Simon J. Potter

Sep 11, 2020

Wireless Internationalism and Distant Listening

Britain, Propaganda, and the Invention of Global Radio, 1920-1939

Oxford University Press 2020

purchase at bookshop.org In the aftermath of the First World War, many people sought to use the new mass medium of radio as a tool for world peace, believing that it could promote understanding across national boundaries. In his book Wireless Internationalism and Distant Listening: Britain, Propaganda, and the Invention of Global Radio, 1920-1939 (Oxford UP, 2020), Simon J. Potter describes these efforts to use radio to promote global harmony and how they were eclipsed by nationalism and the weaponization of broadcasting as a propaganda tool. As Potter details, the nature of early radio lent itself to this internationalist vision, with listeners often picking up signals and enjoying broadcasts from other countries. By the 1930s, however, a more nationalistic vision for radio took hold, as Germany led the way in using the airwaves to advance nationalistic goals. Though famed today for its global radio services, Britain lagged in response to this, only belatedly employing the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Empire Service as a tool to shore up support for British interests in the United States and elsewhere. Potter shows how this laid the groundwork for the British government’s subsequent propaganda broadcasts during the Second World War and into the postwar era.

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