tv The Communicators CSPAN January 11, 2016 8:00am-8:31am EST
entities. >> host: what kind of technologies does the bbg or voice of america, any of these entities, use? >> guest: well, all broadcasts, media platforms, everything from radio to tv, but increasingly digital platforms, social media as we expand around the world. any way we can reach an audience and have influence with that audience is important, and we'll use it. >> host: who can listen to voa? radio marti? >> guest: well, radio marti is on the island of cuba. vice of america is throughout central africa -- voice of america is throughout central afghanistan, afghanistan, asia,
indonesia. it's really a global media platform. >> host: and what kind of news is reported on these channels? >> guest: well, voice of america has a mission to tell america's story around the world. but to be clear, all of the bbg entities, including voice of america, are engaged in professional journalism. and our daily 3,000 journalists around the world that are working every day to tell stories whether it be inside of a country as a surrogate broadcaster meaning that they're there to tell the stories within that particular country that may not be being told because of the repression of the press in certain parts of the world, or we're telling america's story around the world. >> host: john lansing, the question that you get asked quite a bit, and it's been asked for several years now, with all the new technologies that areç available, has theç mission become obsolete for the broadcasting board of governors? >> guest: i see quite the
opposite. it's never been more critical. i think with the growth of propaganda around the world whether it be out of russia, why that or, certain -- china, or certainly isis, the world is awash in information. and much of that information the is propaganda. and for many people there's a concern that the bbgç is perhas not stepping up and fighting directly with that propaganda. but our view is and my personal view is that the best representation of the united -- the value ares of the united states is to bring professional journalismç and truth telling into regions of the world that don't have that. >> host: well, joining our conversation today is ron nixon who is the washington correspondent for "the new york times." >> thank you. thanks for having me. let me just jump in and ask, there's been a lot of criticism about the bbg. congress, chairman royce, house foreign affairs committee,
former secretary clinton criticized the agency, and you hear words like practically defunct or dysfunctional. your position is fairly new, created to cull all these entities together and have a person who assists day-to-day. can you tell us what areç you doing to sort of address some of those criticisms that have been leveled against the agency? >> guest: sure, ron. before i accepted the position, i've been in the roleç since september, and as you know the role is new. there was somebody inç it prior to my being in this role of ceo, but that was andy lack who was in for just a few months. but my observation is i looked at the opportunity last summer, and i spoke with all of the constituencies on the hill; the white house, the state department. the fact that the bbg was set up originally without a ceo, and just take me out of the conversation for a second. it's not about me, but the role
of a ceo -- >> sure. >> guest: imagine running an agency of five global media brands with 3,000 employees without a full-time manager to lead that agency, but, rather a managing board, if you will, of nine individuals. to say that it was dysfunctional almost suggests that it could have been functional, if you will. and i think that's really the issue. i think having a professional management structure that reports to a board -- and, by the way, the board we have now and the reason i'm here is a really high funking, high quality -- high functioning, high quality board and our board chair whose day job is chairman of nbc/universal pictures, is doing a fantastic job leading our board and our management team to create more functionality. now, any media entity is going to have some dysfunction. i'm sure there's some at "the new york times." i know there was in past experiences that i've had.
and to some extent, a good newsroom will always have a little dysfunction, because a good newsroom is made up of people who are skeptical by nature and who ask hard questions. and so i welcome that. and one of the first things i did in september was meet with the newsroom and the voa and talk to them about their concerns. at the time there was some concerns about some pushing towards less objective coverage of certain subjects. and it was a very hearty conversation, very honest, and i felt very much in my element and found it to be welcoming to me, that people felt that they could say what they needed to say and say it out loud. >> so let's go back to the point that you brought up before about this idea of the world being awash in information, and a lot of it is propaganda. there has been this concern in congress that bbg, voa in particular has not done enough
to counter russia or the chinese or isil or boko haram or any other groups out there that utilize social media in their recruitment of, you know, westerners. as an example, westerners, but there are others as well. can you think practically what kinds of things that bbg is doing or planning to do to push back against those kinds of prop propaganda efforts? >> guest: absolutely. well, the first thing i would say about propaganda is that it's a fancy word if for a lie. and there really aren't two sides to a lie. so this notion that you push back against propaganda suggests that you're taking something that's fundamentally untrue and giving it credibility by holding it up and explaining why it's untrue instead of just dealing with the truth as the truth is. and so i would say the best
