BBG’s Commission on Innovation holds first meeting in New York as BBG ignores advice on human rights reporting from its own journalists


BBG Commission on Innovation meeting in New York, September 2011The BBG is bragging about its commission on innovation, which is great, but what the BBG needs even more is a commission on sensitivity to human rights abuses and assaults on media freedom abroad. BBG members could, of course, listen to some of their journalists who had experienced life under totalitarian and authoritarian regimes.
But, of course, this is not the way BBG members think and operate. It’s far better for them to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to private contractors and consultants and to organize meetings in New York or Prague. In fact, the BBG wants to fire 45 Voice of America journalists who specialize in human rights reporting to China. No doubt that the money saved by getting rid of these reporters, who understand the mission of U.S. international broadcasting far better than BBG executives, will pay for even more BBG commissions and outside consultants.
We offer here very good advice for BBG members and their executive staff from a VOA Chinese Branch reporter. We think that members of the BBG’s Commission on Innovation could also benefit from watching this video. The advice from the VOA journalist is free. It’s always been available and free if the BBG would only listen.
The video shows a group of remarkable journalists from the Voice of America Mandarin and Cantonese radio, TV, and Internet services directing pointed questions to former VOA Director Dan Austin and making persuasive arguments against the Broadcasting Board of Governors decision to end all on-the-air radio and TV news broadcasting in their languages to China.
It’s now up to the U.S. Congress to save VOA from the BBG’s effort to destroy the Voice of America as a broadcasting organization. VOA radio broadcasts to Russia had already been terminated by the BBG in 2008, resulting in an over 80% drop in audience reach.
The BBG claims that Internet-only program delivery strategy prepares VOA for the future by targeting new media and a younger audience when in fact BBG’s own research shows that it has been a failure in Russia and is not likely to reach a vast new audience in China.
VOA Chinese Service journalists point out that the BBG with the support of VOA Director Austin (he has since resigned) are terminating VOA radio broadcasts that have a larger audience in China and higher name recognition than Radio Free Asia (RFA) and BBC. The BBG plans to give VOA shortwave frequencies to RFA.
One cannot be but impressed with professionalism and expert knowledge of these journalists when they point out to Director Austin that 750 million of Chinese have no Internet access and that the regime in Beijing can block and censor Internet access for those who have it. Director Austin keeps repeating that the strategy will bring a new audience when in fact — as the members of his Chinese services point out — they already have extensive Internet presence. It was obvious from his answers that neither he nor the BBG has a plan to deal with any future blocking of the Internet in China.
Director Austin insisted that the Chinese government is unlikely to block the Internet completely, but as one of the VOA Chinese Branch journalist pointed out, he saw his friends being killed next to him in 1989 on the Tienanmen Square and has no doubt that the Chinese government is fully capable of doing everything possible to prevent the free flow of information if its authoritarian rule is threatened. He also pointed out that while shortwave radio transmissions can be jammed in some limited areas, it is the only way of securely communicating with the Chinese people.

BBG Press Release: BBG’s Commission on Innovation Holds First Meeting in New York
September 23, 2011 | New York
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is tapping the expertise of visionary leaders to respond to the rapidly evolving digital landscape. A newly-formed BBG Commission on Innovation launched on September 22 in New York City. The Commission brings together leaders who have proven success in digital media to help shape world-class platforms to reach U.S. international broadcasting’s unique overseas environments.
“The Commission will expand the innovation work at the BBG and bring great minds from outside fields to focus on international media,” said Susan McCue, co-chair of the BBG’s Communications and Outreach Committee. “Yesterday’s introductory meeting was filled with game-changing ideas and approaches, and this is just the start of a dialogue about how to better serve, connect and engage with our audiences abroad.”
The Commission on Innovation draws leaders from the commercial, academic, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Members of the commission include author Clay Shirky; Evan Williams, Co-founder of Twitter; Randi Zuckerberg, former Marketing Director of Facebook; June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media; Paola Antonelli, Design and Architecture Senior Curator at the Museum of Modern Art; Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director of Global Community Affairs at Microsoft; Michael Maness, Vice President of Journalism & Media Innovation at the Knight Foundation and Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation.
The Commission will continue to meet throughout the year and focus on a variety of topics affecting international media distribution, content development and audience access.
Members of the BBG’s Commission on Innovation include:
Akhtar Badshah, Senior Vice President, Microsoft Global Community Affairs
Alec Ross, Special Advisor for Innovation, US State Department
Andrew McLaughlin, Executive Director, Civic Commons
Andrew Rasiej, Founder, Personal Democracy Forum
Ben Scott, Policy Advisor on Innovation, US State Department
Chris Hughes, co-founder, Facebook
Clay Shirky, Professor & Author, New York University, ITP
Evan Williams, Co-Founder, Twitter
Hari Sreenivasan, Correspondent & Managing Digital Editor, PBS NewsHour
James Montgomery, Controller of Digital & Technology, BBC Global News
Jan Chipchase, Executive for Global Insights, Frog Design
Jeff Davidoff, Chief Marketing Officer, ONE
June Cohen, Executive Producer for Media, TED
Michael Maness, Vice President Journalism & Media Innovation, Knight Foundation
Mark McKinnon, Public Strategies Inc.
Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation
Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, Department of Architecture & Design, MoMA
Premal Shah, President, Kiva
Randi Zuckerberg, CEO, R-Z Media
Rebecca MacKinnon, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Rob Bluey, Director, Center for Media & Public Policy, The Heritage Foundation
Rob Glaser, Founder & Chairman, RealNetworks Inc.
Vivek Kundra, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society & Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics & Public Policy, Harvard University