The VOA Debate Continues

Updated, 12 August 2007


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Glassman: "We cover what Al Jazeera and other Arabic networks do not."

Excerpt from an interview of BBG Chairman James K. Glassman by Alvin Snyder, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 6 August 2007

Q. Some believe America's Alhurra Arabic Channel made an attempt to boost its audience ratings when it broadcast a long unedited speech by a Hezbollah leader, which in part led to the resignation of Alhurra's news chief. In head-to-head ratings competition in 'day after' polling of actual viewing, as opposed to two-week cumulative viewing numbers, Alhurra has only a trace audience in Saudi Arabia compared to Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, and in Iraq Alhurra is not in the top 50-rated channels. Those ratings are also consistent in other Middle East countries within Alhurra's reach. To connect with the maximum number of hearts and minds in the Middle East, is boosting Alhurra's mass audience numbers a BBG priority?

A. First, the broadcast of a long speech by a Hezbollah leader was a gross violation of Alhurra's standards. We do not provide a platform for terrorists, period. Since June 8, we have had an excellent news director, an Arabic speaker named Danny Nassif, who has a PhD from the University of Michigan and has been news director of Radio Sawa.

Danny is upgrading the professionalism of the operation and has clarified and reinforced controls. We are hiring new people and increasing training. The changes are already noticeable (for the first time ever, the Secretary of State last month sat down for an interview with both Radio Sawa and Alhurra) and will become more evident in the months ahead.

Alhurra's function is NOT to try to grab that share of Al Jazeera's audience that is attracted to videos like "The Sniper of Baghdad." In fact, we exist in large part because we cover what Al Jazeera and other Arabic networks do not. Just as an example, when President Bush spoke at the National Islamic Center in Washington, Alhurra covered his speech live. Al Jazeera covered it not at all. When I was visiting the Alhurra control room a month ago, our network was covering, live, the European Union response to the split between Hamas and Fatah. Arabic networks that I could view in the control room were covering other events, including a soccer game.

Also unique to Alhurra were: coverage of the interfaith conference held in Bali, including live opening statements and interviews; an interview with the president of Iraq; an examination of child labor in Morocco; a report on the Wilson Center conference on involving American Muslims in making foreign policy; a feature on the rising number of Americans learning Arabic; reaction from Egypt to congressional criticism over human rights abuses; and a piece on women in Kurdistan speaking out against violence against women.

At Alhurra, we have a comparative advantage over other Arabic networks in two ways: first, we can explain the United States better, and the Arab world truly wants to understand America; second, despite the fact that Alhurra is funded by the U.S. government, it has an independence that other Arabic networks lack (see Mamoun Fandy's new book, which expands on this thesis). Alhurra, in its fair and accurate broadcasting, is free to be critical, when necessary, of corruption and repression by governments in the region and free as well to show the true face of extremism.

Most of all, Alhurra can be a home on the dial for moderate, thoughtful, freedom-loving Arabic speakers who are tired of the hateful din that often surrounds them. And, quite frankly, I believe that, by presenting news and public affairs and features with accuracy and fairness, Alhurra not only can be a refuge from the extremist storms but also can change minds.

The full interview can be found on the USC Center on Public Diplomacy Web site.

House Appropriations Committee Restores VOA Cuts, Urges Inspection of Alhurra

The House Appropriations Committee report for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, for Fiscal Year 2008 (beginning 1 October 2007) restores many of the cuts proposed by the Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG), and requested a review of Alhurra's editorial policies.

The committee recommends $194 million for Voice of America (VOA), $15.7 million more than BBG's request and $22.5 million more than the 2007 appropriation. The report singles-out VOA English for an $8 million appropriation, some $5 million more than BBG requested. The report noted, "VOA's English-language radio programming is especially important since it provides accurate, objective and comprehensive news to a potential English-speaking audience of 1.6 billion people worldwide."

The committee likewise restores funding for the following language services: Albanian; Bosnian; Croatian; Greek; Macedonian; Serbian; Ukrainian; Georgian; Uzbek; Hindi; Cantonese; Thai; and Tibetan. All of these services were scheduled for cuts or elimination.

