International public broadcasting, governments' power in the world and the spheres of influence

A comparison of the German Deutsche Welle and the American Broadcasting Board of Governors along with their history and a reflection on international public broadcasting's importance for nations' roles in the world

Term Paper, 2009

18 Pages, Grade: 1


List of contents


Topic Statement
Literature Review
Research questions and tentative thesis.
Research methods statement

Important facts about Deutsche Welle
Important facts about the Broadcasting Board of Governors
The history of international public broadcasting in Germany and the U.S
- The history of Deutsche Welle
- The history of the Broadcasting Board of Governors
- The comparison of DW and the BBG
The comparison of the countries within their history and their roles in the world




How is international public broadcasting related to the roles governments play in the world?

The Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America have used international public broadcasting as a means of foreign public diplomacy in the past as well as in the present. The main research question of this paper investigates how the history of international public broadcasting in each country is related to the role the nations play on the globe. Governments used radio and television to inform and emit messages to a large audience ever since its invention.

This study explores the history of international public broadcasting in Germany and the U.S. examining characteristic developments. In a second step my research analyzes the role of the two countries on the globe and how the two nations utilize international public broadcasting to realize their roles. Based on textual analysis of secondary sources I argue that a country’s history and its involvement in conflicts reflect the importance of international public broadcasting. The U.S. used broadcasting to maintain the spheres of influence in the world whereas the German international public broadcasting service Deutsche Welle served as a tool to distribute content for countries where democracy and the freedom of speech, press and opinion lack. The comparison of the history of the two nations serves as evidence why international public broadcasting is more perceived as a very powerful by the U.S. than by the Germans. Whereas the U.S. was involved in major conflicts throughout the last century, Germany did not participate actively in those wars. Meanwhile, the U.S. is perceived as the last superpower in the world and as the world’s police. Therefore, the U.S. has a powerful role in the world maintaining the spheres of influence by using international public broadcasting. In that sense, radio and television are used as a cultural means to impose the U.S.-American lifestyle and ideas on other peoples via airwaves.


Radio ever since its invention was perceived as a powerful tool to emit messages fast and easily to a large audience. In the early days of broadcasting governments found the new room for maneuver to influence the Mass which led to propaganda devices as well as attempts to use broadcasting as a means for public diplomacy. In class we were discussing international broadcasting and the flow of international communication also touching on the balance of power in the world. Since I appreciated those discussions a lot I wanted to deepen my knowledge on international public broadcasting and governments’ power in the world. My research project compares the German Deutsche Welle and the American Broadcasting Board of Governors which serves as the parental organization of all U.S.-American international public broadcasting services.

The main research question this paper will discuss is “How is the history of different international public broadcasting services related to the different roles governments play in the world today?”

Topic Statement

The central research questions of this paper I will frame my study with are: Why differs the American from the German way of international broadcasting? What do they have in common and in which points do they differ especially? And finally I want to answer the question how international public broadcasting transfers the role a nation plays in the world.

International broadcasting means the connection between several countries using broadcasting. International broadcasting links not only issues of the global media system it also shows the connection between international media and politics. Public diplomacy refers to international relations between countries and defines the way they are connected to each other. Interrelations define not only the relationship between two countries but also the position a country takes in the world’s politics. In sum, my research project includes several fields of study such as media studies, global studies and political sciences. With focusing on the U.S. and Germany I study western countries’ international broadcasting. That will also show major tendencies of western countries in international broadcasting: Who are the audiences? And why do the countries focus on special countries? For which purpose do they use broadcasting in a special country?

My research will find out the key developments in international broadcasting in the U.S. compared to the German international broadcasting. That means that I will reflect the history of the two broadcasting traditions and identify which factors led to their individual conduct on the worldwide broadcasting market as well as the factors which define their today’s agenda. Whereas both countries utilized international broadcasting for public diplomacy there is a major difference. The development of the American broadcasting showed the pattern that they oriented their services on their enemies’ languages whereas in Germany there is no such development. My thesis hence is that different international broadcasting traditions lead to different roles countries play in the media system on the globe and in international politics. The U.S. has a mission to maintain its control of soft power focusing their services on parts of the world where they could struggle in maintaining power and the so-called spheres of influence. So they change their focus of public diplomacy on special countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the German international broadcasting focuses on countries that lack democratic institutions. They also use it as a means of public diplomacy but not as strong as the U.S. Both western countries have different historical backgrounds and their broadcasting traditions differ a lot as well. Furthermore, they also have different roles on the globe: While Germany does not take a special role on the globe the U.S. acts like world’s policy watchdog and acts far more actively in international politics and interrelations than Germany.

