VOA & BBC signing off in China spells doom

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-2-17 8:05:00

Voice of America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), two broadcasters carrying strong ideological labels, are gradually being phased out of China, signaling the end of an era. It is reported that VOA will cancel its Chinese broadcasts this year. This followed the announcement just last month that the BBC was significantly cutting its Chinese-language service.

The cut demonstrates a blow to the ideological campaign that certain countries have waged for over half a century. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, whined that the US is cowing before China, "The Chinese people are our greatest allies, and the free flow of information is our greatest weapon."

The US has long been good at using propaganda while maintaining its military strategy. VOA started its service in 1942 and has enjoyed a generous budget from the US government. But Rohrabacher overestimated the effect of VOA in winning the hearts and minds of Chinese audiences.

Even in its heyday, foreign broadcasters did not dominate Chinese mainstream thinking, though indeed, there were times when foreign broadcasters provided additional sources for those Chinese eager to learn more about current affairs. They were able to break news much earlier than domestic news media.

The invasion that foreign broadcasters made in China was more a result of the information seclusion of China in its old days. It was also a symbol when hostility between East and the West was at its highest.

VOA and BBC did cultivate a large number of followers among Chinese English learners. With limited access to learning material, VOA's Special English and BBC news became favorite programs among English learners. A short-wave radio became a must-have for English majors.

Those days are now gone. As China has integrated into the world, and the people have accessed more multi-sourced and multi-dimensional information, they now make their own judgments. During the process, domestic media platforms have grown with comparable influence.

The Chinese service of VOA and BBC are heading toward an inevitable fall. In addition to competition from other media, they are being marginalized due to their biased and unprofessional reporting.

As tremendous changes have happened in China, their coverage has been persistently negative, which has increasingly turned away Chinese audiences.

Their Chinese service is coming to a historical end, with their mission unfinished.

Posted in: Viewpoint

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