Por Monroe Price
If there is
a foreign policy of media space, then international broadcasting
has been a traditional way to implement or fulfill it. International
broadcasting is the elegant term for a complex combination of state-sponsored
news, information, and what was once with pride called "propaganda"1.
The Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, the BBC World Service are
exemplars, but there are famous Russian, Australian, French and
many other counterparts. As is the case with the very media laws
and institutions themselves, these institutions are in the process
of transformation. The heightened interest in the global shaping
of media laws and institutions exists against an overlay of these
direct efforts to affect the persuasive impact and overall mix of
As we shall see, these have been institutions, which had the day-in,
day out task of having an impact on regime structure in target societies.
These have been institutions, which have had a mission of disturbing
a disfavored stability by altering the mix of voices, increasing
pluralism or assuring that specific perspectives were articulated
and available. And it can be hypothesized that there has been, at
times, some cartelization among those who are the great international
broadcasters, dividing the market, establishing spheres of influence,
and making legal arrangements or acting in parallel to assure mutually
agreeable outcomes. International broadcasting is considered a tool,
appropriately used, for helping to initiate, support, and reinforce
transitions to more stable democratic societies. In times of conflict,
international broadcasting is coordinated with military strategy
and, increasingly, is wheeled into service as part of post-conflict
peacekeeping2. International broadcasting has become an example
of negotiation between states as, in the post-Cold War period, the
processes for the transmission and distribution of international
broadcasts turn, increasingly, on the use of traditional media frequencies
managed by the society in which the signals are received.
Histories and Definitions
This article is, largely, about the post Cold War process of redefinition.
Soft power, "the ability to achieve desired outcomes in international
affairs through attraction rather than coercion" and the use
of information to convince others to agree to "norms and institutions
that produce desired behavior," are increasingly considered
a major element of any country's arsenal3. In addition to renewed
appreciation of the role of aggressive information efforts, international
broadcasters began adjusting to a new world order and, to some extent,
to new technologies. Old problems persist such as justifying the
entry by one country into the domestic information space of another,
measurements of effectiveness, and competition among broadcasting
entities4. Changing technology, the rise of CNN, and geopolitical
changes all explain a lot about the transformations that have occurred
in this field; but, as it turns out, they are hardly sufficient.
In the global remapping of media law-assessing how states have altered
information flows and their participation in it-reflections of domestic
politics seem to have influenced the outcomes as forcefully as changing
In the early 1960s, President Kennedy sought to build up Voice of
America broadcasting for the "peaceful evolution" of socialist
countries. The President aimed to make the broadcasts "leap
national borders and the oceans, the 'Iron Curtain' and stone walls,
in a life-and-death competition with communism."5 A United
States Congress report noted, "Radio broadcasting is a most
valuable means of promoting foreign policy." "We need
to re-acknowledge the strategic role of broadcast stations, considering
our strategic superiority, to conscientiously reappraise radio broadcasting.
] Radio broadcasting is the only way to overthrow socialism."6
During one of the many congressional subcommittee discussions concerning
support for Radio Free Europe, Representative Edward J. Derwinski
stated: "[T]he American people must be educated to think of
the radios as weapons-albeit nonlethal-key elements in our national
The Cold War, as we knew it, is over and with it the established
basis for this ethereal penetration of sovereign borders has ended.
Fundamental geopolitical change requires the reconfiguration of
international broadcasting as new targets, new justifications, and
new purposes have been explored8. New technologies and new industrial
modes of distributing information, have also been influential in
the reassessment of international broadcasting. Whether warranted
or not, the invention and growth of CNN caused momentary questioning
of the continuing need for such entities as the Voice of America
and the so-called surrogate radios9.
Because of these and other changes, international broadcasting underwent
a deep crisis of purpose and credibility in the mid-1990s. After
the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the once-vigorous Russian
international broadcasting efforts deteriorated virtually to nothing.
The transmitting facilities in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern
European countries, once the source of propaganda outwards, are
no longer used against the Western nations. Ironically, the United
States, the UK, and Germany now began to rent the same equipment
for propaganda purposes against new targets. The VOA, for example,
employed seven 500 kW short-wave transmitters in places such as
Russia's Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, and Krasnodar
to broadcast to China and other Asian countries. The BBC rented
three Russian 500-kW short-wave transmitters in Vladivostok, Cita,
and Irkutsk to broadcast to China as well. The Voice of Germany
Deutsche Welle used eleven Russian 1,000-kW and 250-kW short-wave
transmitters in places such as Moscow, St Petersburg, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk,
and Samara to broadcast to China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, West
Asia, and Russia.
There are histories of international broadcasting that often seek
to answer-usually inconclusively-how international broadcasting
accomplished or assisted in the accomplishment of the goals assigned
to it10. The history of the international radios is often told through
justificatory memoirs, rarely by the disaffected11. The claims of
achievement among the most avid believers are quite substantial.
A book by Michael Nelson, former chairman of the Reuters Foundation,
eloquently summarizes the position of many who support international
broadcasting and are confounded by the under-appreciation of radio
as a tool in altering the global political landscape. Nelson asks
rhetorically, "Why did the West win the cold war? Not by use
of arms. Weapons did not breach the Iron Curtain. The Western invasion
was by radio, which was mightier than the sword. Those skilled in
war subdue the enemy's army without battle, wrote Sun Tzu."12
Among the contrarians, a former VOA correspondent criticizes those
in Congress who think, "simplistically that United States broadcasts
of otherwise unavailable news and information poison authoritarian
regimes and fertilize the intellectual, if not revolutionary soil
so that western democratic ideals and free markets will blossom."13
The history of international broadcasting is too rich and complex
to summarize here. In 1927, Harold Lasswell wrote: "The truth
is that all governments are engaged to some extent in propaganda
as part of their ordinary peace-time functions. They make propaganda
on behalf of diplomatic friends or against diplomatic antagonists
and this is unavoidable."14 In 1958, President Eisenhower included
in an address to the United Nations a proposal for monitoring of
inflammatory broadcasts. "I believe that this Assembly should
] consider means for monitoring the radio broadcasts directed
across national frontiers in the troubled Near East area. It should
then examine complaints from these nations which consider their
national security jeopardized by external propaganda."15 There
are interesting examples of bilateral efforts to limit the use of
radio space for aggressive national purposes.
Strategies of Change
Just as commercial enterprises are sensitive to their audiences
in order to be successful, international broadcasters have similar
obligations. Both the BBC and the VOA support efforts to evaluate
the size of their audience, and to some extent, its demographics,
so that they can report to the legislators and officials who must
determine whether they are performing adequately. These bodies study
broadcast reception results such as number of listeners, status,
listening time, place, means, and environment. They also examine
target country conditions and trends such as where the center of
political influence is, who makes policy, which groups are most
influential, the positions and interests of the leadership, whose
influence is declining, and who has the brightest future. Both the
UK and the United States maintain monitoring efforts that collect
foreign broadcast radio and publication data, and exchange it with
each other16. These activities have not changed.
Nor has the claim of the great international broadcasters, like
the VOA and the BBC, to "objectivity" and "impartiality"
in their programming changed. It is a much-vaunted hallmark of both
enterprises that they consider such objectivity and impartiality
an integral aspect of their capacity to be successful. For example,
a core section of the enabling legislation provides that United
States international broadcasting shall include (though there is
no statutory requirement that it be limited to) "news which
is consistently reliable and authoritative, accurate, objective,
and comprehensive." Such broadcasting should provide "a
balanced and comprehensive projection of United States thought and
institutions, reflecting the diversity of United States culture
and society," which could, also, of course, be considered to
fall within the bailiwick of the accurate, objective and comprehensive.
But the statute also requires US international broadcasters to provide
a "clear and effective presentation of the policies of the
United States Government and responsible discussion and opinion
on those policies, including editorials, broadcast by the Voice
of America, which present the views of the United States Government."
These editorials, though always clearly labeled, have been a matter
of concern with the VOA as compromising credibility by requiring
a position to be articulated that is the position of the government.17
Within this search for objectivity, there are important strategies.
