The Minister in Liberia (Francis) to the Secretary of State

No. 91

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of Department’s cable No. 14, July 2, 2 P.M., and to confirm this Mission’s cable No. 18, July 7, 2 P.M.,45 referring to the attempt of the Firestone Plantations Company to secure public service license for wireless service from the Liberian Government.

Further in that matter I desire to respectfully report that about a month ago the Firestone Company at Akron wirelessed Mr. William D. Hines, its representative here, saying that the Federal Radio Commission had cancelled the license for all private wireless stations and directed him to secure, if possible, public service license with the Liberian Government on the best terms obtainable. The purpose apparently being to put the Firestone Company in the public service class and thus enable it to continue its wireless operations between Akron and Liberia, perhaps with no thought of commercial profit.

Mr. Hines entered into negotiations with President King and Postmaster General Ross. While these negotiations were pending Mr. Hines received another wireless from Akron saying that the Federal Radio Commission had granted the Firestone Company a Public Service License June 15. Mr. Hines continued his efforts to secure the Liberian license and after several conferences, suggestions and changes, including an appearance before the full Cabinet, an agreement, subject to the approval of the Legislature which meets in October, and which would not interfere with the agreement entered into between the Liberian Government and the Radio Corporation, was about to be consummated. At this juncture and on July 3, a cable was received from the Radio Corporation by the Liberian Government saying “Radio license authorities Washington now seem disposed withdraw from Radio Corporation of America license for operating Liberian service, acting on assumption Firestone station Akron could as well handle all Liberian traffic and that two services between the United States and Liberia were unnecessary. Until this misapprehension is corrected we are unable to continue [Page 266] further negotiations for license. It would be helpful to have copy of Liberian Government grants of radio license to Firestone. Can you assist us by supplying us with copy?”

On receipt of this message the Government became alarmed, stopped all negotiations with Mr. Hines and on July 5 cabled the Radio Corporation through the Acting Financial Adviser in effect that it desired to have two wireless stations provided it has monopoly on commercial business; that with two stations one could support the other in time of trouble; that the Government was willing to make reasonable regulations with Firestone for public service license provided the Government could also maintain its contract relations with the Radio Corporation, but if there is to be but one connection the Government desired that connection with the Radio Corporation and would not consent to Firestone having exclusive stations. Doubtless nothing further will be done here until the Government is advised of the final action of the Federal Radio Commission.

The writer is informed by Mr. McCaleb, Chief Radio Engineer, that overtures have been made to the Liberian Government for wireless service on behalf of some German interests through the German Consul General here, and also by the British Marconi Company, but that those efforts were “side-tracked”. Mr. McCaleb feels that there is no likelihood of such relations being established if connections can be maintained with the United States. He also says he can see no disadvantage to the Liberian Government in an exclusive contract with the Firestone Company as the Government’s business can be handled through its own station in exactly the same way as it would be with the Radio Corporation of America. In fact he thinks it might be to the Government’s advantage, if it must accept an exclusive contract with either one or the other, to have that contract with the Firestone Company. It occurs to me that this might be true if for no other reason than that in case of instrument or other trouble over here the Firestone Company would be in better position and have more reason to come to the aid of the Government than would the Radio Corporation. …

If the Firestone people desire only to find some method by which they can maintain their radio connection with Liberia and are not seeking to enter commercial business for profit, I have no doubt some reasonable arrangement can be made with the Liberian Government for public service license which will in no way interfere with the Government’s agreement with the Radio Corporation.

When the contract with the Radio Corporation was drawn in 1927, and sent over in December, the intention was that it should become effective on January 1, 1928. It was later discovered, however, that the Government’s apparatus was not sufficiently powerful to maintain with regularity daytime transmission necessary for commercial [Page 267] purposes and the date of commencement of commercial operations was reset for June 1, 1928, to give the Government opportunity to construct new and adequate apparatus.

On receipt of the contract the Radio Corporation, I am told, discovered some typographical errors and suggested some corrections and changes, requesting authority from the Government by radio to make them. Receiving no reply from the Government to its first request the Radio Corporation repeated the request by radio and after waiting and receiving no response made the changes suggested, notified the Government of its action stating it was mailing the duplicate of the contract as changed to the Government. So far as 1 am able to ascertain the corrected copy has not been received here.

Owing to failure to complete construction of the new apparatus by June 1, the date of establishing commercial communication was again postponed and the first of July fixed for that purpose. On July 1, for various causes, the new apparatus was still unfinished and it now appears that it will be as late as September, at the earliest, before commercial communication can be established through the Government’s station.

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I have [etc.]

W. T. Francis
  1. Latter not printed.