VOA's Digital Tweaks Get Mixed Signals

Saturday, 11 Jun 2011 09:20 PM

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As the government's Voice of America broadcasting services undergo a 21st-century digital makeover, some proposed moves away from radio transmission to Web-casting and Facebook are causing static on Capitol Hill, The New York Times reports. Walter Isaacson, the veteran D.C. journalist who now runs the propaganda agency, is discovering that traditional VOA affiliates such as Radio and TV Martí and Radio Free Asia have powerful defenders in Congress.

A recent effort to shut down shortwave U.S. broadcasts to China, for example, ran smack into Rep. Dana Rohrabacker, R-Calif., who said that using only digital media to reach the Chinese would signal weakness to a global adversary. Isaacson expects similar resistance from the Cuban-American constituencies that back Radio and TV Martí.

“It’s going to take some tilling of the ground,” Isaacson said.

VOA must plug into the new communications matrix or risk becoming a relic at a time when the United States needs to get its viewpoint across to closed or hostile societies, he said.

“Yet in a brutal budget climate, the money for foreign broadcasting is shrinking,” the Times reports. “And the competition is relentless. In Egypt alone, 12 new commercial television channels have sprouted up since the January revolt.”

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