The committee recommends $33.7 million for TV and radio broadcasting to Cuba, equal to the appropriation for 2007, but $5 million below the BBG request.

For Alhurra, the committee recommends $88.4 million for FY 2008, $5.4 million more than 2007 funding, but $13.4 below BBG's request. This funding level will, according to the committee, "provide for continued news capability of 24/7 coverage, including breaking news."

However, the committee noted it is ...

deeply troubled by several programming decisions at Alhurra television during the period November 2006 through March 2007. On more than one occasion, the network aired live, and without opposing comment, statements by Hezbollah and Hamas leaders that were hateful, anti-American, and anti-Israel. The Network's coverage of the Holocaust Denial Conference also evidenced a lack of journalistic judgment and sensitivity. While just a portion of the overall broadcast program, these incidents call into question the management and overall journalistic philosophy of the Network's leadership.

The committee requested a review by the Department of State and BBG Inspector General on Alhurra's editorial policies and the management processes for enforcing those policies. In addition, the FY 2008 funding includes $2 million for independent translation of 20 hours a week of Alhurra's original programming with the transcripts made available ot the public. In the meantime, the committee has deferred BBG's request for additional funds for programming enhancements.

The full committee report is found on the Library of Congress/Thomas Web site.

More headlines: see the Public Diplomacy NewsWire.

James Glassman confirmed to head BBG, Larry Register resigns from alHurra

From a BBG announcement, 8 June 2997

Today, James K. Glassman was sworn in as the fourth chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which supervises all U.S. government-supported, non-military broadcasting. Glassman succeeds Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who has served as chairman since 2002.

Glassman is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington public policy think tank. He is editor-in-chief of The American, AEIís bimonthly magazine of business and economics.

He is the former president of The Atlantic Monthly Co., publisher of The New Republic, Executive Vice President of U.S. News & World Report, and editor-in-chief and co-owner of Roll Call, the congressional newspaper.

In 2003, he served on the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, a commission mandated by Congress....

Full text of the announcement found on the BBG Web site

Leadership Changes at Alhurra Television: From a Middle East Broadcasting Networks announcement, 8 June 2007. (Hat tip: AH)

The Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) announced the resignation of Larry Register as MBN's Vice President of News. Effective immediately, Daniel Nassif will take over editorial leadership at Alhurra Television, as well as continuing his duties as News Director for Radio Sawa....

Effective immediately, Daniel Nassif will assume Larry Register's duties as the editorial leader of Alhurra. Daniel, a native Arabic speaker, has served with distinction over the last five years as managing director/news director for Radio Sawa. His outstanding editorial judgment and journalistic skills are responsible for making Radio Sawa one of the most popular and credible radio stations in the Middle East and North Africa. He will continue overseeing the Radio Sawa news operations....

Link to Associated Press/ story

From Arab Media and Society
Published by Center for Electronic Journalism, American Unversity in Cairo and
The Middle East Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford, UK

Rate of Arabic language TV start-ups shows no sign of abating. Alan L. Heil Jr. documents the plethora of new public diplomacy channels broadcasting in Arabic, including France 24, Deutsche Welle, and Russia TV Today, arguing credibility will be crucial to success with audiences in an increasingly crowded market.

Voice of America versus Radio Sawa in the Middle East: A Personal Perspective. By scrapping Voice of America in the Middle East, the US has both undercut its own public diplomacy interests and the interests of listeners in the region itself, argues Laurie Kassman.

Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa: Advancing freedom in the Arab World. That Arab viewers accept this U.S. government-funded station as credible is a great victory, especially after being on the air little more than three years. That some Arab viewers find the assertions of advocates for freedom jarring to their ears is a price we will gladly pay, argues outgoing Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson.

America's Voice as it could have been. The inability of Sawa and Alhurra to speak with critical populations in the Middle East and their emphasis on the most trivial of American pop culture have marginalized the United States and prevented a reasoned and substantive conversation between the United States and the Arab world, says former VOA Director Myrna Whitworth.

Radio Sawa: America's new adventure in radio broadcasting. In this content analysis of U.S. Public Diplomacy radio station Radio Sawa, veteran Middle East broadcasting specialist Sam Hilmy argues that the pop-music driven channel is not meeting its commitment to provide "accurate, timely and relevant news about the Middle East, the world and the United States."

