“Painful choices” is the phrase being used by the Broadcasting Board of Governors in announcing cuts it wants to make to some VOA programming, even as it proposes an increase overall in its budget to help fight terrorists.
The BBG said the proposed fiscal 2007 budget for U.S. international broadcasting calls for “an overall increase of 4.3% from fiscal year 2006 targeted to the war on terror and new technology.” But while proposed increases go to Middle East Broadcasting Networks and Voice of America, language services not aimed at fighting terrorism would see cuts or eliminations.
The $671.9 million budget proposes reductions in English-language programming by eliminating VOA News Now radio. “Research shows that millions more are benefiting from Internet programming than from shortwave transmission, which VOA News Now relies on,” the BBG stated.
“Other proposed reductions include elimination of VOA broadcasts in Croatian, Turkish, Thai, Greek and Georgian. VOA radio broadcasts in Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Serbian, Russian and Hindi would end while television programming in these languages would continue.
“Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will continue radio programming in Russian and Georgian while eliminating radio programming in Macedonian.”
Chairman Ken Tomlinson said, "Every member of the Board of Governors regrets the loss of VOA services proposed in this budget." He said he believes the organization is fortunate to get an increase that strengthens its role in the war on terrorism.
For fiscal 2007, the proposal calls for a 13% increase for Middle East Broadcasting Networks and a 5.3% increase for VOA.
Also planned by the board are expanded service to Iran including enhancements to the Radio Farda web site; increased Middle East TV news coverage and added customized local news content and coverage for Radio Sawa; adding a one-hour TV program for Afghanistan in Dari and Pashto, and enhancing transmission for VOA Pashto programming to the people of Afghanistan along the border region while adding more FM and medium-wave capability.