Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost: End of Summer No End to the Nightmare

BBG ScreamBroadcasting Board of Governors - Information War Lost: End of Summer No End to the Nightmare

 by The Federalist

For the employees inside the Cohen Building contending with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB)  or BBG/IBB, the nightmare continues to roll, even as the summer of 2012 drifts away.  Let’s briefly examine some of the things going on as we head into the month of September:

 

Twits and Tweets:

 

It seems that the Office of Propaganda (the agency’s Public Affairs office) is tinkering with a “proposal” to use the personal Twitter accounts of agency employees – particularly those in the Voice of America (VOA) Newsroom – as a pass-through for its press releases and other bombast.  These employees have name recognition and contacts.  Thus perhaps the idea to exploit these accounts for the agency’s use.

 

It’s what we’ve commented on before: an angle to propagandize the American people.  One would suspect that this might raise some privacy issues (although with the arrogant, beyond the law attitude that has infected the Third Floor of the Cohen Building, that doesn’t seem to be a concern).  And, there may be many Twitter contacts among the employees who don’t want to see these kinds of messages from the agency showing up in their personal accounts.  But when you are desperate to get some traction from somewhere, this is what agency officials do – kind of the agency becoming a social media spam engine.

 

We can see agency employees getting “re-tweets” from people on their Twitter mailing list: “Why are you sending me this?  I don’t want to see this.  Don’t send me more of this – stuff.”

 

It remains to be seen how much pressure or coercion the agency will put on its employees with Twitter accounts to “allow” the agency to exploit personal data bases for its own purposes. Of course, if agency officials take the coercive route, the Federalist and BBG Watch want to know about it.

 

Like much of what comes out of the Third Floor these days, this scheme is just another crock.

 

A Gallup, A Gallop and On We Go:

 

The Gallup research organization has gotten tangled up with the US Government over its research and polling practices.  We don’t know all the particulars of the broader issues.  However, we can make some comment on our view of the situation as relates to the BBG/IBB:

 

$50-million dollars is a lot of money to be spending on what we already know: the agency has lost its audience.  And since it has lost its audience – and intends to lose more by ending direct radio broadcasts – it now tries to engage in diversionary tactics – as in polling about mobile phone use in Nigeria, to cite one example.  The intention of this tactic appears to be to sell the Congress on providing the agency with funding for mobile phone apps.

 

As we’ve said: trust no one and nothing coming out of the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.  Someone needs to be asking questions like:

 

How affordable is a mobile phone for the average Nigerian?

 

How many Nigerians live at or below the poverty level?

 

What is the status of the electricity infrastructure in Nigeria (you have to be able to transmit, receive and be able to charge the batteries for those mobile phones)?

 

What do the Nigerians with these phones use them for?

 

How does the average Nigerian get news and information?

 

We take technology for granted.  The halls and offices of Congress are awash with technology.

 

The rest of the world isn’t quite like that, especially when getting down to the level of the average individual.  Remember, at least 2-BILLION people around the globe are at or below the poverty level.  The BBG/IBB “flim flam strategic plan” eliminates these global publics right out of the equation of US international broadcasting by its heavy, unbalanced and one-sided reliance on the Internet and related technologies.  But when the BBG/IBB makes forays up to the Hill, the approach to selling its flim flam appears to be on the basis of what folks on the Hill have at their disposal, not what is at the disposal at the receiving end of BBG/IBB programs, nor in what proportion to the overall global population.

 

The Man on the Moon

 

On Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 2:45pm, Neil Armstrong, the famous American astronaut and first man to step on the surface of the moon, died as a result of complications following heart surgery.  He was 82.

 

This was a banner news headline around the world.  We went to check out the VOA English website to see the agency’s write-up.

 

We couldn’t find it.

 

It got to the point that we had to contact our sources to see if they could find it.  Same problem – they had to search the site.  Eventually, the news showed up more prominently displayed.  We can’t say that the report wasn’t somewhere on the site before becoming a lead banner.  But we can say that initially it wasn’t easy to find.

 

Instead of a staff error, we see this as the consequence of the direction the agency has taken with the Newsroom and how it is intended to function (which we see as “Mode Dysfunction”).

 

Agency officials have been redirecting Newsroom “priorities” to the point that confusion more often than not probably influences how the Newsroom reacts to events.

 

David Ensor, the VOA director, has made it plain that the agency and the Newsroom in particular are not going to operate as it has traditionally.  It is going to do and be something different.

 

Congratulations.  You can now label both: lost.

 

We also see this in the context of a deeper malaise that has infected the agency.

 

To our thinking, the Third Floor of the Cohen Building appears to be populated by apologists for American greatness.  They seem to be embarrassed by achievements that define the American Experience to the rest of the world.  We are not talking about being arrogant or jingoistic about who we are and what we have done as a country and people.  We are talking about what we have done that brings definition, vision and elevates to a higher standard the capabilities of mankind and civilization.

 

The way we see it, how the BBG/IBB goes about diminishing the American Experience lessens the meaning of the dedication, sacrifice – the outright courage – of Americans who distinguish themselves and the country in extraordinary achievements.

 

This is what is worrisome in this new direction: the manner in which the agency has failed in its mission, ignores the VOA Charter and has made failure an acceptable standard of the agency’s performance.

 

We need to write more about the VOA Newsroom.  You learn a lot about what is wrong with the agency as a whole from studying how agency officials have taken it out of effective news coverage and in-depth analysis.

 

Last But Not Least

 

If you thought the story of the Persian News Network (PNN) and its “Parazit” program had run its course…

 

You are mistaken!

 

Part of the spin coming out of the Third Floor and/or its surrogates over the disappearance of “Parazit” from the PNN program line-up is that the agency is not obligated to tell Congress about changes to its program schedule.

