View Full Version : The Costs of Winning Hearts and Minds

03-17-2007, 12:01 PM
Christian Science Monitor editorial - The Costs of Winning Hearts and Minds (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0315/p08s01-comv.html).

American media is struggling to adjust to shifting audiences and technology. Imagine what it must be like for the US government's broadcast behemoth, which is dealing with similar issues on a global, multilingual scale. The stakes are high for the US.

Because Uncle Sam's radio and television programs are broadcast to other countries, many Americans might not know about them. In diplomatic speak, the shows fall under the heading of "public diplomacy" – US promotion of its interests abroad by informing foreign audiences.

This media diplomacy is vital to America's national security, especially as the US tries to win "hearts and minds" in the war on terror. Ditto because of its battered world reputation.

But effectively carrying it off is not easy. Just as commercial news outfits are cutting budgets in "old media" while trying to lure a new generation of tech-savvy consumers, so is the cost- conscious Broadcast Board of Governors that oversees the government's international media efforts. Those include newcomers such as Alhurra, US television programming in Arabic, and oldercomers such as Radio and TV Martí, aimed at Cuba.

The board wants to improve the reach to "critical audiences" in places such as the Middle East and North Korea. And it wants to move away from its mainstay technology of shortwave radio, which it says is declining in global use, to increasingly popular but vastly more expensive television, Internet, and FM.

To help do that, it's proposing controversial cuts at its largest network, Voice of America, which reaches 115 million people weekly. That's sparked protest from a bipartisan group of 11 former VOA directors (including John Hughes, a columnist for this paper and a former Monitor editor)...