70. Summary of Conclusions of a Special Coordination Committee (Intelligence) Meeting1


  • Broadcasting and Related Issues (U)


  • State

    • David Newsom, Under Sec. for Political Affairs
    • **David Mark, Dep. Dir. INR
    • *Morris Draper, Dep. Asst. Sec. Bureau of NE & So. Asian Affairs
  • OSD

    • W. Graham Claytor, Jr., Dep. Sec.
    • Ronald H. Stivers, Asst. Dep. Under Sec. for Policy Review
  • JCS

    • Lt. General John Pustay, Asst. to the Chairman
  • Justice

    • John Shenefield, Acting Asst.
    • Kenneth Bass, Office of Legal Counsel
  • DCI

    • Frank Carlucci, Deputy Director
    • [4 names not declassified]
  • ICA

    • *John Reinhardt, Director
  • VOA

    • *Hans Tuch, Acting Assoc. Dir.
  • OMB

    • John White, Deputy Director
  • BIB

    • *John A. Gronouski, Chairman
    • *James Critchlow, Planning and Research Officer
  • White House

    • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Chairman
  • NSC

    • Paul B. Henze, Notetaker
  • *Present only for first portion of meeting.
  • **Present only for second portion of meeting.

The meeting was called to review proposals for improving broadcasting to Muslim audiences. The Chairman opened the meeting by stressing the urgency of the problem and the President’s concern about it. He said that events of the past year had highlighted serious deficiencies in this area but efforts to correct them had been proceeding too slowly. He cited delay in implementing an earlier decision to inaugurate Azeri broadcasting over VOA as an unfortunate example. The Deputy Secretary of Defense noted that the United States would be allocating billions of dollars to set up quick reaction forces and was even now spending sums far greater than the cost of broadcasts to keep naval task forces steaming around the Persian Gulf. The Chairman suggested that our defense outlays would not have to be so high if we had not neglected effective communication with key groups such as Muslims. There was general agreement among all present that urgent steps were needed. (U)

Before reviewing specific proposals of VOA and BIB for Radio Liberty, the group reviewed the present status of Persian-language broadcasts over the VOA. VOA was praised for having already expanded Persian but there was unanimous consensus that what was now being done—1½ hours per day in total broadcast time—was inadequate for a crisis situation which was likely to continue for months if not years. After discussion of personnel recruiting, transmitter allocation, possible reduction of lower-priority languages and the significance of VOA English-language broadcasts for Iranian and other Muslim audiences, it was decided that the specifics of how to expand Persian broadcasts as soon as possible would be taken up by the SCC Radio Working Group which will report back to the SCC as soon as possible. The aim will be at least to double VOA’s capacity to communicate in Persian, both in terms of program content and transmitter power. (C)

VOA’s paper offering five option “packages” for expanding broadcasting to Muslim audiences was then discussed.2

[Page 215]
  • Package I, priority expansion of broadcasting in Persian, Azeri, Urdu, Bengali, Uzbek and Turkish, was unanimously endorsed. (U)
  • Package II—construction of four new 250 KW shortwave transmitters for broadcasts to South and Central Asia, had been approved, it was noted, by the President in March 1977. VOA explained that ambassadorial reservations about the willingness of the Sri Lanka government to permit construction had delayed action. The Chairman said that a delay of more than 2½ years in implementing a Presidential decision was unfortunate and asked that a detailed report of actions taken or attempted be prepared by State and ICA. He directed that urgent diplomatic steps be taken to secure approval for beginning construction as soon as possible and said the status of the effort should be reviewed at frequent intervals by the SCC Radio Working Group, with any impasse being referred back to the SCC for resolution. (C)
  • Package IIIexpansion of additional Muslim-language broadcasts—Hausa, Swahili, Indonesian, Hindi and Arabic—was unanimously endorsed. (U)
  • Package IVadding four 250 KW shortwave transmitters to existing VOA facilities in England, to provide replacement for obsolescent transmitters in Germany and Morocco, was endorsed unanimously. These transmitters will improve VOA’s capabilities toward Eastern Europe and the USSR as well as the Near East. The Chairman noted that the political situation in Morocco made it especially desirable that VOA have an alternative for its transmitters there. (C)
  • Package Vfurther increases in Persian, Azeri, Urdu, Bengali, Turkish and Arabic to capitalize on South Asian and British transmitters, when available, was also unanimously endorsed. (U)

