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This Monday’s segment of the Soft Power/Public Diplomacy series, Paul Kretkowski’s Beacon features Joshua S. Fouts, director of USC’s Center on Public Diplomacy and co-director of the Center’s “Public Diplomacy in Virtual Worlds” project.

An excerpt from Dr. Fouts’ post:

“Public Diplomacy Dateline 1994: From Monologue to Dialogue as VOA Picks up the Phone

In 1993, shortly after taking over the helm of the Voice of America, director Geoffrey Cowan said that it was time to stop talking to audiences overseas and time to start listening. One of the hallmarks of U.S. democracy, he noted, was our ability to tell the good with the bad and, perhaps more importantly, to engage in debates about them in an open forum. Why not bring the world audience into the conversation?

At the time, China still jammed VOA broadcasts quite heavily, and anecdotal evidence in Iran told us that equipment that could be used to access overseas broadcasts—satellite receivers, for example—was heavily banned by the Mullahs. But we knew were getting through.

Cowan announced that we would start a call-in show to these regions—first in Mandarin and later in Farsi. VOA had hosted call-in shows before, but never on a regular basis and infrequently in languages of countries in which jamming was prevalent. Further, he pushed us to embrace the evolving pace of technologies and make the information accessible on multiple venues—satellite and Internet.

….To describe the first shows as emotional is an understatement. Listeners embraced the platform and filled up the phone lines. They asked tough questions of guests from the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, to a stream of politicians, diplomats and pundits. More importantly, we listened, we discussed and debated. And the world talked back.”

Read the post in its entirety here:

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