VOA going silent in Iran?
posted at 2:50 pm on September 19, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Earlier today, I mentioned the significant role that the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe played during the Cold War, undermining the credibility of oppressive regimes in Russia and eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain by broadcasting objective news and American viewpoints. One might think that such an effort would be worth making in Iran, where people rose up once to attempt to shed themselves of the mullahcracy. Apparently the VOA doesn’t believe in that mission, at least not for the editorial broadcasts in Farsi:
Voice of America (VOA) is on track to eliminate all of its Persian-language editorial broadcasts to Iran if its supervisory board’s 2014 budget recommendation is approved by Congress, according to an internal memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The development is part of a larger effort by management to quietly phase out the airing of official U.S. government policy positions on the taxpayer-funded international broadcast services, sources say.
The Office of Policy, a five-person department at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) that produces the official U.S. government editorials aired on VOA, would have its budget slashed by nearly half if the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ proposal goes forward.
The proposed cuts would “gravely impair” VOA’s ability to fulfill its public diplomacy mission, gut the office staff, and potentially violate federal law, according to a May 31 memo sent from IBB’s Office of Policy Director Charles Goolsby to IBB Director Richard Lobo.
Congress mandated in 1998 that VOA broadcast editorials reflecting the U.S. government’s position as part of its public diplomacy mission.
Two points. First, putting forth the US government’s position is almost the literal definition of American diplomacy. The VOA is supposed to serve that purpose, not its own organizational ends. Second, anyone who thinks that removing the editorials will make people think the the Washington-run VOA is more independent is fooling themselves.
If the VOA wants to just be an independent news agency, then perhaps its board should resign, raise private funds for its operation, and let the VOA get back to its mission.