Bush Boosts Middle East Broadcast Funding

Maybe former CPB Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson made the right move in exiting the noncom to devote full time to his other job as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

While the Bush Administration's new Fy2007 budget cuts $53 million, or about 13%, from CPB's budget, it boosts the budget for international broadcasting, which BBG oversees, by 4.3%, to $671.9 million to help boost broadcasts to the Middle East. That follows a 7.1% budget increase for fy2005.

The move signals an increasing an emphasis on Internet distribution, and the continuing roll-back of Cold War era services targeted to Europe, according to VOA spokesman Joe O'Connell.

The administration is trying to cut budgets across the board, but by contrast to CPB, BBG's Middle East Broadcasting service and Voice of America are considered weapons in the war on terrorism. In fact, while non terror-related language services under BBG will get the knife, or even the outright axe, the Middle East services are getting a 13% increase and VOA a 5.3% increase, which more than offsets the cuts elsewhere.

To make room for expanding Middle East TV channel Alhurra from 16 to 24 hours, adding customized local news content (as some legislators had suggested in a hearing on the service), stepping up broadcasts to Iran and other moves, the BBG will pull the plug on VOA News Now Radio, saying that the Internet makes more sense than shortwave transmission.

Also eliminated will be radio broadcasts in Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Serbian, Russian and Hindi, while TV broadcasts will continue. "The men and women who provided these services for many years served with distinction and provided programming that were critical to this nation's interests," said Tomlinson.  "However, the Board believes that the priorities reflected in this budget proposal represent the best allocation of funds."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.