BBG employees ‘crippled’ by technical breakdowns ‘lose confidence’ in leaders

BBG Watch Commentary

BBG CEO John F. Lansing

BBG CEO John F. Lansing

BBG Watch has received an urgent message from a Voice of America (VOA) journalist intended for new Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO John Lansing.
 

“This stuff cripples us and causes us to lose confidence in our leaders.”

 

From: Brian Payton
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 6:21 AM
To: VOA MEDIA TEAMS; VOA Radio Users; VOA Newsroom
Cc: TSS Managers; Information Technology and CIO Managers; Technology Support Services Directorate; Terry Balazs; Veris Burton
 
Subject: Dalet Plus Media Grid Down (second)
 
All:
 
At this time we are experiencing a house-wide issue with the Omneon Media Grid again. This is the Network portion that handles High Resolution video and therefore cannot playback video in our Control Room. All Language services must be prepared with a backup plan for video playback. The System Administrators are currently looking into the issue to see what the cause may be and how to quickly resolve the issue.
 
The Dalet application remains available but no media operations in the Control Rooms will be possible until the MG is back online.
 
We will keep you informed of any changes or updates. We apologize to our Broadcast Community for this inconvenience and appreciate your support in this matter.
 
Brian F. Payton
IT Specialist
Digital Management Division
 

 

The VOA broadcaster was referring in part to a recent prolonged power outage at the BBG/VOA building in Washington, DC, which the BBG’s technical staff in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) was unable to anticipate and failed to provide a back-up power supply for many hours. Numerous VOA broadcasts were silenced.
 

SEE: Power outage disrupts Voice of America broadcasts, BBG Watch, December 7, 2015

SEE: Voice of America power and broadcasting outage UPDATE, BBG Watch, December 8, 2015

 
The message intended for BBG CEO was, however, triggered by today’s and previous failures of the system handling digital media storage and processing for Voice of America broadcasters. They have been hampered by these problems for many years without any sign of them being resolved.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors spends millions of dollars to fund the technical support operations for VOA, but almost all of the money is used up for staff salaries, consultants and their contracts. IBB gets more money than any other part of the agency even though it does not produce any media programs. The combined IBB budget in the FY2016 budget request is about $250 million. IBB – $67 million; Office of Technology Services and Innovation – $178 million; Internet Freedom, Anti-Censorship – $12 million. $206 million, or 27%, was requested for VOA, the BBG’s flagship media outlet. The combined IBB operations represents 34% of the BBG budget.

Sources told BBG Watch that John Lansing definitely plans to shrink the IBB bureaucracy.

What IBB executives have done over the years was to greatly expand the number of bureaucratic positions. BBG employees were astounded when the new CEO named recently two longtime IBB officials, seen by employees as responsible for the current state of the agency, to oversee administrative reform. “Why would Lansing or anyone else think they would be motivated to change an environment in which they have done so well?,” a BBG-employed writer who wants to remain anonymous, asked. “They are back, ever the survivors. And the dysfunction keeps rolling along,” the BBG writer stated.
 

SEE: Bureaucratic appointments by new BBG CEO worry agency writer, BBG Watch, December 22, 2015

 
VOA journalists also told BBG Watch that the IBB/VOA management followed its usual practice of approving numerous leave requests for themselves and employees during the holiday season. They said that the VOA Newsroom and its web desk, which are poorly staffed even during regular business hours and practically empty at night and on weekends will be even more abandoned during the upcoming holidays and a lot of VOA programs will be pre-recorded. VOA has already developed a reputation for not being able to cover breaking news and to update its website, particularly on weekends. Many IBB and VOA managers and supervisors, who should be urgently dealing with these problems, either are already on holiday leave or have been seen attending numerous holiday parties at the Broadcasting Board of Governors headquarters in Washington, DC.
 

COMMENT ON THE EARLIER VOA POWER FAILURE:They went OFF THE AIR for that long? If Radio Bulgaria did that, I’m sure heads would roll! Radio Biafra probably did better. Even at WKRP in Cincinnati, we had backup systems! WHY DOESN’T CONGRESS FIX THIS SCREWBALL ABOMINATION? This is so unprofessional that it should justify FIRING everyone in IBB and anyone else who (supposedly) knows about solder and wires. Good God, what a sorry bunch of LOSERS representing the United States to the world! U.S. Taxpayers should refuse to fund this!”

BBGFY2016budget-chart

 

###

From: Walter Ward
Sent: Saturday, December 19, 2015 09:03
To: VOA MEDIA TEAMS; VOA Radio Users; VOA Newsroom
Cc: Technology Support Services Directorate; TSS Managers; Information Technology and CIO Managers; Terry Balazs ; Veris Burton

Subject: Dalet Plus Media Grid down

All:

At this time we are experiencing a house-wide issue with the Omneon Media Grid. This is the Network portion that handles High Resolution video and therefore cannot playback video in our Control Room. All Language services must be prepared with a backup plan for video playback. The System Administrators are currently looking into the issue to see what the cause may be and how to quickly resolve the issue.

The Dalet application remains available but no media operations in the Control Rooms will be possible until the MG is back online.

We will keep you informed of any changes or updates. We apologize to our Broadcast Community for this inconvenience and appreciate your support in this matter.

