thumbnail of Crocker Snow Reports From Germany; Story of RIAS
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Greetings from West Germany. This is Crocker snow speaking from the studios of Radio Deutsch of our cologne in the city where the world famous Gothic cathedral. It's a well-known fact that the infamous Berlin Wall has all but cut off the populations of East and West Berlin from one another since its erection in August 1961. Travel between the two populations has been strictly controlled only from west to east and then only in case of serious family illness or during one of the very few holiday visiting periods. All kinds of adjectives have been used to describe the wall and explanations. Cruel inhuman barbarous. The proof of the failure of the communist system comes from the west. Necessary is often the eastern reply. The impetus for the recent economic gains of East Germany. But regardless of the adjectives and the explanations there is no question that the wall has been the
supreme symbol of the past intransigence and the head in the sand a kind of posture of the Iron Curtain countries towards the western world now beginning its sixth year of life. The wall is just as rigid and inflexible as the regime which built it. This may come as a surprise in the midst of all the current talk of a general east west detente but it seems clear that no liberalizing trend has yet developed very far with the East Germans. Proof of this comes from two recent events here in early July. The Communists sandbagged the long discussed speakers exchange between the communist SCD party of East Germany and the Social Democrats of West Germany. This has been well publicized and analyzed something not so well known which has happened since that time was the relocation and rebuilding of a very small section of the wall the East Germans moved the wall forward about
20 yards to the edge of the Reichstag building on the very border dividing the Allied sector from the Russian. All very legal and all very symbolic too. For this is the building where the West German parliament sits during their rare meetings in Berlin. By moving the wall in such a way the East Germans have made it just a little bit tougher and a little bit more inconvenient to enter the Reichstag building. And so it seems that the Berlin wall unlike the walls of Jericho isn't about to come crumbling down. For the moment political and diplomatic initiative in trying to circumvent the wall and bring the two Germany's a bit closer together seems futile. Apparently the East Germans are simply not ready for it. For the time being then it is back to the old methods of trying to simply keep in contact as much as possible with people in the eastern zone.
This has been going on since the division of the country and it continues today. The prime method of doing this is electronically by various radio and television broadcasts originating in West Berlin and West Germany. Beam to the east. The different West German TV stations for example combine efforts for a four hour show every morning especially for the people of East Germany. Various German radio stations do the same. One of the most unusual of these electronic efforts is an American financed radio station broadcasting from West Berlin known as re s re s is a part of the United States Information Agency. It is little more than 20 years old but it has a record of real success in its endeavor to stay in contact with the people of East Germany. Today the story of Rios as told by the General Manager Robert
Lochner really as is the US Information Agency is a German language station located in West Berlin but having as its broadcasting to the audience in East Germany. Rio stands for one phone game I mean a conscience sector which happens to work in German and in English it also means radio in the American sector which betrays its origin namely when at the end of the war the Russians would not let the western allies share control of the existing brother and radio station. The US after about six months of fruitless negotiations with the Soviets decided that it was intolerable to have communist controlled radio Berlin as the only radio voice of this city and therefore starting with a very small 2 kw portable transmitter built up re us over the years to its present strength where in combination of several very powerful medium wave FM and
shortwave transmitters we are probably one of the most powerful stations in the world. Now you advertise yourself so to speak as being the bridge between the free world and the Soviet Zone. Could you explain a statement in a little more detail. We are not. The official voice of the U.S. government as you probably know every language service of the Voice of America starts out this is the Voice of America. Now that immediately implies that they are official organs of the U.S. government while RIAs it is as much part of the US Information Agency as are all the language sections of Voice of America. We do not form part of VOA. There is a subtle difference here. And this slogan the free voice of the free world already shows that we are not to the same extent and official spokesman but like a good newspaper say the New York Times trying to give our
