Bloomberg editorial skewers VOA Persian News Network.

Posted: 21 Feb 2012   Print   Send a link
Bloomberg, 20 Feb 2012, "By the Editors": "In the absence of a diplomatic mission for 33 years, America’s principal voice in Iran is the actual Voice of America, the U.S. government-run, multimedia news agency. Especially in these times of high tension over U.S.-led efforts to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear-weapons capability, the U.S. has a strong interest in being heard by Iran’s people. But the VOA’s Persian News Network has fallen far short of that aim. According to a survey last year, only 6 percent of adults in Iran watched a PNN program at least once a week. ... Since 2010, it has had stiff competition from the British Broadcasting Corporation, whose superior Persian-language service immediately ate up a third of PNN’s 29 percent market share. Later that year, the Iranian government began jamming both signals, forcing PNN and BBC off the satellite to which most Iranian households tune their dishes. Since then, viewers have had to physically manipulate their devices to watch PNN or BBC. Most don’t bother for PNN; in the 2011 viewership survey, its market share plunged from 20 percent to 6 percent. Yet BBC’s actually grew -- from 10 percent to 12 percent. ... Even on PNN’s new shows, content is sometimes frustratingly unprofessional. For instance, PNN’s technology show, created in response to the popularity of a well-conceived, well-edited tech program on BBC Persian, is slapdash. An episode might consist of a journalist simply meandering around a trade show ogling new gadgets. ... From the start, President Barack Obama has been an advocate for American soft power. With the prospect of a shooting war looming in Iran, there is no more pressing place to deploy that power. When a well-executed show like 'Parazit' can begin to undercut the legitimacy of the Iranian regime, there’s no telling what a superlative network could do."

How is it that "the editors" at Bloomberg are so proficient in the Persian language that they can write such a detailed analysis of VOA Persian? And, presuming these editors are journalists, do they really think that it is the job of VOA Persian to "undercut the legitimacy of the Iranian regime"?

Comparing VOA Persian with BBC Persian audience numbers should be done with caution. If VOA is jammed more vigorously than BBC, then there might be a technical rather than programmatic explanation for the BBC's larger audience.

Nevertheless, throughout the world, the BBC provides a useful benchmark for USIB. If USIB has a larger audience than BBC in a target country, that is an accomplishment. If USIB has a smaller audience than BBC, follow-up analysis can determine why. That would be very useful guidance.