Al-Hurra controversy: one good thing

Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark, 10 May 2007

... Al-Hurra's founders seemed to think that the Arab world was like the former Soviet space, deprived of information and desperate for an objective, credible source of news and free public debate. That would have been true in the 1980s. But at the time of its launch (2004) the Arab world was actually drowning in satellite television, with multiple sources of information and talk shows which already discussed all the issues which al-Hurra claimed to be introducing. Al-Hurra, with its stigma of American funding, never had a chance to be more than a drop in the ocean. But at least it could try - by exploiting its comparative advantage in covering American politics for instance, or by using its American backing as protection when covering senstive topics in Arab countries. When Larry Register took over, he began doing exactly that: trying to actually win an audience by covering issues which Arabs actually cared about, featuring a wider, more diverse range of voices, and trying (against the odds) to establish al-Hurra as a model of free media rather than American propaganda.

That's the context of Joel Mowbray's crusade against al-Hurra. Giving voice to the bitter old regime, he spins a fantasy narrative in which al-Hurra once upon a time had been successful at promoting democracy but had since abandoned critical reporting and coverage of democracy and humans rights issues. While I can't speak to the wider picture (for reasons to which I'll return in a moment), I will point out that the only al-Hurra program which I have ever seen generate any Arab public discussion was a program on torture in Egypt - which ran during Register's tenure and not Harb's. Most of his campaign relies either on channeling dirt from disgruntled employees or on cherry picking examples of bad behavior - the usual tricks of the hatchet job trade. Honestly, I'm quite impressed at the effectiveness of the conservative noise machine on this one - Mowbray's Wall Street Journal column has been pushed by conservative blogs, been picked up by other newspapers and advocacy groups, and Republican members of Congress have gotten into the action. Register's job seems to be potentially in danger. Back in 2004, I wrote in a contribution to a book edited by Bill Rugh that if al-Hurra did try to produce an effective product "it will likely find itself coming under Congressional and partisan criticism which could adversely affect its independence and budget." Thanks to Mowbray for making my point.

So, that's where I stand on this al-Hurra controversy. But Mowbray does make one very good point with which I agree wholeheartedly:

Unfortunately, there is no practicable way that Foggy Bottom, or anyone else for that matter, can effectively monitor Al-Hurra... The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the congressionally created independent panel charged with oversight, lacks the ability to conduct even basic auditing, as English transcripts are provided only on request--which rarely happens.

He's right. The lack of transparency at al-Hurra makes it impossible to have any serious oversight or accountability, as I've been arguing in vain for three years now. Al-Hurra has no live feed available in the United States (unlike Radio Sawa, to which you can listen on-line), features only a rudimentary website, and offers no transcripts of its programs in Arabic or English (unlike al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, both of which offer full transcripts of all their programs online). I used to be on al-Hurra's email list, which at least gave a list of guests and topics, but I don't seem to have received any for quite a while and at any rate that information is not available in any public site of which I'm aware. This means that even if I wanted to defend al-Hurra's programming, I couldn't....

Full text is found on the Abu Aardvark blog.

Boos for Al-Hurrah
Your tax dollars at work in the Mideast.

Opinion Journal, Wall Street Journal, 11 May 2007

We've been watching the debate over Al-Hurra, the U.S.-funded Middle East TV channel that has lately developed a reputation as a friendly forum for terrorists and Islamic radicals. A bipartisan group of Congressmen has called for Al-Hurra's news director, former CNN producer Larry Register, to resign--and it's time he and his supervisors gave taxpayers some answers.

With an annual budget over $70 million, Al-Hurra is part of the long arm of America's public diplomacy in the Middle East. The network was established to provide a credible source of information in the region, in a market dominated by Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. The goal was to help start a discussion about freedom and democracy. Instead, the network seems to have aligned itself with everyone else in pandering to the so-called Arab street.

