|Voices of Hate
In the last VISTA we touched on the growth of
far-right programming broadcast over U.S. shortwave stations. In this installment we will
look at the history of some U.S. based shortwave broadcasts.
There are currently 17 active privately owned shortwave
broadcast stations in the U.S. Of these, 15 are religious broadcasters. Four out of the 17
have some programming that would be considered far-right in nature.
Much of the activity of far-right programmers gravitates
toward those U.S. commercial shortwave stations that sell blocks of airtime. One such
station that pioneered this type of selling of airtime was New Orleans-based WRNO.
In 1980 a new breed of shortwave broadcast station was in
the works in the mind of New Orleans businessman Joseph M. Costello III, owner of WRNO FM.
Costello had a knack for radio stations and owned several in Louisiana, along with several
movie theaters. Costello was faced with greater challenges than just setting up another
station, however. Not only had there been a halt in shortwave licensing, but this was to
be a commercial shortwave station - something not seen since the '30s.
"Costello found that the FCC, though its rules
prohibited against broadcasting to a domestic U.S. audience on shortwave, had no rule
against a U.S.-based commercial shortwave station. Adding more clout to the argument in
WRNO's favor was the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, which
prohibits government stations from having a monopoly on the use of shortwave for
international broadcasting." Dexter, Gerry. WRNO Worldwide First of A New
Generation, Popular Communications, December, 1989, p. 13.
Costello was able to overcome the FCC objections, and on
February 13, 1982 WRNO shortwave went on the air. I recall tuning it in back then from
time to time, the format usually consisted of rock music and an occasional ball game
apparently simulcast along with its sister station WRNO FM. An occasional local commercial
"spot" could be heard. One wonders if they ever sold any "on sale"
tires to far away shortwave listeners? Another first for this station was its low start-up
cost - low for a U.S. based shortwave station, that is.
"It cost WRNO about $750,000 to get on the air, much
less then is usually the case, thanks to the fact that studios and offices already
existed. The station's annual operating cost to run is around $150,000." Ibid.
It would seem that while the station was a success in
breaking down barriers to licensing a commercial shortwave station, its ability to attract
major commercial advertisers was lacking. This caused the station to go off the air for
periods in later years due to equipment failures and lack of spare parts.
"WRNO, New Orleans, kept on the air this summer for
many weeks using a 500-watt backup transmitter while the main unit awaited tubes." Hauser,
Glenn. Monitoring Times, October, 1990, p. 26.
WRNO later widened its format style in order to attract
more dollars. Costello also eventually sold off his FM station and continued with the
shortwave operations. In 1995 WRNO achieved third place in total airtime sold to far-right
groups, behind WWCR and WINB. By 1993 Costello and WRNO shortwave attracted two of the
most unsavory programs of the far-right broadcast on shortwave, Ernst Zündell's Voice
of Freedom and National Vanguard Radio's American Dissident Voices hosted by
Kevin A. Strom. Because both programs were neo-Nazi in nature, this prompted shortwave
listeners to give the station the nickname "Worldwide Nazi Radio," a take-off on
WRNO's own station ID, "This is WRNO Worldwide." The accepting of far-right
programming, and in this case neo-Nazi programming, dismayed many a listener. In one case
it prompted a letter to the station manager.
"I was shocked to hear WRNO broadcasting National
Vanguard Radio/American Dissident Voices programming on Sundays 0100-0130 UTC on 7355
KHz. In spite of your station's unequivocal disclaimer that it 'does not necessarily
reflect' the views of management and staff, the fact that your station allows itself to be
used to disseminate racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic propaganda, and (in the broadcast of
June 6th) advocacy of lynching, is clearly irresponsible and not in the public interest.
"While First Amendment rights include free speech,
they do not include a license to use the public airwaves. That is a privilege granted to
licensees who demonstrate they are worthy of a public trust, granted by government." Charlie
Diamond, Toronto, Canada From a letter published in Monitoring Times, August, 1992, p. 4.
