Wednesday, May 25, 2016

RFE/RL Chronology

May 1949
The National Committee for a Free Europe, Inc., later renamed the Free Europe Committee, Inc. (FEC), is incorporated in the State of New York. Ambassador Joseph Grew is the first Chairman and DeWitt Poole is the first President.

June 1949
The FEC establishes a Committee on Press and Broadcasting, chaired by FEC Director Fred Altschul and including Edward R. Murrow and other prominent journalists.  Robert Lang is appointed the first Director of Radio Free Europe (RFE).

December 1949
Lang visits European countries, where he is impressed by the home-service approach of the Radio in the American Sector, Berlin (RIAS) but fails to obtain time for RFE on existing short wave transmission networks.

October 1950
The Crusade for Freedom, Inc., is incorporated in the State of New York as an outreach and fund-raising arm of the FEC.

July 4, 1950
RFE conducts its first experimental broadcast in Czech. One year later, RFE is broadcasting in five languages to Eastern European countries behind the Iron Curtain.

July 1950
The Institute for the Study of the USSR is established in Munich.

January 1951
The American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of the USSR, later renamed the American Committee for Liberation (AMCOMLIB) is incorporated in the State of New York. Eugene Lyons is the first president.

May 1951
RFE begins broadcasting from Munich
RARET, Inc. is established as a Portuguese corporation to own and operate RFE transmitters.

December 1951
RFE begins short wave transmissions from Portugal.

March 1953
Radio Liberation (later renamed Radio Liberty) begins broadcasting in Russian (and in ten other languages by the end of 1954).

May 1955
RL begins transmitting from Taiwan to the eastern USSR.

March 1959
RL begins short wave transmissions from Spain.

September 1959
RFE establishes a West European Advisory Committee to provide European perspectives and facilitate ties with West European governments.

February 1961
RFE’s headquarters are transferred from New York to Munich.

January 1971
Senator Case officially recognizes CIA sponsorship of RFE and RL and proposes their continuation by open Congressional appropriation.

July 1971
A majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lead by Chairman William J. Fulbright, oppose the Nixon Administration’s proposal to overtly fund and oversee RFE and RL through a public-private corporation. Overt public funding is provided on an interim basis

March 1972
Congressional Research Service issues reports generally laudatory of RFE and RL

March 1973
The Milton Eisenhower Commission, appointed by the President, recommends continuation of RFE and RL, with oversight by a new federal body, the Board for International Broadcasting.

October 1973
Congress enacts the Board for International Broadcasting Act of 1973

April 1974
The Board for International Broadcasting begins operations.

October 1976
The RFE and RL corporations are merged into RFE/RL, Inc.

February 1981
A bomb causes significant damage to the RFE/RL building in Munich. Communist secret police archives opened after 1989 indicated that the bombing was ordered by Romanian leader Ceausescu and organized by the terrorist Carlos the Jackal.

Legislation advocated since 1977 by Senator Pell and the BIB is enacted that abolishes the private Board of Directors of RFE/RL, Inc., and conveys management as well as oversight responsibilities to the BIB.

June 1989
Following the election of a non-Communist government in Poland, RFE/RL and BIB officials visit Solidarity leader Walesa in Gdansk

September 1989
RFE/RL opens it first East European Bureau in Budapest. Bureaus are soon established in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian Federation President Yeltsin invites RFE/RL to establish a bureau in Moscow. Bureaus are soon established in most succession states of the USSR.

RFE/RL ends broadcasts to Hungary.

The Clinton Administration proposes merging RFE/RL into VOA. Opposition to this plan from Senator Joseph Biden and other Members of Congress results in continuation of a downsized RFE/RL without a research capability and with transmitter stations federalized under VOA.

Facing massive staff reductions, RFE/RL explores the offer of Czech President Havel and Prime Minister Klaus to relocate to Prague.


RFE/RL begins broadcasting to countries of the former Yugoslavia.

July 1995
RFE/RL moves its headquarters from Munich to the former Czechoslovak Parliament building in Prague.

RFE/RL ends broadcasts to Poland.

RFE/RL begins broadcasting to Iran and Iraq, as mandated by the Congress, which passes legislation confirming RFE/RL’s continuing mission.

RFE/RL resumes broadcasting to Afghanistan, terminated as mandated by the Congress ten years earlier after the Soviet withdrawal.

RFE/RL begins broadcasting to the North Caucasus.

Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein orders his agents to attack RFE/RL headquarters, as revealed by the Czech Intelligence Service in 2009. A stockpile of smuggled weapons was in the Iraqi Embassy after the fall of Hussein's regime.

RFE/RL ends broadcasts to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Croatia, and Bulgaria.

RFE/RL ends broadcasts to Romania.

February 2009
RFE/RL relocates to a modern broadcasting center in Prague.

October 2009
RFE/RL begins broadcasting a Russian-language program to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

January 2010
RFE/RL launches Radio Mashaal and begins broadcasting in Pashto to the Pashtun border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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