Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

End of an Era: Radio Liberty to Close by '95

The Clinton administration has announced plans to shut down Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty by 1995, ending more than four decades of American broadcasts to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.


The Munich-based stations, which were set up after World War II, broadcast in 23 languages throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, providing an alternative to local official broadcasts during the Cold War.


In a sign of the changing times, Radio Liberty can now be heard in Moscow in Russian on local radio, in addition to its shortwave broadcasts.


The closure of the stations, announced Friday, is part of the Clinton administration's budget cuts to try to trim the huge U. S. deficit. There have been previous efforts to shut the service, but in the past Congress and U. S. lobbyists for greater freedom in Eastern Europe, have come to the defense of the stations.


The new plan calls for Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe to be merged into the Voice of America - the official state overseas radio service.


Bill Marsh, the station's executive vice president, said Sunday in a telephone interview from Munich that the stations had not received an official explanation from the White House for the shutdown.


"We have only seen figures from the Office of Management and Budget, which would imply that we would have to shut our doors on September 30, 1995", the end of the 1995 fiscal year. Marsh said. "I fail to see where we could find the kind of funding we now have". He said the operation currently has a budget of $220 million a year from Congress.


Marsh stressed that congressional pressure could still reverse the decision.


In 1975, the stations merged into a nonprofit organization funded by the U. S. Congress through the Board for International Broadcasting. Previously, it had received secret support from the Central Intelligence Agency as well as funding from private donors.


Marsh said the disappearance of the stations would have a serious impact on the availability of objective news in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.


In contrast to the British Broadcasting Corp. and Voice of America, Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe devote more than half of their broadcasts to local news of the target country.


"In many places we are the only alternative to domestic media", said Marsh.


The stations also publish a weekly journal, issued by its research institute. The institute, which enjoys high esteem among specialists in the former Soviet bloc, has an extensive library and archive in Munich that will presumably now be absorbed into Voice of America.