"Propaganda Media" is based upon "Psychological Operations Field Manual No.33-1" published in August 1979 by Department of the Army Headquarters in Washington DC; and "Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Media Subcourse PO-0816" by The Army Institute for Professional Development, published in 1983

Propaganda Media are categorized by methods of dissemination:

  • Face-to-face (interpersonal) communication: is the most effective means of transmitting a persuasive message. It is employed in rallies, rumor campaigns, group discussions, lectures, show-and-tell demonstrations, social organizations, social activities, entertainment, and individual person-to-person contact, all providing a participating experience for the individual or group to recall later.
  • Audiovisual media: such as television, electronic tape recordings, and sound motion pictures are the second most effective means of communication available to the psychological operator. Effectiveness is based on seeing and hearing the persuasive message. These media are an excellent means of transmitting persuasive messages and eliciting a high degree of recall.
  • Audio media (loudspeakers and radio): lend themselves to the transmission of brief, simple messages and to personalization by use of the human voice. They require little or no effort by the audience, and generally, they have more appeal than visual media. Also, the barrier of illiteracy may be more easily overcome with audio media than with visual media (printed material).
  • Visual media: can transmit long, complex material. Animated or still cartoons may be used to convey themes to illiterate and preliterate target audiences. Visual media generally have the least amount of popular appeal.
  • Themes: are reinforced and the target audience given broad coverage by using several media to deliver the same basic message. For example, radio and television can augment leaflets; face-to-face communication can support newspaper circulation.


  • Acceptability and credibility. A complete target analysis will indicate how acceptable and credible a particular medium is to the target audience.
  • Availability. The availability of media, the mechanical capability of message production, and the capability to deliver the message, as well as the ability of the audience to receive and understand it are important.
  • Timeliness. Production and dissemination lag for each medium must be considered. For example, a medium requiring a long production or dissemination time would not be suitable for a message exploiting a target of opportunity.
  • Quantity. The media selected should be mixed, one medium reinforcing the other, and delivered in sufficient volume to insure that the entire target is exposed to the message. Care, however, is required to prevent counterproductive over saturation of the target audience. This requires analysis of intensity and timing of propaganda dissemination.
  • Themes. The theme to be conveyed will have a bearing on the selection of the best media to transmit the message.
  • Suitability. The media selected must be suitable for the target. The language selected, vocabulary, and level are also important factors. For example, it would not be appropriate to use newspapers or other printed text to deliver a message to an illiterate audience. A professional journal might be the most suitable means of reaching a professional audience.


Propaganda units should prepare catalogs of media material which applies to recurring themes and general audiences. These catalogs should include printed material, loudspeaker and videotapes, motion picture films, and specialty items available for psychological operations.


Face-to-face communication ranges from two or more individuals in informal conversation to planned persuasion among groups. The credibility of the PSYOP messages delivered by face-to-face (interpersonal) communication is increased when the communicator is known and respected.


  • Relationship. It employs an interpersonal relationship.
  • Audience selection. The audience can be deliberately selected and the appeal directed and tailored for it.
  • Assessment of impact. Feedback is immediate. The communicator can immediately assess the impact of his message and adjust his approach to obtain the desired response.
  • Limited support required. Limited technical and logistical support are required.
  • More credible. It can be more credible than other methods because the target audience can evaluate the source.
  • Presentation. Complex material can be presented in detail. Frequent repetition and slight variations can be readily used to influence the audience.
  • Expeditious. In some instances, particularly in primitive areas, it may be the most expeditious method of disseminating propaganda.


