Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989


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Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe,

Without cookies your experience may not be seamless. Institutional Login. LOG IN. Journal of Cold War Studies. In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Reviewed by:. Richard H. Translated by Diana M. Google Scholar. Crain Jr. Personalised recommendations. Cite chapter How to cite? ENW EndNote.

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Buy options. There are a number of institutional histories of Radio Free Europe written by former executives and directors of the organization. While these texts explore the origins and structural specifics of the institution in much greater detail than this paper can, their discussions are somewhat narrow in regard to the relationship between Radio Free Europe policy and on-air broadcasts.

From the corporate records collection housed at the Hoover, I draw on budgets, employee instruction manuals, audience research reports, and numerous letters between the staff. Peroutka, a Czechoslovak journalist who had been held by the Nazis throughout World War II and then immigrated to the United States after the communist coup in , joined the Radio Free Europe team in as the Czechoslovak correspondent and began hosting the weekly Sunday Night Talks. The personal collection is comprised of his letters to Radio Free Europe executives, newspaper articles written on him from both American and Czechoslovak sources, and transcripts of his weekly broadcasts.

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Peroutka provides the third layer in how policy was interpreted as it moved from United States presidents and their close strategists and advisors to the Radio Free Europe leadership, and from them to the individual journalists projecting these attitudes to the peoples of Central Europe through their broadcasts.

In this paper, I look at the roots of liberation ideology in the earliest years of Radio Free Europe and the political theories behind it in the era of George Kennan and the advent of the Eisenhower administration. After , the station lost some popularity because of its involvement in Hungary but also became less relevant as domestic presses gained more editorial freedom in the wake of destalinization. On the ground, Peroutka adapted the topics of his shows to fill a different niche for his home audience, and from above; directors in New York experimented with changing the policy guidelines for journalists, both believing the actions in their channels would most affect those of the other.

In conclusion, I look to how the history of this institution can inform us about the relationship between self-determination, liberation, and American interests abroad, and how this relationship continues to be expressed across different media platforms. Among these viewers was a young Richard H. In the book, Cummings credits seeing these commercials in childhood as influencing his later decision to pursue a career at the organization. Rather, the public donations fit into a branding of the campaign as a collaborative, American undertaking.

The previous year, just as the new broadcasting facility in Munich was beginning daily reports, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had introduced the Crusade and the station in a Labor Day Speech. While the Crusade for Freedom campaign was one of the first public solidifications of this attitude at the time, these ideas had been developing since the end of World War II. Containment, which came to be the governing Cold War ideology of the Truman administration, allowed for a range of responses that could shift depending on the area with which the United States determined to be of the most importance at the time.

The subject of the memo has added significance, as George Kennan is most famously associated with the policy of containment, not liberation. While Kennan strongly opposed the creation of any definitive foreign policy statement stemming from his views, and so this document may not be the most representative of his legacy, it demonstrates the pervasiveness of the liberation conversation at this time. The Committee, in its original mission, aims to aid those anti-communist and anti-fascist leaders in useful occupations that have left their home countries for political reasons.

As a former RFE director, Johnson may have a stake in preventing unnecessary responsibility from being placed on the shoulders of Radio Free Europe. Ferdinand Peroutka, as expressed in his correspondence with RFE officials, appeared to believe promoting liberation was an official stance of the institution. In a letter to Radio Free Europe chief Mr.

In , he writes again to Mr. Media sources within these countries began to include more local news, a wider array of voices, and less censorship by the communist administration. For Radio Free Europe, this meant that much of their daily broadcasting became less unique and less relevant, as sources closer to the listeners were able to break the same stories.

The document details the differing attitudes towards liberation of Western officials he had encountered. Communication of this policy by Peroutka and his colleagues to listeners, this report suggested, was more important than accurate transmission of policy from the United States government to the journalists. The term is particularly useful in that it does not imply commitment to any anti-administration groups or actions within the Soviet satellite states. These sanctions, writes Peroutka, send a clear and reassuring message to those opposing the regimes domestically but do not carry the weight or expectation of military assistance or more forceful intervention.

In yearly Audience Research Reports, RFE and RL representatives would meet with groups of station listeners from the different broadcast countries who for specific reasons were able to travel to West Germany. While the institution acknowledges that this was not exactly the most representative sample of the actual listener composition, comparing the reports from year to year does create a picture of how attitudes towards the station formed over the years of its broadcasting.

The Report, though, while still complimentary, does include a few more serious concerns than seen in earlier years. Many respondents noted that, more than occasionally, RFE broadcasts turned out to be false.

Ferdinand Peroutka also addresses the concern in this same year. On November 4th, Soviet forces entered the country with tanks to crush the rebellion and kidnap Nagy to the Soviet Union. Roughly twenty-five hundred Hungarians were killed in the process. After the news spread of how bloody the crushing of Budapest by the Soviet troops had been, Radio Free Europe came under considerable fire for their role.

To this day, the broadcasts remain one of the most significant controversies the institution has faced. In fact, A. In the immediate aftermath, the United States government ordered multiple official investigations into the broadcasts in question. Two weeks later, the CIA prepared its official review of the situation, which reached two primary conclusions. After the revolution and crushing, Ferdinand Peroutka addressed the matter in his November 17, Sunday Night Talk. While perhaps the institution was in support of self-liberation discussion on this term became more mixed after the Hungary broadcasts and the thaw , it was certainly not—as Peroutka stated—a liberation army.

Its livelihood rested on journalists like Peroutka convincing the people of Eastern Europe of this without making the impression that the Americans were turning their backs on them. Not only was Radio Free Europe daily news less novel when it also came from stations at home, but the conclusive American rhetoric Peroutka used for inspiration had dwindled. As early as , Peroutka began adjusting the topics of his shows in line with the suggestions in this report.

“Their Need Was Great”: Émigrés and Anglo-American Intelligence Operations in the Early Cold War

On April 6th of that year, he opened his broadcast with a description of the view of Carnegie Hall from his New York office and broadened that to a more general discussion of the merits of the American tax system. Much less often came discussion of Czechoslovak news and politics, and entirely absent were the rallying cries to rise up against the administration so common in his early years on the air. But also, focusing on other countries—even ones going through their own liberation struggles—temporarily removed the focus from liberation within Eastern Europe.

Shifting to international stories proved beneficial not only because it provided listeners with new information, but also because it removed some of the pressure of reporting on internal issues, especially in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution. In the next two decades, as those in Washington, DC were forced to examine many of the operational practices Ferdinand Peroutka had attempted to answer in his work for them years earlier, Peroutka himself left the station to author five books, including The Democratic Manifesto his ideological response to The Communist Manifesto before his death in in New York.

As public opinion moved away from the antagonistic attitude towards the Soviet Union of the s, many questioned what role Radio Free Europe would fill in the long-term future.

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United States foreign policy was quite different by the s as it had been at the conception of Radio Free Europe in In , John F. Overall, the report stated, the institution has been slow to adapt to the changes in the Soviet world, and much more frequent reexaminations of its progress was needed to ensure it keeps up with political and technological advances.


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  7. In the years following this report, domestic support for sweeping anti-communist rhetoric and policies by the government dwindled in large part due to the Vietnam War and revelations of CIA funding for the National Students Association and other organizations abroad. Amidst growing discussion over the ethical implications of the funding for the stations later that year, another report—authored by the Radio Study Group this time—was issued. It echoed many of the same sentiments as the Sprague Committee report had seven years previously, but pushed concerns about the association with the CIA further.

    Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989
    Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989
    Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989
    Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989
    Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989 Cold War radio : the dangerous history of American broadcasting in Europe, 1950-1989

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