North Korea is one of the few remaining places where barriers to informing and engaging remain strong. While it remains unlikely Kim Jong Un will reduce the state’s control over the communication environment, a new report indicates access to unsanctioned foreign media is expanding inside the country. The impact of access to alternative news could have interesting consequences inside the country.
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.
The FT today reports on the continuing expansion of China’s CCTV in the United States. “China has started to serve US citizens its own side of the story with CCTV America,” writes the FT’s reporter.
CCTV America, from its studio in Washington, D.C., is part of Beijing’s outreach of telling its own story through its own voice. The expansion has been dramatic and expensive. They are covering stories of Chinese interest that are not covered by Western media or not covered in a way the Chinese want. Such is the purpose and advantage of Government International Broadcasting.
By Alan L. Heil Jr.
This article originally appeared at American Diplomacy. It is republished here, slightly modified, with permission of the author and American Diplomacy.
As the Voice of America marks its 70th anniversary, what lies ahead for all of the world’s publicly-funded overseas networks in the year ahead? For Western broadcasters collectively, 2011 was the most potentially devastating year in more than eight decades on the air. Now, because of fiscal uncertainties in their host countries and rapidly evolving competition from both traditional and new media, they face huge cuts in airtime and operations. Can America step up to help fill the gap? A new strategic plan for U.S.-funded overseas broadcasting charts a possible path.
Over the years, the government networks in Europe and North America have offered a window on the world and a beacon of hope for hundreds of millions of information-denied or impoverished people on the planet. They have done so by offering accurate, in-depth, credible news, ideas, educational and cultural fare, consistent with Western journalistic norms and the free flow of information enshrined in the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. The broadcasts have enhanced America’s security, and even saved lives. They helped foster a largely peaceful end to the Cold War.
By Alex Belida
With the 70th anniversary of the Voice of America approaching (Feb. 1st), it is an ideal time to assess the future prospects for U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB).
USIB has, over the past 70 years, grown into a multi-headed conglomerate. Besides VOA, it now includes Radio Free Europe (founded 1950), Radio Liberty (founded 1953 and merged with RFE in 1976), Radio Marti (founded 1983) and TV Marti (founded 1990), Radio Free Asia (founded 1996) and the Middle East Broadcasting Network comprised of Radio Sawa (founded 2002) and Al-Hurra TV (founded 2004).
The current Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), headed by Walter Isaacson, this month approved resolutions (see record of decisions Jan. 13) aimed at consolidating these operations. As a first step, the Board will study the feasibility of merging into a single corporate structure the three so-called Grantee or surrogate entities – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network. Secondly the Board will seek legislative approval to create a Chief Executive Officer to oversee day-to-day operations of these non-federal elements of USIB as well as the federal elements, the Voice of America and Radio-TV Marti.
The decision by
Congress the House of Representatives to defund NPR and block local public radio stations from using federal money to acquire NPR content is, like any action, likely to have interesting unintended consequences. This action comes at a time when demand for information and knowledge of affairs around the globe continues to grow, to focus on just of the many values of NPR. Congress The House is creating an opportunity that the US commercial media is unlikely to take advantage of, for whatever reason. The old giants of radio news, from CBS to NBC to the AP are unlikely to jump into the new gap and coverage of similar breadth and depth. The AP has the content, but will their agreements with their members – they are an association with members – allow them to provide content to radio that may also be carried by the local paper? Will Federal Communication Commission rules prevent local newspapers and television from expanding into the space presumably to be vacated by NPR?
The most likely winner, at least the short term, will be foreign government broadcasters. Already, local public radio stations often fill gaps in programming with news from the BBC. It is easy to imagine demand for the BBC will increase if programming from NPR becomes unavailable or drops in quality. But BBC is not the only game in town. The recent performance of Al Jazeera English in covering the Middle East may embolden AJE to explore avenues. I would be surprised if Russia Today wasn’t actively seeking to expand its reach. The same for Chinese Government broadcasters, including Xinhua and Radio China International. I do not anticipate a large expansion into public radio, however.
Forget of course other tax-payer supported news organizations from being legally available to news consumers within America’s borders.
What are you thoughts on this potential example of the law of unintended consequences?
Update/clarification: As NPR points out, including NPR’s Andy Carvin, only 2% of NPR’s funding is federal.
As the debate over whether Al Jazeera English should be available in the United States continues, Russia Today, the Russian government’s international news channel, quietly makes inroads across the United States. Kim Andrew Elliott, audience analyst at the International Broadcasting Bureau, a unit of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, draws our attention to a press release from RT from 11 February 2011:
RT, an international TV news channel, has launched its English-language feed, 24×7, on San Francisco’s major cable provider, Comcast, which brings it to approximately 4 million viewers in the San Francisco metro area.
