Skip to content

Networks of Screen Diplomacy: The United States Information Agency and Analog Disinformation Wars

The United States Information Agency (USIA) was a Cold War-era U.S. federal agency dedicated to disseminating positive information about America abroad, while also counting misinformation and disinformation from America’s ideological enemies, including the Soviet Union. During the height of the Cold War, from the 1950s through the early 1970s, one of the USIA’s core activities was the acquisition, commission, creation, and distribution of motion pictures for international audiences. These works were created on film, primarily in the 16mm format, and exhibited in nontheatrical and theatrical settings.
This presentation will highlight some specific documentary films in the USIA collection, but the primary focus will be on the networks that allowed for the acquisition and distribution of these works. This will include discussions of the USIA’s relationship with nontheatrical filmmaking communities in the United States and abroad, its ability to exert control over global film festivals, and its establishment of libraries throughout the world. It will discuss parallels and contrasts between these analog systems and digital information systems that would emerge in the following years, along with issues of misinformation and disinformation that help us to better understand our current political moment.
  • Attendees will learn about the intersections of media production and the history of American diplomacy by way of information work.
  • Attendees will learn about the unique value of media archives in the production of information history scholarship
  • Attendees will gain new insight into historical dis and misinformation campaigns


Brian Real is an assistant professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky. Real holds a PhD in information studies and a master of library science from the University of Maryland. His research on public libraries has included work on digital inclusion, services to rural communities, and how public libraries have altered their services in the wake of COVID-19. Real is also an active researcher on film archives, and his recent efforts in this area have involved working with the Association of Moving Image Archives to develop strategies to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in the audio-visual archives field.

Can't join a webinar at its scheduled time? Don't worry!  

All webinar registrants will receive a link to the webinar recording after the event. All ASIS&T webinar recordings are also available for on-demand viewing from the Past Webinar Library on iConnect, the online community for ASIS&T members. If you need help accessing iConnect, contact Pamela Yonker at