listeners everything that is not that different in this case but fit to be broadcast and to permit them to draw their own conclusions. Now our bridge function arises. You might say primarily from the wallet because if you look at the possibilities of that are open to East Germans to find out what's going on in the free world there are obviously only a handful of party functionaries and the politically not very important group of Retired Persons who are allowed to travel west. The rest can travel to some communist countries but never to the free world therefore their main link apart from such personal links as visits from their relatives in West Germany who of course are about to go to East Germany or personal letters. Their main source of information their main link with the free world is radio and TV and TV cannot be seen in the whole of
the east zone of Germany and furthermore is much more an instrument of entertainment than of information what are the highlights of the history of Rios. One of the highlights was of course the blockade because of the limited power for most of the year of the blockade. The different sectors of Berlin had power for only two hours during each 24 hour period. We send out mobile vans all over the city which broadcast in the streets because most people of a plane could only hear a radio during the two hours a 24 hour period that they had power. So that was certainly one of the highlights and explains perhaps the tremendous attachment particularly of the older people to read it to realize re-ask is sort of the station that saw them through the blockade. Another highlight was the June
17th 1953 uprising in East Germany. A lot of people particularly of course the communists claimed that we started it and incited people to revolt. It is true that we allowed that we broadcast the news of the uprising in East Berlin obviously as a free radio station we had to but we didn't whip it up. And while it is probably true that people elsewhere in the east of Germany found out about the uprising in East Berlin through Riyadh and that therefore indirectly and in voluntarily we helped to spread the spark of revolt. We did not for instance permit the delegation of. He's burly masons who came to realize and wanted to appeal or to the workers in the song to rise up against their hated communist masters we did not permit that because
that would have been going beyond the legitimate functions of a radio station and we would have become a direct instrument of incitement to read all the voices that have Robert Lochner the general manager of Rios a US I guess German language radio station broadcasting into East Berlin and East Germany. Mr Wagner has good qualifications for his job. He spent 14 years as a child in Berlin while his father was manager of the city's Associated Press Office. His fluency in German has led him to interpret for such people as John McCoy James Conant General Lucius Clay and Dean Acheson. He translated at the for power conference of 1954 and for President John F. Kennedy during his famous it's been ein Berliner speaking tour in the summer of 1963. Mr Obama has been in charge of a staff of some four hundred seventy five at Rio's
for the past five years. The success of the station in living up to its motto a free voice of the free world is evident from a dubious distinction it holds over other Western news stations broadcasting to the east. We are in fact almost the only station still as you know the Soviets stop jamming the Voice of America in Russian and other minority languages of the Soviet Union the day President Kennedy was in Berlin and have not resumed it since. And in their way all the satellites have stopped jamming except. A few of the Radio Free Europe language services and the Radio Liberty languages of the Soviet Union are still jammed but none of the West German stations for instance are jammed by the overt regime nor is our sister station across town only German station in Berlin's And as Betty we are
heavily jammed on Medium Wave. But because of the relatively small size of the east on of Germany the unique position every US which unlike any other free world radio station broadcasting to Iron Curtain audiences sits smack in the middle of its audience. And because of the power of our transmitters we cannot be blotted out completely There are a few mountainous regions along the Czech border where it is hard to receive areas but in the rest of the east zone you can hear us. Of course your enjoyment of a concert is marred through the jammer but the news does get through. And in the FM field we are not jammed at all. FM has never been jammed it would be extremely costly to jam it is technically complicated you risk jamming your own stations and TV stations. So that's never been a jam and since we have two FM transmitters in Berlin and one in whole in
Bavaria. Which just about meet we cover about two thirds of East Germany and about 90 percent of the sets in East Germany have FM so you can say that roughly two thirds of our audience of an estimated 6 million a day can receive us without jamming on FM shortwave is jammed too. But that reaches only a minor portion of our audience anyway. You feel that 90 percent of the radios in the eastern zone can receive FM. How do you account for this great majority as compared to say America. Oh a very simple reason. Germany as a whole as a defeated nation lost most of its good medium wavelength after the war because in dense Europe medium wavelength via their premiums of the victorious nations East and West took away most of the good medium wave lines in the Copenhagen conference as that's right.
