International Broadcasting Bureau – Vigorously Branding Dysfunctional and Defunct – Information War Lost: The Russian Front: The Crimean Offensive 2014 – Part Two

By The Federalist

Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade, 25th Oct. 1854, under Major General the Earl of Cardigan, by William Simpson
Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade, 25th Oct. 1854, under Major General the Earl of Cardigan, by William Simpson


We read the Sunday post by our BBG Watch editors regarding the lackadaisical response top Voice of America (VOA) officials had to Russian military operations in the Crimea (“Pressure From BBG Board forces Voice of America executives to interrupt their weekend,” March 2, 2014).

After reading the post, we reached this conclusion:


VOA officials do not want to be in the business of serious US Government international broadcasting. They do not want to broadcast timely news and information.


Generally, they have rendered the agency substantially ineffective and irrelevant compared to other international broadcasters/multimedia outlets, particularly RT (also referred to as Russia Today) and Voice of Russia who have not surprisingly seriously ramped up their broadcast programming and websites covering the Russian view of events in Ukraine generally, and the Crimea specifically.

One thing you notice and get to appreciate is when the Russians pull things together they mount a major effort across all disciplines, not merely the military aspects but support activities as well which includes their media assets.

By comparison, the United States is flat-footed and dumbfounded.

That starts at the White House and trickles down to the already dysfunctional and defunct VOA and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) with its repudiated “strategic plan” which has placed the agency in the position it finds itself today.

Why are the architects of this plan – Bruce Sherman and Jeffrey Trimble – still in their offices the Cohen Building at this point?


Once again, the lackluster and indifferent response by VOA blares dysfunctional and defunct to the rest of the world.


Mr. Obama has said there will be “consequences” for the Russian incursion and de facto occupation of the Crimea.

Like what?

Let’s remember who we are talking about here.

Twice in their history, the Russians ejected two invaders: Napoleon in the 19th century and Hitler in the 20th. In both instances, the invaders made it to/or near Moscow. In both cases, the Russians chased the invaders all the way back to their respective capitals. Take a look at that effort on a map and calculate the distances. Over 26-MILLION people identified as Russians died during World War Two. That figure represents about half of the global total of World War Two casualties.


Do we want to talk about “consequences?”


Everything about the calculations made by Russian president Vladimir Putin is intended to remind Russians of their past greatness and their greatness to be. He fully intends that the Russian state be rebuilt in the image of that greatness, a source of pride for the Russian people – a formidable force in global affairs – masters of their own destiny. He has made a calculation that the benefits of this move outweigh the risks. To date, he appears correct.

And let us not forget that Mr. Putin has the traitor Edward Snowden in his stable who appears to be gladly of the mindset to undermine US national interests. Who knows how much damage Snowden is wreaking in events underway in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin must certainly believe US leadership has gotten soft in the head.

In the moment, we hope that Ukrainian and Russian field commanders exercise restraint, respect each other as professional soldiers and avoid firing on each other and allow for negotiations in the next phase in the current standoff.


Advantage: Putin


The Bad News For The BBG


An integral part of the repudiated Sherman/Trimble “strategic plan” has been the seduction of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with a hackneyed mission statement, “supporting freedom and democracy.” Add to this the declaration by VOA director David Ensor that the agency is “not neutral” in the arena of freedom of expression. He might have meant well, but most likely, the only thing people abroad remember is the “not neutral” part.

Memo to the BBG: you are in big, big trouble.


For example:


  • How do you answer the question: “How do support ‘freedom and democracy’ in the Crimea at this stage of events?”


  • What is your response to those Ukrainians who hold up hand-made signs saying, “Help us?”


We already know the answer: senior VOA officials have to be ordered to get off their posteriors and do something in response to breaking events.


Why are David Ensor and Steve Redisch even still in the Cohen Building at this point?

In so many words, if you can’t help the Ukrainians – or anyone else for that matter – in some meaningful way, you have nothing to offer.

In reality, the BBG does not support freedom and democracy. What it does is advocate freedom and democracy. That is only a slight improvement because the agency has done two things: (a) it has substantially reduced its global broadcast footprint and (b) it does little to fully educate global publics to the labors required to sustain democratic political, social and economic processes.


Sanctimonious platitudes are a poor substitute for substance.


The only way out of this disaster – if it is salvageable at all at this juncture – is to put the agency back on message which happens to be for the Voice of America:


The VOA Charter


If that can’t be done, the implosion of the agency is complete.

And you can best believe, bingo parties, ice cream socials and drawings with crayons are not going to get you where this agency needs to be either.

We are aware that the BBG has undertaken a study regarding its remaining shortwave transmissions. The claim is that global publics don’t listen to shortwave radio anymore. This claim seems to fly in the face that one factory in China (no surprise) is running 24/7 manufacturing shortwave radios. Similarly, the Grundig company is producing shortwave radios as well.

Compare the value of a shortwave radio (at roughly $25 US) to purchasing a personal computer, tablet or other device, having Internet connectivity and/or the support infrastructure supplying power for all these technological marvels that we take for granted but are less so in places where communication, news and information are blocked, restricted or under government surveillance.

The IBB “strategic plan” believes that it can undermine its core radio audience and still have a viable mission.

In its many recent surveys with the Gallup polling organization, Mr. Sherman and company blather on about new technologies, mobile apps and the like.


However, these surveys scrupulously avoid the issue of whether or not the radio audiences abandoned by the IBB have migrated to new agency technology or if they have migrated to other radio broadcasters who fill the vacuum left by the IBB retreat from international broadcasting.


Senior agency officials make claims of audience growth. At best, it is simply untrue. At worst, it takes the appearance of official misinformation. Sources in other agencies of the US Government emphatically state that the agency’s audience numbers are unverifiable and inflated. If true –

We are talking about an agency that is already dead and hoping to hang on by “make believe” and artificial life support via false audience numbers to secure funding for something agency officials have made unworkable and ineffective.


The Federalist

March 2014