Broadcasting Board of Governors – Not Too Big To Fail

BBG members with IBB Director Richard Lobo and Deputy Director Jeff Trimble

by The Federalist

The Broadcasting Board of Governors – International Broadcasting Bureau (BBG/IBB), known to be the worst organization in the Federal Government, added to its reputation on Monday, February 13, 2012 when it announced substantial cuts to its broadcast operations, as part of the administration’s FY2013 budget request to the Congress.
 
A total of 14 out of 43 language operations – around 33% of the Voice of America (VOA) – will be adversely affected.  Some of the services will shut down completely, some will be reduced.  Our focus is on VOA; however, the other entities controlled by the BBG/IBB (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Radio and TV Marti among them) also face cuts.  The agency claims that there will be reductions in management; but at this juncture it is a claim only, absent hard numbers yet to publicly identify the number of positions and whether or not the position are encumbered by real, live people.
 
You can be assured that the IBB bonus-managers including our “$10,000 Bonus Man” will not be affected.  They are, after all, the architects of the intentional destruction of US international broadcasting.
 
Thankfully, they are not able to take unilateral action.  Much remains in what will be a vigorous and rancorous contest of wills between the bonus-managers and the people involved with protecting US international broadcasting assets and US national interests.
 
What this proposal means is this:
 
This is a clear and unmistakable statement that US international influence is in decline.  The size and scope of the proposed cuts demonstrates that the BBG/IBB intends actions that will accelerate that decline.
 
The BBG/IBB is taking the United States out of the business of direct international broadcasting.  Its primary target is radio, the medium which still commands the largest share of the agency’s audiences – contrary to claims by the agency that people are turning away from radio.  That is pure nonsense.  It remains the primary medium through which people get useful news and information.  It is affordable.  It is accessible.
 
Sources inside the Cohen Building note that David Ensor, the VOA director, says that radio has a very secure place at VOA, that it is not dying by any means and that it won’t be killed before its time. Before its time? Many others had predicted or anticipated the end of radio. They were all wrong.
 
Unfortunately, the agency’s actions speak a whole lot louder than words, even those from Mr. Ensor who has been more candid than most senior officials in his frank assessments of agency operations.  But, it just does not work in this case.  Sustaining a 33% reduction in its primary operations is not a sign of a healthy and robust future for the agency, its employees and the core audiences that rely on VOA broadcasts.
 
If you are a VOA employee, you should feel betrayed.
 
If you are among the billions of people around the world who rely upon radio broadcasts and are without access to the Internet (the BBG/IBB medium of choice), you should feel betrayed.
 
If you are an American taxpayer, you get the trifecta: your tax dollars go to support a failed agency, with a failed strategy and a bunch of bonus-managers who line their pockets while doing their “corporate” thing and pile-driving the agency and its employees right into the ground.
 
Even if the proposed cuts are reversed by the Congress, the damage to the agency’s image and credibility is permanent.  This kind of intentional breach with the agency’s employees, the agency’s mission and global publics is beyond repair.
 
As Secretary of State Clinton rightly observed, “We are losing the information war.”  The BBG/IBB is responsible for losing this war and they are not going to acquire a sudden change in fortune with these reductions or with its sham of a “strategic plan.”
 
This is nothing less than an intentional act of self-destruction.
 
Which reminds us – forget the other load of nonsense about creating a “global news network.”  Global news networks do not abandon known audiences.  Just ask the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians.  They are going at their international broadcasting efforts full bore.
 
What the BBG/IBB intends to do is abandon radio audiences.  These audiences have and will continue to go elsewhere for news and information when abandoned by the BBG/IBB.  They have done it Russia.  And they will continue to do so if the BBG/IBB succeeds in its demolition strategy.
 
In short, the myopic bonus-managers are intentionally creating strategic vacuums, affording elements hostile to US interests to fill the void.  In the globalized environment of the 21st century, the entire world is strategic.  It’s a chess game with serious consequences.  Not manage the chess board and you become outmaneuvered, cornered and run out of options because you don’t have the assets in place to deal with known or emerging threats.
 
That is your BBG/IBB: inept and outmaneuvered by superior skill sets.  Where do those superior skill sets reside?  See above: China, Russia and Iran.
 
 
Let’s briefly examine some of the things we know the agency wants to do, since they reveal the direction of the agency under the BBG/IBB “flim flam strategic plan:”
 
They want $9-million dollars for TV to Egypt.
 
Here we go again with this “Arab Spring” thing.  Here’s the real deal:
 
The “Arab Spring” is a term of art created by Western media.  There is no such thing.  There is something else quite different.  It’s called revolution.  Revolutions tend to be bloody affairs, particularly in the Middle East.  As Senator John Kerry said last year, “It is too early to be doing a victory lap for democracy in the Middle East.”  Why?  Because, these revolutions go their own way, not necessarily the way the United States wishes they would.
 
