BBG Watch




We recommend a look at the response by Conniff to a question from Shell about whether MBN is actually making a difference….having an influence
there…how do you tell…how do you measure…?

Key quote from Conniff who says OMB asked about this, this week…”hammered away at it…”

Conniff: “Reach is not the paramount issue…….”

“For those people, when they watch, it does add to their understanding, appreciation….”

Most significantly, note the entire thrust of the MBN presentation, especially Conniff, which is about anti-ISIS messaging.

Shell says that 9 out of 10 Americans would say, if they are aware of BBG, that it should be focusing on the Middle East.

Says 1 out of 10 might say focus on Putin. And he says seems to be “general narrative that we’re not having as much of an influence as we could be…”

Conniff: ” . . . in our surveys [we ask] a series of sub-questions…do you trust us, does it improve your understanding of democracy, does it [enhance] your understanding of American foreign policy,….and we believe the answers to those questions WHEN AGGREGATED IN A CERTAIN WAY…provide more insight into impact than we have ever had before.”

Full quote, after referring to BBG research models that he asserts are “far in advance” of other USG agencies….

“We measure reach of course, but as everyone now seems to agree, reach is now not the paramount issue, it is the people who watch, is it making a difference? In our surveys we ask a series of sub-questions, do you trust us, does it improve your understanding of democracy, does it [enhance] your understanding of American foreign policy, a whole series of questions, and we believe the answers to those questions, when aggregated in a certain way, provide more insight into the impact than we have ever had before.”

One board member asks if MBN has anything in its shows that specifically addresses foreign fighters (ISIS)….such as interviews with former foreign fighters. Conniff talks about one of the “subtle messages…..” in interviews with former foreign fighters or family members.

It would be helpful for us, in whatever we can, to get some information about OMB examination of MBN, which Conniff referred to at several points today. I have no contacts at OMB, but perhaps someone else has an idea…

Kempner, by phone, says any successfull media campaign requires a paid element as a catalyst.

At about the 59 minute mark, Shell begins to speak of the question of “re-thinking” Sawa…..given the number of channels available in global media…

Conniff maintains that “12 million (claimed Sawa audience figure) has remained constant.

But then an unidentified person in the audience speaks of the importance of Sawa “reach” in certain countries, like Iraq….”there is still a very important role for radio and Radio Sawa…”

Shell says he was talking to someone yesterday about a debate going on in the Middle East….people saying “where is America…why aren’t you helping us….etc Others saying that by saying we are here, by bombing….allows ISIS to stand up and say they are standing up to America. As you tell America’s story, how do you balance these two different arguments?

Conniff: “We try not to look at this from a policy standpoint because you don’t know where that takes you….we look at it as a journalism question, we cover events straightforwardly…but we also invite on State Department and other policymakers all the time to explain U.S. policy, to have a debate…” “You can’t hide from it, I think that’s a mistake…the governments in the region across-the-board aren’t very happy with America for a lot of different reasons, they will either ignore it or spin it negatively so there has to be somebody that goes right down the middle…”

Conniff asked about BBG stations working together….refers to retreat
last summer in Prague. Need to share information on future coverage…
not like on a daily news cycle…but on special programs.

A board member asks Conniff about what ISIS is doing in the media space [note that all board members appear to be referring to ISIS as “Daesh”]

Conniff notes that MBN had Ryan Crocker on discussing Syria.

Shell says next meeting December 3rd in DC at RFA. Kerry has expressed interest in meeting with board (not in DC that week, so meeting may be moved to accommodate). Lansing to be driving the agenda at that board, including in the so called Deep Dive.

CUSIB STATEMENT as prepared for delivery:

Good morning and thank you for welcoming me today.

As a representative for the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting, I’m here to present CUSIB’s official statement to the Board of Governors. Since the August 2015 meeting was cancelled, much of CUSIB’s presentation today is a broader scope of issues and not confined entirely to Middle East Broadcasting.

CUSIB has had the chance to officially welcome CEO John Lansing. As CUSIB has done in the past to the former CEO and to all new BBG Governors, CUSIB continues to extend any assistance or advice to Mr. Lansing in his new position.

CUSIB believes that if the BBG is reorganized through proposed Congressional legislation, there will be a reorganization of the IBB. Either at that point or before, CUSIB is hopeful that Mr. Lansing will consider if there are too many attorneys or managers on staff for this news agency, if there are too many managers on staff, and if that money would be better spent on broadcasting.

CUSIB will be resubmitting a FOIA request to inquire about the travel expenses for IBB management. Disclosure of this information will allow for more transparency involved in the cost of managing this agency.

CUSIB is opposed to the BBG’s proposed radio broadcast cuts to Afghanistan, a country where most people live in rural areas. With the proposed reductions that were submitted to the House Appropriations Committee, the people in Afghanistan will only get 2 hours of broadcasting services. With the heightened attention to Kunduz and the bombing of the hospital there, how can the BBG deny the population information at such a crucial moment in history?

In regard soft diplomacy, CUSIB is concerned about poor people in China and Tibet who do not have access to cell phones or the Internet, and who are desperate for uncensored news and basic human rights.

With China’s great firewall, great cannon – and all of Chinese government related hacking in mind – the BBG cannot rely solely upon the Internet to broadcast news into China and Tibet. We all know that radio is a relatively low-cost media platform and the people inside China and Tibet who listen to it cannot be monitored.

Since there have been projections for VOA radio to be gone by 2017, in the next few weeks Members of CUSIB will be approaching the US Congress to prevent these services from being eliminated. CUSIB will be asking for an increase in funding for short wave and medium wave radio broadcasting in China and Tibet. CUSIB is also asking for an increase in funding for RFA along with VOA Cantonese, Mandarin and Tibetan services – as well as in Afghanistan.

Taxpayer dollars that could be spent for these language services would be better spent than reducing them and spending more money on the bureaucracy.

Thank you.

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