Created: 6/1/1958

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TITLE: The BBC Monitoring Service and. Partner AUTHOR: Roland A. May




A collection of articles on tho historical, operational, doctrinal, and theoretical aspects ol Intelligence.

All sutements of fact, opinion or analysis expressed in Studies in arc those of

theey do not necessarily reflect official positions or views of ihe Central Intelligence Agency or sny other US Government entity, past or prcseni Nothing in the comenls should be construed as asserting or implying US Government endorsement of an article's factual statements and inierpretalions.


The productritishcorporation" is an integral and important part of what theintelligence community reads in its "FBIS."


The monitoring of foreign broadcasting stations wasbefore the war, as government-controlled radios in Europe came to be used increasingly to publicize official communiques, policy statements by party and government leaders,ioneer in the monitoring field was the British Broadcastingublic corporation with amonopoly on both domestic and external broadcasting andreasury grant-in-aid for its broadcasts to listeners abroad. One of its most Important activities was, and remains, the gathering and presentation of news.

nticipating the drying up of many normal news sources with the imminent outbreak of war, the BBCto tap the news potential of foreign radio broadcasts,ooperation with the Ministry of Informationonitoring operation In Evesham in Worcestershire. Although this operation waservice to the BBC's own news output desks, the armed services and government departments quickly grasped its possibilitiesapid source of Information and encouraged lis expansion. Coverage of foreign stations was increased and the material processed was issued to BBC output desks and government departments to dallyreports and over teleprinter hook-ups.3 the monitoring unit moved to its present location at Caveraham Park near Reading, and at the end of the war was reorganized and consolidatedull peace-time basis under thecontrol of the BBC's External Services, responsible for broadcasts to listeners abroad.

By this time, monitoring of foreign broadcasts had alsoa recognized war-time activity of the UjS. Government The Foreign Broadcast Monitoring (later renamedand thenervice, which bad been organ-

The BBC Mon'rloring Service

ized1 under the FCC,mall number ol editors with the BBC late in that year. This group cooperatedocal unit of tbe OWI in the selection and transmission to Washington of BBC-monitored material. When the OWI was dissolved6 and KB ISentral Intelligence activity, the arrangement to post an American group with the BBC Service at Caversham was made permanent, and the two services enteredeciprocal agreement for world-widecoverage. Under this agreement the BBC assumedfor covering the central Soviet Home Service andbroadcasts to Europe, most Satellite transmitterscattering of stations in Western Europe and the Near and Middle East FBIS assumed coverage of most of the rest of the world. The product of each service's monitoring isthe other by radioteletype in plain text.

The producing staff of the BBC Monitoring Service isamong three departments: the Reception Unit tunes in on selected broadcasts and makes summaries or translations from them; the News Bureau picks out "hot'1 items and writes them up for Its wire service; and the Reports Departmentcomprehensive numcographed reports covering tbematerial. Tbe necessary technical facilities are providedection of the BBC Engineering Division. These consistrimary antenna system on the grounds of Caversham Park, capable ofigh proportion of the broadcasts scheduled for monitoring,ore elaborate intercept center some three miles distant, where those signals not receivable at Caversham are picked up and fed In by land line.

The Reception Unit operates around the clockhiftseveneek. It covers broadcasts fromountries In more thananguages, processingay of the nearly two million it hears. Its schedules are kept under constant review to meet the requirements of BBC output, government departments, and other consumers, Including notably the FBIS. Its coverage responsibility continues to embrace the whole critical segment of Moscow broadcasts in Russian and other European languages, as well as someSoviet stations, most stations tn East Europe, and some In Western Europe and tbe Near East-Each monitor is allocated certain broadcasts which he listens to and simultaneously records. Any news flashes he either re-


The BBC Monitoring Service


ports immediately or transcribes promptly when the broadcast is over. Less urgent material required by tbe outputhe transcribes or translates into English later from the recording. It is his responsibility to make the preliminary selection of this material, guided by general and particular directives andreat degree by his own area knowledge and good judgment, ripened by experience. The monitor'sis then transferredaster stencil and reproduced for distribution to the principal receiving offices In theNews Bureau, Reports and FBIS editors.

The News Bureau runs the "ticker" of the MonitoringProm the broadcast material passed to It by the Reception Unit and that received by teleprinter from FBIS monitoring stations it selects and flies0 words daily to the news departments of the BBC and the Foreign Office.

Production of documents Is the responsibility of the Reports Department, which likewise receives the total take from both BBC and FBISally Monitoring Report sums up in two to three pages the main lines of emphasis In theday's worldpecial daily report reviews the principal trends of Middle East broadcasting. Summaries of World Broadcasts published bi-weekly cover the USSR,Europe and the Far East. Supplements to these aredaily or weekly asar East Economicis published regularly every week, for example,upplement covering the proceedings of the USSR Supreme Soviet appears daily while tbe meetings arc in progress.

The British Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence use the product of the Monitoring Service in much the same way as the Washington intelligence community uses the FBIS wire and publications. Of special import and Interest to theof Defenceeriodic report containing economicfrom monitored Soviet regional broadcasts. US.for its part, is acutely dependent on the products of the British service which it receives through FBIS. FBIS editors stationed at Caversham select for Washington0 words daily, principally from the vast USSR and East European radio output. This selectionargeof each day's important world news, press articles, statements of policy, and propaganda.


The BBC Monitoring Service

The BBC Is organized to give speedy, preferential treatment to speeches by national leaders. In preparationwo-hour address by Khrushchev, for example, the Reception Unit assembles the most experienced members of its Russian team Before the broadcast begins monitors are assigned to listen to several of the assigned Moscow frequencies and to select one or two of the best. While the speech is in progress, play-by-play highlights are transcribed in English and distributed to the News Bureau and the FBIS editors, who relay them toby the highest appropriate precedence, through an FBIS wire room in the American Embassy. It is notthat the first takes of these summaries are being read by subscribers to the FBIS Washington ticker before the broadcast from Moscow is completed. Meanwhile at Caversham other monitors haveull textual translation of the speech from the recordings. Portions of the finished product areand filed in the same manner as the summaries.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the BBC and FBIS staffs at Caversham and at the London wire room, and to allocated communications channels which permit instantaneousto FBIS Washington, our Intelligence consumers come Into possession of statements of important world figuresinimum of delay, often within minutes after their utterance.

The FBIS transatlantic radio channels are two-way streets. While one sideuplex Is carrying BBC-originated material to Washington, the other Is carrying to the BBC the selected files from Far East and Latin American radios monitored at FBIS domestic and Far East field stations. The BBCgets the product of FBIS Near and Middle East monitoring on Cyprus, for It supplies the communications link which carries this traffic to London.

"Nation Shall Speak Peace Untohis motto of the BBC, which has such limited currency in the world today, appliestriking way to the Anglo-American Joint enterprise which listens to words of peace or war broadcast by friends, foes and neutrals. Sixteen years of collaborative efforts have produced an effective instrument for the exploitationorld-wide basis of this overt and fruitful source of Intelligence information. Without BBC partnership, the United States could obtain coverage of Indispensable sources only by theof new and costly facilities. Despite some differences

The BBC Monitoring Service


in requirements and procedures, the two services have agreed on principles of operation, reaffirmed in periodic meetings on one or the other side of the Atlantic, whichighof compatibility and mutual confidence. In theand scope of its activity and In the closeness of its work-tog relationships, theombineossibly unique example of enduring Anglo-American cooperation.


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