Monday, 27 November 2017

"No lies are to be told"

When MOONSHINE became PINOCHIO (sic)

Disclaimer: I was employed by the BBC at the time of the 1982 war, and continue to be so. However, this is an entirely personal blog post, reflecting only my views.

Acknowledgement: I continue to be happy to express my gratitude to professional researcher Lee Richards for making available a number of declassified files from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Cabinet Office relating to British information and psychological operations in the Falklands War, including MOONSHINE, the codename for Radio Atlantico del Sur. Material from these files forms the basis for this blog post.

Key documents

I've discussed so far in this blog five key official (and originally classified) documents that set out the story of Radio Atlantico del Sur. In the order they were written they are:

1. "Annex to SPG 020" (or SPG 20 for short). This document, circulated within government on 28 April 1982, was the initial proposal by the Ministry of Defence's Special Projects Group (SPG) to set up a radio station to broadcast to Argentine forces in the Falklands. A revised version of SPG 020 was circulated the following day.

2. In an attempt to answer the Foreign Office's objections to the proposed radio station, the SPG issued a further revised document  "Special Projects Group - Paper No 6" – on 3 May. The text of this document was given in my post "The codeword for this operation is MOONSHINE".

3. In early May, RAdS's civilian manager, Neil ffrench-Blake, wrote the document "Programming - Interim Assessment" containing his suggestions for the station's objectives and methods.

4. In mid-May, after much argument between the MoD and the FCO, a formal proposal to set up Radio Atlantico del Sur was put to the War Cabinet, The draft text of the proposal was given in my post "The War Cabinet is invited to agree".

5. Shortly after the war, an overall retrospective was written in the document Report on Psy Ops in OP CORPORATE (the codename for the entire South Atlantic Campaign).  

Instructions for the staff
All of the above were written to be read at senior levels in the MoD and other parts of government. (The document noted in Point 4 was intended to be read by the prime minister and her most senior ministers.)
The document I give below is different. It was written as operational instructions for the team that would run Radio Atlantico del Sur.
The instructions were titled "Media Assessment Team Directive". (Media Assessment Team was the cover name for the station's staff, which included both civilians and military personnel.)

I have transcribed the text of the directive and its Annex below. A copy of the original can be found in the National Archives in MoD file DEFE 25/502. Unfortunately, this file is marked "Copy original destroyed due to asbestos contamination", and the quality of the photocopy of this particular document is noticeably poor. Unlike some of the other key RAdS documents, no other copies of "Media Assessment Team Directive" are in other MoD or FCO files.

The directive has a handwritten note dating it as 20 May 1982 (RAdS began broadcasting the previous night). The Annex has an almost illegible date, possibly 14 May. 

Unlike other formal documents in the files, there is no covering letter or memo, and no evidence that it was circulated outside the MoD (e.g. to the FCO).

[Explanations that I have inserted into the text below are in italics and between square brackets.]


[serial number illegible – a reference in another document gives it as SPG 28]



1. The Media Assessment Team (MAT) is the cover name for the radio station which has been formed under the authority of OD(SA) [Overseas and Defence Committee, South Atlantic – the formal name for the the War Cabinet]. The objective is to maximise the use of radio in support of operational plans to demoralise Argentine troops occupying the Falklands (particularly conscripted troops) so reducing their willingness to resist. MAT is to provide broadcasts under the name RADIO ATLANTICO DEL SUR (RAS) within the hours 0830-0930 and 2300-0200Z [GMT] (i.e. 0530-0730 [should be 0530-0630] and 2000-2300 Falklands local).

2. Content of Broadcasts. Ministers have agreed this radio station on the understanding that no lies will be told and that the output should be such that any accusations of "black propaganda" can be refuted. Initial guidelines are at Annex A. There is to be a daily editorial conference at which the themes and programme content of the day will be decided. [The daily editorial conference was held at 1130 GMT (1230 BST), according to Annex G to Report on Psy Ops in OP CORPORATE .]