In Egypt, the military is in charge.  The Egyptian military is not a liberal organization.  It is traditional, conservative.  It will not go quietly into the night and retreat to its barracks.  It is not about to cede power to mobs on the streets of Cairo.  The military gets it where the Western media doesn’t: this is all about power, who loses it and who keeps it.  They intend to keep it and may find themselves working closely with the Muslim Brotherhood, a well-organized fundamentalist organization that has been waiting a very long time for its moment of prominence and power.
 
This is $9-million dollars wasted because the United States has lost its resonance in the Middle East.  The BBG/IBB had ten years (2001-2011) to get its act together and garner support from the “Arab street.”  That is supposedly the purpose behind Radio Sawa and al-Hurra television.  What do the American taxpayers have to show for the millions of dollars invested in these program efforts?
 
Nothing.  
 
That window of opportunity has closed.  No one knows when it will re-open.  Arab publics remain adamant about leveling the playing field with Israel.  If you think you’ve seen bloodshed up to this point that is nothing compared to the next act in this drama; and that is the next act, after the dust settles from the latest round of groups vying for power across the Middle East, across ethnic and religious lines, among the Arab themselves and of course, the Iranians who are intent upon positioning themselves to command hegemony over the Middle East – and that means not just taking the Israelis out of the equation.  It also means establishing dominion over its Arab neighbors.  Remember, the Iranians are not Arabs.  They have a lot to gain by pulling off their intended goals, big time.  They also see this as their moment to reestablish Iran in the image of its ancient Persian empire.
 
Here’s another thing that the BBG/IBB wants:
 
They want to “elevate and expand social media.”
 
Here’s the deal with that:
 
Social chit-chat may get flash mobs, rioters and looters out in the streets, along with anarchists, pie-in-the-sky true believers and other activists.  So what?  It doesn’t mean a thing and it’s all a crock created by Western media.  You know why?
 
Because at the end of the day, social chit-chat does not equate with governance.
 
The next time you are in a plane flying into or out of Washington, DC airspace, take a look down below.  Do you see verdant grasslands stretching out for miles in all directions?  No.  You see what is referred to the megalopolis: miles and miles of urbanity.  So ask yourself some questions:
 
How does all of that work?  How is it all coordinated?  How do you synchronize the movements and needs of society?  How do you provide for the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter?  In short, how do you maintain civilization without reverting to anarchy?
 
Consider the “Occupy” movement.  There may have been some legitimate issues at the beginning of the undertaking.  But a lot of that got lost when the folks camped out in various cities around the country, including DC.  At the end of the day, what did they contribute to governance?  Not a whole lot.  With regard to DC, they generated a lot of garbage and perhaps helped increase the rodent population (carriers of the plague and other diseases).  But that’s it.  A social experience that devolved into an exercise in collecting trash and eradicating rodents.
 
What do we see from the BBG/IBB in its social media?  Some nice, attractive young woman teaching American slang to Chinese audiences.  Okay, it’s cute, it’s campy.  But at the end of the day, there are about 1.4 billion Chinese in the People’s Republic of China.  What is the contribution to governance?  Not much.  Nothing actually.
 
In things that matter, the BBG/IBB can’t deliver the goods starting with the agency’s mission as codified in the VOA Charter.  Why?  Because it exposes them for all the things they are not doing or have failed miserably in doing.
 
Instead, they try to talk in terms of “supporting freedom and democracy.”  Any organization that initiates an adverse action against 33% of its primary broadcast operations is not in any position to effectively support processes as demanding as “freedom and democracy.”  
 
The BBG/IBB is mouthing words and their actions make them nothing more than mercenary hypocrites.  Remember that “$10,000 Bonus Man” and his cohorts.
 
And forget about this notion that these guys are creating “the world’s leading global news network.”  That is more of the hypocrisy.  The BBG/IBB talks about an audience of 100 million for radio, another 100 million for television and a paltry 10 million for the Internet.  We’re talking a 210 million total out of a world population of 7 billion!  
 
What are these people bragging about?!?
 
These people are not in the business of good governance and delivering an effective mission to justify the tax dollars being used to support this agency.  They are all about putting self-interest as their top priority.  And in doing that, they are destroying the value of the agency’s mission, the work of its employees and surrendering the initiative to other nations or groups with a totally different message than that of the United States.
 
Anyone who is a part of US international broadcasting, anyone who pays for US international broadcasting and anyone who relies upon US international broadcasting should be and has the right to be outraged by the officials of the BBG/IBB responsible for these actions.
 
These characters who fancy themselves as corporatists would likely find themselves fired in the private sector for perpetrating such a fiasco.  
 
The Federalist
February 15, 2012
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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