61. Memorandum From Paul Henze of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Brzezinski)1


  • The President’s Comments on Persian-language Broadcasting and Related Issues (U)

The President’s impatience as expressed in his comments on Vance’s report that Persian-language broadcasting (Tab B)2 will be [Page 197] started by VOA “in about six weeks” is understandable, but the President is unrealistic in his expectation that we would be much better off if we had started preparations for these broadcasts “3–4 months ago.” Effective foreign-language broadcasting requires two essentials: a good, trained staff and an audience. The creation of these essentials requires a great deal more time than 3–4 months. Three or four years is more likely to be the optimum time for such an accomplishment. (C)

It is better to be late with Persian-language broadcasts than to go on having none at all, but we must not expect rapid impact. With all the disparate tendencies and confusion evident among Iranians today, it will not be easy for VOA to organize a good staff. VOA’s basic guidelines will not permit very exciting broadcasting or much attention to internal Iranian developments. The Iranian audience already has a rich selection of Soviet regular and clandestine broadcasts in Persian, Azerbaijani and Kurdish and BBC has long had a reputation for reliability and relevance among Iranians who want more objective news. VOA broadcasts in Persian will be entering a crowded spectrum with far less power than the Russians use. (I did a good deal of short-wave listening during my recent visit to Turkey—getting VOA or BBC in any language, even in English on which both services put major emphasis, is difficult; the new Moscow English-language service, in impeccable BBC accents, booms in over the whole area.) (C)

Ken Giddens, Director of the VOA 1969–77, tells me that he undertook a campaign to inaugurate Persian-language broadcasts in the early 1970’s but was overruled by State policy people and OMB budget-cutters. We have short-changed our international broadcasting operations for years. The President’s approval early in this Administration of a transmitter expansion program for VOA and RFE/RL was a good initiative but we must not deceive ourselves about it: it only enables us to make up part of the lag that resulted from several years of neglect. We are still lagging and, unless we launch a new transmitter-building program soon, we will be in a worse predicament vis-a-vis the Soviets by the late 1980’s than we are in the late 1970’s. Meanwhile our efforts to rejuvenate staffs and make broadcasts more effective have been slowed by budgetary parsimony as well as reorganizations and managerial problems. (U)

I suggest we capitalize on the President’s concern to task ICA and State with a review of language-priorities and potential troublespots where we might in coming years find ourselves in the same predicament as we do in Iran now. I suggest we also seize this opportunity to start what Congress may in any case task the Administration with doing this year: surveying transmitter needs for the mid-1980’s and beyond and developing plans to meet them. I attach a memorandum from you to Reinhardt and Vance. (C)

[Page 198]


A. That you sign the memorandum at Tab A to Reinhardt3 and Vance. (C)

B. That you brief the President on the realities of the challenge we face in international broadcasting.4 (C)

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Subject Chron File, Box 112, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Voice of America: 1–9/79. Confidential. Sent for action. Copies were sent to Quandt, Sick, Thornton, Funk, Odom, and Ermarth. Bartholomew and Inderfurth initialed the memorandum, indicating they saw it.
  2. Attached but not printed. Newsom met with ICA and VOA to discuss the need to strengthen broadcasting to Iran in response to both the Shah’s recent departure and an increase in Soviet propaganda broadcasting to the region. Inderfurth informed Sick and Henze on February 5 that, in a February 2 Evening Report to Carter, Vance informed the President of the discussions and of ICA’s plan to begin Persian broadcasting “in about six weeks.” The President, Inderfurth noted, responded: “We should have prepared for this 3–4 months ago—make this SOP in the future.” The memorandum asked Sick and Henze to follow up on the Presidential comment. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Agency File, Box 9, ICA, 1–5/79)
  3. The memorandum was retyped to address only ICA Director Reinhardt. In a February 9 memorandum, Brzezinski asked Reinhardt to undertake a review of programming and resource allocation and report his finding by March 7; he also asked that transmitter needs for the next decade be reviewed and a proposal submitted by May 1. (Ibid.)
  4. Inderfurth circled “the challenge we face in international broadcasting” and wrote “ZB, If you sign the memo at Tab A—which is a good initiative—I will write an appropriate DR item for the President. Rick.”