Scrambling to keep VOA China on the air

(Source: Fox News)

Congressional lawmakers are scrambling to prevent America’s international media arm from going off-air in China, arguing that a plan to shift much of its reporting to the Internet won’t do much good in a country notorious for its web censors.

[…]The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America, argues that it only makes sense to go digital in a country with the largest Internet-using population in the world. Board officials claim the existing shortwave radio broadcasts don’t have the audience they used to and that the Chinese government is jamming them anyway. In changing platforms, the board projects it will save $8 million and eliminate about 45 positions.

But critics of the move, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., say the United States is setting itself up to cede vital territory in the battle of information abroad.

The article goes on to mention that the BBG would like to fuel internet services, citing, “one-tenth of 1 percent of Chinese listen to VOA in Mandarin, with radio ownership on the decline…[a]nother survey showed computer and Internet usage on a steep upswing.”

Internet usage is up everywhere, but even if VOA succeeds in creating proxy servers that would allow Chinese guests to punch through internet censorship in China, there will still be a risk that Chinese authorities could monitor this circumvention and take action against the listener/web guest.  With shortwave radio, this is a non-issue. Shortwave radio listeners cannot be traced. In fact, ironically, this strength makes it difficult for the BBG and other international broadcasters to justify shortwave service. They can’t identify who is listening!

VOA China services could receive up to 14 million dollars if lawmakers are successful in their push. The hope would be that the BBG would then allow continued services into China.

One can hope.

Read the full article here.

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