U.S. Must Step Up Public Diplomacy, Officials and Senators Agree
(Beers, Pattiz testify before supportive Foreign Relations panel) (910)
By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Congressional Correspondent
Washington -- The United States must do a better job of defining itself to the world, the official in charge of State Department public diplomacy efforts told a supportive Senate Foreign Relations Committee June 11.
"This is our mission in the post-September 11th world, and it is a mission that must succeed," said Charlotte Beers, undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.
In this effort, priority attention must be paid to expanding communication with "the mainstream of young adults" so as "to give them, ultimately, a new world view," Beers said. "The young will lead us," she declared.
Beers and Norman Pattiz, representing the independent Broadcasting Board of Governors, who testified with her, focused heavily on the need for new and expanded broadcast initiatives as the committee considered the issue of "America's Global Dialogue: Sharing American Values and the Way Ahead for Public Diplomacy."
Pattiz, who also is chairman of Westwood One, the largest U.S. radio network, pointed to the Broadcasting Board's newly launched Middle East Radio Network -- also called Radio Sawa (the Arabic word for "together") -- as a model for further successful communication efforts.
He said Radio Sawa broadcasting was inaugurated this past March, after travel in the Middle East had convinced him that "there's a media war going on and the weapons of that war include disinformation, incitement to violence, hate radio, government censorship and journalistic self-censorship, and the United States didn't have a horse in this race."
The station's format, he said, is targeted at listeners 30 and under, who make up well over 60 percent of the region's population. Programming "is music-driven, with five- and 10- minute newscasts every hour, 24 hours a day," Pattiz added.
He played a short tape that sampled a longer Sawa program -- in what Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (Democrat, Delaware) joked marked the historic first intrusion of rock and roll and Britney Spears into a Foreign Relations hearing -- and won plaudits for the broadcast effort from Biden and other committee members.
Committee support for an increased emphasis on public diplomacy was signaled in the opening statements given by Biden and Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican member, and repeated throughout.
Lugar proposed to use the hearing "as the basis for the construction of a bill to revitalize American public diplomacy," adding, "I know many members of this committee have been giving a lot of thought to this issue and its time to get to work." His comments prompted Biden to respond, "I couldn't agree with you more, senator."
Without giving his own view on the proposal directly, Lugar observed that "one of the most interesting suggestions calls for reorganizing the public diplomacy apparatus by placing resources, budgets, personnel and staff under the direct control of Undersecretary Beers."
Lugar, along with Senator Edward Kennedy (Democrat, Massachusetts) and a bipartisan group of 11 other senators, introduced in May the Cultural Bridges Act of 2002, which would sharply increase funding for student and other exchanges between Americans and participants from Islamic nations, and also create a new high school exchange program for students from the Islamic world.
Citing the value of such exchanges, Beers said Congress and the administration must find a way to "magnify the 25,000 (annual) exchanges into 10 times that number."
Asked by Biden about plans for getting more heavily into television broadcasting to advance the U.S. position, Beers expressed the cautious view that extensive research and preparation must be done before jumping into such an effort if it is to be successful.
"For me it comes down to allocation of resources," Beers said. And those resources for public diplomacy have been reduced to a "shocking" degree over the years, she declared.
Once again voicing support, Biden responded, "I, for one, think we're going to have to significantly increase the resources we devote to this."
He was backed up by Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican, Nebraska), who told Beers, "We will work here to provide the kind of resources that you need."
One of the few hints of disagreement at the hearing surfaced when Lugar asked the witnesses their view as to who should be in charge of expanded broadcast undertakings.
Pattiz made clear his view that it should be the Broadcasting Board of Governors, because the agency's independent status gives its journalists an aura of objectivity and credibility. "If you don't have credibility, you're lost," he said.
Beers, for her part, declared the State Department to be "clearly responsible for every iteration of editorial policy."
Appearing on a second panel of witnesses before the committee, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich asserted that "the ultimate scale of resources needed to defeat the extremist fanatic wing of Islam will resemble the resources we used to defeat communism."
"Creating a stable, safe world requires a public information capability and a public diplomacy capability far beyond anything we have developed to date," Gingrich -- now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute -- said in his prepared testimony.
"The new emerging information age has new requirements for tactical information on a daily basis and complex requirements for the Internet, cell phones, satellite television, radio and long-term educational efforts," Gingrich said. While these activities can often be implemented by non-governmental organizations, he argued, "the resourcing and the general strategies and systems implementation require government leadership."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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