SIR JOHN SIMON, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in the House of Commons a year ago that the British Government had requested the British Broadcasting Corporation to inaugurate an overseas broadcasting service in foreign languages, and that the B. B. C., "fully realizing the issues," had decided to take appropriate action, including the construction of new short-wave transmitters. Inquiries made by His Majesty's representatives had shown, according to Sir John, that broadcasts in Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic were especially desirable. This step was taken after a long period of hesitation; and it follows -- by accident or design -- closely on the heels of our own National Broadcasting Company's announcement of a worldwide short-wave service in six languages.

The fact is that the problem of broadcasting for foreign consumption has given government and radio officials on both sides of the Atlantic a great deal to think about in the last two or three years. Its implications for the future are immeasurably important. The two decisions cited above represent the first definite answer of the democratic nations to the political activity which has been carried on via the radio in the Fascist countries, just as British rearmament and the big navy program of the United States are answers to the rapidly expanding military machines of the aggressive dictators. The democratic countries have suddenly become aware that the radio is a weapon which they cannot neglect when planning to defend their national interests.


We in America entertain a good many misunderstandings concerning the structure of European broadcasting, for it differs radically from the organization of broadcasting on this side of the Atlantic. Generally speaking, broadcasting in Europe is run, or at least controlled, by the various governments. Private enterprise enters in only to a limited extent. Contrary to general belief, the reasons for this are by no means entirely sinister. In the European democracies the motives behind the establishment of government control were primarily, (a) the desire for an orderly and satisfactory public service, and (b) the prevention of anything that might give offense to domestic public opinion and to neighboring governments. In totalitarian countries the aims are to regiment the population at home and propagate, as far as the voice will carry, the prevailing political ideology. Thus the spirit behind control may be easy-going liberalism and "fair play" or it may be aggressive nationalism and partisan tyranny, depending on the character of the government in question.

The systems of control under which the various national radio organizations operate range from direct government ownership and operation to private enterprise under loose governmental supervision, not unlike the supervision of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States. In this connection, however, the determining factor is not the type of government. Some democratic countries, like Denmark and Norway, have government-owned and operated radio; others, like Holland, give wide scope to private enterprise. Some dictatorship countries -- e.g. Russia and Germany -- operate their radio virtually as government departments. Fascist Italy, on the other hand, retains a corporation financed and run by private capital.

Midway between the two extremes of government operation and private exploitation is the typically British compromise exemplified by the British Broadcasting Corporation -- a nonprofit-making public body chartered by the Crown and operated for the national benefit. The model for this kind of semi-socialistic organism is to be found in such bodies as the Port of London Authority and certain British utilities corporations from which the profit motive (though not individual enterprise and ability) has been eliminated. In the case of the B. B. C. the personnel of the board of governors reflects, in a general way, the political complexion of the country, rather than the exact political alignment of the day. While there is no direct coercion from the authorities, it is pretty certain that the B. B. C. will avoid giving offense to the Government or to its licensor, the Post Office.[i] On the other hand, if the B. B. C. should lean too far to the side of the Government, or discriminate flagrantly against the Opposition, protests will be heard both in Parliament and in the country; and such protests must be heeded, for in Great Britain it is always possible that the "outs" may presently be the "ins."

France, the second great European democratic country, has found another compromise: it has both government and private broadcasting. The government chain of stations is operated as a section of the Postal Ministry, while its management is entrusted to a board on which the government, the broadcasting industry and the listeners are equally represented. In addition, there is a Superior Broadcasting Council on which the licensed listener is represented, i.e., every legitimate owner of a radio set is entitled to vote for candidates. The private broadcasting stations are commercially managed and financed by advertising, as in the United States. The government-operated systems of Great Britain and France, as indeed of all European broadcasting systems with one exception, derive their revenue from listeners' licenses. The word "tax" in this connection is hardly applicable, since the amount is neither based on the price of a product nor variable according to income. It is a fixed charge by the government for the permission to operate a "receiving station." It is, in effect, an admission fee to a year's radio performances provided by, or through the facilities of, the government.

