The subject of U.S. International Broadcasting, including VOA, came up during the recent confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In response to questions from Senator Richard Lugar, Mrs. Clinton for the most part praised the performance of America's international broadcast entities.
Most important, from our perspective, she underscored a point we have often tried to make: “our international broadcast services demonstrate an essential lesson of free societies --- the requirement of an independent media for a robust democracy.”
She also underscored the need for what she termed “a strong and unambiguous fire wall between the professional journalists and editors (at VOA and other U.S. International Broadcasters)… and others in the U.S. government whether at the White House or the State Department. I recognize this to be a fundamental requirement of effective international broadcasting.”
The Secretary of State holds one of the seats on the Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA and the other U.S.-financed broadcasters.
But Mrs. Clinton said the “most effective BBG will be one at arms length” from State and other government agencies.
Her comments come at a time when there has been much discussion about improving U.S. public diplomacy --- sometimes with proposals that would draw VOA into some new U.S. global communications strategy.
We at VOA believe, like Mrs. Clinton, that we can do our best work and serve our audiences best when we are able to operate independently.
VOA’s Journalistic Code says specifically: “VOA reporters and broadcasters must strive for accuracy and objectivity in all their work. They do not speak for the U.S. government.” The VOA Charter says, “VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society…”
VOA offers news about the United States and US government policies because the United States has global interests that no responsible news organization, American or non-American, can ignore. Our research also shows many of our audiences want to hear about American culture, life, history, youth and more.
But our emphasis will always remain on offering reliable and authoritative news. As we have said before, if our audience perceives we are more interested in pursuing a political or ideological agenda than straight reporting, we will lose our credibility --- and our audience.