Visit to RFE is subject of 1960 television documentary.

Posted: 22 Feb 2010   Print   Send a link
The 1960 television documentary "Eagle Cage" is available at YouTube, 10 January 2010, part of the public.resource.org channel. It's about a visit by 60 Americans to the studios of Radio Free Europe in Munich, and to other US funded facilities in Germany, with a side trip to the RFE transmitter site in Gloria, Portugal. The program was "produced by KCMO News and Public Affairs." The general manager of Kansas City's KCMO television, E.K. Hartenbower, was one of the 60 members of the tour, and is frequently pictured during the piece.
     At 8:13 into the 27 minute program, the narrator states:
"RFE, supported entirely by contributions from Americans to the Radio Free Europe Fund, has gained a reputation for truth and reliability in its five target countries, despite the best effdorts of the Communists to discredit it." It's ironic that a sentence touting RFE's "reputation for truth" contained a clause that was not true. RFE was, in those days, mostly funded, covertly, by the CIA. (It could be that the writer of the documentary, Harry Francis, was unaware of RFE's actual source of income, and was just working from RFE's own publicity materials.)
     Contributions from Americans contributed an average of 19 percent of RFE's budget during the 1950s. (This from Arch Puddington,
Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, citing a report from the Comptroller General of the United States.) That 19 percent would have been sufficient to impress the audience: how many US government entities could recoup a fifth of their income from voluntary donations? And it would have had the added benefit of being the truth, helpful given that international broadcasting efforts depend on credibility above all else.
     All told, however, this is a fascinating documentary, and a good example of the rhetoric of that time. Thanks to historian Richard Cummings for mentioning this. Richard's next book about RFE and RL will be
Radio Free Europe's 'Crusade for Freedom': Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950-1960. See Historytimes.com, 8 January 2010.
     "When I first left Hungary, in 1953, and came to live in the West, I settled for a while in Munich where my father and stepmother worked for Radio Free Europe. This outfit was partly American government – CIA – funded, beaming programs into Eastern European, Soviet bloc countries and supposedly countering communists propaganda. But at heart, the idea of the American government doing this turned out to be a paradox since what is wrong with communist countries is precisely that they place everything in society under state control, including broadcasting the news, educating the young, doing science, entertainment or athletics. That is just what is supposed to be so different between communism and capitalism; yet here was RFE doing just what the communists were doing, entrusting government with broadcasting." Tibor Machan, Sun Journal (New Bern, NC), 15 February 2010.