The US Agency for Global Media, formerly named the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is often in the news these days. The usually quiet, forgotten (even across the government) independent federal agency, where “independent” means it is not subordinate to a cabinet secretary while still under the authority of the White House, is not generally well known. Its mission and utility to U.S. national security, not just foreign policy, is particularly not well understood. The confusion around, and even ignorance of, the USAGM generally engenders a couple of questions. Both are fair and foundational but when asked by foreign policy observers they not only highlight the misinformation around an agency established to proactively combat misinformation (and disinformation), they can have troubling consequences if not answered.Continue reading “No, the US Agency for Global Media does not compete with US commercial media “
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 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
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.
Centralization of management and of news production will undermine the effectiveness of surrogate broadcasters. It will also further weaken the Voice of America, where individual language services have won for themselves considerable editorial freedom. Continue reading “U.S. international broadcasting needs a new leadership, new plan and more public scrutiny
The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Walter Isaacson, is resigning his position at the BBG. Walter’s decision has surprised many. He was a well-respected leader of the BBG, a prolific author (most recently of the Steve Jobs biography, but also biographies of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin) and tremendously busy person (he continues to be president & CEO of the Aspen Institute).
The Chairmanship of the BBG is, like the other board members, a part-time job. Five of the eight Governors are serving beyond the expiration of their term (they serve until replaced). Walter’s term expired later this year. Continue reading “Looking for Part-Time Work? The Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors just opened up
News and information knows no boundaries. Borders of geography, technology, and language are quickly evaporating as content moves with increasing ease across mediums and political borders.
The latest example of the “now media” environment is the BBC, which just announced the availability of its “live radio broadcasts via mobile phones in the United States.”
The extension of the BBC’s agreement with provider of mobile phone radio distribution in North America, AudioNow, means that now, in addition to BBC Arabic radio, BBC World Service’s broadcasts in English, Persian, Somali and Urdu are now available across the US via any mobile phone without downloads or data services, simply by calling a national access number.
The numbers for the new services:
- BBC World Service in English: 712-432-6580
- BBC Persian: 712-432-6583
- BBC Urdu: 712-432-6584
- BBC Somali: 712-432-6582
The BBC has a host of different ways to listen to their content.
This week, Walter Isaacson, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors announced the BBG, and its broadcasters, will transform, becoming customer-oriented and platform-neutral.
It’s helpful that the BBC makes it Somali content readily available to people within the US. Perhaps someone can promote it to the Somali-American community?
In 2000, China Central Television (CCTV) launched CCTV International, its 24-hour English-language news service aimed for the global audience. CCTV’s international broadcasting has since expanded to cover news -from a Chinese perspective- in French, Spanish, Russian, and since 2009, Arabic.
On July 1, 2010, China launched another international English language news channel to expand its soft power. According to a July 2, 2010 article from The Guardian by Tania Branigan, Chinese authorities hope the launch of state news agency Xinhua‘s CNC World channel will help promote China’s image and perspectives. Similar to CCTV’s international objective, Xinhua’s president said CNC would “present an international vision with a China perspective.” Currently, CNC world is airing only in Hong Kong and after its scheduled launch of global satellite coverage this fall, it hopes to reach 50 million viewers across Europe, North America and Africa in its first year.
Despite CCTV’s international presence, Chinese officials believe creating competition will raise standards of news coverage. In her article, Branigan challenges this notion and identifies CNC World’s stock footage, dated credits, sparse interviews, and “glimpses of the alternative news agenda that officials want to spread.” Still, Xinhua pledges objectivity and insists: “We are a news channel, not a propaganda station.”
No, not yet. The Senate has adjourned until June 7. Questions from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to at least one of nominees to the Broadcasting Board of Governors is available from the Huffington Post (scroll down to COBURN’S QUESTIONNAIRE FOR DANA PERINO), or click here for the Word document with the questions.
Meanwhile, the head of the Persian News Network was “reassigned” and his deputy was fired.
- All eight BBG nominees are now committee approved, await Senate floor vote by Kim Andrew Elliott, 26 May 2010.
- VOA Persian tilts in favor of Tehran? (updated) by Kim Andrew Elliott, 15 February 2010.
- Voice of the Mullahs? Not quite. from 15 April 2010.
- Understanding State’s Budget Woes
Public Law 111-84, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), includes the VOICE Act which authorized $55 million for four efforts to “strengthen the ability of the Iranian people get access to news and information and overcome the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime.” Passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, these efforts remained authorized but not funded.
Section 1264 of the NDAA required a report by the Administration to provide a detailed description of informational activities related to Iran. That report was released recently without fanfare. It is available here, posted on Google Docs as a 470kb PDF (reduced from the 3mb original document and made searchable).
The report details the information efforts of the US Government toward Iran, including multiple social media platforms, and Iranian attempts to jam transmission and reception.
In another sign that we need a strategic review of our public diplomacy – the White House / NSC Section 1055 report required by Congress provided a framework not a strategy – an element of America’s global engagement continues to exist on appropriations and not a permanent authorization. The situation was similar over sixty years ago when the State Department went to Congress to make VOA and other outreach methods and mediums permanent rather than, as was the case for a period, operating only on appropriations in the absence of Congressional authorization. As the most visibly active member of Congress on the issue of public diplomacy, Senate of House (there are Representatives on Armed Services Committees who are active behind the scenes), it is no surprise Senator Richard Lugar introduced a bill last month to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia.
U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar introduced legislation today that would promote the free dissemination of information in East Asia through the permanent authorization of Radio Free Asia (S.3104).
Sens. Kaufman (D-DE), Franken (D-MN), and Inouye (D-HI) are original cosponsors of the bill.
This week, NPR broadcast an interesting story on The Villages, a burgeoning retirement community in Florida. What made it interesting was the developer of the project “owns just about everything.” This includes the local media. As NPR’s Robert Siegel explained:
The local radio station, which of course plays oldies, its also piped by loudspeaker to the two downtowns – is owned by the developer. So is The Villages’ Daily Sun, a full-sized newspaper with multiple sections. It has a local reporting staff and runs AP stories about the rest of the world.
The peril of a lack of competition in news media came out in an interview Siegel had with Joe Gorman, the president of the property owners association in The Villages, a natural adversary to the developer.
SIEGEL: Joe Gorman says that after his group raised that issue, over a thousand homes were eventually repaired. He says the vinyl siding story escaped the notice of the local paper and the radio station completely, as does his organizations work in general.
Siegel also interviewed Andrew Blechman, the author of Leisureville, a book about The Villages. Blechman describes The Villages as a benevolent totalitarian government:
Everything is owned by the developer. The government is owned by the developer. Everything’s privatized and they’re happy with that. You know, they traded in the ballot box for the corporate suggestion box.
Why is this interesting? Because it demonstrates the American fear of propaganda by Big Brother. The developer is an effective propagandist in this situation not because certain stories are broadcast and others are not, but because there is a lack of competition, which would result in both accountability and a broader spectrum of news. This also creates the environment of Big Brother: the media and the ‘government’ are one and the same and support each other.
- Why the Bombings Weren’t Breaking News in Russia in Time magazine.