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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  The BBC hired Egyptian announcers and sought to bring to its London studios prominent Arab leaders as well as singers and musicians. Radio Bari’s Arabic broadcasts attempted to meet the British radio challenge by increasing the strident, vituperative nature of their political commentary. By 1938 receivers were becoming more common in urban homes and public coffee houses. The Radio War between Britain and Italy was only a brief contest for listeners that lasted from January to April 1938; verbal hostilities ended on April 16, 1938, with the signing of the Anglo-Italian Pact (Grandin, 1939), but Nazi Germany started Arabic transmissions in April 1938 (Bergmeier & Lotz, 1997), just as the Pact came into force. The German Arabic Service became an Italian radio surrogate, providing a new programming dimension with the addition of anti-Jewish and anti-British broadcasts by prominent Arab exiles, including Rashid Ali El-Ghailani, an ex-prime minister of Iraq, and Hajji Amin Al- Husayni, the spiritual leader of the Palestinian Arabs and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husayni also served as an advisor to a secret Nazi station, The Voice of the Free Arabs, that on May 9, 1941, started broadcasting a 30-minute program to Egypt (Bergmeier & Lotz, 1997). In 1939, both the Soviet Union and France started transmitting in Arabic. The French, with interests then in North Africa, Lebanon, and Syria, had the advantage of possessing mediumwave transmitters there, making possible local rebroadcasts of Paris-based Arabic programming. The British had a similar advantage with the Palestine Broadcasting Service (PBS) in Jerusalem. It is impossible to assess the impact of the Italian, British, German, and Soviet war-years broadcasts to the Arab world. Their effectiveness is only a matter of speculation, and little of that exists. However, personal accounts of World War II often mention listening to BBC, and rarely to any other station, to find out what was really happening. Audience research, except that done by the major international broadcasters, is still de-emphasized in the area, and none was done during the 1930s. The beginning of World War II in Europe decreased interest in the non-North African Arab world; for those on both sides of the conflict, broadcasting priorities were closer to home.

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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The BBC hired Egyptian announcers and sought to bring to its London studios prominent
Arab leaders as well as singers and musicians. Radio Bari’s Arabic broadcasts attempted to
meet the British radio challenge by increasing the strident, vituperative nature of their political
commentary. By 1938 receivers were becoming more common in urban homes and public
coffee houses. The Radio War between Britain and Italy was only a brief contest for
listeners that lasted from January to April 1938; verbal hostilities ended on April 16, 1938,
with the signing of the Anglo-Italian Pact (Grandin, 1939), but Nazi Germany started Arabic
transmissions in April 1938 (Bergmeier & Lotz, 1997), just as the Pact came into force. The
German Arabic Service became an Italian radio surrogate, providing a new programming
dimension with the addition of anti-Jewish and anti-British broadcasts by prominent Arab
exiles, including Rashid Ali El-Ghailani, an ex-prime minister of Iraq, and Hajji Amin Al-
Husayni, the spiritual leader of the Palestinian Arabs and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Husayni
also served as an advisor to a secret Nazi station, The Voice of the Free Arabs, that on May
9, 1941, started broadcasting a 30-minute program to Egypt (Bergmeier & Lotz, 1997).
In 1939, both the Soviet Union and France started transmitting in Arabic. The French, with
interests then in North Africa, Lebanon, and Syria, had the advantage of possessing
mediumwave transmitters there, making possible local rebroadcasts of Paris-based Arabic
programming. The British had a similar advantage with the Palestine Broadcasting Service
(PBS) in Jerusalem.
It is impossible to assess the impact of the Italian, British, German, and Soviet war-years
broadcasts to the Arab world. Their effectiveness is only a matter of speculation, and little of
that exists. However, personal accounts of World War II often mention listening to BBC, and
rarely to any other station, to find out what was really happening. Audience research, except
that done by the major international broadcasters, is still de-emphasized in the area, and
none was done during the 1930s. The beginning of World War II in Europe decreased
interest in the non-North African Arab world; for those on both sides of the conflict,
broadcasting priorities were closer to home.


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