BBG PR team ignores Rep. Ros-Lehtinen message in support of Voice of America, refuses to issue press releaseAdvertisement
Sources have told BBG Watch that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) public affairs office had refused numerous requests to issue a press release about the Capitol Hill reception, hosted by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting to China. BBG public affairs experts also ignored an unprecendented video statement in support of VOA broadcasting to China recorded by the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Link to the video of the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, congratulating the Voice of America (VOA) on the 70th anniversary of VOA broadcasting to China. The video is available on the VOA China Branch website but not on the BBG website.
The reception on December 6 drew hundreds of VOA employees and their supporters, including Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Rohrabacher, Rep. Chris Smith, Rep. David Rivera, Rep. Don Young and many Congressional staffers.
Sources tell BBG Watch that employees of the VOA China Branch begged BBG public affairs officers to issue a press release about the Capitol Hill event but their requests were rebuffed. Two days after the reception to honor VOA broadcasts to China, the BBG public affairs office issued a press release about the 50th anniversary of VOA broadcasting to Latin America. They also had issued earlier a press release about the closing down of the Voice of America Croation Service.
Critics see the refusal to issue a press release on VOA in China as a bureaucratic retaliation by BBG executives against members of Congress who had prevented them from ending VOA radio and television broadcasts in Mandarin and Cantonese. The BBG wanted to terminate these programs on October 1, 2011, which happens to be the anniversary of the founding of communist China, but thanks to an amendment introduced by Rep. Rohrabacher, which received full bipartisan support, the broadcasts were saved.
Sources told BBG Watch that the strategy of confronting Congress is being opposed now by at least two BBG members, Republican member Victor Ashe and Democratic member Michael Meehan, but most of the other members of the eight person bipartisan board, not counting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an ex officio member, seem to support BBG executives who had advised them to end VOA broadcasts to China. According to BBG Watch sources, BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson has agreed to a $10,000 pay raise for a BBG executive who was one of the chief architects of the doomed decision regarding China.
The same executives have developed the plan to privatize Voice of America and Radio and TV Marti and to merge Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Sawa, and Alhurra TV into a large corporate bureaucracy. That plan is likely to encounter even stronger opposition from members of Congress, particularly those like Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen who support broadcasting to Cuba and other countries without free media and view the proposed privatization of VOA and Radio and TV Marti as yet another BBG concession to regimes in Havana, Beijing, and Moscow. Critics argue that the privatization and merger plan would further increase the power of BBG bureaucrats, limit Congressional oversight, and cost U.S. taxpayers just as much if not more than the current arrangement.
According to sources, both Meehan and Ashe wanted to attend the Capitol Hill reception but had other engagements. No other BBG member came to the event. Ashe was travelling to visit the BBG shortwave transmitting station in Greenville, North Carolina, which BBG executives want to close down. According to BBG Watch sources, Ashe believes that shortwave broadcasting to countries without free media, especially those which practice Internet censorship, continues to serve an important strategic national security function. He is also known to want to save American jobs. BBG executives, who each year give themselves large bonuses but are rated as being among the worst managers in the federal government, had proposed earlier to fire 45 VOA China Branch journalists and broadcasters, most of whom specialize in human rights reporting.
Critics of the BBG noted that the board was represented at the Capitol Hill reception by BBG officials who were the chief architects of the decision to end VOA broadcasting to China. In 2008, they succeeded in ending VOA radio and TV programs to Russia, which is now experiencing major anti-government protests. “They dug themselves into a deep hole by alienating the strongest supporters of U.S. international broadcasting on Capitol Hill and by feeding bad advice to BBG Chairman who is busy promoting his book about Steve Jobs and, like most other part time BBG members, lacks sufficient knowledge of government bureaucracy and public diplomacy,” said one BBG Watch source. The same source said: “BBG members face a simple choice, they can either side with Congress which gives them money and whose members are some of the strongest supporters of U.S. international broadcasting, or they can continue to listen to their executives who cost them each $170,000 a year plus a $10,000 bonus, who want to cut broadcasts, and who have alienated BBG’s alies. The choice is that simple.”
The BBG has hired Lynne Weil, a senior official in the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy, to serve as their top public relations representative. Weil, who in the past had worked for a number of members of Congress, has not yet assumed her duties at the BBG and is not seen as being responsible for the latest snub directed at Congressional critics of the BBG.
After the BBG public affairs officials refused to issue a press release, employees of the Voice of America China Branch wrote their own announcement for the media.
