The U.S. decision to kill Radio Freedom broadcasts to Iran in favor of pop music programs might seem merely silly were it not a slap in the face to the youths demonstrating for reform in the streets of Tehran ["Casey Kasem or Freedom?" op-ed, Dec. 16]. The Broadcasting Board of Governors said it made the decision in the name of ratings.

It cited its Radio Sawa, another pop music station that replaced the Voice of America's Arabic service, as being listened to by 41 percent of a youth sample in Amman, Jordan, as opposed to 10 percent who listened to the British Broadcasting Corp. The board should ask itself which group is more important to the Arab future -- those who tune in to hear Eminem and Britney Spears or the smaller number who seek out the news and thoughtful commentaries of the BBC.

The board dismisses the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War as "propaganda." In fact, they were not propaganda, because they reflected reform ideas emanating from the audience, not U.S. government positions. Why not offer the same service to people in the Middle East?

JAMES CRITCHLOW

Newburyport, Mass.

The writer served with Radio Liberty, the U.S. Information Agency and the Board for International Broadcasting.

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Contrary to what Jackson Diehl says in his op-ed article, dissident Iranian students remain in close and useful contact with the broadcast efforts the United States is aiming at Iran's young people. As we complete the transition to greatly increased programming aimed at Iran's under-30 audience, the voices of student protesters who use their cell phones to reach us are being heard daily on our broadcasts beamed into Iran. We are giving these brave young people what their own government denies them: a way to speak to their fellow citizens. Our new service will also increase news and current affairs programming by 135 minutes, to 315 minutes each day.

Mr. Diehl also did not tell The Post's readers that as of Dec. 18 our broadcasts aimed at Iran's young population -- based on Radio Sawa's success in using popular music to attract a huge audience in the Middle East -- will increase by more than three times and that our signal will become available on AM in addition to shortwave. At the same time, the Voice of America will continue its radio and television broadcasts aimed at Iran's older audiences.

The new broadcasts and the programming already in place for the older generation will give the United States round-the-clock audiovisual coverage in a nation that is stirring in dissatisfaction over harsh clerical rule.

KENNETH Y. TOMLINSON

Chairman

Broadcasting Board of Governors

Washington