An American Voice on the Air: Mediated US Public Diplomacy in Danish State Broadcasting, 1945-1953

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Abstract

For US policymakers, the ideological war for ‘hearts and minds’ after World War II transcended the scope of traditional diplomacy. The American strategy sought to exert as much control as possible over the framing of US policy in foreign media, particularly through radio broadcasts. The present article focuses on the Truman administrations’ mediated public diplomacy efforts in Denmark, as implemented through the United States Information Service (USIS) in Copenhagen. Through an examination of archival material from the US State Department and digitized versions of preserved Danish radio broadcasts, this study shows how the United States tried to promote favourable framings of its policies in Denmark. Because the ideological battles of the Cold War were fought through the media, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation was deemed of special importance to US interests. However, from the outset, the political and executive heads of Danish State Radio were still traumatized by the coercion they had experienced under Nazi occupation in 1940–45; they therefore adhered strictly to principles of autonomy and rejection of unmitigated propaganda. With surprising operational flexibility, the Copenhagen branch of USIS thus adjusted their procedures to fit the local environment; USIS delivered source material and offered assistance, but left decisions about editing and approach angles to Danish journalists. Occasionally, therefore, sensitive themes such as race relations and McCarthyism in the United States received a critical framing in Danish media. However, regarding USIS’s core issues such as the nature and intentions of the Soviet regime and Danish citizens’ faith in NATO, USIS, via Danish State Radio, played an important role in framing US policy and reversing neutralist attitudes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Volume39
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)515-531
ISSN0143-9685
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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