Ex-ABC News pro­ducer helped launch Ra­dio Free Asia

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - RICHARD W. RICHTER, 88 BY BART BARNES robert.barnes@wash­post.com

Richard W. Richter, the found­ing pres­i­dent of Ra­dio Free Asia who or­ga­nized and led for 10 years its broad­casts to na­tions in East Asia that are sub­jected to gov­ern­ment news cen­sor­ship, died June 29 at a hospice in Is­saquah, Wash. He was 88.

The cause was pneu­mo­nia, said his wife, Joan Richter.

Mr. Richter, a for­mer news pro­ducer for ABC tele­vi­sion and WETA, the Wash­ing­ton-area PBS af­fil­i­ate, or­ga­nized a staff of tech­ni­cians and news pro­fes­sion­als who in 1996 com­menced what be­came round-the-clock ra­dio pro­gram­ming in Asian lan­guages, in­clud­ing Burmese, Can­tonese, Kh­mer, Korean, Lao, Man­darin, Wu (Shang­hainese), Ti­betan, Uighur and Viet­namese.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Ra­dio Free Asia (RFA) es­tab­lished a news web­site in East Asian lan­guages and set up toll-free hot­lines for call­ers. It spe­cial­ized in lo­cal news pro­gram­ming and re­cruited, as its news staff, a corps of stringers, broad­cast­ing in lo­cal di­alects. They re­ported on such events as

Richard W. Richter

in­ter­nal eth­nic flare-ups and op­po­si­tion to gov­ern­ment poli­cies — which were of­ten a tar­get of gov­ern­ment cen­sor­ship.

The re­ports some­times sub­jected the RFA stringers to gov­ern­ment re­tal­i­a­tion, in­clud­ing sur­veil­lance, ha­rass­ment of fam­i­lies and friends, and jail, said Dan Souther­land, a for­mer Chris­tian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor and Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ist who is a re­tired RFA pro­gram ex­ec­u­tive.

In a pub­lic state­ment on his re­tire­ment in 2005, Mr. Richter said “re­pres­sive gov­ern­ments reviled RFA, be­cause we were let­ting peo­ple know what was go­ing on in their own coun­tries — pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion that their own lead­ers would sup­press.”

Chi­nese of­fi­cials, he said, had jammed RFA broad­casts and tried to block ac­cess to its web­sites.

Richard Wil­liam Richter was born Nov. 17, 1929, in New York City. He grad­u­ated from New York’s Queens Col­lege in 1950.

As a young man, he was a copy aide at the New York Times and a re­porter for Newsday and the New York World-Tele­gram and Sun.

In the 1960s, Mr. Richter was an overseas pro­gram eval­u­a­tor for the Peace Corps and then deputy direc­tor of Peace Corps pro­grams in Kenya. He was a pro­ducer in New York and Wash­ing­ton for ABC News from 1969 to 1989, work­ing on news doc­u­men­taries. He was the found­ing se­nior pro­ducer of ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­ica.”

At WETA, he was a pro­ducer of “News of the Week in Re­view.”

Ra­dio Free Asia was au­tho­rized by Con­gress as a “sur­ro­gate” broad­caster to East Asian coun­tries lack­ing a free me­dia. It is a fed­er­ally sup­ported pri­vate non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion and is man­aged by a bi­par­ti­san Broad­cast­ing Board of Gover­nors, who appointed Mr. Richter pres­i­dent in 1996.

He moved from the Dis­trict to the state of Wash­ing­ton nine years ago.

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 67 years, Joan Skri­vanek Richter of Is­saquah; two sons, Dave Richter of Is­saquah and Rob Richter of Mys­tic, Conn.; and two grand­chil­dren.

“Re­pres­sive gov­ern­ments reviled RFA, be­cause we were let­ting peo­ple know what was go­ing on in their own coun­tries.”


Richard W. Richter, third from left, with his fam­ily. He was the found­ing pres­i­dent of Ra­dio Free Asia, which pro­vided news pro­gram­ming in Asian lan­guages for peo­ple un­der re­pres­sive regimes.

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