Minutes of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy March 2004 Official Meeting
Barbara Barrett, Chair
Maria Sophia Aguirre
Charles "Tré" Evers
Chairman Ken Tomlinson, Broadcasting Board of Governors
Governor Norman Pattiz, Broadcasting Board of Governors
Matt J. Lauer, Designated Federal Officer
Chairman Barbara Barrett: In the interest of timeliness and efficiency, we are going to call the meeting to order. We have the pleasure of having Norm Pattiz and Ken Tomlinson here from the Broadcasting Board of Governors. I think everybody has had a chance to meet. In many cases, we have worked together on a number of projects. It is a very important matter to us how the BBG, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, transacts its business and makes known the issues of the day and broadcasts to the folks around the world it is a very important role. Chairman Ken Tomlinson and Governor Norm Pattiz, we welcome you to the Advisory Commission in Public Diplomacy meeting. The BBG’s visibility is increasingly important. Your broadcast to vast audiences especially in the Middle East is of interest and importance to this commission. You’ve both had extraordinarily distinguished careers in exactly this topic, so we are especially delighted to have your insights presented here. And I suspect everyone has knowledge and background of your careers and your good work, but let me just review a couple of elements of those broadcasting and journalism careers.
Chairman Tomlinson has risen from a Richmond Times dispatch reporter to become a correspondent for Reader’s Digest in Vietnam and in Paris and then becoming Editor-in-Chief of the Reader’s Digest. Chairman Tomlinson also served as President Reagan’s Director of the Voice of America in the early 1980s. Chairman, we are especially delighted because we consider that you completely understand the news and information business, and your strong voice for high quality, marketable public affairs programming is something that we value as a representative and an arm of the American government. Thank you very much for being here.
Governor Pattiz, thank you, also, very much for being here. And as I think many of the commissioners know or all the commissioners may be somewhat familiar with your background, but as I understand it, you conceptualized, you founded and you grew the largest radio network in America, Westwood One. You currently serve as Chairman of Westwood One and through that organization you manage, own or distribute most of the major radio news programming in the United States. You’ve been the driving force using proven Western broadcasting techniques to attract large audiences for the station’s public diplomacy mission. This is a special treat, and I think I speak for all the commissioners when I say welcome. We are especially delighted for you to be here. The way we would like to design this morning’s work is that we would like to hear from you.
We understand that you have a technology demonstration, and if all things go smoothly, we will get a chance to see a bit of the product, and after your presentation, we’d no doubt have some questions and observations and insights we’d like to share. We understand that your board is meeting later this morning or later today. Our anticipation would be that we would certainly be finished here by 10 o’clock to free you for the other obligations that you have. So with that, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson: There was a time when you said the leadership of broadcasting was going to meet with the leadership of Public Diplomacy, the question was what were the weapons going to be. When Forbes chaired BBG and Fuelner chaired the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, I mean there was a Jihad period. It was something else. And I think that the closeness that we feel is a tribute to Harold Pachios and to Barbara Barrett, and we are so happy that Elizabeth Bagley will soon be involved in broadcasting. Harold, of course, was a great champion of at least television, technically the first person to propose it a number of years ago. There was a time when we were battling to get the money and Harold came in with a letter from this commission urging funds for Middle East television, and in old Public Diplomacy circles I circulated that letter as a badge of honor and said, can you imagine this? This is extraordinary. And it was extraordinary. But, of course, Middle East television is extraordinary. We have come together behind major, major project. I think Middle East television will prove to be the biggest development in broadcasting public diplomacy since VOA was founded in WWII. If you could have just seen the sea of Middle East faces out there on the day we launched and you reflected on how in the world in just a matter of weeks we got something like eighty-five journalists not only hired but also through Homeland Security and into this country. It was extraordinary. I can brag about the next part because it’s Norm’s doing, 150 miles of cable laid in a matter of three months. At one point, they had 22 electricians working around the clock out there to do in three months what any place else in government would have taken two years. There was a time last summer when Norm came to town and saw that things weren’t going the way he wanted them to go, the way they should have been going, and there was a quick shakeup and man, in a matter of weeks we were flying again and it was extraordinary to see. But the real proof of all this, of course, is going to be how we are received. And I’m not much of a gambling man. If you raise racehorses, you’ve done all the gambling you need to do. Someone asked me one time, "Do you bet on your horses?" And I said, "I rarely do because I invested it in the farm."
If I could find someone who would give me odds, I’d bet this is going to be a tremendous, tremendous success because our competitive advantage is truth and free debate and reaching where media is dominated by sensationalism and distortion. And I think that the variability to stage these debates and have this flow of ideas will be what will mark us in the end because in the end we want people in that region to ask the basic question, what went wrong? Life is not only the Arab-Israeli conflict. Life is about opportunity, employment, healthcare, women’s rights. What went wrong? Why are we here in over here when a few hundred years ago, it was the other way around. So it is great to be with you. I love working with you all. I feel a great closeness to what you are doing because after all I got my job and my career in public diplomacy through your commission.