Attendance will be:
 CO [Commanding Officer] MAT  SPG Member
 2IC [Second in Command] MAT  SPG Member
 Station Manager


3. Special Projects Group (SPG). The SPG will review editorial policy regularly and revise guidelines from time to time. Any important changes of policy will be notified to members of the committee to whom SPG is responsible.

4. CO MAT. CO MAT is responsible to SPC/CDS [the colonel who was the overall head of the SPG] for all aspects of MAT. 
[CO MAT was an RAF squadron leader. He is named in other documents in the MoD files, but I have chosen not to name in this blog anyone intimately associated with RAdS unless their identity is already published.]

5. 2IC MAT. Responsible to CO for all matters of administration and logistics. As a member of SPG he will assist in formulation of broadcast guidelines but will not be a member of the editorial team.
[According to Annex A to Special Projects Group - Paper No 6, written more than a fortnight earlier, 2IC MAT would be an officer with the rank of captain or lieutenant and would head the MAT's "Admin Section".]

6. Station Manager. Will be responsible for the programme content in accordance with the guidelines agreed by SPG. He will also run the studio, train the announcers and coordinate the compilation of each broadcast. The studio engineer will work under him. He is to have right of direct access to SPC/CDS in event of problems. [This post was held by Neil ffrench-Blake, the most senior civilian member of the MAT. The studio engineer was another civilian, and a friend of ffrench-Blake.]

7. Editor. He carries final responsibility to SPC/CDS for ensuring that the broadcasts conform with the guidelines agreed with higher authority. He will work closely with the Station Manager in preparing the content of the broadcasts and will be assisted in this by the Copy Taster, sub-editors and announcer.
[Annex A to Special Projects Group - Paper No 6 said the Editor would be a Spanish-speaking military officer (neither rank nor name was specified), while the Copy Taster would be a Spanish-speaking civilian.]


8. It is likely that HMG [Her Majesty's Government] will be obliged to acknowledge that it, not the BBC is responsible for the broadcasts. The main security considerations are:

 a. Broadcasts should as far as possible be Latin American in character.
 b. The highest priority in security is the concealment of the identities of those members of MAT who have family connections with the Argentines. Closely allied to this is the need to conceal the location of the studios.
 c. 2IC MAT is the Security Officer and is to issue detailed instructions in accordance with specialist advice.
 d. From the time of authorisation by OD(SA) the code-word to be used is PINOCHIO [see section below]. The meaning of this word comprises the radio station and its objectives. This is classified SECRET but may be downgraded in the future.

[serial number illegible]
DATED [number almost illegible possibly 14] MAY 82


1. In order to achieve its aim, Radio Atlantico del Sur (RAS) must establish credibility, obtain maximum audience attention, and thus increase the sense of isolation felt by the audience.

2. To establish credibility, RAS must present itself as being neutral and impartial. Its sources of information will be British and foreign [news] agencies. Argentine sources will only be quoted if compatible with our aim. No lies are to be told. [1]

3. To obtain maximum audience attention, RAS will produce a relaxed modern mixed programme, appealing to the target audience. This will include Argentine 'pop' music, request programmes, and speedy accurate reporting of non-political and world sporting events.

4. The audience sense of isolation will be increased by direct reference to events taking place on the Islands known only to the garrison, coupled with information about their own town on the Mainland; particular points on this subject will be agreed at daily editorial meetings. Some methods of achieving the overall aim have been discounted as being counter productive. Such things as decrying their loyalty to their flag or comments on their sovereignty claims will not be used. [In his memoirsNeil ffrench-Blake said: "Even my own broadcasters took some time to understand this lesson. They kept on writing editorials pointing out the incorrectness and injustice of the Argentine government position, and were quite upset when I rejected them."]

6[sic]. As operational situations change, various detailed methods of achieving the aim will be discussed and agreed at editorial meetings. SPG is to be kept informed of proposed developments in editorial policy.