countereffect to prop propagands independent, high quality journalism that is in the business of truth telling, whether that be about foreign governments or or own government. but in terms of what can we do, i know there's a lot of discussion on the hill about the organization and whether or not to reorganize it, and i think that's an interesting conversation. in fact, i think reform is always a good thing with a media entity, and reforming of the bbg is on my agenda, as a matter of fact. but the reforms that i see in our management team and our board sees is the need to push more of our content into mobile and social platforms and to be in these conversations that are happening that are peer peer-tor around the world. i think the old model of a big broadcast antenna or a big printing press, for that matter, going out with one message to millions of people will still exist for a while. but for younger audiences and for influential, younger
audiences in parts of the world that are the most dangerous, i think the most important platforms are those that are more peer-to-peer. and i think if we can be successful in bringing high quality, professional journalism to influence those peer-to-peer conversations, particularly among moderate, perhaps moderate muslims in syria and iraq, places like eastern ukraine, the china periphery, i think getting into those conversations and having a reputation as truth tellers in those conversations is really the most important thing. and then the last thing i'll say, ron, to that is the investment that we have, the differences. really, let's just take a snapshot of russia's investment in their state media versus the united states. it's really 100 to 1 difference, and we're the 1. we're at about, you know, just under a billion dollars, and they're at $100 billion. >> wow. >> guest: so rearranging that billion dollars in different
buckets is an interesting conversation. calling it reform, i think, is an interesting approach. but i think the real reform would be to think about how serious we want to invest in the messaging that is our messaging which is the values of the united states as represented by high quality journalism. >> let's talk about, again, just delve a little further into this idea of countering, you know, propaganda with straight journalism. you know, as you know, there are those in congress and other areas who say, well, we have cnn, so why do we need a government-funded cnn to do that? and the charter of voa calls for it to recommend the american viewpoint but at the same time provide quality journalism, so how do you balance those two competing and often seemingly contradictory missions? >> guest: sure. so i'll start with the first one, that there's cnn and nbc
news and fox news. but the reality is where voa particularly has news bureaus and where rsv/rl has news bureaus, are reporting in china and cuba, there's no cnn in those places. i just returned from a trip to ukraine. the most widely-respected and influential journalists in ukraine works out of our building at the voice of america. >> wow. >> guest: along with her from voice of america, there's also a local reporter from radio-free europe who's the most influential investigative reporter in kiev. so in that one critical part of the world where russia -- there's a hot war on the eastern front -- >> right. >> guest: -- the most influential journalists in that country are two entities of the united states, voice of america and radio-free europe, radio liberty. so that's -- cnn does a great
job around the world, and i admire the work that they do, but there's no comparison to the deployment of resources that we have. to the second point of your question, i think the abundance of information that we're dealing with in terms of propaganda, i think it's easy to overstate the influence it's having. and i think there's -- i certain will hi take it seriously and understand that it's voluminous, but in the research i've done in my own walking the streets of kiev talking to government officials, i spoke with the foreign relations chair of the parliament, and she told me that the work that is being done is having an absolute critical effect in countering the volume of propaganda because the credibility is real. and as journalists, sometimes it
sounds a little idealistic. i still have a little of that idealism. >> let's talk about the reforms. again, as you know, there's been criticism about the duplication of efforts at the bbg. so you have voa, but then you have radio-free europe that will have people at the same event, and so you got people from the -- you've got people from the same recognizing that rfv is a surrogate, which i'll ask you to explain that a little bit later. >> guest: yeah. >> but is that part of the reforms, is to to look at do we really need, you know, four sets of eyes reporting on it? rather than we've already got
voa there, so why do we need those others there? and then if you could also explain the structure of how the surrogates differ from, like, voa. >> guest: yeah. so the first thing that i did in my first two weeks when i came on board in september is read the legislation, the founding legislation of the bbg. and in it i noticed that it called for the formation of something called the international coordinating council. and i thought, well, that's interesting. what's the international coordinating council? what it is, it's the leaders of the five entities who the legislation envisioned would come together as a council on a regular basis and discuss how to be strategically aligned so that you remove duplicative effort and create more impact. and so i called that group together, and i said let's do that. [laughter] so we did. and so we have formed the icc, and it meets twice with me, twice a month. we are meeting tomorrow.
and that group of five entity leaders has done a remarkable job just in this first four months together of really looking around the world at their various theaters of operation, if you will, and how they can cooperate for greater impact. so what's an example of that? middle east broadcasting network was doing a series of documentaries in iraq targeting moderate muslims called delusional paradise. and the idea was to show the delusion of this notion that leaving home and joining isis brings you to some situational paradise. it was a heart-wrenching series. it shows the families left behind. in one scene et shows a mother -- it shows a mother holding a cell phone saying i just got a call from my son's cell phone but it wasn't my son, it was somebody else telling me he'd been martyred. so a year ago that would have run in iraq, and then they would have put it on a shelf.
