Discovering the Hidden Listener

Discovering the Hidden Listener

An Empirical Assessment of Radio Liberty and Western Broadcasting to the USSR during the Cold War

Author: R. Eugene Parta
ISBN: 978-0-8179-4732-3
Publication Date: 10/30/2007
Pages: 140

"And during the three to four days of this coup, Radio Liberty was one of the very few channels through which it was possible to send information to the whole world and, most important, to the whole of Russia" —Boris Yeltsin, August 24, 1991

A pariah during the Cold War, Radio Liberty was ultimately accepted as a legitimate participant on the Russian media scene by the authorities themselves. How did it happen that Radio Liberty—once the most vilified of Western broadcasters in the Soviet Union—had amassed such a vast audience that it was able to experience its finest hour defending the same democratic forces that it had nurtured over almost four decades of broadcasting?

Based on more than 50,000 interviews conducted with Soviet citizens traveling outside the USSR during the period 1972–1990, this book attempts to answer the question from the listeners' perspective: How many listeners were there? Who were they? Why did they listen? How did they listen? What did the broadcasts mean to them? Did they make a difference? The author addresses audience size and listening trends over time, the position Western radio occupied in the Soviet media environment, listeners' demographic traits and attitudes, the evolution of the image of different Western broadcasters, and listeners' programming preferences. Through six brief case studies, he also looks at the role of Western radio in various crisis situations.

The book concludes with some observations about the ultimate impact of Western radio and Radio Liberty—what they actually meant to their listeners and how their influence may have inspired or reinforced other tendencies at work in the USSR as it moved toward a freer society.

R. Eugene Parta is the retired director of Audience Research and Program Evaluation for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague. He has worked in the field of international broadcasting audience research since 1969; in Munich he was director of Media Opinion Research of the RFE/RL Research Institute. Parta has written extensively on media use, communications, and public opinion in Central and Eastern Europe and been a frequent speaker and participant in international academic and professional conferences.


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R. Eugene Parta

R. Eugene Parta retired as director of Audience Research and Program Evaluation for Radio Free Europe/radio Liberty in Prague in September 2006. He has worked in the field of international broadcasting audience research since 1969; in Munich he was director of Media Opinion Research of the RFE/RL Research Institute. Parta has written extensively on media use, communications, and public opinion in Central and Eastern Europe and been a frequent speaker and participant in international academic and professional conferences.




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