Sunday, March 30, 2008

"I explore the country looking for people who aren’t afraid to get dirty"

The Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs is one of the best shows on television, one that I've only just started watching a few months ago but have come to really enjoy. Fast Company has a good article about the show's host Mike Rowe. In addition to being the host, Rowe also came up with the concept for the show, which we should think of as an entrepreneurial venture in its own right:

After years of defining work as the thing that happens between vacations, Rowe caught himself by surprise. "I was cohosting the local Evening Magazine on CBS-5 in San Francisco, and did a segment called 'Somebody's Gotta Do It.'" The viewers loved it. So did he. Somewhere deep inside him, a kind of quest was taking shape. At CBS, he created a pilot of the segment and shopped it around as a stand-alone property. He offered it to Discovery twice. They passed twice. The feedback: "Mike, it's a talk show in a sewer."

That's when Rowe brought the tape to Piligian, the American Chopper producer. Rowe had worked with Piligian once before, on a 22-episode reality series called Worst Case Scenario, where Rowe was the in-studio host. Piligian saw the potential and brought Rowe's tape to his Discovery contact, Shawn Gallagher. "I knew immediately it could work," Gallagher remembers.

And it did, eventually. After a 3-episode pilot series in November 2003, Discovery ordered up 10 more, which started airing in July 2005. Rowe, who had signed on to host Deadliest Catch, an established franchise, jumped ship when the call came in to renew Dirty Jobs. The show quickly became a viewer favorite and the channel ordered 18 more new shows, then in late 2006, another 30. Fans can expect at least 24 new episodes to start airing in 2008.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

On Bill Roggio and Public Multimedia

There's a good article over at the Columbia Journalism Review about Bill Roggio. Not only is it a good story of entrepreneurship, but also shows how ordinary citizens can play an important role in media operations.

Bill Roggio, though, a former Army signalman and infantryman who runs The Long War Journal (which replaced and writes most of its posts, has his sights on something grander. In September 2007, Roggio, along with his business partner, Paul Hanusz, created a nonprofit company—Public Multimedia Inc. (PMI). Their goal is to develop a first-of-its-kind media entity made up of independent reporters, at home and abroad, dedicated solely to reporting on terrorism, so-called small wars, and counterterrorism efforts around the world, to do it in the kind of fine-grained detail that the mainstream press never will, and, as much as possible, without an overt partisan bent. If they succeed, PMI could join a small but promising group of Web-based reporting and analysis operations that focus on a single beat—Talking Points Memo and The Politico on U.S. politics, ProPublica on investigations, and now, maybe, The Long War Journal on conflict reporting.
But digital technology makes it possible for anyone, including terrorist groups, to speak to a global audience. As-Sahab, Al Qaeda’s media wing, for instance, releases videos all over the Web, and sites such as the Kavkaz Center, based in Chechnya, report on and encourage global jihad. With a little money and know-how, a disenfranchised group can broadcast—and raise funds—worldwide.
In 2004, Roggio started blogging about the war in Iraq, using his military knowledge to put things in context for family and friends. He spent hours in the evening and during his lunch breaks scouring open-source material buried in government and military Web sites, clattering away at the keyboard after his wife Jennie (a nurse) and three kids went to bed. It was during the second battle for Fallujah in November 2004, however, that he began to focus his effort. He had been posting detailed battle maps of Iraq’s Anbar province on his site, showing where Marine and Army units were meeting the stiffest resistance from insurgent groups who harassed them with roadside bombs and the occasional ambush.

