Susan McCue
BBG member Susan McCue

At the meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Miami on April 20, BBG Governor Susan McCue made a statement in support of restoring funding in FY 2013 for continuing Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to Tibet and China by achieving savings in management expenditures.

Susan McCue, a Democrat serving on the bipartisan Board, commended the BBG Strategy and Budget Committee which made a recommendation to restore funding in the next fiscal year for Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts to Tibet and the VOA Cantonese Service. Some Radio Free Asia (RFA) programs facing cuts in FY 2013 were also saved. The decision approved by the whole Board was announced at the Miami meeting by BBG Governor Michael Meehan, another Democrat who supported BBG’s senior Republican member Ambassador Victor Ashe in his early efforts to save these broadcasts.

VOA radio to Tibet and VOA Cantonese radio, television and Internet programs were to be eliminated in the next fiscal year under a controversial proposal approved earlier by the BBG at the recommendation of their executive staff. Some BBG members later said privately that they were not adequately briefed by the staff on the details of the cuts and public comments.

After numerous protests and a plea from human rights activist and Holocaust survivor Annette Lantos, the full Board voted last Friday to reject parts of the earlier budget plan and to restore funding for these broadcasts. Even Republican member S. Enders Wimbush, who had previously sided with the executive staff in supporting elimination of VOA radio and television in Mandarin and Cantonese to China, as well as elimination of VOA Tibetan radio, eventually voted to keep these programs on the air.

On the question of funding for Tibetan and Chinese broadcasts, Susan McCue suggested that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) staff should look for savings in management expenditures:

“I know there have been lively conversations. I’m fully supportive of restoring the funds, particularly with regard to Tibet. It’s been a concern for us for a while

One other side note in terms of where to find money. We did have a conversation at our closed door meeting with the staff to see if it’s possible to find the funding in management, if possible. I’m just putting it out there.” — Susan McCue

[Another voice] “In administrative costs, not in programming”

A public suggestion by a Broadcasting Board of Governors member that savings can be found in management expenditures rather than in cutting programs is highly unusual. Until recently, BBG members almost always accepted recommendations of their executive staffers who protected and expanded management positions and expenditures while eliminating and reducing broadcasts and other news programs.

BBG Watch commends Governor McCue for her statement. We also commend other BBG members who changed their mind on the value of broadcasting to Tibet and China. BBG Watch is particularly pleased that Governor Wimbush changed his position on this issue.

It was also revealed at the BBG meeting in Miami that Susan McCue is working on a comprehensive legislative proposal to reform U.S. international broadcasting. She referred to this proposal at the open meeting as “U.S. Broadcasting Innovation Act” but did not disclose any details and did not ask for public comments.

She and another BBG Democratic member Michael Meehan disagreed politely during the open meeting on the merits of the proposal to partially merge administrative functions of the BBG-managed surrogate broadcasters — Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). McCue supports going ahead with the proposed merger, while both Meehan and Victor Ashe have raised reservations about the plan.

Susan McCue has considerable experience on Capitol Hill, as does Michael Meehan. She was chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from 1999 to 2006. She also held numerous communications positions in government and campaigns. She is now President of Message Global, a strategic advocacy firm she founded in 2008 for social action campaigns. She was also the founding President and CEO of The ONE Campaign to combat extreme global poverty. She is currently Vice Chair of Humanity United and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.