Radio Propaganda in the Cold War: VOA, RFE, RL, Radio Moscow.


The cold war background and the formation of the Eastern Bloc

The Eastern European territories liberated from the Nazis and occupied by the Soviet armed forces were added to the Eastern Bloc by converting them into satellite states such as East Germany the People's Republic of Poland, the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the People's Republic of Hungary, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, the People's Republic of Romania and the People's Republic of Albania.


Churchill speech on the Iron Curtain and youtube


Potsdam Conference 1945

At the Potsdam Conference (July 16 to August 2, 1945), after Germany's unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945,the Allies divided "Occupation Zone Germany" into four military occupation zones — France in the southwest, Britain in the northwest, the United States in the south, and the Soviet Union in the east.


Partitioning of Berlin:

Shortly after World War II, Berlin became the seat of the Allied Control Council, which was to have governed Germany as a whole until the conclusion of a peace settlement. In 1948, however, the Soviet Union refused to participate any longer in the quadripartite administration of Germany. They also refused to continue the joint administration of Berlin and drove the government elected by the people of Berlin out of its seat in the Soviet sector and installed a communist regime in East Berlin. From then until unification, the Western Allies continued to exercise supreme authority effective only in their sectors


The intended governing body of Germany was called the Allied Control Council. The commanders-in-chief exercised supreme authority in their respective zones and acted in concert on questions affecting the whole country. Berlin, which lay in the Soviet (eastern) sector, was also divided into four sectors with the Western sectors later becoming West Berlin and the Soviet sector becoming East Berlin, capital of East Germany.

Berlin Blockade 1948.The day after the 18 June 1948 announcement of the new Deutsche Mark, Soviet guards halted all passenger trains and traffic on the autobahn to Berlin, delayed Western and German freight shipments and required that all water transport secure special Soviet permission. On 21 June, the day the Deutsche Mark was introduced, the Soviets halted a United States military supply train to Berlin and sent it back to western Germany.On 22 June, the Soviets announced that they would introduce a new currency in their zone. This was known as the "Ostmark

That same day, a Soviet representative told the other three occupying powers that "We are warning both you and the population of Berlin that we shall apply economic and administrative sanctions that will lead to the circulation in Berlin exclusively of the currency of the Soviet occupation zone." The Soviets launched a massive propaganda campaign condemning Britain, the United States and France by radio, newspaper and loudspeaker. On 24 June, the Soviets severed land and water communications between the non-Soviet zones and Berlin. That same day, they halted all rail and barge traffic in and out of Berlin.

The continued success of the Airlift humiliated the Soviets, and the "Easter Parade" of 1949 was the last straw. On 15 April 1949 the Russian news agency TASS reported a willingness by the Soviets to lift the blockade. The next day the US State Department stated the "way appears clear" for the blockade to end. On 4 May 1949 the Allies announced an agreement to end the blockade in eight days' time. The Soviet blockade of Berlin was lifted at one minute after midnight on 12 May 1949

The Truman Doctrine set forth by the U.S. President Harry Truman in a speech on March 12, 1947 stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet sphere was the first in a series of containment moves by the United States, followed by economic restoration of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan and military containment by the creation of NATO in 1949.


Warsaw Pact and NATO: Britain, France, the United States, Canada and eight other western European countries signed the North Atlantic Treaty of April 1949, establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The US, Britain and France spearheaded the establishment of West Germany from the three Western zones of occupation in April 1949. The Soviet Union proclaimed its zone of occupation in Germany the German Democratic Republic that October.

Along with the broadcasts of the BBC and the Voice of America to Eastern Europe,[a major propaganda effort begun in 1949 was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, dedicated to bringing about the peaceful demise of the Communist system in the Eastern Bloc. Radio Free Europe attempted to achieve these goals by serving as a surrogate home radio station, an alternative to the controlled and party-dominated domestic press. Radio Free Europe was a product of some of the most prominent architects of America's early Cold War strategy, especially those who believed that the Cold War would eventually be fought by political rather than military means, such as George F. Kennan.

American policymakers, including Kennan and John Foster Dulles acknowledged that the Cold War was in its essence a war of ideas. The United States, acting through the CIA, funded a long list of projects to counter the communist appeal among intellectuals in Europe and the developing world. The CIA also covertly sponsored a domestic propaganda campaign called Crusade for Freedom

The Soviets, who had already created a network of mutual assistance treaties in the Eastern Bloc by 1949 established a formal alliance therein, the Warsaw Pact, in 1955


The scene was set for a cold war to be prosecuted largely by intelligence work, politico-economic treaties, cooperation between western states or the furthering of relations between Warsaw pact nations, and by propaganda devolving largely to radio as TV was in effect available for such work






Extended notes:



Radio Propaganda and the efforts to set up an anti-soviet/commie broadcasting service.


