School of Media and Communication

Phil Taylor's papers


Changing Minds, Winning Peace*

PD for the Arab and Muslim World. October 2003. You will need Adobe to read the pdf file, the original of which is at

Below is the PBS commentary on the report from

1 October 2003, PBS Online Newshour

"Hostility toward America has reached shocking levels," the 13-member advisory group stated in its report.

"The United States today lacks the capabilities in public diplomacy to meet the national security threat emanating from political instability, economic deprivation and extremism, especially in the Arab and Muslim world," the report said.

"What is required is not merely tactical adaptation but strategic, and radical, transformation," the panel, called the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World, said.

Congress commissioned the panel in June 2003 to examine the alarming rise of anti-American attitudes abroad, particularly in predominantly Muslim nations.

The committee, led by Edward Djerejian, a former ambassador to Israel and Syria, traveled to Egypt, Syria, Senegal, Morocco, Turkey, France and the United Kingdom to examine the effectiveness of U.S. outreach initiatives on its public image. Other members of the advisory panel included Mamoun Fandy from the United States Institute of Peace; Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland; and John Zogby, head of an international polling firm.

By late September, the group completed its research, finding the "apparatus of public diplomacy has proven inadequate, especially in the Arab and Muslim world."

"A process of unilateral disarmament in the weapons of advocacy over the last decade has contributed to widespread hostility toward Americans and left us vulnerable to lethal threats to our interests and our safety," the report, entitled "Changing Minds, Winning Peace," continues.

The committee faulted "a system that has become outmoded, lacking both strategic direction and resources" for the problems with U.S. public diplomacy programs.

Additionally, the report says public diplomacy programs urgently require a "dramatic increase in funding."

The State Department spent roughly $600 million on outreach programs last year, and another $540 million for the Voice of America and other broadcast programs, according to the study.

Of that amount, the panel noted, the government allotted a mere $25 million to outreach programs in the Arab and Muslim world.

"In this time of peril, public diplomacy is absurdly and dangerously underfunded," the study found.

The panel also acknowledged that U.S. policies were partly to blame for the anti-American attitudes in the Middle East, but the panel stressed the government could reverse the trend by dramatically enhancing its diplomatic operations and activities.

"Surveys indicate that much of the resentment toward America stems from real conflicts and displeasure with policies, including those involving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Iraq. But our mandate is clearly limited to issues of public diplomacy, where we believe a significant new effort is required," the report said.

As part of the "new effort," the panel recommended a number of reforms, including the creation of a new "special counselor" to the president, who would develop the overall strategy for the government's communications abroad. The counselor would direct public diplomacy programs and coordinate with other agencies to ensure that U.S. policies in general were sensitive to foreign public opinion.

The panel also criticized the government's deficient methods of auditing its current public diplomacy programs and called for a "new culture of measurement" in the State Department and other federal agencies.

The study calls upon the government to hire 600 fluent Arabic speakers within five years. The report pointed out that only 54 officials in the State Department had a reasonable level of fluency in Arabic and only a couple could participate in discussion on Arab television and radio programs.

In reviewing existing and upcoming operations, the report calls for an independent review of the planned government-sponsored Middle East Television Network, and says Radio Sawa, the U.S. government's music-oriented radio broadcast for Arab listeners, needs a "clearer objective than building a large audience."

The report's other recommendations include building more libraries and information centers in predominantly Muslim nations, translating more American books into Arabic and increasing the number of scholarships and visiting fellowships to scholars from the region.

THE BBG issued the following statement

Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Statement on "Changing Minds, Winning Peace," A Report Released by The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) released the following statement on October 8, 2003 in response to the "Changing Minds, Winning Peace," report by the commission's Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World.

1. The report demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of U.S. international broadcasting's mission, which is "to promote and sustain freedom and democracy by broadcasting accurate and objective news and information about the United States and the world to overseas audiences." The BBG, which oversees all U.S. nonmilitary international broadcasting, is an arm of public diplomacy with a distinct role: to broadcast accurate, fact-based news and information, and to serve as an example of the highest quality of American journalism.

2. The report's recommendation that U.S. international broadcasting -- with the exception of news - be placed under a new Office of the Special Counselor to the President is unwise and unworkable. It's unwise because it would tear the firewall that separates broadcasters from partisan politics, leading to charges the BBG's news and information is tainted and not trustworthy. Credibility is the BBG's stock-in-trade.

3. The report fails to credit Radio Sawa as one of the most innovative public diplomacy initiatives in a generation, reflecting the kind of dramatic new thinking the Advisory Group says is needed to transform America's image in the Middle East and elsewhere. Radio Sawa, the Arabic-language station, launched in March 2002, has been an unqualified success, attracting millions of listeners. A recent ACNielsen study showed Radio Sawa is the leading international broadcaster in five Middle Eastern countries with 31 percent listenership among the general population, and 42 percent in the all-important 15-29 year group. Moreover, Radio Sawa listeners view the United States more favorably than do non-listeners, Nielsen said.

4. The report ignores Radio Sawa's news and current affairs content, which is broadcast for up to five hours daily. The station engages its audience with features and interactive programs and provides U.S. officials a means of connecting with people in the region. During the Iraq War, the station provided wall-to-wall coverage of breaking events, including the fall of Baghdad. By controlling transmission, Sawa staff can - and does - increase its daily information content for big stories and breaking news. Without large audiences, America's voice would be virtually silent. News is delivered in a non-inflammatory fashion, carefully using words and terminology that are not emotional but are fair. According to Nielsen, Radio Sawa is viewed a "reliable" news source by 75 percent of its listeners.

5. The report's recommendation that the BBG hold off creating an Arabic television network -- and consider placing American programs on Arab networks such as Al-Jazeera -- is misinformed. Existing, state-owned networks, which frequently broadcast biased, anti-American propaganda, are the problem, not the solution. We must start broadcasting the U.S. viewpoint on American, 24/7 Arabic-language satellite TV.

6. The report calls for a "new culture of measurement" for public diplomacy yet its conclusions and recommendations are based on anecdotes. The report fails to take notice of the fact that Radio Sawa is the most measured program in the history of international broadcasting.

The BBG is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported nonmilitary international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); Radio Free Asia (RFA); Radio and TV Martí, Radio Sawa and Radio Farda. The services broadcast in 65 languages to over 100 million people around the world in 125 markets.

Nine members comprise the BBG, a presidentially appointed body. Current governors are Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Joaquin Blaya, Blanquita W. Cullum, D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, Edward E. Kaufman, Robert M. Ledbetter, Jr., Norman J. Pattiz and Steven Simmons. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell serves as an ex officio member.

Changing_MindsWinningPeace.pdf A new strategic direction for PD in the Arab and Muslim World

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