BBG nominees confirmed and Radio Free Asia bill passes House

Briefly, June 30 was a good day for US international broadcasting. Alan Heil tells us the Senate confirmed the approved all eight nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) last night. They should be sworn in soon. Also, the bill to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia passed the House yesterday. The next step is President Obama’s signature to make it a law.

See also:

Congress and International Broadcasting

While the nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors remain in a holding pattern in the Senate, mostly likely because of Senator Tom Coburn, there is good news on the US international broadcasting front. The bill to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia has passed an important milestone.

According to a Senate source, last Friday, the Radio Free Asia bill was “hotlined” on the Republican side. This means there was no Republican opposition to considering the bill for unanimous consent. The next step is to hotline the bill on the Democrat side, which may or may not have occurred before you read this.

See also:

CCTV: China’s soft power in the Middle East

On May 27, 2010, The National published an article about China’s engagement strategy, carried out by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), toward Arab television viewers in the Middle East and North Africa.

Many countries broadcast to the Middle East in Arabic, including France, Russia, and the U.S., but China is different: it broadcasts, from Beijing, to the region in Chinese with Arabic subtitles. Instead of focusing on news and current events in the Middle East, CCTV highlights Chinese culture and the arts. Simply, “…CCTV Arabic aims to tell the Arab world about China.

In his article, Daniel Bardsley further describes China’s strategy, which involves voicing the views of the Chinese government. This approach allows China to “…extend its ‘soft power’ without becoming entangled in the region’s politics,” which reflects China’s non-intervention culture.

Now a world power, China ambitiously aims to be part of the mainstream international media alongside CNN and BBC. This year, China will also reach milestones in its international broadcasting efforts as CCTV Arabic will mark its first anniversary in July and CCTV plans to open news bureaus in the Middle East later this year.

Update on the confirmation of US Broadcasting Board of Governors

The US Broadcasting Board of Governors continues to operate with a minimum of members, just enough for a quorum. The Board currently has four members, no chair, each of which continues several years (from over 3 to nearly 6) past their terms expired. Since March 23, 2010, the six of the replacement slate of eight members have been queued up for confirmation. Two of members, Dana Perino and Michael Meehan, were in a holding pattern pending more questions and answers from Senators.

Last week, it appeared the nominees would be confirmed before the Senate recessed for Memorial Day. Alan Heil, noted expert on US government broadcasting explains the current situation:

The U.S. Senate has begun its Memorial Day recess without clearing any of the eight nominees to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Congress resumes June 7, but a debate Friday over 80 of the more than 100 nominees throughout the US government awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor ended with no action taken. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell objected to a motion by Senator Tom Harkin to pass a unanimous consent approval of these 80 nominees. Among them, the largest block of nominees to a single US government oversight body, the BBG, a number of U.S. ambassadors, appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, the Peace Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and several federal district judges. To further complicate matters, as regards the eight BBG nominees, there was no indication on the Senate Executive Calendar that Senator Coburn of Oklahoma had yet lifted his hold on six of them

The BBG is oversees the civilian (non-military) international broadcasting, including but not limited to the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and others.

See also:

Update on the Broadcasting Board of Governors

After years of neglect, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an essential cog in the wheel of public diplomacy as the body overseeing non-military international broadcasting, is one step closer to getting a fresh board. According to Al Kamen:

…the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved three Democrats and three Republicans to run U.S. overseas broadcasting units such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

By unanimous voice vote, the committee sent the nominations of Walter Isaacson as chairman, and Dennis Mulhaupt, Victor H. Ashe, Michael Lynton, S. Enders Wimbushand Susan McCue as members, to the Senate floor.

But it held on to two of the eight hostages nominated five months ago. Democrat Michael Meehan and Republican Dana Perino still await committee action.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee attempted last month to approve the nominees, but events of the day prevented the meeting. As with this week, Dana Perino and Michael Meehan were to be held up for additional inquiry.

News or Propaganda?

If the Government has a duty to get its viewpoint before the world, is it enough merely to send abroad the texts of state papers, speeches by and against the Administration? Particularly in the world’s twilight areas…, where private news agencies would lose money operating–should the State Department send full news broadcasts of its own? …

Last week the A.P. shut off the State Department’s principal free supply of news. U.P. announced that it would follow suit. …

Said the A.P.’s board: “. . . Government cannot engage in newscasting without creating the fear of propaganda, which necessarily would reflect upon the objectivity of the news services. . . .” …

Shrewdly, Benton reminded A.P. that Britain, Russia and other nations get and pass on U.S. news from the A.P.’s report. If the use of A.P. news by BBC and Tass does not hurt the A.P. reputation for objectivity, how could U.S. broadcasts reflect on A.P.? …

Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution: “The attitude of the A.P. might make a silent giant of this country when every other giant and pigmy in the world is broadcasting its own interpretation of American news events and policies.” …

From “The Press: News or Propaganda?” published in Time, January 28, 1946.