Broadcasting Board of Governors – We Know Who The Enemy Is – Part I
by The Federalist
It certainly isn’t BBG Watch. And it isn’t the Committee on US International Broadcasting (CUSIB). One would get a different impression from snarky comments offered by some who blog from inside the Cohen Building.
In our view, the “enemy” is the Board – or more pointedly, the bonus-mongers and self-interested members of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) who spare no effort in pontificating their “vision” of the future. Although they would intend that people believe otherwise, this “vision,” captured in their “flim flam plan,” is one with apocalyptic consequences for US international broadcasting. Why?
At the end of the day, after all bombastic rhetoric, there won’t be any US international broadcasting. The BBG/IBB is committed to ending direct US international broadcasting to global audiences and to do so as quickly as possible.
The BBG/IBB is moving ever more vigorously away from the agency’s mission and more closely to selling propaganda. For the time being, the primary audience of that propaganda is the Congress. Mercifully, the BBG/IBB doesn’t have control over its funding (and it probably couldn’t survive if it did). It has to appeal to the Congress to pony up American taxpayer money to support its skewed vision of the present and the future. Before everything else – the agency’s mission, the agency’s employees, the agency’s global audience – the top priority is getting taxpayer money to facilitate demolishing what the agency does best.
Why do we look at Congress as a principal target of BBG/IBB propaganda?
The simple answer is obvious: that is where funding is authorized, as noted above.
But just as importantly, Congress is one of the world’s most exclusive “communities.” In terms of technology, Members have it all – mobile devices, cell phones, computers with broadband Internet access, satellite television.
Because of this, it is easy for Members and their staff people to fall into the trap set by the BBG/IBB: to believe the fiction that the rest of the world has the same purchasing power, the same access to the technology, the same unfettered way of communicating.
Reality is very different. Members – and many of the rest of us – need to remember that there are parts of the United States that don’t have the means to access this technology. When one considers the rest of the world – about 7-billion strong, the numbers of people deprived of such access increases exponentially.
And outside the United States, things driving access – or lack thereof – are accessibility, affordability, infrastructure support and media controls by governments.
Fortunately, many Members of Congress have the big picture focus and are able to parse out the phony aspects of the BBG/IBB sales pitch.
But that is not going to stop the BBG/IBB with pushing its fabricated “technotopia,” as it is an important component to convincing Members that the rest of the world is “just like us.” The BBG/IBB cannot and will not deviate from its message. If that were to happen, the “flim flam plan” would be revealed for what it is: a canard.
One of the key elements in the BBG/IBB propaganda is the pitch that shortwave radio is a thing of the past.
In that regard, one of our sources supplied us with some interesting information. It comes by way of World Christian Broadcasting, a faith-based organization. It has a website; and from that website, we learn some interesting things.
World Christian Broadcasting has a worldwide audience that it serves. Unlike the BBG/IBB, it is actively engaged in trying to expand and improve upon its audiences. With this in mind, consider the following statement direct from their website:
You can read the entire page as to why this faith-based broadcaster relies on shortwave radio. But here is an evocative key point:
”Internationally, however, shortwave is big. Roughly 2.5 billion shortwave receivers exist worldwide. In years’ past, most of those were in China and the old Soviet Union. Once those governments opened the window to the rest of the world, many people predicted the demise of shortwave. In fact, the reverse has happened. The International Broadcasting Bureau estimates that at any given time of the day or night, one billion shortwave receivers are turned on. In some places in the world, car radios come equipped with shortwave bands. Even in the U.S., in increasing numbers radios are being sold with all three—AM, FM, and shortwave. For millions of people around the world, shortwave radio is the only means they have for communication from the outside world. And for millions more, though they have local AM and FM available, they tune in to shortwave radio to listen to programs that originate on the other side of the world. It is truly the only international radio source.” (emphasis added)
Wait a minute!
This is the same International Broadcasting Bureau that claims that shortwave radio is passé!
This leads to something for the Congress to consider:
To all outward appearances, there seems to be some misrepresentation going on here. Either the BBG/IBB is misrepresenting shortwave penetration to the Congress and the administration or it is misrepresenting data to World Christian Broadcasting. Which is it? It may be both. Is the BBG/IBB tricking up its research data to suit the audience it is making “data” available to?
World Christian Broadcasting is doing something that to all intents and purposes the BBG/IBB is abandoning: it has a global message that it is trying to get to as many people as possible, by the most effective means as possible.
