Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Turn the radio on... Evangelical domination of shortwave


I have a shortwave radio. And nearly every American English station I tune in is Christian. How did this happen? Here's the answer:

"It is still a free country and they have a right to say a lot of things," said WWCR General Manager George McClintock.

"We pretty much let anyone say what they want," said Weiner. "Our listeners demand that we be as open and free speech as possible. They crave it. They demand it."

Besides, "The FCC doesn't really monitor the content on U.S. shortwave," White said. "I don't think they see that as their mission or concern. They are more worried about whether a station's technical parameters are correct."

That said, U.S. shortwave broadcasters often suffer grief from their clients' programming. Even radio's renegades have their limits.

For instance, WWCR learned that neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel was using his airtime to deny the Holocaust. "We threw the program off," said McClintock. Zundel had been broadcasting in German, and WWCR's operators didn't understand what he was saying.

Even so, many Americans associate U.S. shortwave with far-right broadcasts. This is ironic, given that most of what McClintock calls "militia money" stopped flowing to shortwave broadcasters when the dreaded year 2000 finally arrived. Apparently the New World Order's "non-collapse," in McClintock's words, severely hurt the militias' ability to solicit donations from listeners.

All in all, U.S. SW broadcasters operate in a strange, Twilight Zone kind of world, but one that they relish. Passport's Magne believes that U.S. shortwave broadcasters enjoy it so much that they don't want the FCC to loosen its archaic restrictions on domestic shortwave.

"The truth is that they like it the way it is," he said. "If the rules were changed, it could open the floodgates to more competition."

An unfair accusation? Not according to WRMI's White.

"We discussed changing the rules at the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters' convention a few years ago," he said. "In fact, the FCC asked for our help in doing so. However, after some discussion, a lot of people came to Magne's conclusion: that we're all better off just leaving things as they are. After all, under the current regime, the FCC pretty much leaves us alone. If the rules were changed, then they might get serious about enforcing them."

"If it works for you, leave it alone," said McClintock. Granted, the FCC shortwave rules are "as loose as a goose," he said. But "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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