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Political and Economic News in the Age of Multinationals

  • Heidi J. S. Tworek

This article compares two media multinationals that supplied different genres of news, political and economic. Most media companies provided both genres, and these categories often overlapped. Still, investigating two firms founded in twentieth-century Germany shows how product differentiation affects the organization, geographical orientation, and business models of multinationals. While political news had the greatest impact when it was free and ubiquitous, economic news was most effective when it was expensive and exclusive.

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1 Blanck, Friedrich, Der deutsche Nachrichtenmarkt (Heidelberg, 1910), 4. Translation is the author's, as elsewhere in the article.

2 Boyd-Barrett, Oliver and Rantanen, Terhi, “The Globalization of News,” in The Globalization of News, ed. Boyd-Barrett, Oliver and Rantanen, Terhi (London, 1998), 6.

3 Though, of course, numbers are not per se more objective. See Porter, Theodore, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, 1996).

4 For the most well-known examples, see Peterson, Theodore, Schramm, Wilbur, and Siebert, Fred, Four Theories of the Press: The Authoritarian, Libertarian, Social Responsibility, and Soviet Communist Concepts of What the Press Should Be and Do (Freeport, N.Y., 1973); Hallin, Daniel and Mancini, Paolo, Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics (New York, 2004); Hallin, Daniel and Mancini, Paolo, eds., Comparing Media Systems beyond the Western World (New York, 2012).

5 McCusker, John J., “The Demise of Distance: The Business Press and the Origins of the Information Revolution in the Early Modern Atlantic World,American Historical Review 110, no. 2 (2005): 295321; Slauter, Will, “Forward-Looking Statements: News and Speculation in the Age of the American Revolution,Journal of Modern History 81, no. 4 (2009): 759–72.

6 Some interwar academic works distinguished between the two, for example, Bücher, Karl, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Zeitungskunde (Tübingen, 1926), 25.

7 Silberstein-Loeb, Jonathan, The International Distribution of News: The Associated Press, Press Association, and Reuters, 1848–1947 (Cambridge, U.K., 2014), chap. 5; Winseck, Dwayne and Pike, Robert, Communication and Empire: Media, Markets, and Globalization, 1860–1930 (Durham, 2007).

8 On roads and electricity, see Guldi, Jo, Roads to Power: Britain Invents the Infrastructure State (Cambridge, Mass., 2012); Jones, Christopher, Routes of Power: Energy and Modern America (Cambridge, Mass., 2014). On subsidies for news, see John, Richard R. and Silberstein-Loeb, Jonathan, eds., Making News: Historical Perspectives on the Political Economy of the Press in Great Britain and the United States since 1688 (Oxford, 2015).

9 On the early modern post, see Behringer, Wolfgang, “Communications Revolutions: A Historiographical Concept,German History 24, no. 3 (2006): 333–74. On interwar Europe, see Schot, Johan and Lagendijk, Vincent, “Technocratic Internationalism in the Interwar Years: Building Europe on Motorways and Electricity Networks,Journal of Modern European History 6 (2008): 196216.

10 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London, 1991).

11 Hansen, N., “Depeschenbureaus und internationales Nachrichtenwesen,Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 3, no. 1 (1914): 80.

12 See Bakker, Gerben, “Trading Facts: Arrow's Fundamental Paradox and the Origins of Global News Networks,” in International Communication and Global News Networks: Historical Perspectives, ed. Putnis, Peter, Kaul, Chandrika, and Wilke, Jürgen (New York, 2011), 954.

13 Pettegree, Andrew, The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself (New Haven, 2014), chap. 14.

14 Silberstein-Loeb, Jonathan, “Exclusivity and Cooperation in the Supply of News: The Example of the Associated Press, 1893–1945,Journal of Policy History 24, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 466–98.

15 Nalbach, Alex, “‘Poisoned at the Source’? Telegraphic News Services and Big Business in the Nineteenth Century,Business History Review 77, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 577610; Rantanen, Terhi, “Foreign Dependence and Domestic Monopoly: The European News Cartel and U.S. Associated Presses, 1861–1932,Media History 12, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 1935; Silberstein-Loeb, International Distribution of News, chap. 7; Tworek, Heidi, “The Creation of European News: News Agency Cooperation in Interwar Europe,Journalism Studies 14, no. 5 (Oct. 2013): 730–42.

