BBG CEO André Mendes (l) and Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation speak about non-conventional tools of engagement.

André Mendes speaks at Heritage Foundation event

Interim CEO and Director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors André Mendes was a panelist at the 4th annual, “Diplomacy and Warfare in the 21st Century” discussion on July 17, hosted by the Heritage Foundation and the Foreign Policy Initiative.

Mendes spoke about non-conventional tools of engagement to a group of emerging leaders in foreign policy. The purpose of the event was to equip attendees with the practical skills necessary to address foreign policy challenges in a changing media environment.

He spoke predominantly about BBG networks’ methods to circumvent government censorship. The networks use methods ranging from android apps and USB drives to anti-censorship tools such as Ultrasurf, psiphon, and Tor.

The BBG, according to Mendes, has migrated very quickly from broadcasting media to online platforms. He said that ten years ago, an overwhelming majority of BBG’s content was broadcast via radio. Now the networks operate from a wide array of platforms ranging from the mobile apps and the web to social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Mendes highlighted that BBG’s networks have encountered both total and partial blockages from a large number of countries.

“In a lot of these countries the government controls the entire tech stack, from the SIM card production through to the manufacturing of the phone,” said Mendes.

However, he added, the networks have found ways to overcome this such as Radio Marti’s successes in transmitting information to Cuba via USB drives and SMS list-serves.

“We have gone to incredible lengths to innovate,” said Mendes. “And our growth has been phenomenal.”