By Michael E. Miller
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Herald of Truth might still be on WRMI today if it weren't for James Lloyd the mountain-dwelling prophet who dubbed Boutros Boutros-Ghali the Antichrist. His show, which has been expanding for the past five years, pushed Hallstrom's program off in 2004. Today Lloyd's Christian Media Network airs seven hours a day five days a week, more than any other right-wing program in WRMI's history.
Lloyd himself hosts the flagship segment. Called the Apocalypse Chronicles, it runs three hours daily. The rest of the time is farmed out to other prophets, conspiracy peddlers, and paranormal buffs. Among them is Lloyd's wife, Susan, a college-educated geologist. When she isn't shoveling manure at their Oregon home, she hosts a program about unconventional healing techniques called Sound Body. "We're trying to give people an alternative to those fascist drug companies," Lloyd explains. "They don't want to heal. They just want to take your money."
White has never much liked the right-wing harangues that have become a staple of his programming. "We air a lot of commentaries we don't agree with," he says. "We're a commercial station. And we've never made that much money to begin with." In fact WRMI is often just able to cover its operating costs, which run about $20,000 per month. This is in part because, over the past decade, the price of airtime has dropped from about $30 an hour to a buck largely because of competition from AM stations.
As for the government-issue programs that initially drew White to shortwave, he airs those as filler when he can't find a buyer for a slot. Among them is Radio Netherlands' program Euroquest a quirky show reminiscent of This American Life which crackles across WRMI's airwaves each weekday at 8:00 a.m. The November 22 episode led with a piece about old public-service films that the British National Archives recently placed online. One from the Forties can best be described as Handkerchief 101. The protagonist is a sorry chump who guzzles beer expertly but can't manage to cough without showering his friends in saliva. So a kindly old chap with a prim British accent instructs him. "Close your eyes. Now handkerchief.... Sneeze!" he coaxes as his pupil hacks.
A Seventies film soundtrack instructs people how to survive a nuclear attack. "If anyone dies while you are in your fallout room," the narrator warns, "move the body to another room in the house, label the body with name and address, and cover it as tightly as possible...."
Euroquest is followed at 9:00 a.m. by The Tubridy Show from Ireland's international service, RTE, where the talk today revolves around the "hugging saint" who visited Ireland recently. "Fifteen thousand people queued up to hug her!" the host grouses. Then comes NewsLink from the Deutsche Welle the German international service which features a newscast and a pair of NPR-style documentaries: one about the country's outgoing chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and the other about his replacement, Angela Merkel.
White would like to fill his airwaves with this kind of lively commentary, quirky features, and hard-hitting news. But he simply can't afford to do so. As he puts it: "The stuff I like doesn't pay."
In some cases the filler programs and the paying clients create jarring combos. At one point Radio Israel sat cheek-and-jowl with Jew-bashing Herald of Truth on WRMI's airwaves. And Vatican Radio aired alongside Catholic-loathers like the Overcomer. "Shortwave," says White, "makes strange bedfellows."
It's Saturday, November 12, at WRMI's headquarters, a tiny office tucked into the back of the drab Fontainebleau Park office park. Inside, the walls are plastered with maps and postcards from listeners. There's a shot of tourists atop the Great Wall of China, a foal grazing on rock-strewn Irish hills, a bee hovering over a Nicaraguan orchid.
Allan Gonzalez is sitting at a collapsable table in the cramped studio, three microphones perched in front of him. The soft-spoken, middle-age Peruvian looks as if he's just gotten out of bed. Sprigs of his dark hair poke over the frames of his clunky bifocals. And his rumpled gray shirt is only partially tucked into his pants.
Gonzalez comes every Saturday to record his show VIP Peru, which consists mainly of interviews with prominent compatriots. Today he tugs a phone card from his pocket and dials Fernando de la Flor Arbulú, Peru's ambassador to the Organization of American States. Arbulú answers and talks about what it would take for his nation to develop. His key suggestion: Increase access to the Internet. "We need an electronic revolution," he says. "The problem is the lack of political will to do things well in a country where there is so much corruption."
After ten minutes, Gonzalez hangs up, scribbles a few notes, and dials "Doctora Lucy," a Peruvian university professor. They discuss former President Alberto Fujimori, who fled to Japan to evade corruption charges in 2000. This past November Fujimori tried to return to Peru, but police nabbed him in Chile. "It's a game," Lucy remarks. "He's trying to look like a political prisoner, when he's nothing more than a crook."
VIP Peru was founded six years ago by a Peruvian opposition party called Fuerza Democrática (Democratic Force). At the time, Fujimori was in office and had a stranglehold on the media. "We wanted to create something different, something credible," explains Gonzalez. "WRMI gave us the platform.... And it can be heard by people in the mountain and the jungle places where many Peruvian media don't go."