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RFE/RL Broadcasting to Poland 1950-1997 Print E-mail
Sunday, 09 November 2008

A. Ross Johnson

The United States supported surrogate broadcasting to Poland from 1950 until 1997.

The first broadcasts were produced in New York and transmitted to Poland from a small short-wave transmitter in Germany. Beginning in 1952, expanded Polish broadcasts were produced primarily in Munich, supplemented by programs from New York. The programs were broadcast to Poland from shortwave transmitters in Germany and Portugal and a medium-wave transmitter in Germany.

With the end of the Cold War, RFE/RL budgets were drastically reduced and some RFE/RL functions, especially transmission, were merged with those of the Voice of America. The U.S. Congress approved the relocation of RFE/RL’s broadcast headquarters from Munich to Prague in 1995 but required it to privatize or close parts of its operations. It privatized (briefly)  its Research Institute in 1994. As directed by the Foreign Affairs Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1994-95 report language, RFE/RL attempted to privatize its Polish and Czech language services; it saw no prospect of attempting the privatization of the Hungarian service.
In 1994, the Czech and Polish services were reconstituted as separate non-profit corporations outside Germany. RFE/RL entered into a joint venture with Czech Public Radio for Czech-language broadcasting in 1995. A new news and current affairs radio channel, Czech Radio 6-RSE, was inaugurated, which carried programming from VOA, BBC, and Deutsche Welle. The joint venture ended in 2000 and RFE/RL-supported Czech-language broadcasting ceased.

RWE as a Warsaw-based Polish spin-off operated from 1994-1997.  Programs were produced in Warsaw and broadcast on U.S. Government (VOA and former RFE/RL) transmitters and on some local Polish stations. RFE/RL explored private funding of   RWE, including extensive discussions in 1997 with a major international media corporation. These discussions were ultimately unsuccessful, and RFE/RL-sponsored  Polish-language broadcasting ceased in fall 1997.

November 2008


* A. Ross Johnson, former Director, RFE (1988-1991) and Acting President, RFE/RL (1994), currently research scholar at Hoover Institution.
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