The shift began when Mr. Register took over last November. As journalist Joel Mowbray has detailed in these pages, Al-Hurra has made a practice in Mr. Register's tenure of friendly coverage of camera-ready extremists from al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups. Most famously, the network gave more than 60 minutes of airtime to Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, who informed viewers that Hezbollah was "facing a strategic and historic victory." Under Mr. Register, Holocaust denial panels became "Holocaust existence panels." People like al Qaeda operative Muhammed Hanja received airtime to celebrate America's "defeat" on September 11.

Mr. Register's defense has been, in essence, that if Al-Hurra doesn't run anti-American content, no one will watch. He seems to have misunderstood his assignment: Al-Hurra is not meant to compete with Al-Jazeera but to offer an alternative view of the Middle East from those of either its dictators or jihadis....

Full text available from the Wall Street Journal Web site.

Monks plead with Hill for Tibetan radio airtime

Jean Chemnick, The Politico, 3 May 2007. Via

Their flowing red robes stood out in the sea of gray, navy and brown suits assembled for a recent hearing before the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. The seven Tibetan Buddhist monks went to Capitol Hill to give Congress a simple message: Restore all funding for Radio Free Asia's Tibetan broadcasts.

Zurkhang Karma, the union representative for Radio Free Asia, said the subcommittee's leaders expressed support for putting $1.5 million back into the spending bill for Tibetan broadcasts but made no promises.

The monks' plight reflects an ideological shift within the federal government's international broadcasting services. In recent years the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a bipartisan entity that oversees Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America and other foreign news outlets, has moved funds away from some of the older programs toward newer ones aimed at the Middle East, Korea, Somalia and Cuba. It has also invested more money in television programming, a move that BBG spokesman Larry Hart said reflected changes in the way people get news today. For example, radio broadcasts in Cantonese are going to be discontinued, Hart said, because more people own televisions in that part of China. The cut would save $680,000 out of a budget of $668 million.

Reductions in some places are necessary to expand programs in regions targeted in the war on terror, Hart said. "These are information-deprived people, and they need accurate and objective news about what is happening in their country."

The same, however, could be said of Tibet. The windswept region of Central Asia has been governed by China since 1950. The Dalai Lama, whom many consider to be Tibet's lawful ruler, lives in exile in India. The only way he can communicate with his people, Karma said, is through U.S. radio programs because the media within Tibet is censored....

Full text available at

Bush nominates publisher to head U.S. government's overseas broadcasting unit

Associated Press/International Herald Tribune, 25 April 2007

WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush tapped magazine publisher James K. Glassman on Wednesday to head the agency that directs U.S. overseas broadcasts, replacing a chairman whose tenure has been stormy.

Glassman, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, will replace embattled chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, who resigned in January as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Bush had renominated Tomlinson to continue as chairman on Nov. 14, after Bush's Republicans lost control of both chambers of Congress. The nomination stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate on the basis of a report by the State Department's inspector general, which had been released in August 2006. It said Tomlinson had misused government money for two years as chairman....

Glassman is publisher of The American magazine and was a syndicated financial columnist for The Washington Post from 2001 until 2004, according to a biography on AEI's Web site.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, broadcasting initiatives in the Middle East and other nonmilitary U.S. broadcasting overseas.

If confirmed by the Senate, Glassman will serve the rest of Tomlinson's term -- which expires Aug. 13 -- and a full three-year term ending in 2010.

The full text is available on the International Herald Tribune Web site.

UPDATE, 12 August 2007: Neil Currie reports that the entry he authored below in April 2007 has been overtaken by events. Also, Larry Hart, who wrote the letter to which he responded, no longer serves with BBG.

Neil Currie: "Let the VOA continue to broadcast to a troubled world." (8 April 2007)

In Larry Hart's reply to Guy Farmer's article decrying the silencing of the Voice of America, he argues that Mr. Farmer "completely ignores the technological revolution that has swept the world" in the last 30 years. If so, then Mr. Hart must plead guilty to the same offense for he erroneously claims that shortwave is "in sharp decline."

No less an authority than the BBC says otherwise. In its annual audience survey released May 5, 2006, the BBC reported that the audience for its English language World Service increased by 3 million last year to 42 million, representing just over a quarter of its total radio listenership (which is in line with the percentage of English-speaking people in the world: 1.6 billion). Of its total 163 million listeners each week the BBC finds that fully two-thirds do so on shortwave. Indeed, the BBC survey states, "shortwave and medium wave listening (in all languages) showed an increase of around 5 million."

