Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Broadcasting freedom during Cold War

I found this news in an italian blog about radio.
In October 2004 there was a conference called "Cold war broadcasting impact"
about the role and the importance of western radio (basically Radio Free
Europe and Radio Liberty
) for the eastern european audience.
You can download a 56 page paper about the conference.
Above, you can see the picture of Radio Liberty transmitter at Playa de Pals on the Mediterranean coast north of Barcelona, it was blown up in March 2006.


This publication reports the highlights of a conference on Cold War Broadcasting Impact held at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, on October 13‐15, 2004. The conference was organized by the Hoover Institution and the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, with assistance from the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Stanford University, and the Open Society Archives, Central European University, Budapest. The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands and the Bernard Osher Foundation provided generous financial support. The Honorable George Shultz opened the conference, and former Czech President and communist‐era dissident Vaclav Havel sent video greetings.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were, along with other Western broadcasters, effective instruments of Western policy during the Cold War. Many East European and Russian democrats have seconded the words of Vaclav Havel that “our society owes Radio Free Europe gratitude for the role that it has played.” Western studies have examined the history and organization of RFE/RL and its place in American national security strategy. Major publications include Sig Mickelson, America╩╣s Other Voice: The Story of Radio Free Europe & Radio Liberty (Praeger, 1983), Michael Nelson, War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War (Syracuse University Press, 1997), Gene Sosin, Sparks of Liberty: An Insider╩╣s Memoir of Radio Liberty (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), Arch Puddington, Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (University of Kentucky Press, 2000), and Alan Heil, The Voice of America; A History (Columbia University Press, 2003). But we have lacked studies of Western broadcasting drawing on archival material from the other side of the former Iron Curtin. We have lacked analyses of broadcasting impact ‐ the effect on both societies and communist regimes.
In preparation for the conference, documents about Western broadcasting impact were collected from Communist‐era East European, Baltic, and Russian archives. These materials include Communist Party Politburo and Central Committee discussions of broadcasting impact and propaganda coutermeasures, secret police assessments and efforts to penetrate the Western broadcasters, directives on jamming, internal secret audience surveys, Party and censorship office press guidance on countering the broadcasts, and assessments of the impact on the 3
Communist armies. Documentation was collected by the CWIHP’s network of archive scholars in the region, with assistance from the Open Society Archives. A Hoover Institution oral history project interviewed key Polish Communist officials about broadcast impact. These materials complement the extensive RFE/RL corporate records and broadcast archives now located at the Hoover Institution (described at http://hoorferl.stanford.edu/).
The conference brought together experts from the West and former Communist countries who presented papers based on this archiva documentation. Veteran Western broadcasting officials and leading former Communist officials and dissidents also participated. This combination of new documentation, international expertise, and oral history provides new insights into a major Western instrument of the Cold War.
This publication contains a summary of proceedings, prepared by Gregory Mitrovich, who served as rapporteur. It also contains an analysis based on the conference discussions (“Lessons Learned”) of why Western Cold War broadcasting was effective, prepared by A. Ross Johnson and R. Eugene Parta. Selected conference papers will be published in an edited volume by the Central European Press. Key documents will be made available in the CWIHP’s Virtual Archive (http://cwihp.si.edu) and published in English in a second volume by the Central European Press.

Factors of success

1) First, a clear sense of purpose congruent with the aspirations and possibilities of the audiences.
2) Second, a capability for sophisticated appraisal of the adversary.
3) Third, differentiated and tailored programs for multiple audiences amand within the target countries.
4) Fourth, programs that were purposeful, credible, responsible, and relevatheir audiences.
5) Fifth, decentralized broadcast organizations.
6) Sixth, multi‐media operations.
7) Seventh, appropriate funding and oversight mechanisms.
8) Eighth, distance from official government polices and journalistic independence.
9) Ninth, receptive audiences that identified with many of the goals of the broadcasters.


Western broadcasts had a remarkable impact in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the circumstances of the Cold War. They reached mass audiences, as documented by traveler surveys at the time and confirmed now by evidence from the formerly closed Communist archives. They reached key elites, both within the Communist regimes and among regime opponents. The keys to the mass and elite audiences were the credibility and relevance of the broadcasts. Government mechanisms were geared to providing public funding and oversight while ensuring management autonomy and journalistic independence.

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