by The Federalist
As we already know, as part of the administration’s FY2013 budget, the Broadcasting Board of Governors and International Broadcasting Bureau (BBG/IBB) want to destroy 33% of Voice of America (VOA) language services, totally or in part. The list of services affected has already been identified in other commentaries and won’t be repeated here. Cuts to other US Government broadcasting entities are also proposed.
Concurrent with this demolition operation is something else which we believe is intended to facilitate the process and ultimately take the United States Government out of the business of direct international broadcasting. Considered in all its aggregate parts, the BBG/IBB “flim flam strategic plan” will represent a strategic victory for US adversaries around the world.
Below is an email from VOA director David Ensor. In this email, Mr. Ensor announces that content from other US Government entities will be commingled on the VOA website. We can dismiss the “blue sky, best case scenario” outlined in Mr. Ensor’s memo. Things don’t go smoothly inside the Cohen Building and this will be no exception. But it makes for interesting reading and gaining insight into the mindset of the BBG/IBB.
Let us examine what we believe to be the scenario that is unfolding and its long-range goals and consequences.
Commingling content from different US Government broadcasting entities is disturbing. Each entity has a specific mission as identified in enacting legislation by the US Congress. If successful in demolishing the various broadcasting assets, the BBG/IBB clearly would intend to increase the commingled content to the point that it will be difficult to identify what content belongs to whom.
With the broadcasting elements destroyed, the BBG/IBB will have accomplished what it sets out to do: deprive global publics of direct US Government broadcasts and limit agency output to the Internet, making it the sole source for audio, video and text. The agency will have eliminated its core audience base on radio. To follow will be television. The agency may claim otherwise, but it is obvious that it would be substantially cheaper to produce web-television rather than direct broadcast television. And please note that this will not be high-end television. It will be cheap television which equates with bad television.
At present, the agency’s own data shows that its audience via the Internet is about 10-million. That’s 10-million out of a world population of 7-billion. It would take decades to acquire the audience the BBG/IBB intentionally will abandon: 100-million on radio, another 100-million on television.
In the process, it is likely that the identity of the various US Government broadcasting assets will be so badly obliterated that no one will know what the replacement is and who is running it. To outward appearances, it will be just another (mediocre) website competing with thousands if not millions of others. It will have social media content as its top priority and maybe some news material dispersed throughout. But don’t expect it to be anything remotely cutting edge or up to the same standard as the VOA Charter – which the BBG/IBB makes every effort to seemingly ignore, evade or disavow knowledge of still being in existence.
Also to be considered is the success that various hostile elements have had in cyber-warfare operations against agency websites. BBG/IBB websites have demonstrated their value – as vulnerable soft targets for honing one’s offensive cyber-warfare skills. If there were Olympic medals for cyber warfare operations, the Iranians, Chinese and Russians would be competing for gold, silver and bronze – especially when going up against rube operations of the BBG/IBB.
Not part of the Ensor memo is another development which is an important element in the mix.
Recently, the BBG/IBB dropped InterMedia as its audience research partner. A new contract has been let with the well known Gallup polling organization. This is a $50-million dollar contract which appears to be parsed out in $10-million dollar annual increments.
One of the things the BBG/IBB hopes to do is market the research provided by Gallup to customers. These customers would include other international broadcasters and media. It would also market the research to other agencies of the US Government, including the Department of Defense and perhaps also the Central Intelligence Agency.
It is hoped that selling its research to non-US Government customers will help offset the costs incurred in the new Gallup contract.
The results of this “strategy” have already turned up some ironic results.
Recently, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced that it had almost doubled its audience in Iran. Now who do you suppose supplied the research data that the BBC relied upon?
The Broadcasting Board of Governors and International Broadcasting Bureau!
Thus, the agency’s own research shows that the BBC is clobbering BBG broadcasts to Iran via its Persian News Network, which is supposedly coming in at around 6% – and maybe less now.
So why are we spending a lot of money on what appears to be yet another BBG/IBB failure-in-progress?
But there’s more to this scenario.
One can envision without needing too much imagination to see where this is heading.
One can foresee a BBG/IBB that will reduce itself to being a social website which also supplies research data to a variety of clients and generates revenue. Let’s carry it further: it can relocate itself to the Dulles Town Center, out of sight and out of mind and without having to manage and maintain expensive broadcasting infrastructure and staff.
And it will undoubtedly be fully privatized.
But privatized means just that. Should this be the scenario that comes to pass, the Congress should end taxpayer support of BBG/IBB activities. The BBG/IBB will be out of the business of direct US Government international broadcasting which has been determined to be in the national and public interest, social chit-chat is not. It will not have or support the missions of its current entities. It will have re-fabricated itself as the “GNN:”
Global Nothing Network.
Mr. Ensor’s email/memo follows for your reading pleasure.
From: David Ensor
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:28 PM
To: VOA Language Service Chiefs; VOA Language Service Division Directors; VOA Language Programming Directorate; VOA Managing Editors; Matthew Baise
Cc: Steve Redisch; Rebecca McMenamin; Barbara Brady; David Borgida; Richard M. Lobo; Jeffrey Trimble; Jay Tolson
Our English language website-one of the most popular websites offered by U.S. international broadcasting– is going to try something new.
In the next few days, our website will broaden its offering to readers, by adding a few stories each day chosen by VOA web editors from the reporting of our sister news organizations, RFE/RL, RFA, MBN and OCB. This will enrich our already strong site, and we hope, attract more readers to it, (and also to those of our colleagues, since there will be links).
Here is how it will work: when the VOA web team identifies a story from-for example RFE– that it would like to use, it will send that story to the relevant VOA personnel to make sure the story is not one that VOA already has from its own reporting, or in which there may be problems. For example, a story on Ukraine would be sent to the VOA Ukrainian Service and to Central News, for vetting. They will then have about an hour to let the web editor know if:
1. VOA already has this story so if we’re putting it on our website, we should use our own version,
2. There may be factual or editorial problems that need to be addressed before the story should be put on our site.
When the web editor does not hear back on either point one or two, the story will go up on the site about an hour after the query.
I want to stress another important point about VOANews.com:
the VOA English language web team is eager to put more original content stories generated by VOA journalists on the site. Reporters working in the language services, and language service chiefs should be on the look-out for stories that break news or offer special insights and that might be of interest to VOA’s English internet public. If your service breaks a story that might be of interest beyond your audience, please assign someone to make at least a rough English translation and flag it to Central News, and to Matthew Baise and his team.
This will help VOANews.com to continue its growth as a significant global site, one that offers original content, in addition to a presentation of the main stories around the world and about the Unite States.
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Washington DC 20237
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