Notes on the Second Meeting Between Messrs. Christopher Warner and Edward Barrett, at London, Monday, May 22, 1950 1

Present: Christopher Warner Information Policy Department, Foreign Office
Ralph Murray
R. L. Speaight
J. H. (Adam) Watson
J. B. Clarke—BBC
Edward Barrett State Department and United States Embassy, London
W. T. Stone
Mallory Browne

The following topics were discussed at the second meeting: (1) cooperation with the BBC including sharing of transmitter time, etc.; (2) anti-jamming measures; (3) cooperation in critical field areas; (4) positive measures in support of common objectives.

I. Cooperation with the BBC

The Foreign Office and the BBC are in full agreement on steps to be taken to carry out technical understanding reached with Herrick, Kerrigan and Brady.2 This covers the proposed relay base in Bahrein, proposals for relay time for VOA on BBC transmitters at Singapore, [Page 1645] Malaya, and Ceylon, and British desire to secure time on our stations at RIAS, Munich and Salonika.

Bahrein: The Foreign Office will make preliminary, informal enquiries through their local agent and the resident British representative, Sir Rupert Hay. We will be kept fully informed of these enquiries and, if possible, an American will be present during any negotiations with the Sheik. Enquiries will be pressed without delay. With reference to broadcasting in the Middle East, Warner and Clarke both commented on the timing of a formal approach which would have to take into account Persian claims to sovereignty over Bahrein and other political matters which might be under discussion with Iran. They also noted that the content of our output over stations in the Middle East would have to be watched carefully in connection with controversial political issues in that area, particularly Palestine. Warner assumed that we would assign a program officer at Bahrein to watch matters of this kind.

Singapore, Malaya, Ceylon: The only political difficulty which Warner and Clarke foresee in carrying VOA programs over their stations is the possibility that Ceylon or Malaya might be hesitant about broadcasts which vigorously attack the Chinese Communist Government. The BBC contracts with Malaya, Singapore and Ceylon contain a clause reserving the power of veto over anything carried from transmitters in their territories. The Foreign Office does not anticipate difficulty in this connection, but pointed out that vigorous criticism of the Chinese Communist Government might lead to protests.

Mr. Barrett said that we would have to bear in mind the fact that our VOA programs are carried by a friendly Government and that we would carry primarily straight news reports. Our present policy, he indicated, was not to attack the Chinese but to show how they were being used as a tool of Soviet imperialism.

Mr. Warner did not press this point further and was satisfied with Mr. Barrett’s answer.

Facilities at Crowborough: Mr. Barrett reported that our engineers felt more effective use could be made of certain transmitters at Crowborough now used primarily for carrying British diplomatic transmission. We felt that the 650 medium wave transmitter could be used effectively in full power by applying another frequency. In addition, VOA would be willing to provide two 35 kw transmitters for morse code transmissions thus releasing the two 100 kw transmitters now used for this purpose.

As neither the BBC nor the Foreign Office were briefed on the subject, Mr. Warner merely said that they would look into the matter at once.

[Page 1646]

II. Measures to Counteract Soviet Jamming

It was agreed that our technical people should continue to work on all possible measures to counteract jamming. Several specific suggestions were discussed. First it was proposed that an effort be made to synchronize the broadcasts to Russia and other countries with the VOA and BBC transmissions. After reviewing the list of countries now broadcasting to Russia, it was agreed that the most likely countries would be Italy, Spain, the Vatican and possibly Greece. It was agreed further than the U.S. would take the initiative in sounding out these countries.

Warner and Clarke proposed that steps be taken to determine whether Canada, Norway, France, Denmark, Holland and possibly other NAT countries might contribute time on their existing facilities for rebroadcasting VOA or BBC programs. They were not too hopeful on this point, but believe that the proposal was worth investigating, and that it might be possible to secure rights for the establishment of additional relay bases in some of the NAT countries. The Foreign Office and BBC will investigate this possibility and give us a report.

There was considerable discussion of the situation which may develop if all-out jamming is extended to blanket Satellite countries. The British are aware of this developing situation but have made no specific plans. It was agreed that the proposal should be studied closely. Both Mr. Warner and Mr. Clarke stressed the danger of an all-out radio war which would produce a chain reaction throughout Europe and jeopardize domestic broadcasting services. It was also pointed out that complete chaos might be to the Soviet advantage. It is apparent that the British Government is apprehensive about the European broadcasting situation and will be careful not to take any action which might affect British home services.

