Broadcasting Board of Governors – The House of Innovation & a Capitalist Manifesto


Broadcasting Board of Governors – The House of Innovation & a Capitalist Manifesto
by The Federalist

Sign at the Office of Digital Design and Innovation at the Broadcasting Board of Governors

Venture Capitalist - Sign at the Office of Digital Design and Innovation at the Broadcasting Board of Governors

The gift that keeps on giving:
By now, readers of BBG Watch have seen the photo of a hand-printed piece of paper taped to a door in the Cohen Building containing declarations not unlike what one would find in public declarations by IBB staff most responsible for the “flim flam strategic plan.”
But if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the text:
“We are an internal venture capitalist team for US international media.  We provide best in class support, guidance + development for all digital + design products.  We do this by rethinking + leading on everything that touches mobile/social/digital for serving current + future audiences.”
Do you know what this means?
Absolutely nothing.  It is a self-serving sales pitch, gibberish right up there with the oxymorons that emanate from the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.
In our view, venture capitalism is synonymous with risk.  A lot of risk.  It can be like gambling.  But these individuals, whoever they are, aren’t rolling the dice with their own money.  The money they use is American taxpayer dollars.
How much taxpayer money is being used to support this escapade?
How much is being paid to these “venture capitalists?”
What are they specifically assigned to do?
How much travel have these “venture capitalists” engaged in and at what cost to the American taxpayer?
Other than a hand-printed piece of paper, what have these “venture capitalists” produced?
US international broadcasting has become too bizarre for words.  We cannot make this kind of stuff up.  The House of Innovation comes by it naturally, along with its most notable by-product: oxymorons.
None of what is coming out of the Third Floor of the Cohen Building is the type of stuff that keeps US international broadcasting whole – focused on the mission and being effective in having resonance with audiences.
The one thing that the House of Innovation excels in is leading the decline of US international broadcasting with global publics by engaging in spurious mumbo-jumbo that doesn’t get the job done.
And here’s another thing:
The House of Innovation can’t play with the big boys: the Chinese, the Russians, or the Iranians.  They don’t even make the junior varsity squad.  And worst of all – the big boys know it.
What this agency has become is a clearinghouse for a lot of far out ideas that don’t hold up to global realities.  In some cases, the “idea” incubators are individuals we call “shortstops:” people with long resumes full of brief stays in a lot of places; people who seemingly pop out of the woodwork with a lot of jargon but not much in the way of substance.  The House of Innovation is like a magnet attracting these people.
These people globe trot their ideas.  That may make for a lot of nice travel, but there doesn’t seem to be a heck of a lot of traction to show for the effort.  We know the House of Innovation very well.  One of its key components is shouting about successes.  There isn’t much to shout about.  And many times, what talk there is has to do with the latest version of the “strategic flim flam plan.”  
New and improved!  
Well, not really.
Here is perhaps the one thing the hand-printed sign from our Cohen Building “venture capitalists” means:
This is indicative of the House of Innovation plan to privatize and de-Federalize US international broadcasting and go “corporate.”  We are most definitely not in favor of that scheme.
However, if it somehow were to come to fruition here’s the deal:
Cut these guys off from American taxpayer money.  Totally.  Let them try to stand on their own.
You know what?
They would fall flat on their faces.  It would be a bankrupt undertaking before barely in motion.
These guys want the American taxpayer to be an ATM machine for any wild, oxymoron-laced idea they can come up with.  It’s dead wrong.  It has nothing to do with the national or the public interest.
These guys are dead-set on their objective.  So, with that in mind, it behooves the Congress to be thinking ahead and planning to take as much of US international broadcasting out of the hands of the House of Innovation.  Transfer the vital functions and operations elsewhere in the Federal Government.
If the Congress and the American taxpayer want “best in class,” this represents the best alternative to the whacked out world of the Cohen Building.
However, if the Congress isn’t prepared to take that step, here is a short list of some other things it can do:
At the top of the list is meaningful oversight and accountability.  We’re not going to get to that particular objective with the current cast of characters “leading” the agency.  The name of the game in the House of Innovation is hawking damaged goods and not being held accountable for it.  These guys need something else to do and to do it far away from the Cohen Building.  
Next, someone at the highest levels of government has to come to the understanding that this agency is in the business of strategic communication.  It is not going to be the next CNN.  It is not going to compete with commercial media.  This agency has to be mass strategic communication that has the greatest potential to reach the most people possible, in the face of serious countermeasures by rivals and adversaries.
The BBG/IBB needs to be disabused of the notion that the agency is going to adopt a model that is “corporate” in nature. Given the track record established by the House of Innovation, this agency is already well on its way to being the Enron of international broadcasting.
Our venture capitalists and their “manifesto” are a far cry from the principles of the Voice of America (VOA) Charter.  It is no surprise to that US international broadcasting has fallen over a precipice.  It is now in the grips of people with – to all outward appearances – a calculated, exploitative agenda.  
People watching the situation are not stupid.  They know what they’re dealing with, especially when language service broadcasts are eliminated, programs are cut and essentially, the US international broadcasting footprint has substantially diminished.  An enterprise that is now working assiduously to be in the category of an also-ran has drained itself of a substantial amount of international credibility and respect.  
This is not an agency that is on the rise in its line of work.  It is not going to be reinvented as a “global news network.”  These guys can’t manage the news operations they already have.  And they are well on their to being 24 hours behind the news cycle in China when they cut live evening radio broadcasts to China (evening in DC, morning in China).
What they want to be is a mediocre and insipid “lifestyle” and social media website.  
This is the slippery down slope.
It is interesting to note that the BBG/IBB is soliciting public comment about aspects of its strategic plan, consolidation and related matters.  Don’t expect a groundswell of interest and/or support beyond the Beltway.  In fact, if the interest in what the agency is doing is as low as we expect, the message may well be that the agency isn’t worth American taxpayer money.  It is not on the radar of the average American who may question its relevance in the context of other pressing national priorities and have other notions about how public money should be spent.
We’d like to see the BBG come clean with exactly how much interest they are able to generate from this latest gambit.  We’d like to see what American citizens and taxpayers think about this little-known and less understood Federal agency.
We’ll wait to see how the House of Innovation spins lack of interest by the American public in their enterprise.
Basics and fundamentals, ladies and gentlemen.  These guys have abandoned both and have preordained the demise of US international broadcasting.  Without its core base, the House of Innovation is lost in search of an audience that has gone elsewhere or has been abandoned entirely.
The House of Innovation has delivered on one thing: the BBG/IBB has lost the information war.  These bureaucrats, with their own agenda and bonus-mongering, have allowed global publics to lose interest in US international broadcasting.
People who know, including those same rivals and adversaries, know that the BBG/IBB have thrown in the towel.  It is only a matter of time before their entire venture capitalist/corporatist fantasy collapses on itself.
The Federalist
May 2012