BBG Watch News Commentary

Sources told BBG Watch that it was not former Democratic Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Walter Isaacson but Republican member S. Enders Wimbush who can be described as the chief architect of the parts of the FY2013 BBG budget proposal which call for ending Voice of America radio broadcasts to Tibet and VOA radio and TV Cantonese broadcasts to China. Isaacson, however, supported Wimbush and his program cutting proposals. There were not enough other Republican members to oppose Wimbush and some of the Democrats who also supported the plan to end or reduce VOA broadcasts.

Wimbush used his position as chair of the BBG Strategy and Budget Committee to push for these cuts as well cuts and reductions in VOA programs to other countries ruled by communist and other authoritarian regimes. In addition to Tibet and China, the BBG FY2013 budget proposal also targets VOA program to Laos, Vietnam and Burma.

Despite having one of the worst attendance records at general board meetings, Wimbush was very active in his position on the BBG Strategy and Budget Committee and used it to get the majority of Board members to approve numerous cuts to Voice of America news and information programs.

Wimbush was also described by sources as the chief supporter of an earlier BBG proposal to eliminate all Voice of America radio and television programs in Mandarin and Cantonese. He wrote a response to a critical op-ed in The Washington Times about the BBG China plan. Wimbush called the plan to end VOA broadcasts to China a “politically smart” move. All Republicans and Democrats in House and Senate committees with oversight over the BBG budget voted last year to kill this proposal.


Despite the setback and bipartisan criticism he received in Congress in 2010, Wimbush continued his efforts to eliminate or reduce Voice of America programs and managed to get enough other BBG members to support his latest plan to stop VOA from broadcasting radio to Tibet and to other communist-ruled countries.

Sources tell us that Wimbush often clashed in closed board meetings with senior Republican member Victor Ashe who opposed many of the proposed programming cuts to countries without free media. Sources also told BBG Watch that Wimbush generally opposes Ashe on transparency, accountability and employee morale issues, but on such issues Ashe sometimes gets enough support from other Republicans as well as some Democrats.

Sources describe Wimbush as extremely sensitive to any kind of criticism or disagreement with his views. One source said that at a recent board meeting, Wimbush launched a loud verbal criticism of Brian Conniff, President of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN), broadcasting news and information in Arabic to the Middle East. The Board selected Conniff, who oversees the operation of the radio network Radio Sawa, as well as two television channels: Alhurra and Alhurra-Iraq, to be in charge of planning for the proposed merger of the BBG surrogate broadcasters. Wimbush, according to our sources, wanted this job to be given to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Steven Korn.

Sources also tell BBG Watch that Wimbush strongly defended Korn when the Board reversed some of Korn’s personnel decisions after it was revealed that Korn called some of his senior managers “old white guys” and wanted to change their position titles and promote two younger female managers whom he favors. According to our sources, some BBG members, both Republicans and Democrats, wanted to fire Korn, but Wimbush and some other Democrats were opposed to this move. In the end, the RFE/RL Board of Directors adopted a resolution condemning all forms of workplace discrimination. Korn later joked in an open BBG meeting about hiring “a cute high school intern.”

Several BBG Watch sources have also identified S. Enders Wimbush as a Broadcasting Board of Governors member who called BBG employees “cowards” for sending anonymous tips and comments to the BBG Watch website. Sources tell us that it was Wimbush who urged other BBG members to take an unspecified action to counter BBG Watch’s criticism of mismanagement and poor policy choices at the Broadcasting Board of Governors. An anonymous Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist reacted very strongly to being called a “coward” by a BBG member but admitted that because he fears retaliation by the management he is indeed afraid to speak out against disinformation and mismanagement occurring at a place whose stated mission is providing responsible discussion and open debate, and he feels ashamed.

Message to Broadcasting Board of Governors: Yes, some of us are cowards and we are ashamed

Congress is not likely to approve President Obama’s budget proposal. But if that budget were to be approved, the Voice of America would cease broadcasting radio programs to Tibet and cut or reduce programs to many other countries. Well over 200 journalists could see their jobs eliminated. Included in that number are 71 positions to be eliminated in VOA news and English programs.

Sources tell BBG Watch that these cuts were initiated by the budget committee chaired by S. Enders Wimbush. The same sources say that in engineering these cuts and pushing for getting the majority of Board members to approve them, Wimbush was assisted by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Deputy Director Jeff Trimble and the Director of the Office of Strategy and Development Bruce Sherman.

In commenting on the BBG proposal to end VOA radio programs to Tibet and VOA radio and TV programs in Cantonese to China, one anonymous BBG journalist wrote:

“The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) budget submission requests cutting seven employees out of 22 in the Voice of America (VOA) Tibetan Service, ending all six hours of daily VOA Tibetan radio broadcasts.

This is happening on the day China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, heir apparent of the communist regime, arrives in Washington on a get-to-know-you visit.

This is happening while Tibet is burning. A day after the 23rd Tibetan monk self-immolated to protest unprecedented Chinese crackdown on their religion.

This is happening one week after CCTV, China’s state TV launched its first live daily broadcast from its brand new 36000 sq ft studio in Washington DC, the first step of China’s $7 billion media offensive in America.

What is the BBG thinking? Has the Broadcasting Board of Governors gone mad?

And, decimating VOA broadcasts to the Laos (4 out of 6 employees), Vietnam (10 out of 15 employees) and Cantonese to China (all 7 employees). Cutting America’s broadcasts to three out of five remaining communist regimes.

While planning all these cuts, the BBG promoted Bruce Sherman, the BBG strategist (or de-strategist) to SES without contest; hiring an SES director for ODDI, Office of Digital Design and Innovation; hiring a BBG communications director, another SES. All three SES positions were created as the Broadcasting Board of Governors was planning to eliminate dozens of rank and file journalists.

Who needs this Board that cannibalizes its own worker bees to feed itself?”


From the official BBG website:

S. Enders Wimbush is Senior Director, Foreign Policy and Civil Society at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. From 1987-93, he served as Director of Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany.

Mr. Wimbush has worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, Science Applications International Corporation, the Rand Corporation as a consultant, strategist and analyst of international security issues, and for Runzheimer International as director of communications.

Earlier Mr. Wimbush directed the Society for Central Asian Studies in Oxford, England. In addition to dozens of policy studies for both the public and private sectors, Mr. Wimbush is the author or editor of seven books, including several authoritative histories of Central Asia and the Caucasus, and many articles on international strategy and security competition in scholarly, professional and popular media.

Mr. Wimbush studied for a PhD at the University of Chicago, where he received his A.M. from the Committee on International Relations. He also holds a B.A. in History from the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

Mr. Wimbush serves on the BBG Strategy and Budget Committee and is Chair of the Board of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.

Wimbush was appointed to the board on July 2, 2010 to a term expiring on August 13, 2010. By law, any member whose term has expired may serve until a successor has been appointed and qualified.

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