John Lansing is the CEO of the governing body in charge of the government-funded Voice of America news service.
He talks with Steve Inskeep about the agency’s operations under the new administration.
Many thanks SWLing Post contributor, Aaron Kuhn, who writes:
[While passing by the TV at just the right time] I heard an interesting little 16 seconds of exchange in the Senate Russian Hacking hearings.
The exchange take place between Lindsey Graham and James Clapper from 1:57:40 to 1:58:24:
In this short exchange, which starts by Graham asking, “Would you agree with me that Radio Free Europe is outdated?” We learn that Clapper isn’t “familiar” with Radio Free Europe and both of them admit that they don’t listen to the radio (though Clapper believes it’s popular in some parts of the world).
Graham: “Is radio big in your world?”
Clapper: “Not in my world.”
Graham: “Yeah, I don’t listen to the radio so much either.”
Well…glad we sorted that out, gentlemen.
UPDATE — Kim Andrew Elliott comments:
That exchange might explain why the RFE/RL Press Room sent out this email on January 5…
Facts about Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
(WASHINGTON – January 5, 2017) RFE/RL serves a measured audience of 27 million people a week in 23 nations and territories by video, social networks, mobile apps, websites, podcasts and radio – whatever media they use most. From its Prague headquarters and 18 news bureaus, it provides local news and information in 26 languages to the nations of the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, including a round-the-clock Russian-language television channel.
Through last September, RFE/RL recorded one billion page views on its websites, 300 million views on YouTube and 225 million engaged users on Facebook, plus many more visits and views on other social networks and apps.
“RFE/RL’s audience is highly loyal, making their way to us despite efforts by some governments to jam us on the internet and over the air, and even to directly intimidate viewers and listeners,” said Thomas Kent, president and CEO of RFE/RL. “They find us an indispensable source of news and investigative journalism, constantly adapting to the most modern platforms to reach them.”
RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, internet, television, and mobile — reach 27 million people in 26 languages and 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, and the Baltic states. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
(Source: BBG Watch via Dan Robinson)
President Barack Obama has signed into law S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017,” which includes a provision to reduce the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) governing board to an advisory status while making the BBG CEO position subject to a future nomination by the president and vetting and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
While signing the legislation into law, President Obama expressed reservations about several of the 2017 NDAA provisions dealing with the U.S. Department of Defense. President Obama also had some reservations about the amendment dealing with the BBG, but they are not likely to have any practical effect during the waning days of his presidency.
[…]PRESIDENT OBAMA: “My Administration strongly supports the bill’s structural reform of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which streamlines BBG operations and reduces inefficiencies, while retaining the longstanding statutory firewall, protecting against interference with and maintaining the professional independence of the agency’s journalists and broadcasters and thus their credibility as sources of independent news and information. Section 1288 would elevate the current Chief Executive Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to the head of the agency and reduce the current members of the Board, unless on expired terms, from serving as the collective head of the agency to serving as advisors to the Chief Executive Officer. While my Administration supports the empowerment of a Chief Executive Officer with the authority to carry out the BBG’s important functions, the manner of transition prescribed by section 1288 raises constitutional concerns related to my appointments and removal authority. My Administration will devise a plan to treat this provision in a manner that mitigates the constitutional concerns while adhering closely to the Congress’s intent.”[…]
(Source: USC Center on Public Diplomacy)
Deep in the massive FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act is a provision to eliminate, in its present form, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The NDAA has been passed by the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed by President Obama. The BBG is the topmost authority of the elements of U.S. government-funded international broadcasting: Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Martí, and the Arabic-language Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa. Together they broadcast in 61 languages.
This BBG’s demise eliminates the “firewall” of a nine-person bipartisan board with fixed and staggered terms, and replaces it with one politically-appointed CEO. This change will have consequences.
Traditionally, people around the world huddled around a shortwave radio to get news from abroad. Increasingly, they watch an international news channel via cable or satellite television, or access a foreign website or social media outlet. Whatever the medium used, the need for a credible alternative to domestic state-controlled media is the main reason international broadcasting has had an audience since the 1930s.
Credibility is the essence of successful international broadcasting. The shortwave frequencies, satellite channels, and online media are full of propaganda, but serious news consumers seek out the news organizations that they trust.
International broadcasting in languages such as Burmese or Hausa has little commercial potential. National governments must step in to provide the funding. The foremost challenge is to ensure that the journalism is independent from the governments that hold the purse strings.
To achieve this, there is no substitute for a multipartisan governing board. Its main function is to appoint the senior managers of the broadcasting organization, so that politicians don’t. This is how “public service” broadcasting corporations throughout the world, e.g. BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, maintain their independence.
When a government is directly involved in the production of news, the results are generally deleterious. The outcome can be as extreme as the lies and distortions of German broadcasts before and during World War II. Or the output can be something like the stultifying commentaries that filled much of Radio Moscow’s schedule during the Cold War. And, as can be observed by watching Russia’s RT or China’s CCTV News on cable TV, propaganda can also be manifest by emphasizing some topics, while downplaying or ignoring others.[…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor Dan Robinson--former White House, Congressional and foreign correspondent for the Voice of America–who alerts us to a major development at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
Note that the BBG supervises the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Television Marti, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.
House Rules Committee approves conference report containing reform of U.S. international media management structure
[T]he BBG met today [November 30, 2016] and were trying to put a positive spin on this, but this development essentially lays the groundwork for the elimination of BBG completely, though a first stage would have remaining governors on the board serve in the first iteration of a new International Broadcasting Advisory Board (IBAB).
Also, and importantly — Congress is going ahead with a proposal to create a Global Engagement Center that would have as its main purpose, countering foreign misinformation and disinformation.
A link to the actual language in the House Committee on Rules conference report to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is below:
[Y]ou can read the actual language, beginning on Page 1396 for the Global Engagement Center and then right after, on Page 1404, on the BBG.
[Again], pages 1404 – 1421 in the conference report details making the BBG advisory and therefore putting it out of the direct decision making path and likely reducing its power, influence and impact.
The remaining BBG members would be allowed to serve out terms, constituting the first “International Broadcasting Advisory Board,” modifying the U.S. international broadcasting act with powers focused in hands of CEO, and creating a Global Engagement Center (see Pg 1396 before section on BBG) to counter foreign misinformation and disinformation…there is no specific mention of VOA in the conference report to the 2017 NDAA
‘‘SEC. 306. ESTABLISHMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL
13 BROADCASTING ADVISORY BOARD.
14 ‘‘(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection
15 (b)(2), the International Broadcasting Advisory Board
16 (referred to in this section as the ‘Advisory Board’) shall
17 consist of five members, including the Secretary of State,
18 appointed by the President and in accordance with sub-
19 section (d), to advise the Chief Executive Officer of the
20 Broadcasting Board of Governors, as appropriate.
Global Engagement Centeer: PURPOSE.—The purpose of the Center shall
2 be to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the
3 Federal Government to recognize, understand, ex-
4 pose, and counter foreign state and non-state propa-
5 ganda and disinformation efforts aimed at under-
6 mining United States national security interests.
see video here: