The BBC and the Cold War

100 Voices that Made the BBC

The Cold War was the defining global conflict of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Fought across multiple terrains, the “soft power” of international broadcasting placed the BBC on the frontline of the information war.

To commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we explore the role the BBC played in communicating our understanding and experience of the Cold War, with the help of newly-released oral history interviews with those involved.


  • The Long WarBetween 1939 and 1991, the experience of World War and Cold War helped shape the journalistic and diplomatic significance of the BBC World Service.
  • Iron CurtainHow did the BBC’s response to the descending Iron Curtain shape its Cold War broadcasting style?
  • BBC Monitoring in WartimeEstablished at the outbreak of the Second World War, the BBC Monitoring Service continued to be a vital component of the BBC’s journalistic work during the Cold War.
  • Letters without SignaturesDuring the Cold War the BBC German Service was a vital means of 'projecting Britain', and broadcast a nightly programme specially targeted at listeners behind the Iron Curtain.
  • UprisingsWithin the space of one month in the autumn of 1956 flashpoints threatened to destabilise both Eastern and Western bloc alliances and threatened the future of the BBC.
  • The War GameThe threat of thermonuclear destruction placed Britain’s civil defence plans, and the BBC, at the heart of public debates about the Cold War.
  • Cries for Peace in the Nuclear AgeThe Cold War sparked multiple peace protests in the UK: from Bertrand Russell and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.
  • SolidarityIn the 1980s the Polish Solidarity movement gained global media attention. And it did so with a little help from its friends in the BBC World Service.
  • CollapseThe fall of Soviet communism and the end of the Cold War was a seismic shift in global history. It also posed challenging questions about the future of BBC services to Europe, once the Iron Curtain was gone.
  • Music of a RevolutionOur video covers some of the key TV moments of the Cold War between 1947 and 1989, with music that inspired a generation.
  • Share your memoriesWhat role did the BBC play in your life during the Cold War, and how did its broadcasts shape your perception of events at the time? Share your thoughts and ideas here.
  • Background to the projectBridget Kendall MBE, former BBC Moscow Correspondent sets the scene for 100 Voices that Made the BBC: Cold War, reflecting on her own career during a period of extraordinary change in the region.

About 100 Voices that Made the BBC

This 100 Voices website is one of a series made as part of Connected Histories of the BBC – a project led by the University of Sussex, in partnership with the BBC, Mass Observation, the Science Museum Group and the British Entertainment History Project. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Material in this edition of 100 Voices is curated and written by Dr. Alban Webb, University of Sussex, with additional material from Prof. Margaretta Jolly, University of Sussex, Dr. Will Studdert, Humboldt University, and John Escolme, BBC.

We want to hear your stories about the BBC’s past. So please Share your Memories of listening to BBC programmes featured in this website.