As the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) plans to eliminate and reduce numerous Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting services as part of the Obama Administration proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, VOA celebrated 70 years of broadcasting this year, and marked this milestone on Wednesday, March 7th, with a special event at VOA headquarters in Washington, DC. High points of the afternoon included video tributes from President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Dalai Lama.
One of the services the Broadcasting Board of Governors wants to eliminate are Voice of America Tibetan radio broadcasts. Ambassador Victor Ashe is the only BBG member who publicly spoke up against cutting VOA radio programs to Tibet, but sources tell us that other Board members are now also questioning their staff’s recommendation and the Board’s budget decision on Tibet. The BBG also wants to eliminate the VOA Cantonese Service and to reduce VOA broadcasting to Vietnam, Laos and other countries without free media while preserving its administrative and bureaucratic overhead. The BBG also proposes large cuts in English and Spanish programs and broadcasting jobs.
Critics of the Broadcasting Board of Governors are pointing out that BBG members have allowed their staff to expand bureaucratic positions at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) run by President Obama’s friend Richard Lobo while cutting Voice of America broadcasts and positions of VOA broadcasters and journalists. In a letter to U.S. Congress, one critic wrote:
The proposed reductions are driven not by a considered strategic world view, but by bureaucratic expedience and a fundamental misunderstanding of the mission of VOA. If the fiscal year 2013 proposal is enacted, the staff level for VOA will be reduced by 13.2% from the current year. In contrast, only 3.3% of the positions from the International Broadcasting Board (IBB), which provides administrative support to the BBG, will be cut. If the fiscal year 2013 proposal is enacted the number of full time equivalent (FTE) positions for the IBB will rise from 593.2 in fiscal year 2011 to 678.2. In the same time period VOA will lose 121.2 FTE positions. The general trend of the IBB has been to grow larger while the number of language services they support is being reduced. Broadcasting should be the last thing to be cut. It makes little sense to grow the bureaucracy while cutting that which it is meant to support. The eliminations and reductions in broadcasting to Tibet, China, Laos, and Vietnam alone will cut 28 positions from VOA.