16 Wurm, Clemens, “Politik und Wirtschaft in den internationalen Beziehungen: Internationale Kartelle, Außenpolitik und weltwirtschaftliche Beziehungen, 1919–1939,” in Internationale Kartelle und Außenpolitik: Beiträge zur Zwischenkriegszeit, ed. Wurm, Clemens (Stuttgart, 1989), 910.

17 Calculated from Lewis, Arthur, “The Rate of Growth of World Trade, 1830–1973,” in The World Economic Order: Pasts and Prospects, ed. Grassman, Sven and Lundberg, Erik (New York, 1981), 1174.

18 Tworek, Heidi, “Magic Connections: German News Agencies and Global News Networks, 1900–1945,Enterprise & Society 15, no. 4 (Winter 2014): 672–86.

19 Roscher, Max, “Das Weltkabelnetz,Archiv für Post und Telegraphie 12 (1914): 382–83.

20 Friedewald, Michael, “The Beginnings of Radio Communication in Germany, 1897–1918,Journal of Radio Studies 7, no. 2 (2000): 441–63.

21 Other firms (e.g., French and American) supplied 1,100 devices. Friedewald, Michael, “Telefunken und deutsche Schiffe, 1903–1914,Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte 45–46 (2000): 48.

22 The private Neue Deutsche Kabelgesellschaft was founded in 1922 to lay and operate a cable from Emden to New York. It received secret subsidies from the German government. Hans Bredow to Reich Chancellery, 28 Jan. 1922, R43I/1996, 111–12, Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde, Berlin, Germany (henceforth, BArch).

23 Contract described in a report from Dr. Solmssen, chairman of Deutsch-Atlantische Telegraphengesellschaft, to Chancellery, 19 Dec. 1930, R43I/1997, 21, BArch.

24 Annual report for Transocean for 1941, R55/284, BArch; Klee, Cornelius, “Transocean,” in Telegraphenbüros und Nachrichtenagenturen in Deutschland: Untersuchungen zu ihrer Geschichte bis 1949, ed. Wilke, Jürgen (Munich, 1991), 190. The Reichsmark was introduced in 1924 to stabilize the currency and remained in use until 1948.

25 I am currently constructing a database of all Transocean articles printed in the United States. They were sent under the name “Overseas News Agency.” To give a sense of scale, the database includes 5,190 articles from 160 newspapers in Chronicling America ( and 4,046 articles from the ProQuest newspaper database.

26 Hansard, vol. 151, 6 Mar. 1922, col. 835. See Evans, Heidi, “‘The Path to Freedom’? Transocean and German Wireless Telegraphy, 1914–1922,Historical Social Research 35, no. 1 (2010): 209–36.

27 Note on Transocean, 1928, R122204, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amts, Berlin, Germany (henceforth, PA AA).

28 Secret letter to C. R. Price, Dominions Office, 30 Nov. 1937, KV3/100, The National Archives, Kew, U.K. (henceforth, TNA).

29 Transocean annual report, 1931, R901/60792, 7, BArch. On the Middle East (without mentioning Transocean), see Herf, Jeffrey, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (New Haven, 2009); Motadel, David, Islam and Nazi Germany's War (Cambridge, Mass., 2014).

30 Fontenoy to Havas headquarters, 6 Nov. 1930, 5AR/310, Archives Nationales, Paris, France (henceforth, AN).

31 25 Jahre Telefunken: Festschrift der Telefunken-Gesellschaft, 1903–1928 (Berlin, 1928), 199.

32 Fontenoy to Havas headquarters, Report on Agência Brasileira, Mar. 1932, 5AR/413, AN.

33 British Ambassador at Santiago to Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, “Report on German, Italian and Japanese Propaganda: Foreign Propaganda in Chile,” 1 Sept. 1941, FO371/25889 and FO371/26105, TNA. On British exaggerations of Nazi propaganda for their own purposes, see Cull, Nicholas, Selling the War: The British Propaganda Campaign against American “Neutrality” in World War II (New York, 1995).

34 Klee, “Transocean,” 199. For an excellent historiographical overview on Germans in Latin America, see Penny, H. Glenn, “Latin American Connections: Recent Work on German Interactions with Latin America,Central European History 46, no. 2 (June 2013): 362–94.

