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In the war of ideas, Uncle Sam’s voice must be heard

With a new board, government broadcasters like Voice of America could thrive again.

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During the cold war, radio networks like the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe (RFE), and Radio Liberty (RL) played an important role in communist nations’ march to freedom. 

Today, in the war of ideas against Al Qaeda and other disciples of Islamist extremism, the US government’s international broadcasting operation is targeting Muslim and other audiences in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and a host of other lands where terrorists breed. 

The new age demands new technology, not only the latest forms of radio transmission, but TV, and Internet platforms delivering content, like President Obama’s address to Muslims last June, in real time to computers and mobile phones.

In earlier years, the government radios came under the loose mantle of the United States Information Agency. When USIA was dismantled in 1999  and its remnants transferred to the State Department, the radios came under the authority of a new entity, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The BBG provides oversight for all the government’s nonmilitary international broadcasting. Today the lineup includes not only VOA and RFE/RL but also Radio and TV Martí to Cuba, Radio Free Asia to a slew of Asian countries, Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa to Arab countries, and Radio Farda to Iran.

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