12 - Tuning in to Germany: The BBC German Service and the British Occupation
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 October 2020
“HIER IST ENGLAND! Hier ist England! Hier ist England!” This was the announcement Germans would hear if they happened to tune their radios to the BBC German Service during the Second World War. While technology enabled Britain to cross into enemy territory via the airwaves, actually speaking to Germans in a language they understood— in a tone to which they would respond favorably, about topics that interested them—required a complex combination of linguistic and cultural competence, knowledge, and creativity. It also required those working for the BBC German Service to consider carefully to whom and for whom they were speaking. Originally conceived as part of Britain's psychological warfare effort, the German Service continued to broadcast from Bush House in London well beyond the end of the Second World War, until its closure in 1999. What bodies of knowledge and intellectual insights did its employees draw on to maintain this transnational broadcasting effort? How did German listeners react to programs from the United Kingdom? What adjustments were necessary to transition from wartime to peacetime broadcasting? This chapter explores transnational exchange between Britain and Germany by focusing on the ways in which the BBC chose to address its German target audience in the 1940s.
Scholarship on the BBC German Service has focused primarily on the war years and neglected its role in subsequent periods of German history. Drawing on hitherto unexamined archival sources, this chapter presents the first analysis of the German Service's role during the Allied occupation of Germany (1945–49)—a crucial period for the development of the German media landscape. The transition from war to peace in the mid-1940s saw a renewed negotiation between external, internal, and bilateral British and German voices on the BBC German Service, at a time when Britain was very directly involved in efforts to rebuild, control, and reshape the German media. Accessing and broadcasting authentic German voices became crucial to attracting and retaining listeners during this period, as did the question of how to position the German listener in relation to an extraterritorial speaker. In these ways, the BBC German Service's development during the immediate postwar years serves as a case study for two nations’ attempts to redefine their position in the world after a period of embittered conflict.
- German in the WorldThe Transnational and Global Contexts of German Studies, pp. 236 - 253Publisher: Boydell & BrewerPrint publication year: 2020