From the start of the cold war Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the international news and broadcast organization funded by the U.S. Congress, communicated factual information to people living in East bloc nations. Many in both East and West, among them Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, have credited the important role played by Radio Liberty in the USSR. Following the failed coup attempt in 1991, Yeltsin was quoted as saying that in Russia “Radio Liberty was one of the very few channels through which it was possible to send information…because now almost every family in Russia listens to Radio Liberty….” However, little actual data has been published to date on Radio Liberty’s audience in the former Soviet Union.
In Discovering the Hidden Listener: An Assessment of Radio Liberty and Western Broadcasting to the USSR during the Cold War (Hoover Institution Press, 2007), analysis by R. Eugene Parta sheds new light on the influence of Radio Liberty and other Western broadcasts. Parta, the retired director of Audience Research and Program Evaluation for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, drew on the RFE/RL collection at the Hoover Institution Library and Archives to prepare a unique empirical assessment of Western broadcasting to the Soviet Union during the cold war.
Parta believes there is ample empirical evidence to support the view that Western radio broadcasts played a significant role in helping to develop an informed Soviet public and preparing them to go beyond Marxism-Leninism. “Western broadcasters did not have a blueprint for the democratic development of the Soviet Union, but, by keeping hope of change alive, and by maintaining a dialogue with those elements of the population that were working for, or at least open to change, they made an essential contribution to the eventual transformation of the USSR,” Parta said.
Publication of Discovering the Hidden Listener: An Assessment of Radio Liberty and Western Broadcasting to the USSR during the Cold War is a project of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with the Hoover Institution.
Discovering the Hidden Listener: An Assessment of Radio Liberty and Western Broadcasting to the USSR during the Cold War, by R. Eugene Parta
ISBN: 978-0-8179-4732-3 $15.00
116 Pages October 2007