  • Limited use in tactical situations. Use is limited in general war due to the inaccessibility of the target individual or group. It has limited use in tactical combat since the psychological operator has little face-to-face communication with opposing forces until they are captured or defect.
  • Close control necessary. It must be controlled, especially at the lowest levels where each communicator has the responsibility to interpret policy and objectives. The control factor is best illustrated by trying to pass an oral message, one person at a time, throughout a group. By the time the message reaches the end of the group, it does not resemble the original message. Reinforcement by other media is necessary to eliminate this problem.
  • Limited by insecure areas. Security considerations limit the conduct of face-to-face communications. As the security situation improves and more areas are secure, area coverage can be extended.
  • Requires able communicators. It requires knowledgeable, orally persuasive individuals who can convince the target audience that the program and policies are irresistible and inevitable.
  • Normally require indigenous personnel. For effective communications, indigenous personnel are normally required.
  • Range of voice limited. The range of the human voice and the need for visual contact limit this method to relatively small audiences.


Television, including video tape recording (VTR), is one of the most effective media for persuasion. It offers many advantages for propaganda operations, and its wide application in other fields contributes to its acceptance and use. It is appropriate for use in limited, general, and cold war and is particularly effective in FID (Foreign Internal Defense) and consolidation operations.

In places where television is not a common communication medium, receivers may be distributed to public facilities and selected individuals. A possible limitation in enemy countries, however, is that television receivers may be set to allow reception on only one or two channels under government control.

Television is an all encompassing-mass communication medium. Like radio, it makes use of the sense of hearing to convey an idea. Like printed material, it makes use of the sense of sight, adding the element of motion. And like the motion picture, it combines sight, sound, and motion. Television is immediate; in effect, it places the viewer in two locations simultaneously, creating the illusion of participating in a distant event.


  • Speed. Television programs can reach large segments of the target audience rapidly. The transmission of events can be instantaneous.
  • Overcomes illiteracy. Illiteracy is not a barrier; an audience need not be able to read.
  • Unifies. Television brings people in widely separate locations closer together by exposing them visually to the same ideas and concepts.
  • Aural-visual. Television appeals to two senses, each reinforcing the other. This gives the viewer a sense of involvement.


  • Range. Geography and atmospheric conditions affect the strength and range of the signal. The signal may, however, be boosted with relay stations, airborne transmitters, or satellite relay to increase the transmission range. Airborne antenna relay domes extend the range of a central transmitter but at great expense.
  • Reception. Television sets are unevenly distributed throughout the world. Messages disseminated by television will normally be received only by those within an above-average income range and economic class in many areas of the world, particularly in developing nations. In some developing nations, however, group listening/viewing centers may be available, negating the link between income and access to television. The association should be carefully determined for each target country.
  • The fact that receivers in the target area may not be compatible with the transmission equipment is another disadvantage.
  • Power. Most television receivers require an outside source of electric power. Many areas of the world lack this power. The introduction of self-contained power packs partially eliminates this problem. If broadcasts are to be made from areas lacking power facilities, special generators and a fuel supply may be needed.
  • Vulnerability. Equipment and parts are fragile and extremely vulnerable to damage. Stations are easily identified and make excellent targets. Receivers are difficult to hide.
  • Program requirements. A substantial production staff and supporting equipment are required to produce daily programs. Each day's operation requires a large amount of film, video tape, and live programming to sustain a program schedule.
  • Maintenance. Maintenance is highly technical, requiring trained and skilled technicians and engineers; such people are difficult to find.
  • Personnel. Television is a complicated communication medium, demanding specialized personnel with a wide range of scarce skills.
  • Audience accessibility. Although TV is excellent in friendly or neutral areas, it will not reach audiences in hostile areas unless a means is found to enter sets in these areas. Incompatibility of receivers, extreme distortions caused by two transmitters on the same wavelength, jamming, and censorship limit the use of TV broadcasts to hostile areas.
  • Community viewing provides an opportunity to present TV programs which help the people identify with the sponsor (generally the established regime). If it is necessary to provide receivers, one technique is to place them initially in urban centers, extending them to rural areas as equipment and power become available; or vehicles equipped with power generators and TV sets may be moved into and out of areas as required.


Video tape, an offshoot of television, is an excellent means of recording and projecting messages. It can replay a scene from the camera immediately after it is recorded. The tape can be used in either portable or studio recording systems, being processed electronically as it moves through the video tape recorder.