One such strategy has been called "letting out a long vine,"
in which adversaries are complimented while unfavorable news about
the sending country is duly included. "Balance" is both
journalistically praiseworthy and important as a means of validating
the propaganda enterprise. However, some who oppose the international
broadcasters contend that they use programming formats to encourage
favorable attitudes toward the Western lifestyle as a mode of weakening
support for one government of the target society. As one Chinese
account put it, while broadcasts (about Western standards) are "apparently
unrelated to politics it, in fact, steadily indoctrinates its listeners
in negative views of socialism, to engender in them unpatriotic
sentiments, morals, and customs of material lust, individualism,
A persistent criticism, even from the friends of international broadcasting,
has been that certain international broadcasters, especially the
so-called "surrogates" who are charged with broadcasting
the news of a target society to that society, rely, too much, on
expatriates, often on political dissenters. They hold that using
the powerful tones of such exiles may, purposely or unconsciously,
allow the slide from impartiality to partisanship. It is the fervency
of the exile that brings energy to programs. There are those who
still believe that, in 1956, passionate dissidents misled Hungarians
into thinking that Western aid would be theirs if they merely demonstrated
their initial rebellion19. Since these broadcasts-to all parts of
the world-are often in the local language (one of their great strengths),
their objectivity and impartiality, their fidelity to truth rather
than to the dissenter's own personal views, is wholly dependent
on the quality of internal supervision and monitoring. And that,
itself, is not always wholly reliable.
One of the related themes of international broadcasting, tied to
an integrated and ethical view of foreign policy, is an emphasis
on human rights. The functionality of the human rights emphasis-its
current utility to the West-has been inadequately analyzed. Not
surprisingly, one of the insistent complaints of the governments
of target societies is this very purposeful emphasis.
The world debate on international broadcasting has several streams
or rivulets, many quite detached from public view. The debate at
its broadest asks what role international broadcasting and public
diplomacy should play in a technologically and geopolitically changed
world. As these things turn, the question becomes bureaucratic,
ideological, intensely political, and competitive. At one level
of abstraction, international broadcasting is idealized because
it stands for objective coverage of world events, bringing necessary
information to people who would otherwise have access to it.
At another level, more sharply edged, international broadcasting
functions in authoritarian societies to provide a surrogate voice,
a radio for dissenters and exiles whose perspectives do not exist
or are not permitted on domestic radio. International broadcasting
can be justified by those of the school of realpolitik only when
it functions in a way that is consistent with the foreign policy
of the country that is financing it. And international broadcasting
can be justified as a means of projecting an appropriate image of
the funding country so as to extend its influence, facilitate the
acceptance of its foreign policies and, possibly, further its general
economic and trade objectives.
The Voice of America was, through World War II, the symbol of United
States international broadcasting. In the post-war era, as a response
to the Cold War, a group of United States citizens, with CIA backing
and ultimately virtually full CIA funding, the surrogate radios,
then called Radio Free Europe (targeting Central and Eastern Europe)
and Radio Liberation (targeting the Soviet Union) came into existence.
For a very long time, the Radios maintained that they were wholly
independent of the government, privately funded, and the government
denied its clandestine relationship to it. Subsequently, the Radios
merged (Radio Liberation became Radio Liberty) and the federal government
acknowledged its financing role. The two distinct styles-VOA "full
service" broadcasting and the Radios' highly targeted surrogate
style-have been debated in Congress for several decades, and this
intensified when resources became scarcer in the post-Soviet period.
Shortly after coming to office, President Bill Clinton called for
the consolidation of all United States international broadcasting.
This was a low poit in the prospects for international radio. Consolidation
was to be an opportunity to reduce budgets, rethink missions, and
question assumptions. Under his initial proposal, the budget of
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) would be slashed, foreshadowing
extinction. During a 5-year period, $400 million would be saved.
On April 30, 1994, the President signed into law the United States
International Broadcasting Act. The Voice of America and the Radios,
including Radio Marti, would report to what was then called the
International Broadcasting Bureau within the United States Information
Agency (USIA)20. In obeisance to history, the surrogates, RFE/RL
and Radio Free Asia, report directly to the Board as privately incorporated,
federally funded grantees. Their employees were not part of the
United States civil service as were those of the International Broadcasting
Bureau (IBB), VOA, and Radio-TV Marti. The legislation also authorized
the establishment of a Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to
oversee the Broadcasting Bureau, establish and maintain broadcasting
standards, set broadcast priorities of the different language services,
and assess the quality, effectiveness, and professional integrity
of all activities. Additionally, the act, ominously, expressed the
sense of Congress that the private sector should assume all funding
for the radios not later than the end of fiscal year 1999.
Thus, 1994 was the low-point of the Radios' fortunes. All international
broadcasting came under pressure from the great private media moguls
and their political counterparts. They argued that international
broadcasting was unnecessary in the "age of CNN." The
Radios and the VOA were, together, considered gold-plated Cold War
relics, with high salaries and an obsolete mission. That year, too,
the President certified that significant national interest required
relocating the operations of RFE/RL from Munich, Germany, to Prague
in the Czech Republic.
In the face of this effective opposition, the Radios recognized
that changing conditions in the region required rethinking the purposes
of their broadcasts. No longer facing an authoritarian regime where
they served as surrogates expressing the views of dissenters, they
created a new role for themselves. Facilitating transitions became
the new role. The Radios' missions, they claimed, had evolved from
a purely surrogate task of providing "objective" news
and analysis on internal events where no such media were available,
to compensating for the limitations of domestic media and setting
a standard by which emerging free media could judge themselves.
Although the primary mission remained that of a broadcaster, RFE/RL
began to see its role, then, in a broader context. It asserted three
primary missions in the transition period: (1) To act as a traditional
broadcaster by providing information and news on important issues
such as democracy and political organization, the environment, and
economic growth; (2) To provide assistance to indigenous radio stations;
(3) To train indigenous radio personnel and broadcasters. RFE/RL
offered itself as a "model of Western journalism, an alternative
news source, and insurantes policies to the world and to serve United States culture,
trade, and tourism. Increasingly, its altered function overlapped
with that of the Voice of America, causing growing friction and
competition between the constituents of the International Broadcasting
On October 30, 1997, two new United States funded radio services
to Iran and Iraq began transmitting21. Produced by RFE/RL, these
services originated in Prague. The service to Iran was originally
to be called Radio Free Iran and had its political sources in Congress
rather than in the State Department. In May 1997, after the election
of President Khatami in Iran, the State Department sought to postpone
or cancel the Iranian service as part of a general diplomatic overture.
By April 1998, the State Department, under intense congressional
pressure fostered by RFE/RL and those who favored the surrogate
approach, justified the new service as designed to enrich domestic
political debate inside the country and not to
undermine the government.
As a symbol of this newly articulated purpose they changed the name
from Radio Free Iran to the Persian-language service of RFE/RL.
Radio Democracy in Africa had a similar origin. Congressional pressure
for a surrogate named Radio Free Africa was avoided in favor of
a VOA division. Rather than have an ethic of "opposition"
or dissent, the service would engage in conflict prevention or conflict
resolution in some areas or "civic reporting and civic building"
where there were "moves toward democracy." The service
would adhere to the VOA charter, and the newscasts were to be VOA-determined22.
The implications of global change and increased private competition
on the Radios can be seen in the emphases for the continuation of
national services as articulated by Congress:
It is the sense of Congress that Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty
should continue to broadcast to the peoples of Central Europe, Eurasia,
and the Persian Gulf until such time as (1) a particular nation
has clearly demonstrated the successful establishment and consolidation
of democratic rule; and (2) its domestic media which provide balanced,
accurate, and comprehensive news and information, is firmly established
and widely accessible to the national audience, thus making redundant
broadcasts by Radio Free Europe or Radio Liberty. At such time as
a particular nation meets both of these conditions, RFE/RL should
phase out broadcasting to that nation23.
The issue of international broadcasting and its post-Cold War justification
was a global one. Canada and Australia came close to eliminating
external broadcasting. The Australians may have had a lesser involvement
in classic European Cold War politics, and instead, specialized
as a major source of credible information in Southeast Asia and
Oceania. As was true in the United States Australian external broadcasting
was initially the victim of a general budget cutting process, and
the Australian commercial broadcasters also argued against the continuation
of the service. Australian companies, like that of Kerry Packer,
sought to extend their sphere of influence into places such as Vietnam
and Cambodia where international services previously served the
market. Ultimately, after Australian troops took a dominant position
in peace-keeping in East Timor, and after an effective public outcry
at home, Radio Australia's budget was restored and, to some extent,
expanded. A unique effort to couple an Australian international
television broadcasting presence in cooperation with a subsidized
commercial channel failed, with international radio becoming the
favored survivor24. In Canada the budget cuts were more lasting25.
In 1999, Deutsche Welle, the German external broadcaster, was required,
for budget reasons, to dismiss staff for the first time since 1949.