I aspired to be a member of your commission and I was a correspondent in the 70s and traveled with my short-wave radio and I’d listen to the BBC and listen to VOA and I’d ask that question, "Why in the world is BBC so much better than Voice of America?" Why? You’ve got to change this. And as President Reagan was being elected, I had a lot of friends in the campaign and I said the only thing I want to do, I want to be a member of that USIA Advisory Commission because I want to write reports on what VOA needs to do to take its place as an international broadcaster in the world so it would be beyond the BBC. So I was all set for my appointment and at the very last minute I get a call from advance personnel. Gee, I’m sorry. Somebody named Blumenthal is very close to the Reagan family and he just took your seat. And I was devastated. I was not going to have the great power that you all had to observe, issue that annual report, raise hell and make things happen. And somehow Charlie Wick went through two or three directors of VOA in less than a year or so, and they finally got in the situation where they couldn’t find anyone to take the job and I was there and really to roll and I had two of the best years of my life.
So it’s great to be here. I look forward to hearing from Norm and I look forward for you to see this clip because I am married to a rather strong-willed person and when those windows opened on the screen, I looked over and I saw tears flowing from her face. It was an extraordinary scene. And as soon as that first newscast ended, throughout the building I saw excitement like I have never seen with journalists. Journalists don’t get excited. Journalists were very excited that day. They were screaming and yelling and it was indeed an extraordinary period, and I pay all the tribute in the world, Norm, to the role you played in making this possible. Thank you.
Governor Norman Pattiz: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’ll just say this and say this quite candidly. You know I have been a broadcaster for forty years, and the highlight of my broadcasting career was the launch of this television station. Period. Hands down. End of report. This has been the most rewarding project I have ever worked on simply because of the fact that there were so many people who said it can’t be done – it’s going to take two years to build – you are going to need a two hundred million dollar budget – they are not going to listen to you – you have too many hurdles to overcome in the region. Some of those questions are yet to be answered. But some of those questions have been answered and answered quite effectively.
We started swinging a hammer in our facility in Springfield about twenty-five minutes from here in mid October and we went on the air on the 14th day of February. We started with fourteen hours of programming. Two weeks later we went to nineteen hours of programming. And this Saturday we will go to twenty-four hours of programming. And what you will see is you will see a world-class television network. The sets are world class. The visuals are world class. Everything about it; the reporting, the people that we have on the ground; the bureaus; its all world-class. When you put the Radio Sawa and Al Hurra news teams together, we have if not the largest, certainly, one of the largest Arabic language newsgathering organizations in the world. And that, I think, gives us an opportunity for success.
I think the reason that we are so bullish about this is because over the last two years we have seen the success we have had with Radio Sawa in not only attracting an audience but also maintaining that audience but maintaining that audience for our news and informational programming, having that audience perceive our news as accurate, reliable and credible and having research demonstrate that those people who listen to Radio Sawa have a much more positive view of the United States of America than people who do not listen to Radio Sawa. Now that’s a radio network and it’s in many, many cities but not everywhere. It is still rolling out. But the kinds of things that we have accomplished with Sawa I think we will be able to accomplish in a significantly more obvious way with television. That is where the game is really being played. We all know about the media environment in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, we are seeing it right now with all of the generally negative press that we are seeing about Al Hurra. They are frightened to death of us. At this point in time, my feeling is I don’t care whether it is good press or if it is bad press. All press is good press. You know we don’t have a huge promotional budget. We are promoting the heck out of it on radio Sawa, but the kind of press that we are receiving guarantees that people will sample us. Before we went on the air, the press was overwhelmingly negative. And it was the Arab media environment in microcosm. It was hate speak. It was disinformation. It was incitement to violence. It was government censorship and it was journalistic self-censorship, all of the things we have come to expect from the media within the region but directed toward a new television station.
When you talk about the things we hope to accomplish, we have already accomplished one of the major things. There is now great debate going on in the Arabic media about why they are so worried about us and why they shouldn’t be more focused on what is going on in their own media. And there are discussions among Arab intellectuals and in the Arab press about the shortcomings of their own media and what we bring to the table. Now that’s before anybody has indicated anything about the size of our viewership. We have created debate in the region and since our mission is to promote democracy and freedom through the free flow of accurate, reliable and credible news and information, we have already begun that simply by arriving in the neighborhood. So we expect like Radio Sawa, Al Hurra and both of those projects, let me say, are the most researched projects in the history of international broadcasting. We did research before we ever went on the air to find out more about our audience and how we could connect with our audience and where the possibilities were to have the maximum amount of impact. We do continuing research both internal research that we do ourselves but it is all backed up by contracting with outside research companies as we did with ACNielsen a few month ago. They are in the field now doing more research on Radio Sawa because, of course, the research in the region is very suspect. There is a rating service in the region but it is not something that you can really depend upon because it is pretty much geared toward commercial broadcasters and there is some questioned about whether it could be influence in the same way many things are influenced in the Middle East by some sort of fiscal arrangement. But we are not going to depend upon that. We are going to do our own. We are going to contract with companies like Nielsen and other research companies to make sure that we know that the kind of information we are getting is accurate. I think what I would like to do now is show you this four and a half minute DVD. What this is – it is narrated in English so that you will understand what some of the Arabic lines say, but this will show you our visual imagery. It will show you our facility. It will show you our staff. Well let me just let it show you what it shows you.
