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The BBC Polish Service during World War II

Morriss, Agnieszka (2016). The BBC Polish Service during World War II. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Despite considerable interest in the BBC European Service and the role of transnational broadcasting during the Second World War, surprisingly little attention has hitherto been paid to the BBC Polish language broadcasts. As the first full length academic study of the wartime BBC Polish Service, this thesis aims to provide an in-depth examination of previously unanalysed primary sources, both Polish and British, in order to establish the extent to which Polish Service broadcasts during World War II were considered as a significant and reliable source of information.

The study is primarily based on the BBC Written Archives records, in particular, the scripts of the BBC Polish language bulletins, the European News Directives and Minutes of Meetings as well as the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) directives for the Polish Service from the National Archives at Kew. These directives are central in answering the principal research question, namely the extent to which the Polish Service was required to follow official British government policy. To this end, the analysis is supported by Polish government-in-exile documents and the Polish Underground reports stored at the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum and the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London. These archives represent a valuable resource for studies of wartime broadcasting, censorship and propaganda. Together the various archives (in conjunction with other privately held documents) offer historians a rich source of material from which the organisation and functioning of the BBC Polish Service over this period can be constructed.

Given the volume of material related to World War II, the scope of the study is concentrated upon Whitehall and BBC policy with regards to the Polish Service coverage of the Polish-Soviet affairs from the period when diplomatic relations between Poland and the USSR were re-established in 1941 to the withdrawal of recognition of the Polish government-in-exile by the Allies in 1945. The analysis demonstrates that, although the Polish Service attempted to be objective, impartial and neutral, this was achieved by selectiveness rather than by presenting both Polish and Soviet sides of the argument in territorial and political disputes. In particular, after the secret agreement between the Big Three was signed at Tehran in 1943, attempts were made by British officials to use the Polish Service as a platform to convince the Polish Underground and, by extension, the Polish population, to agree to Stalin’s demands. In general, any subjects which could be perceived by Stalin as offensive were labelled as ‘sensitive’ and expunged from the broadcasts. The evidence in this thesis therefore suggests that the overall output of the Polish service was at times subject to wider constraints determined by allied foreign policy goals and in particular the relationship between Britain and the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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