Posted: 08 Oct 2013 Print Send a link
The subhead of this article is "Public Diplomacy Is Still Being Undermined by Bill Clinton's Budget Cuts." But make no mistake: Senator Jesse Helms was the prime mover of the elimination of USIA.
USIA worked so closely with, and was so subordinate to, the State Department and its embassies that it was a de facto branch of the State Department. Restoring USIA is not the panacea that will restore popularity to the United States. It would merely restore a bureaucracy and several suites full of senior level plum jobs, many of which would just so happen to be populated by the senior fellows of the think tanks who call for the revival of USIA.
As for US international broadcasting, I've written before that, as a VOA broadcaster, I miss USIA about as much as a Lithuanian misses the Soviet Union. Under USIA, VOA was sometimes pushed toward one editorial line, then pushed towards another editorial line. It was sometimes loosely controlled, and sometimes tightly controlled. Many VOA managers were rotated USIA foreign service officers, some who embraced the journalistic mission of VOA, and some who did the opposite.
Under USIA, VOA was not consistently independent. Without independence, an international broadcasting effort cannot achieve credibility. Without credibility, there will be no audience. The audience for international broadcasting is seeking real news, not public diplomacy.
The lack of an audience does not concern Mr. Schadler. He derides the BBG for being "fixated on 'audience size'." Implied here is that the BBG should be fixated on sending a certain message to the world, regardless of how many people are listening. We see many real-life examples of this communication strategy. They are the people walking the streets, some with shopping carts, engaged in animated conversations, but talking only to themselves.