Understanding the White House’s Attack on VOA

Last week, the Trump administration attacked the US government-funded Voice of America. The White House did this through its online newsletter and a tweet by Trump’s Director of Social Media. Described as a “bizarre broadside,” these public statements are really just more revelations of the decay and drift of US foreign policy and this administration’s inability to provide even a modicum of leadership.

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False Rivals: how RT is larger & targets different audiences than the BBG

If you’re paying attention to the global struggle against Kremlin subversion through propaganda, you’ll often hear a narrative that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and RT, the Kremlin broadcaster formerly known as Russia Today, are competitors standing toe-to-toe. Responses to my recent article on whether RT was a lobbyist or a foreign agent included this comparison. The notion that they square off against each other or seek the same audiences is based on two simplified, shared attributes: funded by their respective governments and seeking audiences abroad.  Continue reading “False Rivals: how RT is larger & targets different audiences than the BBG

Sputnik: ‘RT as a Foreign Agent’ is about BBG scaremongering for more money

In case you missed it, see my RT as a Foreign Agent. This was a follow up to Edward Delman’s article at The Atlantic which asked whether RT is a lobbyist based on a suggestion from a member of the Russian Duma. Ilya Ponomarev, currently in exile in California due to his opposition to the invasion of Crimea, had said that RT was not a media organization. ‘I think it’s a lobbying tool,’ he told Buzzfeed, ‘and it should be regulated as a lobbyist rather than media.’  Continue reading “Sputnik: ‘RT as a Foreign Agent’ is about BBG scaremongering for more money

When do we start the honest debate over the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act?

Sardonic? Ironic? Satire? Which word best fits the the lack of serious debate over the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act and the realities for which public diplomacy and international broadcasting are required and operate? See my post at the Public Diplomacy Council about this. 

What is it about U.S. public diplomacy that we must hide it from Americans? Is it so abhorrent that it would embarrass the taxpayer, upset the Congress (which has surprisingly little additional insight on the details of public diplomacy), or upend our democracy? Of our international broadcasting, such as the Voice of America, do we fear the content to be so persuasive and compelling that we dare not permit the American media, academia, nor the Congress, let alone the mere layperson, to have the right over oversight to hold accountable their government? [Read the rest here]

Also, see Josh Rogin’s Much ado about State Department ‘propaganda’.

Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 introduced in the House

Last week, Representatives Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a bill to amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to “authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.” The bill, H.R.5736 — Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (Introduced in House – IH), removes the prohibition on public diplomacy material from being available to people within the United States and thus eliminates an artificial handicap to U.S. global engagement while creating domestic awareness of international affairs and oversight and accountability of the same. This bill also specifies Smith-Mundt only applies to the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, eliminating an ambiguity creatively over the last three decades.

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Blind Ambition

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

Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Three): A New Structure

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

The Future of International Broadcasting

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

Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting (Part Two): What to do About the BBG?

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?

Beijing makes its voice heard: CCTV expands in the U.S.

The FT today reports on the continuing expansion of China’s CCTV in the United States. “China has started to serve US citizens its own side of the story with CCTV America,” writes the FT’s reporter.

CCTV America, from its studio in Washington, D.C., is part of Beijing’s outreach of telling its own story through its own voice.  The expansion has been dramatic and expensive.  They are covering stories of Chinese interest that are not covered by Western media or not covered in a way the Chinese want.  Such is the purpose and advantage of Government International Broadcasting.

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Whisper of America?

Alan Heil

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?

US International Broadcasting: Success Requires Independence and Consolidation

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.

Independence

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.

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BBG’s 5yr Strategic Plan: to inform, engage and connect (Updated)

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.  

BBG Responds to Ted Lipien’s Washington Times commentary

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.

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Reforming U.S. International Broadcasting: A New Mission Statement

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.”

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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.
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Michael Lynton Becomes the BBG’s New Interim Presiding Governor

Just in from the Broadcasting Board of Governors:

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.”
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Calling on the BBG to Affirm The Primacy of Good Journalism

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.”

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Where do we go from here? The troubled future of the BBG


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