35 Reuters to BBC, 21 Oct. 1942, R28/153, BBC Written Archives Centre, Reading, U.K.

36 Jean Leslie, Report, 23 Dec. 1944, KV3/100, TNA.

37 Pieper, Frauke, Der deutsche Auslandsrundfunk: Historische Entwicklung, verfassungsrechtliche Stellung, Funktionsbereich, Organisation und Finanzierung (Munich, 2000).

38 On fascism in the United States during the 1930s and HUAC, see Joseph Fronczak, “The Fascist Game: Transnational Political Transmission and the Genesis of the U.S. Modern Right,” (forthcoming). The summary of HUAC's findings appears in Special Committee on Un-American Activities: House of Representatives 76th Congress 3rd Session on H. Res. 282, Appendix II (Washington, D.C., 1940), 9691053.

39 The trial records and letters are located in file 39-51-1017, box 116, RG60, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. (henceforth, NARA).

40 The files on the trial, Hoover's letters, and the trial transcript are contained in the following locations: box C248; box C302, 862.20211; box C358, 862.20251/89; box 5587, 862.20210; RG59, NARA.

41 On American fears, see Friedman, Max Paul, Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II (Cambridge, U.K., 2003); Lübken, Uwe, Bedrohliche Nähe: Die USA und die nationalsozialistische Herausforderung in Lateinamerika, 1937–1945 (Stuttgart, 2004).

42 Artucio, Hugo Fernández, The Nazi Underground in South America (New York, 1942), 92104.

43 Quoted in Klee, “Transocean,” 198.

44 Report on news in East Asia, Jan. 1943, R901/58399, 74, BArch.

45 Minutes of 7th plenary assembly of Agences Alliées conferences, June 1935, 5AR/473, AN.

46 Note by A. N. Galsworthy on a request by the German Consul General in Singapore for appointment by the German government of a press agent to distribute German press news, 24 Jan. 1939, CO272/657/15, TNA.

47 Report on news in East Asia.

48 Barde to Havas headquarters, reports on the distribution of news in the Chinese press, 5AR/3132, AN; report on news in East Asia.

49 Report of Jan. 1943, R901/58399, 62–63, BArch.

50 “German Propaganda Agents and Organizations in China during World War II,” secret report, Strategic Services Unit, 16 Apr. 1946, E182, box 23, folder 124, RG226, NARA.

51 Lerg, Winfried, Rundfunkpolitik in der Weimarer Republik (Munich, 1980), 55.

52 Eildienst broadcast register, Sept. 1924, I/6e/168/V/1a, Österreichisches Staatsarchiv, Vienna, Austria (henceforth, ÖStA).

53 Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Zurich-Geneva, Milan, Vienna, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. By 1925, Eildienst had correspondents in sixteen European cities and New York. Postal Ministry, memorandum on radio, June 1925, R1501/114232, 108, BArch.

54 On the similarities between American, British, and German radio, see Tworek, Heidi, “The Savior of the Nation? Regulating Radio in the Interwar Period,Journal of Policy History 27, no. 3 (Summer 2015): 465–92.

55 Bredow, Hans, Im Banne der Ätherwellen: Festschrift zum 75—Geburtstag des Verfassers, vol. 2, 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, 1960), 164.

56 Stohl, Hertha, Der drahtlose Nachrichtendienst für Wirtschaft und Politik (Berlin, 1931), 17.

57 Twenty-second meeting of Federal Radio Commission, 25 June 1923, R3301/2098, 44, BArch.

58 Postal Ministry, memorandum on radio.

59 Ibid.

60 “Monopol und Geschäft: Die Eildienst GmbH und die Presse,” Berliner Tageblatt, 8 Dec. 1923.

61 Twenty-first meeting of Federal Radio Commission, 9 June 1922, R121096, 186–87, PA AA.

62 “Das Monopol der Eildienst-GmbH,” Deutsche Tageszeitung no. 354, 31 May 1924. The paper believed that Bredow would not allow an Eildienst monopoly, unaware of his integral role in creating it.

63 Buntkirchen, Postal Ministry, to Press Department, 24 Jan. 1924, R121097, 52–53, PA AA.

64 Torp, Cornelius, Die Herausforderung der Globalisierung: Wirtschaft und Politik in Deutschland, 1860–1914 (Göttingen, 2005), 375.

65 “Statistik der Reichspost- und Telegraphenverwaltung,” 1923, R3301/2098, 98, BArch.

