Radio, Television, and Public Diplomacy

A reporter for RFE/RL's Afghan Service intervi...

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BBG’s Strategic 5yr Plan: to inform, engage and connect.

In the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States focused considerable effort on bringing to the world what can either be described as “the truth,” or “the truth according to the United States government ” with services like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. We can argue about the value of these broadcasts to the people of Latin America, but it seems clear these broadcasts provided a critical information lifeline to the people of China and the countries locked behind the USSR’s Iron Curtain.

In the years since the opening of China and the end of the Cold War, however, these services have lacked the kind of clear mission they once had, and the rise of the Internet calls into question the value of broadcast services generally. I would argue, though, that America’s global broadcast assets remain a critical part of public diplomacy. Commercial enterprises like CNN and Fox News have their place, but they are not in the business of conducting information activities in support of US foreign policy.

The BBG spells out exactly why it should continue to receive funding over the next four years in its 2012 strategic plan. Admittedly awash in bureaucratese, the concrete steps it outlines take the organization a big step toward regaining the relevance it once had. Even given the glacial speed of governmental organizations, the plan is realistic and doable.

If the plan lacks anything it is a clearer vision of where the organizations need to be in 10 years. More needs to be done than what is outlined here, and both what and why need to be made clearer.

Nonetheless, even die-hard net-heads like myself cannot help but see the value of broadcast in America’s public diplomacy after reading this.

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