BBG Watch

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) announced that Ambassador Alberto M. Fernandez, a refugee from Castro’s Cuba who had a successful career as U.S. diplomat and was the State Department’s Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, will join the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN) as its new president beginning July 17, 2017. MBN is in charge of U.S. taxpayer-funded Alhurra Television networks and Radio Sawa which broadcast to the Middle East.

The BBG also announced that current MBN President Brian Conniff is leaving after 11 years.

Ambassador Fernandez, a fluent Arabic and Spanish speaker, will join BBG from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), where he served as Vice President from 2015 to 2017.

Ambassador Fernandez served as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer from 1983 to 2015, and as the State Department’s Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications from March 2012 to February 2015. From 2009-2012, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea; prior to that, he was U.S. Charge d’Affaires to the Republic of Sudan (June 2007-May 2009), Director for Near East Public Diplomacy (2005-2007), Director for Iraq Public Diplomacy (2004-2005) and in senior public diplomacy positions at the U.S. Embassies in Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, and Guatemala.

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, Ambassador Fernandez was a recipient of a 2008 Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the 2006 Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy, and a 2003 Superior Honor Award for his work in Afghanistan, among other awards. His performance garnered Senior Foreign Service performance recognition in 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2002. Mr. Fernandez has also served as a Foreign Service officer in Iraq, Kuwait, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United Arab Emirates, and as USIA desk officer for Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan. He is a graduate of the 46th (2003-2004) Senior Seminar, the State Department’s premier senior management course. A graduate of the University of Arizona and the Defense Language Institute, he served in the U.S. Army (1976-1979), having come to the United States as a refugee from Cuba in 1959. He has published in Brookings: Markaz, ReVista: the Harvard Review of Latin America, Middle East Quarterly, and Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society (JAAS), and has lectured and debated on U.S. foreign policy in numerous public venues.

Ambassador Fernandez is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Defense Language Institute. Ambassador Fernandez has also lectured and debated on U.S. foreign policy in numerous public venues, and has published in several publications, including Brookings Institution publications, the Foreign Service JournalJournal of International Security AffairsSoundings: An Interdisciplinary JournalCipher BriefProvidence, the Harvard Review of Latin AmericaMiddle East Quarterly and the Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society (JAAS). He is also a Non-Resident Fellow in Middle East Media and Politics at the TRENDS Foundation in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

BBG reported in a press release that Kenneth Weinstein, Chairman of the Board for the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, conveyed the Board’s support for the selection,

“Ambassador Fernandez shares our values and focus on long-term growth,” Weinstein said. “He has the perfect combination of skill, experience, and regional expertise that we need to continue driving forward at MBN. We are pleased that he accepted this challenge and look forward to working with him. The Board and I are also very grateful to Brian Conniff for his passion and leadership, and thank him for his accomplishments over many years of dedicated service to the agency.”

“I am truly honored and humbled to join the Broadcasting Board of Governors as the President of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks,” said Fernandez. “I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to the impact the BBG’s networks have on millions of lives around the world. MBN is a media leader in the region, and I look forward to joining with its dedicated and accomplished staff to continue its growth momentum in new and creative ways.”