Since 1949, Radio Free Europe has broadcast into areas of the world where the media is state-controlled. Sharing current events and news free of governmental filtering, they had their roots in Cold War era broadcasts to countries behind the Iron Curtain. In 1975, they merged with Radio Liberty, an organization with a similar mission which had been broadcasting into the Soviet Union since 1951.
As we roll into this holiday season, I will spending a lot of time looking as radio as a positive force. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty seems a good place to begin. With a reach of 30 million people, broadcasting across 20 countries in 28 languages, they are a potent force for freedom of information, a cause close to my own heart. RFE/RL can be tuned in from within the borders of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Central Asian republics.
Does this really have any substantive effect? Yes, it does. As Kathleen Parker notes in her recent article about RFE/RL in The Houston Chronicle, examples are easy to find. Here are two she shares about Afghanistan, where RFE/RL has a 60.6% market share:
• A couple of months ago when a young girl was raped — a common and underreported event — President Hamid Karzai heard about it on Radio Free Afghanistan and instructed his staff to get details. As a result, the girl and her family were provided assistance, and the government demonstrated a strong position against the all-too-common trend of older men raping girls with impunity.
• In Kabul, the parents of a critically ill girl called the radio station when all else failed. Voila, doctors materialized.
Check out Ms. Parker’s article. She presents a good overview not only of RFE/RL but also of the incredibly inexpensive way in which they perform their mission.