Washington Calling

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) (about) has put together a fascinating site on major issues, risks and challenges that the incoming President and Congress will be expected to deal with. The non-partisan GAO has always been an effective user of the Web and indeed its orientation towards scrutiny and transparency is a perfect fit for ‘e-government’ (whatever that is).

That alone would be reason to point you towards the Transitions 2009 website. However, with my own preoccupations in mind, it’s nice to see that one of the issues is:

Improving the United States Image Abroad / Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting

which is described and introduced (including a nice, subtitled video message) here. The history of the US official broadcasting services (the Voice of America etc) is a very interesting one, and while I think the perception of its importance had diminished (particularly in the West), government activities still form a major part of the international broadcasting landscape. In many ways, government-supported ‘propaganda’ broadcasting, particularly via shortwave, predates a lot of our current concerns about jurisdiction and culture and all that jazz. I’ve always had a good deal of respect for VOA – though it’s not a patch either in terms of depth or scope on the (also more independent) BBC World Service – and it and its sister services are facing a lot of challenges, particularly in terms of the changing map of ‘priority’ languages. The US broadcasters are supporters of the Tor project (for anonymous Internet use) which should be acknowledged – even if there are plenty of things about US foreign policy to be critical of, Tor makes things possible that don’t necessarily line up all that well with US interests.

The challenges that the GAO note for the international broadcasting services include finance, management, scope and technology. The reports compiled by the Office to date are revealing, frank and sober. A great resource.

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