The United States is deeply concerned by reports that Azerbaijan’s National Television and Radio Council may discontinue local radio broadcasts of international media, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation].
The Chairman of Azerbaijan’s National Television and Radio Council said on October 31 that foreign broadcasts on frequencies controlled by the government of Azerbaijan may cease in 2009. There were no advance communications with the affected broadcasters, nor with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which provides oversight for all U.S. international broadcasting.
Terry Davidson, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, said international broadcasting has an important place in Azerbaijan society:
"Democratic societies need an open and diverse media environment. In Azerbaijan, foreign broadcasters, such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the BBC have contributed greatly to enriching the space for public debate and understanding.”
Broadcasting from Baku, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani Service, Radio Azdliq, broadcasts 67 hours of programming each week, offering listeners up-to-the minute news and information and a rich menu of live, interactive, call-in shows on local, social and political issues.
Voice of America’s Azerbaijani Service broadcasts two 5-minute newscasts and a 30-minute program daily on FM in Baku. The Service also produces television programs, including a weekday, 7-minute Newsflash segment featuring the day’s top news stories and a weekly 15-minute American Review program, which airs on Azeri-TeleVision.
“Millions of people in the region rely on our high-quality news, information and analysis and we urge the government of Azerbaijan to reconsider this plan,” says BBG Board Member Steven J. Simmons.
In a statement released November 6th, U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. is seeking clarification from the government of Azerbaijan. “Discontinuing such broadcasts,” he noted, “would send a disturbing message.”