The one notable exception is Holland. Here there are no less than five broadcasting associations, run not for profit but for the benefit of their members. Three of them have a religious bias (Catholic, Protestant and just Christian), and one a political bias (Socialist). The fifth and largest is "general," that is to say, neutral, non-partisan and secular. Each maintains its own studios and program staffs, and all five divide the available time on the two existing long-wave transmitters under an equitable system of rotation, paying rental to the company which operates the transmitters. The shares of this operating company are owned jointly by the broadcasting organizations and the government. The arrangement works smoothly, without a case of friction on record. The most remarkable feature of the Dutch system, however, is the voluntary membership. No one in Holland needs to belong to a radio association, and no one needs to buy a license in order to own a radio set and listen to any or all the programs. Yet there are enough paying members to maintain an adequate radio service with alternative programs. Radio advertising is ruled out by common consent; so is profit. Nobody earns anything but a reasonable salary, and there is not a more prosperous and better-liked broadcasting system in the world.

To sum up, most broadcasting facilities in Europe are, for practical as well as political reasons, either operated or controlled by the government: there is general recognition of the principle that the ether is public domain and not subject to exploitation for private profit. Out of the thirty national broadcasting systems now functioning, thirteen are government-owned and operated, nine are government monopolies operated by autonomous public bodies or partly government-controlled corporations, four are physically operated (engineered) by the government and privately serviced for programs, while only three are privately owned and operated. In two countries (France and Jugoslavia) government and privately run organizations exist side by side.


The political aspects of broadcasting are two -- domestic and foreign. If we bear in mind the administrative structure of European radio, as indicated above, it is easy to see why internal political broadcasting, as we know it in the United States, is almost non-existent on the European continent. In fifteen out of the thirty countries that broadcast, covering over four-fifths of the total area of Europe, political matter is prohibited altogether, except that which is broadcast by or at the behest of the government. These countries are: Germany, Italy, Soviet Russia, Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Danzig, Poland, Portugal, the Vatican City and the Irish Free State. In at least two more -- Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia -- all political and controversial talks are censored by the state. And in most of the remaining countries, democratic or otherwise, some sort of censorship is exercised by the broadcasting authorities themselves, though in most cases on the basis of law and good taste.

In Great Britain all supervision is suspended during election campaigns, and the same holds good for some of the other democratic countries. Turkey -- a phenomenon in this respect -- boasts a total absence of supervision; but considering the small influence of the radio in that dictatorship, the boast need not be taken too seriously. Spain, before the outbreak of the civil war, permitted political speeches, subject to the usual "internal" control by the program director. At present the radio in Spain is, of course, completely in the grip of the military authorities on both sides.

Anything like really free political expression over the air is therefore confined to the western democracies, with the doubtful addition of Latvia, Lithuania and Rumania. Moreover, electioneering on a large scale is not possible in any of these countries without a serious interruption of the cultural, public service and entertainment activities of broadcasting; few of them have more than two alternate programs, one of which is usually national and the other regional or local. Nowhere is it possible to buy "time" on the air for political broadcasting, even in the few countries -- France, Spain, Luxembourg -- where commercial broadcasting exists. The American practice of selling time to politicians and parties is frankly considered "immoral" in Europe, since it is liable to load the dice in favor of the economically strong.

Under a broadcasting monopoly, time for election speeches is usually apportioned by agreement between the parties, or on some principle which the broadcasting authorities consider equitable. In Great Britain, election speeches are confined to a short period -- say two or three weeks -- before election and each party represented in Parliament is allowed an equal number of broadcasts at peak listening times. Thus only the national leaders of all the parties are heard, since the time is too precious to be wasted on small fry. The system has worked fairly well so far, although a considerable amount of discontent was aroused in 1931 when the first National (coalition) Government claimed equal representation for all its component parties, two of which, the "National Labor" and "National Liberal," were said to exist in Parliament but not in the country. Thus the National Government had a predominance of fifty percent over the Opposition parties, which may or may not have helped account for some of its overwhelming majority at the polls. The matter was amicably adjusted before the next general election, and in the meantime one of the new, government-hatched parties had acquired a certain popular following. What will happen at the next election with regard to the latest "parliamentary" party -- the Communists, who elected one member in 1936 -- remains to be seen. Communism, it is interesting to note, is not altogether taboo as a subject on the British radio.