In October 1999, its Director announced a new strategy for DW in
light of these budget cuts. The principles declared were similar
to changes marked for many external broadcasters. Radio broadcasts
would continue for regions with real information shortage (broadcasting
to the Balkans would continue and programs for Indonesia and crisis
areas in Africa and Asia would be expanded). DW Radio would be discontinued
in liberalized regions that were well served by privatized information
markets (Japanese language programming for Japan and Spanish radio
programs for Latin America). DW television would be maintained and
Internet offerings expanded. As a kind of plaintive cry, the Director
justified DW's existence because "growing Anglo-American media
domination requires consistent offering of foreign language services
and increased international cooperation."26
The debate over the future of the BBC World Service was far more
public than the debate within the United States and other countries
over international broadcasting. Its outcome, however, had less
of an impact on the status quo. After outliving the historic spasms
of fascism, the Cold War and decolonization, it became necessary
for the World Service to find a more inclusive definition for its
long-term purposes. In 1993, John Tusa, the outspoken (and perhaps
too self-congratulatory) former head of the enterprise during the
time its existence was most contested, justified the Service differently
than the American surrogates had justified themselves. He writes,
"We sought a theoretical framework for international broadcasting
from Britain that would not turn on the hinge of a particular political
dispute or ideological difference, nor one particular period of
history or the immediate needs of a particular part of the globe."
The criteria for the material to be broadcast, he added, were, "It
must be relevant to all audiences worldwide [...]. It must appeal
to a global rather than an elite audience. It must be 'international'
rather than foreign." The Service's broadcasts, Tusa wrote,
can do a multiplicity of different things for different people.
"In part, the broadcasts operate like aid, transferring knowledge
and skills; they have an element of cultural advertisement; they
are an instrument of informal diplomacy; they bring individuals
in touch with a nation."27
The World Service has also been undergoing something of a renaissance
in the past few years. Threatened cuts in the early eighties nearly
forced the closure of services like the Burmese, which typified
the most readily justified parts of the service: transmissions to
people whose oppressive governments deprive them of access to other
reliable sources of news. Later in the decade capital budgets actually
increased, enabling a dramatic improvement in transmission facilities,
and a consequent jump in the listening figures. With the collapse
of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, as with the
American Radios, the Service found itself with another new role,
and another great tranche of hungry new listeners. But, attentive
to warnings not to allow itself to become too defined by particular
disputes or historical events, it temporarily survived the passing
of that crisis with almost all its European services intact28.
The American approach to international broadcasting is different
from that of the UK. United States international broadcasting is
evolving into a cluster of aggressive broadcasters with specific
sectoral managements typified by Radio Free Asia. There are those
who favor a television broadcasting system that emulates the BBC
World Service as a unified "source of reliable, factual, and
dispassionate information" over the cluster. Under the latest
reorganization, the VOA, together with the external radios, are
subject to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, many of who are
political appointees. Many of the members in the 1990s were advocates
of the ethos of surrogacy and policy driven radio on the VOA. One
member was appointed to protect Radio and TV Marti in order to assure
that the Cuban exile community was served.
The advocates of a unified "objective" broadcaster consider
that the pressure to transform into the surrogate function and to
have a specific national political objective is destructive to the
ability of the VOA to perform its functions. They consider that
the proliferation of radios leads to the gratuitous duplication
of resources and the use of those resources in ways that compromise
the objectivity of the United States international broadcasters.
In addition, the number of Radios has specific budget implications.
The China Human Rights and Democracy Act of 1997 provided reprogrammed
funding to expand both RFA and VOA broadcasts to China. Later legislation
earmarked four million dollars taking it from the amount provided
for overall international broadcasting operations and rerouting
the money for the development of a Farsi-language surrogate broadcasting
service to Iran.
The meaning of the bureaucratic and organizational distinctions
among the United States international broadcasters is captured by
the treatment of an interview with then newly freed Chinese dissident
Wei Jingsheng, in mid-December 1997 recorded for radio and television
at VOA's studios in Washington. State Departmental officials were
concerned that broadcasting the interview might hamper US-China
relations. Nonetheless, VOA broadcast the Mandarin language interview
shortly after it was recorded and VOA's Mandarin weekly TV simulcast,
China Forum, broadcast it in full to the PRC at the first scheduled
opportunity four days later. The White House could only "encourage"
VOA not to broadcast the interview. On the other hand, the White
House could block Worldnet, a United States government television
feed that is distributed by satellite for retransmission by local
broadcasters because of the legal structure of Worldnet. VOA is
required by law to have "editorial independence."29
There are some additional redefined functions for international
broadcasting. For example, the VOA justified increasing its reach
and audience with claims that new programming on child health and
survival helps reduce child mortality. A VOA-United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) sponsored conference was held
in Washington in April 1998 at which broadcasters, health experts,
and health promotion specialists focused on how to use the VOA for
this purpose. VOA reported that its programming on polio in Nigeria
"influenced as many as 800,000 adults to bring their families
in for immunizations."
Broadcasting and Information Intervention
Another rising function of international broadcasting is to assist
in the prevention of conflict, the moderation of voices so as to
avoid genocides and other massive violations of human rights and
the post-conflict contexts. I have discussed the complicated balance
the international community seeks to find as it alters the media
space to prevent future conflict and the potential for genocide.
Training journalists, fostering new voices, and sparking local,
indigenous media are all steps toward stability and plurality necessary
for transitions to greater democratization. But there are contexts
where the ground for these measures is barren. In Cambodia, Rwanda,
and elsewhere, the combination of international radios may be a
major mechanism for introducing a mood hospitable to peace. Combinations
of so-called monitoring, peace broadcasting, and jamming are now
the emerging formulas for the zones of potential conflict and healing
after war and genocide30.
In Cambodia, for example, there was little in the way of indigenous
media and UN radio created for the elections left after the elections.
In order to fill the void, Radio Free Asia sought to establish an
FM relay station in Phnom Penh. The Hun Sen-controlled Information
Ministry agreed to allow the station, but, before the agreement
was concluded and the station actually took concrete shape, the
station's authorization was put in doubt. Newspapers charged Hun
Sen with fear of RFA and VOA broadcasts "because the RFA broadcast
constitutes a powerful missile that can destroy all tactics conducted
by the dictatorial clique in the twinkling of an eye." With
RFA's FM broadcast in Phnom Penh, "people can be informed immediately
of what the Hun Sen government has done whether for national development
or national destruction." The argument, hyperbole aside, was
that RFA would provide pluralism of views:
Everyone is now aware that Hun Sen and his entourage have spent
millions of dollars on FM radio stations to disseminate misleading
information aimed at deceiving the people. Most of the radio stations
controlled by Hun Sen-except Beehive Radio-represent the voice of
injustice, immorality and dictatorship. Nevertheless, the overwhelming
majority of people do not believe the news broadcasts by those stations
because RFA or VOA rectifies them promptly. This is the reason why
Hun Sen and his cronies have revoked their decision to let the RFA
set up a relay station in Phnom Penh32.
In Rwanda, the international broadcasting community was virtually
paralyzed as to the proper role it should play in altering media
space where media agents had been held largely responsible for genocide33.
Those trained by the West, in part, in the skills of radio production
and audience building were the best at drumming up fervor for the
Hutu to slaughter the Tutsi. The BBC World Service launched an FM
relay in Kigali in March 1998. External donors including the United
Nations High Commission for Refugees, the British government's Department
for International Development, Christian Aid, the British Red Cross
and -Save the Children Fund funded this special service for the
Great Lakes. Included in the program would be news and current affairs
for the Great Lakes region, development and rehabilitation features
and messages from refugees and displaced people. Because of "growing
competition from local, national, and international broadcasters
and satellite television and the Internet," said the BBC World
Service Managing Director, "it is no longer enough for the
BBC to broadcast on short-wave alone; we have to be more accessible
to our audience, more relevant and more aware of our listeners'
This new role, international broadcaster as potential healer involved
in conflict deterrence in Rwanda, Cambodia, Kosovo, and elsewhere,
altered, to some extent, the position of the international community
on jamming. Jamming is the blocking of programming through co-channeling
on the same frequencies or the "deliberate use of interfering
radio signals sent from one or more transmitters to garble emissions
from other transmitters in order to make them unintelligible at
When the use of ideologically inspired radio broadcasting was at
its height in the Cold War, the United States maintained a strong
distinction between civilian and military use of radio-jamming technology,
a legal position that still exists and is invoked. The United States
and the West generally claimed that their right to broadcast putatively
objective radio programs abroad meant that an interference with
these transmissions was a breach of international law in both specific
radio conventions and broader rights of free expression36. With
respect to the older technologies, the Soviets and the Cubans had
quite a different understanding. To them, and to many developing
countries, state sovereignty precluded such undesirable foreign
transmissions, and jamming was, and for Cuba remains, an often-used
The legal status of jamming has been much discussed, especially
in connection with Radio Marti and disputes between Cuba and the
United States over the legality of United States broadcasts and
subsequent retaliations38. In the case of Cuba and the United States,
legal relations were established by the North America Radio Broadcasting
Agreement (NARBA), which became effective in 1960. It is a "treaty
among certain North American countries providing a system of priorities
and engineering standards designed to minimize interference and
to promote the orderly use of the AM channels in the North American
region."39 NARBA established power levels at which broadcasting
stations were required to operate to avoid objectionable interference.
