The Voice of America: From Detente to the Reagan Doctrine

Article excerpt

RADIO, TELEVISION AND FILM ALEXANDRE. LAURIEN, The Voice of America: From Detente to the Reagan Doctrine. Norwood, NJ.: Ablex 1988. 199 pp. $35. cloth.

Studies of the Voice of America, the United States Information Agency's international radio service, permit the international mass communication scholar to combine the interrelated topics of broadcasting technology, international relations, journalism, foreign policy, congressional relations, partisan political ideology, and the expenditure of U.S. tax dollars. Alexandre includes all of these elements to some extent in her book.

This book is largely the publication of Alexandre's doctoral dissertation. In the introduction, she states that it is a study of how "the VOA fits into American foreign policy during the last 15 years" (p. 6). That statement is somewhat misleading. With a copyright of 1988, the study essentially covers those years preceding the end of Ronald Reagan's first term, and the majority of VOA internal documents and personal interviews do not have dates beyond 1983.

The book organized around two parts, totaling eight chapters; two of these are brief introductory and concluding sections. The first part is entitled, "Broadcasting Detente: The VOA's Identity Crisis." Chapter 2 notes some brief VOA history and organization, and discusses broadcasting, specifically to the U.S.S.R. during detente. Chapter 3 covers proposed and actual organizational changes made during the 1970s. The fourth chapter reviews several attempts by VOA management to influence news coverage in the 1970s, specifically during Watergate and the last days of U.S. military presence in Southeast Asia. Chapter 5 focuses on the 1976-enacted VOA Charter, reasons for its creation, and its aftermath. The second section of the book, "Broadcasting the Reagan Doctrine," includes two chapters and the conclusion. Chapter 6 explores Ronald Reagan's interest in public diplomacy and how both USIA and the Voice were used to foster it. Included herein is a discussion of Charles Wick, Reagan's two-term USIA director, and some of the VOA personnel changes he made. Chapter 7 is the most lengthy and valuable in the book. It covers political appointments made by Charles Wick, the creation of Radio Marti, VOA editorial policy, and the question of balance in news and public affairs programming. …