America's Information Effort Abroad

September 11, 1981

Report Outline
Effect of Western Broadcasts
Skirmishes and Truces in Word War
Covering Russia and Third World
Special Focus

Effect of Western Broadcasts

Cyclical American Interest in Foreign Image

Here in America, hardly anybody has heard of Willis Conover, an entertainer who works out of a small basement studio in downtown Washington. But to millions of people in Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia, Conover is one of America's best known and most widely appreciated broadcasters. Clubs meet regularly to hear and discuss his work. In cities stretching from Brussels to Bombay, he has presided over music festivals, delivered lectures and granted media interviews. When he arrives in a foreign capital like Warsaw, crowds form and bands play. He is the recipient of prestigious foreign citations such as Poland's Order of Merit for Outstanding Contribution to Polish Music.

For over 25 years, Conover has broadcast nightly radio programs featuring jazz and American popular classics over the Voice of America's worldwide network. To millions of people abroad who love jazz, Conover's resonant baritone voice is the Voice of America, and few things are more important to them than the way Conover does his job. But Conover is just one of several hundred broadcasters who do programs geared to every kind of foreign taste, working for outlets like the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and West Germany's Deutsche Welle.

Foreign broadcasters usually receive little attention from their compatriots, who often are unable to tune in the shortwave broadcasts beamed abroad. But to the people overseas who do listen to the broadcasts, the programs meet deeply felt desires for more diverse entertainment, information and commentary. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian novelist and political dissident, has called the foreign broadcasts “the mighty non-military force which resides in the airwaves and whose kindling power in the midst of Communist darkness cannot even be grasped by the Western imagination.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
America's Image Abroad
Jul. 23, 2010  America at War Updated
Mar. 2007  Anti-Americanism
Feb. 02, 2007  Rethinking Foreign Policy
Nov. 23, 2001  Hating America
Sep. 11, 1981  America's Information Effort Abroad
Apr. 13, 1964  Anti-Americanism Abroad
Apr. 26, 1961  American Propaganda in Foreign Countries
Jul. 03, 1957  Anti-Americanism and Soldiers Overseas
Radio and Television
U.S. at War: Cold War