The importance of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to U.S foreign policy has, at least for the last couple of decades, but under-appreciated. Perhaps this is because of the shift in the late-1960’s & early-1970’s from the struggle for minds and wills to the Cold War known to many, an arms race of boomers, bombers, tanks and warheads. The change was noticed by Senator Fulbright in 1972 when he declared “the Radios [VOA, RFE, and RL] should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics.” Continue reading “Discussing the BBG’s (dys)function “→
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.
Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “More Drones, Fewer Troops” looks at the policy behind the increasing use and reliance on drones, but it misses an essential point: unmanned warfare’s impact on public opinion and public diplomacy. While the technical and budgetary advantages of unmanned systems are front and center, their impact on foreign policy are often an aside, usually in the context of meddlesome by-products of using “drones.” We have seen, if not acknowledged, the powerful impact of human intervention (e.g. SEAL Team Six) over the powerful impact of robots, either remote controlled or autonomous. Leaving the issue of the public diplomacy of these activities on the margins of planning is short-sighted and unwise.
In my article “The Strategic Communication of Unmanned Warfare” (Serviam, June 2008), I explored the impact of ground robots, intentionally avoiding flying drones because, since World War II, flyers and targets were largely anonymous from each: death rained from above. Today’s communication environment and technical advances are removing the “air gap” between the ground and the flyer, or drone in this case, allowing for direct links between policy and the people on the ground.
This topic requires a deeper discussion. Public diplomacy and strategic communication must be on the take-offs of drones, not just the landings, crash landings or otherwise. In lieu of an organization that could look at this, I invite comments and articles on the subject to be posted at MountainRunner.us.
One of the values of MountainRunner.us is the diversity of voices on the diverse subjects related to understanding, informing, and influencing global publics. If you are interested in contributing to these topic areas, review the submission guidelines and follow up with me through email.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors announced today that Lynne Weil has been named Director of Communications and External Affairs. She starts February 6.
The BBG, as many know, is in dire need to improve its engagement with the Hill and the public. Lynne, in leaving her job as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs), brings extensive knowledge of and relations with Congress and the media to the BBG.
Lynne will be the second Director of Communications and External Affairs as the position was (relatively) recently established. Diane Zeleny held the position briefly last year.
She will not be wanting for work to keep her busy, especially in the coming year.
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?
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.
(This article was updated on 20 November ’17 with a new chart that reflects incumbent tenures through 1 July ’16 and some other edits.)
What is the role of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs? That has been an enduring question of the State Department, the Defense Department, National Security Staff, the Congress and the many others interested in America’s efforts to understand, inform, and influence global audiences. Established thirteen years ago to manage many of the activities formerly run by the abolished United States Information Agency (USIA), its role within State and with other agencies across Government has been subject to reinterpretation nearly every time there was a new Under Secretary. The last report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy looked at the turnover in the position of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The Commission found that the position has been unfilled for over 30% of the time since it was established. Moreover, the average tenure of the six Under Secretaries since 1999 was about 500 days, or less than 17 months. Indeed today, the office remains unencumbered since June 30, 2011, while Tara Sonenshine awaits confirmation by the Senate. Technically, the office is never “vacant” as there is always someone in an “acting” capacity. Today, Assistant Secretary Ann Stock runs the office in lieu of a confirmed Under Secretary.
As Sonenshine is unlikely to be confirmed before February due to the Senate’s calendar, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs will be unfilled for an aggregate of more than 1,400 days, or nearly 1 out every 3 days over the past thirteen years. Below is a chart showing how long confirmed Under Secretaries served, and equally if not more important, how long the office was not filled by a confirmed appointee.
The above chart does not, of course, reflect how the Under Secretary perceived “public diplomacy,” how they worked with (or didn’t) the Department, from the 7th Floor to other Under Secretaries to the field (namely, but not limited to, the public affairs sections the Under Secretary is notionally connected), other agency partners, or the private sector and civil society. Nor does the chart indicate consistency in vision or leadership by the incumbent, or the degree of support by the Secretary or the White House of that vision or leadership. Nor does the chart indicate how well, if at all, the Under Secretary helped, protected, or promoted the public diplomacy “cone” (State’s label for career track), sought input from the field, or empowered the field. Nor does the chart indicate how the Under Secretary provided leadership, direction, or held accountable those offices directly within the office’s remit, such as the Bureau of International Information Programs and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, or indirectly, such as the Bureau of Public Affairs, the Global Engagement Center (formerly the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication), and the Public Affairs Sections at embassies and consulates worldwide.
The mission of American public diplomacy is to support the achievement of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives, advance national interests, and enhance national security by informing and influencing foreign publics and by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world.
The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs leads America’s public diplomacy…
Not public when the report was published last month was the elevation of the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT) to a bureau under the Under Secretary for Civil Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (or “J”), the office formerly known as the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs (or “G”). The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) called for the elevation of S/CT to the Bureau of Counter-Terrorism (now “J/CT” to reflect its position under J). The QDDR suggested a close connection with R: “the Bureau will play a key role in State as efforts to counter violent extremism, working closely with the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and the new Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications” (p.45). Reportedly, the Bureau was placed within J, capably led by Under Secretary Maria Otero, because of that office’s role in “transnational issues.” Is R then limited to “communication”?
The Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (PA) is independently expanding his office’s social media presence independent of, and bypassing, the Under Secretary’s office. This is, according to many inside of State, to increase the A/S for PA influence over posts, which is a natural direction when the Assistant Secretary is charged with communicating with audiences in the U.S. and abroad. It is worth noting that the real relationship of PA to the Under Secretary is more peer than subordinate. (To reflect this relationship, one of the few entries in this blog’s style guide is writing the full title for R as “Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy (and Public Affairs)”.
