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Listen: RFE's First Broadcasts


Munich, Germany – RFE studio.

Czechoslovak Service

July 4, 1950 marked the first “experimental” broadcast of RFE's Czechoslovak Service and the first broadcast of any RFE Service. On this day it was announced that RFE would start broadcasting regularly from July 14, 1950. This notification was anonymous and informative. According to historian Prokop Tomek, it was an organizational announcement in Czech and Slovak in the name of the National Committee for Free Europe. Then on July 15 (it might have been on July 14, but the monitor did not catch it) Petr Zenkl greeted listeners in the name of the Council for Free Czechoslovakia.

On May 1, 1951, respected Czech journalist and first RFE Czechoslovak Service Director Ferdinand Peroutka formally opened broadcasting. The first broadcasts were pre-recorded in New York, then shipped to Europe, but by May 1951, RFE used its first studios in its Munich headquarters.

Document pertaining to first RFE Czechoslovak broadcast.
Document pertaining to first RFE Czechoslovak broadcast.

Document pertaining to first RFE Czechoslovak broadcast.
Document pertaining to first RFE Czechoslovak broadcast.

Polish Service

RFE's Polish Service broadcasts occurred from Munich on May 3, 1952, with the Service's founding director Jan Nowak-Jeziorański giving the inaugural address. On the importance of the service, in his memoirs Nowak-Jeziorański has written, “In the darkest years of Stalinism, the Security Office’s omnipotence, repressions, distortion of history and secrecy, Radio Free Europe gave Poles a sense that someone, somewhere, knows the truth and speaks the truth; that the crimes of the regime will be named and the perpetrators―punished.” His audience included Pope John Paul II, who once told Nowak-Jeziorański that he used to listen to him as he shaved every morning. Listen to the clip of the inaugural broadcast below.

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