The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has sparked a resurgence of interest in shortwave broadcasting, as nations strategically harness this medium to serve their individual interests. As in the case of the newly founded Ifrikya FM, which operates from Algeria to sub-Saharan countries.
While the transition to digital is being considered for FM, the war in Ukraine has shown that the ‘old’ short and medium waves are the only ones capable of bypassing the blocks that freedom of information might suffer from an authoritarian regime. By launching the signal from thousands of kilometers away, they cannot be countered except by jamming transmitted in isofrequency by the other side’s transmitters, a practice much used during the Cold War but now almost in disuse. So much so that many broadcasters, from the BBCto RFE-Radio Liberty and Vatican Radio, have dusted off old transmitters or created new transmissions aimed at crisis areas. But international services are also at the service of political propaganda, as in the case of Algerian Ifrikya FM.
The multi-ethnic editorial staff and correspondents in nine countries
Inaugurated in Algiers on 3 May 2023, to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, Ifrikya FM was created ‘to give a voice to African listeners‘ and its slogan is ‘The African voice’. It is actually a strategy of rapprochement with the sub-Saharan area, supported by the relaunch of new air and sea lines between Algeria and Senegal, a country with which diplomatic relations have been renewed. The station broadcasts 24 hours in French, Arabic, Targui, Hausa, and Bambara and has a staff of young journalists from Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Lesotho, Mali, Cameroon, and Niger as well as a network of correspondents in nine African countries. It broadcasts on shortwave on 13790 kHz, on the AlcomSat satellite, and on FM on 105.6 MHz (Algiers/Bouzaréah, replacing Radio Coran) and 98.4 (Tamanrasset, replacing Radio Sahel, which goes off the air).
Schedule and frequency updates for the shortwave service are available through WRTH (World Radio TV Handbook) at https://wrth.info/news/.
The small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine does not shine in terms of transparency and ease of circulation of radio and media news. The internal political situation is confused, the fact that Transnistria (with a Russian-speaking majority) is de facto independent (and has long since switched off all OIRT band installations) are other elements that do not help to easily decipher the situation.
However, up to the end of 2020, some fifteen installations on the ‘old’ FM were in operation, both from public and private operators. These included Radio Free Europe (in local language), the station funded by the US Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
If the news, although fragmentary, excludes the shutdown of the various stations (Radio Moldova Actualitati, Radio Micul Samaritean, Vocea Beserabiei and other smaller ones), some more concern is aroused by the situation of the three Radio Free Europe stations: in fact, the one operating on 69.53 has recently been reported switched off and this raises some questions. Is the shutdown temporary (due to a fault or something similar) or permanent? Will the other two RFE frequencies (68.48 and 70.31) soon be switched off too, or will they continue? However, the delicate political situation in the country (and in the area surrounding the Black Sea as a whole) means that even a partial shutdown of the station is unlikely.
And there are also lights on the analogue TV channels R2 and R3 (with the audio carrier, respectively, on 65.75 and 83.75 MHz) because the analogue-to-digital switch originally planned in 2015 has not yet been completed and it seems that the possible new end date isSeptember 2021.