Aside from election speeches, the B. B. C. permits "controversial" political matter on the air, subject to editorial supervision. Manuscripts are submitted in advance to see whether they conform to the subject matter, whether their length is right, and in order that anything "indecent, offensive or defamatory" may be deleted. Editorial control is further exercised in an effort to keep a fair balance of opinion, each partisan or controversial talk being offset by a direct reply or a contrary argument. Studio debates are a favorite manner of satisfying both sides, and it is worth noting that Fascism, for instance, has been debated in a B. B. C. broadcast by Sir Oswald Mosley and Megan Lloyd George. People like George Bernard Shaw and others of national reputation are given complete freedom within the realm of decency -- according to their own judgment.

The rest of democratic Europe confines political matter on the air for the most part to non-partisan speeches, except in Norway, Denmark and Belgium, which come nearest to the British model. In Holland two of the five radio organizations (Catholic and Socialist) permit political speeches. The rest exclude them altogether. In Sweden and Switzerland only "impartial" political talks are allowed, which leaves political parties exactly as they were before radio existed. In Czechoslovakia, which in other respects is a model democracy, speeches criticizing the government are excluded by the conditions of the broadcasting franchise. Czechoslovakia, so far as broadcasting is concerned, would indeed have to be classed with the authoritarian states, were it not for the fact that its rather liberal policy takes account of the claims of national and cultural minorities. Czechoslovakia is the one democratic country using "authoritarian" methods for the consolidation of its régime. Its excuse for the curtailment of freedom on the air is that in view of the country's precarious strategic position the end justifies the means.

The real dictatorships, however, of whatever political complexion, employ radio exclusively as a means of consolidating their power within their geographical and racial boundaries and projecting their political doctrines into the consciousness of every possible listener -- man, woman and child. In their hands the radio has become the most powerful political weapon the world has ever seen. Used with superlative showmanship, with complete intolerance of opposition, with ruthless disregard for truth, and inspired by a fervent belief that every act and thought must be made subservient to the national purpose, it suffuses all forms of political, social, cultural and educational activity in the land.

In practice this all-pervading propaganda takes several distinct forms. Political speeches as such are almost unnecessary, for nearly every talk that goes out on the air has a political twist: whether it speaks of history or science or art or public works or just the ordinary functions of the community, such as the activities of fire brigades, it exalts the national genius, the virtues of the leaders and the infallibility of the leadership principle. Equally "inspired" are the frequent readings of news commentaries, which deliberately -- and with tremendous consistency -- present every news item that is susceptible of interpretation in a manner flattering to the government and its friends, or derogatory to countries of opposing ideologies. Most effective of all, however, are the so-called reportages -- direct eye-witness commentaries of events, celebrations and public appearances of the national idol, which are staged with the super-art of the modern cinema director in coordination with the prowess of the military disciplinarian.

I recently listened to a May Day celebration in Berlin. For hours before the actual event the air was filled with descriptive talks pitched in a high lyrical vein, interspersed with patriotic and martial music and the cheering of crowds, as each leader or marching detachment arrived. Then the progress of Hitler's car through the city was described by means of a short-wave transmitter mounted on a truck following his car; then came Hitler himself, greeted by the shouts and singing of the mob. From the platform the politico-religious revivalists worked up enthusiasm to the pitch of hysteria; the people's gratitude to the Führer engendered a dithyramb ascribing everything, including the sunshine, to his benevolence, and ending with the words:

Der Mai ist gekommen, Heil Hitler!

This loosed a tempest of cheers. And finally the Leader spoke.

It is a curious fact that neither Hitler nor Mussolini nor Stalin ever speaks into a microphone from the solitude of an office or a studio. The crowd's cheering in response to his physical presence seems to be an indispensable incitement of the leader's own verbal acrobatics. It is said that when Hitler speaks, even the applause is regulated by a series of signals worked by buttons attached to the reader's desk, so that the dynamics of enthusiasm can be controlled. Whether true or not, it is certain that all of Hitler's broadcasts are staged. Thus we have Hitler standing on a symbolic engine in the Krupp works, surrounded by the workmen, while he speaks to men in factories everywhere.

