Volume #20 - 697.|
EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST
CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION-INTERNATIONAL SERVICE
Memorandum from Acting Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs|
to Secretary of State for External Affairs
January 15th, 1954|
FUTURE OF CBC INTERNATIONAL SERVICE|
I. The International Service of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was established by P.C. 8168 of September 18, 1942, began operations in December, 1944, and was formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) on February 25, 1945. Cabinet approved the founding of this Service on the recommendation of the Minister of National War Services with the concurrence of the Secretary of State for External Affairs. Parliamentary proposals to begin Canadian short-wave broadcasting operations antedate the Second World War. In 1938 the House of Commons Standing Committee on Radio Broadcasting reported to Parliament:
"Your Committee 40 was impressed with the importance of the establishment, at an early date, of a high power shortwave broadcasting station. Such a station, your Committee believes, would be a great utility in interpreting and advertising Canada abroad and in facilitating an exchange of programmes between Canada and other broadcasting system. ... "
In the following year (1939) a similar Committee repeated this recommendation and added:
" ... We desire to draw the attention of the government to the imminent possibility that further delay in proceeding with the undertaking may result in Canada losing altogether the shortwave channels registered in her name, and as a consequence being shut out of the field entirely."
In 1942 another similar Committee said:
"The reasons for the establishment of a shortwave system in Canada were compelling enough before the war to lead two parliamentary committees and the Board of Governors and officers of the CBC to express themselves in favour of it. The outbreak and course of the war have powerfully reinforced such reasons. Only a few allied broadcasting stations now reach enemy and occupied territory. A Canadian service would strengthen and supplement the existing British and American services. It would be particularly valuable if a British shortwave station were damaged. It would assist the cause of the United Nations in South America. It would supply the United Kingdom and other countries with information about Canada and the national war effort. ... Important as such a service would be during the war, it would also be of the greatest possible usefulness in establishing new areas of understanding, goodwill and trade after the war."
The shortwave service as established by the Order-in-Council was placed under the administration and control of the CBC. The relationship of the new service with the Department of External Affairs was set down in these words:
"In view of the fact that such shortwave broadcasts would constitute a factor affecting Canada's relations with the other countries of the Commonwealth, and with foreign countries, the work of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in this field should be carried on in consultation with the Department of External Affairs."
2. At the end of December, 1944, facilities and staff for the International Service had been procured and transmissions began in English and French. These included programmes for the Canadian forces. The Service got into full swing in 1945 when Czech, German (including some broadcasts for Austria), Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese (for Latin America) programmes were started. In 1947, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish were added, in 1948 Italian, in 1950 Finnish (once a week), in 1951 Russian, in 1952 Ukrainian and in 1953 Polish. Recorded programmes in Greek for broadcast over Radio Athens also have been produced as required. At present the language services are all in operation. In addition, the International Service carries programmes for the Canadian forces in Europe and in the Far East (by relay through Radio Australia). A substantial number of the shortwave programmes are relayed on medium (broadcast band) wave in other countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Chile, Brazil, etc.). In addition, transcriptions on discs or tape are produced and provided to radio stations or networks in other countries and are widely used.
II. Scope and Value of Shortwave Broadcasting as a Medium
3. It is an indication of the importance attached throughout the world to shortwave broadcasting as a medium for the influencing of men's minds that at latest count (December 1952) no fewer than 66 countries operate national shortwave broadcasting services. The extent of these operations varies, in terms of broadcast hours from the massive Soviet effort (not including Satellites) of close to 700 hours weekly down to a very few hours weekly. Canada at present ranks only thirty-second (less than 100 hours weekly) in the list of broadcasting nations and is roughly in the company of countries such as the Netherlands, Ceylon, Norway and Greece. 41 Some nations of comparable or lesser international importance feel justified in exerting a greater effort in this field - Australia, Argentina, Poland, India, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Brazil, etc. The opinion of the Soviet Union and its associates on the importance of shortwave broadcasting, as expressed by Communist international radio activities, is perhaps not irrelevant to the present assessment. In addition to the formidable volume of Communist broadcasts to the free world, the Soviet Union and the satellites have thought it worthwhile to devote very considerable technical resources and highly trained personnel to jamming operations. They would certainly not have done so without a clear basis for the belief that Western broadcasts are effective.
