Volume #15 - 244.|
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL AND SPECIALIZED AGENCIES
INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS UNION
Memorandum from Chief Delegate|
to International High Frequency Broadcasting Conference to Secretary of State for External Affairs
April 22nd, 1949|
HIGH FREQUENCY CONFERENCE NO. I I|
I have the honour to submit a final report on the International High Frequency Broadcasting Conference held here under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The Conference began on October 22, 1948, and lasted until April 10, 1949, when a final act, the Mexico City Agreement, was signed by 51 of the 69 countries participating in the Conference.
2. This summary is not an exhaustive review of the work of the Conference. It is intended primarily to give the political background against which negotiations during the latter weeks of the Conference were carried out. As such it merely supplements my previous reports, as well as those of Mr. C.I. Acton of the Department of Transport and of Mr. Donald Manson and Mr. William Richardson of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
3. Since my last report, No. 10 of February 16, 1949† (which dealt mainly with the United States and U.S.S.R. draft frequency assignment plans submitted to the Conference) the main activity of the Conference was the actual drawing up of a Plan allotting tentative but concrete frequency-hours to participating countries. The difficulty of the task can be gauged from the fact that the number of channel-hours that could be carved out of the section of the spectrum with which the Conference dealt, was of the nature of 5,500, whereas the frequency demands of participating countries totalled some 15,000 channel-hours.
4. As I have reported, the first four months of the Conference bad been given over to the establishment of general principles which might be used as a base for equitable distribution of frequency-hours among the countries of the world and of technical ones for the maintenance of sound standards for high frequency broadcasting. General principles, technical standards and individual frequency requirements, once approved by the appropriate Committees, were passed on to the Plan Committee (Committee 6) for its guidance in elaborating a suitable frequency assignment Plan.
5. General principles took the longest time and when at last they emerged in the form of Document No. 589,† copy of which has been forwarded to you, they comprised practically every conceivable factor which any country could propose as the basis for the assessment of requirements and assignments. Because of its catholicity, Document 589 was unanimously approved but for the same reason its value was purely "platonic", a term much used at the Conference. Although it was formally passed on to Committee 6 for its guidance, it served no purpose other than that of a compendium of all the views expressed (including the most fantastic) which delegations could, and often did, quote with equal appropriateness in support of opposing contentions.
6. It might be well to point out, at this stage, that the task of the General Principles Committee (Committee 3) was rendered well nigh impossible because its meetings were used as a forum for the expounding of diametrically opposed political concepts of the Soviet bloc, on the one hand, and of the rest of the world, on the other, concerning the uses to which shortwave broadcasting should be put and the principles upon which it should be based.
7. After four months of wrangling over general principles, of reviewing individual requirements and of playing politics, a Plan Group was finally selected by Committee 6, in order to assign frequencies to participating countries on a tentative basis, It was made up of the following nations: France, India, Mexico, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. This group sat behind closed doors, much to the displeasure of the other delegates, especially the Latin Americans, to whom this secrecy was "democratically" unsound and indefensible. It was finally decided in Plenary, after hours of discussion, to publish individual assignments as they emerged. From that time on, Plan Group sessions were open, as in the case of other groups.
8. Interpreters' gossip had it that proceedings in the Plan Group were largely on a "scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" basis, In other words, the Plan Group was effectively assigning frequencies on a very "unprincipled" basis. However empirical, the methods used by the Plan Group did produce a first draft, which, when considered in the light of the difficult conditions under which it was elaborated, was really a noteworthy accomplishment. As was to be expected, of course, the first draft aroused universal protest, real or simulated. The Group's real achievement, however, was that it brought the Conference down to earth and gave it a realistic orientation by turning its attention from abstraction and noble principles to concrete plan making. The presentation of the first draft served to narrow subsequent discussions and resulted in a universal demand for "revision".
9. This revision was assigned in early March to what, in effect, was the Plan Group with two major innovations. Firstly, the Plan Group was expanded to include the following countries: Pakistan, Portugal, Roumania, and Uruguay; secondly, the Plan Revision Group (PRG), as it was called, was given its mandate, not by Committee 6, but by the Plenary Assembly itself.
