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Digging into British Public Diplomacy History: The Drogheda Report

June 28, 2011

I don’t seem to have much time to blog at the moment but one of things that I’m doing is reading up on UK ‘public diplomacy’ in the post 1945 decades.  It’s an interesting exercise which I’ll write more about later – one striking thought is that the high point for official interest in external communications at least measured in the volume of official reports about it is actually the 1950s rather than the 2000s.

Anyway from the Summary of the Report of the Independent Committee of Enquiry in the Overseas Information Services of April 1954 (better known as the Drogheda Committee).  This was an effort to take a comprehensive look at the state of affairs and indicated a growing willingness to spend more on these activities.

Here’s a couple of quotes

We suggest that the following propositions hold true, generally speaking, for the Information Services as whole:-

First. – The Information Services must to-day be regarded as part of the normal apparatus of diplomacy of a Great Power. They extend the range of the Mission so as to include a cross section of all the more important people in the community who are, or in the future will be, in a position to mould public opinion and influence policy…

There’s an interesting comment on the way that radio tends to distort perceptions of what information work is about

The great reputation which the British Broadcasting Corporation earned during the war, and the intense struggle for wavelengths between nations great and small during the post-war years have together tended to give undue predominance in the public mind to the place of broadcasting in overseas propaganda.  We have even found that this has led to the assumption that anything else which the Departments or agencies have done in this field is of secondary importance, which is far from being the case.

Interestingly the reports of the 1950s and 1960s tend to swing between talking about ‘information’,’ publicity’ and ‘propaganda’  so even in the post 1945 period British officials were quite happy to describe the work that they were doing as ‘propaganda’.

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