4. Radio is perhaps the only means of communication which is not subject to governmentally imposed barriers such as censorship and thus enjoys an important advantage over other media such as the press, pamphlets and films in parts of the world where governments may prohibit the free flow of information. 42
5. There is considerable scepticism in Canada and the United States about the listening audience for shortwave broadcasts. This is not unreasonable in the light of North American listening habits but it overlooks the fact that apparently North American listening habits are not typical of world listening habits. Surveys by the BBC and the Voice of America indicate that a far higher proportion of the population in Europe, Latin America and, to a lesser extent, the Middle East own and use shortwave receivers regularly. The abundance of high-powered medium wave stations, geared to popular tastes, accepted as a normal condition in North America is certainly less characteristic in other parts of the world. 43 The CBC has prepared some figures on the number of shortwave receiving sets throughout the world which indicate, at the least, that if shortwave has no audience it is not for lack of the necessary receivers. These figures show about 58 million shortwave receivers in the world, with about 50 million of these within the CBC target areas. Sample estimates of numbers of shortwave receivers for a few countries or areas are:
The question as to how many set owners used their sets to listen to Canadian programmes is, of course, difficult to answer and it is next to impossible to reach any thoroughly reliable and firm conclusions in this regard. However, audience surveys and the evidence of "fan mail" provide some sort of basis for faith that CBC-IS has a respectable following, although it makes no pretensions to the size of audience tuned in to BBC, Voice of America or the privately supported Radio Free Europe.
III. Shortwave Transmissions and Canada's International Relations
6. International broadcasting exists, broadly speaking, to advance a country's national interests in the international sphere. These interests may be political, economic, commercial, ideological or cultural, or all of these. Depending on Canada's relations with the governments of the individual countries concerned, Canadian broadcasts may be transmitted with the consent or support of a particular government or "over the head" and without the approval of that government. In broad terms Canadian broadcasts are composed of two principal ingredients: (1) General information about Canada and its people; (2) Information and opinion broadcast with specific political purposes. This is usually known as "psychological (or political) warfare" for want of a better term. Canadian broadcasts to behind the Iron Curtain are conducted for psychological warfare purposes, although in the process and serving the political end, much "Canadiana" is included in these programmes. Broadcasts to friendly countries, on the other hand, are devoted largely to non-political subjects and the "projection of Canada". However, as we also have political aims to serve in friendly countries, the psychological warfare aspect must be present here as well, though less frequently and less obviously. The recipe for mixing the political and non-political ingredients must vary with the importance to Canada of the political relations and attitudes of each country concerned. For example, broadcasts to Germany are more highly political than broadcasts to Brazil.
7. The CBC-IS originally was set only the task of maintaining and strengthening Canada's relations with other countries by making Canada better known and understood throughout the world. It was only at a later stage that the Service was asked to deal in psychological warfare. The more purely information task continued to provide the basis for most scripts. In this role, CBC-IS forms part of the apparatus for official Canadian information activity abroad and, in a sense, is justified if all information work abroad is justified and on the same basis. If the comparative value of various information media is examined, it is probably doubtful that the spoken word can compare in impact with the written word or with the film. However, information about Canada is inevitably restricted, by means of films, pamphlets or news stories, to a relatively restricted number of people in foreign lands, whereas radio listeners comprise a vast audience, comprised both of those who listen to shortwave and to rebroadcasts on medium wave. The yardstick of listeners' letters is certainly not precise but it is indicative that the Voice of Canada has given a fair number of foreign people a better knowledge of Canada than they previously had.