Celebrating 70 Years of VOA broadcasting to China
Since 1941, Voice of America has been broadcasting uncensored, fair and balanced news programming into China. This has extended the spirit of democracy and free flow of information to a nation ruled by a totalitarian regime and subjected to its system of censorship.
On December 6th, 2011, the international broadcasters of VOA China Branch are sponsoring a celebration of this historic milestone, hosted by the Honorable Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
VOA Chinese broadcasting plays an important role as a reliable news source and provides listeners with an alternative to China’s state media. This role is especially crucial during periods of social transformation such as the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square revolts and pro-democracy protests of 1989, and the Tibetan unrest of 2008. VOA Chinese broadcasting has helped enrich listeners’ knowledge and independent thought through exposure to the views of influential individuals such as Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei and the Dalai Lama.
VOA Chinese has earned the loyalty of an expansive audience:
* Largest Audience: According to a 2010 Broadcasting Board of Governors survey, the VOA Chinese radio audience is twice as large as that of the next two media agencies, BBC and RFA (Radio Free Asia), combined.
* Best-Known International Media: According to the same survey, awareness of VOA in China has routinely been up to 5 times higher than that of other major international media such as BBC and RFA. In 2010, 12% of respondents are aware of VOA, as compared to 4% for BBC, and 3% for RFA, CNN, and NHK respectively.
In order to better serve our audience, VOA Chinese broadcasting goes beyond short wave radio, encompassing satellite, internet and mobile phone technology to create a diversified and abundant news offering.
On May 16th, 2011, a bipartisan letter signed by eight members of Congress, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Congressman David Wu, recognized the importance of VOA Chinese and its contribution to the improvement of America’s security and its image abroad. VOA Chinese will continue to uphold this legacy of excellence and remains committed to the spread of democracy and uncensored information to the people of China. Chief of VOA Chinese Branch Sasha Gong echoes this sentiment, saying, “We are celebrating 70 years and many more to come!” Media Contact: Paris Huang, 202-549-5260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Voice of America China Branch
Before the establishment of Voice of America, American international broadcasting of Chinese-language programs had already begun. On February 18th, 1939, America began broadcasting radio programs in Cantonese. On December 28th, 1941, Mandarin Chinese broadcasting began with only two employees. During this period of World War II, the China Branch broadcast every day for one hour, with the broadcast time split evenly between Mandarin and Cantonese programming.
In the wake of the Japanese invasion of China, the Chinese government moved to the interior of the country and VOA broadcasting evolved to meet wartime needs. In order to provide Chinese citizens with timely reporting on war developments in China, the Pacific, and areas around the world, the number of employees in the China Branch gradually increased, resulting in more abundant news programs and specialized reports. The Branch also began broadcasting in Taiwanese and Chaozhou (Teochew) dialects. As World War II came to an end and international tensions decreased, China Branch staff was reduced from 50 people to fewer than 30.
During World War II, the Voice of America was subordinate to the Office of War Information. In 1945, the organization was reshuffled and put under the Foreign Information Service of the State Department; the China Branch also moved from San Francisco to New York City. While based in New York, the China Branch broadcast eight hours each day in five different dialects, including Mongolian for a time.
In August of 1953, the US Congress passed a bill establishing the U.S. Information Agency; Voice of America became part of this new government structure. The following year, Voice of America moved from New York to Washington D.C., where it remains today. In April 1994, the U.S. government rearranged the international broadcasting framework, establishing the International Broadcasting Bureau, which resulted in Voice of America being part of the International Broadcasting Bureau.
In October of 1998, President Clinton signed a new law requiring all publicly funded, non-military international broadcasting to be placed under the authority of a new broadcasting board. In October 1999, the independent, bipartisan nine-member Broadcasting Board of Governors was established.
Today, Voice of America China Branch Mandarin Service broadcasts eight hours a day, seven days a week. VOA’s Cantonese Service broadcasts two hours a day, seven days a week. These broadcasts cover a potential audience of 1.3 billion Mainland Chinese and 23 million Taiwanese, as well as Chinese-speaking populations in South East Asia, North America, Australia, and other countries.
To better serve the needs of this audience, in September of 1994, China Branch began simultaneously broadcasting Chinese TV programs on both satellite and radio. In 1997, Voice of America China Branch launched its own website: http://www.voachinese.com. VOA Chinese iPhone Apps was launched in May, 2011, which also allows users to send news tips and real-time photos to us.
VOA China Branch Mandarin Service programs include news and commentary, live call-in shows, simulcast radio and TV programs, scholarly discourses, as well as a variety of shows concerning