BBG Watch Commentary
Two former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) members, Ambassador Victor Ashe and Blanquita Cullum, held meetings on Capitol Hill Tuesday and Wednesday to express support for management reforms contained in the bipartisan H.R. 4490 Royce – Engel U.S. International Broadcasting Reform Act. They were accompanied by Ted Lipien, a former Voice of America (VOA) acting associate director and current director of the NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org). Lipien’s op-ed on the urgent need for reforming VOA management appeared Wednesday in The Washington Times. Gary Marco, a former Voice of America broadcast engineer and former employee union leader, also attended the meetings.
The group met with Senate and House staffers who drafted the bipartisan bill and had meetings with Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce who is one of the principal co-sponsors of the reform legislation. If enacted and signed by the president, the legislation would make the BBG board advisory, separate surrogate broadcasting outlets from the federal management structure, shrink the bureaucracy, and require Voice of America to observe all three elements of its Charter.
The support for the legislation on the Hill is impressively strong and crosses party lines, according to one participant. Members of Congress are also astounded by fears of some critics that VOA might become a propaganda outlet under the new bill. The group was told that management reforms within the U.S. international broadcasting agency are the primary goal of members of Congress of both parties.
Legislators strongly support the VOA Charter provided that the management is reformed and will honor the charter in full rather than partially, a source told BBG Watch. Members of Congress seemed much more concerned that management practices of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and mismanagement within VOA have undermined VOA news reporting, making VOA less effective vis-à-vis America’s enemies in the information sphere.