Time to Shut Down the VOA

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The Voice of America is the official broadcast institution of the United States. It is a taxpayer-funded radio broadcast enterprise, which broadcasts in forty three languages to an audience of an estimated 123 million people over 1,500 hours a each week.

A little history. In 1940, the Office of the Coordinator of Interamerican Affairs was set up, which was headed by Nelson Rockefeller and began broadcasting its signals to Latin America as part of the State Department’ Good Neighbor policy. It was considered vital to offset Nazi Propaganda.

The first live broadcast to Nazi Germany, called Stimmen aus Amerika (Voices from America) occurred on February 1, 1942. It was introduced by “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and included the pledge, “Today, and every day from now on, we will be with you from America to talk about the war. No matter whether the news is good or bad for us, we will always tell you the truth.”

During the Cold War, VOA broadcast to the Soviet Union and its satellite countries every day, which included news, music and subtle propaganda, or “editorials” much like those Radio Moscow or Radio Havana broadcast toward the United States. This was done in the languages of the audiences. Also, during the early 1950s, VOA broadcast to Asia, the Middle East and Latin America in the appropriate languages. In addition, during the 1980s as the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, broadcasts began to that country began in Pashto and Dari.

During the 1990s, VOA added Tibetan, Kurdish to Iran and Iraq, Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian and
Bosnian to the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda-Rundi to its library of languages.

Once the Clinton Administration abolished the USIA in 1999, VOA and other agencies which were supervised by this entity were merged into the State Department, otherwise known as “Foggy Bottom”.

So, what has happened?

In years past, journalists from various commercial radio stations would appear on VOA, some becoming so identified by the sounds of their voices and favored by the listeners. However, after the State Department took control of VOA, a different slant overtook the agenda of the total programming.

It seems that since 1999, VOA has become another entity of the mainstream media rather than an independent American government information medium. Why is that?

Sadly, I believe liberal State Department bureaucrats have hijacked VOA and have given the entity their own agenda, similar to what has happened to NPR. Previously, the USIA controlled VOA through the Broadcasting Board of Governors; this was a bipartisan panel of eight private citizens, appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate and the SecState acting in an ex-officio capacity.  Now, it no longer seems so independent.

Since 9/11, several apparently anti-American interviews were conducted at the expense of American taxpayers. I mention two of them:

In late September, 2001, Mullah Omar Muhammed, Taliban Leader, was given a platform to spew his hatred of the US, the justification for protecting Osama bin Laden and other reasons for his anti-American position. Reporters and editors stood by VOA and its position for editorial independence from the Governors. VOA received praise from other press organizations for its protests and in 2002, won the Payne Award for its Ethics in Journalism.

In 2007, Abdul Malik Rigi, the leader of a militant group with possible links to al-Qaeda, appeared on VOA’s Persian Service. VOA introduced Rigi as “the leader of popular Iranian resistance movement”, which was untrue. The interview resulted in public condemnation from the Iranian-American community.

Perhaps, it is now necessary to consider the closing of VOA. Since it is no longer a viable entity, and gives anti-Americans a voice in its content, there are many of us who feel that this doesn’t exemplify its original purpose: to educate the world in American life, including news, music and our Constitutional ideals.  It is costing us too much money to be castigated in this way.

To sum up: it is time to close down the Voice of America. It is no longer our voice.