BBG Watch Commentary

Victor GoonetillekeThe sudden ending of many direct Voice of America (VOA) shortwave radio transmissions to Asia without any prior notices to listeners and only a two-day advance warning to a limited number of VOA broadcasters has generated much criticism abroad.

A VOA radio listener in Asia wrote: “The BBG [Broadcasting Board of Governors] has let America down….the respect and faith we had in the U.S. has been shaken.” He described the sudden and not pre-announced termination of many of VOA English and foreign language shortwave radio broadcasts as “a coup with no regard at all for the listening audience.” “Does President Obama even know what the BBG is doing?,” a VOA radio listener in Asia asked.

VOA broadcasters complained of not being given a chance to officially inform audiences of this major change or even to offer adequate goodbyes and to thank their loyal listeners. VOA’s main English news website and VOA’s public relation website show no announcement of the latest cancellation of VOA shortwave radio broadcasts.

The decision to suddenly end many VOA, Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) shortwave radio broadcasts to numerous countries without free media and others nations in Asia and Middle East, as well as Belarus — the last dictatorship in Europe — was communicated by the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) senior executive to the heads of BBG media entities late Thursday night.

While termination of shortwave transmissions to some of these countries was planned by IBB for some time and was anticipated, broadcasters were given only a two-day final notice, which resulted in a public relations and public diplomacy blunder for the BBG and the United States.

Victor Goonetilleke, Frequency Manager at PCJ Radio International, has sent this comment to BBG Watch:

“If international broadcasting was meant to build public relations for the U.S. with the world, earn respect, make people understand the American way of life, its policies and interests — the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) executives in charge of the Voice of America (VOA) have done everything wrong.

This was like pulling out of Saigon in 1973 and leaving behind people who had risked and then lost their lives for the United States. This is like breaking the pot after fetching water the whole day.

The BBG has let America down….the respect and faith we had in the U.S. has been shaken. This was like a coup with no regard at all for the listening audience.

The man who [at] his inauguration reached out to those people listening huddled round a radio in some forgotten corner of the world. His Administration has been let down by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.


Does President Obama even know what the BBG is doing?


Other U.S. and international reactions can be found on a Facebook post by former VOA White House and foreign correspondent Dan Robinson.