8. A large part of the psychological warfare job carried out by CBC-IS could not be conducted in any other way. The broadcasts in Russian, Ukrainian, Czechoslovak and Polish are the unique means whereby the Canadian government can reach the peoples of these countries. It is generally accepted that an effort to explain Western life and policy to the people of the Communist countries is worthwhile and merits an expenditure of effort and money. If even a modest degree of success is obtained in counteracting incessant Communist propaganda and disabusing the Soviet people of some of the false concepts forced upon them, if the faith in the values of democracy and Christian civilization can be maintained at a healthy level in those countries more recently taken under Soviet sway, the moderate costs of radio broadcasting are well spent. The question, of course, is whether these (limited) objectives are attained by Western broadcasts in general and Canadian broadcasts in particular. The best witnesses for the defence of the broadcasters are certainly the Communist governments of Eastern Europe. These governments, according to Intelligence estimates, may be operating in the neighbourhood of one thousand transmitters for jamming. This involves, certainly, a very heavy expenditure. (The estimated cost for 2 new transmitters for CBC-IS is around $3 million.) Secondly, operation and maintenance of jamming equipment require the services of an army of trained technicians who could be used otherwise to good advantage. This costly and intense activity is surely a tribute to the effectiveness of Western broadcasts. Communist fear of Western radio was expressed recently to the Central Committee of the Polish Workers (Communist) Party by Radkiewicz, Minister of Public Security:
"A serious problem is the mobilization of the Party and the community for the struggle against hostile propaganda disseminated by imperialist broadcasting stations. ... We must realize that enemy radio propaganda is the most important source of inspiration of various diversionistic gossip and rumours seeking to arouse panic in the market, war fears, etc. We must appreciate that, under the influence of radio inspiration, there have been carried out not a few crimes and offences. ... We cannot see this and simply do nothing about it. We cannot permit an attitude of indifference to this phenomenon. For the struggle on this sector, party organizations must be included on a broad front."
It is perhaps unnecessary to elaborate further that Western broadcasts are sufficiently important to merit serious concern for the governments behind the Iron Curtain. It is more difficult to get clinching evidence of the specific effectiveness of Canadian broadcasts. Interrogations of escapers from the Communist countries sometimes refer, inter alia, to CBC broadcasts being listened to. The U.S.S.R., Czechoslovakia and Poland have, from the start, been apprehensive enough of the effect of Canadian broadcasts to jam them regularly. The BBC and Voice of America thought well enough of CBC Iron Curtain broadcasts to suggest an arrangement whereby the Russian broadcasts of all three would be synchronized to lengthen the odds that at least one Western programme would get through the jamming and be heard by Soviet listeners. There are also a few flimsy straws in the wind to prove that live listeners to CBC programmes exist behind the Iron Curtain: Gerald Clark of the Montreal Star, apparently by purest chance, met two on his brief visit to Moscow. Our diplomatic staff in Warsaw has talked to regular listeners. A trickle of letters, either boldly through the mail or dropped in the Legation's letter-slot, still come from Czechoslovakia (which provided a large fan-mail before 1948 and presumably has no fewer listeners in these days when captive populations are avid for news of the outside world). A few-odd letters come from East Germany and these indicate there is a fair listening audience there. There would appear to be sufficient evidence, even if by its nature it is not conclusive, to justify the continuation of these broadcasts. Moreover, there is now the probability that NATO may wish to seek some form of technical co-ordination of broadcasts by the NATO countries to the Communist countries. This would scarcely seem the time to curtail or drop Canada's modest participation in this sector of the Cold War - a sector which, it may well be contended, contributes to the defence of the West in the same way but in lesser degree as does the military build-up.
9. A further, and perhaps less important, aspect of the CBC role in psychological warfare is that of conveying political ideas to friendly countries. Much of the effectiveness of this activity will have to be taken on faith, if at all, but the effort is probably worth making. Canada's expressed interest in the development of Western military strength, 44 information about Canada's contribution to this effort and support for European initiatives to this end may conceivably influence some Frenchmen to the support of the E.D.C., may cause some Dane to pause in his hostility to NATO commitments, some German to prefer a close relationship for his country with the West rather than a return to armed nationalism or risky neutralism. This belief that radio broadcasts may influence the political attitudes of people in friendly countries is held by the United States and United Kingdom and others. If it is well grounded, there is surely room for Canada to make its own contribution, a contribution which may be surprisingly effective since the "Great Power" stigma does not attach to Canada and the Voice of Canada is not heard with distrust or resentment in Western Europe.