[ffrench-Blake says in his memoirs that he drafted the above Annex himself, and quotes the text. His version is largely identical to that above.]


ffrench-Blake recounted the opposition mainly from the FCO, but also from some (though certainly not all) parts of the BBC, along with Mrs Thatcher's press secretary Bernard Ingham that threatened for a while to prevent Radio Atlantico de Sur from getting on the air. He said that once the War Cabinet had finally given its approval for broadcasts to start:
To take the pressure off, we removed all opponents to the scheme, including Mr Ingham, from our circulation list, and changed our code name [from MOONSHINE] to "PINOCCIO" [sic]. This somewhat idiosyncratic spelling of the deceitful Italian puppet was in honour of [Argentine President] General Galtieri's long nose and as a special tribute to the nature of his propaganda.
The "idiosyncratic" variants of the puppet's name – Pinoccio in ffrench-Blake's memoirs, Pinochio in the MAT Directive, both misspellings of the correct Italian rendering Pinocchio – are not the only curiosities of this affair.

When I first read the memoirs I assumed that the "PINOCCIO" code name was just a piece of fun, a harmless and inconsequential team joke.

But seeing the inclusion of the name in the MAT Directive puts it on an official footing. Was it just a means of shielding the MOONSHINE codename – used up to then in MoD documents – from the eyes of RAdS's civilian staff?

Or was it, as ff-B suggests, a way of concealing some of his team's activities from the unhelpful eyes of the FCO, who were, as both his memoirs and the declassified files show, a far more troublesome enemy to his work than the Argentines?


[1] According to the Report on Psy Ops in OP CORPORATE, news sources used by RAdS included British and international newspapers, Reuters, the Ceefax and Oracle teletext services of the BBC and ITN (Independent Television News), IRN (Independent Radio News) and BBC Monitoring.

© 2017. Material may be reproduced if attributed to Chris Greenway and any original source.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

"The codeword for this operation is MOONSHINE"

Disclaimer: I was employed by the BBC at the time of the 1982 war, and continue to be so. However, this is an entirely personal blog post, reflecting only my views.

Acknowledgement: I continue to be happy to express my gratitude to professional researcher Lee Richards for making available a number of declassified files from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Cabinet Office relating to British information and psychological operations in the Falklands War, including MOONSHINE, the codename for Radio Atlantico del Sur. Material from these files forms the basis for this blog post.

"SPG 020" and "Paper No 6"

On 28 April 1982, the colonel in charge of the Ministry of Defence's Special Projects Group (SPG) circulated within government a document called "Annex A to SPG 020" (or SPG 020 for short as I call it). 

SPG 020 set out the plan to set up a shortwave station, Radio Atlantico del Sur, to broadcast to Argentine forces in the Falklands. A revised version of SPG 020 was circulated the following day.

SPG 020 ran into immediate opposition from the Foreign Office. In an attempt to answer the FCO's objections to the proposed radio station, the SPG issued a further revised document on 3 May.

This document  "Special Projects Group - Paper No 6"  also added to the plans given in SPG 020, notably on the financial costs of using a requisitioned transmitter at the BBC's Ascension Island relay station, and the implications for the BBC's own services of losing the use of one of the four Ascension transmitters at certain times of day.

I have transcribed the text of "Paper No 6" below. Copies of the original document can be found in the National Archives in MoD file DEFE 25/502 and FCO file 26/2449.

[Explanations that I have inserted into the text below are in italics and between square brackets.]


COS(Misc) 192/742/1




1. SPG has been given direction from Ministerial level to find every suitable means of supporting OP CORPORATE [the overall codename for British military operations against Argentina] through the media. This paper proposes a method of broadcasting to the South Atlantic by a means which will be separate from BBC broadcasting. We know that the Junta is increasingly seeking to suppress the truth. Now the TEZ [Total Exclusion Zone the British sea and air blockade of the Falklands] is established the garrison will receive no newspapers. Thus we believe that broadcasts carrying factual reports will be useful in bringing home to the garrison the truth about their predicament.

