Ester Lo Biundo
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Radio at war
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The aim of this chapter is to provide an introduction to the key issues and themes relating to political warfare during the Second World War on a global scale; and to offer an institutional context for a deeper understanding of the BBC Italian Service, its programmes and reception. By referring to existing literature on both propaganda and the development of the BBC, the chapter details how the birth of a mass society and the technological progress of the twentieth century influenced political warfare, when ordinary men and women became the key target audiences of the propaganda of many countries involved in the conflict.

The first part of the chapter focuses on the variety of approaches adopted by different countries to undermine their enemies, as well as on the introduction of two transnational tools of propaganda: radio and leaflets. Radio broadcasts, and leaflets dropped by enemy aeroplanes, allowed civilians to experience a more direct form of interaction with the enemy.

The second part concentrates on the birth of the BBC and the contribution of the war to its development as a leading international radio broadcaster. In particular, it explains how the BBC’s transition from private company to public corporation led to a public educational role for British radio. This educational function was also a feature of the foreign branches established during the conflict, including the Italian Service.

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London calling Italy

BBC broadcasts during the Second World War


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