And when Hitler speaks the people of Germany must listen wherever they are. Factory sirens blow, there is a minute or two of silence, and then the voice bursts forth. Loudspeakers in public places relay the speech; not to listen, or appear to listen, is disloyalty. The penetration of the politicized radio into the entire national consciousness is thus complete, its power inescapable. At election times -- even though election results are never in doubt -- the ubiquity of the government voice turns the country into one great perpetual rally. Needless to say, there is no dissent; the use of radio, as of all vocal expression, is reserved exclusively for those who serve and incidentally own the state.


I have used the term "racial boundaries" in describing the range of broadcast appeal in totalitarian states. It is a self-evident but most important attribute of radio that it takes no account of political geography. Strictly "internal" broadcasting is therefore practically impossible in Europe, with its eccentric boundaries. Well aware of the difficulties that this circumstance created, the International Broadcasting Union, as well as some individual governments, took certain measures in the early radio days. The Union tried with some success to limit the power of stations situated near national frontiers. Some governments even forbade the broadcasting of any matter which might give offense to nearby nations. Other countries, however, exploited the advantage conferred on them by nature and began diffusing "internal" broadcasts obviously intended for foreign consumption. Sometimes the tenor of these broadcasts showed that they were aimed at "national minorities" speaking the same language as the broadcasting country; sometimes they were frankly couched in a foreign language.

It obviously is awkward that language frontiers do not conform either to political or physical geography. Strasbourg broadcasts in German, because Alsace is predominantly German-speaking. A similar situation exists in the northwestern parts of Czechoslovakia, in Polish Silesia and Switzerland. Even Russia has a justification for its German broadcasts -- the existence of the Volga German Republic! Both Strasbourg and Moscow broadcast news. The Russian interpretation of news, specializing on doings in Hitler's Reich as well as in other Fascist countries, is justifiably regarded in Germany as anti-German propaganda. Nor does Moscow confine itself to news interpretation; it criticizes the news as published or broadcast in Germany and "corrects" it, sometimes with more valor than discretion. And every now and again it leads an ex-German or ex-Austrian workingman to the microphone to tell the Volga German Republic (in the hoped-for hearing of his former comrades back home) how beautifully things function in the factories under the Soviets.

I recently happened to hear a typical Russian commentary on the German handling of news. This one concerned the account published by the Nazis regarding the Arctic expedition of the Soviet fliers and the setting up of a meteorological station near the Pole. The Germans, it seems, had ignored the expedition as long as possible. But at last they announced it, though without mentioning the explorers' nationality. This great conquest, they said, had been made possible by the achievements of "international science." The Moscow announcer, in perfect German, quoted the German papers with copious sneers, and ended up by citing Heine's story of the ass -- how some simpleton envied it its long ears. This, he said, was Heine's prophetic vision about the Germans of today!

As for Strasbourg, I have never noticed anything in its news announcing that would not be thought perfectly natural and correct in England or the United States. But to the German authorities its dispassionate impartiality is regarded as an anti-German bias of the worst kind, for it is at complete variance with the news published in the Nazi press. And Strasbourg can be heard far into German territory. There is little that the Germans can do to keep Strasbourg out. They have issued decrees against listening to foreign stations, but clandestine listening, despite the vigilance of Nazi eavesdroppers, continues to occur. There has also been a good deal of attempted "jamming" -- setting up a noisy oscillation on the wavelength of the offending foreign transmitter -- but the effect of such interference is local and much less efficacious than supposed. In a broadcasting war, offense is far more successful than defense.

The Germans themselves were the first to prove this in the classic case of hostile broadcasting which occurred back in 1926 -- at the time of their "minority" dispute with Poland after the plebiscite in Upper Silesia. The Breslau station protested so violently in its broadcasts to the German brothers across the border that the Poles were roused to fury. But the upshot was a "radio non-aggression agreement" negotiated by the broadcasting administrations themselves, still possible under the Weimar Republic, and this became the model for various other regional agreements in Europe and South America.