2. The proposed radio station could also be used to pass information and, perhaps, instructions prior to an assault, to the Islanders. We know that both the Argentine and Island populations commonly posses short wave transmitters [sic] and listen on this wave. The debrief of a Falklands woman policeman indicates that soldiers of the garrison have transistors and listen to them.


3. This paper seeks agreement in principle, and financial authority, for the setting up of a radio station to broadcast to the South Atlantic. The codeword for this operation is MOONSHINE.


4. The BBC Spanish language service is a Radio 4 equivalent servicing a wide Latin American audience. Our station would be a commercial radio equivalent appealing to a lower social level, in particular soldiers of the garrison, their families and those concerned with mainland based facilities. It will broadcast light music interspersed with news and world opinion taken from other radio and press coverage.

5. The radio station would use a BBC transmitter in Ascension and the studios of Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) Kings Buildings London. [The SSVC was, and is, the parent organisation of the British Forces Broadcasting Service, BFBS.] Broadcasting could start almost at once.


6. We have identified a freelance consultant [Neil ffrench-Blake] with wide experience of BBC and commercial radio who has assisted with our feasibility study and who is willing to act as Station Manager. He will need 2 civilian assistants. [SPG 020 said the two civilians in addition to ffrench-Blake would be a Spanish-speaking copy taster  "BBC is seeking a suitable man from the Monitoring Service"; and an engineer  "we have an ex-Sergeant RAF radar engineer in mind. He is well known to Mr ffrench-Blake".] We have found 3 serving officers [in the British armed forces] of Argentine background, and a further 2 officers who are satisfactory Spanish speakers. They have been tested by an Argentine linguist who assures us that between them they are well qualified to fill the editor and announcer posts. (Annex A).
[Annex A was an organisation chart for the team, showing three civilian staff  the station manager, the copy taster and the engineer  and nine military personnel, along with one SSVC engineer.] 

7. The senior serving officer of the team will be Sqn Ldr [Squadron Leader] G. of Psy Ops [Psychological Operations] Section, JW [Joint Warfare] Wing NDC [National Defence College] currently a member of SPG. He will be responsible for ensuring that the station conforms to MOD policy. In addition to the announcers, Int [Intelligence] Corps can provide useful additional staff for processing English language material. [1] 


8. Transmitters. There are suitable transmitters, owned by BBC (but bought with FCO funds), in Ascension [known formally as the BBC Atlantic Relay Station]. The penalty involved in using one [of the four transmitters in Ascension] for the proposed station for certain hours of the morning and evening (local time) are given at Annex B. In brief no programme would be lost, but power would curtailed on one of the English language frequencies to the area. In the morning period the Voice of America (VOA) [in Portuguese] to Brazil would lose one of two frequencies loaned by BBC Ascension. 
[In the end, the timing of RAdS's morning broadcasts was set at 0830-0930 GMT and so the VOA broadcast to Brazil, at 1000-1100 GMT, was unaffected.]

9. Frequencies. Because the radio station must be kept entirely separate from the BBC we must not use British frequencies. We are advised by the BBC, however, that frequency poaching is common and that BBC can probably identify for us a frequency meeting the following criteria:
 a. Optimum reception in the target area.
 b. Allocated to a minor third-world country (Argentina?) whose protests may be safely disregarded.
 c. As close as possible to an existing Argentine service.
[In the end, Radio Atlantico del Sur used 9710 kHz for its evening broadcast and 9700 kHz for the morning one. Both were close to 9690 kHz, which was used during the 1982 war by various stations in Argentina.]

10. Studios. Studio facilities can easily be made available in Kings Buildings close to the SSVC whose studios can be used outside working hours without interference with normal work. This will be adequate at least in the early stages. If and when we start morning broadcasts we are confident that a satisfactory arrangement can be made.
[See my post The Secret is Revealed: Radio Atlantico del Sur's studio.]

