Broadcasting in the Cause of Peace: Regulating International Radio Propaganda in Europe, 1921-1939

Simon J Potter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This article provides a major reassessment of interwar ‘wireless internationalism’, arguing that in the light of recent work on the wider history of internationalism, attempts to harness radio broadcasting to promote peace and mutual understanding among nations take on fresh significance. It uses previously neglected archival sources to explore how initiatives designed to amplify the benign, pacific effects of ‘wireless’ culminated in the League of Nations 1936 Convention on the Use of Broadcasting in the Cause of Peace. Like other wireless internationalist initiatives, this agreement has often been dismissed as inherently unrealistic. However, the earlier practical achievements of wireless internationalism should not be ignored. Until 1933, Europe’s broadcasting organisations worked together in a system of self-regulation that they themselves constructed under the auspices of the International Broadcasting Union. The League contributed to this system and also established its own wireless broadcasting station, Radio Nations, to promote its activities. It was only the rapid pace of geopolitical, technical, and organisational change after 1933 that rendered this system of self-regulation unworkable. The 1936 convention, built on earlier ideas about the nature of international broadcasting, was one of the casualties of this sudden transformation. Examining wireless internationalism in this new light can revise our understanding of interwar debates on freedom of expression and the regulation of international communication in an era of intensifying propaganda and ‘false news’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-864
Number of pages22
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number6
Early online date15 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust under Grant ‘Connecting the Wireless World: Writing Global Radio History’ (IN-2015-044).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


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