Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Radio Paris in WWII (Part 2)

Back in 1936 there were three primary radio stations in France: Tour-Eiffel, Paris-PTT and Radio-Paris. In 1940 they were all either shut down or repeaters for Radio-Paris.  On May 8th, 1942 the Radio Vitchy transmitter in Bourges was blown up by the Resistance. In November of 1942 the Avis occupied even the the zone libre. The French government, such as it was, became less independent, and more controlled by the Nazis. Radio-Londres, was even less popular with the fascists. More here

Starting in 1942, Jean Herold-Paquis broadcast daily propaganda news reports on Radio Vitchy, in which he regularly called for the "destruction" of the United Kingdom. His catch phrase was "England, like Carthage, shall be destroyed!" It's broadcasts were pitched directly against the BBC broadcasts of Radio Londres by Free French figures like Pierre Dac, who sang the taunting refrain "Radio Paris ment, Radio Paris ment, Radio Paris est allemand."  That roughly translates to "Radio Paris lies, Radio Paris lies, Radio Paris is German.") He set it to the theme of 'La Cucaracha'. (The song dates back to the 1700s) More here.

Listening to the BBC was outlawed and after 1942 it was punishable by death. Nonetheless the ban was regularly flouted. The BBC was more trusted for news than the propaganda outlets. In December 1943 Philippe Henriot was appointed Secretary of State for Information. During his career he created propaganda programs and broadcast through Radio Paris, becoming the government's spokesman. He waged a war of propaganda against the Free French Forces and in particular the BBC. For his efforts, Henriot was nicknamed the "French Goebbels". More here.

Source claim that about 45% the daily output of Radio Paris was devoted to music. The rest was news and propaganda. But even the music was often propaganda... numerous parodies of popular songs were composed with new pro-fascist lyrics. More here. This is not to say that every DJ was a fascist. Many resisted passively by avoiding pro-fascist music. Pierre Hiegel at Radio Paris, for example, did not collaborate but also never alluded to political affairs. He played primarily French composers, avoiding Germans but also Jewish composers. (After the war he became "Monsieur Musique" for Radio Luxembourg.)

Radio Paris was shut down on the evening of August 15th, 1944 by French Forces, as part of the liberation of Paris. In September 1944, The Vichy government fled, and became a government-in-exile in Sigmaringen, across the border in Germany. Herold-Paquis advised collaborators at Radio Paris to leave France. They piled into a truck and headed for Germany. They claimed in their final broadcast that Germany would win because of their 'secret weapons.'  Germany was no permanent safe-haven and some subsequently fled to Switzerland, or further afield.

On June 28th, 1944, Philippe Henriot was assassinated by members of COMAC (Comite d'Action Militaire). After the war, Petain was tried and convicted for treason. He was originally sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Petain died in 1951. Jean Herold-Paquis was captured in Switzerland. In 1945, he was handed over to the French, who executed him for treason on October 11th, 1945.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Radio Paris in WWII (Part 1)

After a topic like freedom fries, it feels necessary to defend the French. When it comes to the size of their military they come in behind Greece, but ahead of Spain, Germany and most of their other European neighbors. Nonetheless they retain, at least in the West, a poor military reputation. Despite the nature of their loss in WWII, a portion of their population remained engaged in resistance through out the war, and that includes propaganda efforts. As you may have guessed, in the 1940s that would include radio.
France declared war against Germany in September of 1939 in response to their invasion of Poland. But there was little fighting between 1939 and 1940. Winston Churchill called this 8-month period the "Twilight War."  The Germans agreed, calling it the sitzkrieg or "the sitting war."  In France it is referred to as the drĂ´le de guerre the "strange" war. U.S. Senator William Borah [R] called it the "Phoney War" [note the British spelling] and many historians continue to use that term today. In May 1940 Germany invaded  Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg definitively ending this 8-month interregnum.

So let's back up twenty years and we can get back to our strange, phoney, twilight sitters. Radiola was a privately owned French radio station founded by  engineer Emile Girardeau. It broadcast under that name from November 6th, 1922 until March 28th, 1924 with the intention of promoting the sale of domestically produced Radiola brand radios. This Paris-based station made its first test transmissions on June 26th, 1922. Ownership was eventually transferred to the French Government, and it was renamed Radio Paris on March 29th, 1924. More here.

Back to 1939. In the so-called Twilight War, not all of the French were aligned with the Allies. In may of 1940 German invaded France and the country was divided into German-occupied France and a free zone in  Southern France. But the new government under Philippe Petain in Southern France was very authoritarian and committed to appeasement with Germany.  So it's not surprising there were collaborationists even in Vichy France. Jacques Doriot was a staunch pro-German and supported Germany's occupation of northern France in 1940. Radio Paris became a propaganda outlet. In the unoccupied zone Radiodiffusion Nationale became another propaganda outlet, Radio-Nationale de Vichy.

