FBIS Product: Trends in Communist Media

In 1941, United States founded Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service (FBMS) under Federal Communications Commission, with the mandate of monitoring, translating and reporting on Axis propaganda radio broadcasts. An open source collection effort, the FBMS went into high gear following the attack on Pearl Harbor, supplying reports on a round-a-clock basis as the US was pulled into the war. By March 1942, it was said that the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) was depending on FBMS for most of its current intelligence. (Source)

In 1946, when the FBMS was briefly moved under the War Department, it was renamed Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service. Later that year, though, it assumed the name Foreign Broadcast Information Service. (Source) In 1947 with the founding of the CIA, FBIS was transferred under the newly formed agency, where it resided under the same name until 2005, when what was left of it formed the basis of a new Open Source Center.

One of the open source analysis products FBIS published from 1950 to 1975 was called “Trends in Communist Propaganda”, and the essentially the same product continued with the name “Trends in Communist Media” continued from 1975 until at least 1984. And since I’m writing about them, yes, some of them are available in the CIA archive. Over 300, in fact – from 1970 through 1975, and a few later issues. A note about the purpose on the cover says:

This propaganda analysis report is based exclusively on material carried in communist broadcast and press media. It is published by FBIS without coordination with other U.S. Government components.

The ‘Trends’ reports were classified Confidential, but why would an open source product be classified at that level? It’s about the analysis. The information itself may come from open sources, but how that information is selected and processes and what inferences are made from it is the component that is being guarded. An internal memo about ‘Trends’ declassification from 1974 spells it out:

FBIS publications involving analysis of communist propaganda have normally been classified Confidential for many years in keeping with the tradition that intelligence analysis by definition was classified at least Confidential in order to protect Agency information and its substantive positions from foreign view.

As the name implies, the reports did actually contain trend analysis of issues getting coverage during the week in question.

 

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Trend chart from a 1971 weekly report

 

Below is a quick snippet of the kind of analysis contained in the ‘Trends’ reports:

 

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‘Trends’ report from 1971, on media coverage about a Finnish diplomatic maneuver

 

Below is a list of the ‘Trends’ reports found so far from the CIA archive. There are some duplicates in the list, but I retained them mostly in case there’s a need to cross-reference any new finds to this list. If you want to download the whole sheet, you can grab it here.

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