Critics of the broadcasting cuts, announced Monday, said major reductions in staff and shortwave broadcasts will sharply curtail an important outlet for unfiltered news and information for large numbers of people in China, especially areas such as Tibet and western Xinjiang province, where pro-democracy forces are opposing Chinese rule.
“This is another alarming sign that America is cowering before China’s gangster regime,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The Chinese people are our greatest allies, and the free flow of information is our greatest weapon.”
The cuts were outlined as a cost-cutting measure in the fiscal 2012 budget report of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA’s parent agency. The plan calls for shifting the focus from shortwave to digital media, such as Internet broadcasts.
If Congress approves the plan, all shortwave VOA radio and television broadcasts in Chinese, under way since 1942, will end on Oct. 1.
The U.S. government will continue to operate Radio Free Asia, a less official and smaller news operation that will continue broadcasts into China and other closed states in Asia. It also is facing budget cuts that officials say will limit its effectiveness.
However, Voice of America has a much wider audience and larger reach that will be sharply curtailed by the shift to the Internet because many Chinese in rural areas or regions facing central government punishment do not have access to the Internet or cell phones.
“This cut will send a very wrong message to China,” said an administration official close to VOA. “By eliminating all VOA radio and TV broadcasts to China, the United States will remove one of the most important sources of unfiltered news broadcasting into China.”
A second administration official familiar with internal discussions on the issue said one reason for the cuts was the Chinese government’s refusal to assist U.S. broadcasts in China by providing affiliates to rebroadcast programs through AM and FM radio.
“When it comes to pro-democracy broadcasting to the world and with events like Egypt happening, this is not the time to retreat,” she said. “This is the time to advance and reach out with more broadcasting.”
Internet-only broadcasting will prevent millions of Chinese from getting news and information, especially those in restricted areas. “Our broadcasts must not only be focused only on the elites but should target the masses who are protesting against the elites,” Ms. Cullum said.View Entire Story
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Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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