Mr. Barrett reported briefly on the proposed broadcasting activities of the Committee for Free Europe. The British have no plans for any similar organization and the general feeling is that the job must be brilliantly done to be effective. Warner indicated that he would be glad to examine the possibility of this type of activity.

Mr. Barrett touched on other means of penetrating the Iron Curtain, mentioning various suggestions in the “H. G. Wells” category such as balloons etc. He made it clear that we had no immediate plans for developing unconventional devices but were merely exploring all future possibilities.

Mr. Warner indicated that they had done very little in this field. He suggested that a small newspaper might be the best instrument. They had also considered merchant seamen as a means of infiltrating information. It was agreed that we should both explore all possibilities in this field.

[Page 1647]

III. Cooperation in Critical Areas

South East Asia: Mr. Barrett read the list of recommendations prepared by FE/P for exchange of information materials translations and analyses of Chinese press, closer liaison at Singapore and general instructions for closer cooperation throughout the area; Mr. Warner agreed to all of these suggestions. Mr. Warner renewed his suggestion that we send a top man or a team to work with their regional information center at Singapore. Mr. Barrett agreed to look into this possibility and said that we would welcome an exploratory visit by a British officer to our operation at Manila.

The Foreign Office hopes to set up a press reading service in Peiping on the lines of the Moscow service, covering newspapers and important periodicals. They would like to have the USIS in Hong Kong establish a similar reading service for South China, but referred again to the feeling of the Colonial Governor of Hong Kong that USIS activities should not be greatly expanded or become too “ostentatious.”

French Indochina: The question of relations with the French was referred to briefly. The Foreign Office will send instructions to Malcolm McDonald3 regarding cooperation with the French with a view to getting more information out of this area and stimulating the French to do more in the information field. However, their instructions will make it clear that the Foreign Office does not wish to tie its hands or become too deeply involved with the French information service.

The Foreign Office hopes that we will send similar instructions to our Consultate and Information Officer on the basis of the talks which Jessup had with British and French representatives in the tripartite meetings.4

Middle East: Political discussions with the British at the bilateral meetings resulted in overall agreement on Anglo-American policy in the Middle East. This might be implemented by closer cooperation between Information Officers throughout this area, making use of special information materials and occasionally, by a joint demonstration to offset Communist charges of disagreement and rivalry. The Foreign Office is sending a full report on the results of the London talks to their field representatives.

It was agreed that cooperation in India and Pakistan is good at the present time, and should be extended wherever possible.

It was agreed that the Department and the Foreign Office will send a general instruction to field missions regarding the results of our talks and the desirability of extending cooperation in the field. [Page 1648] A word of caution about the danger of flooding the market with grey material may be advisable.

Europe: It was agreed to consider the possibility of continuing the local cooperation in Berlin beyond the Whitsuntide demonstrations.5

It was agreed that further study should be given to exploiting propaganda possibilities in Albania and that we should exchange ideas on all output to Satellite areas.

The Foreign Office will endeavor to pass on to the State Department as much information as possible from Bulgaria and will repeat its special BBC telegram to VOA New York.

IV. Positive Information Outlook

Mr. Warner said that he felt we had done much more than they had been able to do in promoting effective public statements, speeches by the President, the Secretary of State, and other Cabinet members; that this was most useful and should be encouraged. They found the problem difficult but would continue to stimulate similar public statements in line with our common objectives under NAT.

Mr. Warner indicated considerable concern over the apparent trend toward neutrality on the Continent, particularly in France. He felt that the line taken by Le Monde was beginning to have effect and he knew that the French Government was very much concerned with the development of the neutrality philosophy.

In working on our positive output, it was agreed that we should exchange ideas on all possible common lines of action and give more attention to developing effective slogans.

  1. The notes were prepared by the United States Information Service.
  2. The understanding under reference has not been identified further.
  3. Commissioner General for His Majesty’s Government in Southeast Asia at Singapore.
  4. For documentation on Ambassador at Large Jessup’s trip to the Far East and South Asia, see vol. vi, pp. 1 ff.
  5. Documentation on the Whitsuntide demonstrations in Berlin at the end of May is scheduled for publication in volume iv.