That’s is. The visual imagery – I mean since we are noncommercial, obviously we have an opportunity during our commercial breaks of our outsourced programming to run messages, promos – we can promo what is on our air, etc. and we can do station promos that position us, and those positioning statements I think in the case of this type of television station are very, very important. What you have seen is an example of positioning statements. The same kinds of things that you would see on a commercial television station but positioning them for a completely different purpose. They were put together by the visual logo which you saw at the very end, which was the Arabian horses, was put together by Lambie Nairn, a British and American Company that did all of the video imagery for the BBC, for the Disney Channel, for the Sci-Fi channel, for a number of different channels, and they are really a top flight company. A lot of the other video imagery that you saw, the opening of the windows, the connector that shows basic people doing different things, you know you can act, you can discern, you can feel, etc. were put together by Saatchi and Saatchi, Beirut, who have been our primary advisor culturally throughout the region but bear in mind we’ve got eighty-five people right now in our news department from the region who have worked for various media outlets. Many of them are competitors. One of the things you did not see in this video, which is a great little connector that we use, is we have interviewed everybody who came over from the region and we asked them why did you come to work for Al Hurra? And we play those throughout the day so that the audience gets very familiar with who are presenters are why they came. And there are some very, very interesting and powerful reasons for why they came. So that’s it. We’ll be running. We will be 24 hours this weekend. We expect to shake things up and we already are. There have already been two fatwas that have been issued against us, and I have gotten several letters of congratulations on those. So that’s what we are about. So if you have some questions of either Ken or I, we will do our best to answer them.
Chairman Barrett: I’m certain we will have some questions. I’ll start. Tell me a little bit more about the reaction that you have received in addition to the fatwas. How have you seen the other broadcasters in the region? Has it had any influence yet that you have seen on their broadcasting or on their way of doing things? Is there any evidence at this point that you are moving them?
Governor Pattiz: Yes, if you take a look at many of the press reports that we have received, there are already accounts of meetings going on at places like Aljazeera, Al Arabia to determine how to adjust to what we are doing. We will raise the bar certainly in terms of production values in the region. One of the reasons people will watch us is because we are so much more visually appealing in the region. When we first started doing our research three years ago for the launch of Radio Sawa, one of the interesting things we found was that people liked to watch commercials on television, and the reason they liked to watch commercials was because the production value of those commercials were so much better than the actual programming and the news, etc. Well, as you can see, we have raised the bar and they will adjust to us. They will improve their production values. Even before we went on the air, interestingly enough, a lot of people thought we were going to do television Sawa, and we did nothing to dissuade them that notion.
Chairman Tomlinson: A lot of people in this building thought that.
Governor Pattiz: Yes. And a lot of people thought we were going to be running sitcoms, off-network television shows, movies and what-have-you. And, consequently, many of our competitors in the region started going to distributors throughout the region and locking up all those programs, which was terrific. Spend their budget on that. We are putting in a news and information station on the air. So some of them were very surprised to see what we eventually came out with. So there have been very definite signs of our competitors being concerned and, of course, there has been a good deal of discussion in the press about what it means for us to be there and how it is going to effect local press.
Chairman Tomlinson: One of the reasons Norm and I are effective when we work as a team is because we come from two different sides of the street. People I run with don’t like watching commercials. They want news and they want news fast. People I run with don’t pay much attention to surveys. Mark Twain said figures lie and liars figure. Thank you for laughing. But one thing about Sawa, surveys indicated people started turning to Sawa for news. I’m surprised at a lot of right-wingers in this town who thought the only thing we were doing was listening to Britany Spears. But why were they coming to Sawa for news? They were coming to Sawa for news because it was fast. It was accurate. And we changed the nature of the way people approached news in the region in the same way we are going to change the way they approach television. Because we can have influence. My gosh, if Sawa becomes the number one source of news in places like Baghdad or Amman for that matter, then something extraordinary is going on. I have to contain myself because you have to low-ball these things, but I’m very, very excited.
Chairman Barrett: Let me ask one other question then we will go on to other members. And that’s the gender mix in your audience. I suspect that there might be some quirks in the gender mix of your audience because of cultural matters. Who is at home watching television? It might be that it is significantly skewed toward women, I don’t know. It might be the opposite; that women aren’t to be watching these educational kinds of things. And I suspect that it varies by the country culture. In the clips that you showed, there were a lot of women in the eyes segments and in a lot of them. But on the news parts that you were mentioning, the discussants on the Sunday morning counterparts were, to my recollection of what we just saw, were all men. Can you talk a little bit about who you are gearing it to and how do you make sure that the programming has the gender distribution of the audience as well as right now, especially in this audience, one of the nation’s interest is the women’s right and having women have access, so I would like to have your thoughts on that.