In addition, the ITU Radio Regulations have provided that the short-wave
band is "the internationally accepted method in which information
can be transmitted across national borders," while the AM band
is for domestic use. Radio Marti operates on the AM band.
The basis for Radio Marti's operation is declared in section 2 of
the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act, which provides: (1) that it
is the policy of the United States to support the right of the people
of Cuba to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through
any media and regardless of frontiers, in accordance with article
19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (2) that, consonant
with this policy, radio broadcasting to Cuba may be effective in
furthering the open communication of accurate information and ideas
to the people of Cuba, in particular information about Cuba; (3)
that such broadcasting to Cuba, operated in a manner not inconsistent
with the broad policy of the United States and in accordance with
high professional standards, would be in the national interest.40
It is interesting that built into the justification is the reference
to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that
grants all people the freedom "to seek, receive, and impart
information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Despite the assertion, it is not clear that Article 19 provides
any government the affirmative right to make information and ideas
available to whomever it chooses on the basis that the host government
is engaged in a deprivation of the right.
New modes of information distribution, contexts of genocide or the
potential for conflict, call for different forms of intervention.
These modern interventions are similar to jamming but not within
the standard definition. For example, in May 1999, at the height
of the conflict in Yugoslavia, the Eutelsat Board of Directors discontinued
transmitting the Radio-TV Serbia (RTS) satellite program and, thus,
made RTS inaccessible in European countries. In November 1999, the
United States reiterated its displeasure that Israel continued to
permit the Yugoslav authorities to broadcast RTS on an Israeli satellite.
After the Secretary of State raised the question, the private Israeli
company Spacecom, which owns the Amos-1 satellite, announced that
it stopped broadcasting the Yugoslav program, following orders from
the Israeli government41. According to the Serbian authorities,
"the decision [to discontinue RTS broadcasts] is a culmination
of the hypocrisy of the policy pursued by Western powers, which
in words urge the freedom of the media while most grossly preventing
the flow of information in the world and, thereby, consciously violating
the Eutelsat founding principles."
For the first time since the founding of Eutelsat, one of its members
has been denied the right of transmission of its programs, which
poses a most serious threat to others, too. Today it is Serbia and
it is only a question of who will be the next. The Eutelsat Board
of Directors have explained their decision by saying they wanted
to prevent the spreading of religious and national hatred, which
they are in fact precisely doing with their own decision42.
There are many who suggest that the international community should
have jammed "hate" programming or programming inciting
conflict in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, this being the other
side of the power to inject a new set of images into a designated
context. This is the face of force of the Declaration of Human Rights,
the sword and the blunderbuss of the right of citizens to receive
and impart information about their civil condition.
Radio Free Asia
Radio Free Asia can serve as a case study in the use of international
broadcasting to affect information space in target countries. This
surrogate service, established in the International Broadcasting
Act of 1994, was designed to target China, Vietnam, Burma, Laos,
Cambodia, and North Korea43. RFA is a modern iteration of Cold War
use of the airwaves, emphasizing a turn from the traditional Cold
War targets to new ones. The debates about Radio Free Asia echo
those about other surrogate radios. These debates are important
within the United States, as well, because, as already suggested,
the United States Congress increasingly funds these surrogate approaches.
Radio Free Asia is an expression of domestic political necessity
as much as it is a deliberate strategic and meaningful method of
affecting the mix of messages abroad. If this is the case it may
be an example of a larger hypothesis: instruments of international
broadcasting are a reflection of the priorities and internal politics
of the sending nation. Most foreign policy, it is said, including
international broadcasting, can be described as shaped by domestic
politics44. There are, however, various degrees of truth to this
proposition, and in the case of Radio Free Asia it may be truer
than in many others.
There are a number of themes in the RFA story that illustrate the
relationship between domestic policies and international broadcasting.
The principal and most noteworthy element is its use as a domestic
trade-off to allow "most-favored-nation" treatment for
China. In an environment in the 1990's in which there were numerous
objections to China's human rights policies and a liberalized trade
policy was held hostage to a more aggressive attitude toward China,
RFA was a convenient technique for gaining votes by demonstrating
the fist of radio at the same time as facilitating the glove of
opening economic markets.
During the United States election campaign in 1992, candidate Bill
Clinton accused President George Bush of "coddling the dictators
in Beijing" by granting most-favored-nation (MFN) trade status
to the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the face of the PRC's
widespread human rights abuses. Once elected, President Clinton
quickly moved to the stance taken by former President Bush, arguing
that political and economic engagement were the best tools to dismantle
the harsh dictatorship of Beijing. For this reason, as well as substantial
economic reliance on trade with China, President Clinton separated
MFN status from human rights, while still pledging not to abandon
his goal of combating the PRC's human rights abuses. The use of
Radio Free Asia in the debate took on particular significance and
urgency when China was granted MFN trade status by the Clinton administration.
The link was not always explicit in the statements of the time.
One influential Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, said
We have lifted the embargo on Communist Vietnam. We have extended
again most-favored-nation status to the dictatorial regime on mainland
China. Radio Free Asia is a statement to the oppressed that Americans
may be trading and making a profit in dealing with people who suffer
under this regime, but we are on the side of the oppressed. We are
not on the side of the oppressor45.
The congressional debate about the wisdom or necessity of establishing
the RFA does not wholly dwell on its domestic implications within
the United States. It would have been more satisfying, for this
argument, if there was acknowledgement that the RFA was an instrument
supported by those who wished to do business with China and saw
the need for the surrogate radio as a way to gain their business
advantage. Support or opposition was not necessarily a marker of
those who wished to demonize China so as to protect American manufacturers
(say of textiles) against competitive imports.
Often, the debate focused on such questions as the similarities
and differences between China in the 1990s and Eastern Europe of
the late 1940s to 1960s. Advocates of RFA recited the account of
the end of the Cold War that assigned a major role to the impact
of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in bringing about the fall
of Soviet dominion. Opponents responded that whereas the European
societies under Soviet dominion were ostensibly "tightly closed,"
today a "flood of information reaches China." European
listeners risked their lives to listen to RFE, while in China leadership
policing is not so strict47.
In addition, although RFE/RL was, at one time, CIA-financed, they
"started as ostensibly private organizations, giving United
States administrations a deniability factor missing in the RFA proposed
structure which as an overt government act, [
United States maneuverability in relations with the PRC."48
Opponents also argued against the efficacy of the measure, claiming
that the establishment of the RFA would be perceived as a hostile
American act, potentially bolstering the hardliners' position within
Chinese society49. As a result, RFA might have the exact opposite
outcome than intended and result in "increased repression"
that could discourage an emerging "new wave of democratic leaders"
otherwise hoped to displace the aging Chinese leadership50.
These opponents also argued that the best strategy to combat human
rights abuses and to institute political freedom and democracy in
t;undercut United States influence and our ability to
moderate People of Republic of China policies to which we object."52
Finally, opponents denied the claim that the Chinese people did
not have any available source of news about domestic affairs53.
They asserted that informal alternative sources of domestic news
were abundant in China54.
