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Plenipotentiary Conferences

International Telecommunications Conference (Atlantic City, 1947)

1 July - 2 October 1947 - Atlantic City , United States

On September 16, 1946 the United States government requested that the Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union invite members of the Union to a Plenipotentiary Conference in Atlantic City. The International Telecommunication Conferences took place in Atlantic City beginning with the International Radio Conference, which convened on 15 May 1947, and the International Telecommunication Conference, which was held simultaneously beginning on July 1, 1947. One of the first actions of the International Telecommunication Conference was to approve the Rules of Procedure as well as assess the participation of a number of uninvited countries. In particular, Spain was not admitted to any of the Atlantic City conferences while under the rule of Franco.

One of the most significant outcomes of the Atlantic City conference was the decision for ITU to enter into a relationship with the United Nations Organization. This relationship was formalized one year later in 1949.

The Atlantic City conferences were the first ITU conferences held following the end of World War II. The conferences sought to establish the aims and purposes of the Union and the means of achieving them in order to emphasize the role of the ITU as the centre of international cooperation in matters concerning telecommunications.

The roles of future ITU conferences were defined. The Plenipotentiary Conference would remain the main governing body of the ITU. The time and date of the conference would be set at the preceding conference, but could be changed if a new location was proposed by at least twenty members of the ITU. For the time being, Administrative Conferences would meet at the same time and place as the Plenipotentiary Conference. These conferences would be responsible for revisions to the Regulations. Furthermore, an Administrative Council was created to continue the work of the Union between conferences. The Administrative Council would comprise of eighteen members elected by the Plenipotentiary Conference every five years. The selection procedure for Council members would follow the same guidelines as electing members to the International Frequency Regulation Board.

In order to become independent of the Swiss government, the Union felt it was necessary to establish an autonomous and centralized office lead by a single director. Therefore, the Plenipotentiary Conference determined that a Secretary General, Assistant Secretary Generals and staff would need to be appointed to administer the General Secretariat of the ITU. The General Secretariat would be required to operate independently from the authority of an external government influence. Recruitment for the positions would take place on a large geographical scope and employees would be given international status. By a unanimous vote, Geneva was chosen as the permanent seat of the ITU.

The issue of languages was discussed and French, English, Spanish, Russian and Chinese were adopted as the official languages of the ITU. In addition to determining the official languages of the Union, the working languages were revised to include French, English and Spanish; however, the authentic language of the Union would remain French.
 International Telecommunications Conference (Atlantic City, 1947)
    • International Telecommunication Convention (Atlantic City, 1947)
    • Convention internationale des télécommunications (Atlantic City, 1947)
    • Convenio Internacional de Telecomunicaciones (Atlantic City, 1947)
    • International Telecommunication Convention (Atlantic City, 1947)


Mr. Charles R. Denny, Jr., Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (USA)

Countries participating


    List of participants

    • International Telecommunication Conferences Directory (Atlantic City, 1947)

Further Reading

  • Mili, M. "Twenty-five Years Ago...Atlantic City." Telecommunication Journal 39, no. 8 (1972): 470-474.
  • "La Conférence internationale des télécommunications d'Atlantic City : l'inauguration." Journal des télécommunications 14, no. 7 (1947): 137-142.
  • "Les Conférences d'Atlantic City." Journal des télécommunications 14, no. 8 (1947): 157-160.
  • "Les Conférences internationales d'Atlantic City." Journal des télécommunications 14, no. 9 (1947): 181-185.
  • "La Convention international des télécommunications d'Atlantic City, 1947." Journal des télécommunications 14, no. 11 (1947): 225-231.
  • "La Conférence des plénipotentiaires d'Atlantic City, 1947." Journal des télécommunications 14, no. 12 (1947): 245-251.

Library Catalogue

  • Link to the ITU Library Catalogue (Atlantic City, 1947)