By Ted Lipien
Published September 14, 2012 by Digital Journal
Washington – Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe criticizes the executive staff of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for using a weak language in describing the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens.
Public relations officials of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — the U.S. government agency responsible for broadcasts to the Middle East and other parts of the world — referred to the “passing” of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens in a statement expressing condemnation of the attacks that claimed his life and three others. Ambassador Victor H. Ashe, one of the current seven members of the bipartisan board in charge of U.S. international broadcasting, said the killings should be described as murder.
Victor Ashe, a Republican, expressed his disappointment when the resolution was read at the BBG’s open meeting in Washington on Thursday, shortly after the governors met with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who serves on the board ex officio.
“First of all, even though you referred to the loss of life of Ambassador Stevens and others as their passing, I would refer to it as their murder. That’s all it was. It was murder. And we just ought to call a spade a spade and label it for what it is,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, former mayor of Knoxville and BBG Governor Victor Ashe.
BBG members apparently did not have sufficient time to review the statement prepared by the staff. After Ambassador Ashe’s intervention, all BBG members present voted to change the wording of the resolution. Ashe later applauded the Secretary of State Clinton and others for the strong words they used to condemn the violence.
Ambassador Ashe is a frequent critic of the Broadcasting Board of Governors executive and public relations staff but defends BBG journalists and their programs. In their push for using the Internet, BBG executives have proposed many radio and TV programs for elimination, including VOA broadcasts to China and Tibet. The Chinese government blocks VOA websites. Members of Congress from both parties saved these two broadcasts from being cut and criticized BBG managers for ignoring Congressional directives.
On the broader scale, the Obama Administration has been criticized for being overly apologetic in its public diplomacy statements directed to the Arab and Muslim world. The Administration disputes these charges.
Critics also describe BBG’s Arabic programs, including Radio Sawa and Alhurra Television, as focusing too much on music and entertainment. The BBG terminated Voice of America Arabic programs after 9/11 to focus resources on Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV, but Iranian dissidents describe the still existing VOA broadcasts to Iran — one of the key audiences in the region — as being too soft on the Iranian regime. Dissidents in Russia also described VOA Russian Internet content as having a pro-Putin bias.
The BBG public relations office insists that the criticism of its programs to the Middle East and Russia is unfounded and describes them as balanced and effective. Radio Sawa can be heard on a local frequency in Benghazi, Libya, where the U.S. Ambassador and other Americans were killed. After the attack on the U.S. Consulate, the station conducted and broadcast an interview with the alleged author of the anti-Muslim video which is being blamed for the violence.
Ted Lipien is a director of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting(CUSIB) and a former acting associate director of the Voice of America (VOA).
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