Monday, February 28, 2011

Russia Today, US Tomorrow

Only a few days until spring break! But until then, there are blogs to write. And I've got a fun topic this week - Matt Armstrong's piece on Russia Today broadcasting in the US. My first thought is - great, this airs in the DC area, I should find out what channel. But that'll have to wait, as I a) have a blog post to write, and b) have NO idea where my latest channel guide from Comcast is.

Approximately 42.6% of Russia Today's viewers in New York and Washington DC "appreciate RT's critical take on news of the day, as well as its different stance from the mainstream media, and see it as a reliable alternative." While I find it unsurprising that 87% of viewers consider "mainstream" channels like CNN to be partisan, I'm more interested in the segment of RT viewership that doesn't see it as such merely because it is an alternative news source. Is it a different perspective? Yes. But just because a media outlet offers a different perspective than the one that consumers are used to doesn't mean it lacks aims and bias, especially when broadcast overseas. I suppose that's more of a media literacy issue, but it's also a way of sending PD messages, even to an audience that thinks they are being quite critical by their choice of news consumption.

This isn't the issue of concern to Matt Armstrong. That Americans can view foreign broadcasts in the country, but not what the US airs overseas is, in accordance with the Smith-Mundt Act. He notes that material once considered propaganda is available to American the implicit question seems to be, what is the US broadcasting that is so farfetched or so full of embellishment that we can't see? What harm would come from Americans hearing what the government has to say about their own country - especially if the portrayal is positive? Even if that's what he was inferring, it's a question I'm asking. A question that the average person would ask is, "Why would we need to? We know what life is like." But that's not the point. We should have the right to know what images are being broadcast by our government's PD team. After all...they're not trying to sell us on anything. According to its critics, that's what our "mainstream media" already allegedly does.

We're not the customers of the United States's public diplomacy. We are, however implicitly, part of the production team. And we should know what our government is selling us as.

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