And under the Copenhagen wavelength agreement Germany was down to I would say roughly one half of the medium wave length it had before. So the east on the journey as was true in West Germany had to change over to them. Because of this situation and so they very quickly as did West Germany build up a network of FM stations and luckily under the Stockholm wavelength allocation plan for FM there and our wavelengths are so intermingled that they cannot build a set which would cut off three US and permit people only to listen to their own stations. A situation by the way which they do manage in the field of TV where they can eliminate the West-Berlin channel for instance. We have those from letters in East German papers I remember one provincial paper printed two letters. One person complained that he just bought a new
TV set. And much to his disgust found on coming home that he couldn't get West Berlin all of the other one complained indignantly that he had sent his pet in for repairs and when it got back he couldn't he lived long as on the boundary he couldn't get one of the West German stations I forget whether it was Munich or Frankfurt Now of course the Communist paper printed those letters only in order to castigate the letter writers in an editorial for even wanting to watch the enemy stations but this is the kind of proof we have that it can be done in the field of TV but cannot be done in the field of radio so so far as FM is concerned they can do a damn thing about it. And as far as Rios as a whole is concerned then I take it. First the power of your transmitter and second the FM band pretty well means that you can cover the areas that you want to despite the fact that your so to speak dignified by being the only station jam right. And another interesting development is that the overthe regime has apparently pretty well given up trying to prevent people
from listening particularly after the war there was a period when they thought they had everybody in presence of US big that they could intimidate people. They had campaigns in schools and in factories having everybody sign pledges that they would no longer listen to enemy stations such as reality but this died down within a few months and. Now you have the impression from letters from reports of these old folks the pensioners who are now allowed once a year to travel to West Berlin or West Germany. Many of them report that say in a small town on a hot summer night they walk along the main street and out of all the open windows they all hear say one of the most popular programs so people simply don't seem to make any effort anymore to conceal their listening as was true under the Nazis when you had this picture of a small set under a pillow on song. It's also interesting that the communists have not made the same mistake as the Nazis
imposing heavy penalties in the Nazi case of course finally the death penalty on listening as such. Apparently they learn from the Nazi experience that the forbidden fruit tastes even better and that you can't prevent people from listening in their own four walls Anyhow what what is punishable in the east of Germany is what they cause spreading malicious rumors in other words if you're caught telling somebody else what you heard on RIAs then you might get into trouble. But the act of listening as such is not unnatural. You are listening to an interview with Robert Lochner the general manager of the United States Information Service radio station in West Berlin known as Rios. The station broadcasts a great variety of programs into East Germany including even drama and music. But of course education political and otherwise is a key objective. Under the headline educational programming. A realist pamphlet reads the Soviet Zone school system is designed for thorough indoctrination of the youth and
communist ideology. Working closely with the Berlin sen for education and coordinating its programme with Radio Free Berlin Rios generally keeps pace with the curricula Carex distortions supplies missing facts and offers the viewpoint of the modern free world. What does this mean in practical terms. We have a school on the air programme twice a day for three areas once in the morning once in the afternoon where we try to offer programmes that fill in such gaps that cover. Topic such as political science where of course the school instruction is particularly distorted and that's where we have closely is on with the study hall with the Sonata for education to try to work out the best professional programs by the way many of our school on the air tapes are played in West-Berlin schools too but this is just
sort of a promise that's not our intention our intention is to reach children on the other side and of course they have a shift system so that somebody's school in the morning some in the afternoon and we try to reach them during the time that they are not in school. But as it is true of Germany as a whole it's surprising that apparently more adults particularly women listen to this school on the air program which is on quite a high level we don't talk down to the children at all so that we reach a sizeable audience among our adult listeners too. And some of the programs are so good that we also carry them at the evening time one of the best programs I think which Rhea says is a school class discussion with top politicians we've had every member of the cabinet. We've had a chance. Where are we had President lived.
And we also branch out into the fields of arts we've had famous conductors heads of the opera and so on but but the most important ones are they talks with the political leaders and we have found that these senior high school students by and large s far more intelligent and much sharper questions than these politicians get that say in the ordinary press conference because these classes prepare themselves for weeks before hand. And these are on such a high level that we generally broadcast those in the evening as well. But this educational effort is not is not one that is characterized by picking a particular loophole in the communist education and trying to fit what you're trying to educate on in broad terms. Yes although as I said for instance in one of our musical courses we offer music which the stone stations will not offer particularly modern American composers for instance.
And as I said field of political science we stress economics sociology because those are hardly treated at all in the East German school curriculum because obviously they have their Marxist version of these. Disciplined this but generally let me say we do not engage in a slugging match with the Communists or with East German radio there are cases where we do have to nail down a particular distortion or lie. But we find that this is counterproductive it makes us look as if we are engaging in the counter propaganda whereas our real intention here is to treat our audience like adults and supply them with the facts let them draw their own conclusions and not try to spoon feed them the reverse of what they get from their own radio stations. One would assume that radios broadcasting to the eastern zone and being financed by the US IRS would perhaps be nothing but information.