The partitioning of Europe after the war, the partitioning of Berlin and an aggressive stalinist soviet union who wished to draw more countries under its sway meant that western powers who were ideologically opposed to communism anyway and who were worried that post-war Euro communism might let in commie govts felt justified in forming 1949 NATO of course resulted in the soviet response of forming the Warsaw Pact alliance.


Equally the Truman Doctrine set forth by the U.S. President Harry Truman in a speech on March 12, 1947 stating that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet sphere was the first in a series of containment moves by the United States


The ideological division between capitalism and communism as economic, political  and social systems would be crucible in which the cold war at the propaganda end would be fought. So the language of prop would be organised around peace, justice, democracy, freedom, humanity….each side claiming their socio-political systems best fulfilled these notions. The circulation of these ideas and the contrasts between the two systems for the home consumption was noted earlier done by neo-con materials and education:  the schools ad the universities pushed the ideas further, + in the 50s by McCarthyism that gripped the US; and passes in Marxism-Leninism for entrance to Univ was compulsory in the USSR


but across borders….


VoA had been created for reflecting American values and culture as  propaganda during the war but afterwards in a form of détente  with Stalin’s Russia, the VoA budget was slashed with strong feeling that  now the war had ended so should the propaganda efforts. However, itsurvived and by the nid-50s was expanded to present US culture around the world


Programming was broadcast from production centers in New York and San Francisco, with more than 1,000 programs originating from New York. Programming consisted of music, news, commentary, and relays of U.S. domestic programming, in addition to specialized VOA programming


In 1946, Voice of America was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Department of State.

Whitton:  In 1947, VOA started broadcasting to the Soviet citizens in Russian under the pretext of countering "more harmful instances of Soviet propaganda directed against American leaders and policies" on the part of the internal Soviet Russian-language media,”

1950 resumption of Arab service, and 1952/53 increased services to USSR and China



If the Cold War is to be fought in terms of politics and not military then:

Radio propaganda via US –VoA; RFE; RL really gets going in 1949 as such it was never really surprising that somewhere along the line there would be CIA involvement.


1949 is the crucial year – over an above the NATO we get the partition of German into West G and the DDR – soviet controlled East Germany.


The increasing anxiety in Washington and the general rising anti-c in the US prompted he formation of 2 radio services specifically designed to met the increasing society and eastern bloc threat at the ideological level.


Taking it form from RIAS – Radio n the American Sector (Berlin in 46) aimed at the german pop to counter soviet prop, May Day 1951 first proper brdc of Radio Free Europe, a station staffed by many exiles throughout it history was aimed at the satellite states and esp at Czecho as that was thought to be the EE state with the strongest orientation to democracy and there fore in the words of CD Jackson former operative in psy-ops in WW2 and now President of Nat Cmttee for Free Europe – sponsor of RFE- it may encourage defectors.


What marks out RFE in particular is that it was unashamedly propagandist and unusually at that time, it did not s did VoA, BBC via its World Service etc even USSR propagandise for change in other countries by trumpeting he triumphs of ones own country, but rather deliberately and sometimes in a rather rasping anti-commie tone, discuss, attack, criticise their target countries. The aggressive tone was often the work of EE exiles who because of their exilic status and feeling against commies really went for it. Puddington’s study describes ones of their brodcsPeroutka’ as the brass-knuckles approach. Initially thinking that ‘in yer face’ anti-c would help contribute to a rapid implosion of a thoroughly nasty set of regimes, RFE and RL both had to calm down and had to accept that they were in for the long haul much as was the soviet bloc itself.


Swiatlo affair 1953 - senior agnet in Polish intelligence defected and alter took part of many RFE progs and this had measurable success in Poland despite jamming etc.


The people who were in the founding committee of RFE/RL such as George Kennan, Allen Dulles, and Frnak Wisner amongst others had ties to each other from university as well as from their days in the military and their links toe ach other as senior advisers in govt – in the case of Dulles, his bro was Sec Of St – the latter seeing the sate of affairs as one in which Western Civilisation is on the defensive.


Trumanin a speech called ‘Project Truth’ condemning society use of propagandas – deceit distortion lies, he said: “We must use every means at our command, private as well as governmental to get the truth to other peoples.” The NSC in a documents refered to the need to foster a change in the soviet system.


