International communication policy and Australia-US relations, 1920-1950

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Abstract

Prior to the Second World War, communication between the United States and Australia was constrained by the lack of a direct submarine cable or wireless telegraphy link between the two countries. As a matter of Imperial policy, supported by Australian governments, all traffic between Australia and the US was routed via Britain (the ‘Eastern’ route) or Canada (the ‘Pacific’ route). These arrangements were designed to serve the strategic interests of the British Empire and to protect the commercial interests of British companies, especially Cable and Wireless. In the 1930s, the Australian government repeatedly rejected approaches from the Radio Corporation of America to open up a direct radio-telegraph service between America and Australia, much to the chagrin of US business interests. Between the Wars, coverage of international news in the Australian press largely emerged out of an ‘imperial press system’ centred in London. Most US news destined for Australia was actually sourced in London. This ‘Imperial preference’ in news-flow was facilitated by the telegraph system and by global cartel arrangements amongst international news agencies whereby the London-based agency, Reuters, was given priority access to the Australian news market. US news destined for Australia was routinely channelled via Reuters. In the 1930s, American diplomats in Australia complained that these arrangements prevented the Australian public from receiving a consistent flow of impartial news about America and that this was damaging US– Australian relations. Pressure was brought to bear on the Australian Government to allow the opening up of a direct telegraphic link between the two countries. But it was finally the outbreak of World War 2 in the Pacific that radically altered Australia’s communication orientation. Just a week after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, the US Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, telegraphed Canberra that the establishment of a direct telegraph circuit was ‘absolutely imperative’. The Australian government consented three days later and the link was opened on 26 December 1941. This paper examines communication policy and international news agency history in the context of the development of US — Australia relations from 1920–1950. In so doing, it demonstrates the importance of communication policy and the role of international news agencies in the history of Australia’s relations with the US.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRecord of the Communications Policy and Research Forum 2011
EditorsFranco Papandrea, Mark Armstrong
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherNetwork Insight Institute
Pages67-80
Number of pages14
Volume1
ISBN (Print)9780980434446
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventCommunication Policy and Research Forum - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 7 Nov 20118 Nov 2011

Conference

ConferenceCommunication Policy and Research Forum
CountryAustralia
CitySydney
Period7/11/118/11/11

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  • Cite this

    Putnis, P. (2011). International communication policy and Australia-US relations, 1920-1950. In F. Papandrea, & M. Armstrong (Eds.), Record of the Communications Policy and Research Forum 2011 (Vol. 1, pp. 67-80). Network Insight Institute.