In the spring of 2005, a new group of readers began logging on to Roggio’s site. The Marines in Anbar province were embroiled in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, and looking for any tactical advantage they could find. Officers with the Regimental Combat Team 2 discovered Roggio’s site and began using it as an information source, calling his site the “Command Chronology of Western Iraq.” It seems that logging on to his site was faster and easier than going through their own intelligence channels, and Roggio managed to provide much of the same information that Marine analysts were reporting—without the red tape. The Marines eventually invited Roggio to come spend some time with them on the front line in Iraq. Recalling those early days, Roggio says, “I was just working from home, putting things in context, explaining it, and they invited me to come and embed.” After talking it over with his wife, he started raising money for his trip through his Web site, took an unpaid leave of absence from his job as a software engineer, and in November 2005 left for a one-month embed.
Roggio, who is thirty-eight, met thirty-seven-year-old Paul Hanusz in the spring of 2006, after Hanusz responded to one of his fundraising drives for an upcoming embed. The two live a couple of towns apart in the undifferentiated suburban sprawl of southern New Jersey, and Hanusz, who was working in IT at a bank at the time, was a devoted reader of milblogs, even though he had never served in the military. He told me that when he learned of what Roggio was doing, he decided that, rather than simply stew about what he considers the inadequate coverage of the wars by the mainstream press, he would be part of a solution. The two met for lunch, “and I knew it was something I wanted to continue with,” Hanusz says. “The question was where to go with it.”

In researching how to set up and fund a nonprofit media operation, Hanusz came across the work of Charles Lewis—the founder of the Center for Public Integrity—on nonprofit journalism, and saw a model he thought PMI could emulate. “CPI isn’t a monstrous organization,” Hanusz says, “but it’s a solid organization, and it’s got enough of a staff to put out good pieces, and substantial pieces.” Hanusz left his job in June 2007, and has been working full time on the business end of PMI. For now, PMI still relies on donations from readers, which Roggio and Hanusz liken to PBS membership drives, and they want to borrow further from the model of PBS and NPR, which includes corporate sponsorships and foundation grants, as well as content-distribution deals.

Neither Roggio nor Hanusz would give details about PMI’s present financial situation, but beyond the fact that both have managed to make a go of this full time, they have also hired seven staff members, on the tech and editorial sides, and helped send sixteen reporters so far to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Philippines to cover the “Long War.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Antilibrary of Babel

Munzenberg has initiated an intriguing exercise: What's in your antilibrary?

Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Here are a few denizens of my antilibrary:

The Soviet Cultural Offensive: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Soviet Foreign Policy by Frederick Barghoorn

Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda by John Miller

Both of these books I bought as part of an effort to get a better understanding of "persuasion operations" which has over the past few years become a major interest.

Mavericks of the Sky: The First Daring Pilots of the U.S. Air Mail by Barry Rosenberg & Catherine Macaulay

One of my oldest areas of interest is aviation history and the air mail pilots of the 1920s have had a special place in my imagination since I was a kid.

A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia by Thomas Doerflinger

Economic history is another more recent interest and so I have been slowly collecting books in this area. I bought this book to get a better understanding of the economic history of the founding era. We tend to focus our attention on the political and military aspects of this era and I think we need to add the entrepreneurs and businessmen to the pantheon of "founders."

The Feud that Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World by Paul Robert Walker

Architecture is something that I've been wanting to read more about for quite a while and yet it always seems to get subordinated to other interests. I had been reading another book on the history of Italian Renaissance architecture that was interesting but kind of dry. So this books caught my eye because not only does it talk about the art and architecture, but it does so through the device of the competition between these two artists which adds a depth and richness to the subject that is missing when a book just focuses on the buildings and artworks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Swamp Fox and the Gentleman Pirate

From the Smithsonian Magazine:

The Swamp Fox

With the American army in retreat, things looked bad in South Carolina. Marion took command of a militia and had his first military success that August, when he led 50 men in a raid against the British. Hiding in dense foliage, the unit attacked an enemy encampment from behind and rescued 150 American prisoners. Though often outnumbered, Marion's militia would continue to use guerrilla tactics to surprise enemy regiments, with great success. Because the British never knew where Marion was or where he might strike, they had to divide their forces, weakening them. By needling the enemy and inspiring patriotism among the locals, Busick says, Marion "helped make South Carolina an inhospitable place for the British. Marion and his followers played the role of David to the British Goliath."

