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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  because all of the elements that modern internationally oriented media organizations must deal with are present: rapidly changing international geopolitical events, shifting regional political priorities, differing international information philosophies of elected administrations, and changing electronic media delivery and receiving technology. The Beginning of Radio Broadcasting to the Arab World The Middle East was the focus of the first Western effort to broadcast in order to influence people in the developing world. In 1934, Italy started transmitting in Arabic via Radio Bari (Segretario di Radazione, Direzione Servizi Giornalistici e Programmi per l’Estero, Radiotelevisione Italiana, personal communication, Rome, Italy, 1979, October 19), apparently because Mussolini envisioned future military ventures in North Africa and Ethiopia. Radio Bari’s broadcasts turned increasingly anti-British in 1935. There were some concerns expressed about the Italian broadcasts by Arabists residing in the area who understood the oral culture and the potential power of carefully crafted spoken Arabic delivered to a primarily illiterate audience of Arab men drinking coffee and tea and discussing politics in coffee houses at night. By 1937, the British Government became concerned about the potential danger of international armed conflict. At the time, the BBC’s external transmissions from its Empire Service, which had started in 1932 and transmitted only in English, essentially rebroadcast the domestic radio service for British citizens abroad. Both the government and BBC were studying the possibility of starting foreign-language broadcasts emulating the model already adopted by the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy. In 1936, the British Foreign and Dominions Office asked diplomats around the world their reaction to the possibility of beginning foreign-language broadcasts. Posts in the Middle East were unanimous in recommending that an Arabic service be added (Mansell, 1982). On January 3, 1938, the Empire Service officially started transmitting in Arabic, its first foreign language (“Arabic broadcasts,” 1938). This event was the beginning of the first international radio war over a developing region.

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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because all of the elements that modern internationally oriented media organizations must
deal with are present: rapidly changing international geopolitical events, shifting regional
political priorities, differing international information philosophies of elected administrations,
and changing electronic media delivery and receiving technology.
The Beginning of Radio Broadcasting to the Arab World
The Middle East was the focus of the first Western effort to broadcast in order to influence
people in the developing world. In 1934, Italy started transmitting in Arabic via Radio Bari
(Segretario di Radazione, Direzione Servizi Giornalistici e Programmi per l’Estero,
Radiotelevisione Italiana, personal communication, Rome, Italy, 1979, October 19),
apparently because Mussolini envisioned future military ventures in North Africa and
Ethiopia. Radio Bari’s broadcasts turned increasingly anti-British in 1935. There were some
concerns expressed about the Italian broadcasts by Arabists residing in the area who
understood the oral culture and the potential power of carefully crafted spoken Arabic
delivered to a primarily illiterate audience of Arab men drinking coffee and tea and discussing
politics in coffee houses at night.
By 1937, the British Government became concerned about the potential danger of
international armed conflict. At the time, the BBC’s external transmissions from its Empire
Service, which had started in 1932 and transmitted only in English, essentially rebroadcast
the domestic radio service for British citizens abroad. Both the government and BBC were
studying the possibility of starting foreign-language broadcasts emulating the model already
adopted by the Soviet Union, Germany, and Italy. In 1936, the British Foreign and
Dominions Office asked diplomats around the world their reaction to the possibility of
beginning foreign-language broadcasts. Posts in the Middle East were unanimous in
recommending that an Arabic service be added (Mansell, 1982). On January 3, 1938, the
Empire Service officially started transmitting in Arabic, its first foreign language (“Arabic
broadcasts,” 1938). This event was the beginning of the first international radio war over a
developing region.


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