The Chairman observed that improving broadcasts did not involve only more programs and more transmitters, but better content in broadcasts. The whole Islamic World is going through a rennaissance, he said, and we must find ways of responding to it. The Director of ICA said that his agency was giving high priority to getting improved research and information input by contacting academic specialists. He said that his agency did not believe that improvements in communication with Muslim peoples should be confined to broadcasts but that all of ICA’s techniques of communication should be employed. The group agreed and the Chairman advised ICA to plan urgent expansion in other fields as well. Though this meeting was concerned only with Muslim areas, the Chairman added, the current crisis had revealed deficiencies in our ability to communicate with other parts of the world as well which also needed attention. (U)

The Committee then turned to the BIB proposals. The BIB Chairman made an introductory statement which stressed Radio Liberty’s enormous potential for impact on the 50 million Soviet Muslims and the meager resources which had been applied to this task to date: only 46 people in all, including secretaries and researchers, for only 3½ hours per week of original programming in 7 languages. Though the expansion was not as easy as for East European or Russian, he said that [Page 216] initial exploratory work left him confident that people for broadcasting staffs could be found, researchers hired and trained and available research materials much more effectively exploited. News and programming-support offices in the Middle East were also needed. The four expansion packages offered by BIB were then discussed:

  • Package Iimmediate steps to improve content and depth of RL broadcasts in Uzbek, Tatar, Kazakh, Azeri, Tajik, Turkmen and Kirgiz—was endorsed unanimously. (U)
  • Package IIimproving broadcast impact in the target area by leasing transmitters in the Middle East was also unanimously endorsed, in principle. There was a good deal of discussion of the political ramifications as well as the concrete technical possibilities of leasing in various countries. The Chairman concluded by directing that opportunities in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia be urgently explored and that State facilitate BIB efforts in every way possible. The BIB Chairman reported promising conversations with a high Israeli official and there was general agreement that possibilities in Israel should be the first to be explored. The Chairman cited the RFE experience in broadcasting to Poland from Germany as negating worries that broadcasts transmitted from Israel would not be effective with Muslim audiences. The Chairman suggested that BIB might want to explore transmitter leasing opportunities farther afield but felt that the four countries named should be urgently explored first. The SCC Radio Working Group will monitor progress on this effort closely and report back to the SCC on new problems or opportunities. (C)
  • Package III—an extension of Package I—more comprehensive measures for improving and expanding RL’s Muslim-language broadcasts to 5½ hours of original programming per week was endorsed unanimously with the understanding that it would be practical only if Package II could be successfully implemented or transmitter power augmented in some other way. In discussion of this package, BIB representatives stressed the need for a solid information and research base to enable RL to carry out its unique mission: in-depth coverage of internal affairs and the special ethnic and cultural interests of its audiences, in contrast to VOA’s primary mission of providing U.S. and international news and commentary. (C)
  • Package IV—a proposal for building four 250 KW transmitters somewhere in the Middle East was deferred for later consideration, pending the results of the leasing effort. The Chairman emphasized that this deferral was “without prejudice” and could be taken up again whenever BIB thought it opportune. (U)

The Chairman then turned to FBIS and noted that the services it provides, though excellent have been shown during the past year of crisis in the Middle East, to be neither fast nor comprehensive enough. He mentioned the inadequacy of our knowledge of how and through what channels distorted information about the Great Mosque incident in [Page 217] Mecca had traveled.3 [1 line not declassified] Questions of specific priorities can be reviewed by the SCC Radio Working Group. (U)

In conclusion of this portion of the meeting the Chairman asked the OMB representative to give high priority to working out plans for meeting the needs for budgetary augmentation which the expansion plans endorsed by the Committee would require, noting that in some cases needs for new funding would be immediate while in others they could be phased over two or three years. (U)

[Omitted here is discussion unrelated to Voice of America.]

  1. Source: National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I–020, SCC Meetings, 1978–1980 Minutes and PRC Minutes, Minutes SCC 1979. Confidential. Drafted by Henze. The meeting took place in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Dated December 4. (National Security Council, Carter Administration Intelligence Files, Box I–023, SCC Meeting Folders, 1979–1980 and Attorney General Actions, SCC(i) Meeting on Broadcasting and Related Issues, 11 December 1979)
  3. On November 20, Islamic terrorists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and declared one of their leaders as Mahdi (redeemer of Islam). The Saudi Arabian forces retook the Mosque after heavy fighting on November 27. Rumors that the United States was behind the incident sparked protests in Pakistan on November 21, where the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad was burned down and two U.S. citizens were killed. On November 24, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei accused the United States and Israel of being behind the attack and called for Muslims to rise up and defend Islam. On December 2, a Libyan mob attacked and burned the Embassy compound in Tripoli.