The Gentleman Pirate

Stede Bonnet's career as the "Gentleman Pirate" may represent the worst midlife crisis on record. In 1717, Bonnet, a retired British army major with a large sugar plantation in Barbados, abandoned his wife, children, land and fortune; bought a ship; and turned to piracy on the high seas. Though his crew and fellow pirates judged him to be an inept captain, Bonnet's adventures earned him the nickname "the Gentleman Pirate," and today his legend lingers in the annals of pirate history. But why did a man who seemed to have everything give it all up for a life of crime?
Stede Bonnet had no knowledge of seafaring, having sailed only as a passenger. Moreover, he had no apparent reason to rage against the establishment. Bonnet was born in the 1680s in Barbados and, according to the transcript of his 1718 trial, had "the advantage of liberal education." After retiring from the army with a rank of major, Bonnet bought an estate and settled in as a member of respectable society, where he spent a decade raising a family until he suffered some kind of mental break. A contemporary account of Bonnet's career suggested that "some Discomforts he found in the married state" led to "this Humour of going a-pyrating," but it seems unlikely that a nagging wife alone could be enough to drive a law-abiding gentleman to piracy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Disseminating Agricultural Knowledge

The competition of ideas that we are engaged in is not just about radical Islam, although that is the most immediate threat. As people in the developing world become more connected and as this connectivity causes changes in the traditional social order it could spawn reactionary forces that could be threats. A big part of our competition of ideas is to assist developing countries by disseminating our hard-won knowledge about how to build and operate modern institutions and the kinds of attitudes and ideas that have proven essential to being modern people in modern societies (i.e. shrinking the gap). The story below presents an example of the kind of entrepreneurial communications operation that will play an essential role in winning the war of ideas for liberal modernity.

[Kenya] When extension services offered to farmers by the Government were discontinued in the 1990s to cut on public expenditure, Mr  Sammy Ng’etich and other farmers were wondering what they would do next.

The sad reality was that at their Kapswat village near Kapsabet town, no person had training in agriculture to offer them advice on crop or animal husbandry.

But today, Mr Ng’etich and many other farmers are celebrating the advent of vernacular radio stations and the start last month of programmes that  target farmers and what they do best: growing maize and rearing livestock.
...the new initiative by Fit Resources and supported by Britain’s Department for International Development. “A lot of organisations have provided farmers with technical skills. We sought to provide them with information which we believe they lack to make gains from their farming,” said Richard Isiaho, executive director of Fit Resources.

The plan involves integrating the radio stations, agriculture information content providers, advertisers and farmers with the ultimate aim of enabling farmers to get better farming information through the radio.

The expectation of this initiative is based on the success of a pilot project initiated through the KBC in 2006.

The 30-minute programme known as  Mali Shambani (Kiswahili for ‘wealth in the farms’) is the most listened to after news, according to a study conducted by Steadman Research.

The programme is not driven by the suppliers or advertisers, but rather by the popularity of the content. This is also a way of making the programme sustainable.

Starting last month, vernacular radio stations joined a similar partnership.

Radio Salaam will broadcast about fisheries and fruits farming in the coastal areas where this kind of farming activity is most practised. It will be broadcast in Kiswahili.

Mbaitu FM, which broadcasts in Kikamba, will air content on fruit farming and horticulture.

Coro FM will broadcast in Kikuyu, and will cover dairy farming, which is popular in Central Kenya region.

Kass FM, broadcasting in Kalenjin language, will also tackle dairy farming, and maize farming, which is popular in the region.

 The programmes are expected to reach more farmers by including those who do not listen to the KBC, partly because of difficulties understanding the Kiswahili language.

From Business Daily Africa.

Today's Quote: The First NGO War

None of these incidents involved state or government action. All of them were carried out by civilians. Cyclists, 'militants' or journalists/editors. In fact the greatest potential security crisis facing Europe today is the projected release of a movie by a Dutch politician. Try explaining that to a military historian. Today's belligerents wear different livery from those of World War 2. In fact they wear no uniform at all and deny they are either engaged in war, war crimes or espionage. Far from it. They describe themselves as engaged in 'protest theater', 'rights of return' or 'patriotic activity'. So when Steve Aftergood complains someone from Commentary Magazine is on some journalist's case in order to chill "freedom of the press" its really a case of Welcome to the 21st century.
I think the current world crisis bids fair to be called the first nongovernment organization war in history. It's the War of the Communities. Or the War of the Tribes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

