Saturday, August 23, 2008

VOA Hindi radio service to be shut down

Voice of America's Hindi radio service is on the chopping block. As you will see below from the message that's been circulated by those who work there, radio service will cease on September 30, 2008 (it was first launched in July 1955). About six staffers will lose their jobs. The website and a once-a-week, seven-minute segment on Aaj Tak, a television channel in India, will continue. A senior VOA official (who wouldn't talk on the record to SAJA forum) told me that how the web and TV presence will evolve will be decided after the radio service stops running. I have a call into other officials, seeking on-the-record comments and will update this post as necessary. If you have thoughts, comments, etc, please post it in the comments section below. Tips, leads, welcome, too:

In the message below, Ashok Sarin of VOA Hindi Service (Radio) - akumarsarin[at] - asks those interested to write to members of Congress who might be able to influence this decision. He concludes by writing: "Even writing a letter to Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post can serve a useful purpose."

You will be sorry to know that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has announced to the employees of the Voice of America , Hindi Service (Radio) that their broadcasts will be abolished on September 30, 2008. This decision was presented as being the "will of the Congress". however, in December the FY 2008 funding bill for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which was PASSED by both houses and signed by the President, directed that this proposed cut be REVERSED.

On July 16, 2008, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs marked up the Broadcasting Board of Governors FY 2009 budget and again directed this proposed cut be REVERSED. Excerpts from their recommendation: Language Service Reductions - The Committee recommends sufficient funding in fiscal year 2009, including $8,000,000 provided in Public Law 110-252, the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008, to maintain broadcasting in languages which the BBG proposed to reduce or eliminate. The Committee supports an ongoing effort to improve audience reach by utilizing the most effective means of transmission; however, the Committee does not support going silent
in many critical regions.

It appears that the Broadcasting Board of Governors is ignoring the will of the Congress.

Hindi is the flagship and national language of India . There are severval million muslims in India (more than the population of Pakistan, who keenly listen and ask questions about US strategic partnership with India and its efforts in the Middle East . All Hindi VOA Radio Listeners depend on VOA Hindi Radio programming and news to keep themselves fully informed and this is one of main reasons that in a recent survey 73 per cent people gave U.S. the most favored nation status.

President George Bush has already launched an initiative to promote foreign languages in American schools including HINDI. U.S. is shifting more diplomats to India while reducing the numbers in Europe, boosting attention to the rising power and importance to India . The entire U.S. business is working on "India Strategy", but BBG is not thinking straight. Indo-US nuclear deal, India cooperation in the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan , joint military exercises and several other issues figure prominently in Indo-US relationship which is going to be extremely substantial in the years to come.

The Urdu Service of VOA for Pakistan, Dari and Pashto Services for Afghanistan, have been extended by several hours a day while the Hindi Radio roadcast to India is only an hour a day and that too is likely to be eliminated. Shutting the Hindi Radio will be an insult to the people of
India . Radio is the only medium to reach all the 750 million Hindi speaking people of India.

Given the strategic importance to India as the world's largest democracy, a de facto nuclear power, world's fifth largest economy and an important ally of the united States in the WAR AGAINST GLOBAL TERRORISM, shutting down the well established daily Hindi Radio programming since July 1955, should not be favored.

I will urge you to please take this matter up with the members of India Caucus and other members of the Appropriation Committees of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, plead with them that they advise BBG Chairman and other members of the Board NOT to close down VOA Hindi Radio Service. Some strong action is needed and I am hopeful that you will help us in our mission.
Ashok Sarin, Voice of America, Hindi Service

Key appropriation committee members who can stop the Hindi Radio cuts:
1. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Jr., U.S. House of Representatives, 1707
Longworth House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215 Fax: 202-225-0375
2. Representative Donna Edwards, U.S. House of Representatives, 2470 Rayburn
House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215 Fax: 202-225-8714
3. Representative Steny Hoyer, U.S. House of Representatives, 1705 Longworth
House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215. Fax: 202-225-4300
4. Representative Roscoe Bartlett, U.S. House of Representatives, 2412
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215. Fax: 202-225-2193
5. Representative Frank R. Wolf, U.S. House of Representatives, 241 Cannon
House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215. Fax: 202-225-0437
6. Representatives Thomas M. Davis III, U.S. House of Representatives, 2348
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215. Fax: 202-225-3071
7. Representative Robert J. Wittman, U.S. House of Representatives, 1123
Longworth House, Washington D.C,. 20215. Fax: 202-225-4382
8. Representative James P. Moran, U.S. House of Representatives, 2239
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20215. Fax: 202-225-0017
9. Hon. Howard Berman, Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Fax
10. Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member, House Committee on Foreign
Affairs Fax: 202-225-5620
11. Hon. Nita Lowey, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, Fax:
12. Patrick Leahy (Appropriations Subcommittee - State, Foreign Relations
and related Programs. Fax: 202-224-3479
13. Senator Jim Webb (Appropriations Subcommittee) Fax: 202-224-4024

1. Jim Mcdermott, 1035 Longworth HOB, Washington D.C. 20515. Phone:
202-225-2452 Fax: 202-225-2455
2, Joe Wilson, 212 Cannon House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515.
Phone: 202-225-2452 Fax: 202-225-2455
3. J. Crowley, Phone: 202-225-3965

Besides, India lovers like Palone and others can also provide help. It will be a good idea to send faxes to almost all the above personalities. Even writing a letter to Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post can serve a useful purpose.
We need help.
Your Friends at VOA, Hindi.
(Source: Alokesh Gupta, New Delhi, India; Rachel Baughn, MT; Bruce Barker, VOA)