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BBG Chairman Responds to VOA Petition

BBG Chairman Responds to VOA Petition

The chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the governing body of U.S. shortwave overseas broadcasting, is answering charges leveled against the BBG in a petition circulated by Voice of America employees.
Kenneth Tomlinson states to Radio World: “Contrary to allegations contained in a petition of Voice of America employees, 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.”
In a petition signed by nearly half of VOA staffers and reported on earlier by Radio World, roughly 460 staffers told The Hill newspaper they’re upset that VOA is shifting money away from English and European broadcasts as it focuses more on the Middle East with new services Radio Sawa, al-Hurra and Radio Farda.
Radio World has reported the number of English-language broadcast hours from VOA has dropped from 24 hours to 19 hours a day.
The staffers claim that news for the new Middle East programs, such as Radio Sawa, profiled in Radio World, is not produced in the VOA newsroom, but rather in a separate place overseen by the board.
Tomlinson disputes this, stating: “Of course 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 VOA petitioners cannot be allowed to distort these facts.”
“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,” states Tomlinson.