Renewing America’s Voices – Ideas for Reform

From Walter Roberts, Barry Zorthian, and Alan Heil, three men who have more than a half-century of combined experience managing US Government broadcasting in the practice of public diplomacy.

On October 1, the Broadcasting Board of Governors will mark the tenth anniversary of its establishment as the sole overseer of U.S. publicly funded overseas broadcasts. We recommend a bipartisan Executive and Legislative Branch commission to review U.S. international broadcasting based on these [eight] principles:

1. Restore and reinvigorate VOA English radio worldwide. …

2. Ensure that all United Nations languages and those judged by the State Department and NSC as critical to national security be broadcast interactively by VOA on radio, television and a variety of Internet, social networks and cell phone platforms. …

3. Re-establish a VOA Arabic website. …Audience claims by Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa in that arc of crisis have been questioned by the GAO and Middle East specialists. Lack of an official Voice seems counter to U.S. interests in a strategically important region.

4. Name a qualified professional as Director of International Broadcasting to coordinate all the publicly-funded overseas networks, exercise most day-to-day management functions, and report to the Board. …Board members must be nationally known foreign affairs, journalistic and corporate level management professionals committed to the credibility of all networks cited below and principles contained in the VOA Charter and surrogate mission directives.

The fourth (of eight) point above is important. In my recent post on the failure to appoint members to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, I did not mention the Director of International Broadcasting, which is, as the authors above note, is the day-to-day manager of America’s non-military international broadcasting. The position has been vacant for four years.