Broadcasting Board of Governors Being Unnoticed
A commentary by The Federalist
You know where we’re coming from: we are not part of the fan club for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and their “flim flam strategic plan.” We see it as taking the United States Government out of the business of serious international broadcasting.
And you can forget about their slippery sales pitch about creating a “Global News Network.” That is a BBG/IBB smoke and mirrors tactic intended for congressional appropriations and authorization staffers. Senior agency officials can’t manage the robust news-gathering assets they already have among their various broadcasting entities.
Instead, the real BBG/IBB agenda is to be a social media website, something far removed from the international broadcasting operations that have defined the character of the agency to the rest of the world for over seventy years.
They may have “succeeded,” as you will read below, but perhaps with unintended consequences and results. It is not a good thing.
The BBG/IBB makes a very big deal about Internet penetration. Keep in mind that it is their weakest media component – way behind its radio and television audiences: around 10 million compared to about 100-million apiece for radio and television. Now, these cumulative numbers are certainly not “burning down the house” with a global population of 7-BILLION. But, the IBB in particular is desperate to generate resonance for its Internet effort because it is the key to their strategy: destroy the direct broadcasting operations and become solely an Internet operation for audio, video and text.
We also know how much the BBG/IBB likes spending American taxpayer money on surveys.
So, with these issues hovering in the background comes free data from the Pew Research organization showing that Russia Today (RT) is the top of the “top news organization producers on YouTube.”
News organization producers.
RT – the Russians! One of our “Big Three” international broadcasters (China and Iran being the other two)!
Over the period January 2011 through March 2012 as a percent of “Top Five videos each week,” the percentages look like this:[easychart type=”pie” height=”600″ width=”1200″ title=”Top News Organization Producers on YouTube from Pew Research” groupnames=”Russia Today,Fox News,BBC,ABC/AP/KCNA/White House,BFM TV/C-SPAN/CNN/NHK/Sky” group1values=”8.5″ group2values=”3.5″ group3values=”3.1″ group4values=”1.5″ group5values=”1.2″ chartfadecolor=”FFFFFF”]
- Russia Today: 8.5%
- Fox News: 3.5%
- BBC: 3.1%
- ABC News, Associated Press, KCNA (North Korea), the White House: 1.5%
- BFM TV (France), C-SPAN, CNN, NHK (Japan) and Sky News (UK): 1.2%
Do you see BBG/IBB in the hunt? Do you see BBG/IBB anywhere?
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is there, but even they have a bit of work to do to catch up to Russia Today.
KCNA (North Korea) is on the radar, albeit back in the pack. But, hey! North Korean state television has been running video of Kim Jong-un with a woman identified as his wife. Perhaps this new revelation will give KCNA a bump in their YouTube presence!
But no BBG/IBB. Nothing.
Let’s also note that the upper levels of the agency management structure is populated by former CNN executives. Where is CNN in this data? Back – way back – in the pack. Does that inspire confidence in what the agency is doing with these guys running the operation?
Don’t think so.
We are always watchful of what is going on in the VOA Central Newsroom. This data is not encouraging for whatever is being cranked out for Internet use, both with regard to agency websites and also content posted to YouTube. Perhaps the stuff isn’t timely. Perhaps it is inferior to other stuff. Maybe it lacks depth and substance. Whatever the reason, the VOA news content is not registering.
We seem to recall VOA director David Ensor saying at one time that the agency can do television on the cheap. This data may suggest that the truth of the matter is that the agency is doing what we have suspected: cheap television (or video) done badly.
This is what happens when an organization stops playing to its strengths (the VOA Charter and its core radio operation) and tries to reinvent itself into a “global news network” (aka, social media nothing) and loses its core audience, its identity, its relevance and its credibility.
Remember what we said in “Messages:” trust, reliability, commitment – they’re gone, lost, missing.
One of our sources sent us a VOA “press release,” trumpeting a letter from the President of Somalia, congratulating the agency’s Somali Service for a telephone survey that asked Somali interviewees how they feel about a draft constitution being considered for the country.
Constitutions. Serious business with serious consequences. But what is the story here? It is the Somali constitution and the country’s future, not the VOA survey per se or the VOA press release which we see as an attempt at making the agency the story.
And, for those of you following the debate over legislation to revise the Smith-Mundt Act, here’s a perfect example of the agency attempting to propagandize the American people by giving itself a pat on the back and promoting itself.
