PSB files, lot 62 D 333, “Luncheon Meetings”

No. 708
Memorandum by W. Bradley Connors of the Office of Policy and Plans, International Information Agency, to the Under Secretary of State (Smith)

secret

Subject:

  • Future of RIASPSB Agenda, Item 3, May 28.

RIAS is the symbol of independence of the Free World both to Berlin and to Eastern Germany. It should be continued in its present role.

IIA has budgeted under GOA for its continued operation and intends to give it the fullest support. It is an integral part of the High Commissioner’s public affairs effort and should be continued as such. Any attempt to transfer its control to any other agency should be opposed.

Theodore Striebert, radio consultant to Dr. Johnson and former President of WDR, has just returned from Berlin and reports RIAS is performing an extremely valuable service, is well operated and highly popular. He recommends no change in its status.

RIAS is the United States radio station in Berlin, broadcasting to the people of Berlin and to the 18 million inhabitants of the Soviet Zone of Germany. It is operated by the Public Affairs staff of the United States High Commissioner for Germany, employing a large number of indigenous personnel. It is generally viewed by Germans as a German station broadcasting with American support and backing and has received the highest praises from German officials, both in Berlin and the Federal Republic and is viewed as the most effective station by East Zone inhabitants.

. . . . . . .

RIAS was established by the United States Military Governor and operated by him until authority in Germany was transferred to the High Commissioner. It has been operated by the High Commissioner’s Public Affairs Staff ever since that time. Suggestions have been made, at one time or another, that the operation of RIAS be removed from the jurisdiction of the High Commissioner and placed into either German hands or under the jurisdiction of Radio Free Europe (RFE). The Department continues to feel that the Public Affairs Officer of the United States High Commissioner for Germany is the proper person to administer the station. He is uniquely qualified to direct the station’s political output in harmony with the United States policy for Germany with the appropriate [Page 1577]local programming considerations. If the station were turned over to German authorities it would lose a great deal of its authority in Eastern Germany which depends on recognized United States affiliation of the station. If it were placed under the jurisdiction of RFE, objections would be voiced from German sources because they do not feel that East Germany is a Soviet satellite such as the countries now recognized as a target area for broadcasts of RFE and, therefore, feel that broadcasting to that area is not properly within the jurisdiction of that organization.

Under the forthcoming reorganization of the United States information program the Public Affairs Officer of the United States High Commissioner would be the representative in Germany of the United States Information Agency. Because of this factor, budgetary and administrative backstopping responsibility would rest with that agency.

Jamming:

RIAS has been so effective that Communists are making a determined effort to jam it. This has considerably reduced its coverage.

It has been proposed that we shift two 500,000 watt medium wave transmitters, purchased for use at Lemnos, Greece, but presently unused because of the freeze under NSC 1371 and install them at Hof to strengthen the RIAS signal. Construction of antennae, buildings and purchase of land would cost about $2 million. It would cost an additional $500,000 yearly to operate these facilities. This would give us a much stronger signal into East Germany.

Intelligence reports, however, indicate the Communists are building new facilities in and around Berlin which could counter this increased power. Under present building schedules, it is estimated it will take the Communists 12 to 18 months to complete these new installations so that we might be buying only a year’s time, at most 18 month, and if the Communists speeded up their building plans perhaps as little as six months. And at that point we would be just about where we are today after having spent almost $2 million.

A further study is being made with the idea that stepping up the Berlin transmitter would be more efficient and more effective. We expect to have a plan completed in the next ten days.

The major question, however, is whether we can afford to let RIAS deteriorate with the interpretation that the United States is losing interest in Berlin and our friends behind the curtain in East Germany. If we fail to move, the Communists could cut RIAS completely [Page 1578]out of the picture when their new transmitters are completed.

Recommendations:

That we support continuance of RIAS under IIA as a major psychological symbol of the Free World’s interest in Berlin.

That we take all essential steps to insure its effective operation, stepping up transmitter facilities as necessary and feasible.

  1. For a description of NSC 137, “Effect of Radio as a Medium for the Voice of America on Military Operations and Upon Military and Civil Telecommunications,” Dec. 2, 1952, see vol. ii, Part 2, p. 1795.