Chairman Tomlinson: If you had been out yesterday, you would have noted all women. I, too, noted that from the video in that it is a quirk of who is there on a particular day. We had to put that together quickly but I took Dena Powell, the head of ? personnel at Al Hurra late last week. She is Egyptian born, came to this country at age five, Arabic is her first language. Her father is a truck driver down in Texas. It’s a great Republican achievement story here, Harold. But she is going to be out on a show this week. Norm, you, of course, know that one of the reasons why we are in the business is to attack women and minorities.
Governor Pattiz: Probably 50% of our anchors are women. Certainly, in our hour-long news casts because we have a man and a woman on every cast. Part of the reasons you see a lot of the experts, especially from the region, are men is because of the cultural differences that exist between us. It is much more difficult for a woman to be viewed as an expert in the region than it is for a man. But we certainly seek out women on the air. In terms of who’s watching, our research has indicated that women are watching TV but it is really a matter of who controls the set and during the times when men and women are there together, it’s the man who is controlling the set. But there are plenty of times when the man is not there and the woman is controlling the set. So, we are very, very conscious of our female audience and we are very, very conscious of making sure that the station looks like the region, not just one particular type of person in the region. I mean we don’t want all Egyptian anchors or all Lebanese anchors or what have you. In what you saw, you saw Egyptians, Sudanese, Katarese and Lebanese. You saw really kind of the entire region in microcosm. We have people, obviously, from North Africa as well as Iraqis and, of course, we will be beginning our Iraqi stream where we will be doing a special stream of Al Hurra-Iraq for twelve hours a day, which will start in a few weeks, so we are already working on that now.
Chairman Tomlinson: You may have noticed we had a shot of our Sudanese anchor. Within a week, Aljeezera had added to its staff their first Black female.
Tre’ Evers: Madam Chairman, thank you. I heard you mention before how researched this is. Can you just give me an idea of what that means, polling focus groups, how much you spent? How does that compare to other stations? What are some of the things that you learned from that research that you didn’t know going in. Just from your commercial experience, Mr. Pattiz, is there a benchmark, a percentage that you use on something like this for research?
Governor Pattiz: Well, first of all, the thing that was most interesting to me when we started doing the Sawa research is I had to throw my benchmarks out the window because the opportunities for us to gain large audiences, especially in radio, were much greater than other opportunities. You know, in Washington, DC or in any city around the country, if a radio station has a three-share or four-share, that is a license to print money. We find ourselves with Radio Sawa having in our target audience, you know, if you take a look at weekly listening in some places, we have a 90-share. But you have to remember that is not mutually exclusive but, for instance – let me see, I have some new research (which is under my Neo-Synephrine), which I just got which I was going to fill the Board on at some place. Oh, here is something I just got that was interesting. Let me just read this to you. It’s just one line talking about the press coverage that we are getting. This was from an article that ran yesterday where there was a good deal of criticism of what we were doing, but there was a line in it that I thought was particularly interesting. It says, "I, like other, viewers are thirsty for freedom and transparency without limits regardless of its source. That’s Al Hurra’s ultimate market advantage." And this was in an article and it really took off on our news director. I don’t know if you saw that piece. I sent it around but where it was talking about a lot of our shortcomings but it came right to the source of what our advantage it – that we will stand out because of the fact that if we are successful, and I believe we will be, we will be an example of a free press and our programming will be – you know, yesterday I was interviewed by Al-Ahram, which is a newspaper from Egypt in the region – and the guy kept saying, why don’t you guys just say you’re pushing American policies and that you are the mouthpiece for the Unites States Government." And I reminded him that he had been on one of our talk shows just a few days ago and that he was free to say anything that he wanted, and as I recall, he was very critical of our policies and the station so maybe he could draw his own conclusions to which he said, well you know I have to ask these questions.
But back to the research, the kind of research we do, we do several kinds of research. First, we do pre-launch research to determine the market. I mean the BBG has a strategic plan that is called Marrying the Mission to the Market, which I think you are familiar with. And what we do is to do the research to determine what the marketplace is about, who our audience is, what is possible, where the hole in the marketplace exists and whether the hole in the marketplace that is being under-served is consistent with our mission. And if it is consistent with our mission, then we just go plowing right through it. I mean that is what we did with radio Sawa.
