CUSIB's Open ‘Thank You’ Letter to Broadcasting Board of Governors

Open ‘Thank You’ Letter to Broadcasting Board of Governors
January 17, 2011
Dear Chairman Isaacson and Board Members:
We would like to thank the Broadcasting Board of Governors, especially Chairman Isaacson and Ambassador Ashe, for extending their invitation to allow our Executive Director to attend Friday’s Board Meeting as your guest. As members of a non-governmental organization that supports media freedom and U.S. international broadcasting, we are grateful that the Board is open to consider the views of those of us involved in the pro-democracy, free press, women’s rights, religious freedom and human rights movements here and abroad. In the great spirit of transparency, thank you.
On behalf of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting, we applaud your decision to discard plans to end Voice of America’s Cantonese and Mandarin radio and TV broadcasts. The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting was adamantly opposed to this plan.
We believe in and support the distinct and special missions of both VOA and surrogate broadcasters. We hope that you will carefully consider any future proposal that might impact on the unique role of VOA’s radio and television broadcasts as a powerful voice of the American people and our elected and non-elected representatives and spokesmen. We also hope that the independence of surrogate broadcasting will be preserved. De-federalization of the Voice of America would weaken its pro-human rights impact abroad and make it less representative of the views and values of American citizens. Centralization of management controls over the surrogate broadcasters could hamper their ability to specialize in human rights reporting and divert resources from those who are the most knowledgeable about the countries and regions to which they broadcast. Please consider these issues carefully.
Any reorganization proposals you may be putting forward should not diminish in any way full public ownership, control, and effective oversight over U.S. international broadcasting. Americans and their elective representatives need to have even greater input than now into how American policies, values and opinions are presented abroad. We are concerned that the BBG reorganization plan may limit transparency and accountability.
In support of transparency and openness, the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting advocates for public ownership of all content produced by publicly funded U.S. international broadcasters. We believe strongly that all such content, not just from VOA but also from the surrogate broadcasters, should be in public domain. We urge you to make this change as soon as possible with regard to the surrogate broadcasters. Their output is currently copyrighted even though it is entirely paid for by American taxpayers.
We support efforts to clarify the Smith-Mundt Act to state that anyone in the United States, as well as abroad, is free to use this content free of charge and to make sure that it is made available to those who may want it regardless of where they live.
We are strongly opposed, however, to any active marketing of such content by the Agency within the United States. We believe that this would seriously distract you from your primary mission of providing news to audiences overseas.
The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting supports BBG journalists and other employees whose hard work and dedication help countless millions of people receive uncensored news. We urge you to address the issue of unequal treatment of foreign workers at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who are denied by a decision of the BBG some of the protections of the Czech labor law. This issue is now before the European Court of Human Rights. We are also concerned that a large number of contract employees at the Voice of America and the International Broadcasting Bureau are denied basic employment benefits and protections.
We would like to invite each of you to visit our website,, and read the letter from one of the world’s top China watchers, Dr. Willy Lam, who wrote about the importance of VOA broadcasts. Please also watch the video we have posted that was recorded by volunteers of Women’s Rights in China at considerable risk to their own lives. This video shows how critical these broadcasts are to the most vulnerable, the most oppressed, and the poorest in the world. Please do not forget about them and about the Internet censorship they face – even as you rightfully try to expand your reach using new media.
It was an honor for our Executive Director to meet the Board Members who attended Friday’s meeting, and we will remain hopeful that you will welcome us to attend your next meeting.
Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting
Ann Noonan, Executive Director
Ted Lipien, Director