Last week, Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a bill to amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to “authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.” The bill, H.R.5736 — Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (Introduced in House – IH), removes the prohibition on public diplomacy material from being available to people within the United States and thus eliminates an artificial handicap to U.S. global engagement while creating domestic awareness of international affairs and oversight and accountability of the same. This bill also specifies Smith-Mundt only applies to the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, eliminating an ambiguity creatively imagined sometime over the three decades.
On March 28, 2012, Gallup and the BBG will discuss how the world’s populations perceive media freedom within their countries and citizens’ confidence in their media.
The one-hour public meeting starts at 10:00am at the Gallup building at 901 F Street, NW, Washington, DC. RSVP at this link.
Featured will be BBG Governor Michael Meehan, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton, BBG Director of Strategy and Director Bruce Sherman, and Gallup Research Consultant Cynthia English.
By Alex Belida
When I worked at Voice of America, the flagship U.S. international media operation, the biggest legal problems I heard senior managers wring their hands over were possible violations of an obscure 1948 law known as the Smith-Mundt Act.
This isn’t one of those comic regulations, like “it is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in a church.”
In fact this one is pretty serious for a news organization. It states “information produced by VOA for audiences outside the United States shall not be disseminated within the United States.”
When the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) recently unveiled a new Strategic Plan, it set a brazenly ambitious goal: “To become the world’s leading international news agency by 2016.”
But based on its latest budget proposal, global news organizations like Reuters and AP would appear to have little to fear. To achieve its goal, the BBG, a tiny federal agency overseeing U.S. non-military broadcasters, first plans to gut its existing news operations, starting with the nation’s flagship overseas broadcaster, the Voice of America.
By Alex Belida
Having drafted a new mission statement for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) stressing the primacy of journalistic values and having proposed that a new non-partisan Board be composed mainly of media veterans, let us now focus on a more efficient structure for U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) that will attract greater audiences.
Instead of the current multi-entity structure, I would integrate VOA, RFE-RL, RFA, MBN and Radio/TV Marti into a single organization, eliminating all language duplication. This new operation would be headquartered in Washington D.C. at the existing VOA center with satellite production bureaus as needed in strategic locations in addition to smaller news bureaus.
By David Jackson
The president’s 2013 budget proposal this week was big news in Washington, but for those who care about public diplomacy and international broadcasting, the most interesting parts involved the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio & TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks of Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees these organizations, has proposed some significant cuts in the overall budget, which is hardly surprising given the nation’s economic problems. But they’ve also proposed sweeping changes in the way they want the broadcasters to operate in the future.
By Alex Belida
If, as suggested by Congress and proposed in my last posting, the mission of U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) is to be good journalism in support of freedom of the press and the free flow of information, then those who oversee America’s non-military broadcasting entities need to be selected accordingly.
Unfortunately, to date, few Governors have had serious backgrounds in journalism and foreign affairs and too many have had partisan or ideological agendas. This needs to change if USIB is to prosper in the future and attract greater audiences.
By Alan Heil
Under the Obama administration’s proposed FY 13 budget, the potential damage to the nation’s flagship publicly funded overseas network, the Voice of America, would be unprecedented if Congress approves it. Contrast the reductions: VOA faces net cuts totaling $17 million, compared with a reduction of $731,000 for its sister network, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The Voice of America, now in its 70th year, faces a far larger reduction, proportionally, than either the U.S. international broadcasting administrative support bureaucracy or collectively, the four other networks in the system. They are: RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Network, and Radio-TV Marti. Cuts of VOA staff who actually put programs on the air are the principal targets of the cuts, across the board. Such hemorrhaging must be halted if the free flow of information from America to the world is to be secured for the millennial generation so curious about our nation and its role in the century ahead.
By Kim Andrew Elliott
Matt Armstrong has asked for a discussion on the future of the U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) and the structure and purpose of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. For the past quarter century, I have been writing about US international broadcasting at the macro level. The two pillars of my proposals have always been independence and consolidation.
First, US international broadcasting must be under a bipartisan or nonpartisan board that shields it from direct US Government control and interference. There is no substitute for this. The world’s great public broadcasting corporations, including the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, are seen as independent and credible news providers because they are managed by boards and not by the governments of their countries.
The Broadcasting Board of Governor’s strategic plan for 2012-2016 provides a serious starting point to discuss and debate the future of America’s international broadcasting. Download the Executive Summary for the BBG’s FY2013 Budget Request and the BBG Strategic Plan 2012-2016 (OMB-Final) from MountainRunner.
More to appear on this site about the plan. Feel free to leave comments below or via email.
Update: the link to the plan was fixed. Such are the challenges of posting on the road (or train or conference room) from an iPad.