Although most commercial tape is 5 centimeters (2 inches) wide, the US Army primarily uses 1.875-centimeter (3/4-inch) cassette tape. The scenes from each size tape can be readily dubbed on to the other.


  • The results of the "take" can be seen immediately; if editing is necessary prior to release to the audience, it can be done electronically as the material is being produced. There is no time lag as with film which requires chemical processing.
  • The tape can be reused a number of times, erasing itself as it is run through the recorder, or it can be quickly erased on equipment made for that purpose and then reused.
  • Video tape is virtually indestructible and can be used in almost any environment in which humans live.
  • The tape can be placed on readily available video cassette players which feed directly into commercial television receivers. With special equipment, video-taped scenes can be projected onto large motion picture viewing screens. The requirement for special projection equipment is not unique, as special equipment is also required to project filmed scenes on television screens.
  • Video tape can instantaneously project scenes in black and white or color, with natural or dubbed sound, on open (public) or closed (limited audience) circuits.
  • With the use of video tape, scenes may be recorded for a permanent record or for future use.


  • The disadvantages of video tape are those inherent in the television medium.


Motion pictures combine many aspects of face-to-face communication and television by creating a visual and aural impact on the target audience. Since US Army PSYOP units are not able to produce motion pictures, appropriate films may be selected from available sources; effects on the target audience must be carefully considered.

Four general types of motion pictures are adaptable for psychological operations:

  • Entertainment. These are standard commercial productions, including animated cartoons. Entertainment films developed specifically for propaganda purposes can be very effective as the themes may be woven into the plot of the movie. These films can be very effective in gaining attention for other propaganda.
  • Newsreels. In the developing nations, newsreels are still a major attraction. They are on the scene and show exactly what is happening or, with good editing, give that impression. By careful, skilled editing and arrangement of sequence, news events can be used as propaganda.
  • Documentary. This type of film-ostensibly an objective presentation of a scene, place, condition of life, or a social or political problem-is a prime means of propagandizing a target audience. This is done by careful selection and sequencing of scenes and events.
  • Training films. Themes can be hidden in the presentation. A number of US Government-produced films are available for use by the military psychological operator. They must, however, be selected with care, as many exploit particular situations and viewpoints in a biased manner.


  • Themes and objectives may be dramatized to create realism. The dramatic quality tends to cause the viewer to identify with the characters being portrayed. Thus, skillful application of production and editing techniques, such as having a central character act the behavioral patterns desired, can be very effective. The tendency to identify with the actors aids in developing a high degree of audience involvement in the propaganda appeal.
  • Motion pictures gain attention, especially among illiterate groups, as illiteracy is not a barrier to understanding and use.
  • Most children and a high percentage of adults accept without question presumably factual information presented in films.
  • Sight, sound, and color reinforced by moving images elicit a high degree of interest and recall.
  • The motion picture is a universal communications medium, combining audiovisual features, mass distribution, and ease of presentation.
  • Complicated events or complex ideas can be thoroughly explained. Cartoons and other special effects can be particularly effective.
  • Scenes can be rehearsed and perfected prior to filming.
  • Newsreels that show events known to the target audience enhance the credibility of the entire PSYOP program.
  • Motion pictures can be rerun.


  • The production of high-quality motion pictures is extremely expensive and requires skilled technical production personnel.