The dismay expressed in Mr. Diamond's letter may be due to
the fact that WRNO represents one of the few shortwave broadcasters not affiliated with a
religious organization or a government. Such criticisms of the station's far-right
programming largely went ignored by owner Costello. The Anti-Defamation League and others
asked for a discontinuance of the racist, anti-Semitic American Dissident Voices.
Costello's response was quite blunt.
"As long as it is not illegal or immoral, I don't
care how far you push the envelope. I think WRNO has a record as a responsible
broadcaster. We're a good citizen." Bridges, Tyler. N.O. Station Brings Nazis'
Views to World, New Orleans Times Picayune, April 29, 1995.
Two programs Costello did censure from WRNO's program line
up were Radio New York International and Glenn Hauser's World of Radio. Both
programs had a left tilt to them. The former (RNI to its listeners) was a mixture
of rock music blended in with social commentary ranging from environmental issues to
anti-war advocacy. RNI was on Costello's station less than a week when a dispute
broke out over screening the call-ins, which was a staple of RNI's programming.
Costello, fearing profanity, wanted Al Weiner, RNI's president to install a digital
delay device on in-coming calls that would be transmitted over the air. Weiner, holding
freedom of speech highest above all, refused. So ended RNI's transmitting via the
facilities of WRNO.
World of Radio is a weekly public service program
about radio with emphasis on shortwave, serving the needs of shortwave listeners and radio
hobbyists. The host, Glenn Hauser, gives information about station frequencies and times
of operation, plus program profiles and critiques. The program, with more than 900
editions produced thus far, is broadcast free as a public service program on a dozen AM,
FM, and shortwave stations, including RFPI. World of Radio's cancellation from the
airwaves of WRNO came a few weeks after its host commented negatively on the neo-Nazi
programming following his show WOR. If I recall correctly, Mr. Hauser recommended
that listeners turn off or change the frequencies of their radios at the end of World
of Radio to avoid the neo-Nazi's hate speech.
WRNO's turn to racist hate programming to supplement its
income is one of puzzlement. Were the few dollars earned by broadcasting such programs as American
Dissident Voices really needed by WRNO to survive? Or were such programs politically
in alignment with Costello's beliefs? Costello passed away last year, leaving the station
in the hands of family members. As of this writing, the station still runs neo-Nazi
program American Dissident Voices, and racist Christian Identity programs Herald
of Truth and Scriptures for America.
Two stations that were adversely affected by the
far-right's excursion into shortwave broadcasting are WGTG and WINB.
Shortwave broadcaster WINB, "World In Need of the
Bible," went on the air in October of 1962 and is owned by Rev. John M. Norris. The
station, located in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, transmits with a power of fifty thousand
watts. This, in turn, is boosted by a directional antenna producing an effective radiated
power or ERP of one million watts.
In 1995 WINB had the second largest concentration of
far-right programming on shortwave. The most notable was that of Christian Identity leader
and host of Scriptures for America, Pastor Pete Peters of LaPorte, Colorado. Known
as the "Pastor of Hate," Peters, in a letter to his followers, claimed part of
the ownership in the station. While the letter tended to be vague in its meaning of
"ownership" (Peters not clearly stating his status), one thing was certain: a
large portion of the station's airtime was committed to broadcasting Peter's racist
In April of 1995 Peters was to have far-right company on
WINB. Alan Haber opens a complimentary article entitled Shortwave Network Is Main
Street Forum in the April 19 edition of the trade paper Radio World by stating,
"Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, contemporary, patriotic
Americans are huddled around their radios. In the United States they are contemplating the
opinions being expressed by the cadre of personalities manning the microphones of the Main
Street Radio Network."
Main Street Radio Network went on the air over
shortwave station WINB briefly in early 1995. The network was the brain child of far-right
radio personality Jeffrey Baker, who was also its Executive Vice President. Indeed it had
a very right wing eclectic format, or what Baker called "Patriot Format." In the
Radio World article, Baker (who hosted a show called The Baker Report) is quoted as
saying, "We talk about constitutional issues. We talk about the biblical origins of
America as (they relate) to things political and social. It's not a preaching network.
