Event: The New Media Revolution and U.S. Global Engagement

imageOn Tuesday, February 15, 2011, the Broadcasting Board of Governors is sponsoring a three-hour symposium at the Dirksen Senate Office Building entitled The New Media Revolution and U.S. Global Engagement.

The agenda includes three panels and opening and closing comments by BBG Members Susan McCue and Dennis Mulhaupt. The panels are:

9:00am — Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting in The New Media Era
The role New Media is playing in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere is up for debate. What’s certain, however, is that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media tools have changed the way people communicate.  Today’s global media environment is a revolution in progress. How is the U.S. taking advantage of the potential unleashed by the digital revolution and what else must it do? Join a discussion with experts and practitioners led by Walter Isaacson, BBG Chairman and former president of CNN.

  • Walter Isaacson, BBG Chairman and former President of CNN and Time (Moderator)
  • Alec Ross, Director, Office of Citizens’ Outreach, U.S. Department of State
  • Rebecca MacKinnon, Co-Founder, Global Voices and New America Foundation Fellow
  • Rebecca McMenamin. New Media Director, International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB)


  • Gwen Dillard, VOA Africa Division Chief (CitizenGlobal project)
  • Golnaz Esfandiari, Editor, RFE Persian Letters blog
  • Mohamed Al-Yahyai, Host, "Eye on Democracy", Alhurra Television

10:15amCensorship, Signal Blocking, and Cyberjamming: Can the U.S. Keep Up?
Behind the scenes, there is an information war being waged between closed and free societies. Autocrats are jamming the airwaves and blocking the Internet to prevent their people from accessing outside information. A senior U.S. official charged with overcoming these obstacles explains what the U.S. is doing about it.

  • Ken Berman, Director, International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Anti-Censorship Program

Introduced by BBG Governor Michael Meehan

10:40am —
North Korea, Iran and Cuba: Bringing Accurate Information to Closed Societies
What do citizens inside Iran, North Korea, and Cuba know about their governments and the outside world? This group of experts and international broadcasters (including Kambiz Hosseini, Jon Stewart’s recent guest on "The Daily Show") discuss what the U.S. is doing today to get accurate news and information inside these "information bubbles."

  • Jeffrey Gedmin, President, RFE (Moderator)
  • Kambiz Hosseini, Host, "Parazit", VOA Persian News Network
  • Christopher Walker, Director of Studies, Freedom House
  • Michael Kozak, Senior Advisor, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State (invited)
  • Andrei Lankov, Professor, Kookmin University, Seoul, South Korea
  • Carlos Garcia-Perez, Director, Office of Cuba Broadcasting

Introduced by Radio Free Asia President Libby Liu

If you ignore the length of time for each panel (too short) and the number of people on each panel (ridiculous), it could be a great event. My concern is that sixty minutes, assuming a 15 minute break and not counting opening comments by Susan McCue, for the first panel with Walter, Alec and Rebecca2, not to mention the +3 “including” folks, is simply inadequate. Even if Walter doesn’t permit long statements, how much will the participants and the audience glean from this opportunity? Ken gets about 30 minutes, less any time Mike takes to introduce him. Even if he doesn’t answer a question or two, there’s no way he’ll be able to scratch the surface of the topic. The last panel on Iran, Cuba and North Korea gets eighty minutes. However, I will be surprising if this panel, where I only know Jeff and have met Libby, starts on time. And where are Dennis’s closing comments?

Explicitly missing from the conversation, but likely to be raised is the impact of the Smith-Mundt Act on “U.S. Global Engagement”. By definition, the Smith-Mundt Act, as amended, makes the BBG activities, the subject of this discussion, not global but extra-territorial to the United States.

This discussion is a great opportunity to inform Congress, relevant communities of interest (you’ll know the think tanks and the retired public diplomacy community will be there), and the public. Hopefully the media will be there as well. But instead of packing everything in where the audience is sure to come away with questions spurred by the information but left unanswered by the lack of time, the BBG should be launching a discussion series so these topics could get the attention they need and deserve.

Still, I recommend you attend.

(Such a series could be synchronized with similar discussions facilitated or hosted by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, an organization long tasked with informing and making recommendations to the Congress and the President on the very topics being discussed.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SD-562 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg

9am – 12pm

To RSVP, please
e-mail or call (202) 203-4400