  • Relatively lengthy motion picture production time makes it difficult to capitalize on targets of opportunity.
  • Films are rapidly outdated by events, clothing, vehicles, equipment, location, or dialogue.
  • Viewing by target audiences may be restricted because of security considerations, local regulations, or equipment capabilities.
  • Diverse language differences are a major problem; these can, however, be partially overcome by use of subtitles.
  • Projection equipment requires electric power which may not always be available.
  • Film is fragile and extremely susceptible to changes in temperature and other climatic conditions.
  • Targets of opportunity can be exploited.
  • Persuasive messages can be transmitted to the target as the situation changes.
  • Loudspeakers can be an extension of face-to-face communication.
  • The operator can pinpoint his target.
  • The target audience can be illiterate.
  • The loudspeaker can be used to undermine enemy morale.
  • Operators can be easily and readily trained.
  • PSYOP personnel can move to and operate anywhere a potential target audience is located.
  • Large, powerful, fixed loudspeakers can broadcast messages considerable distances into enemy territory.
  • Loudspeakers may be mounted on either wheeled or tracked vehicles.
  • Loudspeaker systems can be mounted in either fixed or rotary-wing aircraft. This broadens the areas accessible for loudspeaker operations. Since both types of aircraft must operate at low altitudes for the message to be understood on the ground, the sophistication and intensity of the enemy air defense are prime considerations.
  • Small portable loudspeaker systems may be backpacked by dismounted troops.



  • phumvee04.jpg (12540 bytes)Range is limited by humidity, wind, precipitation, vegetation, terrain, and manmade structures.
  • The enemy can readily take countermeasures; i.e., concentrate artillery or other weapons on loudspeaker personnel and equipment.
  • Messages may be forgotten and distorted with the passage of time.


Loudspeaker operations are conducted in coordination with and in support of tactical operations. The loudspeaker team leader must advise the commander of the supported unit as to the support the team can give. The team can then obtain essential operational information and coordinate security with the leader of the tactical unit.

loudspkrtalk.jpg (16027 bytes)For maximum results, loudspeaker messages in support of tactical operations must have shock effect. A tactical broadcast should be no longer than a few seconds, as prolonged broadcasting from a fixed position will draw indirect enemy fire. The message should be carefully prepared, so that each sentence constitutes a single, complete thought that will not be misunderstood. The key sentence should be short and repeated for emphasis.

The size of the target area, the character and loudness of competing sounds, the terrain, and climatic conditions (humidity, wind, temperature, etc.) affect reception of loudspeaker messages. Sound travels better at night in low temperature and humidity. In hilly or mountainous terrain, echoes may interfere with clear reception. Jungle and heavily vegetated areas absorb sound. Sounds projected over water or low-lying coastal plains travel great distances.

The announcer, generally indigenous to the operational area, must have idiomatic language fluency. Defectors may be used. They will know the current slang, topics of interest, and the problems of the enemy soldier. Their messages, however, must always be prerecorded and checked prior to being broadcast. The announcer must have:

  • An intimate and detailed knowledge of the customs, folklore, and speech habits of the audience.
  • The ability to adapt script and presentation to the changing situation.
  • A vigorous, unemotional delivery.
  • An understanding of the military situation and its implications.

Broadcasting messages from aircraft is an effective way to reach an otherwise inaccessible audience. Some general considerations are:

  • The PSYOP unit is responsible for the pre-mission briefing of the air crew. This briefing covers target location, current intelligence, total time required over the target, the length of the message, and the number of repetitions desired.
  • The loudspeaker message should be no longer than 20 seconds so that the entire message is audible to the audience.
  • Rotary-wing aircraft use banks of speakers mounted either internally or externally on the aircraft. The most effective altitude for a hovering rotary-wing aircraft is between 900 and 1,200 meters (3,000 and 4,000 feet) above ground level (AGL). The banking or orbiting course is effective at altitudes from 600 to 900 meters (2,000-3,000 feet) AGL. The presence and capabilities of enemy ground fire will determine whether to use these patterns or whether to use aerial loudspeakers at all.
  • The US Air Force has primary responsibility for aerial loudspeaker operations from fixed-wing aircraft.
  • An adapter system has been developed that permits the connection of the airborne loudspeaker system with the intercommunications and radio system of the aircraft. This allows a signal received by the aircraft from a ground radio transmitter to be rebroadcast to the target audience. The use of this system permits a language-qualified speaker in a central location to support widely dispersed ground elements. The device can be connected to a tape recorder to record the message for future use.


psyopradio.jpg (38514 bytes)

Radio broadcasts can be transmitted to local audiences, or across national boundaries, and behind enemy lines. Political boundaries or tactical situations may hinder radio broadcasts, but they are not complete barriers. Since radio can reach mass target audiences quickly, it is useful for all types of psychological operations. Where radio stations are not common and receivers rare or nonexistent, receivers may be airdropped or otherwise distributed to key communicators, public installations, and selected individuals. Public listener systems may also be set up.


