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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Alternate Forms Available
  • Processing Information note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Other Institutions with Related Archival Materials

  • Title: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast records
    Date (inclusive): 1917-2014
    Collection Number: 2000C120
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: Multiple languages , English
    Physical Description: 264 manuscript boxes, 136 audio boxes (205 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: American radio broadcasting organization operating Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Includes sound recordings of broadcasts, as well as documents used for creating broadcasts including scripts, correspondence, and memoranda relating to broadcasts by Radio Free Europe to audiences in Eastern Europe and to broadcasts by Radio Liberty to audiences in the Soviet Union. The entire collection is 7,704 linear feet (15,207 boxes).
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    RFE/RL welcomes the re-use, republication, and redistribution for research and educational purposes of audio, video, text, and graphic content produced by RFE/RL, Inc., its legal predecessor organizations, and its constituent language Services.
    Users of RFE/RL content from this website must include in their work the information: "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty content, including but not limited to recordings of broadcasts, program scripts, graphic and video content and web-based content, is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Used with the permission of RFE/RL, Inc., 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA. "www.rferl.org".
    Users of RFE/RL content cannot alter the meaning, name or integrity of the content. The sale of RFE/RL content is strictly prohibited. Some of the RFE/RL content on this website may contain content created by outside parties ("Third-Party Content"). Before using any RFE/RL products containing Third-Party Content, you must first obtain permission from the owner of the rights to the Third-Party Content. Unlimited reproduction for institutional or other use of RFE/RL content found on this website is not permitted without the express written permission of RFE/RL.
    Learn more about the Terms of Use for RFE/RL content on the RFE/RL website. Inquiries about copyright permission involving materials in RFE/RL archival collections should be emailed to: Martins Zvaners, RFE/RL Deputy Director of Communications.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 2000.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast records, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Alternate Forms Available

    Digital copies of select records also available at https://digitalcollections.hoover.org 

    Processing Information note

    From 2017-2022 all Broadcasting Department and Service records were converted from series level description with attachments, to individual finding aid records. During this conversion process the entire collection was renumbered and description re-evaluated. Additional materials have been added, as well as previously undescribed sound recordings to each record.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The RFE/RL Broadcast department records consist of the materials produced by RFE/RL for its radio programs. The extent of the entire collection is 7,704 linear feet and 15,207 boxes. While the primary elements of this collection are sound recordings and scripts (arranged by broadcast department or language service), there is also a good deal of derivative and associated documentation created, received, or collected in the course of the daily functioning of the broadcasting service. Such documentation includes editorial and research files, program logs and broadcast schedules, special programs, work plans, program lists, listener mail, papers of individual employees collected or produced in the course of their duties, and other types of documentation. The News and Current Affairs Department records contain the news budget, which includes reports from wire agencies and other sources on events during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Prague Spring of 1968, as well as certain other topics. The records also contain scripts – printed versions of news events and interviews as read by announcers – with sound bites of the event, speech, or interview on audio tapes.
    The majority of the collection consists of department and language service finding aids, which contain a Sound Recordings series, these consist of broadcast recordings, monitoring recordings, off-air recordings, and music recordings. Broadcast recordings of RFE/RL broadcasts were captured either in the studio or direct from a transmitter. They constitute the defining record of what RFE/RL committed to air. Typical content includes news reports, interviews, speeches, sermons, dramatic programming, and music. Monitoring recordings represent radio broadcasts other than RFE/RL that were monitored on a radio in the RFE/RL office and recorded to tape. Off-air recordings are raw captures of interviews, speeches, literary readings, music performances, etc. that would have been edited for use on future broadcasts. Music recordings are predominantly commercially issued popular, classical, and folk releases collected for on-air play; they are sometimes called a service's "music library." It is important to note that music related broadcast programming, such as the Romanian Broadcasting Department's "Metronome" program, are considered broadcast recordings since they contain whole programs as they were heard on air.
    While part of the larger whole, each language service operated independently, with different practices regarding programming logs, the labeling of tapes, etc. Nearly all services reused tapes in an effort to conserve resources, particularly in the early years. Consequently, it is not uncommon for a language service to be missing sound recordings in multi-year spans, in some cases with significant gaps on the order of decades. Scripts are generally a more complete resource than recordings, which are usually scattered across time; scripts of early RFE programming are available on microfilm or paper even when no recordings may exist. Scripts are also available for many of the extant broadcast recordings and can serve as an index to their content. If an item of interest is found in a script, the date of that script can be used to search for a sound recording of the same date. This is the most convenient way to approach the recordings, as most have not been indexed for content. In some cases, as with the Polish Broadcasting Department records, a database can be used to find appropriate sound recordings.
    From its earliest days through August 1995, when the radios adopted logging media to record all transmitters at once, nearly all recorded sound produced or recorded by RFE/RL was captured on 1/4-inch open reel tape. Exceptions include an early set of Crusade for Freedom recordings on lacquer disc and particular services capturing limited broadcast runs, raw interview footage, and/or varying production elements on cassette and cartridge tape. Cassette, DAT and MiniDisc served this same purpose in the years following 1995.
    From August 24, 1995 through October 31, 2006, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty committed its broadcast recordings to multi-channel logging media. Recordings of programs broadcast August 24, 1995 through August 26, 1999 are saved on VHS tapes encoded using Racal Wordsafe machines while recordings broadcast September 25, 1999 through October 31, 2006 are on DDS tapes encoded using an RCS Tracker system. Both systems recorded multiple concurrent tracks of audio, capturing on one tape the content of several different transmitters. The Racal Wordsafe system captured twelve concurrent tracks, each 25 hours in duration, meaning each tape has the potential to hold 300 hours of content. Tape is not the only storage mechanism for audio recorded using the RCS Tracker system – it created audio files independent of tape, to be saved in whatever manner the user preferred – however tape (DDS in this case) was the method chosen by RFE/RL. Each tape contains upward of eight concurrent tracks; multiple decks operated simultaneously, affording the capture of all operating transmitters. The reader should note that, for inventory purposes, tapes from this period are counted as single physical items despite containing multiple recordings from different language services. Consequently, the sound recordings from this era – see the Multiple Language Services series description – constitute 6,809 physical items rather than the 55,800 audio recordings.
    The Daily Broadcast Analyses (DBAs), which form the Daily Broadcast Analyses series, were used by management and the broadcasting departments and language services to track the quality and content of programming. A special department, the Broadcasting Analysis Department, existed to collect data on programming and compile it into DBAs, which were then distributed to management and back to the appropriate desks. In the collection, they are arranged according to the category of origin: Radio Free Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Europe Baltic, Radio Liberty Nationality Services, Radio Liberty Russian Service. The DBAs contain texts of all the Services and Departments together for each day. DBAs were not issued every day, so the collection contains gaps. A separate category of translated scripts or parts of scripts is also part of the DBAs and listed at its end.

    Other Institutions with Related Archival Materials

    Access to RFE/RL Russian Service sound recordings is handled by the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA). They have a fully-searchable database available on their website at www.osaarchivum.org 
    Access to RFE/RL Polish Broadcasting Department sound recordings is handled by Polish Radio. They have a fully-searchable database available on their website at www.polskieradio.pl 
    Access to Hungarian Broadcasting Department sound recordings is handled by the National Széchényi Library. The site Magyar Október , provides access to programs broadcast by Radio Free Europe between October 22 and November 12, 1956.
    Other institutions with collection materials related to RFE/RL include the following (click on the name of the institution for more information):