In the U.S., RT is carried by cable networks in New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Washington, DC; and in Los Angeles, CA. …
Nielsen Media research showed RT’s average daily audience in Washington, DC, as exceeding that of Deutsche Welle, France 24, Euronews, and CCTV News, the English-language Chinese news channel. In New York metro, the Nielsen survey indicated that RT’s daily audience exceeds the average daily audience of Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera English and CCTV News.
Almost one-half (42.6%) of RT viewers* in Washington, DC, and in New York, NY,** appreciate RT’s critical take on news of the day, as well as its different stance from the mainstream media, and see it as a reliable alternative. The majority (87%) of respondents consider mainstream TV channels, such as CNN and BBC America, to be partisan. …
RT, an international TV news channel in English, Spanish, and Arabic is carried in the US by cable TV providers in Washington, DC; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; and now in San Francisco, CA. GlobeCast WorldTV, a satellite provider, makes RT available elsewhere in the U.S. RT broadcasts 24×7 from its studios in Moscow, Russia, as well as from Washington, DC, in the U.S. All of its content is available live at www.RT.com.
It is ironic that foreign governments, be they China or Russia or Iran or the United Kingdom, or terrorists, can freely broadcast to Americans – increasingly from studios within the U.S. At one time, such foreign government material was officially considered propaganda. Today, it is only the U.S. Government media that is considered propaganda and off-limits to audiences who request them. Isn’t it time to revisit this?
By Alan Heil
"New media and old media converge to become now media." That maxim, so persuasively articulated by 21st century public diplomacy guru Matt Armstrong, has now become real in a Voice of America Persian language television program called Parazit. That virtual Comedy Central to Iran airs a half hour every Friday evening, and features a pair of comedian-satirists named Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi.
Parazit means "static" in Persian, and VOA audiences can’t seem to get enough of it because its targeted treatment of Iranian political figures and political practice are a welcome relief from the tiresome monotony of state television in Iran. Last month, about 19 million people visited Parazit’s Facebook page to get a taste of its irreverent humor. Over the past six months, the program’s popularity has surged to unprecedented heights. Not only does it attract many of VOA’s 15 million regular viewers to its Persian News Network (PNN), it has caused an enormous surge in the number of VOA’s Parazit Facebook friends (now close to 300,000 people). In the last month, Facebook recorded more than 20 million impressions on Parazit’s page.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee released its report on the imbalance of public diplomacy activities between China and the United States. Entitled “Another U.S. Deficit – China and America – Public Diplomacy in the Age of the Internet,” this is the final version of the report I reviewed on 11 February. Commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the Ranking Member of the Committee, the report is a unique and necessary review of Chinese Government engagement in America. The report also highlights Chinese obstruction of reciprocity and U.S. Government failure to act, notably in the area of information freedom initiatives.
The timing of this report is critical. It comes on the heels of the recent U.S. visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao. More importantly, it comes at a time when the U.S. diplomacy budget, public and otherwise (is there really any diplomacy that is not in some part negotiated in public?), is under threat in today’s austere budget environment. At risk is the development and implementation of smart policies that, coupled with unfettered access to information to create knowledge, ultimately have a greater and more enduring bang for the buck than the kinetic effect of any smart munition.
Senator Lugar closes his letter that opens the report, a 2-page letter that you should read if you do not have the time or inclination to read even the report’s executive summary, with the hope the report will “stimulate dialogue within Congress.” It certainly should.
Read the report here (1.55mb PDF).
- Whither Public Diplomacy? A discussion on Chinese public diplomacy surrounding President Hu Jintao’s January 2011 visit to the U.S.
- China and American Public Diplomacy: Another US Deficit, a post on the draft version of the report.
- Senate Report on the Broadcasting Board of Governors by Senator Lugar
- Make Knowledge about America Accessible: Move the Libraries Outside the Walls by Senator Lugar
By Jerry Edling
“You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.” — Gil Scott-Heron, From the album “Small Talk at 125th and Lennox” (1970)
“The revolution will not be televised…but it may be tweeted.” Posted on weeseeyou.com
January 28, 2011
In some ways, Gil Scott-Heron’s song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was ahead of its time. The lyrics were recited rather than sung, accompanied by congas and a bongo drum, making it either a vestige of beat poetry or one of the first examples of rap. His point, which must be understood in the context of domestic unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S., was that the revolution was not a pre-packaged bit of pop culture, sanitized for your protection and brought to you with minimal commercial interruption by Xerox. The revolution, in his opinion, was real; or, as the final line of the song reads,
“The revolution will be no re-run, brothers; The revolution will be live.”
Little did he know that in the 21st century a revolution of a different sort would be live and it would be televised. And yes, as the quip on weeseeyou.com vividly notes, it would be tweeted. As of this writing, the Biblical land of Egypt is illuminated with cell phone lights and fireworks as mobs with no definable leaders spill into the streets to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president after weeks of protest and unrest. The revolution was televised, and the power to bring those images to the world was in the hands of the revolutionaries themselves.