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Public diplomacy over the last decade has been dominated by strategic communications thinking with an emphasis on projecting messages about U.S. official viewpoints in a time of war. At the same time, media have undergone fundamental changes, both in the proliferation of satellite broadcasting, and in the advent of networked digital communications via internet and cell phone networks that allow mass participation in the creation of content. The new U.S. administration has promised a different approach – focused on listening over lecturing. What role should public diplomacy take in this context? Should it be redefined? Upgraded? Demoted? Should the U.S. government continue to support international broadcasting efforts, or disband much of that in favor of support for more participatory approaches? Is this a time when less might be better?
An event on Tuesday morning in Washington D.C. (Tuesday evening Asia time) called Media as Global Diplomat, organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace and ITVS, will explore “how the United States can best use media to reinvigorate its public diplomacy strategy and international influence in order to strengthen efforts to build a more peaceful world.
It will be interesting to see if the public diplomacy world begins to take on the lessons of participatory media – and focus less on messages and projecting an American viewpoint, and more on listening, and thinking creatively about how the voices and perspectives of others are treated as partners in conversation.
If you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about public diplomacy – take a look at ProPublica’s investigative series into Alhurra TV – the BBG’s effort to reach the Middle East through a USG-funded “commercial” TV network. Alhurra and related radio project Radio Sawa might be the epitome of Bush-era thinking of how to mimic commercial mass media to project American messages and viewpoints to the world. Regardless of whether they were right for their time – and there are good arguments that they weren’t – it’s worthwhile asking how relevant such efforts will be in a time of abundant media – given hundreds of competing satellite broadcasters, and the paradigm changes to communications brought about by the networked public sphere.
Join me and my colleague Rebecca MacKinnon to find out. Watch the live webcast and join a live chat here or here. Twitter at #usip. Facebook page here. Rebecca will be live-blogging the event here on her blog, with some backup from me. I’ll also repost that here on burning bridge.
I will be online to moderate and follow the live chat, bringing your views and questions from the live chatroom into the event. That way, we hope the conversation can be expanded beyond the room to include everybody watching and reacting remotely.
If you have views in advance that they’d like to express, please post them in the comments section of this post, or on Rebecca’s site.
Below is the full program and schedule, taken from here.
We are in a disruptive period in media, the result of an explosion in digital distribution, social networking, and user generated content. And with disruption comes opportunity. This summit, moderated by Ted Koppel and entitled Media as Global Diplomat, is a forum to ask key public and private sector leaders how the United States can best use media to reinvigorate its public diplomacy strategy and international influence in order to strengthen efforts to build a more peaceful world.
Agenda [All times EST]
(9:00 a.m.) Welcome and Framing the Day
Sheldon Himelfarb, Associate Vice President, Center of Innovation for Media, Conflict, and Peacebuilding, U.S. Institute of Peace
Ambassador Richard Solomon, President, U.S. Institute of Peace
Sally Jo Fifer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Television Service
Media & Public Diplomacy: The Challenge at Hand
Ted Koppel will address the dramatically changing global media landscape and its implications for public diplomacy and peacebuilding.
(9:30 a.m.) Public Diplomacy 2.0: Rethinking Official Media
In this new era of digital distribution, social networking, and user generated content, what is the role of government-funded media in bolstering America’s global influence and ability to manage conflict? This panel will discuss where traditional strategies for media-based public diplomacy are effective and where they need to change.
- Kathy Bushkin Calvin – Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, The United Nations Foundation; Former President, AOL Time Warner Foundation
- Ambassador Edward Djerejian- Founding Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
- Abderrahim Foukara- Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief, Al Jazeera International
- Ambassador James Glassman – Former Under Secretary of State Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State
- Andrew McLaughlin – Director of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs, Google
- James Zogby – Founder and President, Arab American Institute
(11:15 a.m.) The Global Media Marketplace
What is the responsibility of free market commercial media to serve the greater public good in the global media age? This panel will consider the role of “unintended” stereotypes in shaping the image of the US abroad and the perils of uninformed citizens at home due to declining news coverage of international events.
- Edward Borgerding – Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Media Company
- Carol Giacomo – Editorial Board Member, The New York Times
- Mika Salmi – President of Global Digital Media of MTV Networks
- Smita Singh – Director, Global Development Program, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
- Sydney Suissa – Executive Vice President of Content, National Geographic Channels International
(12:30 p.m.) Lunch
(1:15 p.m.) Special Screening: Waltz With Bashir
Ari Folman’s animated documentary on the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon War. Academy Award nominee and winner of 2009 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Waltz With Bashir is part of the ITVS International initiative and will be introduced by introduced by Calvin Sims, Program Officer, Media Arts & Culture, Ford Foundation.
(2:45 p.m.) Independent Documentary and Participatory Media
In discussing the film, this panel will consider the potential of film and video to connect people around the world and transform conflict. How can this powerful content be deployed as part of a more effective US public diplomacy strategy?
- Tamara Gould – Vice President of Distribution, Independent Television Service
- Yvette Alberdingk Thijm – Executive Director, Witness