BBG Watch Media
New York Times article, “How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS“ by Carlotta Gall (May 21, 2016) strongly suggests an across the board failure of traditional U.S. diplomacy and U.S. public diplomacy in Kosovo. The impact of U.S. media outreach through the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Albanian services is not specifically discussed in the article. They are reported by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to have large audiences in Kosovo due to program placement on local stations, but it is not clear what kind of impact they have on the critical issue of countering extremist propaganda and influencing opinions and behavior.
In a recent memo, BBG admitted that “Limits of interview time for the BBG modules in the June 2015 Gallup World Poll surveys of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia did not allow inclusion of questions on increased understanding from use of VOA content.”
In 2013, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was at that time also a BBG member, said in a congressional testimony that the BBG was “practically defunct.”
One theory is that while BBG may be doing well in Kosovo in terms of audience reach, it may not be doing very well in terms of impact. Some within the BBG do not see engaging in the war of ideas as an appropriate journalistic function. It was, however, a major function of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty and to some degree also a function of the Voice of America during the Cold War. A small group of Voice of America English newsroom reporters declared recently that “countering violent extremism” would violate their journalistic ethics.
READ MORE: How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS:Extremist clerics and secretive associations funded by Saudis and others have transformed a once-tolerant Muslim society into a font of extremism. By Carlotta Gall, May 21, 2016
HILLARY CLINTON, January 23, 2013:
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: “And finally, we need to do a better job conveying a counter-narrative to the extremist Jihadist narrative. You know, I’ve said this to this Committee before — a lot of new members on it — you know, we have abdicated the broadcasting arena. You know, yes, we have private stations: CNN, Fox, NBC, all of that. They are out there, they convey information, but we’re not doing what we did during the Cold War.”
“Our Broadcasting Board of Governors is practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world. So we’re abdicating the ideological arena, and we need to get back into it. We have the best values. We have the best narrative.”
“Most people in the world just want to have a good decent life that is supported by a good decent job and raise their families and we’re letting the Jihadist narrative fill a void. We have to get in there and compete and we can do it successfully.”
FROM BBG MEMOS:
“BBG questions on the Gallup World Poll June 2015 survey in of Albania measured growth of more than 20% in VOA’s (and USIM) total weekly audience reach in Albanian, to 59.7 percent of adults, driven largely by VOA TV products (though 4.1 percent listen weekly to VOA or RFE radio). The August 2015 World Poll survey of Kosovo measured a USIM past‐week audience reach (in any language; largely in Albanian) of 63.1 percent, up from 59.7% in June 2011. While almost all the audience (61.6 percent of adults) watch VOA TV programming, there were significant increases in RFE and VOA radio listenership (RFE’s more than tripling to 13.4 percent, and VOA’s growing by two‐thirds to 14.8 percent, as well as measured growth in USIM weekly online audience to 12.9 percent.”
“Limits of interview time for the BBG modules in the June 2015 Gallup World Poll surveys of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia did not allow inclusion of questions on increased understanding from use of VOA content.”