The Chinese audience will soon bid farewell to radio and TV broadcasts of the BBC and Voice of America in the Chinese language. VOA is the second mainstream Western media to announce plans to end its radio broadcasts in Chinese. Earlier, the BBC World Service decided to cancel a number of foreign-language services, including Chinese.
The cut in the major Western media organizations’ Chinese language services will not have much of an impact on Chinese people, because now they have multi-media channels for information and entertainment both with domestic and international content. So, when the two media giants stop broadcasting their services in Putonghua, the farewell will not be bitter.
Besides, the global trend of a decline in traditional media has in recent years made radio and TV a much less significant source of information for people. Surveys show that the number of shortwave radio listeners has declined in most regions of China.
The BBC and VOA decisions can be blamed squarely on lack of funds. The Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA’s parent organization, outlined the cuts in its 2012 budget report. If approved by the U.S. Congress, all VOA broadcasts in Chinese on shortwave radio and television will end on Oct 1.
Similar budget problems made Britain’s Foreign Office, which funds the BBC World Service, decide to cut its grant to the broadcaster by 16 percent. This in turn made the BBC authorities decide to close down services in five languages, including Chinese.
Since Western countries have been the worst hit by the global financial crisis, it is understandable that their governments are slashing public funding, which is causing the closure of less important programs.
Given the U.S. government’s determination to trim its foreign aid, though much less sizable in comparison to some other countries, the fate of VOA’s Putonghua service is doomed.
It goes without saying that the BBC and VOA have been reaching out to Chinese for years as part of the Western publicity strategy. Apart from disseminating information and news through the Western lens, they have introduced Western lifestyle to the Chinese audience through their programs in Putonghua.
Overall, they serve as a carrier of Western values and the Western concept of democracy. Instead of bridging the gap of information and understanding between peoples, very often their biased programs have created misunderstanding between the West and the East.
As global media giants, the BBC and VOA are likely to turn to more advanced means to spread Western values and culture in foreign countries. Even if the British and American governments increase their fund support to them, it is important for the BBC and VOA to know that the content of their foreign language programs also matters.
(China Daily, Feb. 19)