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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  Broadcasting System, and both NBC and CBS Radio Networks (Broadcasting Board of Governors 1999-2000 Annual Report, 2001a). Pattiz, and a few selected staffers at the BBG such as Gary Thatcher, looked at the program and staff reductions, and especially the resulting financial savings, and started doing what a successful American commercial broadcaster would do: examine markets that were important to the U.S. and devise programming that would be most attractive to those areas. With the aforementioned importance of the Middle East to the U.S., Arabic was an obvious service to modernize and expand. Pattiz worked with the BBG to create a Middle East Broadcast Committee with himself as Chairman (Kempster, 2001). One of the great problems of international broadcasting is losing touch with the target audience; in this case, the Arab world is thousands of miles and 6 to 8 time zones from VOA studios in Washington, D.C. The BBC has served as a model for keeping programming and language use up-to-date by augmenting its longer-serving professional staff with short-term announcers hired from the Gulf, the Levant, Egypt, and North Africa on 2- or 3-year contracts. U.S. immigration laws and the predisposition of the U.S. government to hire primarily its own citizens for work within the U.S. made the Arabic service (as well as others) sound old and out of touch to an increasingly young demographic in the Arab world. In a few instances, VOA employees who were Arab-born U.S. citizens had seldom even returned to visit their native land since immigrating to the U.S. It is important to emphasize how slowly Washington’s federal government bureaucracy moved before September 11, 2001. Administrators worked within the system: careers are not enhanced by aggressive, thinking-outside-the-box moves. Funding depends on the mood of both the White House and Congress. Without Pattiz’s involvement, Radio Sawa almost surely would not have been created. Other than his BBG governorship under a newly installed Republican president, Pattiz had no job to lose, was well connected in Washington, was energetic, knew the radio medium, and was willing to spend some of his personal fortune on travel to create a new Arabic service.

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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Broadcasting System, and both NBC and CBS Radio Networks (Broadcasting Board of
Governors 1999-2000 Annual Report, 2001a).
Pattiz, and a few selected staffers at the BBG such as Gary Thatcher, looked at the
program and staff reductions, and especially the resulting financial savings, and started doing
what a successful American commercial broadcaster would do: examine markets that were
important to the U.S. and devise programming that would be most attractive to those areas.
With the aforementioned importance of the Middle East to the U.S., Arabic was an obvious
service to modernize and expand. Pattiz worked with the BBG to create a Middle East
Broadcast Committee with himself as Chairman (Kempster, 2001).
One of the great problems of international broadcasting is losing touch with the target
audience; in this case, the Arab world is thousands of miles and 6 to 8 time zones from VOA
studios in Washington, D.C. The BBC has served as a model for keeping programming and
language use up-to-date by augmenting its longer-serving professional staff with short-term
announcers hired from the Gulf, the Levant, Egypt, and North Africa on 2- or 3-year
contracts. U.S. immigration laws and the predisposition of the U.S. government to hire
primarily its own citizens for work within the U.S. made the Arabic service (as well as others)
sound old and out of touch to an increasingly young demographic in the Arab world. In a few
instances, VOA employees who were Arab-born U.S. citizens had seldom even returned to
visit their native land since immigrating to the U.S.
It is important to emphasize how slowly Washington’s federal government bureaucracy
moved before September 11, 2001. Administrators worked within the system: careers are
not enhanced by aggressive, thinking-outside-the-box moves. Funding depends on the
mood of both the White House and Congress. Without Pattiz’s involvement, Radio Sawa
almost surely would not have been created. Other than his BBG governorship under a newly
installed Republican president, Pattiz had no job to lose, was well connected in Washington,
was energetic, knew the radio medium, and was willing to spend some of his personal
fortune on travel to create a new Arabic service.


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