BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Director David Ensor
VOA Director David Ensor

An agency source told BBG Watch that Voice of America (VOA) Director David Ensor was unavailable over the weekend to respond to and deal with a government ban on international news broadcasts in Cambodia because he was attending Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO.

See: Voice of America Director Ensor missing during broadcasting crisis in Cambodia, BBG Watch, July 1, 2013.

The source told BBG Watch that some agency officials were frustrated by difficulties in getting in touch with Director Enosor and not being able to get a quick response from him to problems in Cambodia.

The job of dealing with the crisis was left to Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) members, primarily former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe who issued statements and worked on getting the Cambodian government’s ban reversed.

Thanks to U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassy in Cambodia and Ambassador Ashe, the crisis was averted, at least for the time being. David Ensor played no role in efforts to reverse the broadcasting ban, a source told BBG Watch, and was late in responding to emails from BBG members and other officials.

According to one source, BBG members were extremely disappointed with Ensor’s absence and lack of engagement.

A source said that Ensor has developed a reputation for ignoring management problems at the Voice of America and described him as spending most of his time on maintaining and developing contacts in Washington while VOA news coverage and already record low employee morale deteriorate. A recent analysis of VOA English news output showed that Russia Today and Al Jazeera beat VOA many times over in news stories popularity among readers, as well as web and social media engagement.

Just like International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director Richard Lobo, who with his deputy Jeff Trimble is in charge of overall management of the BBG, Ensor also relies on a group of top executives who have been rated in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys as being some of the worst managers in the entire federal government. Neither Lobo nor Ensor has made any personnel changes among top managers. They both rewarded them instead with outstanding performance bonuses of up to $10,000 each.

While VOA employee complaints about inadequate news coverage and poor website and social media maintenance are being ignored, both Lobo and Ensor put the same managers responsible for low morale in charge of the program to impove morale. Both are viewed by employees as distant and disengaged executives.

One idea that Director Ensor could bring back from Aspen Ideas Festival is that the Voice of America Director’s job requires a 24/7 commitment and that VOA Director must personally deal with management problems and personally respond to a broadcasting crisis like the one in Cambodia.

An agency source did not know whether U.S. taxpayers paid for Director Ensor to attend Aspen Ideas Festival.

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