The point here is that those who set up the operation were part of a US/State approach to Truman containment doctrine of which the a/c prop of RFE was a part. They took a globalising approach to Cold War politics and not an ideologico-intellectual or basic anti-Commie approach for the home audience as did the nascent neo-Cons stuff.



Their mindset was very much part of a govt/admin high politics – centrally organised initiatives as such they were not concerned with notions of folksy America firster hearth and home ordinary folks notions. And RFE/RL reflected that.


University programmes esp in sov and EE studies were set up for exiles as was a Free Univ in Strasbourg by the Fredom in Europe Cmtee. So RFEs founding fathers went well beyond radio


The strategies of RFE were to interview travellers from East germany, target groups such as farmers, women, youth, border guards to faster listeners esp in EG. If RFE knew of named person as having done terrible things to people in the East then they would name and shame them RFE was described as a citiens adventure in the field of psychological warfare.


If RFE was a radio stations for Eastern Europe nations, Radio Liberty was the same kind of operation buy aimed explicitly at the Soviet Union. Radio Liberty was originally called Radio Liberation when formed by American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (Amcomlib) in 1951





Crusade for Freedom – In line with the aggressive and covert aspect of radio prop one of t more peculiar episodes was CFF.


In Oct 1950 a replica of the Liberty Bell – the Freedom Bell was displayed in West Berlin apparently paid for bya new org called the Crusade for Freedom aiming ot raise funds for RFE. Ike had announced the formation of Crus FF in a national address ad US citizens gave their dollars to support. It ringing in Berlin was broadcast across Europe by various radio network and of course it was designed to annoy the soviet who naturally condemned it. Though it did not really raise much of the money required to fund RFE a that was secretly done by the CIA what it did do was o get ordinary US citizens involved in the ideas of anti-communism. The overnment itself was funding the fund raising efforts of the CFF!



Support RFE and RFA Cold War CIA Broadcasting: The Crusade for Freedom & the Birth of Radio Free Asia




Strangely the actual relationship between McCarthysm and the CIA/govt org of the a/c radio stations and prop did not particularly touch. In part this ws a reflection of the fact that McC was ccnerend wth subversives at home and not going for depts of state – which would have perhaps been biting off more than could chew


Despite this RFE thgh not as much as VoA came under fire usually individual brdcs who were vulnerable as they were usually exiles and thus ultra McCatrhyites could easily accuse them of being commie as the ultra Fulton Lewis was want to do-c alliong one RFE brdc a Stalinist collaborator and another ‘one of the greatest mass murderers in history’ which takes them into the realm of the shock jocks of today on Fox news. 1958-60. Oddly Lewis picked up th story that RFE was a CIA front and told his millions of listeners about it, but somehow it never really struck a chord. That would be noticed out in 1968


Often the was a case of one excitable exiles accusing another one via selling a ling to an Ultra McC type in some other media outlet.




Radio Moscow:

Begum in 1922 RM was the man radio service of the USSR that broadcast targeted programmes across the globe using high powered signals that ensured clear broadcasting. 1941 in 21 langsuages and 1951 2094 hrs pw in 80 langs. Almost equal to VOA RFE and RL combined.


RM used: openly identified source, and is characterized by gentler methods of persuasion than black propaganda (which purports to come from the opposite side to that which actually produced it) and grey propaganda (which has no identifiable source or author).


CIA monitoring late 40s and 50s saw it as prop via themes of Peace, peoples democracy, welfare based justice, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.



Culture, Propaganda and the CIA


In many ways the strategy for Cultural propaganda esp that funded by the CIA was to engage in non-propaganda  that is to say, covertly fund the production and exhibition of cultural works – literature, music, art, intellectual debate that holds to an art for arts sake idea  the classic liberal position that distinguishes it from the agit prop view of the soviets or from Gramsci’s idea of culture as either being on the side of the hegemony or the counter-hegemony.


The ke agency hat was CIA funded was the Congress for Cultural Freedom which emerged in 1950 holding its inaugural conference in…West Berlin.


Key to the idea of the true intellectual rather than one at their party’s call were the ideas of dependence from politics and commitment to you art so tat it does not pander to popular taste. Thus elitism and a kind of isolation from the world sets up a image of the pure artist untainted..


The participants in Europe and the US within the CCF were when they realised untroubled by the propagandistic aims of CCF, the took the position of Gramsci’s traditional intellectual which saw herself as doing honest work if they were left to express themselves how they wanted.

