Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BBC, VOA to kill Mandarin Language Services =UPDATEDX3=

Taipei Times reported today on a story that's been on the net for several days. One can only echo Arthur Waldron's words:
Voice of America (VOA) plans to end all radio and TV broadcasts in Mandarin and Cantonese starting in October amid a budget cut plan announced by US President Barack Obama, reports said yesterday.

The decision is highly controversial and has already engendered some strong reactions among China watchers.

“Shocking and idiotic,” said Arthur Waldron, professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on China.

“Information is our strong point. As true news about China comes out, it will be easier for us to deal with them. Radios are very effective indeed at shaping public opinion,” he said.
The short-wave services are being cut in favor of social network and digital network content programming.

But don't worry! There's always more money to keep Guantanamo open and continue the epic foolishness in Afghanistan. In Beijing they must go to bed every night laughing at the leadership of the US.

Meanwhile the BBC, in the grip of austerity madness in the UK, is doing the same thing:
BBC World Service will cease all radio programming – focusing instead, as appropriate, on online, mobile and television content and distribution – in the following languages: Azeri, Mandarin Chinese (note that Cantonese radio programming continues), Russian (save for some programmes which will be distributed online only), Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian.
As one expert I saw noted, China is quite capable of blocking digital media access but it is much harder to shut out shortwave broadcasts. He also claimed that VOA Chinese is listened to by policymakers in Beijing as a way to gather open source intelligence on the US -- a very important way to talk directly to the leadership, he observed.

Finally, a number of people have pointed out that at a time when China is ramping up its propaganda all over the world, including in the US, cuts in our side's programs is really a dumb idea.

UPDATE: Alton notes that the TT article says Radio Free Asia will be taking over some of VOA's mandarin broadcast hours, and continuing to broadcast in Mandarin.

UPDATE 2: China's Global Times has multiple propaganda orgasms at the reduction in competition:

The Chinese service of VOA and BBC are heading toward an inevitable fall. In addition to competition from other media, they are being marginalized due to their biased and unprofessional reporting.

As tremendous changes have happened in China, their coverage has been persistently negative, which has increasingly turned away Chinese audiences.

Their Chinese service is coming to a historical end, with their mission unfinished.

UPDATE 3: VOA employees say management pushed them to engage in self-censorship due to pressure from China:
However, even prior to the announcement morale at the service had long been suffering, sources at VOA told the Taipei Times in an interview on Thursday night, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of their positions.

In recent years, one source said, not only did employees at VOA Chinese service work terrible shifts, but occasionally they would be reprimanded for failing to provide what management called “balanced” reporting on China.

One instance involved the invitation of World Uyghur Congress leader Rebeiya Kadeer for a show, which resulted in the show’s host being slapped on the wrist afterward for failing to invite a Chinese official to provide the other side of the story.

“The Chinese propaganda is already available for all to listen to,” the source said, adding that VOA did not need to serve as a platform for the views of the Chinese Communist Party and in many cases VOA served as one of the few means for minorities to voice their message out.
A US gov't radio station serving Beijing's propaganda needs? Disgusting.
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Anonymous said...

Shocking and idiotic indeed. Where is the leadership in the USA? I fear that they don't know what they are up against.

Anonymous said...

Donald Trump on the USA and China

Jenna said...

So...we're cutting this, heating assistance subsidies for the poor, considering public radio cuts, cuts in education but we've still got too much military presence around the world (I"m not against some military assistance globally, just not at the current level), Gitmo hasn't closed yet and there's still plenty of money to ensure that rich people don't have to pay more taxes.

I take voting very seriously but feel pushed ever closer to not voting at all in the next election - I can't in good conscience support a Republican candidate (there are none that I support - NONE) but Obama is severely taxing my patience.

Freeman said...

It's the right thing to do. I don't understand why the big fuss over it. Easy for you all to spew anger here behind the screen. Aside from being hobby bloggers and English teachers, I wonder if any of you understands what it means to deal with budget deficits of this magnitude. And inserting Guantanamo and Afghanistan here is a too simplistic comparison, I really expected more from the author. China's propaganda around the world is all hot air, people are not stupid. In the end all that will matter is the strength of the military, not radio propaganda. Who listens to radio anyway? I can assure you it's not young people. And they are our future.

Michael Turton said...

LOL, the budget deficits aren't caused by VOA, Freeman. They are caused by defeats in the idiotic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the victory of the wealthy in our class war at home. They can be fixed easily by returning tax rates on the wealthy to their pre-reagan levels and shutting down the wasteful and criminal war against Islam. But that's too intelligent.

Jenna said...

I'm with Michael. Sorry, Freeman, but VOA didn't cause budget deficits. Costly and unnecessary wars did (seriously, we're now seeing that people who want democracy and freedom will fight for it. Forcing it on them doesn't work), as well as tax breaks for people who don't need them. Let's also talk about how our current travesty of a health care "system" costs us billions, and Medicare and Medicaid seem to be so costly since they're over-soaked Band-Aids on a gushing wound.