The debate was often a parochial dispute between supporters and
opponents of the Voice of America. Advocates of the Voice believed
that the creation of RFA would lead to a proportional cut in VOA
services. In the midst of this battle over resources, VOA submitted
a compromise plan in which it would satisfy the need for "surrogate
service"-type broadcasting. This plan was based on the assumptions
that, unlike VOA, RFA would require a "new structure and staff,"
that VOA already had a audience, and it would take years for RFA
to "find an audience and establish credibility with a loyal
listenership"; that augmenting VOA would be "a much more
efficient and less expensive way" of accomplishing the objectives;
that VOA, even though many assert it focuses only on "news
from the United States and international developments" and
cannot do targeted broadcasting, is capable and has demonstrated
that it can provide specialized programming55. "Its coverage
of the Tiananmen Square Uprising was an example of VOA targeted
programming. People all over China were listening to get the details
of what was actually happening and two VOA correspondents were thrown
out of the country."56
The advocates of RFA relied on their accounts of the success of
RFE/RL. Thus, much of the debates discussed the primacy of RFE/RL
in bringing about change in Europe57. The proponents responded to
claims that China and Eastern Europe were not comparable. They suggested
that "[w]hile it is true China is somewhat more open than many
of these countries were, there is a comparability [of] China today
] to, say, Eastern Europe in the mid- to late-1950s and early
1960s when Eastern Europe began to open up some."57 Some went
so far as to argue that it was inequitable to broadcast RFE/RL to
Europe and then to ignore the similar need in China, suggesting
an implicit double standard for Europeans and the rest of the world.
In light [...] of the remarkable success of Radio Free Europe and
Radio Liberty, we see no reason why over 1 billion people in a different
part of the world should be treated differently. They have every
right to the same type of surrogate information, that is, news about
what is happening in their own country, as do the people in Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union.59
Arguments were phrased in terms of a duty to provide additional
information in a "stranglehold" metaphor:
The vast majority of people in China still hear what China's government
wants them to hear, they only see what the government wants them
to see, they only read what the government allows them to read.
It is through this stranglehold on information that the Chinese
government allows them to read. It is through this stranglehold
on information that the Chinese government is so successful in fueling
growing nationalism. There are no independent voices in China. Those
who speak out are arrested, exiled, or killed. Radio Free Asia is
an important instrument to help to break the Chinese government's
stranglehold on news. It can provide an effective and peaceful mechanism
to provide news of reform in China and of freedom around the world.
It can promote democratic reforms, human rights, and basic freedoms.60
Chinese policy was considered particularly worthy of correction
because its control was specifically directed to the flow of information
from the West. For instance, "the Government of the People's
Republic of China issued the demand that hotels temporarily shut
off access to CNN programming because of concern about the impact
of Tiananmen-related stories."61 In addition, the Chinese government
has "prohibited satellite dishes specifically to reduce access
to Western media."62 Not only in China, but in Vietnam and
Proponents hoped that RFA might provide the "hope and knowledge
needed to change conditions in China" by fostering an increased
"understanding of the meaning of political and economic freedom
and democracy" thus forcing "the Chinese government to
allow greater measures of each."63 In arguments claiming a
special obligation on the part of Americans to support democracy
and freedom abroad, the proponents stressed that RFA was necessary
to "show our commitment to these countries' citizens."64
Some even going so far as to say "the fate of America is intertwined
with the faith of American ideals."65 Others made a more strategic
argument on behalf of RFA arguing "that the spread of democratic
ideas serves the interests of the United States because democracies
are far less prone to launch wars of aggression."66 For this
reason RFA would serve "[a]s a prime vehicle for the dissemination
of democratic ideas" creating "a cost-efficient, nonviolent
means of communication."67 Some argued that RFA was not only
the most efficient means for democratization and prevention of physical
destruction, but also for saving money, feeling that due to budget
restraints, "it is cheaper to fight some of these conflicts
and wars with words rather than weapons."68
The International Broadcasting Act of 1994 brought the RFA into
being and provided for its support69. RFA's obligation was to furnish
a service for Asian countries "which lack adequate sources
of free information," in a way that would "enhance the
promotion of information and ideas, while advancing the goals of
United States foreign policy."70 The legislation listed target
countries: The PRC, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, North Korea,
Tibet, and Vietnam71. Under the Act, the "surrogate" function
of RFA was specified, that is, to construct a service that would
give "accurate and timely information, news, and commentary
about events in the respective countries of Asia and elsewhere and
be a forum for a variety of opinions and voices from within Asian
nations whose people do not fully enjoy freedom of expression."72
In addition, the Act required a report on the effectiveness of RFA
within three years after the date of initial funding73. This report
was to include findings as to whether Radio Free Asia was received
by a sufficient audience to warrant its continuation; the extent
to which such broadcasting was already being received by the target
audience from other credible sources; and the extent to which the
interests of the United States were being served by broadcasting
Radio Free Asia74.
In May 1994, the President announced that MFN renewal was contingent
upon increased "international broadcasting."75 Soon thereafter,
he suggested that talks on reducing the Chinese jamming of Voice
of America were progressing76. In March 1995, in an insight into
the symbolic importance of nomenclature, the RFA was changed to
Asia Pacific Network, but only temporarily as it angered the confrontationalists77.
In September 1996, broadcasts began in Mandarin into China and soon
thereafter a Tibetan language service was added78. In 1997, broadcasts
were begun to Burma, Vietnam, and North Korea. In 1996 and 1997,
the debate over MFN status to China was renewed, and RFA again became
an important bargaining chip. Representative Porter introduced legislation
to make RFA a twenty-four hour a day service, as a kind of relief
valve for opposition to continued extensive trade relationships
with China. The President and Speaker supported the legislation.
The international debate over the broadcast of RFA took on the character
of many past battles over United States international broadcasting
to older target sites including the Soviet Union and Cuba. On the
one hand, the United States argued that its right to broadcast was
contained within the international right, under Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights giving everyone the right
"to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through
any media and regardless of frontiers."79 These arguments assumed,
as has already been mentioned, that the "right" of individuals
in target countries gave the United States the correlative power
or duty under the international legal regime, to satisfy legal disabilities
that such individuals might have. China, Korea, and Vietnam argued
that such broadcasting violates international tenets and agreements
on domestic sovereignty. The primary political response from Asian
countries has emanated from China, North Korea, and Vietnam. The
rhetoric of response is useful to examine. The arguments focus on
(1) a critique of the free flow of information argument as being
instead a form of cultural imperialism or (2) claims that the broadcasting
efforts violate domestic sovereignty. For example, in China, the
Foreign Ministry spokesman said,
We demand the United States not interfere further in other countries'
internal affairs by using the excuse of freedom of speech. [...]
It is obvious that the Free Asia Radio is a tool of psychological
war, a typical tool of the Cold War period, and at the same time
a direct interference in the internal affairs of Asian Nations.
In other words, the Radio Free Asia is a form of cultural colonialism.80
The China Youth Daily reported,
Although the Cold War has been over for years, the United States
and other Western nations rely on the superiority of their communication
and information technology to increasingly launch Cold War propaganda.
] The real goal of setting up Radio 'Free Asia' is to use
news media to interfere in the internal affairs of China and other
Asian nations, to create chaos, and to destroy the stability of
A foreign ministry spokesman argued that the broadcasts have 'seriously
damaged the norms governing international relations [...] and are
not conducive to the improvement of Sino-United States relations.82
In 1999, a report from China attacked VOA's increased broadcasting
in Tibetan as a new escalation in the United States radio infiltration
A look at a series of most recent actions in United States broadcasts
against China shows the new United States 'smokeless war' strategy.
The United States has gradually installed around China a series
of relay stations and transmitters [
] United States officials
asserted that, 'these [
] relay stations enable all of mainland
China to hear the VOA,' 'making Beijing's jamming ineffective.'
After President Nixon's 1972 visit to China, particularly after
the establishment of Sino-United States diplomatic relations, United
States officials in charge of foreign propaganda held that: this
was the arrival of 'an absolutely unprecedented opportunity since
1949 to really subject China to Western ideological influences and
values.' So we need to seize the "unprecedented good"
opportunity, launching propaganda against China, to make up 'its
gap in Western ideology and values.' The VOA has adjusted its programming
in line with changing circumstances on one hand, while going all
out to expand its real broadcasting might against China on the other.
Similar statements emanated from North Korea. Shortly after the
initiation of Radio Free Asia in 1994, a spokesman for the DPRK
Foreign Ministry objected to the legislation and stated,
Passage of the bill [
] is a criminal act of interfering in
the internal affairs of and hostility against our country and other
Asian countries. [...] The true intention of the United States in
initiating Radio Free Asia is to infuse the so-called United States
style democratic values and the toxin of bourgeois ideology into
our country and other Asian countries in order to crush socialism
in this region and demolish the independent governments there from
within. The United States was able to use this machination and propaganda
effectively to demolish from within the former socialist countries
in another region in the past and to have them turn to capitalism,
but it is far from workable in our country.83
Arguments from Vietnam had much the same tone. Nhan Dan, a leading
Vietnamese newspaper, strongly criticized United States radio efforts,
saying they were detrimental to the recent efforts to improve Vietnamese-United
States relations. In a commentary, the paper called the United States
efforts to open Radio Free Asia "a move to renew the psychological
warfare in the Cold War period, using the pretext of democracy and
human rights to launch a war of ideological and cultural invasions
and interfere into Asian countries' internal affairs." The
papers said that from the idea of its establishment to preparations
for the start of is broadcasts, "Radio Free Asia has exposed
itself as a wicked political instrument and a product of the Cold
War period," which is designed "to oppose socialist countries,
A radio commentary countered the use of Radio Free Asia with an
emphasis on the international legal framework for national sovereignty.
