Saturday, February 19, 2011

VOA Chinese service employees furious as end looms

The atmosphere at the VOA Chinese service was not altogether positive prior to the announcement earlier this month of the likely cessation of shortwave broadcasts on Oct. 1. Sources told the Taipei Times that management would on occasion put pressure on show hosts to be more 'neutral' vis-a-vis China

“There’s a lot of anger,” said an employee at the Voice of America (VOA) Chinese service who, like dozens of others, could find herself out of a job if plans by the US government to drastically cut its funding proceed as planned.

Under a proposed restructuring plan, the US Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) budget submission for the VOA Mandarin service for the next fiscal year would include a US$8 million cut, which would be achieved in large part by eliminating traditional radio and TV broadcasting and shifting to a Web-only platform utilizing new media technologies. In addition, VOA’s Cantonese service would be eliminated altogether, with Radio Free Asia continuing broadcasts in the language.

The budget, which has been submitted to US Congress, has yet to be approved. If the cost-saving measures are approved, the VOA Chinese service would go off the air on Oct. 1 — which would coincide with National Day in the People’s Republic of China.

As the US Congress debates the matter, angered employees at the VOA Chinese service have launched a petition drive and plan to send letters to Congress, as part of efforts that are being replicated by a number of individuals and groups — including a prominent US-based human rights organization — that oppose the service’s likely fate.

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.

My feature article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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