the international coordinating council came together and said can i run that in the china sphere? can i run that in central -- or in eastern asia radio-free europe? ocb ran it. so voice of america ran it. and so it became something that was disseminated and put in context in various ways around the world. and so that investment in iraq paid off around the world. the united states elections are coming up, obviously, and we have the iowa primaries. the this council's not coordinating coverage. four years ago, it would have been uncoordinated and duplicative. this cycle it will be strategic and impactful for less money. and there are many more examples. the point is there was never an effort to coordinate and be strategic. and it wasn't that hard. back to the idea of having central leadership. >> right, right. >> guest: to your point or question about what is a surrogate, which i didn't know what it was either --
[laughter] >> right. >> guest: a surrogate is an organization, simply one that is doing journalism in a country where a free press is either limited or nonexistent. so they're the surrogate free press for a country. so that's what radio-free europe is doing in the balkans, in central asia. that's what middle east broadcasting network is doing in iraq. that's what rfa is doing around the periphery of china, etc., etc. and voa is not a surrogate. >> right. >> guest: it tells america's stories in places around the world that don't hear america's story straight. it's journalism. it's stories about america, often governmental stories, but my hope is that we'll expand to stories that tell a broader swath of information about america; entrepreneurialism, health, finance, how to start a business, stories that are just
not being told globally that are coming out of america and can be told. but there are parts of the world where voa, and this is where it gets confusing, where voa is also a surrogate, and that's in central africa. so the only independent news in many parts of central africa is voice of america doing surrogate news. so when burkinaç faso had that problem, the only reporter on the air was the voice of america reporter when that coup went down. when the shootings, the terrible shootings in paris went down, it just so happened that a voice of america reporter was in paris and was able to do reporting for all of the other entities from paris. and is so voice of america -- and so voice of america wears two hats often. it's a larger, more capable organization for wearing two hats because of the way it's resourced.
now, that's not to say, ron, that there isn't some remaining duplication, but in my sense of the way we think about that, to reform that duplication would not be to eliminate, but rather to structure strategically so you can have greater impact. back to the point that the russians are spending $100 billion and we're spending $750 million, i think my first impulse wouldn't be to stop doing some things, it would be to take what we have and deploy it more strategically. >> right. >> host: so, john lansing, is it illegal to listen to radio-free asia in china? i mean, is the web site blocked? are the air waves blocked from people hearing or finding radio-free asia? >> guest: for the most part, yes. >> host: how do you get around that? >> guest: well, there's, in terms of the internet, there are investments that we make in our internet freedom program that allows people to circumvent the
censorship and access free content in places like china. and that's another thing that bbg does that many people aren't aware of, and that's our open technology fund and our internet freedom office which invest through congress and their appropriations, invest in technology that helps people access the internet and other media they otherwise couldn't access without that technology. >> host: do you have any idea what the penetration is in iraq and syria? >> guest: yeah, no, actually it's fairly impressive. it's 25-28% on a weekly basis of audience members. to yon that while our reach is important whether it's in iraq or anywhere else, increasingly my goal is for us to measure impact beyond reach. i think anyç media today is really measuring engagement more than just how many newspapers got delivered or how many
viewers watched a tv show. now, you have to reach somebody to impact them, so i understand that. we're going to be shifting resources in our research area so we can report back to congress and report back to our board how we're impacting people in these parts of the world, not just how we're reachingç them. >> host: can americans read, listen, watch your stories? >> guest: well, it's actually, the way it was structured, it was structured to not be available to americans. there was this fear at the time, i wasn't here at the time, but i thinkit's ab important point, that it not be viewed as a way of the federal government influencing americans through investments in journalism. but i think that had to be amended to recognize that the internet is hard to block. so you can go on voa news.org and look at the english version of voa anytime. >>çó what's the future of radio marti given our warming
relationship with cuba? >> guest: cuba. it's a great question. we've thought about that a lot. i think about why are we doing radio marti and tv marti on the island, and the reason is this is a limited ability for people on the island to access free information. the warming relations, i think, are a good thing, and i think they'll continue to point towards more, hopefully more freedoms. but to this point, the relations haven't warmed to any point where the cuban government is allowing more freedom of information. and so for us, the trigger point for any change would be more parented the specific aspect of freedom. >> there is this notion, and not sure how true it is, that we produce it, but it's being blocked on the island. how true is that, and what is the reach of, on the island? >> guest: well, it's more
