“News Budget” of the Central News Room

From the beginning in 1951 through the end in 1995, the Central News Room (CN) – and its successors under different names – was the heart of Radio Free Europe (RFE). This was the place where news were gathered and processed before being distributed to the national broadcast desks for dissemination.

The hourly news programs of the desks were based on the news output of the CN. To ensure that news broadcasts were coherent and in line with RFE policy, no other news were allowed to feature in the hourly news programs.

The main product of the CN was the so-called News Budget. One part of the News Budget was printed on beige paper and was destined to be background information or to be broadcast in non-news programs only. The main part of the News Budget, the so-called A-wire, however, was printed on white paper and featured news labeled as “CN”, followed by a number; these were the news items intended for broadcasting during the hourly news programs of RFE.

This website features three weeks’ worth of A-wire news on the Czechoslovak crisis of 1968. The coverage begins in the late evening of August 20, 1968, when the first tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia, and it ends on September 10, 1968, when life seemed to slowly return to normal. To be sure, the occupation of the country was still in full swing at the beginning of September, but the dramatism of the events is shown much less acutely in the documents produced after the first two weeks of the conflict. This is also reflected by the number of documents produced by the CN: while in the first couple of days the “A-wire” contains about 350 items on Czechoslovakia per day, by September 10, 1968, the number of such CN-news items sent to the broadcast desks drops to about a third of that figure.

This digital collection includes close to 4000 one-page news items produced by the CN. They are organized chronologically and their numbering restarts every day at midnight (CN 1, CN2, CN3, etc). Documents on unrelated events like the earthquake in Iran or the Democratic Convention in the US have been omitted (which explains the sometimes broken succession of CN-news numbering). Some documents are continuations or “releads” of earlier documents; this is duly noted in the document title as “Releads CN 237” or “W/ CN 237” or “1st Add [title] (CN 237)”.

The News Budget of RFE’s Central News Room on the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia is part of our series HU OSA 300-30-14 Collection of Documents on 1968 within fonds HU OSA 300 Records of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Research Institute.