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US Official Affirms Need for International Broadcasting

The top official for U.S. government international broadcasting says threats to press freedom around the world are boosting the need for accurate, objective transnational news sources. From Washington, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

James Glassman is chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which overseas the Voice of America and more than half a dozen other U.S. international broadcasting agencies. At a public forum in Washington, Glassman said many had hoped that the end of the Cold War would bring lasting press freedoms across the globe, but those hopes have not been fulfilled.

In fact, he argued that access to independent sources of news and information are being curtailed in many parts of the world by governments that view the control of information as critical to maintaining power. He referred to a recent study by the U.S-based non-governmental organization, Freedom House.

"Freedom House just two weeks ago issued a report on press freedom that called the past year one of global decline," said Glassman. "[In] a total of 64 countries, one-third of those studied had a press that was not free. And for every advance that Freedom House noted on its 'press freedom' scale, there were two declines."

In such a challenging global environment for the free flow of information, Glassman argued the need for international broadcasting remains critical. He said, in many countries from the Americas to Africa to Asia, the Voice of America, the BBC, and other broadcasting entities constitute the only source of objective, reliable news.

Glassman said U.S. international broadcasting continues to utilize shortwave radio transmissions in many regions, even as it embraces medium wave and FM radio broadcasts, as well as television and the Internet. At present, he said U.S international broadcasts reach a weekly audience of more than 175 million people around the globe.