Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Surrogate Broadcasting

Extreme Mortman quoted from a Ken Tomlinson article on Karl Rove. Tangential to this article was an explanation of surrogate broadcasting.

The concept of surrogate broadcasting is deceptively simple. Through solid research and reporting, surrogate broadcasting provides totalitarian and authoritarian societies information they would enjoy if their countries had a free press.

It’s not propaganda, dear to the hearts of so many √©migr√© activists. It’s not a call to arms to resist tyranny associated with Radio Free Europe’s broadcasts that may have played a role in sparking the ‘56 Hungarian Revolution.

Nor is it public diplomacy promoting the policies of the United States government, though this is an absolutely valid responsibility of a vital State Department component. We don’t need to spend the resources required for surrogate broadcasting for societies that already enjoy a free press.

Surrogate broadcasting gives the people of Iran, for example, what they would enjoy if they could have the Iranian equivalent of the best of Fox News and MSNBC and CNN with the Weekly Standard and the New Republic thrown in. Vital to its effectiveness is that the broadcasts must retain the ring of freedom associated with the kind of journalism that conveys information so that the people can make their own decisions.


Tomlinson claims (I cannot prove or disprove this) that Radio Free Europe and its brethren followed the practice in the 1980s.

Rove’s knowledge [of surrogate broadcasting] is drawn from his service on the old U.S. Board for International Broadcasting where in the 1980s Steve Forbes and Lane Kirkland worked like brothers for a revitalized Radio Free Europe — an exercise that leaders like Poland’s Lech Walesa and Czechoslovakia’s Vaclav Havel believe was critical to winning the Cold War....

Forbes, the quintessential advocate of unfettered capitalism, and Kirkland, whose AFL-CIO stood for working men and women, were absolutely joined at the hip when it came to what Cold War broadcasting should be doing.

The key was not advocacy of U.S. policies. It was providing the forbidden fruit of truth to information-deprived societies. We couldn’t resemble the dogma of Soviet state radio. The forbidden fruit was free and open debate and reporting events in such a way that truth, not advocacy, was the bottom line....

[J]ust as Truman and Vandenburg found unity at the water’s edge, Forbes and Kirkland forged a partnership that freed RFE/RL of the traditional partisan conflicts that so often had interfered with the quality of its work in the past....


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