Just what is it with the Obama Administration and state broadcasters? Not content with sticking by NPR after the House of Representatives voted to cut off its funding, it now emerges that the administration has been giving money to the BBC and, according to one report, is considering increasing that aid. Of course, one thing NPR and the Beeb share, apart from being on the public dole, is that they oppose traditional American values. Is that what the Obama Administration likes?
The report by the British newspaper The Guardian that the U.S. State Department will soon give a substantial grant to the BBC World Service provoked understandable outrage and dismay on Capitol Hill, the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, so State rushed out a semi-denial. Yes, State is expecting to receive a British Broadcasting Corporation proposal for aid for Internet circumvention technology directed at breaching China’s Internet censorship, but no, the proposal is not in yet and no decision has been made.
This letter to the editor of the Guardian can be found on the State Department website:
The Guardian article of March 20, alleging that the U.S. Department of State is about to sign a funding deal with the BBC is inaccurate and misleading. The BBC World Service Trust has indicated its intention to submit a proposal to the State Department in the area of Internet freedom, as part of an open and competitive solicitation, but we have not yet received this proposal or made any funding decisions. The State Department has no intention of announcing any funding decisions regarding Internet freedom programming on World Press Freedom Day.
The letter is signed Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It will be, of course, absolutely appalling if State does decide to award the money once the proposal arrives at the office of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) in Foggy Bottom.
At a time of soaring budget deficits in this country and cuts in U.S. radio transmissions to key areas of the world, a U.S. grant given to the BBC World Service would have been a snub of enormous proportions to the BBG, which overseas not only U.S. international broadcasting, but also the Internet circumvention efforts of the U.S. government itself.
And it wouldn’t be the first snub. Only a few weeks ago that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained repeatedly in testimony before the House and the Senate that the United States is loosing the “information war” against the likes on Al Qaeda, China and Russia. A rift within the U.S. government threatened to widen to a chasm.
The fact is that the BBC World Service Trust, a separate development assistance entity of the British government, actually already is the recipient of American taxpayer funding — as mind-blowing as that concept might be. USAID is giving the BBC World Service Trust $4.5 million for “media support for strengthening advocacy, good governance and empowerment” worldwide, among other things training journalists in Nigeria. Furthermore, the State Department’s DRL has also approved $350,000 for BBC World Service Trust to do shortwave broadcasting into Burma. Needless to say, this largess is not going down well at Voice of America and the BBG, which itself also performs these functions.
Is the Obama administration and the State Department really so enamored of the BBC that it prefers the British broadcaster over its own U.S. government-funded and globally respected broadcasting services? So it seems. After all, President Obama went on the BBC to give an important message to the Arab world in June, 2009, but has never given one to Voice of America — the only U.S. president since the founding of VOA not to do so. Possibly the president might find the BBC’s often anti-American point of view more in sync with his own thinking. If this is indeed the reason for these very troubling funding decisions, maybe it is time for the White House to ask the British embassy to have the bust of Winston Churchill back.