Reaching hearts and minds used to be VOA's mission


TV is the dinosaur: Back to the future with shortwave and Internet!”
by Another Voice
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: 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.