Towards a more efficient international broadcasting sliver.

Posted: 30 Apr 2009   Print   Send a link
"Many Americans don’t like big government. Yet that is what we get because government regulates itself. ... Federal agencies are run by bureaucrats whose main interest is their own continuing employment. ... Voice of America television, which by law cannot broadcast in the United States, is migrating to high-definition television. Why? No Somali or Azerbaijani TV stations are demanding American HD content. The government has just modernized a $35 million-a-year radio and TV service called Radio and TV Marti. It was started by the Reagan administration to give Cubans another place to get news, but the Cuban government blocks its transmissions. It’s still there, broadcasting to essentially no one all these years. Why? Radio Free Europe is also still broadcasting. It employs about 500 people and costs $75 million a year. Why? This is one tiny sliver of the federal government. Multiply it by roughly 1,300 federal agencies and you have some real inefficiencies." David Hazinski, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 17 April 2009.
     US international broadcasting has made adjustments to cope with the changing global political and media scene. RFA and VOA have eliminated their Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian services, among others. Since the 1980s, seven USIB shortwave transmitting sites have been closed.
     International broadcasting remains vital to many parts of the world because dictators, terrorists, and other miscreants thrive amid disinformation, misinformation, and missing information. Reliable news and information helps people develop democracies and to participate in democracy.
     There are opportunities for savings in broadcasting to Cuba, but the country remains a logical target for USIB.
     I'm not sure what the writer is getting at in his reference to high-definition television. Digital modes, which can be adjusted for definition commensurate with the content, are becoming the global standard. USIB gets its largest audiences by placing programs on television stations in the target country. It must employ the technology used by those stations.
     But Mr. Hazinski's basic point is correct. Every "sliver" of the federal government can be made more efficient. Add up all the savings, and you're talking real money. This is why I -- because I'm not a very good bureaucrat -- never call for more federal spending on my particular sliver of the US government. Instead, since 1989, I've pointed out the duplication and redundancies in the feudal system of US international broadcasting entities. And the fact that Britain spends less on international broadcasting than the United States, but has more audience.