Hear Skanderbeg in a conversation and it probably reveals a youthful passion because before the Internet was widespread, short-wave radio was the most immediate way to get first-hand reports from all over the world. And Skanderberg would have been the subject of many talks on Radio Tirana, the English-speaking Albanian equivalent of the BBC World Service. Enter into correspondences, and in return postcards, books, tourist information, personally written letters , the programme schedule and Badge
Radio Televizioni Shqiptar (RTSH) (Albanian Radio and Television) had been established on 28 November 1938. Under the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania, Radio Tirana belonged to the group of the world’s most powerful radio stations submitted abroad in foreign languages- even though Albania is a small country with only 2 million inhabitants at that time. At the time, Radio Tirana had the most powerful medium wave transmitter in Europe (1000kW). The transmitter based at in Lushnjë – in Central-West Albania near the Adriatic was built by her Chinese comrades in the 1960s. Radio Tirana also had quite a powerful signal on shortwave at 9480 kHz.
From November 1964 there were regular and sustained foreign language programs presenting the Albania uncompromising Marxist-Leninist worldview. Foreign-language external radio services were—and inevitably still are—sources of propaganda. Radio Tirana had its own delights through the crackles and fade in and outs of sound from the radio, with exhortations to write in with reception reports. This plea can still be occasional heard on World Radio Network , the digital channel providing a selection of current international short-wave radio broadcasts from throughout the world .
Amidst the calls for militant class struggle against US Imperialism and Soviet Social Imperialism, extracts from the works of Comrade Enver Hoxha were read out. In pre-internet days the distribution of English-material from the various foreign language publishing houses were largely restricted to embassies, friendship organisation and small Marxists groups. The programme What We Saw in Socialist Albania offered interviews with foreign visitors to Albania. The Albanian authorities through invitations for delegations to visit the country and attend party congresses and supply of literature from the <8 Nentori> Publishing House, supported and cultivated the young Marxist-Leninist organisation. Listening to Radio Tirana was a reliable channel of information about Albanian policies and positions. As Enver Hoxha
“Our confidence and determination in the victory of world proletarian revolution become strong and we rejoice when we see the formation and consolidation everywhere of the new communist Marxist-Leninist parties. It is a great experience which we gain from the joint experience of all the communist Marxist-Leninists parties, big or small, old and young…. The great Marxist-Leninist unity between Marxist-Leninist revolutionary parties is being tempered in struggle and in revolution.”
Besides ‘Zeri I Popullit’ editorials, Radio Tirana would broadcast “A Review of the Marxist-Leninist Movements Across the World”. In the section Leafing Through the Marxist-Leninist Press there were roundups of the activities of the all the pro-Albanian M-L parties including quoting from “Workers’ Weekly” newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). It received more press coverage from the Albanian media than it ever did in Britain. [Although its spokesperson was once interviewed briefly on BBC Radio 4 Westminster Hour, January 4, 2004 ].
They also had the occasional programme of revolutionary music from around the world, included some pieces by the musicians of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). There were in different languages the promotion of the need for revolution beit in the German language broadcasts, and Polish Communist Kazimierz Mijal had his anti-regime opinions broadcast in Polish from 1966 to 1978.
The Albanian revolutionary song With a Pickaxe in One Hand and a Rifle in the Other served as the signature tune of Radio Tirana’s foreign language broadcasts. The pickaxe and rifle were part of the logo of Albanian Radio-Television during this period, and there was the practice of playing “The Internationale” at the end of each broadcast. It was a reciprocal relationship as the newspapers carried promotions for the radio broadcast service.
Now, employing the Isobel Oakeshott defence around the fictious Cameron pig story, I don’t recall the accent of the radio announcer, it may have well been a New Zealand accent – the Communist Party of New Zealand had sided with Albania in the 1960s during the ideological break with the revisionists in the Soviet Union, and again in the late 1970s when Albania condemned as “anti-Marxist” its former Chinese allies. However Blogsphere gossip names the woman with ‘the interesting accent’ who worked as a Radio Tirana announcer as June Taylor (her married name being June Prifti). She accompanied her father (a New Zealand dentist) to Albania in the early 1970s and got a job at the radio station as one of the main English language female presenter of Radio Tirana during the 1970s. She stayed there for around 20 years. Gossip has June and her husband returning to New Zealand in the 1980s.
Now this might have as much substance as the story of Cameron’s encounter with a pig and what adds to the confusion is that leading Albanian supporter Bill Bland was a dentist who had lived in New Zealand. Maybe the mash up narrative illustrates the surreal wonder that came over the airwaves from 1970s Radio Tirana.
3 thoughts on “Sounds from the Ether : Radio Tirana”
Well June Taylor certainly exists, as I interviewed her for my radio programme! What a fabulous person she is – amazing story teller and recall!
You can hear it here!
It’s been broadcast on London’s Resonance FM and Radio New Zealand- National.