Tag Archives: RFE

Cold War Broadcasting: Two articles feature RFE & Radio Liberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares the following article from the website Journalism Is Not A Crime:

From Propaganda to Journalism: How Radio Free Europe Pierced the Iron Curtain

The end of the Second World War signaled the beginning of an information war in Europe. As the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its main western allies — the United States and Britain — came to an end, the USSR backed small communist parties that asserted ever-tighter control over much of Eastern Europe.

Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” of totalitarian control sealing off half the continent. His speech heralded the beginning of an ideological “cold war” that would last for more than 40 years, a struggle in which citizens of the eastern camp were only meant to hear one side of the argument.

“We talk about the Iron Curtain as a physical barrier, but it was also an information curtain,” says A. Ross Johnson, a former director of Radio Free Europe and author of a history of RFE and its companion station, Radio Liberty, which broadcast into the Soviet Union. “All the communist regimes saw control of information as a key to their rule.”

Continue reading…

An SWLing Post contributor also recently shared the following PDF article by A. Ross Johnson for the Wilson Center. Here’s the summary:

To Monitor and be Monitored– Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War

Monitoring of Soviet bloc radios was an important input to Radio Free and Radio Liberty broadcasts during the Cold War. RFE and RL also monitored the official print media and interviewed refugees and travelers. Soviet bloc officials in turn monitored RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasts (while jamming their transmissions) to inform themselves and to counter what they viewed as “ideological subversion.” On both sides, monitoring informed media policy.

RFE and RL monitored their radio audiences through listener letters and extensive travel
surveys, while the Communist authorities monitored those audiences through secret police
informants and secret internal polling. Both approaches were second-best efforts at survey
research but in retrospect provided reasonably accurate indicators of the audience for RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasters.

Click here to download the full Wilson Center article as a PDF.

If you’re interested in Cold War broadcasting, I would also encourage you to check out Richard Cummings’ blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

Radio Free Europe receives offhand mention in Senate hearing on Russian Hacking

Many thanks SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who writes:

[While passing by the TV at just the right time] I heard an interesting little 16 seconds of exchange in the Senate Russian Hacking hearings.

The exchange take place between Lindsey Graham and James Clapper from 1:57:40 to 1:58:24:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In this short exchange, which starts by Graham asking, “Would you agree with me that Radio Free Europe is outdated?” We learn that Clapper isn’t “familiar” with Radio Free Europe and both of them admit that they don’t listen to the radio (though Clapper believes it’s popular in some parts of the world).

Graham: “Is radio big in your world?”

Clapper: “Not in my world.”

Graham: “Yeah, I don’t listen to the radio so much either.”

Well…glad we sorted that out, gentlemen.


UPDATE — Kim Andrew Elliott comments:

That exchange might explain why the RFE/RL Press Room sent out this email on January 5…

Facts about Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

(WASHINGTON – January 5, 2017) RFE/RL serves a measured audience of 27 million people a week in 23 nations and territories by video, social networks, mobile apps, websites, podcasts and radio – whatever media they use most. From its Prague headquarters and 18 news bureaus, it provides local news and information in 26 languages to the nations of the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a round-the-clock Russian-language television channel.

Through last September, RFE/RL recorded one billion page views on its websites, 300 million views on YouTube and 225 million engaged users on Facebook, plus many more visits and views on other social networks and apps.

“RFE/RL’s audience is highly loyal, making their way to us despite efforts by some governments to jam us on the internet and over the air, and even to directly intimidate viewers and listeners,” said Thomas Kent, president and CEO of RFE/RL. “They find us an indispensable source of news and investigative journalism, constantly adapting to the most modern platforms to reach them.”

About RFE/RL

RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, internet, television, and mobile — reach 27 million people in 26 languages and 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, and the Baltic states. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

Radio Free Europe and Christmas

1951 RFE Christmas card

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cummings, who shares the 1951 Radio Free Europe Christmas card above.

Richard also notes that he recently published a two-part series on RFE and Christmas on his blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

Both excellent reads! Thanks, Richard!

Washington Post: “A big change to U.S. broadcasting is coming”

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares this editorial from the The Washington Post:”

“FOR YEARS, members of Congress have fumed about what they regard as ineffective U.S. public diplomacy, including the failure of broadcasting operations such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to match the reach and apparent influence of networks such as Russia’s RT and Qatar’s al Jazeera. A frequent and arguably fair focus of criticism has been the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the body created to supervise government-funded media outlets while serving as a firewall between them and the political administration of the day.

A radical change to that system is now coming — and it looks like one that Vladi­mir Putin and Qatar’s emir might well admire. An amendment quietly inserted into the annual National Defense Authorization Act by Republican House leaders would abolish the broadcasting board and place VOA, RFE/RL and other international news and information operations under the direct control of a chief executive appointed by the president. The new executive would hire and fire senior media personnel and manage their budgets.

[…]The point of board governance was to prevent direct political interference in programming by the White House, State Department or other agencies. It was a guarantee that for decades has helped to attract journalistic talent to the broadcasting organizations, as well as listeners seeking reliable information. The board of governors had serious problems: Its members served part time, and not all took their duties seriously. But the system’s biggest flaw was remedied three years ago with the creation of a chief executive position.

The new reform, driven by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), enhances that executive’s power and makes him answerable to the White House rather than the bipartisan board. A new advisory panel will be created, but it will be toothless: Its members will also be nominated by the president from a pool provided by Congress.[…]”

Click here to read the full editorial at The Washington Post online.

Also, Richard points out this article in BBG Watch which highlights comments from Dan Robinson.

Searchable archive of RFE/Radio Liberty broadcasts to USSR 1953-1995

RFE-RadioLiberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Kraft, who shares the following:

Here’s something for the history buffs, an online searchable archive of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts to the USSR from 1953-1995:

http://www.radioworld.com/article/radio-liberty-munich-period-russian-broadcasts-available/278953

This is brilliant, Martin! I just started searching through the recordings at the Open Society Archives–an impressive collection. Thanks again!