Through our Washington, DC, correspondent John Birchard, Rifftides has updated you from time to time on the fight against the Bush administration’s attempt to dismantle or downgrade the English language broadcasts of the Voice Of America. Birchard reports that there has been, if not an all-out victory, significant progress.
Concerning the battle to keep the English language news division at VOA alive: we won!
A two-year battle with our own management ended when Bush signed a budget bill that included specific language restoring the funds for English news as well as some language services that had been targeted for extinction (Russian, etc.). Not only that, the Congress included language (and funds) to restore some short- and medium-wave transmissions which will begin to expand our terribly shrunken reach.
Heroes in this tedious fight are the Chair of the Foreign Ops Subcommittee on Appropriations, Rep Nita Lowey of NY, and the ranking Republican on the subcommittee Frank Wolf of Virginia. But beyond their work, we found another member of Congress to whom we now refer as Our Lady on the Hill, Rep Betty McCollum, D of MN. She’s a former Peace Corps volunteer who was (and remains) a fan of VOA. She’s been a key defender for us and we can’t thank her enough for her efforts.
When I came to VOA fifteen years ago, I never expected to be involved in politics, nor did I want to. But this fight for survival has forced me (and a number of others) to learn the ropes of Washington behind-the-scenes legislative work. Like the making of sausage, it’s a process better left to the imagination.
And it’s not over. In February, when the fiscal ’09 budget is unveiled, we fully expect that management will again try to shut us down. But this time we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. We’ve done the research, cultivated the contacts, gotten on a first-name basis with the committee staffers who make things happen in the halls of Congress and know the battle goes not to the swift but to the plodding, every-day scut work where you win some, lose some and come back to fight another day. And never give up.
That’s your Washington report for today.
For John’s previous report, go here. This discussion started following a Rifftides piece about the VOA’s honored jazz broadcaster Willis Conover. If you search the archive (right-hand column) for Conover’s name, you will find other posts on the matter.