BBG Watch Commentary
In a press release posted today (Wednesday) on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) website, BBG reconfirmed some of interim management and personnel changes at the embattled International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). These changes, believed to have been initiated by BBG’s new chairman, Jeff Shell, with support from other board members, were in response to overwhelming public criticism of IBB’s former executives, including a comment from former BBG members Hillary Clinton that the agency had become “defunct.”
Even before Shell announced IBB management changes, former IBB director Richard Lobo had retired at the end of November 2013. At the BBG board meeting in December, Shell made an announcement that while the board is looking for a permanent agency CEO, André Mendes, Director of IBB Office of Technology, Services and Innovation would become Director of Global Operations; Suzie Carroll, BBG’s Executive Director would become Director of Global Communications; and Robert Bole, Director of Innovation would become Director of Global Strategy.
Shell said that “the Board proposed this structure to leverage the strengths of three exceptional leaders and set the stage for important agency reforms,” said Jeffrey Shell, chair of the BBG’s governing board.
Today’s press release confirmed a previous announcement that BBG Governor Matt Armstrong will serve as the Board’s Management Liaison and will provide support to the interim IBB management team. In addition, the Board has created a Special Committee on Creation of a Chief Executive Officer.
The new IBB management team is charged primarily with stemming the decline of the agency’s effectiveness and image while the board looks for a future Chief Executive Officer, sources told BBG Watch.
In December, Shell announced that “as opposed to having” former director Richard Lobo’s deputy, Jeff Trimble, “as part of this management team here, I think what we’ve all agreed here as a board is to try to find Jeff something where we can use his incredible talents and experience in the organization to help us with the various challenges we have and at the same time get him closer to his love of journalism.”
Today’s press release suggests that a coordinating position was found. “IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble will now take on a new role with the Global Strategy team working to advance collaboration and coordination across the BBG,” the press release said.
The IBB, which does not produce any programs, has developed an enormous bureaucracy over the last several years. Inside and outside critics describe IBB as non-productive entity which keeps growing at the expense of programs and journalistic positions being eliminated at the recommendation of IBB executives.
Today’s press release says that “the IBB is responsible for the agency’s strategic planning and oversight, including U.S. international media’s innovation strategy, and transmission, marketing, and program placement services.”
Critics charge that IBB executives’ involvement with strategic planning led former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to conclude that the agency has become “defunct.” Critics also blame IBB bureaucrats for creating a management culture that has consistently placed the agency at the bottom in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) employee morale ratings.
Sources tell BBG Watch that BBG employees’ and contractors’ greatest fear is over the uncertainty of what might happen with some of these IBB executives once a new CEO is selected or when Chairman Shell and other current BBG members leave their posts on the board.
Sources among Voice of America journalists also told BBG Watch that they hope Chairman Shell and the board will quickly initiate similar management reforms at VOA, where general collapse of news reporting capabilities, gross mismanagement and dismal employee morale continue, critics say. Sources told BBG Watch that while employees see these BBG-initiated management changes as positive, they are still concerned that some IBB bureaucrats may continue to exercise influence or stage a comeback under a new CEO or when current BBG members leave the board.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors today established an interim management structure for its International Broadcasting Bureau that appoints three senior executives to manage the day-to-day operations of the agency and helps pave the way for a future Chief Executive Officer.
Under this interim management structure, André Mendes will serve as Director of Global Operations, Robert Bole will serve as Director of Global Strategy, and Suzie Carroll will serve as Director of Global Communications. Mendes, Bole and Carroll will provide oversight and direction to the Directors of the Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, as well as the other offices of the federal agency until a CEO is hired.
“The Board proposed this structure to leverage the strengths of three exceptional leaders and set the stage for important agency reforms,” said Jeffrey Shell, chair of the BBG’s governing board.
BBG Governor Matt Armstrong will serve as the Board’s Management Liaison and will provide support to the interim IBB management team. In addition, the Board has created a Special Committee on Creation of a Chief Executive Officer.
“We believe the BBG needs a CEO to be fully effective and to support all operational aspects of U.S. international broadcasting,” he said. “We are consulting with both Congress and the Administration on meeting that goal.”
Mendes has directed the IBB’s Office of Technology, Services and Innovation (TSI) for the past four years. He provides executive leadership in the planning, development, and operation of all agency engineering and technical systems, including a world-wide satellite and transmitting station network, as well as planning for the use of new technological improvements and efficiencies. Before joining the agency, Mendes served as senior vice president, strategic planning and global CIO for Special Olympics International. Previously, he served as Chief Technology Integration Officer for the Public Broadcasting Service, where he was responsible for both Information Technology and Broadcast Engineering during a $1.8 billion transition to digital television.
Deputy TSI Director Terry Balazs, will serve as Acting TSI Director, given Mendes new leadership role.
Robert Bole joined the BBG in 2011 as Director of Innovation to lead the agency’s use of technology to improve storytelling, news delivery and crisis response. As head of the Office of Digital and Design Innovation, he directed the agency’s digital strategy and worked with journalists to innovate digital media products, focusing on engaging and connecting audiences. Previously, Bole served as the Vice President of Digital Media Strategies at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where he helped lead the creation of a unified digital distribution platform. He also created a strategy to improve public media’s use of social media to engage citizens in journalism, civic dialogue and education. Prior to that, Bole worked for the One Economy Corporation, a global non-profit organization that leverages the power of technology in underserved communities around the world.
As Bole assumes his new role in the IBB, ODDI’s Director of Technology, Adam Martin, will serve as Acting Director of Innovation.
Suzie Carroll has been with the BBG since 2012. As BBG Executive Director, she serves as the principal liaison for the Chairman and members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and manages implementation of Board priorities. Before being tapped by the Board to be its Executive Director, she served as the agency’s Congressional Coordinator for a year, cultivating support from Capitol Hill for high-priority agency initiatives, conducting day-to-day interactions with Congress, and coordinating these activities with counterparts at the BBG’s networks. Carroll joined the agency from the Peace Corps, where she served as Acting Director and Deputy Director of Congressional Relations. As a member of the Peace Corps’ senior staff, she was responsible for developing and implementing legislative strategy. Prior to that, Carroll held positions, focusing on government affairs and legal services in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.
Carroll will continue to serve as BBG Executive Director in addition to her new duties.
IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble will now take on a new role with the Global Strategy team working to advance collaboration and coordination across the BBG. Trimble will play a leadership role on the content side of the operation to strengthen the BBG’s position in a period of increased global competition.
The IBB is responsible for the agency’s strategic planning and oversight, including U.S. international media’s innovation strategy, and transmission, marketing, and program placement services. The IBB is also responsible for integrating activities across the federal and BBG-funded grantee networks for greater organizational efficiency. The IBB manages the agency’s communications, financial operations, and legal support along with a global network of transmitting sites, an extensive system of leased satellite and fiber optic circuits, and rapidly growing Internet and mobile audience platforms and services. It provides research and evaluations of broadcasts, VOA editorials, and human resources, Equal Employment Opportunity, procurement, security, information technology, and other essential administrative support for the agency.