History and Purpose of RIAS BERLIN and the RIAS BERLIN COMMISSION
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. 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.
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.