BBG insider's comments on MountainRunner.us
Matt Armstrong’s post on his public diplomacy blog MountainRunner.us, “Discussing the BBG’s (dys)function,” generated a comment from a VOA/BBG insider. There is also a response from Armstrong who used to chair the now defunct U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
Here is the comment by a VOA/BBG insider.
There’s an essential difference between the BBG structure of today, and say, the BBC — one has established truly global credibility, the other (i.e. USIB) still struggles in the muck and mire of the never-ending debate over its mission, its link to “public diplomacy” and U.S. foreign policy objectives, and the role of journalism in all of this.
Formation of the BBG accelerated a process that took us from having one VOICE OF AMERICA, to numerous voices. Though VOA itself was born during World War II, with a specific purpose (though also to tell the truth), by the 1990′s the BBG had encouraged and made possible, with the help of a compliant Congress, creation of the cacophony of USIB that today we all know so well. Not only do we have the main grantee entities, but entities within entities. And the line that for a long while separated so-called surrogate activities was blurred, to say the least, and remains that way today.
Now, under the Isaacson plan, being sold to Congress with the appropriate flood of hosannas, this BBG is trying to make the case that nothing less than a CNNization is the answer to all of the ills seen in today’s USIB. This will be a most interesting discussion, provided members of Congress have the presence of mind to examine the issue with care in an election year.
The “vigorous debate” that Matt calls for is more likely not to happen (except in this and similar blog sites) simply because it is not in the interests of the BBG to allow it.
Board members for the most part (the exception has been Victor Ashe who at least paid some attention to employee morale and other issues) care only about forcing through the Isaacson plan, so they can comfortably return to their own more lucrative pursuits as pundits or CEOs, until they are dragged back for the next BBG meeting in the Cohen building, or in Prague or Miami.
It is an amazing fact that USIB has been run for decades by a board that generally (only in recent years did it open deliberations to the public) has been secretive, and isolated itself from hearing the views of the rank and file.
As for the comment that BBG is “a critical element of America’s foreign policy” — that may be the case. But the $760 million bill of goods the BBG is trying to sell Congress (roughly the current BBG budget figure but multiply this by however many years USIB will continue) is being parading as the creation of some independent global network when in reality everyone knows (except the American taxpayer) that this will be a government-run and influenced information network. We hesitate to use the word propaganda — that still sets off alarm bells — but unfortunately that is exactly what many in the non-government media believe USIB is.
Will there be vigorous debate? We doubt it. Advantage to the BBG here. Ironically, at a time when Americans are so worried about how their money is being spent, it’s all too likely that Congress will hold a single hearing about USIB and the BBG’s management of it, and proceed to lock in the board’s long-term strategic plan.
Ain’t America great?