FreeMediaOnline.org Logo. FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog September 16, 2006, San Francisco — In a show of bipartisanship, two powerful members of Congress sent a letter to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) demanding that the BBG reverse its decision to terminate Voice of America (VOA) radio programs in Hindi to India. The BBG is a bipartisan body which manages VOA and several other taxpayer-funded U.S. international broadcasters.

Flag of India.The two Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), stressed in their letter to the BBG that over 70% of the Indian population lives in rural villages, many with no access to TV or the Internet. They expressed surprise that the BBG wants to terminate VOA  Hindi radio at the time when the United States is expanding its strategic partnership with India. They asked the BBG to allow VOA Hindi radio broadcasts to continue.

Chances are slim, however, that the Broadcasting Board of Governors will reverse its decision on India or other countries, to which VOA programs have been terminated or will soon cease, unless the whole Congress acts to force the Board to give up these programming cuts.

Unfortunately for radio listeners in India and concerned Indian Americans, the BBG enjoys strong support on this issue from Senator Joe Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Senator Barak Obama’s vice presidential running mate and a powerful member of the U.S. Senate.

Edward “Ted” E. Kaufman, Senator Biden’s former chief of staff who now works on his vice presidential campaign, blocked attempts last week to resume Voice of America (VOA) radio programs to Russia and other countries, including India. As a Democratic member of the BBG, Ted Kaufman was responsible earlier with other Democrats and some Republican members for terminating VOA Russian-language broadcasts just 12 days before Russia attacked Georgia on August 8. He had also voted for ending VOA broadcasts to India and a number of other countries, including Georgia.

Last week, a Republican BBG member, radio journalist Blanquita Cullum, had requested a vote on resuming VOA broadcasts in Russian and suspending plans to stop broadcasts to other countries. India was one of the countries named in Cullum’s proposal. Ted Kaufman was one of the key BBG members who refused to put the proposal to a vote, rejecting arguments that the earlier decision to terminate the broadcasts was wrong and that their resumption would send a strong message to Mr. Putin.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors Member Edward Ted Kaufman and others on Senator Biden’s staff  seem to be hoping that the mainstream media will not pay attention to this issue during the presidential election campaign, thus allowing them to play politics with U.S. international broadcasting to the benefit of the senator’s constituents and longtime friends.

Taking away radio broadcasting to Russia from VOA benefits another BBG-managed broadcaster,  semi-private Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which is incorporated in Delaware, Senator Biden’s home state.

Senator Biden has been a strong supporter of his billionaire backer Norman Pattiz. Founder and chairman of media empire Westwood One, Pattiz had served on the BBG from May 2006 until March 2006. Pattiz pushed for the elimination of many Voice of America services to fund his news and entertainment broadcasting projects for the Middle East: Radio Sawa and Alhurra Television, which have attracted much controversy.

Even after Norman Pattiz resigned from the Board in March 2006, Senator Biden’s former chief of staff continued to vote for eliminating or reducing VOA radio broadcasts to India, Russia, Tibet and other countries while supporting expanding broadcasts to the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Letter to BBG from Rep. Jim McDermott and Rep. Joe Wilson protesting the planned termination of the Voice of America radio service in Hindi to India.

Indian Americans and other supporters of U.S. international broadcasting and media freedom can contact Ted Kaufman through the BBG executive director Jeff Trimble: jtrimble@ibb.gov. 330 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20237, Tel: (202) 203-4400, Fax: (202) 203-4585.

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