FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog September 19, 2008, San Francisco — Both Republicans and Democrats on the Broadcasting Board of Governors showed remarkable bipartisanship in destroying Voice of America Russian-language radio in late July, shortly before Russia attacked Georgia. BBG executive director Jeffrey Trimble then advised VOA to pursue Internet-only strategy in Russia. But this former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty manager did not have the same advice for the semi-private broadcaster based in Moscow and Prague. RFE/RL has been so afraid to lose its Moscow bureau that its managers practice self-censorship and express confidence in Mr. Putin’s leadership. Trimble made sure, however, that while VOA would do nothing but the Internet, RFE/RL would continue radio broadcasts, their Internet presence, and even video production in Russian.
The attack on Georgia did not change the BBG’s plans for VOA in Russia. Granted, in the aftermath of the Russian military attack, the BBG sponsored a workshop designed to show that the Internet is subject to censorship and sabotage from authoritarian regimes. But apparently, the threat is not so great as to prevent their desire to limit the Voice of America to nothing but an Internet-only option in Russia.
Having destroyed VOA radio in Russia, they still somehow managed to get Under Secretary of State Paula J. Dobriansky to address their Internet censorship workshop. (I wonder if she knows that Governor Steven J. Simmons, who introduced her at the workshop, had voted earlier with most of his BBG coleagues to terminate VOA radio broadcasts to Ukraine.)
When the BBG members met the next day, September 11, they rejected an appeal from Governor Blanquita Cullum to resume VOA radio to Russia and to rescind permanently their decision to end VOA radio broadcasts to Ukraine and Georgia. (VOA Georgian radio will continue “for the foreseeable future,” according to a BBG press release, but their intention of eventually terminating VOA radio in Georgia apparently has not changed.)
You can view here our online presentationon the BBG’s actions in Russia.