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Turn it off.

We're indebted to Russell Feingold, the junior Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, for prying out of the Board for International Broadcasting, a quasi-public body, the exorbitant salaries it pays to its own executives and to officers of its subsidiaries, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. The Board's reluctance to release the salary figures is perfectly understandable: The sums are outrageous.

The president of the corporation that runs the two propaganda stations, Feingold learned, pulls down $317,000 a year - $117,000 more than President Clinton's annual salary. The executive vice president makes $303,000 in salaries and benefits. The directors of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty are paid $318,000 and $262,000 a year, respectively. Other employees receive pay packages well above $100,000, and those who work in Munich, where the stations are based, receive housing allowances of about $3,000 a month.

But the greater outrage is not the sinecure enjoyed by the administrators of these Cold War relics - it is their continued operation at the taxpayers' expense.

Radio Free Europe, which directs its radio programs to the former "captive nations" of Eastern Europe, and Radio Liberty, which aims its signal at the former Soviet Union, have been shrouded in secrecy and deceptions from the time they took to the airwaves early in the Cold War era. For years the Government concealed the fact that they were funded and run by the CIA. Heart-wrenching ads in print and electronic media solicited public contributions to keep sending the message of "democracy" to totalitarian nations.

When the true proprietorship of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty finally came to light, Congress created the Board for International Broadcasting to legitimize the stations' status. The Board is headquartered in Delaware, which may account for the strenuous efforts of Senator Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat, to preserve full funding.

But if any rationale ever existed for having these stations on the air, it ceased long ago. Citizens of the former communist nations have easy access to international broadcasters such as CNN and the BBC, as well as the Voice of America, and their own indigenous media are, for the most part, free of constraints. Why keep bombarding them with the heavy-handed propaganda of the Munich high-rollers?

Feingold's disclosure of the radio moguls' salaries may persuade Congress to impose substantial budget cuts - but even a penny for this sleazy operation is too much. It's time to turn it off and shut it down.
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Title Annotation:Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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