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Legislators Confront Administration Officials on Voa Yiddish Broadcasts

July 16, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Martin Hillenbrand and acting director of the United States Information Agency. Henry Loomis, faced nine angry and determined Congressmen yesterday in the nearest thing to a showdown yet over the refusal of the Voice of America to beam Yiddish broadcasts to Soviet Jews. The Congressmen expressed themselves vehemently in favor of such broadcasting and argued with the two Nixon Administration officials until a vote call forced adjournment of the meeting. The Administration officials could not answer most of the questions raised. One Congressman called the meeting “exasperating.”

Rep. John H. Buchanan (R., Ala.) answered Hillenbrand’s objection that the Soviets would view such broadcasting by the U.S. as “encouraging what they obviously consider a disruptive ethnic minority.” He said, “That would be a healthy and thrilling development.” Buchanan maintained that the U.S. should encourage all groups to actively use their civil and other rights and that it was all the more reason to commence such broadcasting. Hillenbrand replied, “But then the group might get clobbered. The Soviet Union is totally capable of setting up a counterattack.”

Rep. William Ryan (D., N.Y.) who arranged the meeting stressed the counter-arguments to USIA’s opinion that such broadcasting would require new transmitters and were from a practical standpoint, impossible. Ryan said that seven VOA transmitters were idle during prime time and could be used to broadcast to Moscow, where 90 percent of Soviet Jews live. Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D., Pa.) emphasized the psychological boost such broadcasts would provide. Hillenbrand replied that such broadcasts “would do nothing to improve the relationship between the Soviet authorities and the Russian Jews.” He said the State Department accepted USIA statistical data that Russian Jews can be reached in languages other than Yiddish, and that it would be difficult from a practical point of view to institute such broadcasting. Loomis conceded that instituting such broadcasting could be done if VOA thought “it deserved high priority,” implying that it does not think so at this time.

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