How to Save Radio Liberty by Ariel Cohen and Helle C. Dale, The Heritage Foundation

Ariel Cohen

Ariel Cohen

Dr. Helle Dale, The Heritage Foundation

Helle Dale

How to Save Radio Liberty By Ariel Cohen, Ph.D. and Helle C. Dale, The Heritage Foundation December 13, 2012.

“…the firings came shortly after the selection of a new head of the Russian service of Radio Liberty, Masha Gessen, a Russian American print journalist, the author of a biography of Putin, and gay and lesbian rights activist whom much of the controversy has centered on. Gessen, in her previous, short-term stint of Vokrug Sveta (Around the World), a semi-glossy magazine, had met with Putin just days before the firings took place, giving the impression that the Russian president had potentially exerted pressure on her.
Most importantly, Gessen, who was a consultant to RL for reorganization, managed to land the coveted RL Russian service directorship and then led the service straight into its nosedive by eliminating experienced broadcasters and bringing in with her a team of like-minded elitist print journalists, with little or no experience in radio broadcasting.

What Can Be Done

The bottom line is that the actions taken by the RL management has caused tremendous damage to the image of the United States as a supporter of liberty and freedom of information around the world.
To address the greatest crisis in RL’s history, the Broadcasting Board of Governors should:
Find a way to continue the 24-hour broadcasting that RL is famous for in Russia—aimed at high-quality coverage of internal Russian politics, regional news, and complex inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations, such as in North Caucasus and other ethnic republics of the Russian Federation;
Explore a joint venture with an established pro-democracy Russian media organization with the aim to cover the majority of Russian cities, not just the saturated Moscow market, through FM broadcasting; and
Reassemble RL’s crack team of experienced radio journalists, including those who were fired, to continue their work in RL’s Moscow office on radio as well as Internet platforms. In the process, consideration and opportunities should be provided to journalists who have been fired from state-run TV channels (such as NTV) for “political unreliability.”

RL Remaining Relevant

Only by reinventing RL for the post–Cold War, 21st-century highly competitive media environment—and by actively pursuing an on-the-air broadcasting strategy—can the U.S. remain relevant in the increasingly oppressive media environment of Russia and post-Soviet states.”

How to Save Radio Liberty By Ariel Cohen, Ph.D. and Helle C. Dale, The Heritage Foundation December 13, 2012.

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