The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which became independent of the United States Information Agency in 1999 when that department was dissolved, is charged with responsibility for US-backed, non-military international broadcasting. Such endeavors long pre-exist the BBG, and have been an important tool for getting the American "message" out during the Cold War. With the rise of the war on terror, the federal government launched two new broadcast systems oriented toward the Middle East: Alhurra and Radio Sawa. These two systems have joined the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and Radio and TV Marti born of World War II and subsequent Cold War tensions in the BBG's portfolio. The BBG is a putatively bi-partisan in its operation, but the BBG is stacked with Republican ideologue appointees and former Cold Warriors turned counter terrorists. Though no more than four members of the eight member board are to be members of the same political party, the President also selects the chair of the board. The ninth member of the board is always the Secretary of State.
[...] What would happen, we asked, if we concluded that the influential chairman of the President's Advisory Board for Cuba Broadcasting, Jorge Mas Canosa, should resign? He was founder and leader of the Cuban American National Foundation, the hard-line exile organization, and it seemed unlikely that Cubans would believe that any news organization under his direction was impartial or trustworthy. The answer we got was, "No way." An election year was coming. Florida is a key state and nobody would risk the enmity of the Cuban exile community. [...]
[...] What would Levine and other critics of the current BBG make of the remarks of former Kennedy advisor Newton Minow, the man who coined the term "vast wasteland" to describe television, on the need for American journalism to be used for political purposes? In 2002, before scandal hit the BBG, Minow complained that the VOA and other organs were not doing enough: I wrote a letter the other day to The Wall Street Journal about an American journalist in Iraq who reported that Iraqis hate Saddam Hussein, but hate the United States even more than they hate Saddam Hussein, because they identify us with bombing and sanctions. [...]
[...] Further, at least two of the Republicans either on the board or recently on the board have been found to cross the line between objective reportage and political influence and spin in transparently unethical ways in other parts of their careers. But do BBG holdings actually reflect a Republican Party-borne political bias? Levine (2005) found some Voice of America journalists who believed so: video reporter Carolyn Weaver upbraided [VOA director David] Jackson [appointed by Tomilson]: "There is no doubt that many staff members at VOA believe that news and features have been politicized on your orders, whether explicit or indirect, and that you were carrying out the wishes of the White House and Ken Tomlinson . [...]
[...] The current and recent BBG board is certainly biased toward Bush administration policies and at least some recent members seem to have little interest in even the ideals of objective journalism. This is nothing new, however, as the examples of Radio and TV Marti show: political pressure (at the very least) kept right-wing Cuban exiles in power behind the microphone throughout the Clinton administration, when the board was tilted toward the Democratic Party. Ultimately, the issue of bias amongst the BBG leaving aside obvious flouters like Canosa and Tomilson is that the two major parties agree with one another when it comes to foreign policy for the most part. [...]
[...] Rampton (2005) notes that Cullum is associated with and has even stumped for the Omega List, an email fundraising firm that "pays conservative commentators to endorse clients and their causes." Cullum not only uses the system, but is a commercial endorser of the system. Rampton (2005) cites website copy attributed to Cullum from the Omega site: "You do what you do best!" she said. "Get on the air and talk to your listeners! Drive them to your website by conducting a daily survey or a contest on the topic of your choosing." Eberle's "polling wizard" software, installed on the site, would then capture the names of respondents so that they could be hit up for money. [...]
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