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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  Department of State. All international radio and television services, including the Voice of America, remained under the now independent Broadcasting Board of Governors. The Middle East Radio Network: Radio Sawa The initiative to modernize and expand the Voice of America’s Arabic Service started in early 2001, some 8 months before the events of September 11. Especially during the Cold War, broadcasting to Arabic-speaking countries was important for economic, political, and military reasons. As noted earlier, numerous changes in international political, economic, and military priorities left VOA leaders, even those most predisposed to make changes, with a government bureaucracy and largely unionized staff that was inherently difficult to change. Reduced budgets, however, necessitated a leaner organization and resulted in numerous programming and staff cutbacks. At least as far as the Arabic Service is concerned, this change started with two important developments. The first is money saved as the result of program reviews done in 2000 that led to language-service reductions or eliminations. For many years VOA has undertaken program reviews on a regular basis, a process involving management, on-air staff, and researchers who worked under a quasi-quality-improvement philosophy. A Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) news release dated January 19, 2001, tells of impending radio changes that included: enhancing VOA’s Arabic, Indonesian, Hindi, Macedonian, and Spanish to the Americas services; eliminating VOA’s Portuguese to Brazil, Thai, and Uzbek broadcasts; reducing VOA’s Bulgarian, Romanian, Slovak, Armenian, and Turkish programming; enhancing VOA’s Arabic and Farsi Internet sites; and eliminating 36 VOA staff positions (Broadcasting Board of Governors, 2001, January 19). The second major development was President Bill Clinton’s appointment of Norman J. Pattiz 3 as a BBG governor. Although governors are political appointees, Pattiz, a long-time financial supporter of the Democratic party, may have been uniquely qualified to help bring about change. A few BBG governors have media experience; Pattiz is a very successful radio executive, the founder of Culver City, CA-based Westwood One radio network, the largest radio network in the U.S., providing programming to over 7,000 stations for the Mutual

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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Department of State. All international radio and television services, including the Voice of
America, remained under the now independent Broadcasting Board of Governors.
The Middle East Radio Network: Radio Sawa
The initiative to modernize and expand the Voice of America’s Arabic Service started in
early 2001, some 8 months before the events of September 11. Especially during the Cold
War, broadcasting to Arabic-speaking countries was important for economic, political, and
military reasons. As noted earlier, numerous changes in international political, economic, and
military priorities left VOA leaders, even those most predisposed to make changes, with a
government bureaucracy and largely unionized staff that was inherently difficult to change.
Reduced budgets, however, necessitated a leaner organization and resulted in numerous
programming and staff cutbacks.
At least as far as the Arabic Service is concerned, this change started with two important
developments. The first is money saved as the result of program reviews done in 2000 that
led to language-service reductions or eliminations. For many years VOA has undertaken
program reviews on a regular basis, a process involving management, on-air staff, and
researchers who worked under a quasi-quality-improvement philosophy. A Broadcasting
Board of Governors’ (BBG) news release dated January 19, 2001, tells of impending radio
changes that included: enhancing VOA’s Arabic, Indonesian, Hindi, Macedonian, and
Spanish to the Americas services; eliminating VOA’s Portuguese to Brazil, Thai, and Uzbek
broadcasts; reducing VOA’s Bulgarian, Romanian, Slovak, Armenian, and Turkish
programming; enhancing VOA’s Arabic and Farsi Internet sites; and eliminating 36 VOA staff
positions (Broadcasting Board of Governors, 2001, January 19).
The second major development was President Bill Clinton’s appointment of Norman J.
Pattiz
3
as a BBG governor. Although governors are political appointees, Pattiz, a long-time
financial supporter of the Democratic party, may have been uniquely qualified to help bring
about change. A few BBG governors have media experience; Pattiz is a very successful
radio executive, the founder of Culver City, CA-based Westwood One radio network, the
largest radio network in the U.S., providing programming to over 7,000 stations for the Mutual


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