The Sitkūnai site, which had stopped most of its broadcasts some ten years ago, resumed in early August at the request of the Dutch-registered radio station Radio Pravda
The Sitkūnai site, which had stopped most of its broadcasts some ten years ago, resumed in early August 2022 at the request of the Dutch-registered radio station Radio Pravda

After years of inactivity, the Sitkūnai transmitter site is back in operation. Inaugurated in the 1950s, at the beginning of the Cold War, it had a strategic location due to its proximity to the borders of the Iron Curtain: signals heading west would have travelled a shorter distance. Today, however, by a counterpoise of history, the signal goes in the opposite direction, to counter Russian disinformation. The programmes of ‘Radio Pravda‘ are in fact aimed at Russian speakers in Europe and Asia. They are broadcast between 8pm and midnight on 1557 kHz, with a power of 50 kW, which is well heard in Ukraine, Belarus and European Russia. The signal, however, goes beyond the Urals, reaching Siberia, Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

An inconvenient truth

A history of the transmitter can be found on the Dutch Radiovisie website: It was installed in Trintelhaven, the Netherlands, where Big L used it on 1395 kHz (from 2002 and 2003) and then on 1008 kHz

Financed by private donations, Radio Pravda (Russian for ‘Truth’) is based in the Netherlands, where programmes are supervised by the Dutch Media Authority. The transmitter relocated this summer to Sitkūnai, it uses a new antenna, which has been recalculated to transfer the full power of the equipment into the ether. Telecentres (Lithuanian Broadcasting Centre, the state-owned operator of the main radio and TV broadcasting networks in Lithuania) has rebuilt and upgraded part of the infrastructure of the broadcasting centre, which had been disused for some time.

There are ‘two truths’

A Radio Prawda Dija Rossii speaker filmed during the recording of a programme
A Radio Prawda Dija Rossii speaker filmed during the recording of a programme

Radio Pravda is not to be confused with Radio Prawda Dija Rossii (Radio Truth for Russia), a project of Russian and Ukrainian journalists based in Poland, which has been broadcasting on 9670 kHz from the Austrian antennae in Moosbrunn since April 2022. Dutch Radio Pravda, also known as ‘Nasha Lenta‘ (our band), will change its name to Radio Lenta, precisely to distinguish itself from the Polish station.

BELARUS: Many channels, few free voices

Many channels, few free voices in Belarus
The radio channels of the public broadcaster. From the top: Pershy Kanal (heir to the station that started on 15 November 1925, with the announcement “Gavoryts Minsk!”), Radio Belarus (created in 1962), Kanal Kultura (described as “radio for intellectuals”, on the air since 1 January 2002), Radio Stalitsa (also known as Radio Capital, it is aimed at the capital region and has an original music selection that devotes a lot of space to hard rock), Radius FM (with a modern sound, in operation for 15 years)

In “White Russia”, a country where President Alexander Grigor’evič Lukashenko is increasingly tightening repression against free voices and journalists, there are more than 110 channels operating on old FM, from 66 to 73.8 MHz. Pershy Kanal, Kanal Kultura and Radio Stalista are the three stations of the Belarusian National Radio and Television Company (BTRC) that operate throughout the country. In addition to these, there are local stations, which are also in the orbit of the state broadcaster: Gomel FM, Radio Mogilev, Radio Grodno, Radio Brest, Radio Vitebsk (all in Russian language) and Radius FM which operates in the capital, Minsk.

A double net, FM and Oirt

An illustration on the Kanal Kultura website (and the table below) shows what the coverage looks like: for each purple circle (identifying the area served by a system in the OIRT band) there is a blue circle identifying the area served by a system in FM CCIR band.

According to our Belarusian correspondent Alexey Yankovsky, there are no plans to shut down transmitters in the OIRT band, only a few vague rumours, and there is probably still a good presence of receivers in homes. However, Alexey points out that the network is a duplication of the one in the CCIR FM band: for every transmitter in the 66-73.8 MHz range, another one has already been active for years from the same location in the 87.5-108 MHz range. The same is true for all the other broadcasters, except for Stalista which, in fact, is missing a few installations to have an ‘overlapping’ network. And the presence of these dual networks, in terms of both energy and maintenance costs, is likely to become an increasingly difficult cost for the BTRC to bear, especially after the pandemic: if a choice is necessary, it could be the OIRT network that is sacrificed. Already at the moment, the OIRT transmitters of all the various channels are generally only switched on from 6 or 7 a.m. until midnight, while the FM transmitters run for 24 hours.

by Franco Martelli, part 4-continues

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