Groups Urge World Bank to Reinvigorate B-SPAN

29 July 2011

Several organizations have written to World Bank President Robert Zoellick urging him to expand funding for B-SPAN, the Bank’s internet-based webcasting system.

The issue was highlighted in an article by David Wheeler of the Center for Global Development, a Washington think-tank on development issues, and mentioned in a July 2 New York Times article.

Begun in 2000, B-SPAN records events including policy dialogues, seminars and conferences at the Bank, and in 2004 attracted 250,000 viewers. “Unfortunately, in 2005, WBI decided to use its resources elsewhere,” according to the letter, and the service “entered a rapid decline in the amount and diversity of content it could make available.”

The letter contends that “new streaming and social media technologies that didn’t exist then can now disseminate B-SPAN streams at very low cost and with mobile phone applications these events can now reach countless millions.”

Re-invigoration of B-SPAN as “an open, uncensored channel of internal policy dialogues being streamed to the public” would provide information to government officials and policymakers in shareholder countries focus more attention on the Bank, according to the letter, which is signed by the Washington-based nongovernmental institutions the Bank Information Center and the Government Accountability Project. Former Bank staffer David Shaman, who worked on B-SPAN and wrote about the experience in a book, The World Bank Unveiled, also signed the letter.

Wheeler and co-author Michele de Nevers wrote in a July 5 blog post wrote that “literally thousands of events go uncovered every year because they don’t have dissemination budgets — a great loss to the global development community that can be rectified by the stroke of a high-level pen in the President’s office, or in the offices of the Bank’s External Relations Vice Presidency or the World Bank Institute.”

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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