Governor Robert M. Ledbetter Remarks at RFE/RL Affiliates Meeting – Kiev, Ukraine
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I’m delighted to be here in Ukraine at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty affiliates conference. Let me start with a few short words about the Broadcasting Board of Governors – the board on which I sit – and the role of U.S. international broadcasting in general.
The BBG is a nine-member board, which oversees U.S. international broadcasting – RFE/RL, the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio-TV Marti and WORLDNET television services. Board members like myself are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate.
Our services broadcast in 65 languages around the world and reach more than 100 million listeners every week.
In addition to our regular services, we’ve also started an ambitious project to reach young people in the Middle East. As the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 made clear, the United States needs to do a better job at communicating with the Arabic-speaking peoples. Our new Middle East Radio Network – a 24 hour a day service that delivers news and music – started in March – and it’s doing well from all reports.
Despite our reach and our diversity, U.S. international broadcasting adheres to an unalterable creed: We provide fair, accurate and objective news and information. Very simply, we tell the truth. We believe that everyone – regardless of who they are and where they live – has the right to receive untainted information. We believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states – and I quote – that “everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.” RFE/RL’s wonderful website – www.rferl.org – quotes this on its first page.
Press freedom and a well-informed citizenry are keys to democracy – and no country can be considered democratic until journalists are allowed to write and report freely.
In Ukraine, unfortunately, journalism can be a risky business. The Committee to Protect Journalists – a non-partisan, New York-based organization that monitors abuses against journalists, said in its most recent report that – quote “Legal harassment, violence and death continued to stalk Ukrainian journalists in 2001.” It noted that two journalists were killed – and the investigation of murdered Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze – stalled.
Freedom House – another group that rates press freedom around the world – said that Ukraine’s media almost fell into the category of countries that were “not free.” Local journalists face intense pressures as they report the news – and independent media – both broadcast and print – have been pressured by government.
That’s where U.S. international broadcasting comes in. We work hand-in-glove with local journalists and media outlets to support media development – and we broadcast unbiased news from our studios in Prague, Czech Republic.
U.S. international broadcasting can produce wonderful material, but it would be useless if no one could see it or hear it. And that’s why we need our affiliates like all of you.
When RFE/RL started more than half a century ago, technologies were relatively simple. In the days of the Soviet Union, U.S. international broadcasting delivered radio news and information behind the Iron Curtain by shortwave transmission.
But today, our world is much more complicated – and more exciting. In order to deliver our programs, we must take advantage of all available technologies: shortwave, AM and FM radio, television and Internet.
Since we’re in Ukraine, allow me to give you a few facts that we’ve garnered from our international broadcasting surveys.
We’ve discovered only 6 percent of listeners get their news daily from shortwave radio. Some 5 percent listen to AM radio for news. And nearly a quarter of Ukrainians – and there are 50 million of you – listen