[Updated] The ethical dilemmas of citizen self-mobilization

Over at Soob's joint there is an interesting discussion going on concerning the ethics of certain types of cyber-militia activities. This is an important discussion because as technology makes it possible for citizens to do the kinds of things that in the past would have been the province of government, we need to delineate where the boundaries should be located. I had intended to post this over there as a comment, but had a problem with the comment function, so I'll post it here as well in the event that it didn't go through over there:

One of the issues we need to consider is legitimacy. A key method of taking down a rival movement is "delegitimization." We of course seek to delegitimize the radical islamists; the radical left has for decades been seeking to delegitimize us. The idea of citizen self-mobilization has yet to be actualized to its full potential and we are in at the beginning of something that could prove to be a fascinating social phenomenon. But we don't want to score an "own goal" and delegitimize ourselves by engaging in illegal activity or allow ourselves to be branded as vigilantes. The perception of what we are doing is as important as what we do. If we are perceived as being a bunch of kooks and extremists then the idea that citizens can act outside of government and have a positive influence in the war of ideas will be dismissed and marginalized and nothing good will be achieved and we will miss the opportunity that is available to us.

The issue isn't whether we should do something, obviously we all believe that we can and should otherwise we wouldn't be here discussing this. But rather what kinds of activities are appropriate for us to engage in. I'm not sure exactly how the whole taking down jihadi websites thing became the prominent citizen-directed activity, but it does seem that the ethical and legal issues are directly related to it. And my immediate response is, "Doctor, doctor it hurts when I do this." "Don't do that." There's a vast realm of activities that will never bring up any of these ethical/legal issues, that will never bring you in contact with government, that will legitimately operate within our freedoms of speech, the press and association. I would recommend that we direct our efforts in those areas.

Remember what the military information support team in the Philippines did: they invented a superhero and created a comic book. No ethical/legal dilemmas there. Just recognizing an opportunity and being creative. There are all kinds of creative things that we can do in every possible media. Thousands of citizens can be recognizing those kinds of opportunities and acting on their own initiative and they won't have to worry about "fratricide" with our own LE and IC folks.

One of the basic ideas behind citizen self-mobilization is the freedom of action citizens have to bypass the government middleman and engage in strategic communications activities on their own. The key is that citizens can act independent of government. Therefore it doesn't make a lot of sense to choose a course of action that leads us into conflict with government. Michael Moore produces films that have greater impact than our government's entire strategic communications operations, but he is simply exercising his freedom as a citizen. We too can simply exercise our freedoms as citizens and never have to worry about government. So I guess my point is that I see this ethical/legal dilemma as self-created and ultimately unnecessary because there are so many other things we can do. Things that have the potential to have a greater long term impact than just temporarily shutting down a website.

UPDATE: I just wanted to add a note on to what I posted last night. I'm not saying people shouldn't go after these websites. Or that doing so can't have positive results. It's not my place to tell people what to do. If it is legal then you can do whatever you want. One of the advantages of citizen-directed activity is that knowledge is distributed and local and you don't have to submit your actions to the approval of some bureaucracy. Going after websites is not something that interests me and so it is easy for me to suggest a kind of "Alexander and the Gordian Knot" solution. No doubt others will find that unsatisfying. But if you are someone who is motivated to do something, but you are not committed this specific method of action, then I would suggest considering options that won't involve these ethical/legal issues.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"It's past your game"

I mentioned yesterday that back in February I went to see Jeffrey Gedmin, the president of RFE/RL, at CSIS and I wanted to highlight something from the transcript of that event. I left CSIS feeling very impressed with Gedmin which is not what I expected. In December he was quoted in an article that reinforced the sense that I had that the people running our strategic communications were out of touch. But after listening to Gedmin's talk I have to say that he does indeed get it and I was relieved to find that out. The quote below is from the Q&A. (Being a transcript some of the words need to be corrected.) The bold is mine:

