Under Secretary’s Meetings: Lot 53 D 250: Documents

Paper Prepared in the Department of State1


UM D–78

Continuance of Operation of the “Voice of America” at Munich


To find ways and means of continuing the operation of the “Voice of America” medium wave relay transmitter at Munich after March 15, 1950, when it is expected the Copenhagen Plan for European broadcasting2 will go into effect.


A practical effect of the European Broadcasting Convention signed at Copenhagen in 1948 was to strip Germany of its frequency assignments and increase the assignments to the Soviet Group of States. When implemented on March 15, 1950, the Copenhagen Agreement will result in a reduction of the broadcasting frequencies available to the U.S. Zone of Germany from 16 to 3. The three frequencies assigned will be shared channels, two of which are of poor quality and are “off the dial” of most standard broadcast receivers in Europe and, therefore, cannot be received.

The Department vigorously protested this drastic reduction prior to, during and subsequent to the Copenhagen Conference. The United States is not a signatory to the Copenhagen Convention. At Mr. Bevin’s suggestion, this matter was discussed in Washington in November [Page 267] 1949 with delegates from France and England, but without success. Neither the French nor the British Delegations were willing to discuss deviation from or modifications to the Plan or the sharing or lending to the United States of any of the frequencies assigned to them under the Copenhagen Plan.

On January 3, 1950, a U.S. note3 was delivered to all non-Soviet Bloc European countries, with the exception of Finland and Spain, which restated the background of the Copenhagen Meeting, and defined the broadcasting services which the U.S. considers essential to maintain in the U.S. Zone of Germany. The “Voice of America” relay station at Munich is one of these services. The notes concluded by asking the assistance of these countries in making frequencies available to the U.S. for its operations in Germany. To date, the U.S. Government has not received a reply to its note from any country.4

In view of these developments, and in view of indications that the Copenhagen Plan will be put into effect on March 15, 1950 by the majority of European nations, the Department, together with the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, has worked out a contingency plan for the continuation of United States broadcasting in Germany based, inter alia, on the following assumptions:

Continuation of all existing services;
Full utilization of the few assignments to the U.S. Zone;
Minimum sharing of frequencies with Western European countries, and protection of Western European transmissions by means of directional antenna wherever possible;
Sharing of frequencies with Eastern European countries but not to such an extent as to cause serious or disabling interference within the national boundaries of these countries;
Maximum use, on a contingency basis, of channels which will not be utilized fully by the countries to which assigned because of lack of transmitting equipment.

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Within these criteria, the contingency plan which has been developed contemplates the continuation of the “Voice of America” medium wave relay transmitter at Munich on its present frequency (1196 Kc.). This frequency is assigned to the French Zone of Germany and to Greece under the Copenhagen Plan.

Broadcasts relayed by the Munich transmitter are beamed in several directions according to the language being broadcast. When the transmitter is beamed towards Moscow and Northern Europe the Greek station will probably be adequately protected by the existing directional antenna. At other times there would, however, be considerable interference in Greece, especially during hours of darkness. But, according to present information, there is no Greek transmitter available for use on this frequency.—It will, however, not be possible to protect the broadcasting station in the French Zone of Germany.

Consideration has been given to changing the frequency of the VOA relay transmitter. However, any significant change in frequency would entail an estimated minimum expenditure of $100,000 and would require approximately six months’ time for completion. During this period the “Voice of America” would be off the air on the medium wave band in Europe. A large number of listeners would be lost. Due to its high power, the “Voice of America” transmitter cannot broadcast on any heavily shared frequency. Furthermore, there are no clear channels available for the use of this transmitter because they have all been assigned to other countries. During the course of recent conversations, the French Delegation was informally advised that the United States intended to continue to use the frequency presently assigned to the “Voice of America” transmitter.


It is recommended that the “Voice of America” medium wave relay transmitter at Munich continue to broadcast on its present frequency. It is further recommended that the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany inform the French High Commissioner of this decision on March 15, 1950. An informal understanding might be reached through the Information and Cultural Relations Sub-committee of the Allied High Commission that the French Government maintain a token occupation of the frequency through low power or off-hour operation in order to protect the French claim.

It is further recommended that the Department through the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs immediately advise the French Embassy in Washington of the decision of the United States Government to continue the use of 1196 KC for the “Voice of America” medium wave relay transmitter at Munich.5

  1. According to a brief covering memorandum by William J. McWilliams, Director of the Executive Secretariat, this paper was submitted by the Bureaus of German Affairs and Public Affairs for the consideration of the Under Secretary’s Meeting. The principal officers of the Department of State met frequently, often several times per week, under the chairmanship of the Under Secretary of State, as the “Under Secretary’s Meeting” to consider important foreign policy questions. The questions were generally considered in terms of formal, numbered papers previously circulated to meeting participants. The paper printed here was considered by the Under Secretary’s Meeting on February 15, 1950. According to the “Action Summary” of that meeting, not printed, no substantive objection was raised to this paper (Under Secretary’s Meetings, Lot 53 D 250, Under Secretary’s Meeting/Action Summaries). Lot 53 D 250 is a master file of records of meetings, documents, summaries, and agenda of the Under Secretary’s Meetings for the years 1949–1952, as maintained by the Executive Secretariat of the Department of State.
  2. A European Regional Broadcasting Conference was held in Copenhagen in 1948 to develop a plan for the assignment of broadcasting frequencies in Europe. United States observers were admitted to the Conference but were not given an opportunity to present the frequency requirements for the United States areas of occupation. The Copenhagen Conference developed a frequency assignment plan which was inadequate for the essential requirements of the United States as an occupying power in Germany. The United States formally entered a reservation at the Copenhagen Conference to the effect that the United States would be unable to implement the allocation plan agreed upon by the majority of the countries at the conference.
  3. The note under reference here was delivered to Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and France on January 3, 1950, and soon thereafter also to Egypt, Turkey, Sweden, and Switzerland (399.40/1–550).
  4. An informal conference of representatives of interested Western European nations was held in London, February 16–18, 1950, at the invitation of the United Kingdom, to consider problems arising from the contemplated implementation of the Copenhagen European Broadcasting Plan of 1948. The conference was the direct result of the efforts by the Department of State to impress upon the nations of Western Europe the importance of American and German broadcasting requirements in Germany and of the firm intention of the United States to operate certain broadcasting services. In a letter of March 7 to Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson, not printed, Secretary of State Acheson commented as follows on the London conference:

    “The results of this conference are encouraging to the extent that most of the representatives of the affected Western European countries indicated sympathy to the U.S. and German requirements and their intention to assist on the technical level in finding means to meet these requirements.” (399.40/1–650)

  5. The Department of State advised the French Embassy on February 16 that the Voice of America would continue to broadcast from Munich on 1196 kcs. (511.404/2–1650) Telegram 879, February 24, from Paris, not printed, reported that the French Foreign Ministry officials had expressed disappointment over the decision (399.40/2–2450).