There have been many press reports in recent months about the efforts of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to distribute shortwave radios in Cuba free of charge. This has caused diplomatic flaps between the U.S. and Cuba because these radios can be used to hear the U.S. Government's Radio Martí broadcasts. There was even some speculation that these radios might be fix-tuned to Radio Martí frequencies. But none of the dozens of press reports has given much technical information about the receivers, so we decided to find out for ourselves.
at the U.S.
Interests Section, which operates out of the Embassy of Switzerland
in Havana, has confirmed to WRMI
that the radios being distributed are Chinese-made Tecsun brand, model
R9701, which come with "external antenna, earpiece, batteries
and battery charger." Some investigation on the Internet reveals
that Tecsun has a marketing office in Hong Kong. The manufacturing
plant is somewhere in China, and it also makes
R9701 has AM, FM and seven shortwave bands. A photo on the company's
showed the radio, but it is not clear enough to distinguish the exact
coverage of the seven shortwave bands. It is clear, though, that the
radio covers most of the major shortwave bands. The R9701 has analog
readout, is dual conversion and measures 115 x 75 x 29 millimeters.
It uses two AA batteries and has an earphone jack. The website does
not mention a price, but an Oct. 23 article in USA
Today indicates that the radios cost $10 each, and that the U.S.
While the Cuban government has criticized the U.S. for distributing the radios (and in fact has threatened unspecified consequences if the U.S. does not quit distributing them), the U.S. Interests Section points out that these radios are not fix-tuned to Radio Martí frequencies; they can be used to hear shortwave stations from all over the world, including Castro's own Radio Havana Cuba. And they have AM and FM bands to pick up all of the local Cuban government-owned stations.
R9701 is obviously a simple, cheap shortwave receiver, but for listeners
in Cuba who are struggling to get information from abroad, something
is better than nothing at all. These radios will literally bring the
world to Cuban listeners, and while the main objective of the U.S.
Interests Section may be to get people to listen to Radio Martí
or the Voice
Jeff White is the General Manager of WRMI "Radio Miami International". Thanks to Jeff for permission to post this article.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This isn't the first time shortwave radios have been given away by a government agency or non-governmental organization. Most recently radios were given away in Afghanistan. Glenn Hauser reports in DXLD #2005 via UPI article that Kchibo KK-12 were given away by the International Organization of Migration in Afghanistan, a non-governmental organization with close relations to the United Nations. The Kchibo KK-12 is not listed on their web page. Perhaps it was the Kchibo KK-9912L? or something similar.
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