One of the fundamental principles of international law is the principle
of respect for national sovereignty. In existing international law,
this principle has become a rule and a condition already engraved
in almost all-important international legal documents, especially
in the UN Charter and in various documents of the UN General Assembly,
by which all nations have full and ultimate authority to make decisions
on foreign and domestic policies. Therefore, the use of Radio Free
Asia by the United States to spread its propaganda and impose its
political will, and to pressure other countries into changing their
national policies and lines constitutes a violation of the sacred
sovereignty of these countries.85
In the official Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper, the
United States was accused "of seeking to undermine stability
in Asia, but also expos[ing] deeper sores from a war that ended
nearly 22 years ago." The paper went on to say:
You (the United States) should know that for the Vietnamese people,
for a long time, whenever the adjective free is used by you it implies
no beautiful meaning [
] The Vietnamese people don't want to
repeat that whenever the adjective free has been applied to us by
you, it's linked with 'free aggression,' 'freely bombing,' 'freely
spraying toxic chemicals,' 'freely killing and jailing patriotic
people,' 'freely distorting the truth' [
] and 'freely interfering
in the internal affairs of sovereign countries'.86
RFA is an exemplar of the more aggressive face of international
broadcasting. It is part of a world in which state-sponsored international
media is increasing. Here, I have mainly focused on the American
international broadcasters and other traditional broadcasters such
as the BBC World Service. State-sponsored transmissions are rapidly
changing. The satellite is the vehicle now for a multi-faceted,
highly focused international broadcasting arena where states seek
to nourish and persuade their own diasporas and build worldwide
constituencies for their position. We have already seen a Serbian
channel, lifted to a diaspora community throughout Europe on Eutelsat,
but removed from the satellite by a NATO-influenced Board of Directors.
In the early 1990s, Hungary founded Duna-TV designed especially
to reach the Hungarian diaspora in Romania. In the fall of 1999,
the Islamic Information Ministers, meeting in Libya, proclaimed
an Islamic Vision that included a concerted use of Nilesat, Arabsat,
Measat, and the Indonesian satellite. As part of its emergence into
statehood, the Palestine National Authority announced the launching
of a national satellite TV channel. Its director noted that the
objective of the Palestinian satellite channel would be to bolster
the Palestinian identity. Turkey, Iran, Iraq, India, and China all
have committed or have developed channels that would reach a greater
public. These are not, in the modern sense, international broadcasters
in the VOA or BBC mold. They hark back to the early days of the
BBC when it was designed, primarily to reach its colonial communities,
an early diaspora. At the moment, these channels are largely viewed
as innocent purveyors of culture. We have seen, however, in the
case of MED-TV, distributing programming to Kurds worldwide, that
these new diaspora channels can be the cause of international concern.87
In the summer of 2001, the United Kingdom announced the curtailment
of short-wave transmissions of their international broadcasting
arm to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the
Pacific Islands. Listeners instead would have to access the World
Service on the Internet or listen to a limited service is rebroadcast
on FM by local stations. The move ended a tradition from 1932 when
the Empire Service, as it was then called, first went on air, punctuating
each hour with the familiar signature "This is London"
and providing many listeners with their first live voice from a
distant land88. The Voice of America cutback on its short-wave services
as well. The context in which the BBC World Service and the Voice
of America functioned had changed, and changed dramatically. New
technologies, including the Internet, now, in specified locales,
had greater audiences than traditional modes for distributing their
messages. There was muttering at that and other decisions to alter
priorities. But these were at the surface. What the events of the
1990s and the early twentieth century had demonstrated (even for
the deeply entrenched international broadcasters) was that old principles
could not be maintained without new techniques and new strategies.
The interest of the originating states in affecting the mix of voices
in target societies had not diminished. But what constituted suitable
targets and what, as a result, constituted effective means for achieving
change among them had changed. As always, there were desires to
increase stability in certain zones of conflict, but to destabilize
disfavored regimes as well. International broadcasters (and their
clandestine cousins) had to cope with the changed agenda there as
well. And, finally, the capacity of international broadcasters to
shore up states that were struggling to become more democratic (or
to retain their fingerhold on democracy) presented altered challenges
All of these factors, as well such others as the competition from
private suppliers of international news, produced the atmosphere
and fact of transformation among international broadcasters. For
them, after the relatively steady role they played during the Cold
War, the 1990's were years of turbulence. Yet that very turbulence
underscored the complexity of factors that govern one state's involvement
in the media affairs of another.
y referencias bibliográficas:
1 L. John Martin, International
Propaganda: Its Legal and Diplomatic Control (Minneapolis: University
of Minnesota Press, 1958).
2 The VOA steadfastly refused during the Gulf War and Kosovo crisis
to permit its programming to be relayed via U. S. Defense Department
aircraft or terrestrial "psywar" stations. Because of
the VOA Charter, VOA's news reporting during recent conflicts has
been totally insulated from the U. S. policy apparatus, except for
the Congressionally mandated broadcast of clearly labeled U. S.
3 Joseph S. Nye, Jr. and William A. Owens, "America's Information
Edge," Foreign Affairs, (spring 1996): 20.
4 For treatments of legal questions raised by aspects of international
broadcasting, see Leo Gross, "Some International Law Aspects
of the Freedom of Information and the Right to Communicate,"
in Kaarle Nordenstrng and Herbert I. Schiller, eds.,
5 National Sovereignty and International Communication (Norwood,
N.J.: Ablex, 1979), pp. 208-9. See Bhagevatula Satyanarayana Murty,
Propaganda and World Public Order: The Legal Regulation of the Ideological
Instrument of Coercion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968,
reissued as The International Law of Propaganda, 1989); David Marks,
"Broadcasting across the Wall: The Free Flow of Information
between East and West Germany," Journal of Communication 33,
(winter 1983). See also John L. Martin, International Propaganda:
Its Legal and Diplomatic Control (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1958 reissued 1969). Much of this material is cited in Stephen
D. Krasner, "Global communications and National Power: Life
on the Pareto Frontier," World Politics, 43, no. 3 (April 1991):
336-466 at 344 to support his argument that the few international
agreements that deal with international broadcasting "are filled
with the kind of confusing and contradictory language that betrays
underlying disagreements about principles and norms." Legal
issues are also canvassed in Jamie Frederic Metzl, "Rwandan
Genocide and the International Law of Radio Jamming," American
Journal of International Law, 91 (1997): 628.
5 "China Accuses BBC of Launching 'Invasion'" BBC Worldwide
Monitoring (August 5, 1999), Source: Zhongliu', Beijing, in Chinese
(12 Jun 99).
7 Jon T. Powell, "Towards a Negotiable Definition of Propaganda
for International Agreements Related to Direct Broadcast Satellites,"
Law & Contemporary Problems 45 (1982): 3, 25-26.
8 Gary Rawnsley has made this distinction: "Public diplomacy
and media diplomacy are frequently used as interchangeable terms.