Let’s go over it again:
“The International Broadcasting Bureau estimates that at any given time of the day or night, one billion shortwave receivers are turned on. In some places in the world, car radios come equipped with shortwave bands.”
One billion shortwave receivers – at any given time day or night.
Presently, the BBG/IBB claims radio audiences at 100-million. That’s 10% of those 1-billion shortwave radios. The BBG/IBB wants to take that 100-million and reduce it to zero, over time, in favor of a paltry 10-million for its Internet content. The BBG/IBB is trying to make that time as short as possible. It is trying to get rid of 33% of its VOA radio operations in one shot in FY2013. In short, the BBG/IBB is going out of its way to undermine a strategic asset of the United States Government, as quickly as possible.
We know who the “enemy” is. Read the paragraph above.
As we have said before, there is nothing more insidious than an organization that is destroyed from within. That seems to be what is going on here.
What needs to be done?
The most important thing is an all-out investigation of what the BBG/IBB is up to. The core issue should focus on the national security implications of faulty BBG/IBB decisions, to be followed by the wasteful or inefficient ways it goes about spending taxpayer dollars and a specious BBG/IBB claim that it is creating a “global news network.”
We see the “flim flam strategic plan” promoted by the BBG/IBB as a cancer, a disease that is terminal for US Government national interests via international broadcasting. The more one looks into what the BBG/IBB is doing, the more that cancer is exposed.
We know who the “enemy” is.
By any measure of our national values, what is going on inside the Cohen Building is an outrage. It cannot be ignored. It cannot be tolerated.
I have not seen the case for keeping shortwave alive made so succinctly and powerfully before as in “We Know Who the Enemy Is.”
It suggests a way ahead, one that would preserve shortwave for the tens of millions of listeners in countries that lack reliable free media — and that at the same time, would grow the Internet — because that is where present and future thought-leader and elite audiences will be.
It would eliminate the real dinosaur: the paradigm of broadcast and cable TV.
Because, after all, why IS VOA currently so focused on television?
Could it be simply because the agency is now run by people who used to work in commercial TV — and who lack the vision to see that the very reason they’re not working at CNN or ABC News now is because TV is not where the future is?
The internet is making broadcast and cable TV news obsolescent everywhere.
So, maybe what VOA needs to do is:
1) Preserve and grow the 100-million strong shortwave audiences by offering both short-form and long-form radio news and features, plus music, arts and science programs — not based on TV new’s dumbed-down, ever shallower formulas, but on NPR’s (and the old VOA’s) intelligent, absorbing, engaging, and often deeply rewarding programming — where stories were as long as they needed to be. Or as short.
2) Focus equally on the Internet. Make VOA web sites the platform for magazine and newspaper-style stories, video interviews and features of any length, and five- and ten-minute documentaries, both radio and video.
3) Discontinue the expensive and wasteful emphasis on making each and every story a narrated TV package of three minutes or less. (See the recipe here: http://tinyurl.com/y8ff5nu) Some stories should be text with video. Some should be non-narrated video. Some should be slide shows with text. Some stories should be interviews. All should be on the web.
Reaching hearts and minds with important ideas and valuable culture — not just disposable spot news — used to be VOA’s mission. But the shallow, content-light, formula-driven TV packages that VOA increasingly specializes in must barely register across different cultures, much less reach hearts and minds.
This is the best analysis of BBG that I have ever read!
It would be nice if BBG would return to its basic mission of broadcasting to the world. Does anyone know about the (mostly ignored) VOA Charter? The Charter’s language is specific: “… communicating directly with the peoples of the world by radio.” It doesn’t say “the current hot spot” or “the countries that BBG and IBB managers want to visit next” or even “selected parts of the world.” But the Charter is just a silly U.S. Public Law and BBG is above the law. They’re the Government.
BBG’s only important “audience” is within their own building and within eyesight of their building. Their audiences overseas are just incidental, judging by the Board’s actions, and their employees overseas are considered as unwanted nuisances. How much better the world will understand things when all BBG components become poor imitations of YouTube with unverified “news” and garbage from school kids and government propaganda bureaus around the world.
Funny thing is … BBG’s employees have many years of experience and expertise. They know their audiences and they know what’s important. It’s the Super Executives who are completely out of touch with reality. Oh, they have their own “realities” of course: bonuses, fund-raising for a politician, setting up high paying jobs they can step into in a year or two. It’s good to be best friends with deep-pocket contractors and, of course, the President.
If anyone ever wants to actually go back to the Charter, they might consider talking with BBG employees, including those overseas, and State Department and Military members who have lived overseas and know the peoples of various countries.