The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) applauded a new report that calls for strengthening public diplomacy, but disagreed with certain recommendations on U.S. international broadcasting.
“We congratulate the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) for undertaking this creative review of U.S. public diplomacy and the challenges it faces around the world,” said BBG Chairman Marc Nathanson. The CFR, a New York-based organization, released a report July 30, 2002 by its Independent Task Force on Public Diplomacy.
But Nathanson said a key recommendation in the CFR report, if enacted as stated, could damage the credibility of U.S. international broadcasting, and breach the firewall between its journalists and policy-making institutions in the foreign affairs community.
Among other things, the report suggests creating a Public Diplomacy Coordinating Structure (PDCS) to help define communications strategies and streamline public diplomacy structures. “In many ways, the PDCS would be similar to the National Security Council, in its role as adviser, synthesizer, coordinator, and priority-setter,” the report said.
PDCS members would include the secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury and Commerce, as well as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and BBG chairman. The president would appoint the chairman.
BBG members objected to the BBG being included in the coordinating structure. “One of the most important jobs of the BBG, and one of the main reasons for our status as an independent agency, is to preserve the journalistic integrity of the broadcasters,” Nathanson said.
Norman J. Pattiz, a BBG member who served on the CFR task force, said the BBG should not be a part of any coordinating organization. “Preserving this firewall, not as fiction but as a reality, could be undermined by BBG membership on this new body,” he said. “Membership on a coordinating board could, at the very least, give the perception that journalists were not objective,” he said.
The current BBG structure — a nine-member board of eight presidentially-appointed private citizens plus the Secretary of State – provides a mechanism for the BBG to gain broad foreign policy guidance and insulate broadcasters, said Pattiz, who also serves as chairman of the BBG’s Middle East Committee.
Tom Korologos, another BBG member, said, “The intent of Congress was very clear when it created the board and made it independent in 1999 – to protect the credibility of U.S. international broadcasting and prevent anyone from influencing the content of our broadcasters.”
The BBG supervises all U.S. non-military international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (www.voanews.com), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (www.rferl.org), Radio Free Asia (www.rfa.org) and Radio/TV Marti (www.martinoticias.com).