With China expanding media controls, Congress must fully fund Radio Free Asia

Tucked away in a U.S. broadcasting budget, you’ll find the end to the radio and television operations of one of America’s most effective foreign language services.

President Trump’s proposed budget for U.S. international broadcasting for fiscal 2018 would cut more than $4.7 million from congressionally funded Radio Free Asia’s annual budget. This would eliminate RFA’s Mandarin’s radio and television broadcasts to China. And it would leave RFA with social media as its sole means of reaching Chinese citizens just as China increasingly monitors and controls social media.

Radio Free Asia is a nonprofit organization that reaches listeners, viewers and internet users via radio, satellite television and social media in East Asian countries where the media are censored and in many ways restricted. RFA’s nine language services are mandated by congressional legislation to serve as free media “surrogates” covering stories that would otherwise be blocked by authoritarian regimes.

 

The proposed cut comes at a time when China has been increasing its broadcasting efforts overseas, including a rebranding of its flagship television broadcaster CCTV.

Working with a budget many times larger than that which the United States devotes to international broadcasting, China has expanded CCTV’s operations with the aim of improving China’s image overseas.

All of this ties in with China’s larger aim of expanding its “soft power” alongside growing economic and military power.

China’s “soft power” budget comes to roughly $10 billion a year, with much of that devoted to broadcasting. In contrast, the U.S. international broadcasting budget will now be reduced by nearly 13 percent to $685 million. The budget is meant to cover broadcasts by five entities, including RFA, Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, The Office of Cuban Broadcasting and the Voice of America.

When Congress reviews the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to RFA it should…

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