Walter “B.J.” Ward Jr.
IT Specialist, Digital Media Support Division

###

From: BBG ALERTS
Sent: Monday, December 7, 2015 9:13 AM
Subject: Cohen Power Outage

Pepco/GSA are working on the power outage. Stay safe and in well lit areas. Do not use elevators.

###

From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Monday, December 7, 2015 1:28 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Power Outage Update

Colleagues:

Earlier this morning a GSA contractor working on a construction project in the Switzer building inadvertently hit a power line.

Unfortunately, this incident brought down power in both the Switzer and Cohen buildings completely disrupting almost all infrastructure systems.

At this point, we are working diligently with all of our vendors to ensure that we can restore full operations as soon as possible.

Portions of the building are up to full operations but many of our broadcast transmission systems are still being hampered by this incident.

We will notify you immediately once we have restored full functionality.

We deeply regret the inconvenience to all of our colleagues and programs.

Sincerely,

André V. Mendes

###
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Monday, December 7, 2015 6:11 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Power Outage Update

All,

The power issue has been resolved and we are working on bringing all systems back online. In the meantime, please note the following:

• Radio: All radio systems are up and all radio shows should continue as normally scheduled.

• Telephones: All phones are back up and running

• Internet/Dalet: All work stations should have access to the network and Dalet. If you have any difficulty accessing the internet, Dalet, the network drives, etc., please contact the helpdesk at …
We currently only have one area still experiencing difficulties:

• TV: We are still working to bring the TV systems back on line. Most major systems are already operational and we anticipate that all morning shows should proceed as planned, but please make sure that you back up your files for playout for the morning shows.

Thank you for your patience and creativity today as we dealt with these challenges.

Kelu Chao

###

 

Materials previously received from concerned BBG employees

 
While BBG Watch, an independent watchdog blog, has been exposing various problems within the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), individual BBG entities may sometimes be seen as being at fault. It is important to note, however, that they are not responsible for many management and support decisions. By the organizational structure, they have to rely on the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

Since the establishment of the BBG/IBB Interim Management Team in January 2014, efficiency of the Voice of America (VOA) operations dependent on IBB, which we are able to observe first-hand, has never been worse. …

When BBG Watch reported in March 2014 on U.S. Senator Roger Wicker’s (R-Miss.) appeal to the Broadcasting Board of Governors not to close Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Balkan Service and Radio Free Iraq, the article addressed the core issue of the BBG: Many of the BBG broadcast services have been eliminated or reduced in recent years, while the number of mostly bureaucratic IBB positions — which ostensibly exist to support these programs — “has increased by 37% in the last seven years.”

BBG Watch was correct in observing that IBB has become a bureaucratic nightmare and cancer that is killing the BBG’s mission; that IBB executives were proposing new program/broadcast cuts and programming position cuts every year while increasing their own budget and positions; that IBB does not produce any broadcasts or any other programs; that consecutive BBG boards found it convenient to have IBB executives in control of the BBG budget.

However, the 37% increase in the number of positions is just one part of the much greater problem. What BBG Watch did not calculate was the total cost of IBB operations. It is the total cost of IBB operations which represents an enormous waste of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars — a far greater amount than salaries for IBB FTE positions alone.

As the new CEO you may want to ask what happened to the earlier proposal that IBB will reduce its bureaucracy by $10 million in FY2015? In our briefing memos, we will share with you IBB tricks and tactics.

You should know that the International Broadcasting Bureau is not well managed, efficient or effective. It is bureaucratic, incompetent and slow.

However, there are two broad categories of IBB functions — one more useful than the other.

Functions such as Global Operations, HR, Contracts, Security, Budget are needed, although they could be transferred to the entities. On the other hand, the so-called brain trust of the IBB Global Strategy operation is totally redundant and useless.

When IBB proposed to cut $10 million two years ago, clever IBB executives intentionally focused the cuts on Global Operations, HR, Contracts and a few other functions truly needed by the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). IBB stopped posting vacancy announcements, slowed down processing personnel paperwork and delayed posting Purchase Order Vendor (POV – contractor) positions to the Federal Business Bulletin. VOA and OCB were penalized immediately by these actions and had no choice but to advocate against cuts to the IBB budget. It was overlooked that the cuts could have come instead from IBB Global Strategy with its $40 million annual budget for research, strategy, performance measurement, digital design and R & D. We will explain in subsequent Briefing Memos for New BBG CEO why this cut to IBB’s Global Strategy would have absolutely no negative impact.

ALSO SEE: Briefing Memo 1 for New BBG CEO – IBB Overview

 

ALSO SEE: Briefing Memo 2 for New BBG CEO – IBB Silencing Voice To The Voiceless

 

ALSO SEE: Briefing Memo 3 for New BBG CEO – What Do IBB Executives Do? They Travel

 

ALSO SEE: Briefing Memo 4 for New BBG CEO – IBB Office of Digital Design and Innovation

 

ALSO SEE: Briefing Memo 5 for New BBG CEO – IBB’s $50 Million Gallup Contract

 

 
 

Broadcasting Board of Governors Appropriations FY2016 Request

Broadcasting Board of Governors Appropriations FY2016 Request – 34% IBB COMBINED

BBG Summary of Appropriations FY2014-FY2016

BBG Summary of Positions FY2014-FY2016
 
 
 
 

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