Doriot was so pro-fascist he actually moved from Vichy France to German occupied France to espouse pro-German and anti-Communist and anfi-British propaganda on Radio Paris. More here. State-run broadcasting suffered in the first months after the Strange War. But the transmitter of the Eiffel Tower was sabotaged on 6 June 1940 so that the Germans could not use it and on the 10th, the public radio station was relocated to Bordeaux where the programs resumed. On October 30th, 1940, Petain made state collaboration official, declaring on Radio Paris: "I enter today on the path of collaboration."

*****More in Part 2 Next Week*****

Friday, April 07, 2017

CFRC: Calls From Home

If you hadn't heard, Kingston, Ontario is Canada's Prison Capital. That reputation isn't new. The book God's Plenty, (2011) by William Closson James points out their first prison opened in 1835. The 1989 book Crumbling Walls by Ruth Morris uses the same phrase describing Kingston. It is that reputation that probably led to the creation of the radio program "Calls From Home." Kristiana Clemens, operations officer at CFRC was quoted in 2012 as saying "...the announcement of proposed prison expansions in Kingston provided added impetus to begin focusing on prison issues more regularly,”

Calls From Home is a weekly radio show from 7:00 - 8:00 PM on 101.9 CFRC that connects friends and family with their loved ones inside Kingston’s prison walls. Prisoners are encouraged to contribute poetry, essays, letters, or other content. If that weren't remarkable enough, the program also broadcasts messages from prisoners inside to their loved ones on the outside. Friends, family, and supporters can leave a message on a special voicemail. These messages are screened and then broadcast on the last Wednesday of each month. Their programs are also stored on archive.org.

The 3,000 watt signal of CFRC can be heard inside six prisons in the greater Kingston, ON area and one in New York State including:
  • Millhaven Institution 
  • Collins Bay Institution 
  • Joyceville Institution 
  • Bath Institution 
  • Frontenac Institution 
  • Pittsburgh Institution 
  • Quinte Detention Centre 
  • Cape Vincent Correctional Facility
Text book descriptions of the program seem stiff and disconnected from the emotional reality of being forcibly separated from people you care about. For example the book Historical Geographies of Prisons describes the program in it's end notes
"CFRC 101.9 Kingston's community and campus radio station, airs a weekly program called CFRC Prison Radio (CPR), whose activism-based programming features prison justice issues and "Calls From Home," a segment in which inmates can communicate with community members through song requests and messages."  
The description is accurate but narrative details help you get more of a feel for why people care about the program. Take this quote from an article on their 2012 Christmas Special published in Queen's University Journal:
"You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” echoed in seven Kingston-area prisons over the holidays, after an anonymous caller dedicated the Eagles’ “Hotel California” to those spending time behind bars... Erin is waiting for her partner Pat to finish his sentence at Millhaven Institution. In the meantime, she uses Calls From Home to connect with him. “You’re the most important person in my life and I would never have been able to get to where I am if it wasn’t for your love and support. Hang in there and always remember, after the rain,” she said in a message that aired on Dec. 21."
Similar programs air on three other Canadian radio stations: Prison Radio on 90.3 CKUT in Montreal, QC Guelph Prison Radio on 93.3 CFRU in Guelph, ON and the Stark Raven Media Collective produces a monthly prison radio show on 100.5 CFRO in Vancouver, BC.

Friday, March 31, 2017

DJ Freedom Fries

In France they're pommes frites.  The same taters in Spanish are patatas bravas. Italians call them patate fritte. In Poland they are placki kartoflane.  In England they call them chips, and the rest of their former colonies call them hot chips, finger chips, steak fries, french fries, and potato wedges to name a few. ...Except in the USA in 2003. That year, freedom fries was a political euphemism for French fries in the United States. For that particular lexicographical misdemeanor we can thank DJ Jerry Agar.

On March 11, 2003 Republican U.S. Representatives Bob Ney and Walter B. Jones directed the three cafeterias serving the House of Representatives to change all references to "French fries" and "French toast" on menus, and replace them with "Freedom fries" and "Freedom toast."  I am sure the head fry cook thought they were kidding the first time they asked.
Our key man here, Jerry Agar isn't even American. He's Canadian and was born in Gilbert Plains, Manitoba actually. Unsurprisingly, he spent his early radio career in Canada. His first gig was in 1973 fresh out of high school at at 730 CKDM-AM. In 1976 he went to 980 CJME-AM in Regina, Saskatchewan to do morning traffic and a midday two hour show. Just a couple years later he went to 880 CKLQ-AM in Brandon, MB for the PD slot at the long-time country music station. More here.

Then his career changed. He married an American woman and was able to emigrate to the USA and begin working in radio stateside. His first US gig was at 1480 WFXW-AM in Geneva, IL (now WSPY) In the mid 1980s he moved over to his first FM station, 96.7 KKSR  (now KZRV) in St. Cloud, MN. In his own recounting, he got fired a lot. So he relocated again for a morning slot in Toledo at soft rock 1470 WLQR-AM. He was fired again and ended up part-time at 107.9 KQQL in Minneapolis. He relocated all the way to Tucson, AZ for a full-time gig at 94.9 KMXZ in 1996, and was fired again.  From there he went to 102.1 WMYU-FM in Sevierville, TN (they did a call swap with 93.1 WWST in 2001)... anyway he was fired again.

