Why were newspapers and the BBC so important in WW II Britain?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During World War II, the BBC greatly increased its overseas broadcasts. By the end of 1940, the BBC was broadcasting 78 daily bulletins in 34 languages, including Icelandic, Hindi, Burmese, and others. These bulletins represented 250,000 words, and they were critical to providing news in countries who had been overrun by the Nazis. For example, the BBC began broadcasting in Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian after those countries were taken over by the Germans. The BBC broadcast in both French and Flemish to reach the Belgian population, which spoke both languages. German refugees, mainly German Jews, began to broadcast in German. 

The BBC and newspapers rallied British sentiment in favor of the war. For example, BBC broadcasts from the front lines of battle relayed news of early successes, such as the battle of El Alamein in 1942. The BBC's Monitoring Service was able to intercept communications from Nazi officials and propose counterattacks to what they said, even before these communications had been published. In addition, detailed maps and photographs in newspapers provided British people with information that helped them understand the war and with stories of soldiers that helped the public understand the effect of the war on individuals fighting overseas. 

In addition, the BBC let people in occupied countries know what was going on, and the BBC was critical in sending secret messages to resistance fighters through their European broadcasts. These messages were in the forms of phrases that were only recognizable to resistance groups and members of the Secret Operations Executive (SOE). An example was "Le lapin a bu un apéritif” (The rabbit drank an aperitif). The BBC broadcasts also helped encourage resistance to the Nazis in Europe; for example, Charles de Gaulle, who was later elected President of France, called for the French to keep fighting against the Nazis during a 1940 broadcast from London. The BBC broadcasts even reached Germany and were instrumental in countering the Nazi propaganda that Germany was winning the war in its later years. Germans listening to BBC broadcasts were aware that what their government was telling them did not represent the true state of the war. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team