VOA and other US news programs saved from shutdown

Many thanks to The Cable at Foreign Policy for this tidbit:

In Shutdown, Government-Funded News Declared ‘Essential to National Security’

Despite a wave of disruptive furloughs at the Pentagon, CIA, NASA and other federal agencies, Uncle Sam will continue pumping out thousands of hours of government-funded news programs to foreign audiences during the shutdown.

On Tuesday, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the overseer of U.S.-funded news in 61 languages in more than 100 countries, announced that its vast range of TV, radio and Internet programming will remain operational “while the numbers of support personnel are reduced.”

“The current broadcasting distribution schedule will remain in place,” said the agency. “Internet and new media operations will continue as necessary for overseas audiences.”

Rest of story.

I can really see this as a vital part of the functioning of the US government.

One of the principles of the United States — perhaps the closest thing we have to a “national religion” — is the concept of freedom of speech and press. As a new organization, VOA is a prime example of that “religion.”

VOA screen cap

Even as the Bush 43 Administration pressured VOA to NOT air interviews with Taliban leaders, the VOA went ahead and acted like any other news organization.

The VOA has won journalism excellence awards from just about every US journalism organization, including the Society of Professional Journalists.

And now the people of the world can see American democracy, warts and all.

And even though this shows the dysfunctional nature of Congress, it also shows the basic strength of the United States. A VOA blog contributor from China made the important connection to this strength:

I admired the fact that they allowed different voices to rise, and will not make any decision until they reach an agreement, which can avoid unwise fiscal decisions that waste people’s money. I also tried to compare the way they make decisions with that of Chinese government. As we all know, the communist party is dominating the government, and that allows it to always make decision quickly. However, we did not have the chance to know or question how people’s money has spent just until recently. In fact, according to Xinhua News agency, not until 2009 did the Chinese government started to make the fiscal plan public. But still, how the local government spent the money remain unknown.

Unfortunately I just heard that most of AFN will not be operating. This is a pity. The service provided a bit of home for US military and diplomatic forces around the world. (And some pretty interesting PSAs.)

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Filed under Connections, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, Story Ideas

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