It was in January of 2000 that he was hired by 680 WPTF-AM in Raleigh, NC for an afternoon slot. This is where the sliced fried root vegetable hit the fan. It started with a small, local, right-wing publicity stunt. Innocently enough, a Prof. Crystall at UNC-Chapel Hill warned her studnet, Tim Mertes, in an email for  harshly criticizing homosexuals in class. The Professor rightly stated she would not tolerate "racist, sexist and/or hetero sexist comments in class."  Unknown parties shared that email.  Mike Adam, a Heritage Foundation alum, and UNC Wilmington professor and his pal Rep Walter Jones, began milking a politically correct professor for political capital. It became a meme in the war against political correctness.

While it can be excessive, political correctness is just another word for courtesy and politeness. It's the heart of the golden rule, reciprocity, the foundation of civilization. But in a culture war right and wrong are just ideas used to exploit the politically ignorant. Jerry Agar jumped on the story like a hungry DJ with a bad resume. He interviewed student Tim Mertes on air. Rep Jones heard the interview and sent a bitchy press release and a letter to UNC's chancellor.  Agar milked the story from every angle. He even interviewed Neal Rowland, the owner of Cubbies restaurant in Beaufort, NC because he changed his menu to read "Freedom Fries" as well.  Cubbies fared worse than Agar, they are listed as closed on Yelp. More here.

In response most Americans yawned. A 2005 Gallup poll 66% of respondents called it "silly." By 2006 Rep Jones was regretting his escapade, he commented in one interview "I wish it had never happened." The House cafeteria menu was quietly changed back. Nonetheless Jones remains in his 3rd district seat today. In 2004 Agar left for 980 KMBZ-AM in Kansas City, and in 2006 he relocated to Chicago for a morning slot at 890 WLS-AM in Chicago. There he managed to also do an evening show for WABC in New York from studios in Chicago. He did a stint at WGN-AM around then as well.

But Agar tired of our American way of life and the unending French Fry jokes. He moved back to Canada in February 2010. There Agar joined 1010 CFRB-AM in Toronto to host The Jerry Agar Show on weekday mornings. He remains there today, but the Toronto Sun quietly took down his nutty blog in 2014.

Monday, March 27, 2017


It's an urban legend told at Class D,  carrier current, and other micro-stations at Colleges and Universities across America. I've heard many versions of it... and even some that had some basis in truth. The story always starts with the college radio station having a big signal, and it ends with them having little or none. IN the middle of the story they always do something a bit naughty, and the school president, or board of regents punishes the station by selling off  or downgrading their license.

I'd heard this story about KPNI at SMU. The story was that they had a license and that after ill-mannered DJs ran amock, the license was sold to KNON. It's totally untrue. The other rumor that the call letters are a dick joke are also untrue. The PNI part of the call letters refer to the school mascot: a pony.

I recovered and posted their defunct website history here. According to that history on their old website, KPNI was founded as the carrier current station KSMU in 1947. (Other sources put the start in 1949) University of Wisconsin described them in a 1949 paper as a "carrier current station." That's the earliest date I can attest to. There is no agreement as to whether the station was operating on 760 or 640 AM initially. That history and another at dfwretroplex.com both concede that the station went dark for years at a time on multiple occasions 1958, 1989, and again recently.

But in the 1960s they even reported to the "What's Happening" column oat Billboard Magazine. They broadcast illegally in the early 1960s, and returned to carrier current status in 1964 with the assistance of Prof. H.Charles Baker. More here. They only began using the KNPI calls after 1987, over 10 years after 91.1 KSMU signed on in Springfield, MO.  There never was a license for KPNI or KSMU, no AM, no FM, no Class D license, no LPFM, not even a CP.

89.3 KNON however, does have a license. Their completely unrelated story actually begins at 90.9 KCBI, the Criswell Bible Institute station. KCBI first went on air in May of 1976 on 89.3 operating at 1000 watts. Our friends at KCHU started work in 1971, but didn't sign on until August 28, 1975. Sadly the free format 90.9 KCHU only operated until September 1977 when it went off air due to insolvency. It was one of the legendary stations connected to Lorenzo Milam and Dennis Gross.

In 1978 KCHU was approached by Criswell Bible College about a license swap. KCHU was not enthused about reducing power form 100k watts to 1,000 watts.  KCHU remained silent through 1980, while they organized a local like-minded group to assume their license as KNON.  KCBI applied to the FCC take over the 90.9 spot.  A legal struggle ensued. The FCC issued an order that if KNON was not on the air by July 31, 1983, the license would be forfeited. They made the deadline. Despite that, in 1986 a judge ruled against KNON and gave their license to KCBI.  KNON lost on appeal but the FCC advised the parties to complete the frequency swap offered 10 years earlier. For their trouble, KNON got a $75k payment which helped stabilize the station's finances. More here. You will notice that KSMU and KPNI do not appear in that story anywhere...