10. The comments up to this point have largely related to broadcasts to Europe. CBC broadcasts to Latin America have been conducted since 1946 and, from the evidence of listeners' letters, the Latin American Service has a reasonable audience. The broadcasts have carried a good deal of straight "Canadiana", entertainment and cultural content. The first aim of this Service is considered to be the promotion of trade by maintaining or developing a generally friendly and respectful attitude towards Canada. The political content has been small and usually indirect. Latterly the BBC and Voice of America have ceased shortwave transmissions to Latin America on grounds of economy, whereas the Soviet Union and satellites have increased their broadcasting time to this area several hundred fold. Quite possibly this situation suggests not only a political reason for continuance of this Service but perhaps also the desirability of providing a higher political content for these broadcasts to combat Communist propaganda ventures.
11. A further very important consideration affecting a decision whether or not to continue a governmental international broadcasting operation relates to the possible future. This memorandum has been devoted to a discussion of the CBC-IS in peacetime and the Cold War. The urgency and utility of international broadcasting becomes much more apparent and compelling in time of war when every resource of the nation must be brought to bear on a military and political victory. It needs little imagination to foresee that in the event of war the Government, on the basis of its own assessment of war requirements, because of official and parliamentary recommendations and, no doubt, because of insistence by allied nations, will wish to play its part in an allied propaganda effort. In such an effort shortwave broadcasting would inevitably claim a prominent role. It is not possible by virtue of an official decision alone to engage in an effective radio propaganda effort. Technical and engineering facilities, accommodation and various paraphernalia are required. 45 Above all, experienced personnel - engineers, management, scriptwriters, foreign language experts, broadcasters and others - all are essential to a successful operation. Even if the existing International Service is in full activity when a state of war might be declared, a considerable readjustment of the existing apparatus would be required. If, however, the whole apparatus had been dismantled and, more important, the trained personnel dispersed, it would take a regrettably long time to mount an effective radio operation. Moreover, it is highly improbable that Canada would be in a position to maintain the shortwave frequencies allocated to it if it failed to make regular use of them. The international competition for frequencies is such that loss of the allocated frequencies might paralyze for some time a Canadian effort to re-enter the international broadcasting field in case of war. While the potential requirement for a wartime shortwave apparatus does not, by itself, justify the peacetime apparatus, the importance of that potential requirement should surely be given full weight before any decision is made to dispense with existing machinery and trained personnel.
12. It seems possible that in the thinking which has been given to the problems of CBC-IS there may have been some confusion of the two related questions: (1) Is shortwave broadcasting a good thing for Canada to be doing? and (2) If so, is the job being satisfactorily performed by CBC-IS? Perhaps doubts about the latter question have carried over, unnoticed, into the former and larger question. This memorandum, of course, is largely concerned with the former. If it appears that Ministerial concern is fundamentally about how the job is being done, it would be idle to deny that much improvement can still be made in the CBC-IS operation. I think the programmes have improved in the last year or so, at least to the extent that the International Service now receives and makes use of information and guidance on international affairs and Canadian foreign policy. The standard is certainly not yet up to that of, say, the BBC and perhaps this is too much to expect for a long time to come. It may well be, however, that the pace of improvement could be accelerated if more or different outside attention were brought to bear on the work of the Service. One means might be to form (or resurrect) an Advisory Committee of officials to follow the operation of the Service from month to month and suggest any desirable changes. Another, but more drastic, means might be to enlist the services of some outside radio expert to scrutinize, analyse and make recommendations concerning the future work of the International Service. This latter suggestion might, of course, not recommend itself to CBC and, moreover, it seems most probable that any expert would feel bound to make recommendations involving further financial outlay - for new, high-powered transmitters, etc. More detailed suggestions along these lines might be made if it seems that the concern of the special Cabinet Committee lies in this area.
13. In summary, it is recommended that the operations of CBC International Service be continued at approximately the present level of activity. 46