‘A Snub to Congress: Oversight of International Broadcasting Agency in Question,’ Heritage scholar says

BBG Watch Commentary

Helle Dale

Helle Dale

Helle C. Dale, the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow in public diplomacy, wrote in her commentary in THE DAILY SIGNAL that members of Congress have “every right to be peeved” by recent actions of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

“With the hiring of new Chief Executive Officer Andy Lack, formerly of Bloomberg News, the Broadcasting Board of Governors has pulled an end-run around congressional efforts to reform and restore civilian U.S. international broadcasting,” Helle Dale wrote.

“According to sources with Voice of America, the flagship of U.S. international broadcasting, Lack comes into the job with a mandate from BBG chairman Jeffrey Shell to effect thorough reform. That reform is to take one of these three tracks:

1. Phase out Voice of America, which the Board persistently has treated as a Cold War anachronism and tried to shrink in favor of surrogates such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, etc.

2. De-federalize VOA, making it a grantee organization like the surrogate radios, which operate independently but with grants from the U.S. government. This would eliminate both the VOA unions and the tie to the State Department, which signs off on VOA editorials on U.S. policy to the chagrin of VOA management.

3. Reorganize the broadcasters within the constraints of the current management system,” Helle Dale, the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow in public diplomacy,” Helle C. Dale, the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow in public diplomacy, wrote in her in her commentary in THE DAILY SIGNAL.

READ MORE: A Snub to Congress: Oversight of International Broadcasting Agency in Question, Helle C. Dale, THE DAILY SIGNAL, September 26, 2014

Reforming International BroadcastingThe selection of Andy Lack to be the CEO may be a maneuver on the part of the BBG Board and perhaps also the White House staff to avoid the change of the BBG Board’s status to advisory only, which has been proposed in the H.R. 4490, the United States International Communications Reform Act to improve the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasters. (Introduced on April 28, 2014 by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)). The legislation would also delink the BBG’s surrogate broadcasters — Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and Middle East Broadcasting Networks — from the Federal bureaucracy and place them under a separate board. The bipartisan bill was approved unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the whole House of Representatives in a voice vote. H.R. 4490 is currently awaiting further legislative action in the Senate.

We could not confirm whether the BBG Board sought and received informal approval from at least some members of Congress to proceed with the selection of the CEO. Since H.R. 4490 is stuck in the Senate for now, some members of Congress may want the BBG to take interim actions to at least initiate partial management reforms at the Voice of America (VOA) and in other parts of the BBG’s grossly mismanaged Federal bureaucracy.

BBG Watch could not get a confirmation over the weekend from its own sources on Capitol Hill to what extent members of Congress might consider recent BBG Board decisions and any future plans as a snub. We will report on any congressional reactions as we receive them.

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