Arthur Schlesinger one of the great post-war US historians and writer who was aware of CCFs link to CIA argued that is was right because culture fostered a sense of belonging to their society in a critical liberal fashion and this opposed the meaninglessness of obedience to the state found in soviet style socs.


The Congress for Cultural Freedom functioned as a clandestine endowment for the arts that promoted cultural, intellectual, and artistic endeavors “in the West, for the West, in the name of freedom of expression” (p. 2). The CIA pumped tens of millions of dollars into the Congress for Cultural Freedom and related projects, making the  agency, “America’s Ministry of Culture” (p. 129). The Congress maintained offices in thirty-five countries and employed dozens of persons, including writers, poets, artists, historians, and scientists. It published over twenty prestigious magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and feature service, organized high-profile international conferences, and sponsored public performances by musicians and artists.


Saunders details CIA funding and promotion of a long list of noted intellectuals,

including Melvin Lasky, Isaiah Berlin, Sidney Hook, Dwight MacDonald, Hannah Arendt, Vladimir Nabokov, Arthur Koestler, Raymond Aron, George Orwell, and many others. Among the magazines funded by the agency were Survey, Preuves, Der Monat, Partisan Review, and the highly respected Encounter. She also shows how the CIA covertly funded and distributed hundreds of books. For example, the influential compendium of liberal anti-Stalinist confessions, The God That Failed, “was as much a product of intelligence as it was a work of the intelligentsia”


The CIA also promoted traditional art forms. It subsidized symphonies, art exhibits, ballet performances, theater groups, operas, and jazz musicians to undermine the negative stereotypes prevalent in Western Europe about the cultural barrenness of the United States. Working in cooperation with the Museum of Modern Art, the CIA also promoted Abstract Expressionist painting as a counter to Socialist Realism and explicitly political art. To fund the cultural Cold War, the CIA maintained an  elaborate network of dummy foundations, which were created expressly for the purpose of channeling CIA funds into various covert projects. Many of these foundations existed only on paper. The Fareld Foundation, for example, was a CIA front that became the principal conduit for CIA subsidies to the Congress for Cultural Freedom.


Other foundations that served as conduits for CIA funds included Ford, Rockefeller, and J. M. Kaplan. CIA money also flowed through Time, Inc., the Metropolitan Opera, the Museum of Modern Art, Harper & Row, theModern Languages Association, and the American Council of Learned Societies.


Beyond the mere act of subsidizing artistic creations the CIA also worked to influence the content of cultural products shipped overseas. For example, CIA agent Carleton Alsop worked undercover to introduce specific themes into Hollywood films and to remove images that might evoke a negative response abroad. In two examples Alsop convinced casting directors to mute racial stereotypes in their pictures by including “well dressed negroes” as part of the American scene. At Alsop’s request, blacks were planted in crowd scenes in the Jerry Lewis comedy “Caddy.” Saunders comments sarcastically: “At a time when many ‘negroes’ had as much chance of getting into a golf club as they had of getting the vote, this seemed optimistic indeed” . A more blatant case of CIA manipulation of film content occurred with the animated cartoon film of Orwell’s Animal Farm. The agency rewrote the ending of the ªlm to mute Orwell’s symbolic connotation of capitalist exploiters and Stalinist revolutionaries. These examples aside, the extent of CIA control over the intellectual freedom of the authors and artists on its payroll is unclear. The CIA exerted tight political control over the intellectual agenda of the writers and artists it subsidized, but she offers scant evidence to support this conclusion. One example of outright censorship—that of an article submitted by Dwight MacDonald attacking American mass culture and materialism—though the CIA intervened to remove founding members Melvin Lasky and Arthur Koestler from their official positions in the organization’s leadership. Wisner personally intervened to remove Lasky.


Koestler was sidelined for being too passionate in his anti-Communism; the CIA believed that a moderate tone was needed to “win over the waverers”.  In general, however, the CIA mostly provided the funds, not the ideas. The agency preferred to subsidize ideas rather than censor them. Still, regardless of the degree of intellectual freedom afforded the artists subsidized by the agency, it is clear that the CIA operatives who ran the programs saw themselves as propagandists involved in a war of ideas. CIA operatives spoke frankly about harnessing the energies of “intellectuals who were disillusioned, [or] who could be disillusioned” with Communism. The Congress for Cultural Freedom and numerous other intellectuals, artists, and non-profit foundations were described by CIA operatives as “propaganda assets”. Tom Braden, who ran the CIA’s International Organizations Division, was unapologetically vocal in defending the agency’s mission to support the non-Communist left—as his 1967 article “I’m Glad the CIA Is Immoral”