Voice for America: Law Change Makes VOA, TV, Radio Marti Content Available in U.S.

In a move that could provide some low-cost, high-quality international news content to domestic cable and broadcast outlets, starting Tuesday (July 2), thousands of hours of international video and radio news content from the Voice of America and Radio and TV Marti will become available for domestic distribution for the first time.

Some of that content has been available on the Web, but not in a high-resolution format suitable for framing in a TV picture. Now, thanks to a change in law supported by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, restrictions on domestic broadcast of that content will be lifted so that the Voice of America can be a voice for America as well.

“News and information programs produced by BBG journalists in 61 languages for people in more than 100 countries can also be made available for broadcast within the United States,” a BBG spokesperson said. “Now, we will be able to provide them with broadcast-quality audio and video, rather than referring them only to what’s on the Web.” That could range from exclusive interviews to talk shows, documentaries and newscasts.

The move could be a boon to niche cable networks and broadcast multicast channels targeting diverse populations. “Emigré communities — many from areas in conflict — will be able to access reliable news of their home countries in their native languages,” the BBG said.

And the price is right. Because the content has already been paid for with tax dollars, it will be available for reimbursable costs incurred” in making it available — burning a DVD or changing a format — although if there is third party content included that will require a separate negotiation.

The target of the content is still other countries that lack a free press, but the U.S. press that could use some free content of their own in these tough economic times can now benefit, and the American public “will be able to know what they are paying for with their tax dollars,” the BBG said.

History Lures N.Y. Fans To Steamy BBQ Cookout

With temperatures topping 90 degrees, a paved section of Union Square Park in New York City seemed an unlikely place to spend even part of lunch hour last Tuesday (June 25), much less to wait in line for barbecue.

But the lines moved fast, and between the free food and giveaways of red bandanas, History enjoyed a brisk turnout for this stop on the “Cross-Country Cookout” tour.

Sponsored by Nationwide Insurance and supporting Soldier’s Wish, a group that aids veterans of military service, the cookout’s centerpiece is the 80-foot Ultimate Smoker and Grill. It has the capacity to cook up to 2,000 pounds of BBQ at once, overseen by pit master Trace “The Rib Whisperer” Arnold of 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House in Frisco, Texas.

At Union Square, the choice was jalapeno cheese (hot) or hickory (mild) flavored pork-and- beef blend sausage. The Wire sampled both, and pronounced them succulent.

Cindy Strauss thought about going hot but opted for mild. Then she headed over to the Soldier’s Wish tent to collect some tchotchkes for her nephew, Corey Brandon, to give to his kids. Brandon, who is in the U.S. Army and is headed back to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty soon, was written up in the June 12 San Antonio Express News, Strauss told The Wire.

A lifelong San Antonio Spurs fan, Brandon flew home to Texas to be with his wife, Emily, for the birth of their second child (a daughter). He told the paper he also was hoping to secure playoff tickets to the Spurs NBA Finals game against the Miami Heat. “He told them he was the biggest Spurs fan in Afghanistan,” she said.

Someone got tickets for Brandon and his 18-month-old son after the story appeared, Strauss said. And Brandon was home for the birth of his daughter that weekend. That was the good news. Unfortunately, the Spurs lost the game and, later, the series.

Over in the BBQ line, Anthony Ioanna and Dave Blaut, who work for Con Edison near Union Square, came for a sausage snack even though they’d already had lunch. “I watch [American] Pickers a lot,” Ionna said. He’d seen Adam Ferrara do standup and then started watching Top Gear. He said he’d never seen the original version from the U.K., but likes History’s: “They’re funny, those guys.”

Blaut said he watches Pawn Stars, American Pickers and American Restoration — being in the demo, for History and barbecue.

The Cross-Country Cookout rolls on to another eight cities (starting with Boston Harborfest on July 3) before concluding in The Grove in Los Angeles on Aug. 17-18.

— Kent Gibbons

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.