An unidentified Tibetan woman made an emotional protest Wednesday at a joint Gallup and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) event in Washington, DC against silencing of Voice of America Tibetan radio broadcasts planned by the BBG.

BBG member Michael Meehan
BBG member Michael Meehan

Broadcasting Board of Governors member Michael Meehan, who was one of the panelists at the Gallup/BBG discussion of media freedom perceptions around the world, intervened and prevented the organizers from cutting off her mike when the Tibetan woman would not ask a question but instead continued to speak out against the BBG’s plan to terminate VOA Tibetan radio broadcasts. Meehan said that he wanted to hear what the Tibetan woman had to say.

Another BBG participant was their chief strategist Bruce Sherman. The BBB plans drastic cuts in Voice of America broadcasts and personnel, including the elimination of the VOA Cantonese Service, radio broadcasts to Vietnam, Laos, and Georgia, and major reductions in VOA broadcasts to Afghanistan, as well as VOA English and Spanish programs.

This is what one of the observers of the Gallup/BBG discussion told BBG Watch:

I don’t know who the Tibetan woman was.  I went over and thanked her for speaking up after the event ended.  I didn’t get her name.  The moderator tried to stop her from talking and kept insisting that she ask a question.  They seemed prepared for this and that seemed to be their plan if someone should get up to voice an opinion – make the ground rule that a question must be asked.  After they at first cut the mike on her, Michael Meehan insisted that she be allowed to finish. 

Meehan said that they were not cutting all the direct radio broadcasts to Tibet, only Voice of America Tibetan radio — Radio Free Asia would continue shortwave transmissions to Tibet using some of the former VOA frequencies — but Meehan did admit that Voice of America Tibetan radio programs to Tibet would cease and some VOA Tibetan journalists would be fired. 

Meehan also said it would be up to Congress to do something.  He said that he wished they had more money in the budget and that he thought we were spending far too little on broadcasting but that this is what OMB demanded.

An international media expert who wants to remain anonymous had this to say:

It is outrageous that the Broadcasting Board of Governors eliminates critical news radio broadcasts to Tibet and China while paying Gallup $50 million over five years to learn among other things that people in China consider their media to be  freer compared to how people in Mexico assess their media and only two points less free than media media perceptions measured by Gallup in Italy.  

The Gallup survey in China was done face-to-face and by telephone.  Whom are we kidding? Would people in China, Iran or Cuba give truthful answers to strangers about the government that oppresses them and their state media? Is this is worth even a fraction of the $50 million of US taxpayers’ money going to Gallup?

Anybody with some knowledge of repressive regimes could have told the BBG for nothing that these surveys in China, Tibet, Iran, Cuba, etc. are useless, and in the hands of BBG strategists, they are highly dangerous.

A former BBG employee had this to say:

Instead of cutting programs, BBG members should stop the scandalous growth of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) bureaucracy which feeds on the elimination of critical broadcasts, organizes cosmetic lessons for IBB employees but is incapable of understanding the mission to countries without free media, ignores the most oppressed audiences, and has no idea how to assess and interpret audience research data.