But you mention music program so oh yes we know you do more than things we know are all interest. I have a full fledged radio program suited to German taste that is in terms of the program structure we are hardly different from any West German station that is about half the program is music half word music as you might expect anywhere in Germany far more serious music than you would find them. Radio station but we do have our own dense orchestra for instance there were Norm Miller Band which has traveled to Japan and several other countries. We have our own choir group we have our own political Cabaret this is particularly effective because the communists of course all over the world are particularly short on our sense of humor. The way programs we have of course 24 hour news shows a day of political commentaries roundtable discussions backgrounders and then the whole gamut of cultural programs women's show us show driven show that to
school on the air programs University on the air. Letter readings. Whole theater plays This is the type of thing we do for our east song audience we will carry a condensed version of stage plays in West Berlin or West Germany actually recorded on the stage and where the visual is absolutely necessary a narrator will bridge the dialogue with an explanation such as the kind of thing no other station does this is how we try to let our East German audience participate at least our lead in. Some of the cultural events in West Berlin Similarly we broadcast practically all the concerts of the famous Berlin Philharmonic and of course in terms of what we judged to be of interest to the east zone we also have programs that you wouldn't run on a West German station you don't need to tell any West German audience for instance how much a
worker can buy for his weekly am up. We do this kind of thing to provide information for these dramas so they can draw their own conclusions another very important function is what you might call a cross reporting of developments in the communist world. The East German radio and newspapers try to keep from their audience the so-called liberal zation trend in other satellites they are almost reluctant to touch the ever worsening fight between Moscow and Peking. So we do a lot of straight reporting out of communist newspapers and radio reports from those countries of what's going on within the Communist world. I'm interested you mention that you have your own political cabaret now. Are there any clamps any taboo subjects for these people or do they deal with their with the West German government in much the same way that the convention cabaret for. When Dusseldorf does in a
very biting manner. Absolutely. Because if we attack only the shortcomings of the communist system it would obviously be again just propaganda. Our audience in East Germany is a very sophisticated one. The older ones have had 12 years of the Nazis and 20 years of communism they know damn well what propaganda is. We are very careful not to give them the feeling that we are one sided so any political cabaret will have just as many skits and attacks on West German chart comings as it will on the communist ones. The same holds true by the way for our commentaries. Far from calling everything white that goes on in the West we naturally feel as any responsible independent radio station would do with all the shortcomings in our own camp and that is of course what gives our attacks on the Communists credibility because the listener realizes we are not one sidedly attacking the overt regime but. Dispensing art criticism fairly in both directions.
Right now I understand from this information booklet and other other things that Rios has been. Fairly regularly abused and denounced in the Soviet press both with political cartoons and other things. You also mention that you're now only perhaps the only station that's regularly jammed so do you think this is an indication in itself of your success and or do you have any other solid indications of yours. Well we probably are safe in assuming that that is the most obvious evidence of effectiveness because if people didn't listen and he's done the calmness we needn't bother with these constant attacks on us. And I confess there have been periods where for two three weeks we haven't been attacked and that's when we start worrying because if they really treated us with silence that would be an indication that we were no longer effective. But this is only been for very short periods by and large there isn't the week that we can't point to say five six major attacks on the East German radio are several unfavorable references in all great
speeches and newspaper articles so I think that is a safe assumption that we are very definitely hurting the communist regime otherwise they needn't engage in such attacks on us. How about how about you or do you get listener mail from Eastern. Yes. Most persuasive evidence of our effectiveness is I think the size of the mail we regularly get between seven and eight hundred letters a month from our peace Berlin and East German audience and this figure has remained surprisingly stable over the years I was only a short period right after the war when it dropped down to three 400 letters a month. Probably people were too scared to write at that time or simply to shock. But it soon climbed back and about one third of these letters are highly political letters and actually people don't sign their name
or they sign phony names to their letters and we use those letters on the air we have a regular show every Wednesday night where we say the zone speaks to the zone in other words we provide them with a platform for criticism not only again of their own regime but also of Western activity you say. After the wall you can imagine the first two weeks after the wall of mail was overwhelmingly anti-Western in the sense of bitter complains why did you permit this naturally we broadcast of but mainly people to deal with the shortcomings of the old regime and we provide them with a platform they cannot have under the communist system where of course they can't get up in a public assembly or write letters to the editor and so on. That was Robert Lochner the general manager of Rios and United States Information Service. German language radio station which broadcasts to East Germany from West Berlin. This is Crocker snow
Crocker Snow Reports From Germany
Story of RIAS
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-83xsjkkp).
Interview with Fred Lochner
Crocker Snow Reports for Germany is a series of reports and dicusssions about West German news and culture.
Global Affairs
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Production Unit: Radio
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: 66-0053-08-16-001 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Generation: Master
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Crocker Snow Reports From Germany; Story of RIAS,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2019,
MLA: “Crocker Snow Reports From Germany; Story of RIAS.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 20, 2019. <>.
APA: Crocker Snow Reports From Germany; Story of RIAS. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from