difficult to do research inç certain parts of the world, and that's one of them. we have some ability to do research with people coming off the island and anecdotal research and focus groups. and it's, the reach is -- i can't give a specific number on the reach, but it certainly is substantial. and i think the best evidence of that is when you hear the government of cubaq criticizing ocb's work and pleading that it be stopped and shut down. so this must be -- maybe the best measure of impact is the concern that they have that it's there. >> gotcha. talk about the, you talk about impact, but it's almost seeming as if the work that you do has, isn't well known because as you say for a long time americans weren't allowed to listen to voa or even to get access to any information about it. but one of the things that i i
was earlier this year talking to staffers is that the reporting that came out of nigeria about the former president andw3 hiriç former apartheidouth african mercenaries to fight boko haram, that was broken by reporters from voa, right? but why isn't that widely known? why doesn't voa tell its story more so people say maybe we should spend more? given that's the kind of work that's being done? >> guest: no, it's true. and that's, i think it's an artifact, again, of there originally not being a central management system over the bbg and it being run by a board of nine individuals that met, you know, once or twice, i mean, maybe once a month, maybe six times a year, whatever it was. so some of the more natural things you would do in setting up a professional media organization like having a department that helps tell the story of what the organization is doing just wasn't as fully
formed and funded. and that's another thing. it's not the most important thing, but it's important, i think, that citizens know how their taxpayers -- how their tax dollars are being spent and the impact that we're having around the world, and for that it is important. and so we're going to be investing in that and doing a better job, like this, telling our story of what we're trying to do in the world. >> okay. let's talk more on the technological side here. i was talking to a gentleman who used to work for the state department in their countering violent extremism, and he had mentioned that isis is like a start-up, you know? whereas voa and some of the other government efforts are like ibm, you know? it's like old, stodgy and really has no idea how to connect. one, do you think that's true and then, two, what's your answer to that and for what
you're doing? because we talk about mobile platforms and social media and those kinds of things, but how do you actually know that it's working? and how do you know that you can actually access those people the same way that groups like isis cansome. >> guest: well, maybe by way of an anecdote, we have a program in iraq right now called raise your voice that was funded last year by the congress through radio and tv, and it is aok multiplatform effort to reach moderate muslims in iraq in an interactive, multimedia way. so it involves radio call-in shows, the documentary i mentioned earlier, facebook pages that are with actively monitored conversations, twitter feeds, and the results on that program have been extraordinary in terms of numbers of interaction in the hundreds of thousands on all these various
platforms. so much so that we're hoping that we can do more of it. i mean, it's a ten along the way, it's an and -- it's a step along the way, it's an anecdote. to call isis a start-up is sort of, the terminology, i think, piques americans' interests and creates a vision that somehow they're running silicon valley. >> right. >> guest: the reality is we started 70 years ago as a radio enterprise. we still do some radio. but our ability to shift to mobile and social and put more resources behind that is certainly there, and we're really no different than every other media company that you and i know about that have had to do the same thing, "the new york times" just as well. >> right. >> guest: and has done a fast tsaic -- fantastic job. and that's our mission, to shift resources, energy, focus and strategy to be more, as i said earlier, to be more in the peer-to-peer conversations instead of the one-to-many
conversations so that we can shift away from the stodgy, old media to new media. now, we can't leave people behind. there are parts of the world, and today ooh's a good -- today's a good day to discuss north korea. i know we're taping, but the news today out of north korea and the potential for a hydrogen bomb to have been tested. the only way to get into north korea -- and we do every day -- is through short wave radio. >> right. >> guest: and we do a very good job with that. so we wouldn't abandon, you know, short wave radio just because it's the only place -- only way to get into a place like north korea. we recognize there are parts of the world where next generationing media is critical. >> host: john lansing, can you be critical of the u.s. government in your reporting? >> guest: i think it's critical reporting is professional journalism, and it requires any reporter to ask good questions whether it be of the federal government or of any other foreign government or any other issue or policy.
and that's on both sides of the aisle. so when the iran deal was being debated on capitol hill, we carried it live, both sides, all of the debate. live and complete. and that's really our mission s to tell america's story, every side of it. >> host: john lansing is the new ceo of the broadcasting board of governors which includes voice of america, radio-free europe, radio liberty, middle east broadcasting networks, radio-free asia and the office of cuba broadcasting, radio and tv marti. you can read ron nixon's reporting in the "new york times." gentlemen, thank you for being on "the communicators." >> guest: thank you. >> thank you for having us. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies 35 years ago and brought to you as a public service by your local cable or satellite provider.
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