But no such agreement was ever signed between Germany and Austria, and the now historic attempt of the Nazis to bring Austria into their political orbit was perhaps the peak performance of radio as an offensive political instrument. The broadcasts of Dr. Habicht, Nazi "Inspector for Austria," from the Munich transmitter, constitute the one recorded case of a consistent radio attack on a foreign nation which achieved a definite political result. The Nazi revolt in Austria, the first attempt on Dollfuss' life, the subsequent Austrian entente with Italy, the Austrian Government's attack on the Socialists in February 1934, and the final abortive attempt to set up a Rintelen government while Dollfuss lay bleeding to death -- all these can be traced to the provocations of this "radio war."

If since 1933 border warfare by radio has gone out of date, this is not because the nations have abandoned the most modern of all weapons, but because the advent of the super-power station has made frontier stations superfluous. In 1930 the 100-kilowatt transmitter was unknown.[ii] By 1932 there were five, and the race was on. This development supposedly took place in answer to the activities of the high-power stations of Moscow, which allegedly were flooding Europe with Communist propaganda, although the Russians said they were designed merely to cover the vast area of Russia and Siberia. (It is true that the Russian telephone lines do not furnish an effective communications network and that the high-powered long-wave transmitter was the obvious substitute.) Within a short time, other European stations went up to 120 kilowatts -- e.g. Warsaw and Prague -- then to 150 and to 200, and eventually the goal was 500. A table will best illustrate this development during the last half decade:

1932 1937
20-29 kilowatts 9 16
30-39 " 4 7
40-49 " 2 1
50-59 " 8 9

1932 1937
60-69 kilowatts 6 9
70-80 " 1 4
100-119 " 5 27
120-129 " 2 27
130-150 " 0 13
200-500 " 0 3
--- ----
Total high-power stations 37 116

The European propaganda machines seem to have been perfected. The voices of the national stentors are now so loud that the ordinary listener to international programs often finds his pleasure spoiled by competing political broadcasts. Furthermore, hostile broadcasting has taken on a more sinister aspect in that it is now possible to reach not only neighboring countries but distant ones as well. The most flagrant current case is that of the Bari station (southern Italy), which engages in frequent broadcasts of anti-British propaganda in Arabic for the benefit of the Moslem populations of Palestine and the Near East generally. The British Government, after some time, began to answer this propaganda with broadcasts from the Jerusalem station, operated under the British Postmaster-General of Palestine. The Bari broadcasts, like most propaganda broadcasts, adopt the form of "news" and news commentaries. They are suffused with glorifications of the Fascist régime and the Duce's mission as the protector of Moslem peoples. And they do not neglect to "interpret" Great Britain's motives in Palestine, to report repressive measures, and to deplore the brutality of John Bull in dealing with Arabs and Moslem patriots generally. In short, they are effective incitements to rebellion.


A new factor has recently been injected into political broadcasting by the development of short-wave transmission. This development has created a problem for radio engineers comparable to the scramble for ether space in the early days of European broadcasting. In the political field it creates difficulties even more prodigious: it has turned a European into a world problem.

The peculiarity of short-wave transmission, which at first was thought to be only of local importance, is that it is most efficacious over ultra-long distances -- thousands of miles -- and especially in transoceanic work. The direct wave, or so-called "ground" wave, fades after a short distance, but the sky wave, reflected from the Heaviside layer of the atmosphere, encircles the earth. Through the device of directional antennae (beam system), these waves can be aimed at any desired section of the globe, thereby increasing audibility in that region. Thus it came to be used for transoceanic communications.

As the abstruse science of short-wave came to be mastered (adaptability of certain waves to light or darkness, seasonal cycles of efficiency, sun spot activity, etc.), broadcasters began to exploit the new domain in hitherto unsuspected ways. In 1930 only three short-wave transmitters were used for broadcasting in Europe; today there are over forty sizable ones and more are being built. Short waves require proportionately less power to project them: a two-kilowatt transmitter in Addis Ababa carried the voice of the Negus to America, over 7000 miles away. Many short-wave transmitters now in use are of the order of 40 and 50 kilowatts, and others now being built will go up to 100 kilowatts and probably more.

