voice of america

December 14, 2010

NBC, a division of General Electric, announced last night it has bought the Voice of America.

No joke. Read about it here.

But it's not the U.S. government’s Voice of America: NBC will launch "The Voice of America" as a new weekly television series next spring.

Consider the opportunities for confusion, especially when NBC's VOA is broadcast in other countries. Even sophisticated viewers might believe NBC VOA is related to that other VOA.

Larry Schweikart, co-producer of the film "Rockin’ the Wall": "Rock music was blasted to through the Iron Curtain through government-subsidized Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and we interviewed the legal counsel for VOA who described the debates inside the Reagan administration about the appropriateness of sending 'degenerate' rock music eastward. But even the advisory boards came to understand that it was the structure of rock, as much as the lyrics, that counted.

The diplomatic cable urged US to consider a new raft of anti-Bin Laden propaganda through the Voice of America radio station, interviews with Bin Laden victims, "commissioned articles" in the local press and an anti-Bin Laden website.

Does radio still play a role in a world where that is increasingly cyber-connected and populated by smart phone users? The answer, according to Google’s Director of Policy and Planning Bob Boorstin, is very much a “yes.”

The second item, reform of [Voice of America’s Persian News Network] PNN, underscores just how important U.S. international broadcasting continues to be in closed societies like Iran. According to [Amir Abbas] Fakhvarar, VOA’s Persian service is only one of two outside networks reaching Iranian audiences—the other being the BBC’s Persian service.

[Meles Zenawi] said he decided to jam VOA broadcasts in Ethiopia "by taking a page from U.S. policy". He wildly alleged that an evil cabal of supporters of the defunct Ethiopian military regime disguised as journalists had taken control of VOA's Amharic service.

In 2002 and 2007, The New York Times published my pieces about the need for autonomy in U.S. international broadcasting. On July 13, they published me again. The op-ed, "Radio Free of Bureaucracy" is about my other recurring theme: the need for consolidation in U.S. international broadcasting.

On March 30, 1949, in its first semi-annual report by the US Advisory Commission on Information, the predecessor to today's Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, recommended an "immediate and broad expansion of the world-wide information program being conducted by the State Department, including the activities of the Voice of America."