AS Germans swung at the first crack in the Berlin Wall, they set
in motion changes that will ripple throughout the globe for years to
One unintended result, however, was to call into question the
future of important institutions that made the destruction of the
wall possible in the first place: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Inc., and the relevant services of the Voice of America. To some,
the ultimate success of the radios is measured by their ability to
put themselves out of business.
Recently, I called for the establishment of a commission to take
a hard look at the international broadcasting activities of the
United States government. In Eastern Europe and elsewhere around the
globe, local landscapes are being transformed to the point where we
must rethink the basic purposes of these broadcasting activities.
In response, the National Security Council has initiated an
internal study. This is a welcome step that will lead the White
House, I am confident, to recognize the need for a bipartisan
Three reasons support such an undertaking:
- First, the world's enormous changes in the last year. The
three regions of the world that most preoccupied our policymakers
have undergone transformations that literally scuttle longstanding
US policies. The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are rapidly
receding as military threats, while their economic transition to
market economies has become a major challenge. Peace may indeed be
breaking out in Central America. At the same time, southern Africa
has broken a political logjam.
- Second, a subtle metamorphosis during the last decade of the
rationale for US government broadcasting. The goal is no longer just
to reach ruling and dissident elites in a target country. We are now
part of the global mass media. The US government has a basic need to
communicate with majorities anywhere. The man or woman in the street
increasingly exercises greater influence on political situations.
- Third, rapid changes in this global electronic-media scene.
New technology is driving the marketplace of ideas beyond all past
limits. Direct broadcast satellites (DBS) are a reality today.
Hughes Communications is building one for domestic use in the US by
1993; the Germans are already using DBS technology. Audience
behavior is also evolving. Local media outlets have responded to the
revolutions in their countries. East Europeans have begun to migrate
away from their favorite shortwave programs to more audible,
increasingly more sophisticated programing on local AM and FM
In this quickly changing world, the power of information is
magnified. Crucial to democratic societies anywhere is an
infrastructure that protects freedom of speech and facilitates the
free flow of information. During the postwar era, Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, and Radio in the
American Sector (Berlin) have performed that function wherever free
speech was trampled. …