Our mission, you know, is what was stated before: to be an example of a free press in the American tradition, and fairly and accurately explain US policy and have discussion about those policies. We knew that in the Middle East sixty-five percent of the population was under the age of 30, and we also knew that on radio in the Middle East they were being under-served. There was a hole big enough to drive a fleet of Mac trucks through so we determined what was the best way to go after them formatically and we did. In the case of television, there is a much richer television environment, much more competitive. There are fifty-some satellite channels throughout the region. This is not going to be a cake walk, but what we determined was that as many people who watch Aljazeera because of their sensationalism, there are as many people who are turned off because of their sensationalism. Aljazeera has an audience of about thirty million. That’s what they say. And that’s from various rating services, etc. but that’s suspect. But thirty million in an area of two hundred and fifty million people is what – about an 11 share, a 12 share or something like that. And I think what we should use as a benchmark is trying to come as close to Aljazeera as we can. I think we will be able to do it depending upon how we measure.
What we have to remember is that in radio people tend to listen to radio stations to the exclusion of other radio stations. People tend to identify themselves, in part, by the radio stations they listen to. I dare say if I walked into any one of your automobiles and checked out the settings, I’d know something about the person who inhabits that car. But television is different. Television is a medium of programs, not a medium of formats and people change the dial all the time. So we don’t have to take listeners away from Aljazeera, we simply have viewers to watch us along with Aljazeera, to put on some programming that will cause them to change the dial, and I think because of who we are they will do that. Because whether they agree with us or don’t agree with us, they are going to be interested in what we have to say the same way that Kolius Rahail (sp?) and the places it can be heard is very popular and very much listened to by Arab audiences simply because they want to know what the Israelis are saying.
So, the kind of research we will do on an ongoing basis we will continue to do quantitative and qualitative research to determine how our programming is resonating with the people who are watching, and continue to measure the size of our audience on what is usually considered the international broadcasters benchmark, you know, average weekly audience listening, and by that I think we can show some significant numbers. We won’t show the kinds of numbers that you find on radio because as a percentage of radio listeners can show a really, really high number, as a percentage of television listeners, there are more people viewing television and the number will consequently be a lower number, but I think we should use the Arabic broadcasters, the Aljazeeras and the al Arabias as the benchmark of what we want to try and approach in terms of our research numbers because, after all, I don’t want to say counteract, but this is certainly who we want to compete with in the marketplace of ideas.
Question: Madam Chairman, not to belabor this but I mean when you do a survey are they telephone surveys? Are they in person survey? Do you take the region and divide, you know, we are going to do thirty surveys from Iraq, or do you do country specific?
Governor Pattiz: Yes, we survey several different regions. For Sawa, for instance, we survey the Persian Gulf, we survey Amman, Jordan, we survey Cairo and Alexandria, and we survey Kuwait. We are now surveying Iraq and Morocco. Am I missing anything? I think that is pretty much the places that we survey for Radio Sawa. We do it in a number of different ways. There are some telephone surveys that have been commissioned that we have gotten the results of but it is not stuff we commissioned. We generally go out and survey people in the field, and the weekly research that we do for our own purposes on Sawa is primarily music research where we will take a tape recorder that’s got seven, eight or nine seconds of a particular musical song, what we call the musical hook, and we will sit down with people and play them fifty examples and we will ask them to rate the songs on a scale of 1-10 so that we will know what music is current and popular and which music is past its peak or which music is uninteresting at all. But then we ask those same people questions like what is your favorite radio station? Have you listened to Radio Sawa in the last week? What station do you listen to most for news? Do you find, in terms of Radio Sawa, is it reliable news? Is it not reliable? Things of those kinds of questions. Then we also do from time to time focus groups. For television, those focus groups will be targeted on particular programs that we have on the air and how people are responding to those particular programs. And we intend to do the same kind of research for Al Hurra in terms of making sure that we do different research studies in different parts of the region just like we did with radio Sawa.
Chairman Tomlinson: Let me tell you a story about the limitations of research, and I’m very poor with researches. Anyone who knows anything about my background knows I wouldn’t be so effective at the racetrack if I weren’t such a … When I returned to Reader’s Digest and Voice of America, I wanted to lift the image of Reader’s Digest because I thought I thought those newsstand tip-on bands cheapened Reader’s Digest because they didn’t reflect what the magazine really was. Now we tested those newsstand bands at supermarkets before we agreed on titles, and my original newsstand band was going to be about missing children. Let’s do something to protect these missing children. That was tested at supermarkets and was going to be the number one seller in the history of Reader’s Digest. Every one. Everyone said, "Oh, I want to do something about those missing children. Oh, I want to be a part of that." When the sales figures came in, it was the lowest selling newsstand band in a number of years because obviously people weren’t going to pay money to read a subject that was a bit of a downer. In fact, grandmothers didn’t want to read about missing children. An important journalistic article but not for the audience. Next time – I’m a very competitive person. Norm and I are both very competitive. Next time I wanted to sell. So the title of my next newsstand band was "The Surprising Key to Ultimate Sex". It was written by a minister and I hate to tell you but the answer was monogamy. So this newsstand band was tested in supermarkets. Oh, no, I would never buy that. But figures came in. My executives came in and said, "You are going to put this on the newsstand? Surveys show that you are not going to sell anything." It was the number one seller in the history of Reader’s Digest. So there are limitations to research. I think research is especially important in figuring out where you have been. But some things like news you will never tailor it to research. But there again I am fascinated by, and no one studies these figures any more than I do.