By the way, as a corporate trainer (thanks for assuming we all teach as though we're 21-year-olds with no training throwing Nerf balls at kids) I can assure you that many of my students did in fact listen to VOA, and I teach some of the more influential businesspeople in Taiwan. I've also been to Xinjiang, to its far western border, and I can assure you that the Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Uighurs who live there under brutally oppressive and racist Chinese rule do listen to VOA - it's their source of news in a part of China with very few options for current affairs information.

If you, as you so condescendingly imply, have more "experience" in managing major budgets than we do, then you'd also see what really causes our budget deficit, you'd understand the concept of investing wisely in order to staunch an outflow of money in the future, and you'd understand that our rather insufficient programs that help those in need or those without access to real information (including those in China with no Internet, let alone firewall-avoiding proxy software) are such a tiny part of the issue that cutting them is almost a token effort to appease a group (Tea Partiers and certain Republicans) who will never, ever be appeased because it's in their interest to create and maintain conflict.

Karl said...

I'm with Freeman, sort of. At least as far as the "who listens to the (short wave) radio, anyway". Not a good return on our propaganda dollar.

Raj said...

Michael, you honestly don't seem to have any idea of what's going on in the UK.

in the grip of austerity madness

1. The BBC chose to pull the plug. They have a huge budget that shouldn't be further subsidised by government departments. If they want to prioritise crappy reality TV, that's their call.

2. We are not in the grip of "austerity madness". We have a big budget deficit that isn't going away by itself. Unlike the US we aren't in denial about the national debt and are taking action now, rather than wait until the interest repayments are so crippling we have to cut back services like the NHS that are currently protected.

And I really hope you're not suggesting our budget deficit is caused by the war in Afghanistan, because what we spend on it each year is chicken feed in comparison.

Okami said...

Returning Tax rates to Pre-Reagan levels? That was funny.

I grew up during the time of Reagan. I remember clearly the great hollowing out of Midwestern manufacturing. I remember govt cheese and butter because I actually ate them. I remember the newspaper ads for tax shelters and them often being mentioned on TV programs. I remember stagflation. I remember you being quite well off if you could fly on an airplane or could travel. After Carter, anybody would of been better, though Carter gets points for starting the deregulation of the American economy. I'm sorry but Reagan clearly increased tax collection from the wealthy with his tax cuts, just like Coolidge, JFK, and Clinton did. The wealthy will always avoid tax rates that take more than 25% of their income, just ask John Kerry former presidential candidate and Senator from MA who parked his boat in Rhode Island to avoid paying half a million in boat taxes.

The BBC/VOA closure basically has more to do with Chinese pressure put on both through multiple channels in a bid to have greater control within their own country of the flow of information. It has nothing to do with budget cuts. With the BBC they could just go after their newsreporters and with VOA, I believe the State Dept would sell out their mothers to the Chinese for a kind word.

Michael Turton said...

I'm sorry but Reagan clearly increased tax collection from the wealthy with his tax cuts, just like Coolidge, JFK, and Clinton did.

Alas, no. See

Krugman or CBPP. It's a staple of Reagan Hagiography that tax cuts increased revenues, but the reality is that revenues grew limply and in spite of the cuts.

And the idea that whacking VOA will balance the budget, when we're going to dump another $150 billion into the Afghan failure and our Endless War on Islam abroad and civil liberties at hime, is ridiculous. You can make an argument that VOA is not useful, but you can't make that argument on budgetary grounds.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks that Afghanistan would need some kind of 19th century style nationalist movement/dictatorship first... you can't just skip from tribal society to democracy in one generation, as shown by Africa, etc.

FOARP said...

Raj got their before me. No, you can't just elide from the financial situation in the US into that in the UK, even if they do have similarities.

Alton said...

The blog entry above cites the beginning of the Taipei Times article. The same article, further down, quotes the budget document submitted by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. (The BBG is the entity that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty, Radio Marti, TV Marti and similar efforts.) The BBG statements make it clear that VOA Mandarin will concentrate on digital media while Radio Free Asia (RFA) Mandarin takes over responsibilities for radio.

“The agency will shift VOA Mandarin from traditional radio and television broadcasting to a Web-only platform..."

“RFA will continue its radio broadcasting in Mandarin..."

Because the blog entry never mentions RFA, a reader might be misled into thinking all Mandarin radio broadcasts will cease. Not so. Mandarin radio broadcasts will simply no longer be a responsibility of the VOA. The RFA will continue doing that and will actually take on some new radio duties that were formerly handled by VOA.

A visit to the BBG's web site suggests one reason for the new focus on digital media at VOA: the role played by online resources such as Twitter and Facebook in recent challenges to, and toppling of, world dictators.

Broadcasting Board of Governors

Radio Free Asia

Voice of America

Michael Turton said...

Because the blog entry never mentions RFA, a reader might be misled into thinking all Mandarin radio broadcasts will cease. Not so. Mandarin radio broadcasts will simply no longer be a responsibility of the VOA.

Thanks Alton! Reading your comment, a reader might be misled into thinking I had never pointed out the switch to digital media, nor the problems with it.


J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

Yes, RFA would pick up some of VOA's Mandarin programming, but it, too, faces cuts, albeit hidden ones. I interview RFA president Libby Liu last week: