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.

This strategy seeks to correct the haphazard structure and overlap that has resulted from 70 years of well-intended but haphazard build up of broadcasting entities. There are several significant top-level issue areas the BBG must, and by its plan intends to, focus on. These include:

  • harmonizing services and capabilities to match modern, not past, requirements to improve both effectiveness and efficiency;
  • reform the management and leadership of the BBG;
  • and, “nurture a dynamic and dedicated workforce”

None of these should be a surprise and each can and will be unpacked with many details, pitfalls, and opportunities. Further, this is a long overdue review and initial proposal for change. The second point is important: for those intending to shoot first and ask questions later (or never), we must push for open dialogue all around these issues. The BBG, despite its internal challenges and those of the communication environment, has increased its audiences. It is valid to debate differences between “reach” and real audience, but the nature of the BBG’s outreach makes this distinction almost secondary to more substantial structural and procedural issues that must be addressed.

The plan is impressive on its face. It is a living document to address the history of poor leadership, insular approaches, lack of openness and an environment of exclusion.

The need to and ability to harmonize their efforts across groups of people, whether defined by geography, language, or political affiliation or whatever, is at the top of their agenda. In 1953, the body the Congress authorized to conduct oversight over America’s international broadcasting, stated this requirement plainly, “We cannot afford to play blind man’s bluff with this country’s international information programming.” Hopefully now, through the pressure of the new communication environment and fiscal realities, we will have a smart agency for an increasingly complex environment in terms of both audiences and bureaucracies.

I will post the strategic plan shortly, as well as additional comments and observations.

Update: while I did have an early look at and discussions about the plan prior to a group conference call at 1:30pm ET today, scheduling conflicts on my end has prevented a detailed comment here on the blog.  I’ve posted the plan here for your review.  Your comments will be welcome as comments on the various posts on the BBG here at the blog, in direct email, or as a guest posts.