10. The political manoeuvring that went on before the PRO was formed is rather interesting. The U.S.S.R. had, by use of pressure, secured Roumania's accession to the Group. Matters became more complicated, however, when, for reasons of prestige, the Pakistan delegation achieved, by adroit lobbying, representation on the PRG in spite of Indian and United Kingdom opposition. To lessen the possibility of predominant Soviet influence within this Group, (the Pakistan delegate having given some support to the Soviet formula of "area, population and number of languages" because it suited his case, was, unjustifiably, I think, suspected of being amenable to Soviet influence), the United Kingdom and the United States got Portugal and Uruguay included in the Group's membership to offset any possible new alignment.
11. This enlarged Group was given instructions by the Plenary Assembly to work in close collaboration with Working Group "D" of Committee 6 (WG 6D) which had busied itself with exploring the possibilities of frequency sharing. This last Group performed a useful piece of work for it, in effect, increased the number of channel-hours available from some 5,500 to a total close to 8,000. PRG and WG 6 D did in fact work in very close collaboration and, by dint of repeated interviews with delegations, during which adjustments were made on the spot, produced a revised Plan.
12. This revised Plan, when finally presented to the Plenary Assembly, was accepted by 51 countries, out of 69 represented, the Soviet Union (and satellites) and the United States being the most significant non-signatories.
13. The refusal of the United States to sign the plan caused great consternation among the delegates. When the.United States delegate made his formal rejection speech, he based his refusal largely on the "technical deficiencies of the Plan" and on the fact that "the United States was not accustomed to being placed tenth on the list of results achieved at international conferences". In concluding, he announced that he would explain his objections more fully at a later date. This "explanation" turned out to be a violent anti-Soviet tirade which threatened to disrupt the Conference on the eve of closure; the Soviet delegations ostensibly felt so incensed by the United States accusations of bad faith that they walked out of the Plenary to the last man. A copy of this United States declaration is attached.†
14. The reasons behind the United States attitude, however, seem to run much deeper. As explained in Report No. 10 of February 16, the plan proposed by the United States, and submitted months after the U.S.S.R. plan, was a compromise allocation established on very high technical standards which, accordingly, kept their own (197 channel-hours) and other frequency assignments, as well as channel sharing, at a minimum. The final Conference Plan, on the other hand, was built on lower standards in order to increase the global figure for channel-hour avallabilities and to meet as many frequency demands as possible, The United States never really subscribed to these lower standards and hoped until the very end that their views would prevail.
15. Once it became clear that the Conference would adopt neither the high standards that they advocated nor their Plan as presented, the United States made a very serious mistake in Conference tactics: they never formally and categorically announced that the allocation which they had given themselves in their own plan was below their real requirements and that, if an assignment Plan was to be established on debased standards, they felt entitled to receive a higher number of frequency hours, a number more nearly approximating their real needs than the "sacrifice" 197 hours which they had allotted themselves,
16. When, therefore, the United States came forward with their rather intemperate denunciation of the final Plan, most delegations were left wondering how in logic they could protest when, alone of the major powers, the United States had had their initial requirements of 197 hours fully satisfied, with the whole of that allocation in the "critical" broadcasting bands such as the 15 and 17 megacycle bands. Further, it was generally admitted that, had they requested that their allocation be padded with channels in the non-critical bands (the 6, 21 and 26 megacycle bands) it could easily have been done as there were, so to speak, channels going abegging in those bands. When comparing the Canadian allocation of 200 hours with that of the United States, it must be borne in mind that Canada obtained only 40-odd channel hours in the critical bands, the remainder of our channel hours being mostly in the 6 megacycle band.