11. Programme Content. We envisage broadcasting for up to 5 hours daily 0530-0730 and 2000-2300 local [equivalent to 0830-1030 and 2300-0200 GMT; the proposed times of the morning broadcast were subject to discussion and revision, and when they eventually began on 28 May they were at 0530-0630 local time, 0830-0930 GMT]. The first objective will be to gain and hold the attention of the target audience. This should be achieved by the use of popular and familiar music combined with a relaxed and informal style of presentation. The news output will be politically and militarily uncontentious. Opinion will be limited to attributed reports from other agencies. Material will be drawn from the following sources:
 a. Ethnic music.
 b. Telex news services.
 c. Extracts from the Argentine press, transmitted on a daily basis by the British Embassy in MONTEVIDEO [Uruguay]. This may well entail an increase in FCO staff in the Embassy, but such a service will have an important intelligence spin-off. The matter is being raised with the FCO informally. [In his memoirs, RAdS's civilian manager, Neil ffrench-Blake, said the FCO withheld cooperation from him, including refusing to provide him with copies of Argentine newspapers. Instead, he had to use a private courier service from South America.]
d. FCO extracts of world-wide press coverage.
e. Intelligence debriefs of evacuees from the Falkland Islands.
f. BBC internal news services.
g. BBC Monitoring Service reports.
h. Major US and European newspapers.
i. Dedicated telex to BBC news room.


12. We propose that the station should call itself RADIO ATLANTICO DEL SUR (Radio South Atlantic). [2] We would seek for as long as possible to avoid any confirmation that it is British sponsored. In particular we will seek to keep secret the location of the studio. We propose that the broadcasting team in Kings Buildings calls itself the Media Assessment Team (MAT). Within MOD the operation will be referred to as 'MOONSHINE'. Some unvetted civilians will have to be employed. We believe that the only practical step will be to ask them sign the OSA [Official Secrets Act]. Their knowledge of classified matters will be limited to knowledge of the station itself. BBC staff in Ascension will be aware of what is going on.

13. Once it becomes well known that the broadcasts emanate from Ascension we might well be forced to admit that it is a government sponsored operation in order to protect the BBC. But the aim of the service is defensible. Particularly in that it could result in a saving of lives.


14. At this stage it is very difficult to quantify costs. We envisage an initial capital outlay of £1,500 for installation of lines, initial telex costs, records, Spanish language books, directories, etc. We are advised that it will be impractical for the broadcasts to be other than live so civil staff will need hotel accommodation in London. These costs are likely to be:
Station Manager  £450 + VAT (for 70 hrs) per week (as paid previously by FCO) [presumably this is what ffrench-Blake was paid in his previous secret work for the government]
Copy Taster – £300 (reimburse employer) per week
Engineer – £300 (reimburse employer) per week
Overnight allowances  1 @ £47.55 per night
(FCO rates) 2 @ £31.55 per night
[When the armed forces' chiefs of staff considered this paper on 4 May they said: "The overnight allowances at paragraph 14 should be examined and a more modest proposal inserted."]

TOTAL £1,900 approximately per week

15. Transmission costs. The cost of running transmitters in Ascension is £500 per hour. The only period when we might run the transmitter, that is not now running at FCO expense, is 0930-1030Z [GMT] (cost £3,500 per week). If we were to broadcast for 5 hrs per day Cable and Wireless charges for transmission to Ascension would be £1,250 per day or £8,750 per week. [The proposed Cable and Wireless feed, which would have been by satellite to the C&W station on Ascension, was not used. Instead, RAdS's signal was fed to Ascension via BT's Rugby Radio Station, as explained in my post The Incident at Crowsley Park on the Night of 20-21 May 1982.] On this basis extra transmission costs amount to £12,250 per week. A saving of £5,250 per week could be made if we did not broadcast between 0930 and 1030Z (VOA times). [As noted in Paragraph 8 above, in the end RAdS's morning broadcasts did not clash with the VOA broadcast to Brazil.]

