This Is Radio Tangier, Calling the World


TALIM Radio Tanger International

The radio audience thought that it was a chance to learn about TALIM and the programs of the American Legation in Tangier.

Yes, my interview (stay tuned for podcast, though it will be in a mix of Arabic and French) on Radio Tangier was that.  But for me, it was a discovery of another historic landmark in this city.  And to learn that it was founded by an American.

The amazing Herbert R. Southworth, described by the LSE's Paul Preston, in the American Historical Association reprint of a Guardian article, as the "scourge of Franco" for his dogged determination to tell the truth about the Spanish Civil War, went on to Morocco in the aftermath of the November 1942 Operation Torch landings in North Africa.

Because of his knowledge of the Spanish situation, he was posted to Rabat in Morocco to direct Spanish-language broadcasts to Franco's Spain. At the end of the war, he decided not to use his demobilization air passage home but to stay in Rabat, partly to await the fall of Franco but largely because he had fallen in love with a powerfully intelligent French lawyer, Suzanne Maury. When both were free to do so, they married in 1948. Knowing that there were no controls on broadcasting from Tangier, Suzanne advised him to buy a quantity of U.S. Army surplus radio equipment with which he founded Radio Tangier. During that time, he traveled regularly to Spain in search of material for what would become the largest ever collection of books and pamphlets on the Spanish Civil War. The radio station was nationalized by the Moroccan Government in 1960.

Southworth moved on, but his legacy remains.  Soon after Moroccan independence, while the station was still in Southworth's hands, King Mohammed V visited the station.  The fading grey photo commemorates his 1957 visit, to honor the radio station whose shortwave broadcasts, from his exile in Madagascar, kept the king informed about the growing resistance movement in Protectorate Morocco which eventually brought about his triumphant return to the country in 1955.

Radio Tangier director Abdelilah Elhalimi tells of the coded messages contained in the radio's transmissions, which could pass the word from Tangier International Zone to Moroccans in the French and Spanish Protectorates, and beyond.

TALIM Radio Tanger Bahija

That international vocation continues.  Thanks to online streaming and satellite radio, Radio Tangier's audience covers the world.  Bahija Chaibi – my interviewer (photo at right) – told me that comments come in from the worldwide Moroccan diaspora; her nighttime broadcasts are appreciated by Moroccans in places like California, who are just starting their day.  At night, Radio Tangier becomes Morocco's Chaine Internationale, broadcasting to the world.

In the independence-era studios, a veritable treasure trove of recordings of broadcasts – all digitized, by the staff of Radio Tanger.  A music studio with two pianos – rare commodities in this town – and photos from a variety of Moroccan musical greats who have performed live over the years.  Most of Radio Tanger's programs are in fact live.

Tangier has always been an important radio location.  As Brian Edwards writes in Morocco Bound, stations like RCA, Mackay, and VOA were important Cold War assets.  Then there's Pan American Radio in postwar Tangier, run by another American.  But that will have to be another story.

Gerald Loftus

2 thoughts on “This Is Radio Tangier, Calling the World”

  1. I lived in Tangier from 1951-1953 – went to the American School of Tangier.
    My father built and became Chief Engineer for the Voice of America (VoA) transmitter site there.
    Would love to find any links/information about that time and the VoA personnel that was there at that time.

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