17. The behaviour of the United States delegates was indeed puzzling and may have been due to a conflict of authority within the delegation itself. It is known that considerable disagreement existed among the 30-odd members of the delegation, split up as it was in groups representing such diverse interests as the State Department, the Federal Communications Commission, Congress and a medley of private corporations. I am told that discipline was so bad in the delegation that no policy decision could be reached without a vote being taken. I am also told that when certain delegates found themselves in the minority, they went so far as to insist that their dissent be recorded in the minutes of the delegation meetings. There may have been a great many reasons why the United States did not sign, but it might be of interest to mention that, when the Pakistan delegate asked the chief of the United States delegation point blank why he had not signed, he was told that the State Department did not dare ask Congress to ratify an agreement which gave the U.S.S.R. 700 channel hours and the United States only 197. The chief of the United States delegation is said to have added, "The Senators would have chewed their faces off."
18. The impression created on the other delegations by the United States attitude was deplorable. While it was felt that they had blundered into the impasse in which they found themselves, it was generally feared that the Conference would break up as a result, particularly after the United States attack on the Soviet. When the smoke cleared away, however, and when it was learned that the United Kingdom and Canada would sign, a noticeable feeling of relief spread through the Conference. I was told by the Secretary General of the Conference that the announcement that the United Kingdom and ourselves made at this juncture did much to rally the faint of heart.
19. The Soviet's refusal to sign is equally difficult to understand. During the closing sessions of the Conference it had been noted that no member of the Soviet bloc, including the U.S.S.R., had ever explicitly said that they were not going to sign. Although the speeches we heard on the Plan stressed that the Plan was technically unsatisfactory, they never included any declaration of outright rejection,
20. While their proclaimed minimum requirements were 800 channel hours, it is estimated that the Soviet Union was allotted more broadcasting time (700 hours) than they could possibly use at the present time. Reports of both the British and the United States monitoring services agreed on that point. Furthermore, it became obvious that the Soviet insistence on more and more channel hours was largely for purposes of prestige rather than to satisfy actual needs. For instance, demands for broadcasting time to Australia, India or Latin America at three or four o'clock in the morning could not have been made with the intention of reaching an audience, unless it were one of party faithful.
21. One is therefore left to conjecture as to why they did not sign on April 10th. It may be that they wanted to keep themselves free to disrupt international broadcasting, while at the same time proclaiming that they had been dealt with unfairly at the Conference, but there are indications that at least some members of the Soviet delegation had in mind the possibility of adhering to the Agreement at some later date.89
22. It might be well to mention a question on which there exists complete uncertainty. Does the Mexico City Agreement provide for adherence subsequent to April 10th for those nations who had not signed on that date- Mr. Pereyra, the Chairman of the Conference, contends that the wording of the Agreement (Article 3), which is far from clear, can be construed as permitting acceptance of the Agreement at any time (i.e., until June 15th), while the British delegation, who took a very active part in the drafting of the Agreement, maintain on the contrary that the right to such late acceptance is categorically denied. As the final text of the Agreement is not yet available, I cannot express an opinion, but it would seem that the loose wording that unfortunately crept into the Agreement in the closing stages of the Conference will give rise to considerable argument. In conversation, Mr. Pereyra told me that he was having the text of the Agreement studied by the legal staff of his Department (the Mexican Ministry' of Communications) and that he would let me know confidentially what the views of his legal advisers are regarding the point in question.90
23. The present Plan is for one "season" only, i.e., the June median; the remaining seasons (June minimum and maximum, December and Equinox, minimum, median and maximum respectively) will be based on the June median Plan and handled by a special committee, the Technical Plan Committee (TPC), which will meet in Paris from June 15th next. Closing date for TPC activities has been tentatively set for October 1st, although in most circles this date is considered to be optimistic, perhaps as volatile as the December 15th, 194$ closing date set for the Mexico City Conference!
24. The Technical Plan Committee comprises the following fifteen countries: Argentina, Egypt, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Roumania, South Africa, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Uruguay and the United States. The Conference ruled that non-signatories could not become members of the TPC and accordingly elected panels of substitutes on a regional basis to cover possible vacancies. Since the Soviet Union, the Ukraine and the United States in particular have not accepted the Agreement, they are not now in a position to participate in the work of the TPC, except as non-voting observers-a position which they may be expected to use to influence friendly members91 of the TPC. The work of the Committee will of course be subject to review at the second session of the Conference, scheduled to be held in Italy in early autumn of this year.