"And I’m very weary of recreating USIA. And I’ll tell you why—again, I’m a
master of stating the obvious. This is coming from somebody who’s not of the U.S.
government—we actually are a 501C3, we’re a grantee of the federal government, we’re
funded by Congress, but we have a certain measure of independence. I think, I’ll put two
propositions to you. Number one, good heavens, government—whether you reinstate
USIA or not, must play a very important role in this ideas game, information game, war
of ideas game, obviously—okay—and we have to keep retooling, refining and improving
all the time, and that’s your job, and you’re doing a great job. But the problem, it seems
to me, again it seems like we’re stating the obvious again, the world has changed so
dramatically and radically through technology in the last five, and ten, and twelve and
fourteen years that the notion that even if you get the perfected bureaucracy with the best
people that it’s going to do the trick—it’s not. It’s past your game
, it’s like going from
college to pro basketball, the court shrinks, the guys are taller, and slam dunks aren’t
important anymore because they can all do it. Okay? I mean, it seems, I mean I had a
conversation once as an illustration a couple years ago. Dan Coats, Indiana senator,
ambassador to Germany, I was in Berlin, I was director of the Aspen Institute. Dan Coats
said to me, you know—there’s a piece on the front page, above the fold on the
Tagesspiegel of causalities in Iraq, trumpeting how many innocent people Americans
have killed, the data is not right, the spin they’re putting on it is terribly far informed.
And Dan Coats says, I need to as an ambassador rebut that immediately, I need a column
in the paper the next day, but the State Department won’t allow that—it’s too slow, and
all these checks and balances. So then, as I understand—Diane you can correct me, the
State Department, Karen Hughes comes along and corrects that, streamlines it, gives it
much more latitude to speed up the game, and so that’s definitely important. You have to
do that. That’s a victory, but it’s a limited victory—because before that paper even went
to bed the night before the blogosphere was on a tear verily spreading like crazy all
understating it, it’s the Daniel Kimmage thing. If you’ve seen Kimmages report on how
the Sunni Insurgents and Al Qaeda use the internet in Iraq, what do they do, they’re not
expensive. But they’re small, they’re nimble, they’re fast, they’re decentralized, they’re
fantastic when it comes to music, sound, imageries, symbols, and they’re on a tear.
They’re on a tear. So, reinvent government, and get the right people. It’s absolutely
essential, don’t misunderstand me. But we better starting thinking in creative and
complementary ways outside of government speed really does kill. And, in this case, the
best government institution in the world is just not going to keep up with this stuff not

Liberating the Entrepreneurial Spirit for Good

"How can we liberate the forces of innovation, initiative, and voluntary exchange so that we can work together to create a better world for all?"

For more than a hundred years, most of the idealistic and well-intentioned people on
earth have been hostile to free enterprise. Perhaps as a consequence, many of those
who were most enthusiastic about free enterprise became increasingly alienated from
the mission of doing good in the world. In the last several decades, it has become
increasingly apparent that free enterprise is our last best hope for making a better
world. The opposition between those who wish to create a better world and those who
understand and advocate for free enterprise has become an obstacle to deeper progress.

Creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship are the most powerful forces for change the
world has ever known. And the healthy functioning of free markets, facilitating mutually
beneficial voluntary exchange, has been a forum for connecting peoples and cultures,
and for advancing science, technology, culture, and the global capacity to sustain human
flourishing. We believe the positive entrepreneurial activity, within appropriate legal
boundaries, can solve all the world’s problems.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Lager Beer Intifada

I've been reading the very interesting Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle and found this story. In the decades prior to 1850 increasing numbers of German immigrants brought a different kind of alcohol culture to the US. One that was more casual and social that included drinking and recreation on Sundays. This spawned an anti-alcohol backlash leading to the rise of temperance movements and prohibition beginning in Maine. But the pro-beer and liquor factions weren't happy:

The Maine law, as it was called, banned the sale, manufacture, and consumption of alcohol. Maine's legislation electrified the temperance movement and a prohibition crusade fifty years before the better-known eruption. Between 1850 and 1855, legislators in two territories and eleven of the thirty-one states followed Maine's lead

But where prohibition prevailed, violence erupted as mobs challenged the alcohol bans, or exacted revenge on the "pestilent...foreign swarms" whom they blamed for inspiring the laws. Such was the case in Chicago after voters filled city hall with pro-temperance, anti-immigrant officials and the new mayor ordered a ban on Sunday drinking. The mostly native-born police force closed the city's foreign-owned beer gardens, beerhalls, and taverns but turned a blind eye to "American" taverns that stayed open in violation of the law. As the accused, most of them German, went on trial, six hundred men and boys, also mostly German stormed the courthouse and battled police in the streets. The Lager Beer Riot ended when both sides fired shots; one man died many were injured, and scores were arrested.

