Broadcasting Board of Governors Comedy Club

Bureaucracy Warning Sign

OPINION

 

BBG Comedy Club 1

 

Part One

 

US Government International Media Information War Lost

 

By The Federalist

 
 
In case you haven’t realized it by now, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is a comedy resource.

Consider the following headline from a Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) press release on March 16, 2018:

“U.S. government’s media agency targets Russian disinformation and Iranian censorship. BBG at the forefront of National Security Strategy implementation.” (emphasis added)

Anyone reading this in the information ministries of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and elsewhere is probably in danger of hurting themselves falling out of their chairs in convulsive laughter.

You almost have to question the sobriety – or sanity – of whoever comes up with this stuff.

If the BBG is at the forefront of anything, it is international buffoonery.

As you read the press release, it only gets more hilarious.

The press release boldly and loudly proclaims,

“OUR RESULTS”

Let’s take a look of the claims:
 
“278-million weekly unduplicated audience worldwide”
 
The last time we checked, the global population is around 7-BILLION. About two of those BILLION are in China alone. The BBG has been throwing this declared and not independently confirmed number around for quite some time. Thus, even if you take the number at face value, the arrival of the internet and social media, Americans who may see BBG content, hefty payments to affiliates abroad who otherwise would never take substandard BBG content, self-censorship to get stations in countries with government censorship to use BBG reports which through the agency’s self-censorship violate the VOA Charter, questionable counting of affiliate audiences, posting of click bait animal videos, and Facebook boosting ads at U.S. taxpayers’ expense, BBG’s audience numbers have been flat and staying flat. They are nowhere near where they were in terms of impact during the Cold War.

Keep in mind that this agency has been around for around 75 years. This figure becomes even more unimpressive as a sign of less, not more credibility, less and not more reach into that 7-BILLION global population with access to the internet.

What the agency figure means is well over 6.5-BILLION people are getting their news, information and entertainment elsewhere from other sources.

And as we regularly remark, you take the agency’s audience numbers and divide them among the various broadcast entities under the BBG umbrella and the numbers get even less impressive.
 
“23% (of) Iranian Adults TUNE IN”
 
We don’t know when and how the agency arrived at this figure. The agency never explains or makes public its “research” methods. Taking the figure at face value:
 
77% of Iranians don’t tune in!
 
They clearly have their own reasons for ignoring the BBG. In recent demonstrations over economic conditions inside Iran, what the agency doesn’t tell you is that there was considerable push-back to BBG broadcasts, with some Iranians claiming on social media that the agency is “The Voice of the Ayatollahs” — not exactly a ringing endorsement of the agency’s claim to be a voice for freedom and democracy. Reza Pahlavi, the older son of the late Shah, warned in a video interview that U.S. taxpayer-funded media outlets broadcasting to Iran — Radio Farda operating within Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) with headquarters in Prague and the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, both managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors federal agency help the Iranian regime stay in power. 2

And, on top of that, staffers inside the Voice of America Persian (aka, Farsi) service have voiced concerns regarding the editorial content of the service’s programming, as reported to BBG Watch.
 
“400,000,000 Russian Video Views (of the program “Current Time” on social media”
 
If you are drunk on fantasy, no figure of video views is too big over a period of one year or a decade!

This is one of our favorite BBG delusional declarations. In fact, even some individual bloggers in Russia have a larger online following than “Current Time.” Its ranking in Russia is dismally low. As reported by Andrew Beaujon in the Washingtonian, on the day he visited the Broadcasting Board of Governors at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., the BBG’s much heralded Current Time Russian TV program, produced jointly by VOA and RFE/RL, had “about 165 people … watching on Facebook Live, just a few dozen more than work at the network.” “…if you worked at a conventional network, numbers that small might make you leap off the nearest onion dome,” Andrew Beaujon wrote in the Washingtonian magazine.

Supposedly, “Current Time” was created by the BBG to counter Russian disinformation.

Apparently, no one at the BBG got the memo: Vladimir Putin (aka, Russian president for life) just won re-election with over 76% of the vote.

Yes, you can claim that this was the result of a host of “naughtiness:” voter intimidation, voter fraud, etc.

But, Hey! Somebody – a lot of them – voted the guy back in to office. And this means Mr. Putin is going to be around for a while. And you can be sure, the Russians will continue with their strategic objectives in countering BBG media and other even more serious cyberwarfare actions.

The reality is, by comparison, the BBG bureaucrats are a bunch of amateurs against the Russians.

We’ve said it before and we will say it again: the Russians are going to run their playbook until somebody stops them. And so far (and being far ahead in the game) no one has figured out how to stop them. They are a credible adversary. And at this juncture, they are only getting better. And they are more than happy to bludgeon their opponents in the process.

