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 short-wave services are being cut in favor of social network and digital network content programming.
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.
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.A US gov't radio station serving Beijing's propaganda needs? Disgusting.
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.
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