BBG Watch Commentary

Jeff Shell
Jeff Shell

The Los Angeles Times and other media reported that Jeff Shell, a longtime Comcast Corp. television executive who spent the last two years in London and was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), will in his private sector career succeed Ron Meyer in a newly created position as chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

Shell is highly respected in the private media industry and has won respect of supporters of U.S. international broadcasting after his nomination by President Obama to head the BBG, sources told BBG Watch.

“I have worked with [Shell] for over a decade and have been consistently impressed by his strategic vision, operational focus and energy,” NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said in a statement. “In addition, having led NBCUniversal’s international operations for the last two and a half years, Jeff is perfectly positioned to lead our film group at a time when global expansion is more important than ever,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

The Los Angeles Times noted at the end of its article that “Shell also is chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an agency of the U.S. government that oversees nonmilitary international broadcasting.”

BBG Chairman Jeff Shell with CUSIB members, NYC, 8-8-13.
BBG Chairman Jeff Shell with CUSIB members, NYC, 8-8-13.

Shell impressed supporters of U.S. international broadcasting when he reached out to them shortly after being nominated by President Obama to serve as BBG chairman. On his first full business day as BBG chairman, he met with representatives of the independent Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – which has been critical of the management of U.S. broadcasting to overseas audiences. CUSIB and other hope that Shell will be able to reform the federal agency and provide better and more effective news service to countries without free media, including China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and others.

It will be a challenge for Shell to do his private sector job while also trying to reform the federal agency which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as “defunct.” According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the BBG is one of the worst managed federal agencies with the worst employee morale. These surveys were done well before Shell joined the BBG board last month. It is expected that he and other BBG members will try to reform the government bureaucracy, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which runs Voice of America (VOA) and other U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcasts and other media programs for audiences abroad.

Variety reported that Shell has already relocated to Los Angeles from his base in London, where “he oversaw NBCU’s international television operations, and spearheaded the effort to grow that business.” “The company’s cable and broadcast divisions generated three times as much revenue as NBCU’s filmed entertainment division last year, and Shell’s appointment to lead the studio demonstrates Comcast’s confidence in Shell’s leadership over those businesses,” Variety reported.

Being based in Los Angeles rather than in London should make it easier for Shell to do his BBG job, sources told BBG Watch.

In reporting on Shell’s appointment to head Universal, Kim Andrew Elliott, a member of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau management team who is allowed by his bosses to keep a private blog on international broadcasting, pointed out that The New York Times article on Shell’s promotion failed to mention his public sector role as BBG Chairman.

The Los Angeles Times and a few other media outlets, however, note Shell’s appointment by President Obama to the BBG job. NBCUniversal press release also mentioned that “Jeff Shell was recently appointed by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to be Chair of the Broadcast Board of Governors, and began serving in August.”

Read more:

NBCUniversal TV executive Jeff Shell to head Universal film group, The Los Angeles Times, By Daniel Miller and Meg James, September 9, 2013.

Jeff Shell, TV Executive, to Take Over at Universal Studios, The New York Times, By Brooks Barnes, September 9, 2013.

Universal’s Adam Fogelson Out as Jeff Shell Moves to Studio Side, Variety, By Justin Kroll and Rachel Abrams, September 9, 2013.

Jeff Shell Named Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, NBCUniversal press release on, September 9, 2013.

Big news about the BBG chairman. Except that it doesn’t mention the BBG., Kim Andrew Elliott reporting on International Broadcasting, September 9, 2013.