811.42700 (R)/3–147: Telegram

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


598. Personal attention Benton. Following views on how radio program can be improved agreed upon in roundtable discussion attended by Ambassador, ten Embassy officers who have been studying broadcasts and Russian reactions, and radio correspondents Magidoff and Stevens.1 These views also accord with practically all Russian reactions received to date. Although subject revision as broadcasts continue they represent crystalized opinions based on first 11 broadcasts.

Vital that reception be greatly improved. As temporary measure suggest using recording from Munich for everything except news. This at least worth test. Your 3392 encouraging on this matter. In connection with frequencies see technical recommendations in our 503, March 1.2
We have strong impression that, excepting for news, program is pressing to prove that USA is highly cultured. This seems to us deviation from real purpose of program, which is political: in a negative sense neutralization of Soviet propaganda designed to create hostility and contempt for USA; in positive sense creation of goodwill for USA. As OWI waged psychological warfare so IBD must wage psychological peace.
This does not mean that we should lay on our peace loving intention with a trowel. Does mean, however, subtly pointing up whole spoken part of program to idea that USA is fair, progressive and not to be shoved around. Avoid esoteric dissertations on fertilizers and counterpoints.
Not correct to assume that program must be chiefly directed to small group intellectuals especially interested in technical subjects. Upper levels of bureaucracy and skilled workers just as likely to have shortwave radios as intelligentsia. So are many demobilized army officers.
There has been too much solid talk and not enough music. Following program structure was recommended: 15 minutes news followed by 15 minutes light music; during next 20 minutes news commentary or talk on topic general interest followed by musical break and then radio play, dialogue, interview, sports, more music or some [Page 542] other entertainment feature, with news repeat and good snappy tune at ending then conclude program with 10 minute technical talk or feature appealing to limited audience or what have you. However, revised program outlined in your 3393 just received looks very good. Have light music follow news. Particularly like repeat of news in condensed form latter part of program.
We cannot hope to cover all news of world and should avoid trying to do so in headline fashion. We must especially concentrate on items of international nature involving USSR which will not be adequately handled in Soviet press. Embassy attitude of handling “unfavorable” items has already been expressed.4
We insist that 12 to 15 minutes of entertaining music should follow 15 minute newscast. This music must be gayer and more tuneful, with accent on melodic jazz but also including well known classics by topnotch American performers, operettas, popular music that’s not too sentimental, songs like “Tavern in [the] Town” which now banned, music from “Pops” concerts and Sunday evening hours. Also folk music. Suggest also that once weekly we play three or four tunes at top of Hit Parade. We should not hesitate to repeat music which apparently goes over well here. But modern symphonic music and lugubrious oboe solos are definitely out.
Agricultural Attaché5 agrees that audience largely urban and therefore any talk on agriculture must be of broad interest or as one of technical part of program. He has not seen shortwave set on any collective farm.
Americans are reputedly masters at popularization of technical subjects and at radio drama. Both badly needed our program. Daily radio play on American family life might become very popular and be best vehicle for getting our story across. Two actors could do it—young veteran and wife finishing university course, for instance. They could buy car, plan trips, discuss cost of living in relation to their income, talk about sports or movies or new books, participate in election campaign, et cetera.

Gilmore’s6 despatches unfortunate. Feel he takes far too pessimistic view, not held by other correspondents. We have been critical, of course, but we are all intensely interested, enthusiastic, and hopeful From practical standpoint better not to have too large audience till transmission is improved.

By all means have broadcast story in Amerika. Also have prominent box insert in each issue plugging broadcast, with hour, wavelengths, et cetera.

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I am sending you by pouch, with my comments, valuable and detailed recommendations on Amerika by our Russian editor, whom we are now losing.

  1. Robert Magidoff was the representative of the National Broadcasting Company, Inc., in Moscow, and Edmund Stevens was the correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and representative of the American Broadcasting Company in Moscow.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed.
  5. See telegram 563 from Moscow on February 27, p. 537.
  6. Joseph J. Bulik.
  7. Eddy Lanier King Gilmore, representative of the Associated Press in Moscow.