[But] public diplomacy is specifically targeted at a mass audience,
based on the supposition that public opinion can exert considerable
influence on their governments and political systems [
diplomacy is much more selective and aims to address a particular
government or regime directly with a view to persuading it to modify
its diplomatic position or behavior. Rawnsley uses the following
example: "BBC broadcasts in English targeted at the Soviet
Union during the Cold War were never 'jammed' [
] This suggests
that the Kremlin, complete with its own monitoring organization,
depended upon the BBC as a reliable source of diplomatic news, information
and intelligence and, of course, as a means by which the Soviets
could learn how they and their policies were being presented and
received in the West. Gary Rawnsley, Media Diplomacy: Monitored
Broadcasts and Foreign Policy 4 (Centre for the Study of Diplomacy,
University of Leicester 1996). One example of a study of this process,
marked by its reliance on the work of Herbert Schiller is Fred Fejes,
Imperialism, Media and The Good Neighbor: New Deal Foreign Policy
and United States Shortwave Broadcasting to Latin America, (Norwood,
N. J.: Ablex, 1984).
9 CNN broadcasts largely in English, with only a language transmission
in Spanish. British and U.S. international broadcasters broadcast
in more than 65 languages and reach mass audiences (more than 200
million readers/listeners/viewers a week), not just the affluent
that can afford television. See Don M. Flournoy and Robert K. Stewart,
CNN : Making News in the Global Market (Luton: University of Luton
10 See Elzbieta Olechowska and Howard Aster, Challenges for International
Broadcasting V, (Oakville: Mosaic, 1998); David Abshire, "International
Broadcasting: A New Dimension Of Western Diplomacy" (Washington
Papers No. 35, 1976); Philo C. Wasburn, Broadcasting Propaganda:
International Radio Broadcasting and the Construction of Political
Reality (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1992). There are many books that
deal with these questions. See, e.g., Michael Nelson, War of the
Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War
(Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Univ Press, 1997); Philip M. Taylor, War
and the Media: Propaganda and Persuasion in the Gulf War (Manchester:
Manchester University Press 1992); W.L. Bennett & D.L. Paletz,
Taken By Storm: The Media, Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy
(Chicago: Chicago University Press 1994); Y. Cohen, Media Diplomacy:
The Foreign Office in the Mass Communication Age (London: Frank
Cass, 1986); James O.H. Nason, "International Broadcasting
as an Instrument of Foreign Policy," Millennium 6 (1977); Olive
Renier & V, Rebenstein, Assigned to Listen: The Evesham Experience
11 See Mark Hopkins, "A Babel of Broadcasts," Columbia
Journalism Review, (July 1999): 44.
12 Michael Nelson, War of the Black Heavens.
13 Mark Hopkins, "A Babel of Broadcasts."
14 Harold D. Lasswell, Propaganda Technique in the World War 14
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927).
15 39 Dept of State Bulletin 337-342 at 339. 1958 Statement to the
UN, August 1958.
16 "China Accuses BBC of Launching 'Invasion'," Zhongliu,
reprinted in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, available in Lexis,
News Library, BBCSWB file.
17 22 United States Code Section 2002(b).
18 Id. It is interesting to note August 1999 by
the Office of Audience Research, International Broadcasting Bureau:
"The global audience for VOA has remained essentially stable
over the past five years. Within the overall picture, however, the
distribution of audience has changed significantly. The proportion
of the VOA audience found in Europe and the former Soviet Union
is about half what it was in 1994; conversely the proportion of
the total audience found in Africa has roughly doubled in that time."
Refined national totals upward in Bangladesh and Afghanistan also
have increased substantially since 1994, with VOA's global audience
estimated at 91 million adults who tune in at least once a week.
The shift in the audience in China, as television sets have increased,
has been of tectonic proportions.
19 Michael Nelson, War of the Black Heavens.
20 United States International Broadcasting Act, Pub. L. No. 103-236,
21 VOA has been broadcasting to Iraq in Arabic for more than half
a century and to Iran in a restored Farsi Service since 1979.
22 "Details of new Radio Democracy for Africa," VOA broadcast,
April 11, 1998, reprinted in World Broadcast Information, April
17, 1998, available in Lexis, News Library, BBCSWB file.
23 22 United States Code Section 6211.
24 "New Operator of Aussie TV to be Decided Soon" Jakarta
Post, April 9, 2001
25 To maintain and reinforce its service, the management at Radio
Canada International made a conscious decision to be part of "Team
Canada." These are assortments of business and industrial leaders
sent to various countries to promote goods and services. RCI determined
that Team Canada activities, "rather than just being a news
story, were an integral part of reflecting what's happening in Canada."
"Radio Canada International plans for 1999," BBC Summary
of World Broadcasts, (January 1, 1999).World Broadcast Information;
Chna; WBI/0001/WB, Source: Voice of America, Washington, in English
(19 Dec 98).
26 "DW services and staff cuts outlined," BBC Summary
of World Broadcasts (October 15, 1999), World Broadcast Information;
WBI/0042/WB. Source: Deutsche Welle press release, Cologne, in German
(7 Oct 99).
27 John Tusa, "Media: Britannia Rules the Airwaves," (December
9, 1992): media page, 19.
28 Peter Popham, "The Empire Talks Back," Independent
Magazine (January 17, 1996): 2.
29 In the past, the USIA was required by law to shield VOA programming
from political and policy pressures. The Agency was consolidated
into the State Department on October 1, 1999. Now, the Broadcasting
Board of Governors, a bipartisan, president-appointed U. S. government
entity, provides oversight and is intended to act as a "firewall"
protecting the editorial integrity of all the U. S. civilian international
30 See Jamie Frederic Metzl, "Rwandan Genocide and the International
Law of Radio Jamming," American Journal of International Law,
91 (1997): 628.
31 "Government Plans to Ban U.S.-funded RFA Criticized,"
Samleng Yuveakchon Khmer, (April 8, 1999), reprinted in World Broadcast
Information, (April 23, 1999), available in Lexis, News Library,
33 See Article 19 "Organization, Broadcasting Genocide: Censorship,
Propaganda and State Sponsored Violence In Rwanda 1990-1994"
34 "USA, NATO Said to Be Building Ring Around Serbia,"
Tanjug News Agency, (August 13, 1999), reprinted in World Broadcast
Information, (August 18,1999), available in Lexis, News Library,
35 John B. Whitton and Arthur D. Larson, Propaganda Towards Disarmament
in the War of Words 210 (1964).
36 L. John Martin, International Propaganda 87, 223 (1958).
37 Bruce Kessler, "Politics Among the Airwaves: An Analysis
of Soviet and Western Perspectives on International Broadcasting
and the Right to Exchange Ideas and Information Regardless of Frontiers,"
Houston Journal of International Law 7 (1985): 237, 248.
38 Stephen D. Bayer, "The Legal Aspects of TV Marti in Relation
to the Law of Direct Broadcasting Satellites," Emory Law Journal
41 (1992): 541; see also Omar Javier Arcia, "War over the Airwaves:
A Comparative Analysis of U.S. and Cuban Views on International
Law and Policy Governing Transnational Broadcasts," Journal
of Transnational Law & Policy 5 (1996): 199; L. Alexandre, "Television
Marti: 'Open Skies' Over the South," in K. Nordenstren and
Herber Schiller (eds), Beyond National Sovereignty (Norwood, N.
J.: Ablex Publishing 1993).
39 Region 2 Administrative Radio Conference on Medium Wave Frequency
(MF) Broadcasting: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on International
Operations of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 97th Cong.
4 (1981) (statement of Hon. James L. Buckley, Under Secretary for
Security Assistance, Science and Technology, Department of State)
[hereinafter Region 2 Administrative Radio Conference].
40 Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act §§ 2, 3(b), H. 7677.
41 "USA 'embittered' by RTS broadcasts on Israeli satellite,"
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (November 12, 1999): World Broadcast
Information; Yugoslavia/Israel/USA; WBI/0046/WB. Source: Monitoring
research (4 Nov 99).
42 Of course, this was during an armed intervention. See "Eutelsat
Decision 'Culmination of Hypocrisy'," Tanjug News Agency, (May
27, 1999), reprinted in World Broadcast Information, (June 4, 1999),
available in Lexis, News Library, BBCSWB file.
43 As a historic matter, a surrogate service directed at China had
previously existed from 1951 to 1953. "Radio Free Asia, an
allegedly public-supported (but in reality, CIA-financed) international
broadcasting station operated out of San Francisco, but transmitting
from Manilla, was founded. Its dual mission was to strengthen resistance
within China to the new Communist government plus prevent overseas
China in Asia from 'falling victim to communist Chinese propaganda.'"
John A. Lent, Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific: A Continental
Survey of Radio and Television 319 (1978). The creation of RFA was
once again debated during the Vietnam War. CRS Report for Congress,
Radio Free Asia, January 2, 1997.
44 James Rosenau, ed., Domestic Sources of Foreign Policy, (New
York: Free Press, 1967).
45 140 Congressional Record H5130.
46 U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Diplomacy in the
Information Age, 1993 Report (Washington, D.C., February 1993):
47 Id., p. 30.
49 Id., p. 26.
50 Hearing at 5. (Eizenstat).
51 Commission on Public Diplomacy, 1993 Report, p. 26.
52 Id. The Commission established by President Bush summarized the
argument as follows: China's growing participation in the global
economy's already having the effect of opening its society to outside
influences, with inevitable demands for increased democracy. We
encourage these trends but the creation of a new and separate "surrogate"
broadcasting system-which would be seen as a hostile American act-is
not an effective means of accomplishing that objective. Id. at 30.
