History

Chronology: RIAS BERLIN and the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION

February 7, 1946
Founded by the United States of America, DIAS (Wire Broadcasting in the American Sector, later known as RIAS, Radio in the American Sector) begins broadcasting

October 1, 1950
FM transmission starts

November 1, 1953
Introduction of RIAS second program

August 22, 1988
RIAS TV starts operation on Channel 25

May 1, 1992
Merger of RIAS TV and Deutsche Welle, after which RIAS TV broadcasts as Deutsche Well Auslandsfernsehen

May 19, 1992
German-American agreement to establish RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION at City Hall of Schoeneberg

June 1, 1992
RIAS 2 becomes the commercial radio station “r.s.2” on same frequency

December 7, 1992
First meeting of the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION at City Hall Schoeneberg

June 17, 1993
Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German states sign the Radio Transformation Treaty

October/November 1993
RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION starts its German-American journalists exchange program; eight young journalists visit the United States of America as participants of the first exchange program

January 1, 1994
The Berlin program of DeutschlandRadio starts broadcasting with substantial parts of the former RIAS program


History and Purpose of RIAS BERLIN and the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION

Founded by the United States of America, DIAS (Wire Broadcasting in the American Sector), later to be known as RIAS (Radio in the American Sector), started broadcasting on February 7, 1946.

From the Blockade of 1948/49 to June 17, 1953, from the Khrushchev ultimatum to the erection of the Wall, from the Kennedy visit to the first Agreement on Permits, up to November 9, 1989, when the Wall finally came down: RIAS BERLIN was the Berlin radio station reporting live from the scene.

RIAS BERLIN, as the radio station in the divided city, was always at the center of the East-West conflict. At no time, however, did it run the risk of turning into a propaganda station. RIAS remained committed to the tradition of rational, critical American journalism. Thus, it was credibility that distinguished this station. Reunification and the abolition of Berlin’s special status made it necessary to incorporate the station, still under American administration, into the German radio landscape and to give it a new legal and financial basis.

This was implemented on June 17, 1993 with the signing of the “Radio Transformation Treaty” by the German states and the Federal Government. It was ratified by the “Broadcasting Restructuring Act” on Dec. 20, 1993. RIAS BERLIN, “Deutschlandfunk” and “DS-Kultur” were charged with setting up a legally responsible public body as a joint institution of ARD and ZDF to create two nation-wide radio programs. This public broadcaster, known as “Deutschlandradio”, has headquarters in Cologne and Berlin. Neither program carries commercials; their main emphasis is on information and culture. Since January 1, 1994, DeutschlandRadio Berlin broadcasts on the former RIAS-frequency FM 89,6.

On May 19, 1992, US Ambassador Robert M. Kimmitt and the German Minister of the Interior Rudolf Seiters signed an agreement for the “Promotion of German- American Understanding” in the field of broadcasting and for implementing exchange programs for broadcast professionals.

Through this agreement the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION was established in recognition of the accomplishments of RIAS BERLIN over the past forty-five years as a transatlantic bridge dedicated to truth and democracy and as an outstanding example of American-German co-operation, in order to maintain the journalistic heritage and transatlantic tradition of this respected, successful institution and to pass them on to new generations of journalists, to promote and deepen mutual understanding between the peoples of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America through a greater exchange of broadcast journalists and professionals.

Published on September 12, 1992, the agreement states, in Article III, the purposes of the Commission: to promote the exchange of persons and information in the field of broadcast journalism between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America, to support radio and television productions which contribute to mutual understanding between the people of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America, to provide financial support for the occasional transatlantic transmission of outstanding broadcast productions which further mutual understanding, pursuant to applicable laws and regulations, to award an annual prize to the radio production and to the television production which best contribute to mutual understanding between the peoples of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America and which have not been supported by Commission funds.

In carrying out its purposes, the Commission shall give special consideration to those productions and activities which, in the tradition of RIAS, address the unique circumstances and needs of the states which comprised the former German Democratic Republic.

