FreeMediaOnline.org & Free Media Online Blog The Federalist Commentary, November 5, 2008, San Francisco — This commentary by one of our regular contributors offer a useful perspective on the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors and its policies that led to the closing of many Voice of America radio broadcasting services, including radio broadcasts to Russia.
The BBG strategy clearly abandons the have-nots. In doing so, the BBG dismisses what we have already learned; namely, that trouble often begins in places that are “off the radar screen” and the ability of peoples in these circumstances to wage war, rebellion or terrorism. The consequences of this lesson should have been learned by the BBG on September 11, 2001. Clearly, it has not. The Federalist
The great American showman PT Barnum is said to have made the statement that there’s a sucker born every moment. One is left to wonder who the sucker is in the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) strategic plan. This creation of staffers serving the BBG posits an all-or nothing Internet strategy in which the Internet would be the sole source for all BBG programs…audio, video and text. The BBG would eventually abandon almost all direct broadcasts by radio and television. While this would result in large savings in production and transmission costs, it would pass those costs onto the potential listener or viewer of BBG media
The BBG and the staff proponents of this plan have an “inside the Beltway” myopic view of the rest of the world. That view is high-tech driven where one has virtually instantaneous access to all forms of media. Not only does one have the access, the population set also has the per capita income (or consumer debt limitations) to purchase and maintain state-of-the-art technology.
Well beyond the Beltway, international audiences are less well situated. With a world population numbering in the billions, per capita income levels vary, the ability to purchase the technology that the BBG would require of its audience is limited as would be reliable infrastructure sources of power and energy required to operate and pay for the necessary equipment.
The BBG plan also dismisses any notion of electronic countermeasures to interfere with its Internet-driven product, measures in the 21st century that replicate, in effect, the radio jamming of the 20th century.
The BBG is in the formative stages of implementing this strategy. It has deliberately abandoned radio and television audiences in Russia. The decision to do so was made prior to the Russian invasion of Georgia and remains in place to this day.
An examination of the consequences of this plan is in order:
First, the BBG is no longer a serious international broadcaster. It is abandoning mass media audiences in favor of an elitist plan, reliant solely upon people of means to purchase the necessary technology and support (a personal computer with Internet broadband access and a reliable source of power). The question then becomes whether or not the societal elites have an interest in the message that the BBG is offering. The follow-on question is what interest do the societal elites in the target area have with regard to the general socio-political issues in the target area? The divisions between have and have-not in many countries are stark. What interest would the societal elites have in “sharing the wealth,” so to speak?
Second, in adopting this plan, the BBG is committing the Congress and the American taxpayer to a plan that will take decades to reach its optimum potential. This is also assuming a best case scenario, uninterrupted by war, social upheaval or natural disasters. Large segments of the world’s population live well below the poverty level. These populations struggle with ineffective or failed government infrastructures and most contend with a daily struggle over basic necessities…food, clothing, shelter, energy and potable water supplies. Where does the high-tech BBG PC and Internet-driven technology fit in? The answer is that it doesn’t…in the immediate and indeterminate future.
This strategy deliberately abandons existing and inexpensive technologies that are affordable even among struggling populations. Radio continues to be a viable medium serving mass audiences. Unlike the BBG, most serious international broadcasters maintain their radio broadcasts while using the Internet as a complement where access is available. These broadcasters have not executed a wholesale abandonment of known audiences and proven technologies as part of their integrated international broadcasting strategies.
Some historians and economists believe that the next world war will be fought between the Northern and Southern hemispheres…in short, a struggle between the haves and the have-nots. The BBG strategy clearly abandons the have-nots. In doing so, the BBG dismisses what we have already learned; namely, that trouble often begins in places that are “off the radar screen” and the ability of peoples in these circumstances to wage war, rebellion or terrorism. The consequences of this lesson should have been learned by the BBG on September 11, 2001. Clearly, it has not.
If there is one thing that is obvious from the BBG strategic plan it is this: it provides long-term career job security for its proponents on the BBG staff. In each successive budget cycle, one can be certain that the BBG will make a case for more taxpayer funds to justify and support this strategic debacle. The question then becomes whether or not the Congress will exercise proper oversight of BBG activities or succumb to yet another manifestation of “inside the Beltway” myopia. Lack of oversight has put us in the circumstances that we are in today, with a BBG that is out of step with international geopolitical realities and intentionally silencing itself to known audiences.
The Federalist 2008