In July 1940, TIME magazine featured a story about Carroll Duard Alcott, an American who broadcast from Shanghai radio station XMHA. The story captures the intrigue then swirling around Shanghai, a series of international zones surrounded by civil war torn China, in turn enmeshed with Japanese occupation and with Europe at war.
Broadcasting in Shanghai began in the early 1920’s and stations were owned and operated by local Chinese businesses as well as from within the international zones where stations included American, French and German operations.
At the beginning of 1941, there were 40 local AM radio stations broadcasting from Shanghai, 90% of the radio sets on sale were brought by Chinese, and most of the advertising was placed on the many Chinese language stations that filled the radio dial.
XMHA was heard as far away as New Zealand despite its low power of just 500 watts on 600kc. It was an overseas affiliate of America’s ‘Blue Network’ later known as NBC. A number of Shanghai radio stations also relayed their local programs via shortwave to an even wider audience. XMHA was one of these, using a 1kW transmitter on 11890kc.
In this introductory article, the ‘Newscaster of Shanghai’ story also sums up the rivalry between American and Japanese interests at the time.
Although there were 40 stations in 1941, the number recorded had dropped by more than 75% to less than 10 in 1945. Within another five years or so, these few remaining private stations in Shanghai were to be replaced by a national broadcasting network.
We’ve put together a list of the known Shanghai stations in both 1941 and 1945 and welcome any information about any of these stations. Photos, recordings, listener memories, program guides, advertisements. Much evidence of the Chinese owned and operated stations was destroyed during World War II and keeping historical memorabilia of the pre-communist era was not encouraged during the decades after 1949.
Monday, Jul. 29, 1940
Newscaster of Shanghai
On Japan’s crowded list of public enemies, few rate higher than burly, tousled, tough-tongued, 39-year-old Carroll Duard Alcott, who broadcasts thrice daily from Shanghai bold news & views on matters Asiatic. A veteran American newshawk from Des Moines, who has covered a China beat for the past 13 years, Alcott took to the air at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese hostilities. Tokyo has lost face almost every time he has opened his mouth. Last week he was one of the six Americans whom Japan’s puppet Chinese Government “ordered” expelled from China. Last week, in a bulletproof vest that fitted snugly around his 220-lb. frame, Alcott was still holding forth over Station XMHA, on Race Course Road.
Wherever English is spoken in China, Alcott is an aerial “must.” At 8 in the morning, at 1 p.m. and at 10:15 at night, an audience estimated at well over 250,000 gathers around radios in barrooms, homes, hotels and missionary outposts to listen to his breezy newscasting. He provides bootleg radio fare for such Japanese centres as Mukden, Dairen and Nanking, is heard in embassies at Tokyo and Peking. Droll and irreverent, Alcott airs all Japanese protests against his show, constantly cracks at a pair of typical Japanese named “Mr. Suzuki” and “Mr. Watanabe,” whom he uses to serve as the personification of Rising Sun arrogance. Especially embarrassing to the Japanese is his comment on the arrival in Shanghai of U. S. visitors who go to the East as guests of the Japanese Board of Tourist Industry. Announcing how much it has cost the Japs to bring out each visitor, he points out to the newcomers that the New Order in Asia can be seen at its best in the Shanghai badlands, where opium is sold openly.
The embittered Japanese began operating a maverick transmitter from Shanghai’s Astor House Hotel, which set up a terrible clatter whenever Alcott began to broadcast. Alcott told about it. The Japanese denied it. Alcott told the number of the hotel room where it was housed. Finally the Japanese turned their transmitter over to some Shanghai Nazis. Nowadays all Japanese ships in China waters have instructions to turn on their radio buzzers when Alcott goes on the air, but even when combined with land station jamming, the din they set up is not overly effective except in downtown Shanghai. On his program, Alcott usually announces when the interference is about to begin, advises his listeners to head for the suburbs if they want to hear him clearly.
Alcott is commercially as well as politically potent in the Far East. He plugs Jell-O and Maxwell House Coffee for General Foods all over the China Coast. His offers of recipe books in exchange for boxtops have attracted responses from spots 1,700 miles from Shanghai. His fan mail runs to some 500 letters a month, including morbid epistles from moody Japanese.
Early this year the Japanese attempted to give Alcott a physical tossing around. Jap terrorists tried to drag him out of a rickshaw in the American Defense Zone of the International Settlement, but he escaped through an alley. Since then he has used a Packard with bulletproof glass, toted a gun. Busy as a bird dog, Alcott serves as cable editor of the China Press between broadcasts, improvises his scripts from news flashes that come over his desk. Married recently to a White Russian he met in the Settlement, Alcott is thinking of settling down. If the Japs won’t let him, he is prepared to carry on from the Philippine Islands, where he was once correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. He has had offers from Station KZRM in Manila, will accept when Shanghai gets too hot.
Shanghai Radio Dial 1941
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Shanghai Radio Dial 1945
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‘Newscaster of Shanghai’ appeared in TIME on July 29 1940 and is © Time Inc.
This digital version is for personal research only, and any other use requires permission from Time Inc.
The Shanghai Radio Dial 1941 and 1945 station information is from ‘All the Radio Calls of the World’ published in 1941 and 1946 by the NZ DX Radio Association © Cleve Costello Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.
This list is not to be reproduced in this or any other format without permission from the Radio Heritage Foundation.
Please contact us if you have any information, photos, recordings, or other memorabilia for any of these stations.