During a roundtable discussion on the future of U.S. global media, held Tuesday at the Wilson Center in Washington, former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Tom Dine offered a scathing criticism of proposals to place surrogate broadcasters like RFE/RL under the control of a central bureaucracy in Washington and to fully or partially merge their programs with those of the Voice of America (VOA).
The roundtable discussion at the Wilson Center focused on the paper, “A 21st Century Vision for U.S. Global Media,” written jointly by a former RFE/RL executive A. Ross Johnson and retired RFE/RL Director of Audience Research and Program Evaluation R. Eugene Parta. Johnson and Parta propose a single, non-federal, congressionally-funded broad- casting organization that unites the current six entities into one Washington-based bureaucracy.
Tom Dine told the panel that he totally disagrees with the Johnson-Parta plan and believes strongly in the mission of separate and independent surrogate broadcasters who work to support free local civic journalism, democracy and human rights in nations ruled by some of the most repressive and authoritarian regimes.
Tom Dine is currently senior policy advisor at Israel Policy Forum (IPF), assisting with policy, programming and development decision-making in the Washington office. He was the executive director of AIPAC from 1980-1993. Dine was the longest-serving president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a post he left in November 2005 to become Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco.
The establishment of a central international broadcasting entity and the merger and de-branding of surrogate broadcasters have strong supporters among the current bureaucracy at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) centered in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). Journalists and managers at BBG’s surrogate broadcasters, which in addition to RFE/RL include Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), strongly oppose the merger proposal.
As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president, Tom Dine became a strong critic of IBB bureaucrats trying to micromanage RFE/RL’s programs to countries without free media and imposing their ideas on journalists and program managers with years of highly specialized experience.
The Johnson-Parta plan was also criticized in an article by former Voice of America acting associate director Ted Lipien. Lipien had worked during Dine’s tenure at RFE/RL as the BBG’s regional marketing director for Eurasia based at the broadcaster’s headquarters in Prague.