On December 7, 1992, the Commission met for the first time in the historic City Hall of Schöneberg with Elizabeth Pond (Journalist), Chase Untermeyer (Director VOA), Cynthia Miller (Minister Counselor for Public Affairs, American Embassy, Bonn), Eberhard Diepgen (Governing Mayor of Berlin), Joel Levy (Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Office, Berlin), Dr. Horst Schirmer (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Foreign Ministry), Henry Hockeimer (former Associate Director, USiA), Dieter Weirich (Director, Deutsche Welle), Jürgen Graf (former RIAS Chief Executive News), Dr. Hildegard Boucsein (Permanent Undersecretary for Federal and European Affairs, Berlin Senate), Robert M. Kimmitt (U.S. Ambassador), Dr. Bruno Schwegmann (Deputy Assistant Secretary, Federal Ministry of the Interior). The Minister of the Interior of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Chief of the Diplomatic Mission of the United States of America are Honorary Chairmen of the Commission.

On August 1, 1993, the Commission opened its offices in the RIAS building at Hans-Rosenthal-Platz in Berlin. On October 24, 1993, eight young journalists from Leipzig, Halle, Dresden and Berlin left for the first exchange program of the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION, with many more to follow. The RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION thus commenced its work as a transatlantic bridge in the field of broadcasting.

Conclusion

The RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION represents the continuation of the transatlantic friendship exemplified by RIAS (Radio in the American Sector) for more than four and a half decades.

When RIAS was transformed into the national radio station DeutschlandRadio three years after unification, The RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION was ready to preserve and deepen the ideals of German-American friendship.


December 31, 1993, Midnight: Good-bye RIAS Berlin

A legendary voice in Berlin’s broadcasting landscape falls silent. RIAS BERLIN, the station which was popular among listeners in the East and in the West, becomes Deutschland-Radio Berlin. For almost 48 years, RIAS BERLIN fulfilled its task of being the free voice of the free world with style.

 

Now history has outlived this radio station, which during its long tradition had produced so many unforgettable talents and programs. A celebration at the Schoeneberg City Hall on 9 February 1994 marked the official end of the radio station founded on 7 February 1946 under American administration, whose famous microphone logo can be seen on numerous historic photos.

“RIAS was not only loved by Berliners in the former western part of the city, it was also a voice people in the eastern part of our city and our country liked to listen to and could understand,” declared Eberhard Diepgen, Governing Mayor of Berlin. “The 47 years of the ’voice of the free world’ are unique and directly linked to the post-war history.”

Cynthia Miller, the last RIAS commissioner of the U.S. Government and first chairwoman of the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION, expressed her hope that RIAS would always be remembered as a symbol of Berlin. She called upon the former employees of RIAS not to be too sad about the end of their station but to be happy about its success.

Nevertheless, the name RIAS will continue to exist! This was already provided for by the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America in 1992 in their agreement on the establishment of the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION. The Commission is to continue the tradition of German-American cooperation in the field of broadcasting and is to promote a new tradition in transatlantic media dialogue in the form of new encounters and relationships between broadcast journalists on both sides of the Atlantic.


The tradition-laden RIAS BERLIN-logo and the modified logo of the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION.


In the fall of 1993, the office of the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION, with an ideal location in the RIAS broadcasting building at Hans-Rosenthal-Platz, started its activities in the following fields:

  • German-American exchange programs for broadcast journalists;
  • grants for radio and television productions contributing to a better knowledge about and understanding of the United States of America and Germany;
  • and annual radio and television awards for extraordinary contributions to German-American understanding.

Pursuant to the Agreement between the Governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America for the promotion of German-American understanding in the field of broadcasting and for implementing exchange programs for broadcast professionals, the Commission particularly concentrates on activities and productions which — following the tradition of RIAS — consider the special conditions and needs of those federal states which constituted the former German Democratic Republic.