Sunday, November 29th 2015
The debate over how to reform America’s government-supported media operations has begun to zero in on the question of governance: Should there be one combined enterprise, with one CEO and one oversight board, as there is now with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)? Or should the entities be divided into two groups, each with its own CEO and board?
Witnesses for both options made their case at a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing by comparing the operations of the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) to a business, a sports team, and even a ship. You can’t have two captains of a ship, one argument went, or two head coaches of a team, while another said no, this would be like having one head coach for two different teams.Read More
Thursday, November 26th 2015
In a November 23, 2015, op-ed in Politico, David Ensor, the former Director of the Voice of America now at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, said “No, Governor Kasich, Voice of America’s Not About ‘Judeo-Christian’ Values.” (Kasich’s original comments on Public Diplomacy and broadcasting are summarized here.)
VOA is “hardly ‘dormant,’ as Kasich suggests,” he wrote. Ensor pointed to “a new model of partnerships with television and radio stations showing great promise” (citing Ukraine and Kurdish Iraq as examples); audience growth in Nigeria, Mexico, China, Russia, and Africa; and other initiatives. Listening to VOA in Iran is illegal, but a “quarter of Iranians watch VOA satellite TV at least once a week.” “VOA is in fact one of the world’s largest, most influential media organizations.”
Some bullet points of this important piece are below, reordered for a few themes. Those in search of initiatives in the “war of ideas” may be most interested in Ensor’s four proposals.Read More
Friday, November 20th 2015
“The aggressive, often sophisticated and Internet-savvy propaganda campaign, underwritten by the Russian government to the tune of at least half a billion dollars a year, is flexible and skillfully adapted to the geography of the audience,” said Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute in his testimony on “Russian Propaganda: Ways and Means,” before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation on November 3, 2015.
“. . . the RT television network aims not so much to ‘sell’ what might be called the ‘Russia brand,’ but rather to devalue the notions of democratic transparency and accountability, to undermine confidence in objective reporting, and to litter the news with half-truths and quarter truths,” he continued. Here are more bullets from his testimony:Read More
Wednesday, November 18th 2015
“. . . while last week’s terror attacks in Paris remind us there's no substitute for actionable intelligence, robust law enforcement and hard power, these alone will not be enough to drain the swamps where nihilism, malign nationalism and fanaticism breed. Also needed is the patient and indispensable work of public diplomacy,” wrote Martha Bayles and Jeffrey Gedmin in a November 16, 2015, essay, “America's Voice Must Be Heard,” in Politico. Bayles, who teaches humanities at Boston College, is a member of the Public Diplomacy Council, and Gedmin (formerly President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) is a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University.
Their essay addresses many of the fundamental questions facing U.S. Public Diplomacy and broadcasting, so it’s worth reading in its entirety, especially the last four bullets on content, so congruent with the views of Edward R. Murrow. “Public diplomacy must not shy away from presenting America as a noble experiment in which the better angels of human nature have a chance, at least, to prevail against the worse.”
- If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on, it’s that America is getting beaten in the 21st-century war of ideas. Our adversaries today are not united in a single worldview. But they do share a common hostility toward liberal democracy. And Russia, China and ISIL are all skilled at expressing this hostility through state-of-the-art propaganda.
Friday, November 13th 2015
Would the United States be “better off today if the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) were still around”? Was the nation “robbed of the ability to properly engage in information warfare today”? These questions were addressed by Public Diplomacy Council member Matt Armstrong in a November 12, 2015, essay, “No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency,” on the War on the Rocks website. “However, laments about USIA are really a coded way of saying that we lack a strategy, an organizing principle, and empowered individuals to execute information warfare today,” he concluded. This is a clarifying essay that deserves wide reading in its entirety. Here are a few of his points:
- Modern invocations of the USIA are based on a romantic notion of a simpler time. Like any nostalgic remembrance, these visions ignore the messy details of reality.
- While there are strong similarities between the present and early years of the Cold War, today is not yesterday.