Other Matters: Chipping Away At The VOA

VOA.jpgWith esteem for the United States at a low ebb around the world, the government continues to dismantle the Voice Of America, for more than half a century one of the nation’s most effective creators of good will abroad. The Washington Post reports on the latest VOA service to be stilled by the Bush administration:

NEW DELHI — At the height of the Cold War, as India leaned resolutely toward the Soviet Union, one direct line of communication remained open from Washington to India’s teeming millions: Voice of America, the U.S. government’s radio network. Rangisah Prasad, 70, recalls the days when there was just one radio set in his village, and Voice of America’s Hindi-language broadcasts provided an escape from the dull drone of India’s state-controlled radio news.

The Cold War is over, but Prasad’s devotion to VOA lives on. “I have been hearing this station for 40 years now. Their tone was always friendly and informal. People gathered around the radio in the village square and listened to Voice of America,” Prasad said in a telephone interview from Dumarsan village in the Indian state of Bihar. “We understood the world through their programs.”

But in a move that reflects shifts in U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors has decided that VOA’s seven-hour Hindi-language radio service will end this month, after 53 years. VOA will also eliminate radio broadcasts in three Eastern European languages. Radio broadcasts in Russian went off the air in July.

To read all of the Post story, go here. The administration’s relentless disassembling of one of the most effective and cost-efficient US tools of cultural diplomacy seems to have gone unnoticed by either presidential campaign. The candidates should be asked what they would do to revive the VOA. The Rifftides staff’s concern with this matter goes back a long way. The lack of public concern disturbs me.It should disturb all Americans, and those in other countries who wish us well.

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