BBG Watch Commentary
“Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein thanked outgoing Deputy Director Jeff Trimble for his 21 years of dedication and service in U.S. international media and presented him with a career achievement award, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) press release announced. Kenneth Weinstein was appointed to the bipartisan BBG Board as a Republican by President Obama.
“The changes in collaboration, quality of content, and coverage over the past few years are remarkable,” noted Democratic Governor Michael Kempner. “The arc of success is nothing less than extraordinary.” [Emphasis added.]
During Mr. Trimble’s tenure at the Broadcasting Board of Governors headquarters in Washington, the agency remained at the bottom of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys (FEVS) which are conducted anonymously each year among federal employees by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Mr. Trimble’s BBG tenure was also during a period of several major management and programming agency scandals, but he successfully avoided being publicly seen as co-responsible for any of them.
In July 2016, Mr. Trimble helped to arrange BBG Democratic Chairman Jeff Shell’s and BBG CEO John Lansing’s trip to Russia. He traveled with them to Moscow where Mr. Shell, who used his private passport because of unspecified plans to do private business, was detained at the airport and expelled from the country by the Russian authorities in an apparent retaliation for U.S. restrictions against Russian officials while Mr. Trimble and Mr. Lansing were allowed to clear the Russian border control and continued with their trip to Russia. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) had invited Russian Foreign Ministry officials to a RFE/RL reception in Moscow, which Mr. Shell, Mr. Lansing, Mr. Trimble and RFE/RL President Thomas Kent were to attend, but Russian dignitaries failed to come after the airport incident. Mr. Shell was by then safely outside of Russia.
SEE: Clueless U.S. agency invites Putin’s officials to RFE/RL party, they boot their chairman out of Russia instead, BBG Watch, July 17, 2016.
The latest agency scandal not connected in any way with Mr. Trimble involves the Voice of America and VOA Director Amanda Bennett’s decisions in handling the Mandarin Service interview with Chinese whistleblower Guo Wengui in April 2017.
However, Mr. Trimble was reportedly selected after the interview incident to be the deciding official on the question of the VOA management’s proposed firing of Mandarin Service journalists. These broadcasters reportedly attempted to dissuade senior VOA executives from shortening the Guo Wengui interview but are said to be accused by them of insubordination and failing to uphold journalistic standards. They deny these charges. It is not known whether in light of his retirement Mr. Trimble will still be making a decision about the Chinese VOA employees’ fate. Ms. Bennett’s husband is believed to have private company business interests in China. Ms. Bennett denies that pressure from China played any role in her decisions about the interview. We would not be surprised if Mr. Trimble will avoid making a decision in the case of the VOA mandarin Service journalists.
The Los Angeles Times reported in February 2016 that Mr. Shell had signed a major business deal in China for a Hollywood company he works for. Under current laws, BBG Board members are allowed to do private company business abroad. Outside financial interests of senior BBG and VOA executives and managers are subject to the federal government’s ethics review process and have received necessary approvals.
Before and after the July 2016 Moscow incident, Mr. Trimble remained among former BBG Chairman Jeff Shell’s favorite agency executives. He, former BBG manager André Mendes and other senior BBG executives were frequently praised by Mr. Shell who still has a seat as a regular Democratic member of the BBG Board.
“The place wouldn’t be what it is today without that group,” Jeff Shell said at a BBG meeting held late in 2016, referring to the management team.
At that time Mr. Shell reserved especially effusive praise for Mr. Trimble, calling him a patriot.
A bio of Mr. Trimble posted on the BBG website says that he “joined the BBG in 2007 as Director of Programming and later served as Executive Director, managing the Board staff and providing strategic guidance and program oversight.” It further states that “He became IBB Deputy Director in 2012 and worked with the Global Strategy team, focusing on special projects to advance collaboration and coordination across the BBG.”
Mr. Shell, Mr. Lansing as well as current VOA Director Amanda Bennett present themselves and longtime BBG managers as being highly successful in a dynamic and effective organization. In 2013, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the Broadcasting Board of Governors as “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.” [Emphasis added.]
BBG: Trimble also worked for 10 years at RFE/RL, where his positions included Acting President, Counselor to the President for Programs and Policy, Director of Policy and Strategic Planning, and Director of Broadcasting.
Previously Trimble worked at U.S. News & World Report magazine for 15 years, in positions including Assistant Managing Editor, Foreign Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief, and diplomatic correspondent. He holds a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and is a fluent Russian speaker.
Since Mr. Trimble came to work for the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington, the job of countering foreign propaganda, including Russian, has been placed in the State Department. U.S. presidents and media rarely mention the agency as playing a significant role as they did during the Cold War. The new BBG Russian-language TV program “Current Time” created jointly by VOA and RFE/RL has dismally small web traffic numbers and ranking in Russia despite claims of success and vast audiences by BBG officials.
An article by Cory Fritz, “This Broken Agency Is Losing Info War to ISIS & Putin,” posted on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Blog in February 2016, said:
“For years, the BBG, which is headed by nine part-time governors, has been widely condemned as “ineffectual,” “unprofessional,” “unproductive,” “useless and perhaps fatally broken.” Millions of dollars have been squandered. Mismanagement and incompetence is so deeply rooted within BBG that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the agency “practically defunct” in 2013 before warning, ‘we’re letting the Jihadist narrative fill a void.’”
“The arc of success … nothing less than extraordinary” seems to be seen differently outside of the Broadcasting Board of Governors headquarters, even in some reporting by liberal media.
END OF BBG WATCH COMMENTARY
BBG PRESS RELEASE
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) met yesterday at its Washington, D.C. headquarters to assess the work of its five networks.
Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein opened the meeting by welcoming Heather Nauert, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, to her first meeting as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s representative on the board.
Nauert expressed her support to the Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur Service journalists whose families are being held in reeducation camps and her sympathies to those affected by the bomb blast in Kabul that killed three Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalists. She also praised the BBG’s first-rate journalists and acknowledged the importance of more collaboration and communication between the BBG and U.S. Department of State.
BBG Chief Executive Officer and Director John F. Lansing swore in new Office of Cuba Broadcasting Director Tomás P. Regalado. The former City Commissioner and two-term Mayor of Miami, Florida, spoke about his experience as a journalist and the need to provide unbiased news and information to Cubans.
Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein thanked outgoing Deputy Director Jeff Trimble for his 21 years of dedication and service in U.S. international media and presented him with a career achievement award.
In addition to the personnel announcements, several projects caught the Board’s attention, including exclusive news coverage of the Armenia uprising, a groundbreaking collaborative project by the BBG networks on global Chinese infrastructure expansion, and a comprehensive compendium of the recent oppression of Uyghurs in western China.
“The changes in collaboration, quality of content, and coverage over the past few years are remarkable,” noted Governor Michael Kempner. “The arc of success is nothing less than extraordinary.”
WHEN: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.,
June 6, 2018
WHERE: BBG Headquarters