Brian Conniff
Brian Conniff

The Broadcasting Board of Governors met at the Springfield, VA, headquarters of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks on February 25 for an open board meeting and an in-depth examination of Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa.

A recording of today’s meeting may be available here shortly.

An international media expert who watched the event told BBG Watch afterwards that MBN president Brian Conniff gave a persuasive presentation that showed both the networks strengths and limitations. It was like night and day watching this presentation as opposed to the presentation about the Voice of America at the December BBG meeting in Washington, DC, the expert said.

In response to questions from BBG Chairman Jeff Shell, Ambassador Crocker, and Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, Conniff successfully defended the network’s identity and journalistic standards that differentiate it from the rest of much more popular media outlets in the Middle East.

Conniff’s answers underscored the reality that MBN is an American media organization closely linked by the audience with the United States rather than an American-funded “surrogate broadcasting organization” with a high degree of local independence, our expert observed.

Whether a more surrogate approach to media outreach in the Middle East is needed, or whether it would be desirable to have a surrogate media outlet in addition to what appears to be a Voice of America under a different name, is another issue worth exploring, our expert said.

Political realities in the United States may limit such an option, our expert also observed.

Our expert said that Brian Conniff was right about the limitations of affiliations and program syndication in the Middle East. Conniff understands BBG’s mission and he is right about the dangers of fluff journalism being pushed by IBB’s strategic planners and some of Voice of America’s key executives, the expert said.

Overall, Conniff and his team made an excellent presentation to the BBG board, showing that they know what they are doing and know both the realities and the limitations of the political and media environment in the Middle East, our expert concluded.