The value of this method of long-distance transmission in creating a new link between parts of a far-flung community like the British Empire is obvious. Great Britain therefore took the lead; the British Empire station at Daventry, with its six transmitters, reaches virtually every British Dominion and possession with a carefully timed cycle of transmissions. But the Germans, whose "empire" is of a different nature, were not far behind. Prior to the Olympic Games of 1936 they extended their small but very efficient short-wave station at Zeesen to comprise eight powerful transmitters -- two more than the British -- thus making it the largest and most potent propaganda machine in the world. After the Games were over, this giant station, by virtue of highly intelligent engineering and very astute publicity technique, became the most terrific agency for the spread of political doctrine that the world has ever seen.

Having no colonial territories, the policy of the German shortwave service is, first, to reach "colonies" of overseas Germans wherever they may be, make them conscious of their ties to the fatherland, and preach to them the Nazi philosophy of national greatness; secondly, to promote "good will" and create German markets in competition with other exporting countries; and thirdly, to convince the rest of the world of German greatness and the justice of German aspirations. This is being done consistently in six languages -- and more, as required. It is carried out with tremendous thoroughness, broadcasts being "aimed" with great accuracy and efficiency at definite communities to be "cultivated." German-Americans in the United States are showered with brotherly love from "home;" South Africans are educated in Afrikaans to understand German colonial claims; the South Americans, in Spanish and Portuguese, learn to revere German music and incidentally German machines; and so on. Nobody is forgotten. A series of broadcasts aimed at Tasmania -- opening with "Hello, Tasmania, beautiful Apple Isle" -- is but one example of this new "spot" propaganda.

Italy, both master and pupil to German Fascism, is not far behind the big brother in this field. The Rome short-wave station at Prato Smeralda, always one of the best-functioning in Europe, is now, according to official announcement, being supplemented by two short-wave transmitters of 100 kilowatts each and three of 50 kilowatts each, besides an ultra short-wave at Monte Mario. This will carry the Italian "empire station" far beyond its British prototype, although the Duce still considers his empire in its infancy. The use to which these transmitters will be put is not in doubt. Even now the Rome transmitters emit a fairly steady stream of Fascist propaganda, mostly in the guise of news, history lessons and reports regarding the march of Italian civilization in Africa and elsewhere. By early 1937 the Italian short-wave station was broadcasting regularly in Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Hindustani. On December 1 of the same year, the Italians further expanded their foreign-language broadcasts. Talks in Arabic, instead of being given only once or twice a week, became a part of the daily programs of stations at Rome and Bari. In addition to the languages mentioned above, news is now being transmitted by Italian stations in Serbian, Greek, Turkish, Rumanian and Albanian. Even if this be taken as just commercial propaganda, there can be no doubt that both Great Britain and the United States are confronted by vigorous competition from Italy in their most important markets. Rightly or wrongly, however, the British see more in it than that: they feel themselves politically menaced in the Mediterranean, in India, in the Near and Far East, and along their trade routes everywhere.

Other countries with colonial empires -- the Dutch, the French, the Belgians and the Portuguese -- are all using short-wave broadcasting to provide their colonists and natives with news and entertainment from home. In none of these cases does there seem to be a determined effort at propaganda outside the legitimate scope. But France, which already broadcasts a cultural program to the United States, is intending to construct a 100 kilowatt short-wave transmitter at Pontoise, which, for a while, may be the strongest single transmitter in the world. The French Radio-Coloniale, run by the Colonial Ministry, today transmits in French, English, Arabic, Italian and Portuguese, all of which languages are spoken in French territories. Of non-colonial countries the first to enter the short-wave field is Czechoslovakia, with its excellent station at Poděbrady (35 kilowatts), which at last accounts was broadcasting in Czech, Slovak and -- for the United States -- in English.


Only an incorrigible optimist would deny that in the last analysis this feverish building of radio facilities is a part of the general preparation for war. The high-powered broadcasting stations of today are the modern equivalent to the classic "champion," who defied the enemy and sought to demoralize his ranks.

