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Cuts made in Tibet broadcast funding

Country to rely more on Chinese radio

At a time when the Bush administration is fighting a war to promote democracy in the world, the White House-appointed Broadcasting Board of Governors voted to reduce funding for government broadcasts to Tibet by more than 20% and the number of broadcasting hours by 50%, leaving Tibetans to rely increasingly on official Chinese radio.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, recently agreed to cut $2 million from the $7.5 million earmarked for Tibetan broadcasts by RFA and VOA.

The funding reduction is part of the fiscal 2008 budget package that the White House has proposed to Congress, which has yet to begin debating which parts to approve or change.

The BBG does not make its votes public, but according to a source familiar with the latest tally, board member Blanquita Walsh Cullum and chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson cast the only ballots against the cuts, which, if approved, will reduce RFA’s and VOA’s broadcasting hours to Tibet by half.

“A lot of people in Tibet and in the exile community listen to those broadcasts,” Tenzin Tethong, president of the Dalai Lama Foundation, told Daily Variety. “If the funds do get cut, many people inside Tibet will have no access to anything but official Chinese broadcasts.”

“Given that the human rights situation in China and Tibet remains serious, these cuts seem to contradict existing U.S. policy,” said Mary Beth Markey, VP of international advocacy for the Intl. Campaign for Tibet, which reps the Dalai Lama in D.C. “There is every indication that the Congress at least is still committed to seeking ways to improve human rights and understands the important role that surrogate radio broadcasts play. So it may be that the cuts proposed by the BBG will not be realized.”

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