Governor Pattiz: I don’t disagree that the key to research like in focus groups, and we do focus groups in political campaigns and you show negative ads and everybody says, oh I hate those negative ads. I’m not voting for that SOB. So you know it worked even though people may not like it. So the key is being able to interpret the research, not just get the little report back. You know, if you are doing an in-person focus group, you have got to have the right people there obviously because people don’t tell the truth all the time because they are embarrassed by it.
We have a particular problem that we face with Al Hurra that we didn’t face with Sawa. Because Sawa is a radio station and because it is music driven, it attracts an audience with about twenty-five percent of its programming being news and information. It is easier to get people to take ownership of that station and want to be seen as somebody who listens to that radio station. We don’t have that same kind of station loyalty or what we call stationality in television because people aren’t loyal to television stations. They may be loyal to television programs but not to television stations. And since we are so phenomenally unpopular, and you take a look at the press that is in the region, you know we are not going to get any breaks. Nobody is going to say I like it if they don’t like it, and a lot of people who like it are going to be hard pressed to say they like it. I will give you a case in point.
This was something that was on a television report that was done in the region. I think ABC or NBC did it but I was interviewed by it and I think Ken was on it, too. And it showed an interview of one of their correspondents in the region – it was in Amman and they were asking a group of people about Al Hurra. They put a microphone in front of one guy and said, what do you think of Al Hurra? And he didn’t know it was American, apparently, and he said, Oh, I think it is very good. I like it. I think the news is balanced. I like the way they cover the Palestinian issue. And then the correspondent said, well, you know, of course, that Al Hurra is run by the Americans. And he goes, "The Americans? Why are they in here trying to influence us? Why are they in here trying to take over our culture? I will never watch that station. It’s awful. It’s terrible." So, you know those are the kinds of things we are going to have to deal with but sometimes the past is prologue and a lot of the things you see are Al Hurra are the product of broadcasting techniques that have been used successfully all over the world for a fair amount of time now and the assumption is that those techniques will be equally successful and we will try and back that up with research. But we are going to have to be concerned. You know, we can’t make the research the be all and end all. Sometimes you just have to kind of go with your experience and your gut.
Commissioner Bagley: Following up on what Norm just said, I was curious when you started by saying that everyone thought that Radio Sawa was not only the precursor but the template for Al Hurra. And frankly I think that is one of the criticisms that you received from the Djerejian commission, that it was too much money, too skewed to entertainment – not hard news. My question is how what made you – I actually was surprised when you said it was not the template and having some experience with OBN in Bosnia trying to program a network from scratch, the first thing we did was reach out and get programming or whether it was some not so good but very popular programs in order to attract an audience. How did you – what was your game plan when you thought about – how did you first start thinking about attracting an audience if you were not going to use the Sawa template? Was it just hard news? Was it just the thought that because it was American it was automatically going to be controversial and people would just tune in just because it was American? Or was it attracting documentaries? How did you actually start with an audience to begin with and why did you kind of divert from the original Sawa model?
Chairman Tomlinson: Well, Sawa was never going to be the model for television and we made that clear to the Djerejian commission but I guess it just didn’t glue.
Commissioner Bagley: Yes, it sounded like it. It sounded exactly like that’s what they thought – except for Hal.
Governor Pattiz: We know that and we appreciate that. There were two reasons why we didn’t go in that direction. First of all, the research showed us that there was an opportunity to do an opportunity to do a news and information-type television station that could be very successful. I mean people assumed that because Aljazeera and al Arabia and the other indigenous broadcasters presented their programming in a particular way that that’s the only way it could be successful, but our research showed us there were as many people that were turned off by that as were turned on by that, and that there were people who would be attracted to a station that was fair, that was reliable, that was credible, that was truthful and that was moderate in its approach without screaming and yelling talk show hosts and what have you. So that was something we didn’t know before we did the research. There was the assumption that that wasn’t available to us because that hole was already filled. Well, thirty percent of that hole was filled but sixty percent wasn’t. And that is still a big chunk to go after.
Secondly, American entertainment programming is widely available throughout the region. I mean there is practically nothing that is popular over here that already isn’t being distributed on some form of satellite television throughout the region so it wasn’t as if it was something that would be new. And frankly they were getting so much of their impressions of who we are and what we are about by our popular culture that we thought we ought to give them something a little bit different that was consistent with our mission. You know, a lot of people get all exercised - in the case of radio Sawa those people, who for the life I can’t understand it, don’t understand why Radio Sawa works or why it is important. Assume that Radio Sawa is the model that is going to take over international broadcasting everywhere that we broadcast. That’s ridiculous. Radio was a targeted medium. We are going after a young audience. For instance, we took a look at Russia and the opportunities of things to do in Russia and we determined that the best way to go after Russia was with all news and information. It is not as young as other parts of the world. There is already plenty of popular culture available. The news and information programming is very stale and very old school and so there is an opportunity there.
