Radio Liberty speaks...

These were always the first words a radio listener in Russia would hear as an introduction to all programming in that language transmitted from Radio Liberty's Platja de Pals station. I use these very same words as my own introduction in paying last respects to the BEST Radio Station in the entire world. 

Since its set up, and for many years thereafter, the installation in Platja de Pals was the most powerful radio station in the whole world. Sadly, and principally due to political and jealousy reasons, on 25 May 2001, at 10:00 a.m., local time, the Radio Liberty Playa de Pals international broadcast facility was shut down. The station, consisting of six short-wave transmitters and multiple high-gain curtain antennas, served as the "flagship" of U.S. efforts to successfully deliver a message of hope and freedom to the U.S.S.R. and other "Iron Curtain" countries. Mikhaïl Gorbatxov admitted that during the Russian coup d'état of the mid-90s when he found himself a virtual prisoner in his luxury villa in the Crimea, he was able to remain connected to the outside world using a small radio. Gorbatxov kept himself informed on what was happening in his own country by listening to the broadcasts of Radio Liberty from Platja de Pals.  

Around 2006, Canalparadís filmed a documentary about Radio Liberty, and especially about the Pals station. In Spain, it has already been broadcasted. It can be watched  here in English or here in English, but full subtitled.

The idea of building  a station in this place was born in 1955, after several exhaustive studies made of different countries and zones by the American  Committee  for Liberation (AMCOMLIB), a U.S. organization with the mission of delivering a message of hope to nations enslaved by Communism. The reasons for choosing this place, located in Platja de Pals (Costa Brava-Girona-Spain), at 41º 59’ North, 3º 12’ East, were many. Principally, the station's 540-foot towers holding antenna curtains right at the sea's edge provided a perfect launching site for short-wave signals. The carefully chosen location, the open seaside vista, and the perfect reflecting medium provided by the sea water, ascertained signals bounced off the ionosphere only ONCE before reaching those important targets in the USSR and other Iron Curtain countries with practically no attenuation. 

A plot measuring 333.500m2 of land was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1958, paying 46.116,10€ (1,00 € = about $1,00), a large sum at the time which nowadays (2006) could be about $4.000.000,00 and registering it in the Spanish Government's name. Radio Liberty paid $285.000 as rent annually. In 1958, construction began, laying the first building and antenna foundations, and building roadways through uninhabited areas to provide access to the station. Finally, on March 28th, 1959 at 3:05 a.m., local time, a Telefunken transmitter made the first broadcast from the station. This transmitter used a temporary rhombic antenna, derived its power from a diesel-driven generator, and was protected by canvas because the building was still unfinished.   

On March 22, 2006 at  03:56 pm local time, the  antennas field was destroyed remaining exactly 11 hours and 09 minutes for the 47th anniversary of its first emission.

There were many stations similar to the one at Playa de Pals around the world. Americans often referred to this chain of stations as “the Radios”.  In Germany, for example, there are(or were)  three; one in Greece; one in Morocco and more in many other countries. Some of these also have Russia as a “target area” but not one of them was able to provide the “blanket” coverage of the USSR available from Pals. The advantage of the Pals location stemmed mainly from the fact that radio-frequency signals launched from here, striking the ionosphere, were bent downwards to fall on Moscow or Kiev on first bounce when short-wave signals are strongest. Thereafter, all subsequent earth-ionosphere-earth bounces of the same signal, attenuated somewhat to be sure, nevertheless always fell on Russian-speaking soil whereas signals from other stations had even second bounces falling on uninhabited lands or into the sea. This is probably the reason why the USSR had so much difficulty jamming signals from Pals and at no time during the entire Cold War succeeded completely.   

The existence of the station was well-accepted by adjoining communities even when it was rumored that missiles were housed in the station; or that anyone could die if he/she walked in front of the aerials. Another said that coded messages were sent to spies. The first two are not true, but the last one could be. I ignore it, but it is a possibility since it is well-known that this particular network of stations was initially promoted by the CIA. It started as AMCOMLIB, (American Committee for Liberation from Bolshevism), then it was Radio Liberty, and later it became Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In its final years, starting in 1995, the station found itself under the direction of  IBB/VOA (International Broadcasting Bureau/ Voice of America).  

When the Iron Curtain came down, when the Berlin Wall fell, when the USSR imploded, the first taste of “freedom” came to many nations to which Pals, for years, had broadcast that message of hope and freedom. Russia, for example, permitted the U.S. to install local FM and Medium-wave stations inside its borders, within the very country that only months earlier had been jamming our broadcasts!  Now much of that same equipment was being used for broadcasting Radio Liberty programs to its own people. But this openness on the part of the Russian Government seems to have been short-lived. In October 2002, the Kremlin began closing some of these radio stations. In June 2003, the Russian government also closed down the only private non-government owned TV network in Russia. On December 31, 2015  any foreign station, Radio Liberty's broadcasts included. In early 2022, with the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent forced expulsion of the media without the Kremlin-related news, it seems that nostalgia for Putin's Cold War has been demonstrated. Already when he came to power, it was said in the corridors of the station, that his ideas would continue to be in line with the KGB, of which he had been a part. In peacetime, a shortwave radio is really ineffective and very expensive, but in armed conflict, where the first thing that is done and has been proven is to avoid information, the shortwave is the best way to get the population, since with a simple battery receiver the news can be followed.

The Voice of America (VOA) is an organization that is part of the U.S. Government while Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is a private organization funded and subsidized by the United States Congress. Perhaps because funding for the operation of both networks comes from the same “pot”,  RFE/RL and VOA are cast as rivals. They fight for the same money and for the same broadcast audiences. Again, perhaps, because the VOA has had closer ties to its government and its bureaucracy, it seems VOA is winning the battle of U.S. broadcasting supremacy. First the BBG/IBB (formerly VOA) shut down and closed two (2) RFE/RL short-wave stations in Portugal, followed soon afterwards by the Spanish station in Pals. Next on their close-down list are theese other, known in 2007 as well as in Morocco, Greece (both from VOA) and others, one by one were closed. Former manager David L.Hollyer published in 2003, this report.

Also, a retired manager tried to save our station sending  this letter to President Bush, but it seems the station no longer had any importance for the U.S. Government.   

- On Youtube you can find all the videos related to Radio Liberty Pals

- You can share your comments at  Facebook or  Instagram

- I will appreciate very much if you let me know any problem or error while surfing this web. 

- Any suggestion, criticism or comment will be welcome. 

- Ex-companions and web's visitors collaborated  by lending me almost all the photos and great ideas for improvements. 

- Thanks to all of them.

- Due to the large bit-size of the pictures, they had to be compressed with an unfortunate loss of quality.

Web Analytics