BBG Watch Commentary
The name — SPUTNIK — for a news agency and international radio may sound silly in English, outdated — as a relic of the 1950s — and made even more funny by association with Putin (Putnik), but the new Russian international news agency and international radio website is slick (compare it to Voice of America’s voanews.com as shown in a screenshot below).
Sputnik is likely to allow the Kremlin to supplement RT’s (formerly Russia Today) already outstanding propaganda and disinformation effort with even more anti-U.S. and anti-Western news in English and other languages, as well as multilingual radio broadcasts prepared for local distribution.
The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. State Department’s Public Diplomacy section and the White House should definitely worry about this new Russian international media outreach initiative.
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel said recently that in the face of strong foreign propaganda machines such as Russia and the Islamic State, the U.S. needs to harden its “soft power” with its own participation in the global conversation. He noted, speaking about RT, that Russia has outstanding messaging capabilities on social media. He observed that this is an area the United States “should own, but we don’t really own it.” White House Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes made similar observations to BBG members.
Stengel is relatively new in his job and, under the VOA Charter, neither he nor Rhodes can have any influence over VOA’s news content which has been mismanaged for years by VOA’s senior executives.
State Department’s social media outreach is actually many times more effective than VOA English News Facebook and Twitter. VOA’s only hope is now in Andy Lack who was selected by the Broadcasting Board of Governors to be BBG’s CEO, but he has not yet taken up his position. There is also a bipartisan bill, H.R. 4490, pending in Congress designed to reform both BBG and VOA.
On the day of Sputnik’s launch, Voice of America presented yet another proof of its mismanaged state with a malfunctioning voanews.com website, still prominently showing a VOA FEATURE VIDEO, “Voters head to the polls,” which was about LAST WEEK’s [Emphasis added by BBG Watch] U.S. mid-term elections, and a Reuters report (British-based international news agency) instead of its own (as required by VOA Charter) analyzing key issues of U.S. politics.
Sputnik promises to have strong local news presence and local radio program rebroadcasting in international markets.
“Sputnik has multimedia press centers, it produces exclusive content for own web-sites and has radio service for the local audience,” its website states. Sputnik also announced that “All of Sputnik’s editorial boards in major world capitals will maintain their own websites and broadcast from local radio stations.”
From “About Us” Sputnik page:
Sputnik, a major new media brand with modern multimedia centers in dozens of countries, was launched on November 10, 2014.
Sputnik points the way to a multipolar world that respects every country’s national interests, culture, history and traditions.
Sputnik tells the untold. The agency is uniquely positioned as a provider of alternative news content and a radio broadcaster.
Sputnik’s broadcasting is entirely geared toward foreign audiences.
All of Sputnik’s editorial boards in major world capitals will maintain their own websites and broadcast from local radio stations.
Sputnik radio broadcasting will operate in 30 languages in 2015, for a total of over 800 hours a day, covering over 130 cities and 34 countries.
Sputnik has multimedia press centers, it produces exclusive content for own web-sites and has radio service for the local audience.
Sputnik’s radio broadcasting will use only modern formats, such as FM, digital DAB/DAB+ (Digital Radio Broadcasting), HD-Radio, as well as mobile phones and the Internet.
Sputnik produces its own multimedia content and broadcasts in: Russian, Abkhaz, Azerbaijani, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Crimean Tatar, Dari, English, Estonian, French, Finnish, German, Georgian, Hindi, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Moldavian, Polish, Portuguese, Pashto, Spanish, Serbian, Turkish, Tajik, Uzbek, Ukrainian, Japanese.
Sputnik news feeds in English, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese are available around the clock. Regional editorial offices in Washington, Cairo, Beijing and Montevideo work 24/7 to provide a non-stop newscast.
Sputnik photo service relies on a worldwide network of photojournalists.
From Sputnik Twitter:
Sputnik international news brand launched – watch video http://t.co/1Rs0eAVRdq pic.twitter.com/z5y4deZCaQ
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) November 11, 2014
New global media outlet Sputnik to launch news feed in Chinese language http://t.co/vp6yZ0IC40 pic.twitter.com/4lmGzhXj6g
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) November 11, 2014