The budget process forces us to establish priorities — and clearly President Bush’s FY’ 04 budget to Congress places the war on terrorism as international broadcasting’s top priority.
Thirty million dollars in start-up funds for an Arabic-language satellite television network represents an important step toward reaching the people in the Arab world with accurate news and the message of freedom and democracy.
Communicating directly with the world’s most populous Muslim state, Indonesia, makes the same good strategic sense. The budget will also allow us to expand audience development there, and in strategically placed countries where we will be placing programs on local stations and broadcasts on the channels our audiences use and move beyond shortwave technology.
Considering the economic climate of the times, international broadcasting fared well in terms of the FY’ 04 budget request. The President is asking for an appropriation of $563.5 million — a 9.5 percent increase over our FY’ 03 request.
The landscape of U.S. international broadcasting was not left unchanged by the budget process. The budget means an end to most Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasting to the democracies of Eastern Europe where free speech is practiced and where the process of joining the NATO alliance is under way. The closing of these services, whose employees have so gallantly served the cause of freedom, will bring a moment of sadness to many of us who saw victory in the Cold War as a direct result of these radios. But we should remember at the same time that the goal these services struggled and sacrificed for has been achieved, and they should take great pride in the role they played in this historic mission.
The budget will also require that we reduce spending in non-broadcasting areas. A 5 percent, or $3.9 million, reduction in management will result in administrative streamlining and cost reductions throughout the agency.
The total loss of 36 positions for VOA and 46 positions for RFE/RL, as well as 16 positions in IBB and administrative positions in RFE/RL, will be accomplished, where possible, by retirements, reassignments, and abolishing vacant positions. Unfortunately, it appears we also will face reduction-in-force to achieve these budget goals.
It is always difficult to accept significant change. September 11, 2001, changed the way we must approach international broadcasting — and the President’s budget reflects that change. This institution’s task now is to draw upon our previous success in the Cold War, to go forward with the new war of ideas as we offer democracy, tolerance, and self-government as the positive alternative to tyranny, fanaticism, and terror.
An extraordinary challenge lies ahead.