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Radio in the American Sector

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Title: Radio in the American Sector  
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Subject: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, Uprising of 1953 in East Germany, History of broadcasting, Paul van Dyk
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Radio in the American Sector

The RIAS building, now the headquarters of Deutschlandradio Kultur (March 2012)

RIAS neon sign

RIAS (German: Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor; English: Broadcasting in the American Sector) was a radio and television station in the American Sector of Berlin during the Cold War. It was founded by the US occupational authorities after World War II in 1946 to provide the German population in and around Berlin with news and political reporting and for its first seven months was distributed (as DIAS – Drahtfunk im amerikanischen Sektor) via wired relay only.[1]

The station's importance was magnified during the 1948 Berlin blockade, when it carried the message of Allied determination to resist Soviet intimidation. After the Berlin blockade, RIAS (by now carried on terrestrial mediumwave and later FM transmitters) evolved into a surrogate home service for East Germans, as it broadcast news, commentary, and cultural programs that were unavailable in the controlled media of the German Democratic Republic. Listening to it in Soviet-controlled East Germany was discouraged. After the workers' riots in East Germany in 1953, which were the end result of the government's raising of food prices and factory production quotas, the Communist government blamed the incident on RIAS and the CIA.

Eventually RIAS was jointly funded and managed by the United States and West Germany. The station was staffed almost entirely with Germans, who worked under a small American management team. It maintained a large research component during the Cold War, and interviewed travellers from East Germany and compiled material from the East German Communist media, and broadcast programs for specific groups in East Germany, such as youths, women, farmers, even border guards. RIAS had a huge audience in East Germany and was the most popular foreign radio service. This audience began to shrink only when West German television became widely available to viewers in East Germany.[2]

An orchestra, known as the RIAS-Symphonie-Orchester was also established by the US forces, and still exists (now as the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin), as well as a professional chamber choir, the RIAS-Kammerchor (originally founded as the Rundfunkchor des RIAS).

The station's most important transmitter was at Berlin-Britz. Later a second transmitter at Hof in Bavaria was added to improve reception in the southern parts of East Germany. While the facility at Berlin-Britz remains in service, now transmitting the programmes of Deutschlandradio Kultur, the Hof transmitter has been closed.


Penetration of West German TV reception (grey) in East Germany for ARD (regional channels NDR, HR, BR and SFB) . Areas with no reception (black) were jokingly referred to as "Valley of the Clueless" (Tal der Ahnungslosen) while ARD was said to stand for "Außer Rügen und Dresden" (Except Rügen and Dresden).

RIAS-TV, began broadcasting (as a part-time optout on the terrestrial frequency of SAT.1) from West Berlin in August 1988. Prior to this there were no Western television broadcasts specifically targeted at East Germany although many of the domestic West German TV networks (particularly ARD) had high power transmitters along the inner German border and could be received throughout most of East where many of their programmes attracted a larger audience than the official East German domestic broadcasters.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and German reunification the following year meant that RIAS-TV was short lived. In 1992 Deutsche Welle (Germany's International broadcaster) inherited the RIAS-TV broadcast facilities, using them to start a German, English and Spanish language television channel broadcast via satellite.[3]

See also


  1. ^ on the site of60 Jahre RIAS Deutschlandradio Kultur (in German)
  2. ^ Puddington, Arch, "Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty" (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2003): 13-14.
  3. ^ By DAVID BINDERPublished: May 20, 1992 (1992-05-20). "U.S. Broadcasting Outpost in Berlin Signs Off After 46 Years". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-27. 

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