What is going on in Spain is but a miniature rehearsal for what may happen in Europe before long. It is not surprising that the military authorities took over the radio immediately after hostilities broke out or that hostile propaganda is emitted from stations on both sides in a steady stream. General Queipo de Llano, the "broadcasting general" of the Insurgents, quickly became as important as the generals at the front. Nor is it surprising that all prewar arrangements regarding wave-lengths were thrown overboard, regardless of the "rights" of combatants and neutrals alike. The defenders of the Alcazar were prevented by Loyalist "jamming" from receiving messages informing them that relief was on the way. Madrid broadcasts on Seville's wave-length, to drown the rebel propaganda; and the rebels try to jam Madrid -- not always successfully, for jamming is a two-edged sword.

Broadcasting to the opposing army by means of loudspeakers in the trenches has also become a feature of modern war. Correspondents have told how the forces defending Madrid "attacked" the morale of the Italian "volunteers" by giving them terrifying accounts of the fate of their comrades; how Italian prisoners of war were persuaded to urge their compatriots still fighting on the Rebel side to desert and "seek safety and freedom" behind the Loyalist front; how General Miaja followed up his Guadalajara victory with a "loudspeaker offensive" in the attempt to woo over the Italian mercenaries.

But this is only a small part of the rôle that radio will play in war. Probably its most important function will be in the realm of worldwide communications. In 1914 radio was in its infancy; wireless communications were still undeveloped, and the long-range radio telephone did not exist. International communications relied on cables, the bulk of which were controlled by Great Britain and the United States. When the German cables were cut by the British Navy early in the conflict, Germany was practically isolated from the outer world. In his book "Mobilizing for Chaos," O. W. Riegel writes: "The extent to which the defeat of the Central Powers can be attributed to the fact that they were effectively bottled up from the standpoints of news and propaganda is incapable of accurate determination, but from the experience of the war the conclusion can safely be drawn that the greater the number of channels of communication under a country's control, the stronger the position of that nation in the event of war."

Today the most important channels of communication are in the ether, and while no accurate count can be given that would be valid for more than a few months, there is no doubt that the dictatorship countries are in this respect at least as strong as the others. Moreover, radio communications, while they can be interfered with, cannot be definitely cut. In order to jam a radio transmission it is necessary to produce a counter-oscillation of similar intensity on the same frequency; and to do this consistently requires not only constant watch but some foreknowledge of the sequence of frequencies to be used by the enemy.

In the matter of communications, secrecy can be assured even in the air by modern methods of "scrambling" speech, plus adequate language codes. It will therefore be difficult in future to intercept a blockaded enemy's messages. Communication between Japan and Germany, for instance, could not be completely stopped by Russia. As for messages broadcast to spies and agents in neutral countries, radio apparatus nowadays is perfected to a point where a minute short-wave receiver can pick up such communications over thousands of miles, and a mere bar of music or a quotation from literature might convey important instructions to those in possession of the code. The possibilities here are illimitable and too fantastic to prognosticate.


What are the conclusions, and what lessons is a country with peaceful intentions to draw from all this? American radio, both for communication and for broadcasting, is in private hands. We are apt to boast of our free speech, our lack of censorship, and the great scope we give to private enterprise. In peacetime these things are more than desirable, they represent a precious privilege for which we are grateful. But in wartime all this must necessarily cease. Just as every amateur radio in the United States was confiscated in the last war, so every commercial radio station will probably have to be commandeered in the next. Broadcasting would be operated under government control as a public service, for the safety of the population and the regimentation of opinion in the interest of national unity. Or let us suppose that we succeed in staying neutral. Might not this continent become the stamping ground for international spies, for men who, like Captain von Rintelen in 1914, would be sent to prevent our national resources from being used on one side or the other? Rintelen was cut off from Berlin when the British deciphered his cable code. He could not be so cut off under conditions prevailing today. The question arises, then, whether, in our peaceful, haphazard way, we are making the proper provisions now -- any provisions, in fact -- to counter the preparations of potential aggressors in a future war. Is the voluntary action of the private broadcasting companies enough?

[i] The latter collects the listeners' fees (paid by every radio owner) for the B. B. C. and retains a portion of the revenue.

[ii] In the United States the maximum power permitted even today is, with one "experimental" exception, 50 kilowatts.

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  • CÉSAR SAERCHINGER, former correspondent in Berlin and London for the New York Evening Post and the Philadelphia Public Ledger; subsequently European director of the Columbia Broadcasting System
  • More By César Saerchinger