14 September 2010

A Funding Question About VOA’s New Afghan TV Program

The other day VOA put out a news release about the launch of a new TV Program to Afghanistan called Karwan (Caravan). As the release noted, the half-hour dual-language weekly program, broadcast in both Dari and Pashto, intends to tackle “social and political issues, culture, health, education and other topics, highlighting what young people are doing in Afghanistan and the United States.”

A NewsBlog reader noted that the announcement disclosed the program is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The reader asked: “On what conditions does VOA accept State funding? None, I hope. And that would imply that well informed Afghan youth is a sufficient goal for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.”

I spoke to Joan Mower, who is the Director of Development for VOA. She provided me a copy of the agreement between VOA and the State Department. While there are some minor requirements (like providing quarterly reports on the project and copies of the programs), there are no editorial conditions attached to the deal. As Ms. Mower put it, “we have complete editorial control over our product.”

The agreement provides VOA just over one million dollars for one year to produce the new show. It is one of several such agreements VOA has had with other government agencies, mainly the State Department. Some have involved funding for reporting on refugee issues, HIV/Aids and other health problems as well as some journalism training.

In all cases, Ms. Mower said, “there is a firewall between us and our funders” preserving the editorial integrity of these efforts.

And that is as it should be.

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