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POLITICAL IMPACT

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When we asked Ronn Owens, radio and television personality in SF, about what the impact of radio he think is he simply said: "No military brought down the Berlin Wall or ended communism in the former Soviet Union. Television did." Further he continued, "Once people were able to see how others lived, once they could have proof that their leaders were lying to them and holding them back, they were able to take action themselves." The text below gives many primers how big influence radio and television have had this century over the people.

The Russian government was the first to establish its own system of radio broadcasting in order to help achieving political goals. That happened in 1917 as an answer to the need to somehow control this millions of people, spread over such a huge territory. Besides that, the population did not have to be literate in order to listen to the radio. In 1919 the Russian government transmitted a signal over Western Europe with the following words: "The workers and peasants of Russia, now freed from all oppressors and exploiters, first to have shed the capitalist yoke, ask you to be alert and not to slacken your pressure on your leaders who aspire to choke the people's revolution in Russia" (Paulu 1974: 200). Furthermore, to be able to spread better and more messages of this kind Lenin opened a radio laboratory in Gorki, which started broadcasting by 1919. By 1924 the broadcast had a coverage of more than 2000 miles in radius. In the next two years Russia developed a perfect broadcasting network involving theaters, opera halls, as well as regular news, etc. In order to strengthen the political propaganda by 1930 there were regular broadcasts in 9 languages, including English, German, and French. Lenin's system is a perfect example for how good for political propaganda radio is. The Western nations understood that and shortly after Russia begun international broadcasting as well - in most cases in their colonies. The radio was the thing that changed so significantly the concept of war during WW II. No more it was just fights between two armies, bit it rather involved the entire population of a country and this was a result of the active radio propaganda, which was first used by the Germans. A full coverage broadcasting system was already established in Germany before the outbreak of the war. Every major city had its own programming and because of Hitler's subsidized production o cheap radio receivers a significant number of homes were able to listen to it. In addition there were speakers on the streets, in the factories, and so on. However, German radio never was so idealogical like the Russian, but it rather was concentrating on how immoral are the others, how rotten is their society and community, not on the weakness/strength. Still only BBC tried to respond to the German radio and without big success. And when Japan's radio joined in the "communication" world wart the impact of radio got even bigger! Here is a message of the Japan radio, broadcast to the American soldiers: "How'd you like to go to the corner drug store tonight, and get an ice cream soda? I wonder who your wives and girl friends are out with tonight. Maybe with a 4F or a war plant worker making big money while you are out here fighting and knowing you can't succeed. Wouldn't you California boys like to be at the Coconut Grove tonight with your best girl? You have plenty of Coconut Groves, but no girls. (Tokyo Radio, 1943)." USA started IRB propaganda as well in the 40s, but it couldn't be developed pretty well, mainly because of the opposition of the population to overseas propaganda.

Radio, and little by little television, had a great impact during the Cold War as well. US' strongest weapon was VOA, broadcasting in numeral languages in SSSR and other places. Another major radio was Radio Free Europe - also broadcasting to the countries behind the Iron Curtain. BBC transmitted in Russian as well. However, all these democratic countries reduced the amounts of broadcast after the end of WW II, while SSSR did not and this was a good point for them in the Cold War. Radio propaganda was a part of the Polish uprisings, the Chechoslovakia's invasion, the Vietnam War, and all other conflicts of that time. VOA and the other Western media claimed they broadcast only the truth, but exactly the same words could be heard on the Russian radio stations for example. The truth is both were doing propaganda for their own countries.

With time the functions of radio were taken over by television. And it had the same global impact. As Ronn Owens said, television, rather than military, "broke" the Berlin Wall. The same in Bulgaria - there was some liberalization tat started during 1988 and grew during 1989 and people "saw" how it is abroad. The most recent example will be television in Serbia just few months ago, during the NATO attacks. It is of no wonder that NATO's targets included television and radio transmitters - Milosevic used the electronic media as a major way for propaganda among the population. CNN is another example of television impact - people could watch the two wars in Iraq "live"! What we should expect in the next century? It is hard to tell, since everything is developing so fastů




The Impact of Radio&TV
a History 10 project by Boyan Raichev and Javor Marichkov (10/5)