Joint letter against the termination of the Greek and Turkish language programs of the Voice of America
Washington, D.C…- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
When few months ago the Broadcasting Board of Governors decided to terminate most of the European languages programs of the Voice of America, including Greek and Turkish, many prominent members of Congress, reacting on protests by Greek and Turkish American community organizations, predicted the rejection of those plans from the US Congress, because the VOA broadcasts for these sensitive areas are considered crucial for the image of the United States.
“It is awkward that while the proposed fiscal year 2007 budget for U.S. international broadcasting calls for an overall increase of 4.3% from fiscal year 2006, Bush administration is cutting all Balkan programming of VOA”, a prominent Greek American lobbyist has told the Greek News, back in February.
Many prominent Greek Americans approached the Chairpersons of the Greek Caucus, Michael Bilirakis and Carolyn Maloney and among the ideas they suggested was a joint campaign by both Greek and Turkish Caucuses (with approximately 200 members in the House of Representatives).
After negotiations behind the scenes, the leaderships of Greek and Turkish Caucuses singed a joint letter, sent on June 7 to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce, asking for the restoration of the funds for the International Broadcasting for the Balkans. On June 20, 2006, the House Appropriations Committee decided to provide $659 million for International Broadcasting, including funding to continue expanded broadcasting to the broader Middle East.
It was the first time ever, friends of Greece and Turkey in Congress acted together.
A Congress aide told GreekNews that despite the first victory, the pressure should be kept on, to insure that the full House will approve the measure.
Greek Program, headed by George Bistis, employees four Journalists, and serves many Greek radio stations and Alpha Tv, covering approximately 720.000 people in Greece, according to Nielsen
Dear Chairman Wolf and Ranking Member Mollohan:
As concerned members of the Congressional Hellenic and Turkish Caucuses, we strongly urge you to include funding for the Voice of America (VOA) Greek and Turkish Services in the FY 2007 Commerce, Justice, State, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. We also request additional funds for the development of a joint program initiative that would promote the end of the division in Cyprus and the engagement of the Greek –Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in a revived process aimed at their reunification.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has decided to eliminate all VOA Turkish and Greek Services sometime during FY 2007. As members of the Congressional Turkish and Hellenic Caucus, we believe it is critical that the VOA sustain its radio and television programs to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, a geographical area with a combined population of more than 80 million people.
As the only BBG-funded projects in the Eastern Mediterranean region, the programs of the VOA Greek and Turkish Services offer America’s perspective in this marketplace of ideas, correct misperceptions created by other media, and enhance understanding by broadcasting accurate, objective and balanced news and information about the United States and the world. Furthermore, they highlight positive developments in the relations between Turkey and Greece and inspire popular support for all Greek and Turkish efforts that promote freedom, democracy and cooperation in the volatile area from the Balkans to the Middle East.
Both Caucuses believe that this is the wrong time for VOA to go dark in the Eastern Mediterranean region. With the war on terror, the uncertainties in the Balkans, the situation in Iraq, the concerns about Iran and the turmoil in much of the Middle East, just next door to Cyprus, Turkey and Greece, it is of particular importance to maintain these two VOA language services.
Therefore, we are requesting that the VOA Greek and Turkish Services continue to be funded through FY 2007 at the FY 2006 levels of $497,000 for the Greek Service and $1,422,000 for the Turkish Service. We are aware that BBG has requested additional funding for FY 2007. We respectfully request that funding for BBG Greek and Turkish Services be appropriated in addition to BBG’s funding request for International Broadcasting and specifically referred to in conference report language.
The Congressional Hellenic and Turkish Caucuses further request that an additional amount of $100,000 be granted to the VOA Turkish and Greek Services ($50,000 each) to support the development of a joint program initiative that would promote the end of the division in Cyprus and the engagement of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities in a revived process aimed at their reunification. The additional amount would make it possible for journalists of the two VOA language services to visit Greece, Turkey Cyprus and any other country where talks on the future of Cyprus may be held, report of developments, and conduct interviews with prominent figures supporting a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus issue. These interviews would subsequently air as part of radio bridges and occasional television programs, produced jointly by the two Services and involving their affiliate stations on both sides of the Aegean.
Similar VOA programs in the 1990s were recognized as important steps that helped usher the era of Greek-Turkish rapprochement. For their contribution, the heads of the VOA Greek and Turkish Services have received various honors, including the 2001 Ipeksi Peace Prize for Communication, awarded by a joint committee of Greek and Turkish political, academic and media leaders. The Congressional Turkish and Hellenic Caucuses place a lot of hope for the success of this proposal on the prospect that the two recipients of the prestigious Ipeksi Peace Price would now spearhead the recommended VOA program initiative on Cyprus.
At a time when the public opinion is of crucial importance to the success of American policies, ceasing Turkish and Greek language broadcasts is counter-productive. We urge you to continue funding the VOA Greek and Turkish Services through FY 2007 at the current level and also consider providing funding for the Cyprus joint program initiative.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter
Congressional Hellenic Caucus
Congressional Hellenic Caucus
Congressional Turkish Caucus
Congressional Turkish Caucus