So what we are trying to do is, we are trying to, as we said and have always said, marry the mission to the market. That doesn’t mean one model. There are places where we can do a Radio Sawa. We’d be silly not to do it. There are places where the only way we can get in there is in short wave. So it would be silly to get out of short wave because it is yesterdays medium if it’s the only way that we can get out of there and it’s a place that has been influenced by the Chinese or the Russians where they have lots of short wave radios. So a lot of people get very, very nervous that something that works is all of a sudden we are going to switch everything to that. Far from it. We are just trying to take things that work and apply them where they will be the most successful.
Chairman Tomlinson: My model in television and radio journalism is the original McNeil-Lehrer report because it frankly reflected the BBC I fell in love with twenty-five years ago. Fox may say we’re the first to be fair and balanced but McNeil-Lehrer brought to American broadcasting the two sides or multisided approach, which as far as I am concerned, revolutionized the news business. I was very fortunate while I was waiting to be confirmed that one of my sons was home because I normally would have been attracted to this anti-Pattiz stuff that was going around at that time with this guy poisoning the minds of the Middle
East with Britney Spears. My son heard some of the debates that were going on out at the farm with people coming and going and talked to them about international broadcasting, and one day he said Pop let me tell you something. He said you and I agree on everything – politics, religion, we even root for the same sports teams, but Pop there is one place we are very, very different. He said I tolerate the music you listen to but if you get in my car and hit my buttons, you will see my music is a whole world away from yours and by the way, Pop, if you want to attract a young audience in the Middle East, you had better play my music.
Governor Pattiz: One place where it is really interesting because, you know I live in Los Angeles where there is a huge Persian diaspora and you know there are lots of people from Iran who live in Los Angeles, and there are lots of broadcasters in Los Angeles who broadcast radio and television into Iran via satellite, other means, etc and we put radio Fardah, which is a music-driven station. By music-drive, I mean there is more music on the station than there is news and information. It is about a third of the programming is news and information except when events on the ground dictate where we might go, you know, news and information continuously. But one of the things about Fardah is that’s a place where popular music is band in Iran. And you have a huge pro-American group of young people in Iran who just the idea of being able to listen to popular music, be it a mix of Persian and Western music, primarily American music, is a political statement in and of itself. So aside from just drawing that audience, there are a lot of things that can be said – you know, we are not in the business of selling records or promoting artists. That’s not what we do. We are in the business of taking our very, very important mission and giving it maximum impact by putting it in front of as many people as we can.
Chairman Tomlinson: When you are thirty-five percent news and foreign affairs, of course you have some nice blocks of information-driven programs and so people all over are so interested in our music that they know at 10:15 on Sunday evenings they can hear a fascinating news and current affairs show.
Chairman Barrett: I will follow up. We will then go to Commissioner Snyder and just looking at the time, we have only five or ten minutes remaining.
Chairman Tomlinson: I have enjoyed this so much – buy us dinner next time so we can continue this all the time, but we’ve got his boss waiting for us over there so bear that in mind.
Commissioner Bagley: We understand. My follow up was than when Ken mentioned McNeil-Lehrer, that tends to be a much older audience than the audience I assume you are looking for – sixty-five percent being under thirty. Do you have the documentaries or the news geared to youth?
Governor Pattiz: Well, Al Hurra is not geared to a young audience. You know, television being a medium of programs, it is the program that is targeted to the particular audience. So you could have programs that appeal to older audiences and programs that appeal to younger audiences. Our program magazine, which we do every single day, there is a program geared towards a younger audience. It is fast paced, very visual and deals with subjects that would be more interesting to a younger audience. Our news broadcasts are across the board. But, if you take a look at our presentation – if you take a look at our presenters, you’d be hard pressed to take a look at that and see a lot of difference between us and a Fox news, for instance, and now since Fox has been so successful in attracting audience, it’s hard to look at them and differentiate them from CNN and MSNC and CNBC who seem to be kind of going in that direction. But our documentary programs, our interest magazines, they appeal to who they appeal to. I mean if you do something on health and fitness, if you do something on the Internet, if you do something on food and fashion – things of that sort – they tend to go towards interest levels as opposed to particular age segments.
Chairman Tomlinson: I am going to comment regarding McNeil-Lehrer. I’m afraid the news hour has grown tired and slowed down. But we are much closer to Shepard Smith on Al Hurra in terms of pacing. But having said that, the news is the news and you won’t be fast-paced but it’s still the news.
Commissioner Jay T. Snyder: Al Hurra has been on the air now about three weeks. What do you see as the biggest obstacles to achieving your goals for the television station?
