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This is Serbia Calling

In a previous blog, I discussed the impact of Radio Caroline, how it altered the status quo for British radio. Here, I wish to present to you a book which had a deep impact on me and inspired me to become involved with internet radio broadcasting. The book is ‘This is Serbia Calling’ by Matthew Collin. It is a factual account of the history of independent Belgrade radio station B92 during the Balkans conflict.

During the nineties, Europe was engulfed by its worst conflict since the Second World War. The breakup of the former-Yugoslavia turned into an horrifically bloody ethnic conflict. Religion separated the ethnic groups of Yugoslavia and the dark aspects of humanity presented themselves to the inhabitants as Serbian and Bosnian orthodox christians fought with Croatian and Bosnian Roman Catholics and Bosnian / Kosovan Muslims. The religious divide went back to the times of the Ottoman Empire and had always been a simmering bowl of contention but during the communist years of Yugoslavia and the protection of the Soviet Union, somehow the population had remained glued together. Political upheavals led to a rise in nationalism during the early nineties and the fragile bonds broke, releasing the full fury of suppressed anger amongst the ethnic populations as they fought for power in the region. To read more about the conflict I highly recommend Tim Judah’s book ‘The Serbs’ which provides a detailed factual analysis of the ensuing war. ‘This is Serbia Calling’ is a case study of the remarkable work of independent radio station B92. It was run by youth and developed into an active resistance movement as the war progressed. During times of conflict the power of media becomes elevated. The history of warfare has been dotted by technological media movements. Propaganda is an essential part of warfare and masters of propaganda are usually in the boss seat during a conflict. Ideological dissemination is vital to all sides of the conflict. What B92 did was to use their radio station to express the youth’s anger with the horrific happenings in their nation. It was a station which transcended the ethnic divides that were ruining Yugoslavia. A discontented youth movement emerged that would shake the very foundations of the empire that Slobodan Milosevic was attempting to create in Belgrade. The voice of the revolution was born and B92 was at the critical cultural edge.

The DJs sought to keep the population in touch with international culture, a voice of reason while the country around them was collapsing into chaos. In Serbia ultra-nationalist ‘Turbo-folk’ music was encouraged by the authorities. This rather bad form of Europop mixed ethnic sounds with nationalist ranting. Musically ‘unique’ is a term that may describe the sound but it certainly wouldn’t receive any worldwide success. The book title is a bit of a misnomer as Rather than rock n’roll, B92 focussed on electronic music. They saw it as their revolutionary sound and it certainly was more popular than the turbofolk atrocities that was being spoonfed. Bands like the Prodigy and the techno Undergound Resistance system toured Yugoslavia during the conflict. youth could identify with the radical electronic sounds and it helped gloss over the internecine strife. There are stories of post-battle raves going off where soldiers from all sides joined in arms, firing shots into the air. Music has that sort of power.

Politics became rapidly involved as B92’s popularity soared. The authorities made several attempts to close them down, some successful. Certainly, in a place such as Britain, tight regualtions would have forbidden the very existence of such an independent broadcast in the very first instance. B92 constantly operated in the shadows of legality. After a significant riot in Belgrade, they were initially switched completely off, then reluctantly allowed to just broadcast music with no speaking from the DJs. To encapsulate the feeling in the capital, DJs hammered the sounds of Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ and The Clash. Throughout the conflict a cat and mouse pursuit between the station and the authorities was constant and somehow the wily station producers and DJs managed to keep their voice alive. At one stage the station owners had a bust up and split into two divisions, but the main B92 branch maintained its reactionary status. There was also a lot of technical difficulty in keeping the broadcast live. B92 demonstrates how a vital movement can be very adaptive in difficult conditions. These people were not profiteering like so many during the conflict. They weren’t arms traders, smugglers or pilferers, they were an organisation with a clear ideology. Essentially an internal peace division, a voice of reason in a deepeningly madder by the minute world. Broadcasts at one stage were transferred to Bosnia and beamed back into Belgrade. A series of unmanned relaying stations serviced the dissemination of the airwaves. As technology progressed the internet became more important to the station and with the rebroadcasting facility it provided, listenership became more dispersed. By the end of the conflict, the station was heavily dependent on internet for its broadcasts.

B92 is the incredible story of resistance radio. Whether you plan to broadcast from a conflict zone or from sleepy suburbia, the book tells a message. There is hope in even the most dire of times and there is a critical need for good radio broadcasts. Internet radio broadcast capability today gives anyone with the most simplest of equipment the facility to create their own independent voice. KryKey is a platform which will allow you to set up your own radio station. Maybe by reading ‘This is Serbia Calling’ it will give you the inspiration to make your Personal Radio Station a success.

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