53 Access to international sources of information is not as hotly
54 Commission on Public Diplomacy, 1993 Report, p. 26.
55 "New structure and staff": Id. at 30. "Loyal listenership":
Id. "Augmenting VOA": 104 Congressional Record H5113-04,
56 Hearing at 17 (Washburn).
57 Often responding, "[w]ould there be Earth with the Sun."
(quoting Lech Walesa's comment about where these broadcasts were
important to the democratic movement in Poland).
58 Hearing at 5 (Eizenstat).
60 142 Congressional Record 8215-03, 8231 (Pelosi).
61 140 Congressional Record H5113-04, H5127 (Gilman).
64 140 Congressional Record S4819-02, S2420 (Biden).
65 140 Congressional Record 5113-04, H5125 (Porter). Congressman
Smith argued for the primacy of ideas as follows: Just let me say
that throughout human history, the most important battles have not
been those whose object was to control territory. The battles that
really matter have always been about values and ideas. When the
history of our century is written it will be large part the story
of a long struggle for the soul of the world, the struggle between
the values of the free world on the one hand and those of communism,
fascism, and other forms of totalitarianism on the other. Throughout
most of the world, the values of the free world have been victorious,
not only because we had better values but also because we were not
afraid to stand up for them.
142 Congressional Record H8215-03, H8228 (Smith).
66 140 Congressional Record at H5125 (Bentley).
67 Id. See also 140 Congressional Record at H5131 (Porter). Such
a strategic stance was discussed in particular countries contexts;
for instance Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea. In Cambodia, 15
months after historic elections were held, the Chinese-backed Khmer
Rouge were again on the offensive-waging war over the airwaves as
inflammatory news broadcasts by Pol Pot's forces need only refer
to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service reports that many of
our offices receive on a daily basis. The growing political chaos,
fuelled by Khmer Rouge broadcasts, should be of serious concern
to all who remember what happened inside Cambodia from 1975-1978.
Radio Free Asia can play a positive role in helping Cambodia consolidate
its tentative move toward democracy that is in danger of being suppressed
again by the murderous Khmer Rouge.
In Vietnam, a country of 70 million people, the VOA broadcasts 2
1/2 hours a day-certainly not enough for a country of such pivotal
regional importance. In Vietnam, economic liberalization has not
necessarily been followed by political liberalization. Yet, although
the Vietnamese Government continues to prohibit free expression,
there has been a range of nascent, democratic activities that must
be nourished through access to a Radio Free Asia. Although the Congress
has lifted economic sanctions, we must not falsely assume that trade,
by itself, will foster democracy. While the VOA gives these countries
a window to world events, a Radio Free Asia will address a full
and fair colloquy of events of the day within each country and culture.
Then, there is the case of North Korea, a closed, militaristic society
that has the potential to foment major instability throughout the
region. In a closed society such as North Korea, international radio
broadcasting is extremely important for another key reason-communication
with the ruling elite. Contrary to the belief that North Korean
leaders are of only one mind, we know from past events that there
are moderate as well as hard-line factions. Make no mistake about
it, members of the ruling elite can and do listen to international
radio broadcasts-perhaps behind closed doors-but listening nonetheless.
Kim Il-song will not live forever, and the succession is not clear.
Through Radio Free Asia, we can implant the notion that a peaceful
future is possible, with as much as the North Korean elite as can
be reached. Must we wait for the outbreak of a second war on the
Korean Peninsula before recognizing the need for a Radio Free Asia?"
(Id. H5125-H5126 (Bentley)).
68 Hearing at 3 (Hughes).
69 United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C.
6201 et seq.).
70 Id. § 6201(4).
71 Id. § 6208(a)(1). In order to receive a grant, the Congress
required that the Board submit "to Congress a detailed plan
for the establishment and operation of Radio Free Asia." Id.
§ 6208(c)(1). This plan must include how RFA will meet its
funding limitations, the number and qualifications of its employees,
and how it will meet its technical capabilities. Id. § 6208(c)(1)(A),
(B) and (C).
72 Id. § 6208(b)(1) and (2).
73 Id. § 6208(f).
74 Id. § 6208(f)(1)-(4). Other requirements of the Report are
to determine whether Radio Free Asia is technically sound and cost-effective
and whether Radio Free Asia consistently meets the standards for
quality and objectivity established by the statute. The Board may
also "provide for the use of United States Government transmitter
capacity for relay of Radio Free Asia." Id. § 6204(14).
Lastly, the Act, sensitive to the concerns of the VOA constituency,
required that the Board notify Congress before taking any action
that "will significantly reduce" VOA broadcasting. Id.
75 Executive Order 12, 850, 3 C.F.R. 606, 607 § 1(b).
76 President's Letter to Congressional Leaders on Most-Favored Nation
Trade Status for China, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents
20 (June 2, 1994): 1203.
77 [T]he BBG had angered some Members of Congress by changing the
broadcast service's official name in November 1995 from Radio Free
Asia to Asia Pacific Network.
During a House International Relations Committee hearing in July
1996, Members challenged a panel consisting of BBG and Radio Free
Asia officials to explain why they had changed the name to Asia
Pacific Network. The panel responded that: 1) the name Radio Free
Asia has confrontational tones and would anger the Chinese government;
2) Asia Pacific Network would encompass television, not just radio
broadcasting; and 3) some people might associate the new broadcast
service with Radio Free Europe, which had a much different history,
including links to the CIA. Some in Congress reacted to the BBG's
name change by contending that the new Asia service was meant to
be confrontational. Since the authorizing law stated: "such
broadcast service shall be referred to as Radio Free Asia",
these members maintained that is the name. (During the appropriations
process for FY1997, some Members contemplated withholding funds
until the broadcast service used the name Radio Free Asia.) As of
the fall of 1996, Radio Free Asia is the name used by the broadcasting
CRS Report at 5.
78 The first RFA broadcast took place on September 29, 1996, broadcasting
into China in Mandarin. The initial broadcasts of one hour at 7:00
a.m. and one hour at 11:00 p.m. include regional news and feature
stories. The 7:00 a.m. broadcasts consist of a half hour program
that is repeated at 7:30 a.m., 11:00 p.m., and 11:30 p.m., with
updated news added to each half hour. Broadcasting into China is
expected to double by the end of the 1996 calendar year. CRS Report
79 22 U.S.C. § 6201(1).
80 "Hanoi accuses RFA of 'cultural colonialism,'" broadcast
from Voice of Vietnam External Service, (October 4, 1996), reprinted
in World Broadcast Information, (October 11, 1996), available in
Lexis, News Library, BBCSWB file.
81 Mure Disckie, "China Media Lambast U.S. over Propaganda,
Politics," Reuters World Service, November 1, 1996.
82 "Chinese defense minister leaves for U.S.," Agence
France Presse, December 2, 1996.
83 "Foreign Ministry Spokesman Berates Plan for Radio Free
Asia," broadcast from Central Broadcasting Station, (February
1, 1994), reprinted in World Broadcast Information, (February 2,
1994), available in Lexis, News Library, BBCSWB file.
84 "Vietnamese newspaper raps U.S. Radio," Xinhua News
Agency, December 7, 1996.
85 "Radio Says Revival of Radio Free Asia Violates International
Law," broadcast from Voice of Vietnam, (December 4, 1996),
reprinted in World Broadcast Information, (December 7, 1996), available
in Lexis, News Library, BBCSWB file.
86 "Cold War Remembered as Hanoi Blasts U.S. radio," Reuters
World Service, December 10, 1996.
87 On April 23, 1999 the ITC, UK regulator, revoked Med TV's license
on the grounds that the satellite channel was not complying with
its license. The ITC characterized four specific Med-TV's broadcasts
as "likely to encourage or incite to crime or lead to disorder."
See: "UK Regulator ITC Revokes Kurdish Med TV's License,"
source: Independent Television Commission press release on (April
23, 1999), reprinted in World Broadcast Information, (April 30,
1999), available in Lexis, News Library, BBCSWB file.
88 "BBC World Service to Cut Back Broadcasts," Daily Telegraph,
May 26, 2001.
Director, Programme in Comparative Media Law
and Policy and Joseph and Sadie Danciger Professor of Law at the Cardozo
School of Law, Yeshiva University. Originally published in Global
Media and National Controls: Rethinking the Role of the State, MIT