voice of america

A government agency cannot realistically be a news agency. One politically appointed manager might be committed to independent journalism, but the next might order the manipulation of content to support the policies of the president who appointed him or her. In this regard, the new mission statement of the BBG is not helpful.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the agency in charge of critical U.S. information programs to countries such as Iran, China and Russia, can only be described as a failed enterprise in need of emergency surgery.

Five major international broadcasters — Voice of America, British Broadcasting Corp., Deutsche Welle, Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France and Radio Netherlands Worldwide — recently called on Iran to stop jamming radio and TV signals targeted at that country.

Language and educational exchanges have always been a defining feature of the U.S.-China relationship. Meet Jessica Beinecke, a Voice of America journalist who decided that she could leverage all the web 2.0 tools at her disposal to create a show that taught Chinese youth American slang.

It is that environment that has seen “political oversight” of U.S. International Broadcasting become “political inference” — something the Broadcasting Board of Governors is powerless to stop since their jobs as well as the USIB budget are dependent on Congressional approval.

One of the BBG’s most foolish decisions was to end all VOA radio and TV programs in Arabic and Russian. Besides, the BBG needs to focus on multi-platform, multi-media program delivery that includes new media but does not eliminate VOA broadcasting, where BBG has the greatest competitive advantage.

For Western broadcasters collectively, 2011 was the most potentially devastating year in more than eight decades on the air. Now, because of fiscal uncertainties in their host countries and rapidly evolving competition from both traditional and new media, they face huge cuts in airtime and operations. Can America step up to help fill the gap?

U.S. policy makers have used traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy and government-sponsored journalism to promote America's interests and to influence public opinion abroad. On the journalistic side, the so-called surrogate radios: Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcasting since World War II – remained under greater control of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.