News / Asia

China Notes Cuts to VOA’s Mandarin Broadcasting

A Chinese spokesman says his government has noted developments in possible U.S. government cuts to Voice of America’s Mandarin language broadcasting to China.  But, a veteran Chinese dissident criticizes the cuts.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said Tuesday he has seen reports that international broadcasters like Voice of America and the BBC will reduce their Mandarin broadcasting.

He had no comment to add but says the organizations made their own decisions.

His comments were less sharp than an editorial that appeared last week in the English-language version of one of China’s largest papers, the Global Times.

The article said the VOA and BBC Mandarin broadcasting cuts signal what it described as "the end of an era"” It called the cuts a "blow to the ideological campaign that countries have waged" against China, and said VOA supporters overestimated its effectiveness in winning the hearts and minds of Chinese audiences.

The article concludes by saying the Chinese services are coming to a historical end, with their mission unfinished.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees VOA, has submitted a budget to Congress that includes plans to restructure its broadcasting efforts to China. This plan includes eliminating VOA Cantonese broadcasts. It would also eliminate VOA Mandarin’s shortwave radio broadcasts, and shift VOA Mandarin to a Web only service.

Radio Free Asia, which the BBG funds, is slated to assume VOA’s Mandarin broadcast hours.

The budget reductions would cut 45 VOA Chinese language staffers out of 76 in total. The plan is expected to save $8 million, with part of the savings coming from broadcasting costs. VOA’s overall budget request for the 2012 fiscal year is for more than $200 million.

Veteran dissident Bao Tong criticizes the decision. Bao says for he thinks for a savings of $8 million, the U.S. government does not want to be friends with the Chinese people. He adds that he thinks the cuts may indicate that the United States is afraid of a rising China.

China has often criticized VOA for being biased and having what it describes as a "Cold War mentality"”

The Voice of America first went on the air in 1942. It is funded by the U.S. government, but operates according to a charter that mandates balanced news. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of 125 million people.

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