Broadcasting Board of Governors – BBG Strategy: We’re Abandoning Our Mission and We Don’t Care!
by The Federalist
Let’s get right down to the nitty-gritty:
Against every major American rival or adversary (China, Iran and Russia being the Big Three), the BBG/IBB is a big-time loser. It does not matter what the medium. It does not matter what the “platform.” The BBG/IBB “agnostics” have failed miserably. The results are the same.
The “BBG Strategy” is a strategy of defeat. These internationalists/globalists are just that: defeatists. They are embarrassed by the American historical record of greatness and the inspiration that greatness gives to others. They are not up to the task. They have reduced US international broadcasting to something third rate. They are not creating, as they claim, a “global news network.” They are getting out of the serious news business, as anyone in the VOA Central Newsroom knows all-too-well.
In place of the solid program requirements of the VOA Charter, the BBG Strategy (their “flim flam strategic plan”), has reduced content of VOA programs: more superficial, less long form and in-depth, leaving audiences with something less than a complete or substantive treatment of major world issues. The broadcast staff is overextended. Expected to do “more with less,” the actual result is “less with less,” in terms of both quality and quantity.
And worst of all, they want to “expand and elevate” social media and expect the American taxpayer to foot the bill. That is what the BBG/IBB “strategists” are all about: ripping off the American taxpayer, trafficking in “lifestyle” trivia and mediocrity and giving themselves bonuses in the process.
Try as they might, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and their bonus-mongering International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) staff can’t shake the obvious: they are trying to take the US Government out of the business of international broadcasting. In doing so, they are left to defend the indefensible, putting up a self-serving sales pitch on their “BBG Strategy” website.
One of the cornerstones of what the BBG/IBB does is use semantics and half-truths to argue its case.
Let’s consider some of their arguments:
We’re Not Eliminating Radio
Most assuredly, they are. In the FY2013 budget proposal, the BBG/IBB wants to eliminate or reduce 14 of 43 Voice of America (VOA) language services and their radio broadcasts. They want to make additional cuts to language services of the various grantee operations. For VOA, the reduction represents a loss of over 30% of its radio broadcasting capabilities. They are not expanding radio broadcasting operations. They are cutting them. Indeed, when the BBG/IBB shut down VOA Russian radio broadcasts in 2008, a remark attributed to a senior agency official was, “We want all of VOA to be like the Russian Service in five years.” That means: no radio.
We know these BBG/IBB types very well. When they want something, they bite down hard and don’t let go. You can sense the psychological lockjaw to their thinking. They have wanted to make serious cuts to radio operations for years. By far, this is the largest attack against radio by these bureaucrats in the history of the agency. If they get these cuts, they will want more, using the same justifications and tricked up “data” to rationalize their case. They want out of radio in a big way. That is the intended outcome.
The Chinese and Radio
The BBG/IBB concedes that the Chinese are “interested” in shortwave radio.
The truth of the matter is the Chinese government is committed to radio.
According to the BBG/IBB, the Chinese government has established a network of shortwave transmitters nationwide. The BBG/IBB notes that the Chinese use the same frequency that the BBG/IBB uses.
The BBG/IBB acknowledges that the Chinese are effective in jamming (or blocking) foreign broadcasts and “do so with great effect.”
In short, the BBG/IBB is on the defensive in China. This admission of Chinese effectiveness is saying that the BBG/IBB does not have effective countermeasures in place to overcome the Chinese success in jamming programs.
And ironically, the countermeasures taken by the Chinese government are the clearest acknowledgement that they take these VOA broadcasts seriously, when it seems the BBG/IBB does not.
The Chinese have also invested serious money, to the tune of about $7-billion dollars, in their overseas media operations. The BBG/IBB acknowledges that the Chinese want to be a big-time international media player.
Typically, the BBG/IBB is behind the curve. The Chinese are big-time media heavyweights. They have made their overseas media presence felt, including brand-new facilities in DC’s Chinatown, right across the National Mall from the BBG/IBB in the Cohen Building.
The BBG/IBB then turns around and dismisses the Chinese radio effort as a loss leader: something they are willing to do, “to accept fractional returns on its investment.”
If the BBG/IBB believes its own rhetoric, the Chinese have already won a great victory.
The BBG/IBB can’t see the obvious: With one stroke, the Chinese have created a successful countermeasure: they have established a domestic network using the same frequency as that used by the BBG/IBB and have blanketed the country to reach all its population. The Chinese government would not be making this substantial investment if the BBG/IBB broadcasts had no merit. They have made that investment to counter the news and information provided by US Government international broadcasting assets. And they wouldn’t be making that investment if audiences for shortwave radio programs were “so low,” as the BBG/IBB claims. In a country of 1.5 billion people, even so-called “low” percentages still translate into BIG population numbers.
Satellite Jamming and the Internet
The BBG/IBB goes on to argue that satellite jamming occurs only with “rogue states” (i.e., those pesky Iranians). The Chinese have yet to do so.
This confuses action with capability. The Chinese no doubt make daily threat assessments. That the Chinese have not done something does not equate with the lack of the capability to do something. If a judgment is made that the nature of a threat increases, no doubt the BBG will be very surprised with what the Chinese can do or are willing to do to protect their interests.
The BBG/IBB is not even paying attention to its own employees. We remember quite well an articulate, demonstrative argument offered by members of the VOA China Branch in 2011 when the BBG/IBB wanted to wipe out VOA Mandarin and Cantonese broadcasts. When it comes to capabilities of the Chinese government, a staffer correctly observed: “They can do it and they will do it.”