That 400-million views figure the BBG likes to throw around is pure nonsense. It doesn’t mean anything. Several animal videos on Facebook and YouTube can do better than that.

Of course, one of the best Putin moves ever as regards the BBG was the time the Russians threw then-BBG chairman Jeffrey Shell out of the country who went there supposedly on private business, leaving the BBG bureaucrats John Lansing and Jeff Trimble stupefied in a Moscow airport terminal. One might ask, what kind of private business in Russia, and also in China, did the former Democratic BBG Chair engage in?

Amateurs.

A deliberate set-up by the Russians?

Who proposed this insane business trip/US government mission to Moscow by the then BBG Chairman and his BBG bureaucratic assistants?

Who knows?

Either way: why are those two (and VOA director Amanda Bennett and her deputy) still there?

“70% (of) Iraqi Adults – Alhurra helps them form opinions”

Of course, if true, the agency doesn’t say whether those opinions are positive or negative.

We know how things are going in the Middle East, beginning with that false Western narrative of an “Arab Spring.” People are dying and will continue to die in the cauldron of Middle East violence.

And there is nothing funny about that.

The BBG as a part of US national security strategy is the ultimate oxymoron.

But we do have to laugh, remember the hysteria stirred up by the VOA newsroom decrying being in any way remotely connected to the rest of the US Government particularly the national security apparatus.

Prominent spokespersons for the hysteria made appearances in televised meetings of the BBG Board.

Congratulations. You are now “at the forefront of national security strategy implementation.”

We are still waiting for the claimed “mass exodus” of VOA journalists should the agency be recognized as part of the rest of US Government particularly with attachments to the State Department and other executive agencies.

Of course, one cannot accept at face value anything the current BBG management says. They often say one thing and do another, allow it to happen, or have no idea what is going on.

Take as an example VOA director Amanda Bennett and her deputy Sandy Sugawara being listed as Twitter followers of an erotica Twitter account allegedly belonging to a longtime VOA broadcaster. VOA did not deny that they were followers of the Twitter account, which has now been deleted, but claims that they and other senior VOA and BBG managers, who were also listed as followers of the erotica Twitter feed, never saw any of the questionable tweets. VOA journalists found these tweets to be highly degrading toward women, but these employees (mostly women) who complained to people on the outside were afraid to complain directly to the management. A hostile working environment is no laughing matter, but what the agency has become under the current management often seems like watching Comedy Central.

 
Intended BBG Outcomes: Self-preservation and lifetime job security
 
Self-preservation
 
The agency is so bollixed up that the prospect of reorganization looms larger with each passing day. Thus, the bureaucrats and Obama holdover appointees must rely on a false narrative of fabricated successes and accusing their critics in leaks to the media by the so-called “management whistleblowers” of the sins they are themselves guilty of, such as extreme partisanship and bias.

This is the game that is being played: try to hold on for as long as possible in the hopes that Members of Congress and administration officials will continue to buy the “damaged goods” that the agency has become.
 
2. Lifetime Job Security
 
If there is buy-in to this false narrative, the agency will continue to muddle along seemingly forever. And that is the intent. It is no longer about the agency’s mission. It’s about making the steady march toward retirement and a nice pension; and in some cases, collecting five-figure bonuses on top of already bloated six-figure salaries for institutionalizing an agency meltdown.

For certainly to regain the initiative and take it away from the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, ISIS and others will take just that: a lifetime.

Worse, it would take millions if not billions of dollars with no guarantee of a successful outcome in the hands of individuals who only intend to perpetuate the status quo.

There is neither the time nor the money to indulge in this exercise in futility. The Russians in particular are so far out in front that the agency is barely in their rear view mirror. All you have to do is look at that self-assured, satisfied smirk on the face of Vladimir Putin to know how he feels regarding anything with a Washington label attached to it. Yes, he knows he’s boss right now. And more than likely he will do whatever it takes to stay on top in this international game of molding public opinion.

We are talking about a long, hard slog. And right now there is no one in the BBG who is up to the task.

Forget all the bluster from agency officials.

They’ve been played and played particularly well by the Russians.

That’s where things are at: a group of entrenched bureaucrats conducting what amounts to a laugh-a-thon at the expense of the American taxpayers with nothing to show for their hollow glad tidings.

Big lies. Big time.

The Federalist

April 2018

 
 
 

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Notes:

  1. Lampooning Kellyanne Conway at the Voice of America, December 14, 2016.

    Photos: Lampooning Donald Trump at the Voice of America, December 14, 2016.

    See: Voice of America Civil Service Employees Satire Trump, Future First Lady, BBG Watch, December 17, 2016.