Tag Archives: Heritage Foundation

Heritage Foundation: BBG isn’t listening

BBG-Logo(Source: Heritage Foundation)

U.S. international broadcasting strategy again landed under congressional scrutiny in Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Representative Brad Sherman (D–CA) wanted to know why the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) ignored the congressional mandate to keep broadcasting to Pakistan in several local languages. In spite of a specific $1.5 million appropriation for broadcasting to Pakistan, everything has been cut except programming in Urdu. “You would not dream of broadcasting to Los Angeles in only one language,” said Sherman.

While Secretary of State John Kerry did not offer an explanation, the problems at the BBG cry out for a solution. The agency leadership time and time again has angered and frustrated Congress by ignoring its mandates to keep radio broadcasting lines open to areas of the world where free and dependable media do not exist. Instead, the broadcasting governors and the BBG bureaucracy are grappling with their own agenda and the impact of technological advances, with the result that the core mission gets short shrift.

In the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget request, the BBG accounts for $731 million, a not insignificant amount of funding. Yet at the same time, deep cuts in language services positions and broadcasting hours are proposed in the budget following already announced cuts resulting from sequestration.

[…]There is no doubt, though, that the BBG structure itself stands in dire need of overhaul. The nine-member, part-time board (on which the Secretary of State or his designate sits) is a poor mechanism for executive oversight of a complex broadcasting system, and board member terms are routinely allowed to expire without timely replacement. The most recent board meeting on April 12 was attended by just two board members.

A composite map of the world at night produced by NASA shows the vast areas of the globe—mainly Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—where there is no power grid to light up cities at night. Many of those areas, where reliance on Internet or television is impossible, are precisely the beneficiaries of U.S. international broadcasting. Let us not lose sight of that fact.

Read the full article on the Heritage Foundation website.

For those of you not familiar, note that the The Heritage Foundation is a US conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to “formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

Thanks, Ted, for the tip!

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VOA criticized for dropping Mandarin service to China

I just noticed this article from the VOA website regarding criticism it recently received from the Heritage Foundation for shutting down VOA’s Mandarin language shortwave radio service to China.

It’s may be once in a blue moon when I agree with a Washington think tank, but in this case, the argument is certainly valid.

VOA, following the lead of the BBC, Deutsche Welle and possibly other broadcasters, decided that it’s much more cost-effective to cut shortwave service and increase its web-based presence in China. Unfortunately, there are still many in China who rely on shortwave radio service for their uncensored view of the rest of the world. Indeed, China’s ruling party is concerned enough about this that they routinely jam VOA transmissions as a form of censorship. Of course, when it comes to shortwave radio, jamming is not often effective. But if broadcasters in the western world (meaning VOA, BBC, DW) decide not to bother broadcasting into China, limitation of service is 100% effective. Indeed, we’re “jamming” the service before it ever has a chance to leave our respective countries.

Access to the internet, on the other hand, is completely controlled by the Chinese ruling party. Should they decide to, they can simply pull the plug and leave their citizens in the dark, informationally speaking. If you question this, simply ask people in Fiji, Egypt and Burma–and, oh, yes– Iran is now tinkering with the idea.

China is an amazing country, not to mention a technological leader in communications; its government simply has a track record of filtering information in a manner which many view as a violation of a basic human right. And censorship is a thriving business:  just ask Google. Or try to view VOA’s Manadarin website while traveling in China: you, too, may find yourself a victim of Chinese censorship.

Let us leave some information access available to those in China by keeping shortwave service alive there. There must be other cost-effective means of information sharing that doesn’t require throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Read the original VOA article here.

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