Rosamund Johnston is a PhD candidate in Modern European History at New York University. She is researching radio broadcasting into and within Czechoslovakia during the early Cold War. Johnston has worked at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, where she coordinated an oral history project to record the stories of Cold War immigrants to the United States. Previously, she worked as a journalist for Czech Radio. She has published reviews in Harvard Ukrainian Studies and Sound Historian, and an article Returning Migration to Czech Historiography is shortly to be published in the volume On the Borders between Past and Present: Perspectives of Oral History.
Radio Empire? Czechoslovak International Broadcasting to Africa in the 1960s
“Dear friends in Africa,” proclaimed a reporter in a Prague studio in November 1960, “from now on we shall be speaking to you every day, bringing you reports on life in this country and on important world issues, interviews with Africans visiting Czechoslovakia, musical features, answers to your questions, and a number of other things that we hope shall interest you.” In the early 1960s, Czechoslovak Radio (Cro) enhanced its international broadcast service: the state broadcaster began daily English-language programming to Africa. This paper examines the extant broadcasts so as to understand the representations of the continent transmitted by Cro reporters. Equally, I consider the picture of “life in this country” that Czech and Slovak reporters disseminated. I compare Anglophone broadcasts to Africa with those intended for audiences in the United States and Western Europe to determine which messages were directed in particular at African listeners. In addition to reflecting upon the promised “interviews with Africans visiting Czechoslovakia,” I use memoirs and interviews with Cro’s foreign correspondent Věra Šťovíčková (the Czech female Ryszard Kapuściński) to better understand how audio from the field, and the voices of Africans themselves, shaped international broadcasts.