Radio Liberty to Get a Moscow Bureau : Broadcasting: Yeltsin also gives go-ahead to Radio Free Europe. Services may go on AM or FM.


Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin granted permission Wednesday for Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, the U.S. government’s Cold War-era shortwave radio service, to open their first accredited bureau in Moscow and perhaps even be carried on AM or FM bands.

By presidential decree, Yeltsin said the service can open “a permanent bureau” and that it will be provided “with the necessary channels of communications”--meaning that the shortwave service would be allowed onto AM or FM channels, U.S. officials hope.

Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe had used specially hired news personnel, or stringers, inside the country to do its firsthand reporting. Until four years ago, the Soviet government was still jamming its broadcasts.


“This makes us a legitimate news service within the country,” said Mark Pomar, executive director of the Board for International Broadcasting, the agency that oversees Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. “This will help us to intensify our coverage of domestic affairs and will facilitate such things as interviewing of cultural and political leaders first hand.”

Allowing Radio Liberty on AM or FM bands in the Soviet Union could be particularly significant. Not only will that move increase the audience, but it could help Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe survive.

A White House commission already is studying whether the three U.S. international broadcasting services--Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America--overlap or have become unnecessary. And as media restrictions are relaxed, shortwave may become less of a presence in the Soviet Union, as has happened in the United States.

Radio Liberty, which broadcasts 24 hours a day in Russian and 12 other languages spoken in the Soviet Union, was set up in the 1950s to report news from within the Soviet Union and elsewhere as a surrogate for the controlled Soviet media. Radio Free Europe has the same function in Eastern Europe.

Voice of America is the official voice of the U.S. government, carrying abroad news, information and entertainment from America. It broadcasts 14 hours a day in English and Russian.

Yeltsin said in his decree that he was taking into account the service’s “role in objectively informing the citizens of the Russian Republic and the world at large about the course of the democratic processes in Russia.” During the attempted coup, Radio Liberty’s large audience included Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev during his house arrest in the Crimea.