Voice of Russia on local radio

I’ve been lately trying to get my head around a hodgepodge of old feelings about the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. I won’t pretend it’s organized, or that it rises above a perverse nostalgia, and comes with the twentieth anniversary of the attempted August coup that ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and some deep concerns about the state of a world run by oligarchs. And that makes me think about broken promises of prosperity, alternatives to our consumerist form of prosperity, and how miserable life can get (and the follow-on plague of grinding down generations). Or put another way, it’s easy to say you want a less materialistic life when they’re aren’t bread lines. The Arab Spring has, so I gather, roots as deeply economic as political. Perhaps more so.

That’s a huge prelude to what I found the other day. Back when the Soviet Union was opening up and later failing — these were the days before the World Wide Web — I listened to the world by shortwave radio, and especially Radio Moscow, which was changing as fast as a summer storm. But with the ‘web this workhorse technology was cut back, particularly with transmissions to North America. But Radio Moscow’s successor, the Voice of Russia, and a handful of other continued. But it wasn’t enough to justify the kind of better radio that could cope with steel-framed apartment buildings.

Well, lo and behold, the Voice of Russia has acquired two United States AM-radio stations, and provide a limited measure of local programming. 1390 AM in Washington, D.C. and 1430 AM in New York twenty-four hours a day. Low powered and nice and crackly, like shortwave. (But why? This article suggests a post-Cold War turn-around.)

Or online at http://english.ruvr.ru/, without the static.

Boston NPR station streams in free format

Good news from the Free Software Foundation: Boston National Public Radio broadcaster WBUR has begin streaming its content in the free Ogg format. The importance?

Unlike MP3, Windows Media, Real Audio or Quicktime, Ogg Vorbis is not restricted by software patents. The threat of these patent lawsuits chills independent development of multimedia software tools. The use of unencumbered formats like Ogg Vorbis is necessary for providing access to publicly funded news and other programming without dependence on the patent-holding corporations and proprietary software vendors.

Patent-encumbered formats owned by companies like Microsoft and Apple require listeners to use non-free software; controlled by them, not by the users. They design their software to restrict the users and spy on their activities. If users choose Ogg Vorbis for audio and Ogg Theora for video, they can use many different media players, including free software designed to respect their freedom and privacy. (Full press release at FSF)

In short, you shouldn’t have to go through a proprietary gate to get to content supported by the public purse. For more background, I wrote about the Ogg format twice last year here and here.

Good for WBUR. You can listen to the stream (in a number of different formats) here.