  • Speed. Radio programs can be quickly prepared for broadcast. This is important when attempting to capitalize on targets of opportunity.
  • Wide coverage. Radio programs can reach members of large and varied audiences simultaneously.
  • Ease of perception. It requires little or no effort to visualize the radio message. Illiteracy does not prevent the listener from forming his individual image as he listens.
  • Versatility. Radio is easily adaptable to drama, music, news, and other types of programs.
  • Emotional power. A skilled radio announcer can exert tremendous influence on the listener simply with pitch, resonance, inflection, or timing.
  • Availability of receivers. Where availability or ownership of receivers is common, listening to radio is a habit. Ownership of receivers has increased greatly with the invention of transistors.


  • Enemy restrictions. The target group may be subjected to severe censorship, thereby reducing the effectiveness of radio broadcasts. Some countries have only single channel radios with the frequency set to the government-owned station. In some areas central receivers are connected to household receivers to control listening.
  • Jamming. Jamming may prevent the target group from receiving radio broadcasts .
  • Technical. Signal may be made inaudible or distorted by fading or static due to unfavorable atmospheric conditions.
  • Lack of receivers. In certain areas, so few receivers are available that radio may not be an effective medium.
  • Fleeting impressions. Oral media do not have the permanency of written media. Messages may be quickly forgotten or distorted.


Radio programming consists of planning the schedule, content, and production of programs during a stated period. Words, music, and sound effects are put together in various ways to produce the different kinds of programs. Some of the major types of radio programs are:

  • Straight news reports (without commentary).
  • Musical (popular, folk, classical).
  • Drama.
  • Speeches, talks, discussions.
  • Sports.
  • Interviews.
  • Special events; i.e., on-the-spot coverage of an election or the arrival of an important visitor, etc.
  • Religious.
  • Variety, a combination including music, skits, comedy, vaudeville, etc.
  • Announcements.


Regularity. Regularity is an essential element of programming. The radio programmer must create habitual program patterns in order to build a regular audience. Content, style, and format should follow an established pattern.

Repetition. Repetition is necessary for oral learning; therefore, key themes, phrases, or slogans should be repeated.

Suitability. The radio program must suit the taste and needs of the audience. Program style and format should follow the patterns to which the audience is accustomed.

Exploitation of censorship. Discussion or presentation of banned books, plays, music, and political topics is readily received by the audience. The same is true for news withheld by censors. In breaking censorship, the psychological operator must be certain that the reason for censoring the items was political and not moral.

Voice. Having announcers with attractive voice features is essential to successful radio operations.

  • The emotional tone conveyed by the voice may influence the listener more than the logic of arguments.
  • Announcers whose accents are similar to those of unpopular groups should not be used.
  • Female voices are used to exploit nostalgia, sex frustration, or to attract female audiences. However, in some parts of the world, due to the status of women, female voices are resented.


Programs are classified according to content, intent, and origin:

  • Content. The most common and useful radio program classification is by content. News reporting, commentaries, announcements, educational or informative documentaries, music, interviews, discussions, religious programs, drama, and women's programs are the most common examples.
  • Intent. Classification by "intent" is useful in planning to obtain a desired response with a particular broadcast(s). Programs are produced to induce such emotional reactions as confidence, hope, fear, nostalgia, frustration, etc.
  • Origin. Classification by "origin" pertains to the source of the message; i.e., official, unofficial, authoritative, high military command, political party, etc.