The BBG/IBB avoids arguing that their Internet content can’t be blocked. That’s because the Chinese, among others, have demonstrated they are more than capable of blocking, controlling and monitoring the Internet. Indeed, they have even created their own search engines and other common Internet features for use by their own population. They block. They control. They filter. The more successful the Chinese are in developing and expanding their own Internet model, the less effective will be the Internet outsiders, including the BBG/IBB, in developing a following.
And the BBG/IBB is missing the boat in another big way: the Chinese look inward for answers, not necessarily to some outside source. The Chinese leadership isn’t stupid. It is well aware that the needs of its people have to be met. It has made a conscious decision to put economic development as its top priority which in turn impacts on the effort to improve Chinese standards of living. It is not willing to turn loose the “Wild West” of the Internet on its citizens and risk what the government sees as great strides in Chinese development, stability and projection of its power.
We’re not defending what the Chinese are doing. We’re are analyzing their actions and assessing the impact of their decisions.
Like we said, the Chinese have already won a great victory. They see the BBG/IBB actions as a lack of resolve, a manifestation of weakness and lack of commitment. They’d be right on all counts.
And it doesn’t hurt to have about 7 times the money as the BBG/IBB (the kind of money which the agency will never see anytime soon) for the Chinese to make their model work.
And after all of this, one should pay close attention to the robust discussion going on inside China over the ouster of party leader Bo Xilai and the detention of his wife who is implicated in the killing of a British business consultant. Some of that discussion is taking place on the Chinese Internet, even in the face of government efforts to shut down or block certain sites.
In short, the Chinese are demonstrating that they don’t need the BBG/IBB to tell them what to think or how to conduct discussion and debate over topical Chinese issues. They are doing it for themselves.
The BBG/IBB Strategic Train Wreck:
One of the things the BBG/IBB “brain trust” has really excelled in is moving US Government international broadcasting into a no-win position.
Let’s go back to 2008 when the BBG/IBB dumped its VOA Russian broadcasts.
You know what that represents?
The BBG/IBB unconditionally surrendered to the Russians in the arena of international broadcasting.
Within weeks of that decision, the Russian military went on the offensive against the Republic of Georgia. It wasn’t just a purely conventional military operation. The Russians also used sophisticated cyber warfare assets to interdict Georgian and other websites.
And since, the Russians have expanded their broadcasting operations directed toward North America across all media: print, radio and television.
These guys don’t mess around.
And as we have seen with the VOA Russian website, it is all-too-easy to be compromised by false interviews and blogs that are easily taken over by anti-American, Russian ultra-nationalist postings. It’s a great deal for the Russians – whether government or non-government – to use a US Government website to fry the Americans.
These guys aren’t stupid. On the other hand:
At the same time the BBG/IBB was taking Russian broadcasts out of the strategic US Government broadcasting equation, they were also going after the VOA Georgian Service. Remember what we said earlier about the BBG/IBB: they bite down and don’t let go when they’re after something. They want to give up the Georgians and have once again put VOA Georgian on the chopping block.
It may have also escaped the attention of the BBG/IBB that there is a major conflict going on in Syria. The Syrian government has been tossing ordnance (artillery fire) into neighboring Turkey.
The BBG/IBB wants to give up its VOA Turkish service.
If there ever was a really strategic country in the Middle East, Near East or anywhere that has a convergence of critical strategic interests, it’s Turkey. And it’s been that way for two thousand years.
Of course, history is the thing the BBG/IBB knows the least and cares about even less.
And they’re giving up on Spanish to Latin America, including Cuba.
Who is filling the void?
Those pesky Iranians!
And they’re giving up on broadcasts to Tibet.
Need we say more about the defeatists and capitulators of the BBG/IBB “strategy?”
These are the same people that make gratuitous statements about “supporting freedom and democracy.” In view of what the agency is doing, that statement is BBG/IBB hypocrisy in action.
The actions of the BBG/IBB are a statement of its own. Their actions and intended objectives are saying that people and places are not important to them. Worse, they are saying that these people and places are not important to the United States Government.
And ultimately, the BBG/IBB demonstrates that it lacks the fortitude to stay with its mission. The Chinese had it right when one of their state newspapers called the decision to abandon Mandarin and Cantonese broadcasts last year “mission unfinished.”
So here is where things stand:
The Russians know they have won a great victory.
The Chinese know they are well on the way to winning a great victory.
The Iranians are poised to have a field day in Latin America.
And don’t even bring up that “Arab Spring” nonsense. All those American taxpayer millions spent on broadcasting to the Arab and Muslim world over the last decade and the end result is heading toward something wholly unsettling to American interests.
It is no wonder that the United States is one, big-time loser in the arena of global public opinion. If you’re scoring results, these BBG/IBB people are 0-4 in big league play.
Let’s go back to that $50-million dollar contract with the Gallup polling organization.
The more we think about it, the more we see that contract as less of a vehicle for research and more of an attempt by the BBG/IBB at a public relations device – an attempt to use “data” to validate a dysfunctional “strategic plan.” It’s more of the same from the BBG/IBB: beating themselves senseless expecting a different result.
Like we said, they bite down and don’t let go, even when what they are doing compromises US national and public interests and rips off the American taxpayer in the process.
The BBG/IBB has set in motion a process in which the ultimate outcome is to abandon the agency’s mission. There will be no turning back. To do so would be an admission that they are wrong. To repair the damage would cost the American taxpayers many more millions of dollars.
Either way, to continue the dysfunctional plan or to take remedial action to repair the damage from that plan, the BBG/IBB folks don’t care.
The ultimate expression of arrogance and the corporate “strategy” which they have adopted.