A typographical error in yesterday's editions changed the mean-of a quotation attributed to exiled Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. The sentence should have said that Bukovsky was advising Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe "not to mix information and diplomacy."
Vladimir Bukovsky has spent almost a third of his 34 years in Soviet prison camps and "hospitals,"
In one of those camps during 1968 and 1969, the exiled Soviet dissident said in an interview here today, he was able to hear the U.S. sponsored Radio Liberty broadcasts on a makeshift radio that had been built secretly in the camp.
The Carter administration has asked Congress for $45 million in additional funds to double the power of transmitters used by Radio Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty as well as the world-wide facilities of the Voice of America.
Soviet efforts to block these broadcasts by electronic jamming "covers the big cities," Bukovsky said, "but it doesn't work so well in the suburbs where this camp was. We could hear quite well."
Bukovsky, who was freed last December in exchange for the release in Chile of jailed Communist leaders Luis Corvalan, was here yesterday to talk with employees of Radio Liberty, which broadcasts to the Soviet Union, and Radio Free Europe, which beams broadcasts at five other East European Communist countries.
Bukovsky said his short visit was meant to offer advice to the stations on the content of the broadcasts. But his remarks about being able to hear an outherwise jammed broadcast in the suburbs dramatizes the complicated electronic battle being fought daily in the airwaves between the United States and the Soviet Union over these broadcasts.
The Voice, which is an official part of the US. government, sticks mostly to presentation of world news and explanations of U.S. government policies and is not jammed by the Soviets or its allies.
The recently combined RFE/RL operations, however, draw frequent criticism from the Soviet Union and its allies. They broadcast in 22 local languages - news that is frequently suppressed by local censors or that focuses on the internal affairs and arguments of Communist nations.
The stations, transmitting from West Germany, Portugal and Spain, have been repeatedly denounced by Soviet Communist leader Leonid Brezhnev as a flagrant interference in internal affairs, and are strongly supported by President Carter as one of America's "most valuable instruments" in its commitment to the free flow of information and ideas.
The Radio Liberty broadcasts to the Soviet Union are heavily jammed. The RFE broadcasts to Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria are also heavily jammed as to a lesser extent, are those to Poland. Only Romania and Hungary do not jam them.
Most of the transmitters are some 20 years old and are widely viewed as underpowered and outmoded.
The Carter administration's plan to modernize this equipment involves replacing four old 10 kilowatt transmitters in West Germany with 250kw transmitters and antennas and to all seven of the more powerful 250kw transmitters in Portugal.
The idea is to help break through the areas of heaviest jamming, to carry the signal further to other areas of Eastern Europe, and to make what is a weak signal now to listeners in some areas stronger and thus more "attractive."
Increasing the power from 10kw to 250kw does nto mean a 25-fold increase. It means, explains engineering director Earnal Campbell, increasing the original signal sent to listeners by some 15 decibels.
In simple terms, Campbell explains, a single decibel is the slightest change in sound level that a person can perceive.
Campbell says trying to counter more powerful broadcast transmissions with more powerful jamming is not a simple matter. For one thing, it is hard to black out a large geographic area, which explains why the Communist countries try to focus on the cities. With the higher power, however, the outskirts of places like Prague, Czechoslovakia, are viewed as certain to have better reception.
In addition, at certain hours of the day, transmission from west to east has certain atmospheric advantages that cannot be fully offset by jammers trying to push electronic energy in the opposite direction at the same frequencies.
The RFE/RL broadcasts from West Germany are sent via the low-end of the shortwave radio band. Identical broadcasts are made from Portugal using the high-frequency end of the shortwave band, bouncing the signals of the ionosphere and into Eastern Europe.
The high-frequency broadcasts are harder to jam than the low-frequency, and would present even more of a problem with more powerful transmitters.
RFE claims it now reaches some 13 million listeners daily and RL between 3 to 4 million. They say listener ratings have held up despite data from various monitoring techniques that shows that the currently low-powered signal has been declining in relative strength in the last 10 years in some areas as more powerful stations have come on the air.
In 1957, Campbell says, there were less than 10 transmitters of 200kw or more. Today, he says, there are about 250.
Assuming that Congress approves the money, Campbell estimates it will then take almost three years before the first new station is operating.
The stations also face a potentially sticky situation with the Bonn government, which must approve the new transmitters near here. Bonn has always gone along in the past, but Brezhnev is expected to visit here later this year and is expected to lean on the Germans to oust the U.S.-sponsored stations, which were run with heavy CIA involvement until Congress took over support in 1971.
Strolling through the newsroom here today, Bukovsky said that as important as the U.S. stations were, "They were not perfect."
He said that at times a year or two ago he felt they pulled some punches by not broadcasting the names of arrested dissidents or backing away from discussion of Soviet problems because the State Department regarded it as interference.
"I came here to help," he said "To tell them to mix information and diplomacy, to keep in mind they are speaking with people and not governments and not to be more timid than President Carter."
Bukovsky, perhaps inadvertently, used the same word Carter did when the President met with the Russian exile last month at the White House and told him that as president he would not be "timid" in his public statements.
Carter's proposal last month for the new equipment came on the heels of a sharp blast from Brezhnev over the President's stand on human rights, making the RFE/Rl proposals even more infurating than they would normally have been for the Soviet Union.
Ironically, the study that led to the proposal was begun by the Ford administration and officials here prefer to think of the timing of the Carter statement, on the eve of Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance's recent trip to Moscow, as "a historical accident."