Washington, D.C. (Sept. 10, 2014) — In a letter to the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-MN) called on the federal agency to reverse its plans to terminate uncensored news broadcasts via shortwave radio to Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia in the coming weeks.
The three countries have a combined population of more than 116 million people and are consistently ranked among the lowest nations in the world in press freedoms. For decades the U.S. has used shortwave radio to broadcast uncensored news and information from the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) to Southeast Asia.
The BBG issued a recent report by the “Special Committee on the Future of Shortwave Broadcasting” which indicated that there are zero listeners to shortwave broadcasts in Laos, according to listener surveys. The BBG supports internet, satellite, and FM news and information broadcasting which leaves rural and poor citizens of Laos, including the Hmong, with access only to news from communist government broadcasts or other regimes like China.
“I urge the BBG in the strongest of terms to reject these cuts and maintain shortwave programming to all three countries,” McCollum wrote to BBG Chairman Jeffrey Shell. “These cuts are short-sighted and undermine our nation’s core interests in the region. At the modest cost of less than $6,000 per week to reach a combined population in excess of 116 million in these three countries, maintaining shortwave broadcasting is clearly a prudent and valuable use of U.S. tax dollars.”
McCollum went on to say, “Cutting shortwave broadcasts to Laos also means ending news transmissions to the Hmong, a minority population long supportive of the U.S.” She adds, “It is unconscionable that the BBG is simply willing to abandon programming for the Hmong and other like-minded supporters of the U.S. who have long cherished American values of freedom and democracy.”