Helle C. Dale, a Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation has written another in-depth analysis of management problems at the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In her latest article, Why America Has Trouble Reaching Iran: VOA’s Persian News Network in Dire Need of Reform, she describes the current state of Voice of America broadcasts to Iran and proposes a number of reforms. (A similar analysis is also urgently needed for the VOA Russian Service which is also in deep crisis brought about by BBG staffing, programming and marketing policies.)
Here are some of Dale’s main conclusions and recommendations:
1. Keeping U.S. international broadcasting a priority in an age of budget constraints is a challenging task. Broadcasting to Iran presents a particular challenge.
2. The leading sponsor of global terrorism and an aspiring nuclear power, Iran has 74 million people, 60 percent of whom are under age 30—many of which are opposed to the regime in Tehran and hunger for news of the outside world.
3. Tragically, America’s principal instrument for communicating with Iranians, Voice of America’s Persian News Network (PNN), is not up to the task.
4. PNN is riddled with problems—inadequate language proficiency among staff members; poor morale; focus on Internet communications, which reach far fewer Iranians than do TV and radio; and anti-American and pro-Tehran reporting.
It is incumbent on the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the leadership of Voice of America to implement reforms that will improve performance and morale at PNN.
How the U.S. Can Reach Iran
PNN presents a complex portrait: On the one hand, its contribution has undeniable importance in support of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. national interests. On the other, the actual implementation of PNN’s mandate is clearly flawed. Communication difficulties, internal culture, and status as part of a government agency have hindered its ability to achieve its full potential and to provide a meaningful and fulfilling professional environment for its employees, both Iranian and American. To make PNN an effective part of a comprehensive U.S. strategy toward Iran, the BBG should:
Restructure the PNN workplace. Professional management training for supervisors is a must, as is increased vertical communication within the network and greater transparency in hiring and promotion.
Improve the hiring process to make sure that Persian-language and English-language capabilities exist at all levels of production and management.
Write new guidelines applying to contract employees to ensure equitable treatment and accountability for all.
Create a board of Farsi-speaking advisers whose purpose it will be to monitor broadcasts and provide feedback on PNN program content.
Demand that PNN editors and producers use the resources of U.S. taxpayers to provide more professional, diverse, and technologically proficient programming, anchored in American values and aligned with U.S. national interests.
Exercise its power of oversight and request that the Foreign Relations Committees in the House and Senate hold regular hearings on issues relating to U.S. international broadcasting.
The Obama Administration needs a consistent policy that supports the human rights and democratic aspirations of Iranians—and U.S. international broadcasting has a major part to play in this context. When the content of U.S. international broadcasting takes an anti-American or pro-Tehran slant, it can be confusing for Iranian audiences and democracy activists who are looking for support from the outside world, especially from the United States. It is incumbent on the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the leadership of Voice of America to implement a series of reforms to improve the performance and personnel morale at PNN. An essential part of the very mission of Voice of America depends on it.
Read the original article: Why America Has Trouble Reaching Iran: VOA’s Persian News Network in Dire Need of Reform by Helle Dale, The Heritage Foundation.