International Broadcasting Bureau – We Don’t Know Anything But Dysfunctional And Defunct – Information War Lost: The Blame Game
By The Federalist
The Cohen Building is not a happy place.
It is home to the worst place to work in the Federal Government: the nucleus of US Government international broadcasting: the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and headquarters to the Voice of America (VOA).
The Voice of America (VOA) Central Newsroom is the worst of the worst place to work in the Federal Government.
We have reached the “enough is enough” point with this agency. As a result, fully bipartisan legislation, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490), has been introduced in the US House of Representatives to undertake a major reform of the agency and its operations.
The IBB is most directly responsible for the horrid, dysfunctional and defunct state of affairs that afflicts this Federal agency and compromises its mission. In its findings and declarations, H.R. 4490 is, in its effect, a multi-point indictment of how the IBB has corrupted and damaged the agency.
To be certain, some elements within the IBB, especially those who were key players in the old management team and still hold high-level positions, want to undermine the likelihood and probability that this legislation will be passed into law and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) be forced to implement it. These IBB executives are perfectly content to be dysfunctional and defunct and expect everyone outside to be content with it too. This is typical of a cabal of entrenched bureaucrats who are still involved with and running what we call a “rogue bureaucracy.”
The BBG is not without its own level of culpability in the present state of affairs. It has demonstrated that it is incapable of coming to grips with the extent of the implosion caused by the IBB. It has been engaged in its own kind of muddled foot-dragging on the issue of hiring a Chief Executive Officer (CEO), to the point that the legislation reads like a “how to” manual for the way the board has to go about implementation of the legislation’s provisions. It is also possible, however, that some IBB executives are sabotaging this process, as they did in the past, when the board wanted to hire someone to keep an eye on the bureaucracy.
According to some sources, the board has twice pulled back from awarding a contract to an executive search company to find a CEO.
Guess what? Under the new legislation, the BBG will now have to find two CEOs: one for running VOA and the other for running the grantee/surrogate broadcasters which will be organized as a separate “Freedom News Network.”
In our view, this foot-dragging leads to the view that the BBG/IBB isn’t on the same page with the Congress when it comes to rehabilitating US Government international broadcasting. This may be due in part to the fact that H.R. 4490 relegates the board to an advisory role – as it should be because the board has demonstrated it lacks the fortitude and purposefulness to come to grips with a rogue IBB bureaucracy and a failed agency mission.
Comments allegedly made by a high level Voice of America executive opine that it will take five years for the legislation to take effect.
If correct, this remark takes on the appearance of official foot-dragging.
And worse – it’s the kind of foot-dragging intending for the provisions of HR 4490 to fail.
Let us be clear: if the legislation is undermined, the VOA closes.
But Wait! There’s More!
It is absolutely contrary to the national and public interest to continue to allow the dysfunctional and defunct status quo of US Government international broadcasting to continue. It is not a rational option.
Whether intended to or not, Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) a member of the House Foreign Affairs committee (which unanimously passed H.R. 4490) has introduced a bill of his own. It is one of several as part of his “Shrink Our Spending” (SOS) bill. In his bill, Mr. Salmon calls for the elimination of the Voice of America. He refers to it as a “relic of the Cold War” that has been overtaken by other media alternatives.
Thus, the agency now must contend with not one but two pieces of legislation: one tries to salvage the agency, the other intends to put it out of business permanently.
Take another look at the alleged comment by a VOA executive. It gives more than enough impetus to the view that the most appropriate thing to do is to hit the “OFF” switch as far as VOA is concerned.
Through a Mirror and Darkly
Yes. The Cohen Building is a very unhappy place. The implosion of the agency is becoming ever more apparent. A kind of hysteria now grips the place, with officials and employees giving full vent to the blame game, pointing to Congress and others for putting the agency on what they want to be seen as the brink of disintegration.
Of course, these people are not looking in the one place they should be: right at themselves; or more correctly, senior officials on the agency’s Third Floor who have deliberately sought to destroy core agency operations, not the least of which is the VOA Central Newsroom.
Interpreting the bill to suit their own purposes, individuals inside the Cohen Building are simply apoplectic in their denunciation of the bill’s provisions which are intended to end the dysfunction and restore the agency’s effectiveness.
In short, the message these individuals are conveying is that they appear to prefer being dysfunctional and defunct rather than coming face-to-face with the people that put them in the state of affairs that exist today. And it is these same people who have absolutely no intention of correcting the failures of the agency which are like their own official stamp of approval.
The Untouchables – Not!
Some executives inside the Cohen seem to be adopting a view that they are above and beyond law, rule and regulation.
The truth of the matter is that no one inside the Cohen Building is above or beyond the law. The Congress has run out of patience with this agency. It has asserted two words that define standards by which this agency must operate: accountability and responsibility.
H.R. 4490 goes into precise details with findings and declarations demonstrating the extent to which this agency has abused a Public Trust.
And now it is time to face up.
Instead, some executives inside the Cohen Building are indulging in an outrageous display of defiance and arrogance, which in their effect increase the likelihood that the agency – the Voice of America in particular – is on the short list for extinction.
There has been a limited amount of editorial comment opposing provisions of H.R. 4490. These editorial remarks are solely focused on an interpretation of the legislation as being harmful to the agency’s core mission regarding the reporting of news and information.
These selective interpretations are wrong.
If anything, H.R. 4490 affirms the VOA Charter and the agency’s core mission to provide news and information that is “consistently reliable and authoritative.”
These external commentators rail on hysterically about the requirement that the agency present the policies of the United States Government.
In this hysteria, these commentators raise the false specter of a bogeyman trafficking in propaganda. They ignore what the VOA Charter specifically states,
“3. VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinions on these policies.”
This has been part of the VOA Charter since 1976.
Opponents of the legislation are studiously avoiding this section of the VOA Charter. “Responsible discussions and opinions on these policies.” That doesn’t sound like the absence of discussion or opinion, or solely the White House point of view.
- In our view, opposition to H.R. 4490 is made up of smoke and mirrors.
- At present, this agency demonstrates that it is neither a consistently reliable nor authoritative source of news.
- At present, officials and certain employees appear to intend to unilaterally abrogate the agency’s requirement under law to present US policy and responsible discussion of those policies.
Cumulatively, this agency has made a very bad habit of presenting itself to be a collection of defiant lawbreakers opposed to the VOA Charter.