BBG Watch Commentary

The Internet was supposed to foster democracy. China has different ideas.” was the headline of a recent Washington Post article.

“These, apparently, are the days when such a story can be written without a single mention of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), or at least a quote from someone in USIB. We are now less than an afterthought,” a former high-level U.S. government official who wants to remain anonymous told BBG Watch.

According to Voice of America Director Ms. Amanda Bennett’s figures, less than 0.0001% Mandarin speakers, 0.0004% English speakers, 0.002% Spanish speakers, 0.006% Russian speakers, and 0.03% Persian speakers watched VOA’s live online streaming of Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump’s speech last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA) shortwave radio and satellite television broadcasts are listened to or seen in China, but the audience to these direct broadcasts is difficult to measure or estimate in the repressive environment. Individuals in China may be afraid to report that they listen to or watch VOA or RFA. Due to monitoring of web use by the Chinese authorities, it may be safer for the Chinese to follow direct-from-air radio and TV broadcasts than to try to get U.S. news from the Internet, where in any case VOA and RFA sites are blocked in China. Very few Internet users are capable of employing web censorship avoidance technologies.

According to the Washington Post article, Internet censorship in China is working thanks to the so called “Great Firewall.”

THE WASHINGTON POST: “It is part of China’s larger effort to tame the Internet and to disprove the notion that the flow of ideas across the World Wide Web would be an unstoppable force toward democracy. News and information that might threaten the Communist Party are kept out of the country under a system of censorship known as the Great Firewall, while foreign social-media networks such as Facebook and Twitter that allow private citizens to share ideas and join forces are also banned. Behind the wall, China’s own social-media networks are closely policed to ensure public opinion does not coalesce into a threat to one-party rule.”

“Through censorship, intimidation and repression, and with the help of an army of ‘patriotic’ netizens, the party appears to be winning,” The Washington Post reported. The Washington Post report makes no references to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency which gets $777 million annually (FY 2017) of taxpayers’ money to provide uncensored news and information to countries like China and Russia.


READ MORE: “The Internet was supposed to foster democracy. China has different ideas.” By Simon Denyer, The Washington Post, July 10, 2016.