It's a news/talk network, the bulk of whose hosts just happen to see life from a biblical
Baker was never to fully see his dream of a 24 hour a day
global operation on WINB realized, for in April of 1995 a dispute erupted between Norris,
Baker, and Peters over control of WINB. Faced with racist theology on one side and militia
style conspiracy theory on the other, along with bad publicity following the Oklahoma City
bombing, Norris took the station off the air.
Baker, one of the far-right's most determined radio hosts
returned to the airwaves, hopping from one station to the next, usually just before the
station would cut him off for lack of airtime payment. One station touched in this way by
Baker was WGTG in McCaysville, Georgia - a mom and pop operated homemade 50,000 watt
shortwave broadcast station. WGTG was the brainchild of David and Roseanne Frantz, started
in 1995 with typical religious programming. It soon succumbed to Jeff Baker's cadre of
far-right programmers operating under the name Amerinet. Baker's use of WGTG lasted
into 1997 when the Frantz's returned to conventional religious programming. In early 1998
it was announced that WGTG was up for sale for $300,000.
Yet another station Baker graced was WRMI, "Radio
Miami International." WRMI started in 1994, originally concentrating its programming
on issues relating to Miami's Cuban community. Like other U.S. based shortwave stations,
WRMI was lured into broadcasting many far-right programs because of financial hardships.
Jeff Baker and his Amerinet gang ran up the tab once again. During 1997, WRMI went
up for sale for $675,000. Jeff Baker skipped the country to set up a shortwave station in
Honduras, possibly to try and improve on William Walker's ideas for Central America.
So far it sounds pretty gloomy for the stations that
accept far-right programming, especially if one takes on Baker. However, one station that
has done well while others have failed is WWCR, "World Wide Christian Radio,"
Nashville, Tennessee. It is the success of WWCR that has perhaps inspired others to try
their hand at accepting far-right programming.
WWCR started operation in 1989 with a single transmitter.
Today it operates four 100,000 watt transmitters, and claims five million listeners
worldwide. WWCR, along with three AM stations, is owned by F.W. Robert Broadcasting, Fred
It was this station in 1990 that introduced to shortwave
one of the first far-right programs, the Liberty Lobby's Radio Free America. Over
the years, WWCR has added many far-right programs, filling up large blocks of airtime.
These far-right programs have included some of the more violently oriented programs. One
such program is The Intelligence Report, hosted by Mark Koernke. In the weeks
following the Oklahoma City bombing, as the media's attention focused in on the far-right,
in particular the militia groups and their use of shortwave broadcasting, The
Intelligence Report was "temporarily cancelled" by WWCR.
WWCR in a press release denouncing the bombing stated:
"We have found it necessary to at least temporarily suspend the airing of the program
The Intelligence Report. The adverse publicity against programs of this nature in the
aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing and indiscriminate killing of innocent people
including children, has caused us to reconsider our responsibility as a broadcaster.
"We find ourselves in a violent world, with a
breakdown of families and family values. Somewhere and somehow it must be stopped. We must
all contribute to that effort. Those who use the media need to understand that their
words, no matter how innocent, or rhetorical, or satirical they may be, have the power to
push certain people over the edge into violence. We don't mean to suggest that such a
broadcast should be shut up, only to remind them that it is possible to be both
conservative and responsible.
"They need to reflect on the possibility that their
excessive language can lead other people, over whom they have no direct control, to do
harm and that bitter words can have consequences. At WWCR we are not able to review
programs in advance or even during their airing for content. We do rely on listeners to
alert us when they hear offensive material, and when they do we review the program and
closely monitor it in the future. Programs that are offensive to our listeners are
censured and/or cancelled. From a press release issued by WWCR and read on Glenn
Hauser's radio program World of Radio #795 produced May 4, 1995.
Koernke's program returned to the airwaves of WWCR and can
still be heard several nights a week.
In the next installment we will look at one of the racist
religions that contributes to hate speech on shortwave.