Governor Pattiz: The biggest obstacle will be establishing the credibility that we need to be seen as a legitimate news organization. We have to constantly be vigilant to make sure that our programs are balanced and that are programs are reflective of what a free press is really all about. People will be looking and they are already looking to dissect us based upon the assumption that we are promoting US policy or a particular way of life. And we have to be vigilant to make sure that as we present US policy and we are accurate in our presentation of US policy that we also bring in the round table discussions and the debates that show that we are open and that we are trying to create an openness with an audience that we respect. I think that is our greatest challenge. I feel comfortable that with the players that we have in place and with the direction that comes from this Board and the nature of this Board that we will accomplish that because we are all committed to -
Chairman Barrett: Since our last meeting, there was some testimony before the House Subcommittee on National Security that the commissions were presented at. We were represented by Commission Pachios and Commissioner Evers. And we would like to just get an update and hear how that went and any report that you would have on that. Harold, do you want to tell us a little about how that went?
Commissioner Harold Pachios: We were on a panel with Norm Pattiz and Ken and generally supported what they are attempting to do. I don’t know how long it went. I was so sick I was not mindful of time and maybe Tre will want to comment a little on it. I was out of it.
Commissioner Charles "Tre" Evers: I think it went well. The panel lasted for about forty-five minutes or so, including Q & A with Chairman Shays and another member of Congress. They were interested in the failure of public diplomacy and what we could do to fix it. Undersecretary Tutwiler spoke first on a panel by herself, and then Pachios, Norm and one other panel preceded us.
Harold Pachios: The one thing that came through there and comes through everywhere is that these people have all read the Djerejian report. These members and their staffs have read the Djerejian report if they are interested in public diplomacy. And that’s interesting because prior to September 2001, we had all kinds of reports since I have been on this commission. I don’t think any of them had ever been read by a journalist, member of Congress, Congressional staff - you know, isolated incidents – you might have found one or two people who looked at a report but by and large, just to put this in context, nobody read the reports of this commission so the Djerejian report is by far the best known report to ever come out of this commission. And they have read it. So we have some work to do. I think actually we have an opportunity. We can build on that because through the Djerejian process, the name US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy is much better known.
Chairman Barrett: Did they ask you about the Djerejian Report?
Commissioner Pachios: Yes. I was sick, but I think what I said is what I usually say, that I don’t agree and I did not think the commission was in total agreement but I did not give any specifics. Look, the White House is solidly behind this. The Secretary of State is solidly behind this. Sixty-five million was appropriated. I might be against it a year from now or two years from now if it is not working.
Chairman Barrett: Specifically, you are speaking of Al Hurra?
Commissioner Pachios: Well, we spoke about Sawa, too.
Chairman Barrett: Sawa and Al Hurra, okay. But all of the other elements of the Middle East of that report that is pretty consistent – primarily . . .
Commissioner Pachios: Exactly. We talked about that aspect of the report. The rest of the report, Barbara, as far as I am concerned, doesn’t say anything – a couple things so – but for the most part it’s stuff that this commission has said over and over again.
Chairman Barrett: Thank you. We briefly also did an advisory opinion to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and I think that was a painfully coordinated letter and the first time through of that kind of coordination effort, so we will hear briefly about that and any response we have had that and it is here in your book for review but what I would like to do with most of the remaining time is to talk about old business and new business of the commission and to lay a game plan for what we are going to do for the remaining.
Matt Lauer: We are very pleased to have received the letter and did take it into consideration. I did put a summary into your briefing books regarding S-2144, which really is the first authorization act to come forth from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in probably the past ten years. So basically what they did do to the sort of highlights of that and I will give you a full copy of the legislation if you would like, but they created legislation to create a new State Department Nation Building Office, as well. They are funding a new public-private initiative at the National Endowment for Democracy so they believe that since the National Endowment for Democracy is - (blipped out here) – so basically, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee feels that the National Endowment for Democracy is best set up to handle public-private partnerships to expand public diplomacy initiatives, and you mostly are familiar with the National Endowment for Democracies. Initiatives through IRI, the National Republican Institute and the NDI, the National Democratic Institute and they are increasing the funding for Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs as you see in the notes from 316 million dollars to 375 million dollars, a priority for them and they are going to put this into report language is that data base to track exchange participants over a period of time so we can continue that ongoing relationship with them. Then they are going to create a new educational fellowship program that focuses of weapons of nonproliferation. This is really a focus of Chairman Luger and you will remember at the close of the Cold War the Nunn-Luger Act, which has dedicated itself to reducing weapons of mass destruction. And so this is an education program related to that. I am happy to give you the full legislation and we can do that at the end of this commission hearing.
Chairman Barrett: Thank you, Matt. The chair will now entertain any other comments that are on the on-the-record portion of the meeting, and if there are no further commission member issues, we will adjourn this portion of the meeting. Hearing none, is there a motion to adjourn? Thank you. The meeting is adjourned.