A year after construction of the Berlin Wall, two American television networks arranged to film East Germans escaping to the West via tunnels under the Wall. While U.S. Government pressure caused CBS to abort its project, NBC produced the Emmy-winning documentary “The Tunnel,” but delayed the broadcast amidst threats from the U.S. State Department. Secretary of State Dean Rusk argued against what he called “adventurous journalism.”
President Kennedy boldly told newspaper publishers they needed to consider the “necessary restraints of national security” before publishing sensitive material. Behind the scenes, the State Department attempted to privately scare and publicly shame the networks for pursuing stories about secret tunnels under the Berlin Wall. When pressure on individual journalists in Berlin wasn’t sufficient, State Department officials in Washington turned to network bosses in the United States.
Professor Mike Conway of Indiana University’s Media School will present his latest research project: using declassified government documents and other private correspondence, this study reveals how both journalists and government officials trumpeted two seemingly contradictory messages, press freedom and Cold War cooperation. In addition, the negotiations between government and journalists show how journalism competition became intertwined with the government response. His project also addresses a common Cold War threat against western journalists: providing propaganda for the communists. Analyzing East German and Russian press coverage reveals the specific tunnel broadcast controversies served merely as a backdrop for stories that instead focused on the long Cold War history of government-press cooperation and the profit and military motives of Western media.
Commentary will be provided by Maria Löblich, Professor of the History of Communication and Media Cultures at Freie Universität Berlin.
Mauer Museum Berlin,
Friedrichstraße 43-45, 10969 Berlin