Sunday, September 27, 2015

Shortwave broadcasting and QSL cards

Gary Rawnsley,; via GR on Fcebook

Image from entry, with caption The Voice of America, February 1987: Top: 'The White House on a wintry evening in Washington DC. US Presidents and their families have lived here since 1800.'


I recently corresponded with David Jackson, former Director of the Voice of America. I told him of my excitement when, during PhD fieldwork in Washington DC in 1993, I took the VoA tour. Like the classic class nerd I threw my hand up at every opportunity to ask and answer questions. David made reference the VoA QSL cards, and this reminded me of the hours I spent listening through the crackle of faint transmissions at all hours of the night and writing reception reports for the stations. I sent these in the post, and weeks, sometimes months later, the station would acknowledge my report with a QSL card and other souvenirs (stickers, magazines, books). I found my collection for the late 1980s and though I would share my QSLs in this blog. 

QSL is international radio language for "Please verify". 

This part of my collection represents the closing of an era. With the rise of the internet and the ability to listen to radio stations from all over the world on a computer or tablet, the age of shortwave has largely passed. Yet there is still something romantic about turning a dial at 3am and listening eagerly through the crackle to hear which station one is listening to (oh no, not Radio Moscow again!). Those were the days ... The collection also a reminder of another era in international politics, with the Soviet Union represented by Radio Moscow World Service, sending me pictures and stamps of Lenin; with Radio Prague Czechoslovakia responding to an essay I wrote them about Marxism by sending me books about Czech foreign policy. While still at school in the  mid-1980s I wrote an article for Shortwave Magazine called 'What is the role of the shortwave radio in international politics?'  In 1994 I completed my PhD, supervised by Phil Taylor, entitled 'Nation Unto Nation: The BBC and VoA in International Politics, 1956-64'. This was subsequently published as Radio Diplomacy and Propaganda (Macmillan, 1996).   ...

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