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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

The Future of International Broadcasting

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.

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US International Broadcasting: Success Requires Independence and Consolidation

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.

Independence

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.

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BBG’s 5yr Strategic Plan: to inform, engage and connect (Updated)

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.  

To Inform, Engage, and Connect: a look at the BBG’s new strategy

The Broadcasting Board of Governors released their strategy supporting their 2013 budget request today. The plan is far ranging and addresses many of the major challenges facing America’s international broadcasting today directly and several more indirectly. As good as the plan reads, the devil, as they say, is in the details.

The BBG’s narrative on this plan, released earlier, created unnecessary confusion with its lack of details. The specifics, some described as tactical but still strategic in scope and time to implement, are welcome and necessary to foster an informed discussion on correcting the mission and capability of U.S. International Broadcasting. For too long, the BBG has been effectively silent, or reticent at best, on its plans, to its own detriment.
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Good Journalism Vs. Undermining Unsavory Regimes

By Alex Belida

When I worked at VOA and spoke to visiting groups, I routinely stated, with pride, my opinion that it was one of the last bastions of  “pure journalism” in the U.S. and the world.

By that I meant the news stories written in VOA’s Central Newsroom avoided the diseases afflicting many media outlets in recent years: “snark”-enhanced writing, argument as a substitute for real reporting, and politically-or-ideologically-inspired selectivity in story and interview assignments.
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U.S. international broadcasting needs a new leadership, new plan and more public scrutiny

By Ted Lipien

The BBG restructuring plan would remove much of U.S. international broadcasting from Congressional and public control and scrutiny. The surrogate broadcasters were created in the first place because there was too much control, centralization, interference, and ineffectiveness at the Voice of America. Their job was to undermine dictatorial regimes. The BBG plan would limit their independence and specialization and puts a premium on centralization and bureaucratic control.

Centralization of management and of news production will undermine the effectiveness of surrogate broadcasters. It will also further weaken the Voice of America, where individual language services have won for themselves considerable editorial freedom. Continue reading “U.S. international broadcasting needs a new leadership, new plan and more public scrutiny” »

Looking for Part-Time Work? The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors just opened up

The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Walter Isaacson, is resigning his position at the BBG.  Walter’s decision has surprised many.  He was a well-respected leader of the BBG, a prolific author (most recently of the Steve Jobs biography, but also biographies of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin) and tremendously busy person (he continues to be president & CEO of the Aspen Institute).

The Chairmanship of the BBG is, like the other board members, a part-time job.  Five of the eight Governors are serving beyond the expiration of their term (they serve until replaced).  Walter’s term expired later this year. Continue reading “Looking for Part-Time Work? The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors just opened up” »

Serving until Replaced: the recurring story of the Broadcasting Board of Governors

2011 BBG Board

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is presently working toward updating its organization and strategy to meet America’s 21st Century needs.  Whether you agree with the suggestions or not, most of the proposed changes remain just that: proposed as they await approval for many of the key changes.  The BBG provided a “narrative” but you will have to wait until next month, I’m told, for the detailed plan.

Back in September 2010, I wrote about the “honeymoon” the then-new Board would enjoy.  Indeed, after two years without a chairman and with only four members, serving appointments that expired six years earlier, the neglected BBG was due and eager for fresh leadership.

For background, the BBG is the only federal agency run by a committee.  The eight governors are appointed by the President, not more than four of whom may be from the same party, and the Secretary of State, who usually delegates his or her Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy as the representative.

These eight are part-time leaders appointed to staggered terms.  The purpose was to provide fresh and state-of-the-art advice by top professionals and leaders to the Government.

The staggered and overlapping terms were a bid for continuity and to avoid radical shifts in policy.  The wholesale replacement of the Board in June 2010 with eight new members was a refresh that was not supposed to happen, and it was the first time since 2004 that the Board had a full complement.

However, we are now looking at the likely prospect of a wholesale replacement of the board due to term expirations.  Is twice in a row a coincidence or an emerging pattern of White House neglect?

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Bringing Public Diplomacy 2.0 to the next level

In the realm of public diplomacy reports, there are too few that should be on your required reading list. “Social Media Strategy: Bringing Public Diplomacy 2.0 to the next level” (820kb PDF) is an exception. Written by Carolijn van Noort, a former intern at the Department of Public Diplomacy, Press & Culture of the Consulate General of the Netherlands, this 53-page report is a terrific analysis of the challenges of public diplomacy in today’s Now Media environment.

Intended to explore the new public diplomacy of the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands, and its various Consulates, the “public diplomacy 2.0″ activities of the United States are also included .

Carolijn rightly states that “Social media asks for an hybridization of open and closed communication practices.” In this statement, she eloquently captures the dilemmas facing both public diplomacy and online engagement. She continues,

To engage with foreign audiences through social media services, diplomacy has to innovate itself. The social media services ask for openness and transparency, which contradicts traditional closed communication practices in diplomacy.

Carolijn also (rightly) notes that for the US, the modern constraint of the Smith-Mundt Act means “opportunities in the digital space are lost or postponed in the mean time [sic].”

The resulting document is both smart literature review and smart analysis. Do read the report: Social Media Strategy: Bringing Public Diplomacy 2.0 to the next level (820kb PDF)

It is available at MountainRunner with the permission of Floris van Hövell, Head of Department Public Diplomacy, Press and Culture, Royal Embassy of the Netherlands, Washington D.C.

The Second Battle of Hastings

By Cliff W. Gilmore

Don't cross the streams!Michael Hastings’ most recent attempt to unseat a U.S. general alleges members of the military illegally used Information Operations (IO) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) activities to shape the perceptions of elected U.S. officials and senior military leaders. Many respondents quickly addressed a need to clarify lines between various communication activities including Information Operations, Psychological Operations (recently re-named Military Information Support Operations or MISO), Public Affairs (PA) and Strategic Communication (SC). Amidst the resulting smoke and fury both Hastings and his detractors are overlooking a greater underlying problem: Many in the military continue to cling with parochial vigor to self-imposed labels – and the anachronistic paradigms they represent – that defy the very nature of a rapidly evolving communication environment.

The allegations highlight two false assumptions that guide the U.S. military’s approach to communication in an environment defined not by the volume and control of information but by the speed and ease with which people today communicate with one another. This article identifies these assumptions and recommends several actions to avoid yet another Battle of Hastings by eliminating existing stovepipes rather than strengthening them. The analysis presented here is grounded in two key established Truths.

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