medium favored for homespun, inflammatory right-wing programming.
Certainly, some stations do offer bizarre racist, anti-gay, survivalist
programming. Southern Poverty Law Center

reported on “United Patriot Radio,” an illegal shortwave station in
the hills of Tennessee that hosts a feature called “Weapons Wednesday”
and often threatens the federal government. 

But what exactly is shortwave radio? Shortwave radio signals are sent out
differently from regular radio signals running on FM and AM. Shortwave
signals are sent up into the Earth’s ionosphere and bounce back skipping
around the planet enabling people like Roberts to pick up broadcasts from
thousands of miles away.

Major uses of shortwave radio include amateur radio programs, utility
stations transmitting information not intended for the public like
weather reports for ships, international news broadcasting, domestic
broadcasting in countries with widely dispersed populations, specialized
naval or military broadcasts or so-called number stations. No one quite
knows where number stations come from, but they are streams of seemingly
random numbers, words or sounds. Some hobbyists believe that they are
used by intelligence agencies to communicate with their agents.

The shortwave radio form has inspired musicians like Stereolab and Wilco.
The title of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a recent Wilco album that
samples from shortwave broadcasts, came from one of those shortwave
broadcasts of random strings of numbers and words. The broadcasts that
inspired Jeff Tweedy were culled from the

Conet Project recordings, a four-hour long collection of recordings
from numbers stations. 

But Roberts’ passion isn’t music but collecting international news
stories that are making waves on other continents. For instance, we
discussed a series of non-American stories his site on how Argentina and
Brazil completely paid back their debts to the International Monetary
Fund, and in turn disengaged completely from the organization. He feels
that this story is just one example of how vital news, especially from
countries that are geographically close, is downplayed in America. He
commented that it is a “bummer to me that our media is acting like it is
insignificant…really amazing stuff is happening in South America and
Latin America.”

Roberts also noted that many of the international stations he listens to
may be biased due to governmental censorship or ownership. I asked
Roberts whether this situation ever made him hesitate about airing his
shortwave report in the U.S. He said he finds that it is still important
to get another country’s perspective, to hear what foreigners hear inside
their countries, how stories are being presented, and what types of
feelings these may generate towards Americans. As he puts it, “you can’t
really think globally if you only get media from the U.S.” Roberts
started the show concerned that, in recent years, pressing international
news has been replaced by more sensational, tabloid-style news that
brings in higher ratings. Domestic news organizations, guided at times by
commercial interests, worry, Roberts says, about “what the corporation is
going to say about this?” when debating whether or not to run a

Roberts says that learning to listen to shortwave from around the world
takes time: “you have to stay more focused to listen through the
distortion and background noise” that can distract a listener. If you
have the time and energy you can try this yourself. Roberts suggests just
buying any shortwave radio from $50-$500, like some of the Grunding

recommends and then pick up a

book for beginners and get at least a 12ft any kind of wire (that
doesn’t have a metal casing) to attach to the radio antenna for better
reception. It is harder to get shortwave signals with any electromagnetic
interference from electronically charged equipment such as florescent
lights, computers, and refrigerators. Of course, Roberts doesn’t have a
problem with electrical interference since he has no household appliances
running on standard electricity.

In January 2001, Groupe France Telecom estimated that 2.5 billion people
worldwide listen to shortwave radio, with more than 200 million listing
at any moment. Still, shortwave radio is considered a dying or oddball
media form in America. But listening to shortwave radio can be an
enjoyably nostalgic, low-tech experience. One can be so obsessed with
complex technology and innovation that it is easy to forget there are
simple ways to connect with someone, somewhere, even very far


Illustration: Matt Bors

+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which 
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

+44 (0)7786 952037 

"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."


"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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