Re-tuned to Radio Tirana


“Ju flet Tirana” (“This is Tirana speaking”) foreign language programmes of Radio Tirana began on November 22nd 1964.

The new building of Radio Tirana was inaugurated in December 1965 with 8 transmitting studios, 5 recording studios, 5 montage studios, central and a large music studio.

Radio Tirana presents

China helped Socialist Albania soon after the inception of the Sino-Albanian alliance in the 1960s build an extensive broadcasting facilities. In 1945, there were only two radio transmitters in Albania. By 1969, there were 52 transmitters, all but eight of them short wave and Radio Tirana broadcasted propaganda in 17 languages to an oversea audience of friends and sympathisers.

During the 1970s, the station broadcast to Europe on 1214 kHz, causing interference problems for the British BBC Radio One on the same frequency. During the 1980s and early 1990s the international service was broadcast on 1395 kHz (along with various short wave frequencies) and was received throughout Europe during the evening and through the night. Radio Tirana also upset many amateur radio operators in Europe by operating transmitters in the 7 MHz (40 metre) amateur band. []

There were constant requests for reception reports.

Front and backof the QSL card sent out in the Summer of 1976sw_international_broadcasters_tirana_2

Front and back of the QSL card sent out in the Summer of 1976.

In October 1966 inaugurated at Durres (Fllaka) was a medium wave transmitter with a power of 500 kW, and 5 years later neighbouring it was installed a second transmitter of 500 kW ; both transmitters broadcast the programmes of Radio Tirana external services.

At the time of the building works Western speculation was that the Chinese were installing a missile base in Albania, mistaking the transmitter sites for rocket-launching pads. During the inaugural ceremonies in 1966, there may have been an allusion to such speculation when the transmitters were referred to as “our ideological rockets”. They reached far and wide thanks to Chinese-built transmitting stations, which made Radio Tirana on short wave one of the clearest signals in the region despite coming from a country which was one of the poorest and smallest in Europe.

The external service Radio Tirana was one of the largest broadcasters in Europe, with a massive megaWatt transmitter operating on 1395 kHz, broadcasting in 20 foreign languages, apart from Albanian targeting Albanians living abroad. These broadcasts were in the following languages: Chinese, Arabic, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Italian, Portuguese, Indonesian, English, French, German, Swedish, Spanish, Persian, Russian, Greek and Bulgarian. 1977 ATA cover.jpg

Partly sustaining this foreign language output were native speakers, a small community of ideological sympathisers, resident in Tirana’s “German villas”, working to polish the presentation of the written and audio propaganda output of the Albanian institutions. Employed as translators in Albania; either in the state publishing houses, Radio Tirana or ATA (Albanian Telegraphic Agency), with some contributions at Tirana University.

“Habla Tirana. Habla Tirana. Están en sintonía de radio Tirana…”

At the beginning, there were three 30 minute radio-broadcasts in Spanish: one for Spain, more for Latin America and a joint one for both. Later, there were  two 1 hour broadcasts: for Spain and  Latin America.

A study* lists at least 23 Partido Comunista de España (marxista-leninista) militants as working as translators in Albania, the last ones to leave in 1990. The mail of PCE (m-l) came to the Spaniards of Radio Tirana always in the name of Luis Buhalance.

Other marxist-leninists, although less in numbers, came from Latin America to work at Radio Tirana and “Albania Nueva”, a bi-monthly illustrated political & social magazine. They worked as professors of Spanish language, they prepared news or edited them, they corrected the texts translated into Spanish from Albanian, and also hosted radio programs. Engaged in translating political works and the numerous writings of Enver Hoxha produced by the state publishing houses, there were also people like Ramon Sanchez Lizarralde who engaged in fiction translation, mainly the works of Ismail Kadare. Their activity and engagement lasted for a certain period of time (generally 2 to 4 years), then later they went back to their country and were replaced by other incoming couples. They were part of the propaganda machinery of the communist regime, as well, to transmit the voice and successes of the socialist Albania in the world.

* Learning the Spanish Language for Ideological, Political, and other Curious Reasons. European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research Vol 2, Issue 1 January-April 2015

New Zealander June Taylor, one of the many foreigners who worked at Radio Tirana as announcers and translators was hired in 1974 to read and translate news and stayed at the radio station for 19 years. “News arrived at the very last minute. The quality of translation left much to be desired and they were packed with boring slogans,” Taylor said. Phrases like “the army and the people are one and indivisible”, or how the “working collective of the Enver Hoxha tractor combine fulfilled the plan three months ahead of schedule” were among those she read out for years.          [Linda Spahia , Radio Tirana dumps Marxism, gets religion Reuters, December 16, 2002]

A consequence of the Sino-Albanian split was that Albanian relays of Chinese broadcasts were discontinued from July 1978. The relays consisted of half-hour broadcasts in Czech, English, Hausa (to reach Nigeria), Italian, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish and Turkish, totalled 91 hours. There were also New China News Agency transmissions in French and Spanish for 54 hours a week.

In 1987, 66 hours of programmes were broadcast in 20 foreign languages every day. Political propaganda predominated and included: Introducing Albania, Listeners’ Letters, Culture and Art in Socialist Albania and The Song of Our Life. Radio Tirana also presented programs of revolutionary music from around the world, while the programme, “What we saw in socialist Albania” offered interviews with foreign visitors to Albania.

Here is an archived five minute studio tape of part of one of the last English broadcasts just before the influence of Enver Hoxha collapsed in Albania.

During the last months of the socialist era, overtly political programming was drastically scaled down, and the long-established practice of playing “The International” at the end of each broadcast was abandoned. The interval signal of Radio Tirana during this period was the first few bars of the Albanian revolutionary song With a Pickaxe in One Hand and a Rifle in the Other (Në njërën dorë kazmën në tjetrën pushkën). This song also served as the signature tune of Radio Tirana’s foreign language broadcasts.

After the collapse of the regime, the foreign radio service was cut to seven languages and just three hours a day. Now with spare transmitting capacity and unused equipment and no programme, the aging facilities were offered out. Religious broadcaster Trans World Radio became the main client of Radio Tirana’s foreign service and its saviour from bankruptcy. Other paying clients served include Voice of America of the United States, Germany’s Deutsche Welle and the Italian RAI.

After diplomatic relations were restored between the two former allies a rental agreement between the Albanian Radio television and the Chinese Film and Radio Television leased the Radio Centre of Short Waves in Elbasan (Cerrik) to the Chinese in December 2003 for at least 15 years. The arrangements discussed in greater detail in THE HISTORY OF RADIO TIRANA TRANSMITTERS

Related postings

For an earlier posting on Radio Tirana

A previous discussion on  Friendship Publishing II  and  Friendship publishing

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