Radio and Television Service, Armed Forces
Begun as unofficial radio stations before World War II in the Panama Canal Zone, the Philippines, and Alaska, the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) was founded in August 1942, at the direction of the army chief of staff, George C. Marshall. Relying on the advice of movie director Frank Capra, Marshall selected advertising executive Tom Lewis to create a broadcast unit to provide the same information and service Capra was to do with the film series Why We Fight. Very quickly, Lewis and his staff concluded he could best attract military personnel for the educational broadcasts by airing the same programs they knew back home. In addition, AFRS produced its own programming in Hollywood, such as Command Performance, with the help of the entertainment industry.
Lewis immediately established the principle that AFRTS would not censor news programs (except for security purposes), or broadcast propaganda messages. Consequently, troops as well as foreign nationals have always been able to listen to criticism of the U.S. government. The broadcast service quickly proved a better purveyor of the American way of life than the more propagandistic Voice of America.
Television became an integral part of the operation in the 1950s after Gen. Curtis E. LeMay established a television station at one of his SAC bases in Maine. Since then, AFRTS has followed the troops wherever they were stationed, carrying the most popular radio and television programs. AFRTS can legitimately be seen as the representative of democracy to the world, as well as the predecessor of Cable News Network (CNN), since foreign nationals have always been able to listen to the over‐the‐air broadcasts. Most important, AFRTS has provided the U.S. armed forces with a familiar voice and image—whether in the jungles of Vietnam, peacetime Europe, or the Pacific Rim.
[See also Proganda and Public Relations, Government.]
"Radio and Television Service, Armed Forces." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/radio-and-television-service-armed-forces
"Radio and Television Service, Armed Forces." The Oxford Companion to American Military History. . Retrieved March 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/radio-and-television-service-armed-forces
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