25. Canada is the United States' elected successor from Region A of the world radio map. We were chosen by secret ballot and obtained overwhelnvng support. There might be good and valid reasons why Canada should have declined to act as a substitute on the TPC, but in view of the manner in which Canada was elected, she had no choice but to agree. Canada's runner-up in Region A-Brazil-was also reluctant to accept in case Canada defaulted, but finally consented in view of the strong support which she also had received. An odd situation arose with respect to stand-ins for the Soviet Union and the Ukraine in Region C, neither of which has signed the Agreement, when Finland was chosen as their substitute by secret ballot and by a large majority, with Yugoslavia as runner-up. Since Finland has never toed the Soviet line in this Conference, to have Russia's interest represented by Finland is assuredly not a prospect which the Kremlin could envisage with relish!
26. The final instrument of this Conference is an agreement only, not a convention, and much less a treaty. This arises from the status of the Conference itself, which was an administrative and not a plenipotentiary body, although at times this distinction was difficult to grasp. Accessions, therefore, are quite provisional and subject not only to approval by the countries concerned, but also to their being satisfied with the remaining Plans, when they emerge.
27. The last week of the Conference was given over to the task of drafting a suitable text for the Agreement, now known as the Mexico City Agreement. At the outset of the Conference, Canada was elected to the vice-chairmanship of the Drafting Committee (Committee 8). When the Committee finally met in the closing days of the Conference, this post was filled by Mr. Arthur Blanchette of this Embassy.
28. When the work of drafting began, Soviet tactics became very aggressive. Repeated attempts were made to have the text of the Agreement tally with Soviet concepts of general Conference procedure, especially as concerned unanimity. These were constantly rejected by the Conference, but this did not stop the U.S.S.R. from pressing her demands. For instance, when veto powers were ruled out, the Soviet Union attempted to have decisions carry by an 85% majority. Had this proposal been accepted, it might have seta precedent to be pressed tenaciously by the Soviet at future meetings of the ITU.
29. Throughout the Conference, Canada exerted considerable influence on various Commonwealth countries. During the initial stages, Canada looked after the interests of Eire whose delegate, after his arrival, almost invariably followed our cue and very loyally remained within the fold of the Commonwealth family during the Conference. The Australian delegate gave Canada his proxy and usually accepted our views on questions submitted to a vote.
30. By and large, the Commonwealth nations did quite well at the Conference, although by no means acting as a unit. All saw their "minimum" requirements satisfied. Of the Commonwealth countries, perhaps Pakistan achieved the most gratifying results, since she came to the Conference with no transmitters in operation and received a final total of 141 channel hours. These were obtained largely through the efforts and brilliant debating powers of the Chief of the Pakistan delegation, Mr. Ahmed Bokhari, who achieved considerable influence over the Conference by his timely and conciliatory speeches. He successfully played off the United Kingdom, India and the Soviet Union against each other to foster his own aims.92 (It may be of interest to you to know that Mr. Bokhari will be spending a few days in Canada next June on his return trip to Pakistan. He will be the guest of the CBC.)
31. No split was visible in the Soviet bloc. The Yugoslav delegate, in effect, toed the Soviet line unwaveringly, The Czechs, however, were much less vehement in their support than had been expected, although this may have been due to the personality of their delegates rather than to coolness to Soviet leadership.
I have, etc.
89Ceci et lea trois notes de renvoi suivantes paraissent sur le document original: This and the following three footnotes appear in the original document:
90 The importance of clarifying this point is explained in paragraph 24.
91The United States delegates at the Conference let it be known that the United States proposed sending a strong unit of observers to Paris next June.
92 It is worth noting that, throughout the Conference, the United Kingdom was much more wont to supportIndiathanPakistan.