Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost: Dysfunctional, Defunct “Stupid News”

Broadcasting Board of Governors - Information War Lost: Dysfunctional, Defunct “Stupid News”

by The Federalist

 

Snapshot of Voice of America website under cyber attack by Iranian hackers.

Snapshot of Voice of America website under cyber attack by Iranian hackers in 2011.

Anyone who has held a position in the stock market may be familiar with a term brokers use called “stupid news.”

“Stupid news” generally refers to talk on the floor of the market or elsewhere that creates swings in investor moods.  It can trigger both euphoria and hysteria depending on the “news,” with stock prices reacting accordingly.  And with almost all market transactions now in the hands of computer programs, it can result in wild fluctuations that virtually feed on themselves, both in the buying and selling of stock positions.  Oftentimes, the “news” bears no relation to reality.

Another example might be found in a book published many years ago titled, “Dow 36,000.”  Here, it was postulated that the market would reach this stratospheric high seemingly in the lifetime of the reader.  Theoretically, that may be a possibility.  However, as a probability maybe not – and hasn’t happened yet since the book was published.  As we know all too well many factors influence the US stock market, oftentimes conditions beyond our borders.  It’s a nice thought to have the US markets reach such giddy heights, but it is also a good example of how a positive – like a negative – can play on human emotions and impair reasoned decisions.

On March 18, 2013 the Broadcasting Board of Governors/International Broadcasting Bureau (BBG/IBB) issued a press release (“Website Showcasing News From Around the World Debuts Today”).

In essence, the agency has created a website that links to all other websites managed by entities under the control of the BBG/IBB.  The press release refers to this website as a “GNN dashboard” for all BBG/IBB websites, the “GNN” being “global news network.”

Maybe we missed something, but the question we have is: why is this needed?

If someone is already familiar with BBG/IBB websites, why do they need to go through this additional step in search of news and information?

It doesn’t seem necessary or sensible to us.

Let’s delve deeper:

 

The Not-So-Hidden Agenda

 

We need to remember that one of the central goals of the IBB’s “flim flam, Soviet-style, dysfunctional and defunct strategic plan” is to create a grandiose “global news network.”  Let’s say it again in the style of the carnival pitch artists on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building:

 

Global News Network!!!

 

Like, BIG, baby.  Big, grand and well –

 

B-A-L-O-N-E-Y.

 

If you look at the “GNN dashboard” in this manner, the tactic at play here is to sell the concept.  The selling is not so much to the agency’s Internet audience – its smallest and like the rest of the agency’s audience’s, heading south for the fiscal year if not beyond.

More than likely, the intended audience for the pitch would be the folks on Capitol Hill.

We know these IBB folks very, very well.  Once they latch onto something, they don’t let go.  They obsess over it.  Even when the agency is tanking, they continue to come up with a snake oil salesman’s pitch with the latest cure-all for the agency’s ills – much of which they are responsible for inflicting in the first place.

The “GNN dashboard” is a far cry from the Third Floor hype of a couple years ago concerning a “global news network.”  But it keeps the “global news network” goal alive.

Selling the grand scheme of “global news network” has proven to be problematic – as well it should when one considers the track record of the IBB plan and its enduring legacy: being dysfunctional and almost certainly defunct.

The Congress doesn’t have the time and the American taxpayer doesn’t have the money to keep the IBB on life support.  The underlying issues surrounding the sequestration or the “fiscal cliff” are not some overnight passing phenomenon.  They will be around for the foreseeable future.  The Congress would correctly be hesitant to endorse any scheme concocted inside the Cohen Building that seemingly has only one known outcome – perpetuating and expanding the self-aggrandizing IBB bureaucracy at the expense of mission effectiveness.  And it will cost many more millions of American taxpayer dollars doing little to accomplish the agency’s mission.

These IBB people are dangerous – and one of the ways they are dangerous is they have no sense of accountability for how they spend American taxpayer money – yours and mine.

Right out of the gate, the press release talks about “breaking international news gathered by one of the world’s most extensive networks of journalists can now be found in one place thanks to a new online initiative of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.”

That amused those of us familiar with the travails of the Voice of America (VOA) Central Newsroom where “breaking news” seems to fall to the bottom of the priority list.  When members of the Newsroom staff use the word “schizophrenic” to describe how news flow is “managed,” there are some serious problems afoot.  That is what the Newsroom has become, where people are overworked, lack proper resources and get poor or no effective direction to the overall effort.  And let us not forget the machinations of the Third Floor and its Office of Program Review acolytes who seemingly want their names attached to dissolving the Newsroom, a so-called “action plan.”

Feel the dysfunction, the schizophrenia.

 

Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse

 

Snap quiz from the discussion above: When we are talking about the Internet – what do you think is the weakest medium among radio, television and the Internet for BBG broadcasts?

We’ll give you three guesses:

 

Internet.

Internet.

Internet.

 

Why is that?

There are a variety of reasons.  We’ll settle on a couple:

One would be that it is the most diluted of the three.  You don’t need a license to have a website – and someone can call themselves their own “global news network.”  At the very least, there are millions more websites worldwide, many purporting to be news sites.  The agency is clearly not making a substantive impact on the basis of its websites because of the explosion of alternative sites for “news.”

But perhaps more importantly, the agency’s “geniuses” have maneuvered US Government international broadcasting out of the strategic arena.  Places where the voice of the American government needs to be heard –

 

Isn’t.

