The National Committee for a Free Europe was founded in June 1949 in New York. RFE was the broadcasting arm of this organization. The headquarters was established in Munich and it transmitted its first short-wave program on July 4, 1950, to Czechoslovakia.
The organization received its funds from the US Congress and until 1971 the monies were passed to RFE through the CIA. The broadcasts were part of a general CIA psychological warfare campaign directed behind the Iron Curtain. The CIA created general guidelines and had daily input into the handling of news items.
The CIA funding of RFE was not publicly acknowledged until 1971 at which point the organization was rechartered in Delaware as a non-profit making corporation, oversight was moved to the Board for International Broadcasting, and the budget was moved to open appropriations. In 1975, RFE was merged with a very similar Congress funded organization called Radio Liberty (RL, founded in 1951) and the group name was officially changed to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The mission of the Board for International Broadcasting was transferred to the Broadcasting Board of Governors in 1994.
From 1985 until 1993 the organization also ran Radio Free Afghanistan.
The collapse of the Soviet Union reduced the budget for RFE and its headquarters were moved to Prague in 1995 and European operations were curtailed. However operations were expanded elsewhere, in 1994 Radio Free Iraq was started as well as a Farsi service and in 1997 in Kosovo. New services are also intended for Afghanistan and further into northern Asia.
Compare: Voice of America