66 The Czechoslovak bureau paid 500 gold francs monthly for the service. Contract between Czechoslovak bureau and Europradio, 10 Mar. 1923, I/6e/168/V/1a, ÖStA.

67 Cartel meeting in Vienna, May 1925, 5AR/179, AN.

68 Hans Bredow to Chancellor Wilhelm Marx, 12 Jan. 1928, R43I/2000, 181, BArch.

69 Cameron, David and Heywood, Anthony, “Germany, Russia, and Locarno: The German-Soviet Trade Treaty of 12 October 1925,” in Locarno Revisited: European Diplomacy, 1920–1929, ed. Johnson, Gaynor (London, 2004), 123.

70 On interwar trade policy, see Spaulding, Robert, Osthandel and Ostpolitik: German Foreign Trade Policies in Eastern Europe from Bismarck to Adenauer (Providence, 1997), chaps. 3–6.

71 McCusker, “The Demise of Distance.”

72 For example, Roscher, Max, “Über das Wesen und die Bedingungen des internationalen Nachrichtenverkehrs,Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 3, no. 1 (1914): 3759.

73 Foreign Ministry representative, meeting on Eildienst, 23 Dec. 1920, R121107, 33, PA AA.

74 Contract between ANA and Europradio, 16 May 1924, I/6e/168/V/1a, ÖStA.

75 The term stems from Naumann, Friedrich, Mitteleuropa (Berlin, 1915). It implies a pan-Germanist approach to Central and Eastern Europe. On Mitteleuropa as an economic realm, see Elvert, Jürgen, Mitteleuropa! Deutsche Pläne zur europäischen Neuordnung (1918–1945) (Stuttgart, 1999), 97111.

76 Entwisle calls it a “German news service,” though it is Europradio. John Entwisle, “Dancing to a Different Tune,” The Baron: Connecting the Dots for Reuters People Past and Present, Accessed 5 May 2015.

77 Ritzau (Danish news agency) to Reuters, 1925, 5AR/179, AN.

78 Silberstein-Loeb, International Distribution of News, 257.

79 Contract between Reuters, Havas, Wolff, and Europradio, 23 Nov. 1928, 5AR/179, AN.

80 Fear, Jeffrey, “Cartels,” in The Oxford Handbook of Business History, ed. Jones, Geoffrey and Zeitlin, Jonathan (Oxford, 2009), 285.

81 Pohlmann, Außenwirtschaftlicher Nachrichten- und Auskunftsdienst, 20.

82 Report from Reichsstelle für den Außenhandel to Außenhandelsstellen, 24 Oct. 1933, R11/1298, BArch.

83 Eildienst letter to Ministry of the Interior, June 1926, R1501/114236, 135, BArch.

84 Reich Office for Foreign Trade to Foreign Office, 12 Jan. 1935, R122196, 80, PA AA; DNB to Agences Alliées, 27 Dec. 1933, 5AR/177, AN. Eildienst was bombed on November 22, 1943, destroying archival materials, particularly from the Nazi period.

85 Uzulis, André, Nachrichtenagenturen im Nationalsozialismus: Propagandainstrumente und Mittel der Presselenkung (Frankfurt am Main, 1995), 106.

86 Nye, JosephSoft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York, 2004).

87 Morf, Hans, Die Drahtberichterstattung im modernen Zeitungswesen (Bern, 1912), 55.

88 Wilke, Jürgen, “Die telegraphischen Depeschen des Wolff'schen Telegraphischen Büros (WTB),Publizistik 49, no. 2 (2004): 130.

89 Silberstein-Loeb, International Distribution of News, 165.

90 Read, Donald, The Power of News: The History of Reuters, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1999), 360–70.

91 Jones, Geoffrey and Khanna, Tarun, “Bringing History (Back) into International Business,Journal of International Business Studies 37 (2006): 453–68.

92 BBC, “The Future of News,” 28 Jan. 2015, 45,

93 Dean Starkman, “Al Jazeera America Struggles to Get Off the Margins,” Columbia Journalism Review, 20 Aug. 2014,

The author is grateful to Walter Friedman, Lilly Evans, Michael Tworek, and the three anonymous referees for their very helpful comments and suggestions. She also wishes to thank the members of the Business, Government, and the International Economy unit at Harvard Business School, where this research was first presented in 2014.

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