CUSIB Slams BBG Shortwave Chair
text has been updated to clarify that Noonan’s criticism of Armstrong’s use of
the term “learning experience” did not make specific reference to the Internet censorship
discussion but to what she termed his “disastrous and devastating mistakes.”
See the link to her statement in the story for the full text.
Armstrong must step aside.” So say Ann
Noonan and Ted Lipien, two critics of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. They
head the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting, which has pushed
for BBG management reform.
right, a member of the board, to resign as its chair of a Special Committee on the Future
of Shortwave Broadcasting, even as that group finalizes a series of
recommendations about U.S. international broadcasting’s use of shortwave.
Armstrong indicated to Radio World he
does not intend to resign that role, and said the committee’s work is largely done. In coming weeks it will publish
its recommendations, to be presented at the next BBG board meeting in August. He
expressed surprise at the CUSIB statement, saying he is open and eager for
conversation with Noonan, Lipien and other interested parties.
itself as a nonpartisan group that supports free flow of uncensored news from
the United States to countries without free media, through Voice of America and
other BBG programs. It says
Armstrong has “proven to be
inexperienced and dangerously reckless” in matters
dealing with changes to broadcasts by VOA, Radio Free Asia and Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty. It also criticized him after he was quoted saying “you can’t censor the
Internet.” Noonan said he had “admitted recent errors,” writing them off as “learning experience.” She also criticized Armstrong for being
dismissive of a request for a public discussion.
Lipien took issue with cutbacks in shortwave
transmissions and for the manner in which they were announced, including planned
cessation of broadcasting of Belarusian language programs of RFE/RL on medium-wave
(AM) frequency 612 kHz as of Aug. 17. If anything, Lipien said, BBG should be
launching new AM broadcasts in Russian to European Russia, eastern Ukraine and
Crimea. And he criticized BBG for making such changes even as its International
Broadcasting Bureau issued a solicitation to hire on-site fitness trainers.
Read the text of Noonan and
Armstrong, who joined BBG last August, defended the work of the
committee in a phone call with Radio World. He said the group sought a “fresh
approach” to the question of shortwave as a means of distribution, and brought “rigorous
analysis” to the job. He said the committee
sought public comment, talked to representatives of the broadcast services
and surveyed colleagues in the State Department, actively seeking productive
criticism of BBG’s own stance on shortwave.
At a time
when BBG is going through a “major revamp,” he said the committee wanted to
know how the organization can engage targeted audiences most cost-effectively. “We
now need to be prioritizing audiences; we can no longer afford to simply
blanket a country,” he said. In some markets, he said, shortwave is a “valuable
medium,” but in others it is not relied upon by the target audiences, nor is it
used as a fallback in times of crisis in some nations, as some BBG critics
He said neither he nor the committee is free to
shut down broadcast services on their own, though he defended the idea of
closures where appropriate. “This is a committee to look at the value and use
of shortwave as a medium. Twitter is a medium; terrestrial TV is a medium. It’s
just another platform. We have to be where the audiences are; and in an increasing
number of cases the audiences aren’t on shortwave — or the audiences we need to
reach aren’t reliant on SW.”
Regarding the way in which shutdowns were announced, Armstrong
said he “vehemently” disagreed that he was “glib and smug,” saying the
organization did make mistakes and assumptions but defending a comment that this
process be used as a learning experience. Armstrong said
he used the word “absurd” only in response to Noonan’s idea of a public panel involving
all board governors past and present, and that he had been speaking only for
himself. “I try to be open and transparent about failures and challenges.”
He said the intention of his Internet
remark at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum was that “You can’t completely censor the Internet.”
“How Effective Is the BBG in 2014?” (June 2014)
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