16. Total Costs. Telex service costs [for receiving teleprinted feeds from news agencies] are not known. An allowance of £1,500 per week for expenses such as this seems realistic. Thus total extra costs per week are estimated at:
For 3 hrs evening + 2 hrs morning £15,750
For 3 hrs evening + 1 hr morning £10,500

[After the war, the total cost of the four weeks of broadcasting by Radio Atlantico del Sur was said by the MoD to have been about £40,000 (equivalent to around £140,000 in 2017 prices), in line with the above estimate for broadcasts of three hours in the evening and one hour in the morning. These were "extra costs", not including the salaries of the armed forces' personnel who worked on the station (as they would have been paid in any case) or the cost of running the Ascension Island transmitter (as it would already have been on the air at government expense if it had not been requisitioned).]


17. This paper has been refined since we obtained an FCO view at official level. We now know more about the effects on BBC broadcasts. Our main counters to FCO reservations are:
 a. As proposed we believe that the BBC would be adequately distanced from MOONSHINE. Thus BBC credibility and reputation would not be damaged. We suggest that the pirating of a frequency is justifiable in the present circumstances.
 b. We believe that the station will provide a fully professional commercial-type service.
 c. We believe that there is a good chance that Argentine soldiers and civilians are likely to sample the short wave frequency and tune to our topical and entertaining service. The Argentines may even advertise it through denunciation.
 d. We consider that, even if branded by the Argentines as propaganda, such a service is most unlikely to be "counter-productive". We see it is as a comparatively low cost operation carrying negligible risk to the BBC, which could, in view of the Argentine temperament and the predicament of the garrison, contribute to the success of HMG [Her Majesty's Government] policy.


18. We recommend that authority be given:
 a. To requisition from the BBC a suitable transmitter for use during hours of broadcasting.
 b. To set up a radio station and start broadcasting on the lines set out above, for up to 5 hours per day. [When the armed forces' chiefs of staff considered this paper on 4 May they said this sentence should read: "... for not less than 3 and up to 5 hours per day".]
c. For expenditure as detailed in Paragraphs 14 and 16 above, as part of MOD Operation CORPORATE costs.

A. Organisation of Media Assessment Team (MAT). [Staffing of the team see Paragraph 6 above.]
B. Feasible Hours of Broadcasting. [This looked at the implications for BBC and VOA services of requisitioning one of the Ascension transmitters at specific times of the day. I will examine this subject in a future blog post.]


SPG Paper No 6 was circulated within government on 3 May 1982. The armed forces' chiefs of staff considered it the following day and gave their approval to Project MOONSHINE, subject to the provisos about overnight allowances and broadcasting hours noted above in Paragraphs 14 and 18.

The paper did not meet with the same success at the FCO. Despite the attempts in Paragraph 17 to answer the Foreign Office's reservations, they remained unconvinced and lobbied against the MoD's plan to set up such a radio station.

Arguments continued back and forth across Whitehall, and it became clear that the matter could only be resolved by taking it to the War Cabinet for a final decision. See my post "The War Cabinet is invited to agree".

The War Cabinet gave its approval to Project MOONSHINE on 18 May and Radio Atlantico del Sur began broadcasting the following day.


[1] For readers outside Britain and the Commonwealth, a squadron leader is an air force rank equivalent to an army major. Sqn Ldr G. is named in the document but I have chosen not to name in this blog anyone intimately associated with RAdS unless their identity is already published.

[2] Someone in the Special Projects Group, or at least their typist, had a problem for a while with the Spanish word "sur" (south). In the document "SPG 020" (28 April 1982), the name of the proposed station is given as RADIO ATLANTICO DEL SUD (sic). In "SPG 020 (Revised)" (29 April), SUD was changed to "SU" and it remained as such in the SPG's "Paper No 6" transcribed above. When transcribing I corrected that and a couple of other spelling mistakes in the original document ("eminate", "comparitively").

© 2017. Material may be reproduced if attributed to Chris Greenway and any original source.