811.42700 (R)/2–1847: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

restricted   priority

433. Personal for Benton from Smith. Know you will want at earliest possible moment our personal reaction to first broadcast which was listened to by almost entire American colony assembled at OIC headquarters.

On good side, accent, pronunciation and use of modern Russian vocabulary by announcers was considered excellent. The girl who announced was as good as any trained Soviet announcer, most of whom are women. Man sounded a little strained and stilted and talked too fast. These are faults which will be quickly overcome whereas a bad accent or poor use of words could never be corrected. All felt that our announcing was at least as good as BBC. It is too early for us to begin criticizing choice of subjects but flash estimate of first program was that we were a little too cultured in Russian sense of the word. Fifteen-minute talk on structure of American Govt was rather ponderous, particularly as Soviets are rather bored with long winded discussions of political conditions, which to them mean very little. Copland1 music sounded like a bagpipe solo, due probably to technical faults in transmission. It came in waves and actually was unpleasant to listen to. When an orchestra played “Night and Day”, about half audience sat up and said, “This is what we have been waiting 45 minutes for.”

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General reaction of Russian listeners seemed to me to be very favorable but this favorable reaction was based not so much on excellence of first program as on anticipation of future ones.

Russian people are starved for humor, bright music, folk songs and any form of entertainment which offers an escape from grim reality of daily existence. Soviet radio places great emphasis on national characteristics of various areas of Soviet Union but is over-burdened with long-winded ideological abstractions, which have become bore-some to Soviet listeners. We must strive for happy medium between what Soviet radio audience would consider uncultured, and by that I mean crude claptrap which assails ears of American radio audience, and ponderous political polemics with which Soviet radio audience is completely saturated. Carefully selected cowboy songs, negro spirituals, with emphasis placed on local character of the music, really good light music, news, and short lectures on same type of subject which we have tried to emphasize in the magazine Amerika in order to give a picture of local American scene, seem to us now to be type of program which will have greatest appeal here.

I did not think reception was good and there were other stations broadcasting on wave band which would have probably interfered with a less powerful receiving set than Hallicrafter to which I listened. Praha came in loud and clear on same band.

We will continue to give you full reports and best critiques that we can produce.

Regardless of any criticism contained in above, all here in Moscow send sincere and most enthusiastic congratulations to you and to everyone who has contributed to this extremely important project in which we have greatest hopes.

  1. Aaron Copland, American composer and musician.