The paper indicates that even western countries follow different strategies in international broadcasting. It also shows today’s importance of international broadcasting in public diplomacy. In sum, I will compare DW and BBG introducing those media organizations along with a focus on their history and characteristics and additional to that I will point out the relationship between the international public broadcasting services’ history and the different roles of the U.S. and Germany in the world.

Literature Review

The scholars Andrew M. Clark and Olaf Werder examined foreign radio stations and the development of international broadcasting after the Cold War period. They also pointed out the importance of international public broadcasting as a means for foreign public diplomacy.

“For many years, international radio broadcasting has been used by nations around the world as a foreign policy tool.” (Clark, Werder 2007)

Beside Clark and Werder Monroe Price (2003) studied the linkage between international public broadcasting and foreign public diplomacy during the Cold War investigating the legal implications of using international broadcasting for public diplomacy. Price proved this strong connection within evidence of a case study of Radio Free Asia in the Far East which is one of the U.S.-American international broadcasting services.

To frame my study I want to clarify some basic expressions such as public broadcasting as well as international public broadcasting and the term foreign public diplomacy. According to the definition retrieved from the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia (Article about “Public Broadcasting”), public broadcasting includes “radio, television and other electronic media outlets which receive some or all of their funding from the public.” Public broadcasting stations receive their funding from individuals through voluntary donations, or a specific tax such as license fees or as direct funding by the state. The definition of public broadcasting can be transferred easily to international public broadcasting which indicates that public broadcasting stations either emit messages in other countries around the globe and that public broadcasting stations are launched in other countries to distribute information in those foreign countries.

My paper further deals with is the term foreign public diplomacy which means the spread of positive information in other countries, according to our lectures in class. Governments, churches, political parties, non-profit organizations and transnational corporation invest in public diplomacy. Focusing on the “foreign” component again, public diplomacy crosses borders and is utilized to emit positive images of a country for example in another country in order to ameliorate the public opinion about the country and to strengthen the relations between the countries. “International radio broadcasting is usually associated with national governments, which certainly do make great use of it to communicate their viewpoints to listeners in other nations.” (Browne 2004)

Many scholars underline the strong connection between international public broadcasting and foreign diplomacy. One of those scholars is for example Shawn Powers (2008) who studied the role of broadcast media in 21st century public diplomacy. Therefore Powers compared AlJazeera and Alhurra TV in a case study emphasizing the importance of international broadcasting in public diplomacy. Wang (2007) equally stressed the linkage of broadcasting as a means of foreign public diplomacy:

“The review demonstrates that U.S. public diplomacy has been principally an ad hoc instrument of American foreign policy to meet wartime exigencies and has been underscored by the promotion of American values of democracy and freedom. Over the years, it has expanded to encompass multiple modes of engagement, while at the same time there has been constant tension concerning the role of public diplomacy as a strategic, policy function versus merely as a “mouthpiece” within the foreign affairs apparatus. All of these themes continue to reverberate in the contemporary practice of public diplomacy.”


Excerpt out of 18 pages


International public broadcasting, governments' power in the world and the spheres of influence
A comparison of the German Deutsche Welle and the American Broadcasting Board of Governors along with their history and a reflection on international public broadcasting's importance for nations' roles in the world
Media in Global Perspective
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Medien;, Deutsche Welle, Broadcasting Board of Governors;, USA;, Deutschland;, Radio;, Rundfunk;, Auslandsrundfunk;, Vergleich;, Rundfunkgeschichte;, international;, Rollen;, Einfluss;, Staat;, Einflussspähren
Quote paper
Julia Harrer (Author), 2009, International public broadcasting, governments' power in the world and the spheres of influence, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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