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG),†which controls the Voice of America (VOA), routinely claims that "shortwave is old technology". But they are only telling half the story. Much of the transmission of shortwave is old technology (although some new digital shortwave technologies are coming on stream). What is new is the reception of shortwave. Instead of an expensive, cumbersome piece of equipment with multiple knobs and dials requiring an external antenna, now, for less than $30.00, you can buy a little hand-held portable radio that receives not only multiple bands of international shortwave but also local AM and FM and does so using batteries, the wall outlet or a hand crank that for a minute of winding gets you an hour of listening.

Perhaps the real reason why VOA's shortwave audience has been declining is because of a self-fulfilling scheme which Mr. Hart did not share with you. An e-mail received April 5th from Nathan Samuels, a listener in Sydney, Australia explains:

Since you (VOA) dropped the frequency 15,290 KHz reception is not so good ... it is hard for me to judge your decision why you deleted 15,290 and 17,740 KHz as these were two very good frequencies. It is a pity as your program content is excellent and I enjoy listening to the VOA broadcasts.

The BBG has silenced many VOA transmitters around the world in recent years and not just shortwave, either. Although Mr. Hart claims priority is being given FM and AM radio along with satellite TV and the Internet, the facts say otherwise. The BBG shut down major VOA transmitting stations at Kavala and Rhodes in Greece last year. They housed not only shortwave aimed at the Balkans, eastern Europe and Russia but also had immensely powerful AM transmitters that could be heard throughout the Middle East from Cairo to Istanbul and throughout eastern Europe. The BBG also let go an FM frequency in Berlin. (Note: the BBC has 2.3 million listeners per week in English in Germany.) †

But the real issue is not shortwave or any other means of transmission, although it should be pointed out that only shortwave has the ability to travel the long distances needed to give the VOA worldwide reach. Our brief is for giving America an effective, efficient international voice. How efficient? VOA's worldwide English language radio service costs one penny per week per listener. Thatís efficient! Added together, English and the 15 other languages, including Russian and Chinese, which the BBG also plans to cut, cost 26-million dollars a year, just 3.9% of the BBG budget.†By contrast, the BBG is seeking to add 7 1/2 million dollars to its existing 88-million dollar administrative budget. The respected audit firm, Booz-Allen Hamilton, says the BBG should be looking for ways to eliminate bureaucrats, not feed them more.

And, as to that old canard that "The English-speaking elites ... are these days watching CNN and the BBC in their offices and hotel rooms", former BBG Chairman David Burke eloquently addressed that fatuous assertion: "CNN can be seen in hotel lobbies," he said, "VOA can be heard in refugee camps."

Let the VOA continue to broadcast to a troubled world. Silence says nothing for America.

Neil Currie is a 23-year veteran of VOA and anchor of "News Now," one of VOA's English-language programs. The views expressed are entirely his own.

Please note the UPDATE about this entry.

BBG responds to Guy Farmer

This article completely ignores the technology revolution that has swept the world since Mr. Farmer worked at VOA 30 years ago. We regret proposing any cutbacks to language services but have given priority funding to satellits television FM and AM radio and the Internet. Independent audience surveys show millions more each year turning to television as their prime source of news and shortwave radio listeners in sharp decline.

The same budget calls for expansion of services to North Korea and Iran and maintaining new services to Afghanistan and Somalia, to name a few examples.

The English speaking elites Mr. Farmer refers to are these days are watching CNN and the BBC in their offices and hotel rooms. It's those who get news in their native language who are often deprived of accurate news and information.

Finally, there is no proposal to "transfer $25 million from VOA English to pop music stations." It's a great turn of phrase but has no basis in fact.

Larry Hart
Communications Coordinator
Broadcasting Board of Governors

Please note the UPDATE about this entry.