Certainly not very well.

 

You guessed it: the BBG/IBB is comatose and just about dead in China and Iran – on all mediums, but particularly the Internet.  Why?  Because these governments have control on the “input” switch.  If they don’t want your website to be accessible they can block you and do it very well. The same in Russia with radio and TV. Mr. Putin can also block the Internet if he wants to.

And if it is necessary to make the point clearer, they can and will engage in cyber warfare operations just to let you know who has the better game in town.

Don’t forget, it was the Iranian Cyber Army that knocked down all VOA websites a couple years ago for over FIVE HOURS, substituting them with a screenshot in Farsi and English telling then-Secretary of State Clinton to buzz off – with the Iranian flag wafting in the cyber breeze and an image of an AK-47 standing by.

And that AK-47 wasn’t there for artistic effect alone.  These guys are playing hardball.  They see what they are doing as waging war.  One wonders if anyone inside the Cohen Building gets it.  Our conclusion is: probably not.  And that makes them even more dangerous – in that special way the combination of arrogance, venality and stupidity have.

Then too, let us not forget the Chinese.  Their main cyber warfare operations based in Shanghai are part of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).  They are state of the art and they’re going 24/7.  And they’re good.

 

Very, very good.

 

In short, the agency is playing to its weaknesses, not its strengths.  The results are predictable.

 

[And if you are the intelligence analysts in China, Iran and Russia, you have to be feeling pretty darn good.  Those people on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building are doing exactly what you want them to be doing.  Indeed, IBB actions probably exceed the scenarios in the simulation exercises created by these analysts.  And when necessary, some well-played offensive cyber warfare adds a little insurance that the IBB continues to be stymied on the path it has chosen.]

Should the agency have an Internet presence?  Yes, it should.  But these Third Floor types take their characterization of that presence to an extreme that has no basis in reality.  When your overall audience is down to about 175 million (out of a global population of 7-BILLION) and your own Internet figures show that portion of the audience to be about 10-million – AND your overall numbers continue to slide off a cliff, you have a big-time problem.

With a precipitous loss of audience, what was once a solid US Government international broadcasting effort has been reduced to the margins, relegated to sloganeering and self-praise.  It is tawdry and pathetic.

 

Here’s an example:

 

“It’s such a simple tool, but it will have a resounding effect,” said Robert Bole, director of BBG’s Office of Digital and Design Innovation. “Bringing all these sources of information together makes a powerful statement about this agency and the way we do business.  We’re so much greater than just the sum of our parts.”

 

That’s right from the BBG/IBB press release.

You will have to pardon us while we smirk.

We already know how these guys do business: like Enron.

A statement like the one above is nothing more than stupid news – self-serving big talk for something that is nothing more than a pass-through website for the smoke and mirrors trickery of the IBB’s dysfunctional, defunct and just plain worthless strategic plan.

 

Finally,

 

We are firm believers in the agency’s mission.  It is valid today as it was over seventy years ago.

Unfortunately, that mission has been compromised, undermined and polluted by that IBB cabal on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building who has made it plain that their top priority is themselves.  As a result the mission has failed and is no longer recoverable in a manner or timeframe that is reasonable or fiscally responsible.

Any group of individuals who act assiduously to undermine corrective measures to reverse the negative consequences of their actions – as was clearly demonstrated by the unmistakable IBB imprint on the recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) report – are incapable of doing what needs to be done to put US Government international broadcasting on solid ground.

With this as our realization, we are now solidly of the same views articulated by former Secretary Clinton.  The agency is most definitely dysfunctional and defunct.

The agency has been failing and doing so for some time.  It is also evident that the Obama administration is not going to step in and take deep, serious remedial action.  It appears to be content to let it bungle along and continue to fail.

Rather than endure for the remainder of the Obama administration for this disaster to play out further, it is time to put this agency to rest, close it and do so now.

 

The Federalist

March 2013

 

BBG Press Release

 

Website Showcasing News From Around The World Debuts Today

Washington, DC – Breaking international news gathered by one of the world’s most extensive networks of journalists can now be found in one place thanks to a new online initiative by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Today marks the launch of the BBG’s Global News Dashboard, which pulls together the English-language news from the more than 50 bureaus, production centers and offices supported by the agency’s staff journalists and more than 1500 stringers around the globe.

“This site showcases the depth and reach of the high-quality journalism that the BBG produces,” said Richard M. Lobo, director of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau.  “There are millions of English-speakers worldwide who get their news from the individual websites of our broadcasters.  It makes sense to pool our resources and put them to work to serve our audiences even better.”

The new site’s English-language content will come from Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia. Users who access stories will be directed to the original content on the sites of the three broadcasters. The Global News Dashboard also will include links to original content in Spanish of Radio/TV Martí and the Arabic-language online offerings of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

Before development of the Dashboard, people interested in the work of the BBG would have to visit the websites of five separate broadcasters. This tool, built on the Pangea content management system developed by RFE/RL and used by the majority of BBG’s broadcasters to power their websites, makes that search easier.

“It’s such a simple tool, but it will have a resounding effect,” said Robert Bole, director of BBG’s Office of Digital and Design Innovation. “Bringing all these sources of information together makes a powerful statement about this agency and the way we do business.  We’re so much greater than just the sum of our parts.”

The Global News Dashboard can be found at http://www.globalnewsdashboard.com.

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