04 October 2010

A Notable Quote on International Broadcasting

From Walter Isaacson, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors:

"It’s sometimes said that our international broadcasting is in a difficult position because by law and by tradition it’s tasked with two separate missions that might conflict: first of all, covering the news with the highest journalistic standards and secondly, being a part of America’s public diplomacy by accurately conveying its policies and values to the world.

"Let me say to you, my fellow journalists, that I will stress and we will stress the primacy
of the first of these missions, our mission of being credible journalists, because it is the best – in fact, it’s the only way to carry out the second mission. You can’t do it unless you’re credible and telling the truth, and in the end, the truth is on our side. Credibility is the key to all that we do."

Mr. Isaacson spoke last week in Washington at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Radio Free Europe. The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees VOA, RFE, Radio Free Asia, Radio/TV Marti, Radio Sawa, and Alhurra TV.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

BBG recently issued a "clarification" about Mr. Isaacson's remarks in which he used the word enemies, saying he meant "enemies within Afghanistan - those that advocate terrorism."

This is the second time that a BBG chairman has spoken in an open forum of "enemies" when discussing U.S. international broadcasting.

Former BBG chairman and later Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, James Glassman used that description in an open meeting with VOA employees.

He was fairly quickly put on notice that use of such a term raises serious questions about the very thing that Mr. Isaacson and so many other BBG heads, as well as VOA directors, have had to clarify and re-clarify over the decades -- that the most important thing to preserve is the journalistic mission.

Under former President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. the journalists under the BBG structure came under intense pressure to just what Glassman, and Isaacson (at least before his "clarification") suggested was an important role for broadcasters operating under the BBG -- that is, to ensure that U.S. government-funded broadcasting is a powerful weapon so to speak against "enemies" such as al-Qaida and affiliated groups.

Clarifications are great. But it is all too clear that where the "mission" is concerned, U.S. international broadcasting is seen by the board that controls it, and thus by the U.S. Congress who funds it, and presidents who nominate BBG heads and members, as little more than a weapon to be used to respond to "enemies" rather than FIRST -- as a global NEWS operation.