This also reveals another angle to what the agency wants to do: get in the business of being a source of survey data.
As we’ve said before: it’s not what members of the BBG/IBB say, it’s what they do. It’s all there if you scope it out and connect the blocks.
Further, whether directly or indirectly, this YouTube data compiled by Pew Research is another manifestation of “losing the information war” that Secretary Clinton has described in congressional testimony. The only thing the careerists of the agency are capable of doing is closing the book on US international broadcasting and giving it the title: “Information War Lost.”
They seem to be well on their way – and seemingly proud of where they are and what they’re doing, which is perhaps the most contemptible thing of all.
As we recall, Mr. Ensor also observed that there will be no turning back from where the agency is headed – sort of symbolic of the mindset that might have been present on the bridge of the Titanic – plowing ahead with a false sense of confidence.
Whichever way you look at it, what the American taxpayer is being stuck with is a losing proposition: a skewed BBG/IBB vision of the future that is costing millions of dollars, losing audiences and not getting the job done to attract new audiences for those it is losing or abandoning largely through its own decision making processes that include cutting key audience constituencies (radio).
The BBG/IBB talks a big game. This agency pays big money to contractors and others for “marketing,” “innovation,” and support services such as that big, 50-million dollar contract with the Gallup organization.
They don’t have a whole lot to show for any of it.
What these guys of the BBG/IBB really need to be doing is learning from others, and that includes the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians. Of course, in the learning, it just might be found out that the BBG/IBB “strategy” is a bust – and that is something that can’t be allowed to happen or to be acknowledged particularly when Members of Congress are becoming increasingly irritated with the antics on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building and the way these officials have spent taxpayer money.
These guys are taking the agency and fading it into the deep shadows of serious news efforts, particularly for international audiences that the United States needs to reach. The Russians and Chinese mean business, as do the Iranians. They have a message and an agenda. Clearly, they intend to be global news and information heavyweights and are bringing their “A” game.
The BBG/IBB doesn’t have an “A” game.
Or a “B” or “C” game.
The BBG/IBB is right in the crosshairs of public scrutiny. You know it. We know it. And they know it. They are desperately trying to get out of view or engage in diversionary tactics to make it appear that they are doing something that is miraculously innovative, to somehow justify the mangling of US international broadcasting they are in the process of doing.
Innovation and effectiveness exist only in the fantasy world on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.
Face it: things are going badly and turning things around is beyond the reach of these people. They have no depth. They have no leadership skills and don’t feel their “corporate” mindset requires them to motivate or be responsive to the needs or concerns of their employees.
And of course mission effectiveness is completely off the radar.
Russia Today has put a twist on the BBG/IBB “flim flam strategic plan.” They have exposed it for what it is: a lot of hype, no depth and no substance.
Most importantly: no audience.
From Russia Today website – Corporate profile:
“RT’s total view count on YouTube exceeds half a billion, making RT a world record setter. No other news TV channel boasts such reach on the world’s biggest online video platform. YouTube Trends analysts estimate RT viewing figures are growing at an average rate of 850 thousand per day. RT was watched more than VEVO in March 2011, which is again, a first for any news channel on YouTube. RT on YouTube was nominated for a Global Communication Award in 2011. RT delivers stories often missed by mainstream to create news with an edge for the world’s biggest online video audience. Described by YouTube as ‘astonishing’ and‘one of the, if not the biggest news provider on YouTube worldwide’ (YouTube’s director of video partnerships Patrick Walker about RT during YouTube Presentation on MIPCOM 2010), RT’s YouTube platform is core to the ongoing emphasis on multi-media news-delivery across the RT family.”
“With first channel launched in December 2005, the RT network now consists of three global news channels broadcasting in English, Spanish and Arabic, RT America broadcasting from RT’s Washington studio and a documentary Channel RTDoc. With a global reach of over 430 million people, or 22% of all cable subscribers worldwide, RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more. The best of our broadcast can be found at RT’s YouTube channel, where the number of views has already exceeded half a billion, making RT the first TV news channel to break this record in YouTube’s history.
Now RT has 21 bureaus in 16 states, with a presence in Washington, New York, London, Paris, Delhi, Cairo, Baghdad, Kiev and other cities and employs over 2,000 media professionals around the globe.”