Murrow Professor of PD wants US international broadcasting the way it used to be.

Posted: 22 Dec 2009   Print   Send a link
Feature story on Ambassador William A. Rugh, visiting Edward R. Murrow Professor of Public Diplomacy, The Fletcher School, Tuft University: "By endowing eight presidentially-appointed individuals with tremendous authority, broadcasting’s public diplomacy functions are often neglected in favor of profit margins and the whims of individual Board members. BBG members are essentially 'political footballs' in Amb. Rugh’s view: appointments are granted because of political loyalty, not good judgment on broadcasting.
     "'It was a big mistake on the radio side to cancel VOA’s Arabic Service and replace it with Radio Sawa, based on a concept promoted by the commercial media world and focused exclusively on a youth audience, says Amb. Rugh.
     "Radio Sawa employs pop music to gain market share but is light on what Amb. Rugh calls 'freight' and fails to appeal to decision makers. 'Youth are important but the movers and shakers are adults. We’re out of the game in radio,' declares Amb. Rugh.
     "While Radio Sawa enjoys at least a minimal audience, Amb. Rugh sees the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Network (MEBN) television initiative, al-Hurra, as an utter failure. 'The content is so poor and irrelevant to the audience that no one watches it. The numbers are almost invisible.'"
     "Profit margins"? One could wish. Anyway, the Board exists in part to insulate US international broadcasting from "public diplomacy functions," which are great when conducted by the appropriate offices of the State Department, but credibility killers and audience repellers for international broadcasting. (See previous post.)
     As for "freight" to the "movers and shakers," in the twenty-first century (and a few years before that) the Arab audience for news has moved to television. Thus Alhurra and its news-oriented programming. The Edward R. Murrow Professor of Public Diplomacy's conclusions about Alhurra are not warranted by the data, although the BBG was not forthcoming with that data until it recently made public its 2009 Performance and Accountability Report. See also "US international broadcasting: too bizarre to be explained by political science," via previous post.