Mr. Farmer,

I will not comment on your opinion regarding the VOA but I will comment on, what I believe is, an unnecessary jab at Radio and TV Martí. Despite the fact that any survey in any country that is as heavily oppressed, as Cuba is, has its flaws, Radio Martí continues to be the number one foreign radio station in Cuba. The addition of AeroMarti broadcasting TV Martí into Cuba has proven very effective in overcoming the jamming efforts by the Cuban regime.

We continuously strive for excellence and credibility in our broadcasts and our listeners and viewers attest to this in their communications with us.

There are many dedicated men and women who make up the Radio and TV Martí team and to dismiss their dedication and hard work is an insult to their efforts.

Alberto F. Mascaró
Chief of Staff
Office of Cuba Broadcasting

Cutting English- language broadcasting will silence America's voice

Guy W. Farmer, Nevada Appeal, 1 April 2007

Anyone who cares about America's deteriorating image in the world should be worried about what's happening to our government's leading international broadcaster, the venerable and respected Voice of America (VOA). If Congress adopts Bush administration budget proposals, VOA English-language services will be slashed in order to direct more "light" programming at the war-torn Middle East.

At first glance, this proposal might seem to be reasonable, but it is seriously flawed because English-language programs have long been a cornerstone of VOA's worldwide broadcasts. The Bush administration wants to cut $26 million from VOA English so as to increase programming to Iran and the Middle East. "Nobody can question that need," wrote ex-Voice Director John Hughes in the Christian Science Monitor, "but it shouldn't be undertaken at the expense of other programming that has proved effective. There is still a huge English-language audience for VOA, not the least among leaders and elites who speak English in countries where it isn't the predominant language." ...

Veteran VOA broadcaster/historian Alan Heil sounded the alarm three years ago when he wrote the following: "Seven months after 9/11, VOA's Arabic Branch disappeared at a single stroke, virtually unnoticed in the American foreign affairs community, Congress or the American media." VOA Arabic was replaced by something called Radio Sawa, "a predominantly pop music and entertainment service" aimed at youthful audiences. And in a gratuitous slap at the Voice, "Sawa management prohibited its staff from using VOA's carefully sourced central newsroom material," which didn't make any sense.

The Sawa decision was made by the quasi-independent Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which assumed responsibility for all U.S. government international broadcasting following the State/USIA merger. The Board also established a similar service for Iran called Radio Farda. Even though BBG claims that Farda is the most popular international radio station in Iran, critics say its music format has undermined its foreign policy message. I agree and question why American taxpayers should fund multi-million-dollar radio stations that carry minimal policy "freight."

It appears that BBG has traded carefully targeted audiences of foreign opinion-leaders and policymakers for mass audiences of young people who want to listen to the likes of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake when many commercial broadcasters are serving up the same fare 24/7. As Alan Heil wrote in his prescient 2004 essay, "The disappearance of VOA Arabic at a time when it was needed most ranks among the greatest tragedies in the history of U.S. international broadcasting." And now Congress and the White House are compounding the tragedy by targeting VOA English for crippling budget cuts equal to approximately one-tenth of what Congress is spending on Alaska's fabled "Bridge to Nowhere." Can you say "pork?"

"U.S. policymakers consider broadcasting (to be) a pillar of U.S. public diplomacy, stressing its role in promoting freedom and democracy," the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations recognized in a recent research report. But in that same report a senior Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer described America's 21st century radio voice as "muddled." "If the goal here is to make them (Middle Eastern audiences) understand the full complexity of America and America's role in the world," he commented, "I don't think they (Farda and Sawa) have the sophistication needed to do that."

Me neither, and that's why I oppose the transfer of more than $25 million from VOA English to pop music stations just as I oppose spending one more taxpayer dollar on Radio and TV Marti, which broadcast to Cuba. No one can see or hear Marti's programs because Cuba effectively jams their broadcasts. Nevertheless, the Bush administration continues to throw millions of dollars at the Miami Cubans in order to keep them in the Republican column at election time.

I hope my ex-USIA and VOA colleagues can save the Voice's flagship English-language service but given the current toxic political climate in Washington, it may go silent - and that would be another great tragedy in the history of American public diplomacy.

Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, supervised Voice of America Spanish-language broadcasts to Latin America during the period 1977-79.

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Updated: 12 August 2007.
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