A few weeks later, it was Cincinnati's turn. Violence erupted on an election day in April, as a mob attacked German voting stations and destroyed more than a thousand ballots. Germans barricaded the bridge leading to the city's "Over the Rhine" Germantown, but their opponents, armed with a cannon and muskets, stormed the defenses. The conflict dragged on for three days, leaving many dead and wounded on both sides.

During the "Bloody Monday" riots in Louisville in August 1855, Germans, Irish, and nativists armed with muskets, bayonets, and cannons roamed the streets firing on each other and passers-by. Nineteen men died in that rampage. Violence erupted even in Portland, Maine, where Neal Dow bragged that prohibition had eradicated crime: rumors spread that Dow had purchased liquor and sold it to the state for medicinal purposes. A mob gathered outside the Portland liquor agency and Dow ordered the local militia group to the scene. When rioters broke into the building, Dow commanded the troops to fire. Their bullets killed one person and injured seven others.

The temperance campaign rent the fabric of Milwaukee. When the state legislature passed a bill that imposed new restrictions on alcohol sales, an angry crowd of men and boys lit bonfires and fired rifles, blew horns and pounded on pans. Eventually a mob of about three hundred surrounded the house of John Smith, Milwaukee's state representative and president of the local temperance society, and pelted it with rocks and bricks, smashing windows and terrifying the four children and two servants inside.


Back in February I took advantage of the opportunity provided by living in the DC area once again to attend a couple of think tank events. The first was a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation on Public Diplomacy: Reinvigorating America's Strategic Communications Policy. The second at the Center for Strategic & International Studies was a talk by Jeffrey Gedmin, the president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Both events were very interesting and you can get video, audio and transcripts of each event at the link.

Strategic Studies Book List

I love book lists, so whenever I come across one I always save it or print it out for later reference. Here's a link to an excellent list I found the other day from the Strategic Studies program at JHU SAIS:

The following list of one hundred books cannot be definitive: it reflects my idiosyncratic
interests, prejudices, and assumptions. Still, the Ph.D. student who reads these books will
have a good background in the field, and will certainly be ready for the general exam in
strategic studies.

Broadcasting to Tibet

Surrogate broadcasting played a very important role in winning the war of ideas during the Cold War. And while surrogate broadcasting by itself is not enough to win today's war of ideas, it certainly is an important tool. The protests and activism by Tibetans in China show how surrogate broadcasting can still be very important and useful and it's good to see the VOA and RFA adapting to the opportunity:

U.S. international radio broadcasts to Tibet will increase by four hours daily beginning tonight at 6:00 p.m. EDT, 6:00 a.m. local time in Lhasa.

"The violent crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet compels us to increase our broadcasts," said James K. Glassman, Chairman of the BBG, which oversees all non-military U.S. international broadcasting including the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA). "Our audience clearly will benefit from these trustworthy sources of news and information, which differ sharply from Chinese government sanctioned broadcasts."

At present RFA broadcasts eight hours daily to Tibet via shortwave radio. VOA broadcasts four hours daily, also via shortwave. Each will expand radio programs by two additional hours daily. VOA also will double its weekly Tibetan-language television programming from one to two hours via the AsiaSat 3 satellite.

"RFA's Tibetan service is working around the clock to bring authoritative, breaking news to the Tibetan people. These additional hours will greatly enhance our capacity to deliver this news, including live updates, to people on the ground," RFA President Libby Liu said.

Tibet's media is tightly controlled and most Tibetans are deeply suspicious of Chinese domestic media coverage. BBG audience research, while limited to Tibetan refugees in Nepal, indicates that VOA and RFA are among the most well known foreign broadcasters and an important source of information in a society where word of mouth is the top way to share news.

"We know from experience that Tibetans will tune to VOA at pivotal times such as these," said Danforth Austin, Director of the Voice of America. "For example, a VOA special TV program about the Dalai Lama receiving a gold medal from the U.S. Congress was recorded and widely distributed in Tibetan regions inside China."