Radio offers underrepresented and minority groups a voice that they would otherwise not have. That was the sentiment of Ann Noonan, who serves as executive director of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting, a volunteer organization that supports media freedom and human rights.
At the March board meeting for the Broadcasting Board of Governors that was held in Washington, Noonan raised the issue of potential conflicts of interest that might impact news coverage on Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. Specifically, Noonan raised the concern about the existence of potential conflict of interests by officials within BBG and the VOA who may have corporate or family business interests in China — an association that could potentially impact newsworthy coverage of individuals of Tibetans and Uyghurs descent, she said.
BBG funds the nonprofit international broadcasting group Radio Free Asia, which distributes content in nine Asian languages in six countries. It works in concert with VOA, the U.S. government-funded international radio broadcast source that produces digital, TV, and radio content in more than 40 languages.
According to Noonan, the committee was formed seven years ago when the BBG planned to eliminate Cantonese and Tibetan services. “Tibetans and Uyghurs are subject to unspeakable genocidal crimes and one of their only voices is Radio Free Asia,” she said.
At the board meeting, Noonan asked for further assurance by the BBG governors that the budget will not include any reduction or elimination of VOA’s Mandarin, Cantonese and Tibetan services, including shortwave and medium-wave radio, television and internet services.
She also pressed the board to clarify the status of certain staff hires for VOA that would help boost VOA’s Cantonese and Mandarin Services “to counterbalance China’s propaganda machine,” she said.
“As China’s government continues to commit unspeakable crimes against Tibetans and Uyghurs, it is necessary for Radio Free Asia’s funding and support to increase,” she said.
She expressed concern about potential conflicts of interest that may exist for officials within BBG and VOA in regard to anti-Chinese news coverage that would adversely impact decision-making and the quality of the content of broadcasting at the BBG. “These include how decisions are made, about who should be interviewed, who should be hired or fired, and how much funding from the overall BBG budget is taken from journalists and put into administrative processes,” she said.
She asked the board if they or a spouse had a connection to a business investment in China, would they be tempted to turn a blind eye to the oppression and genocide against Tibetans and Uyghurs?
“While Tibetans and Uyghurs are subject to unspeakable genocidal crimes and one of their only voices is Radio Free Asia, are you too aligned with the authorities who allow these atrocities to occur?” she asked. “Are any of you unwilling to criticize China’s government because of its economic power?”
She pointed to concerns such alleged detention of Radio Free Asia sources who have spoken about human rights.
Noonan called on the board to press the United Nations for a resolution that would seek assurance from the Chinese government that there would be no further persecution of RFA journalists and their families.
BBG Chairman Kenneth Weinstein told the board it would address the matter. The complete speech can be found here.