Voice of America staff petition to Congress
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Friends and followers of VOA and other US publicly-funded overseas networks,
U. S international broadcasting is seriously threatened at a time when strong and substantive American voices to other countries are more important than ever. Although broadcast hours have been increased to the Middle East and Islamic world, taxpayer funded, pop-music networks have replaced comprehensive news reporting and analysis there.
Language broadcasts to most of Central Europe have been abolished, and during critical hours, the Voice of America is silent in English. After four years of fighting to maintain VOA's high journalistic standards and comprehensive reporting, the highly respected director of VOA Central News, Andre De Nesnera, was removed from his position this past Thursday.
Since 9/11, actions taken by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (the oversight entity for U.S international broadcasting) have limited the scope and effectiveness of the Voice of America and its sister grantee radios. Friends of the Voice of America, mainly former staff and VOA retirees, have attempted to bring attention to the systematic dismantling of this important public diplomacy instrument.
Now, some 450 current VOA employees, in a petition being circulated on Capitol Hill today, are calling on Congress to investigate the actions of the BBG. The BBG assumed sole oversight of U.S. overseas broadcasts in 1999, so a fifth anniversary review of its functions is timely, if not overdue.
Supporting statement from Alan Heil
Statement from Kenneth Y. Tomlinson
All news organizations that operate under the Broadcasting Board of Governors are Congressionally mandated to have professional standards similar to those of the 1976 VOA charter. It's in the law--the International Broadcasting Act of 1994. The Act requires that all services supervised by the BBG follow the "highest professional standards of broadcast journalism," and that its news be "consistently reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective and comprehensive." The Voice of America (VOA) petitioners cannot be allowed to distort these facts.
And, contrary to allegations contained in the VOA petition, Radio Sawa's listeners in Iraq and throughout the Arab world learned of Saddam Hussein's capture as soon as listeners to any other media outlet. Indeed, it is difficult to take seriously any document that makes such an erroneous charge.
In fact, Sawa expanded its news coverage on the day of Saddam's capture to include live reports from stringers in Iraq, featuring interviews with ordinary Iraqis and Iraqi officials alike.
Sawa airs 48 newscasts each broadcast day; its millions of listeners are never more than 20 minutes from the next news segment. Alhurra, the Arabic-language satellite television network, broadcasts 10 minutes of news at the top of every hour 18 hours per day; its lineup includes four hours of newscasts, documentaries, talk shows, and a magazine show each day in prime time.
Radio Farda, our round-the-clock radio service for Iran offers its listeners -- over the mullahs' jamming efforts -- eight hours of news and commentary out of each broadcast day.
BBG's achievements go beyond Arabic-language and Persian radio broadcasts: the VOA Persian language daily television news program to Iran established itself with a huge audience within weeks of its debut one year ago this week. VOA's newly inaugurated radio service to Pakistan, Aap ki Dunya, revamped the service and tripled the number of broadcast hours to this key state in the war on terror.
U.S. international broadcasting, far from deserving censure, deserves praise for the successful role it is playing in bringing our ideas -- most important among them, this nation's commitment to balanced, objective media as a pillar of modern liberal democracy -- to a worldwide audience.
U.S. raising new voices to counter Arab media
A look at the inner workings of the new official Arabic-Language services and their impact on VOA.
"But as Alhurra and Sawa have blossomed, the older government-sponsored Voice of America Arabic-language radio services have been scrapped. And not everyone is happy with the changes. More than half of the staffers of the Voice of America, the six-decades-old U.S.-sponsored broadcaster, have signed a petition protesting the gutting of its Arab-language services."
A Voice of America revamp
Voice of America's staff turmoil reflects a more basic struggle over the direction of official U.S. radio.
"VOA's governors argue that the U.S. can't reach enough of its target audience in Middle Eastern countries, where 60 percent of the population is under age 30, with the same style of programming that reached earlier generations. Critics argue that the Middle East's future leaders and thinkers--its budding Nelson Mandelas--are not going to be impressed by a format heavy on rap or rock and light on intellectual substance."
Revolt at VOA
Some 450 news employees at Voice of America have petitioned to preserve its role as an effective news operation.
"Congress, this source says, generally agrees with the board's endorsement of three new creations, Arabic-language Radio Sawa replacing VOA's Arabic-language service, satellite television station al-Hurra and Persian-language Radio Farda, and reducing English-language and other traditional VOA broadcasts."
VOA Staff Members Say Government Losing Voice
More than a third of the Voice of America's staff has signed a petition accusing the federal government of "dismantling" the international broadcasting agency, while financing a pair of newer, semi-private and separate media operations that the staffers said do not live up to VOA standards.
Voice of America Imperilled
Prof. Cole posts an extended message from Alan Heil detailing the VOA staff grievances.
"The inevitable consequence of these reductions (some of which were made to reprogram funds for the Board's new Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV services) is to weaken significantly the Voice of America's reach around the world."
VOA changes prompt staffer protests
A revolt is underway at the venerable Voice of America radio and TV network, which is under a congressional mandate to broadcast news abroad objectively.
"The petition asserts that the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S taxpayer-funded broadcast outlets, has been funneling money into new radio and TV stations that are not subject to the same journalistic standards and monitoring as VOA. The new broadcast outlets are directed primarily at the Middle East, where the U.S. image is at a historic low."
Voice of America Staff Petition to Congress
A leading U.S. academic observer of Arab politics and culture blasts recent changes at Voice of America's news services.
"This gutting of intelligent US debate and self-presentation to the rest of the world is being spear-headed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors and especially by Norman Pattiz. They have already destroyed the Arabic service of the Voice of America, which was among the best radio programming in that language. They have replaced it with Radio Sawwa, which mainly broadcasts Britney Spears and Umm Kulthum to Arab audiences, along with at tiny bit of news and interviews. Most important Arab countries are not even letting it be broadcast (it only is received on FM frequencies)."
IPI Dismayed by VOA News Director’s Removal
On 1 July, Andre deNesnera was removed from his position as news director of the Voice of America (VOA) and assigned a reporting job as VOA diplomatic correspondent. The reorganisation to the newsroom was carried out by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) without warning and left many staff feeling concerned.
"Speaking of deNesnera’s removal, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, 'I am worried that this is the first step in dismantling the VOA's news structure. As news director, deNesnera stood for the fundamental right of editors and journalists to set the news agenda themselves and his demotion sends the wrong message to both his former staff and any successor.' "
VOA staffers seek Hill probe
Nearly half the staff of the Voice of America (VoA) has signed a petition that will be sent to members of Congress today accusing the Broadcasting Board of Governors of “dismantling the nation’s radio beacon” and calling on Congress to investigate the board.
"The major complaints cited in the petition involve the board’s new services in the Middle East — Radio Sawa, al-Hurra and Radio Farda — which the signatories say provide inadequate news coverage and do not operate under VoA’s charter, which guarantees balanced reporting."
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