Are these challenges reflective in how much “communication” R actually oversees? And is R’s domain eroding?
Back to the Commission report, it offered several questions for further research:
1. What do the long gaps between appointments of Under Secretaries for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs indicate about views on the role and skills necessary for the position, or the importance of public diplomacy and the role of the State Department in leading and coordinating Government activities that intend to understand, inform, and influence foreign publics?
2. What do the short tenures indicate about the challenges of the position?
3. Does the Under Secretary adequately support the careers of public diplomacy officers in light of leadership turnover and frequent and long periods when the position was unencumbered?
I’ll add to that list additional, more blunt, questions:
How does the office stay in the game and not get circumvented, or bypassed, and its resources and missions not get poached without an Under Secretary at the helm?
Has the Under Secretary’s role with other federal agencies, let alone within the Department, diminished due to uncertainties and shifting priorities resulting from the turnover and short tenures?
Certainly, Tara Sonenshine will have her hands full when she is confirmed after the Senate again takes up her nomination later this month.
According to CJ Chivers of The New York Times, this week the US Navy broke up an attempted hijacking of an Iranian cargo ship by Somali pirates and after some clever surveillance, ended up rescuing Iranian fishermen held hostage by the same pirates.
Senior Iranian military officials this week bluntly warned an American aircraft carrier that it would confront the “full force” of the Iranian military if it tried to re-enter the Persian Gulf. ,,, On Friday, Fazel Ur Rehman, a 28-year-old Iranian fisherman, had a warmer greeting for the carrier task force. … “It is like you were sent by God,” said Mr. Rehman, huddled under a blanket in this vessel’s stern. “Every night we prayed for God to rescue us. And now you are here.”
That’s a nice story and all — it is potentially good public diplomacy fodder for the region, especially Iran — but I’d like to know how Parazit plays the story. Parazit is the Voice of America’s Persian News Service program that’s been compared to The Daily Show. Good thing that due to Smith-Mundt I can’t watch otherwise there would be yet another violation of Smith-Mundt if I were able to watch the program. Wait, I can watch, but if only I knew Farsi…
Courtesy of Bruce Gregory, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.
Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest. Suggestions for future updates are welcome.
George Washington University
Today’s quote comes from the Fourth Semiannual Report of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information, submitted to the Congress in April 1951.
Sometimes policy is “made” by the junior officer who writes an original memorandum. Sometimes it is made by an unexpected utterance at a top-level press conference. But the information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted.
The Mid-Week Quote will be a recurring feature of the blog, although it may not appear every week. Email me to suggest a quote. See below for more on the report this quote is taken from.
The 22-page report (available at the website of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy) assessed that the State Department’s information program is being effectively administered, that the personnel has greatly improved, and that most of the Commission’s previous recommendations had been put into effect. The Commission expressed concern whether taking the program outside of the State Department to the about to be established United States Information Agency would be an improvement or a detriment to operation.
The Commission recommended that the program should be expanded, better evaluated, and remain closely tied to the policy-making and public affairs areas of the State Department.
It is worth taking a look at the number and purpose of committees the Commission recommended the State Department establish.
The Commission has been most desirous to carry out the purposes of Public Law 402 by opening up wider channels of contact with appropriate professional and private sources. To that end, under the authority of the Act, it has recommended and the State Department has set up seven advisory committees.
Radio Advisory Committee:
Judge Justin Miller, Chairman (& member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information)
William S. Paley, Chairman of the Board, Columbia Broadcasting System
Theodore C. Streibert, Chairman of the Board, Mutual Broadcasting Company
Charles Denny, Executive Vice-President, National Broadcasting Company
Wesley I. Dumm, President, Associated Broadcasting, Inc.
Donley F. Feddersen, President, University Association for Professional Radio Education, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
Jack W. Harris, General, Station KPRC, Houston, TX
Henry P. Johnston, General Manager, Station WSGN, Birmingham, AL
Edward Noble, Chairman of the Board, American Broadcasting Company
John F. Patt, President, Station WGAR, Cleveland, OH
Mefford R. Runyon, Executive Vice-President, American Cancer Society
G. Richard Shafto, General Manager, Station WIS, Columbia, SC
Hugh B. Terry, Vice President and General Manager, Station KLZ, Denver, CO
General Business Advisory Committee
Philip D. Reed, Chairman (& member of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information)
James A. Farley, Chairman of the Board, Coca Cola Export Corporation
Ralph T. Reed, President, American Express Company
W. Randolph Burgess, Chairman of the Executive Committee, National City Bank of New York City
Sigurd S. Larmon, President, Young & Rubicam, Inc.
William M. Robbins, Vice President for Overseas Operations, General Food Corporation
David A. Shepard, Executive Assistant, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey
J.P. Spang, Jr., President, Gillette Safety Razor Company
Claude Robinson, President, Opinion Research Corporation
Warren Lee Pierson, Chairman of the Board, Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc.
Meyer Kestnbaum, President, Hart, Shaffner & Marx
George Gallup, Institute of Public Opinion
George S. Counts, Teachers College, Columbia University
Allen W. Dulles, Director and President, Council on Foreign Relations
Elmer Davis, News Analyst, American Broadcasting Company
Alexander Inkeles, Harvard University
The following were Members of the Advisory Commission on Information at the time of the report: