The White House, in typical fashion, very publicly lashed out at reporting it did not like. In this case, it was reporting from the Voice of America, a government-funded and managed news service, on Wuhan in China. The White House was triggered by a story published by VOA that did not come from the network, or its sister operation covering China, Radio Free Asia. VOA had republished a story from the Associated Press which VOA distributes under contract. Yesterday, I framed the situation as a failure of VOA’s leadership, and by extension a failure of VOA’s parent organization, the US Agency for Global Media, to focus on the mission and parameters of VOA. That mission and those parameters do not include providing coverage that is redundant to commercial media and does include focusing on audiences relevant to US foreign policy. Below, I continue the conversation by focusing on the “safeguards” Congress implemented around VOA to prevent and correct such failures, safeguards ignored by Congress and the White House abdicating their responsibilities.Continue reading “Managing the problem: VOA, Smith-Mundt, and oversight “
There is a bill pending in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would change the governance structure of the U.S. Agency on Global Media. While the bill is not perfect, it provides a necessary level of accountability and oversight that has been missing for the past two years.Continue reading “S.3654 and Accountability for the US Agency for Global Media “
On October 22, 2015, I had the privilege to testify before the Emerging Threats and Capabilities (ETC) subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. The hearin, Countering Adversarial Propaganda: Charting an Effective Course in the Contested Information Environment, was chaired by Rep. Joe Wilson. Continue reading “BBG on the Hill (Updated)
At the recent public meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Public Diplomacy Council President, and Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California, Adam Clayton Powell, III, offered his comments on the direction of BBG media. His words are a must read, whether in the context of journalism in general but particularly in the area of foreign affairs reporting. Continue reading “Commentary: Democracy is not just another ideology; freedom is not just another point of view
Guest Post By Alex Belida
When I worked at Voice of America, the flagship U.S. international media operation, the biggest legal problems I heard senior managers wring their hands over were possible violations of an obscure 1948 law known as the Smith-Mundt Act. Continue reading “How Congress Violated the First Amendment and Got Away With It
Guest Post by Alex Belida
When the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) recently unveiled a new Strategic Plan, it set a brazenly ambitious goal: “To become the world’s leading international news agency by 2016.” But based on its latest budget proposal, global news organizations like Reuters and AP would appear to have little to fear. To achieve its goal, the BBG, a tiny federal agency overseeing U.S. non-military broadcasters, first plans to gut its existing news operations, starting with the nation’s flagship overseas broadcaster, the Voice of America. Continue reading “Blind Ambition
Guest Post By Alex Belida
Having drafted a new mission statement for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) stressing the primacy of journalistic values and having proposed that a new non-partisan Board be composed mainly of media veterans, let us now focus on a more efficient structure for U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) that will attract greater audiences. Continue reading “Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Three): A New Structure
Guest Post 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. Continue reading “The Future of International Broadcasting
Guest Post By Alex Belida
If, as suggested by Congress and proposed in my last posting, the mission of U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) is to be good journalism in support of freedom of the press and the free flow of information, then those who oversee America’s non-military broadcasting entities need to be selected accordingly. Continue reading “Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Two): What to do About the BBG?
Guest Post By Alan Heil
Under the Obama administration’s proposed FY 13 budget, the potential damage to the nation’s flagship publicly-funded overseas network, the Voice of America, would be unprecedented if Congress approves it. Contrast the reductions: VOA faces net cuts totaling $17 million, compared with a reduction of $731,000 for its sister network, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Continue reading “Whisper of America?
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.
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.
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.
The following from Lynne Weil, Director of Communications and External Affairs at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was sent to The Washington Times in response to Ted Lipien’s opinion piece that appeared there February 8, 2012.
To the Editor:
The op-ed you published on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (“VOA harms Putin opposition in Russia,” Commentary, Ted Lipien, Feb. 8) cynically attempts to exploit a real, but quickly addressed, journalistic error by the Voice of America’s Russian Service in order to deliver an inaccurate, exaggerated and distorted attack on the BBG.
By Alex Belida
When the current Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) decided last year to revamp its mission statement, it conceded “a variety of opinions exist within the BBG family” about the elements the statement should contain. That is certainly an understatement! Virtually none of the journalists I knew at the Voice of America was happy with the old mission statement. And the new one hasn’t exactly received rave reviews either.
The old mission statement was this: “To promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multi-media communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world audience overseas.”
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.
Continue reading “To Inform, Engage, and Connect: a look at the BBG’s new strategy
Washington, DC – Following the departure of Chairman Walter Isaacson, the Broadcasting Board of Governors today unanimously approved BBG member Michael Lynton as its new interim presiding governor.
“It is a pleasure to work with this multi-talented, bipartisan board, and an honor to be elected to help lead the organization,” Lynton said. “We are each committed to the cause of making this agency the best it can be. And with our various strengths and diverse backgrounds, we all bring something to the table.”
Continue reading “Michael Lynton Becomes the BBG’s New Interim Presiding Governor
By Alex Belida
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will hold a special telephonic meeting tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 11) to decide on an interim successor to Walter Isaacson to act as “Presiding Governor” of the Agency. Isaacson, author of the best-selling biography of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, resigned as Chairman of the BBG on Jan. 27th, stating he was “taking on another big writing project, so I won’t be able to give the BBG the time it needs and deserves.”
The sudden resignation of Walter Isaacson as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors will further paralyze an already dysfunctional organization in desperate need of restructuring to move beyond yesterday and meet the requirements of today and tomorrow. This comes at a critical time when the BBG is attempting to complete and gain support for a new strategic plan. Continue reading “Where do we go from here? The troubled future of the BBG
We all forget to put things on our resume. Before, and indeed after, Walter Isaacson published his bestselling book Steve Jobs, Walter had worked another gig. He was Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. Government agency that runs America’s non-military broadcasting, at least until he suddenly resigned before the end of his term, to the surprise of many, write another book.
But interestingly, an email from Walter’s prep school fails to mention his time at the BBG. Walter’s time at Time and CNN and his books are of course there, but no BBG.
Guest Post 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. Continue reading “Good Journalism Vs. Undermining Unsavory Regimes