I see the BBC has relaunched its BBC World Service website and is inviting comments for listeners. While hosting a communications show on Radio Netherlands, Media Network, I remember that shortly after the Soviet Coup in August 1991 the BBC claimed that while he was under house arrest, Gorbachev listened to the BBC Russian Service. Later that was watered down to a claim that he heard the news of the coup via the BBC Russian service, implying that someone on his staff was listening to the radio rather than Gorbachev himself. While trawling "the Internets" I bumped into this comment in Usenet which I found intriguing. It doesn't solve the mystery...just adds to it.
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 1999
Subject: Gorbachev and Foreign Radio
From: Serguei Sossedkine
In 1986/89 my father worked as a communication specialist at Gorbachev's
dacha in Pharos where eventually the Soviet president had his short-lived
house arest. According to stories I heard from my dad before the coup,
many of those employed in Pharos' maintenance regularly tuned in to
Russian broadcasts from BBC even when BBC was still jammed. Many workers
there had short-wave radios. From my own experience I know that BBC had
a very strong reception in Crimea, thanks to its powerful relay station
According to Western statistics, in the 80s BBC was the most popular
foreign station in Russia. VoA usually took the second place while DW
and RL shared the third. Out of four, RL was widely mistrusted due to
its obvious propagandist purposes.
I don't think that Gorbachev lied when he said that he was listenting to
BBC. Of course, he might have listened to other international stations
as well. If George Marquart wants a tape of that memorable event he
should get in touch with Russian Service of BBC which broadcasted
Gorbachev's BBC-friendly reply many times in its Russian programs.
Although I'm sure Gorbachev Foundation already has it.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.