BBG Watch Commentary
If during the Cold War, the President of the United States conspicuously failed to mention the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty in a major public statement on the ideological threat of communism and the need to counter Soviet propaganda, while mentioning instead media efforts by other countries and the role of the State Department, it would be a clear signal for the heads of VOA, RFE, and RL to resign, as well as any of their oversight boards to resign.
We don’t expect any resignations, but this is exactly what happened today. President Obama talked about the ideological threat from ISIL but did not mention the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency currently in charge of U.S. international media efforts, which the House Foreign Affairs Committee called “broken” in a press release issued on Tuesday, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “practically defunct” in 2013.
“This Broken Agency is Losing the Info War to ISIS & Putin,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a press release in reference to the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
BBG Watch has transcribed a paragraph from President Obama’s statement today on countering-ISIL ideology and propaganda efforts. There was no mention by President Obama of the Broadcasting Board of Governors whatsoever. No mention of BBG’s Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) Alhurra TV or Radio Sawa, no mention of the Voice of America, which no longer broadcasts in Arabic (a BBG decision), but does broadcast in other languages to countries where ISIL is active or actively recruiting new fighters and terrorists.
President Obama did, however, mentioned cooperation with “high-tech leaders in Silicon Valley.” He also mentioned the U.S. State Department, as well as efforts by the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia to counter ISIL propaganda.
Some Voice of America (VOA) English Newsroom reporters said earlier that they object to countering violent extremism because such efforts would undermine their journalistic credibility.
Although no scientific polls have been taken, this view does not appear to be widely shared among VOA’s many foreign language services or among BBG’s non-federal surrogate media outlets, which include Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Radio Free Asia (RFA). Some of the VOA English Newsroom reporters who spoke out against VOA countering violent extremism have only a few hundred Twitter followers worldwide, while ISIL supporters are using social media extensively for recruitment and propaganda purposes and have tens of thousands of social media followers.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: “Even as we continue our military and counter-terrorism efforts, we also recognize that it’s enough to defeat ISIL on the battlefield. We’re going have to defeat its ideology which radicalizes recruits and inspires people to violence. The United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia are stepping up their efforts to discredit ISIL propaganda.
Here at the State Department, our new Global Engagement Center will do more to lift up voices that expose ISIL as the murderers that they are — killers of innocent Muslim men, women and children. And my administration is working with high-tech leaders in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, to help counter ISIL online and to empower more people, especially young people, to use their talents and technology to push back on ISIL’s propaganda.”