RADIO FREE EUROPE: An Insider’s View

J. F. Brown
Vellum, 2013
154 Pages
ISBN 978-0-9886376-8-9 Paperback

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About the Author

James F. Brown (1928–2009) spent twenty-seven years at Radio Free Europe and served as Director from 1978 to 1983. He was subsequently an associate of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford; member of the RAND Corporation research staff; fellow at the RFE/RL Research Institute; fellow at Aspen Institute Berlin; and visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the American University, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. He is the author of The New Eastern Europe (Praeger, 1964), Hopes and Shadows: Eastern Europe after Communism (Duke University Press, 1994), and four other books on Eastern Europe. He received an M.A. in history from Manchester University.

About the book

This is the story of the critical role played by Radio Free Europe during the Cold War, as recounted by veteran RFE official J. F. Brown, who served as director from 1978 to 1983.

Jim Brown had written about Eastern Europe from RFE, but never about RFE―until he wrote this book. He conveys his understanding of how Radio Free Europe functioned as a decentralized organization that empowered exiles, while also conveying what it, and they, could―and could not―offer East European listeners. Jim Brown’s explanations of the function of the central news
department as an internal news agency, of discussions with and trust of exile broadcast chiefs, of RFE’s cautious approach to broadcasting to Poland under martial law after 1981―to cite only three examples from the book―illuminate the editorial policies and internal relationships that made RFE a success. His portraits of key personalities over the years help us understand that RFE was not just an institution; it was a unique multinational group of people. (From the “Foreword” by A. Ross Johnson).


“The historical analysis Brown brings is extremely valuable and adds the insight of a first rate analyst to such topics as the contrast between how RFE handled the Hungarian and Polish events of the 1950s, the ‘Czech spring’ in 1968, the Gomulka period in Poland, the developing independence of
Ceausescu’s Romania, etc. All are given perceptive treatment.”

―Eugene R. Parta, author with A. Ross Johnson of Cold War Broadcasting: Impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. A Collection of Studies and Documents.

“I know of no other books on RFE by an insider who had so much experience with the Radios and how they were operated. [It is] very well written, well organized, and a fascinating read.”

—Yale Richmond, cultural affairs officer, U.S. Foreign Service (ret.), author of Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey.

This  is a book in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series.

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