Saturday, December 12, 2015

Quotable: Matt Armstrong on the early U.S. international information and educational programs, VOA included

Thursday, December 10th 2015
Public Diplomacy Council member Matt Armstrong provided a useful overview of the State Department’s early postwar international information and educational programs – which then included the Voice of America – in an articleon the website on December 1, 2015, 1949: why can't we hear VOA in the U.S.?” In 1949, George V. Allen was the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

  • Allen . . . had a large international information service under his command. The United States Information Service included VOA, but despite the cost of running a network of domestic and foreign transmitters, the VOA was only one-fourth of the total budget.

  • On the information side, other efforts included "documentary motion picture films, posters, pamphlets, photographs, and various other means to give foreigners correct information about the United States."

  • . . . Allen's office . . . ran exchanges with "students, technicians, and other persons between the United States and foreign countries, we give a small but significant support to American schools in Latin America, and we maintain most of the American libraries established abroad during the war."  

  • "Why can't we in the United States hear the Voice of America broadcasts?" * * * “There are two principal reasons. First, the broadcasts are beamed on short-wave directional antennae toward particular areas overseas from transmitters near New York, Boston, Cleveland, and San Francisco. While it is difficult, it is not impossible to pick up the program on a short-wave receiver in the United States.

  • [The second reason is] 85 percent of our programs are in foreign languages, by announcers speaking Polish, Russian, Czech, Chinese, Persian, etc., so if you happen to get the program, the chances are that you would not recognize it. The Department is glad to furnish full schedules and wave lengths on request. As note [at the start of the article], scripts of all our programs, in English translation, are publicly available. ”

  • . . . the Soviet Government is now devoting approximately four times the capital equipment in transmitters, monitoring stations and so forth, and 10 times the manpower to jam our programs in their effort to block them off from reception in critical areas. They would hardly go to this trouble if the programs were not effective.

  • The role of VOA was clear and its mission of broadcasting, while distinct, was complementary to the other information programs that disseminated information abroad. And there was no domestic prohibition on accessing any of the information broadcast or disseminated abroad as authorized by the Smith-Mundt Act.

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