During World War II, the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS) monitored broadcasts from around the world, providing valuable intelligence on conditions in other nations for U.S. national leaders. Organizationally, FBIS was part of the Federal Communications Commission. The founding president of Bennington College, Robert Devore Leigh (1890-1961), left the academy to direct FBIS through 1944. At hearings on the FCC in 1944, Leigh said:
“Around the world at this hour and every hour of the 24 there is a constant battle on the ether waves for the possession of man’s thoughts, emotions, and attitudes — influencing his will to fight, to stop fighting, to work hard, to stop working, to resist and sabotage, to doubt, to grumble, to stand fast in faith and loyalty… We estimate that by short wave alone, you as a citizen of this radio world are being assailed by 2,000 words per minute in 40-45 different languages and dialects. In [FBIS], we are equipped to monitor 34 of those languages plus 30 other dialects.”
Source: Robert D. Leigh, Director, Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service (FBIS), FCC, testifying during hearings on the FCC, March 7-June 21, 1944. Wikipedia has a brief but informative article on the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service. A hat tip to Matt Armstrong.
Donald M. Bishop is the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications in the Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. Mr. Bishop served as a Foreign Service Officer – first in the U.S. Information Agency and then in the Department of State – for 31 years.