Tag Archives: BBG

Farewell, Firewall: Kim Elliott’s take on what the NDAA means for US international broadcasting

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (Photo BBG)

(Source: USC Center on Public Diplomacy)

Farewell, Firewall

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.[…]

Read Elliott’s full article on the USC Center on Public Diplomacy website…

Dan takes a critical look at the BBG as government transition commences

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

SWLing Post readers are likely aware that contributor, Dan Robinson, is the former White House, Congressional and foreign correspondent for the Voice of America.

I’ve just learned that Dan has authored a piece questioning the viability of the BBG as the US presidential transition take place.

Dan’s commentary titled What’s A President-elect To Do . . . With the BBG? appears on the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy site:

http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/blog/whats-president-elect-dowith-bbg

I encourage you to read his full article and please direct your comments to the original post on the Center on Public Diplomacy website.

Proposed amendment to National Defense Authorization Act calls for privatization of VOA

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

(Source: BBG Watch via Andrea Borgnino)

BBG Watch has learned that a proposed privatization of the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) is widely opposed by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal employees, their union, the independent Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org), and numerous foreign policy and public diplomacy professionals, as well as some former VOA journalists. At the same time, critics of privatization of America’s “Voice” strongly support structural reforms of its ailing federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which they blame for VOA’s troubles.

“A decision to reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors merits its own separate bill where both houses of Congress can debate and carefully consider the best course of action,” AFGE Local 1812 union told its Broadcasting Board of Governors members. “It should not be addressed in a stealth last minute amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act,” the union said. The union urged BBG employees to contact their senators and express their opposition to the amendment submitted by Congressman Mac Thornberry and “the offensive language is contained in section 310 (b) of the amendment.” The Senate version of the bill does not have this language, the union reported. Also see an earlier AFGE Local 1812 article, HERE WE GO AGAIN: Another Agency Attempt to De-federalize TV and Radio Marti.[…]

Continue reading on the BBG Watch website.

National Defense Authorization Act passes House, now moves to Senate

SX-99-Dial-Nar

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:

This just came to my attention. It seems that William McClellan (Mac) Thornberry, the Republican representative of Texas’s 13th congressional district and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, proposed an amendment to H.R.4909 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 that would revamp how the Voice of America, RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, etc. are managed:
https://www.congress.gov/amendment/114th-congress/house-amendment/1018/actions

Text of amendment is here:
http://amendments-rules.house.gov/amendments/GECv3517161723182318.pdf

It appears the amendment was accepted by the House and the House passed the amended H.R.4909 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and it has moved on to the Senate:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4909