On top of radio waves
On May 12, 1962, an important event in our country’s history took place. «Minsk is speaking. Radio station «Soviet Belarus» is speaking...» These words for the first time were aired internationally on that day. They marked the beginning of Belarusian foreign broadcasting. Thanks to this subdivision of the National State TV and Radio Company listeners from around the world has for fifty years been able to get fast and reliable information about life in our republic. The format of external broadcasting has broadened and improved markedly by now. Today the radio station can be called a visiting card of Belarus, that adequately represents the republic on the international arena. About the past and the future of Belarusian foreign broadcasting Naum Galperovich, chief manager of «Radio Belarus», told our reporter in an exclusive interview.
- Naum Yakovlevich, what were the tasks for Belarusian international broadcasting at the beginning, and how did they differ from those at present?
- In the 1960s the Belarusian service was part of Soviet foreign broadcasting, created «to give an answer» to the «Liberty» radio station and other «voices», hostile to the Soviet Union. The first programs were aimed at our countrymen, who for one reason or another had settled abroad after the war, Germany and the United States in the first place. For Soviet Belarus it was fundamentally important to give them the true information about post-war life in the republic. At first the service was provided in Belarusian solely, but then programs in German began to appear.
- How did the acquisition of sovereignty by our country affect the service?
- I must say that after 1991 the tasks of external broadcasting changed radically, mainly because our target audiences did. Given the great interest of foreigners to the young independent country, journalists began to tell listeners about the making of Belarus and the possibilities of cooperation. All spheres of activity came to the center of attention. Broadcasting and language policies changed too, naturally. Programs were aired in Belarusian, Russian, German and English from then on. I should note that from the first days of sovereignty our country’s foreign broadcasting has been at a very decent level. This is a significant achievement of the radio station’s team, and the governmental policy in our country as well. Today «Radio Belarus» is a powerful information resource, which has found its niche on the international air and which represents all possible facets to cooperation with our country.
- Naum Yakovlevich, since 2004, when you became head of the international broadcasting service, the radio station has undergone significant transformations as well: Belarus began to speak on the short and medium waves, in the FM-band and the Internet…
- Indeed, today Belarus is speaking round the clock, and the total time of broadcasts amounts to 26 hours for all three segments! We work online for 10 hours. In comparison, before 2004 the station broadcast just four hours a day. The list of working languages has expanded: programs began to be aired in French, Polish and Spanish. Accordingly, the audience of listeners has broadened substantially. At present, we broadcast in more than 20 European countries on short and medium waves, the bordering states in the FM band, and all the world via the Internet.
- Does the international broadcasting service have any subject preferences?
- I can say that 65 per cent of the programs deal with politics and social-economic situation in the country, 20 per cent of the broadcasts is taken by cultural and educational programs, and 15 percent is the Belarusian music of all genres. We try to provide the foreign audience with the most true information about life in our country. This work is both demanding and gratifying. For it depends much on our skills and qualification, what the foreigners’ perception of our country would be.
- And who are those people, so brilliantly introducing our country to foreign audiences?
- The staff of our radio numbers a little more than 30 people, they are young, erudite and progressively thinking. There is not a man who speaks only one foreign language. It’s a norm for a journalist in foreign broadcasting to know two or three. Therefore a lot of our employees majored in philology or linguistics and learned the journalistic trade afterwards in the course of work. We have people who come to us with two diplomas of higher education. But on the whole, we don’t wait for bounties and select and rear personnel ourselves. We begin to work with the future employees from when they are students. We keep our eye on them and invite to practical training in order to have ready professionals right after their graduation. As in every organisation we have some “pillars”, on which the radio station is upheld. They are Ruslan Prokhorov, deputy director, Vyacheslav Laktyushin, head of the foreign language programs department, Dmitry Zanevsky who speaks English, Polish, German, Swedish, Grigory Mityushnikov, deputy director of news broadcasting, our young professionals Tatiana Gargalic, Elena Shikun and Alex Kulik.
- Naum Yakovlevich, I know that «Radio Belarus» interacts actively with its foreign partners. How does this collaboration help you to promote your product?
- See for yourself. We have concluded a treaty with the German “Radio 700” in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The radio station has 1.5 million cable subscribers and a web-portal. Every morning in prime time from 7 to 9 o’clock they broadcast our programs in German. You must admit that the voice of Belarus sounding every day in the center of Germany is a truly extraordinary phenomenon… We also have a contract with Orthodox radio station “Orthodoxy” in Belostok. Every day it transmits our cultural and educational programs in Polish and Belarusian. We give news and voice materials in German and English to the portal of the European Broadcasting Union. It serves more than 120 European news agencies, which can use our information freely. By the way, “Radio Belarus” has been on the top-list of the most popular informants. We shall continue to expand the contacts with our foreign partners.
- The anniversary is not just an occasion to look back but also to look into the future...
- The main thing at this stage is to improve the quality of Belarusian foreign broadcasting. We are going to try partial time online life broadcasting and to bring one more highly-distributed language in. A big deal of work is ahead on the site advancement. We want to turn it into a full-scale Internet-portal with videoblocks, where online-conferences and live interaction with our listeners will be possible. Radio is going into the Internet, which is justifiable, because this gives limitless possibilities and opens the whole world.