 

Here we go.

 

To review, “Parazit” has been off the air since the beginning of 2012.  We learned that it is off the air not from the BBG/IBB but from Iranian websites asking what happened and making note of the program’s absence.  Keep in mind that the agency made it appear as if the show was still up and running, or – as the Propaganda Office (aka, the agency Public Affairs office), claimed that the program was on “hiatus” and continues to hold onto that claim to this day.

 

In the real world, this kind of “hiatus” often is referred as something else, like cancellation.  What is clear is that the agency does not want to come clean as to why the show is somewhere other than on the air.

 

This is another one of those “gifts” we get from the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.  It is very revealing of the mindset prevalent among the Third Floor dwellers.

 

We know these folks very well.  They have a taste for arrogance – and have a knack for choosing the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong people to put their arrogance on public display.

 

Consider this:

 

Congress appropriates and authorizes the agency’s funding.  Congressional funding (that’s your money and mine, American taxpayers) equates with Congressional intent as to how public money is to be spent, including in support of VOA programs like “Parazit.”

 

Next: the agency has made a very big deal about the “Parazit” program, including outside media exposure.  The agency put this program under a spotlight – and now that spotlight is focused on – nothing?!?

 

To make matters worse, agency officials sat on the situation for eight months and counting.  And, we find out that the program is off the air from external sources in the Iranian community via websites.

 

This keeps getting worse by the moment.

 

There are Members of Congress who are very aware of how dysfunctional the agency has become.  The smart play would have been to go to congressional staff and brief them that there has been a problem (whatever the problem is and we still don’t know – officially).

 

That would satisfy transparency and demonstrate cooperation between the agency and the Congress.

 

But no.  We get the agency practicing its version of bureaucratic voodoo and surrogates being disingenuous.  Instead of being proactive with the Congress, these guys decided to engage in obfuscation.  They are the antithesis of good government.  They don’t even know what that means.  And they never will.  In a manner of speaking, they have become so tightly wrapped in their self-interest and deception that they are figuratively strangling themselves – the lack of oxygen manifesting itself in lack of good judgment, something not in great abundance on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building to begin with.

 

The agency has put itself between a rock and a hard place on the “Parazit affair.”  It tried to cover-up the disappearance of the program and surrounding circumstances.  As we often say, trust no one on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building, this being one of the more flagrant examples.

 

Along with this comes the added irony that the spin-makers in the agency also like to make unilateral declarations dismissing the often-heard allegation that PNN is the “Voice of Tehran.”

 

Here’s the deal:

 

Some of the individuals making these declarations don’t speak Farsi.  Without fluency in the language, these individuals rely on others to tell them what they think is going out over the air.  And as we already know, the Iranian-American community comes at PNN from a variety of political directions as to what they think is going out over PNN.  This makes for a perfect storm of dysfunction: everyone has an agenda, from the factions in the Iranian-American community, the staff inside PNN and the bureaucratic hacks on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.

 

And let’s not forget, back in Tehran, who knows how “The Great Parazit Disappearing Act” is being interpreted.  And you wonder if the folks in Tehran might be better informed than the Congress or the rest of us!

 

As the Iranian people must already know, absent consistency and coherency from PNN or Washington, they will have to chart their own path to the future.

 

Last but not least, the IBB staff failed to alert the BBG about the disappearance of “Parazit.”  That says a lot about the contempt the IBB staff has for the BBG.

 

This kind of stuff is not going to end anytime soon with the cast of characters involved.  So, stay tuned for more from the nightmare on a continuous loop:

 

The worst organization in the Federal Government, run by the worst managers in the Federal Government.

 

The Federalist

September 2012

One Comment

  1. Quo Vadis says:

    Most importantly, the countless PARAZIT fans in Iran must feel a sense of abandonment but evidently, no one among the resident SES crowd [ at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the International Broadcasting Bureau and the Voice of America ] seems to care about that. No explanation was given to the many followers of the program, leaving them to wonder as to what happened. Hiatus? Vacation? Or something worse? As expected, the mysterious disappearance of this most popular show has elicited many comments in the blogosphere. Here are a few:

    “This (Non)Show has become a shell…
    of its former self. At the height of it’s popularity, Parazit was influential and the envy of competitors like BBC Persian. Even noted Iran scholar, Hamid Dabashi, was reported to have said at one point, “No one watches VOA; everyone watches Parazit.”
    My, how times have changed.”

    *********

    “Great Job Saman Arbabi, Bravo on so many levels … To continue not only your own mission, but Iran’s mission for future of Iran’s freedom and democracy!!! !! I hope you read all the positive & great comments here about your job!

    Outside IC, I have been reading so many negative comments on Saman’s page, Kambiz’s page and Parazit’s facebook page about the new show ( With T- Dasteh Dar…) and my only problem with it is “The Separation Of Kambiz from Saman” (ironically…) The terrible way they suddenly split and left Millions of Iranians without any explanation!!
    Unfortunately they chose exactly the most sensitive time, the worst time to stop for few weeks i!!! With all the recent crazy news about Iran and coming out of there… Parazit’s timing could not be any worse for Iran & Iranians at this time!!! Whether it was intentional or there is some sort of conspiracy , I don’t know and may never know, but it’s either really bad luck for Iran (as usual…) or God knows what now!!!

    Anyway, Does anyone know why they did split in such a sensitive time?! And why is it that Neither Saman nor Kambiz give any clear and honest explanations to Iranian people on what happened and what’s going on now ! For millions of Iranians who have got nothing left for them to be hopeful….”

    The mullahs are probably exulting at the demise of PARAZIT without them having to do a thing. Another unfortunate chapter in the very sad story of what has happened to U.S. international broadcasting.

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