BBG Watch

Ambassador Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, praised some of the recent Russian-language programming initiatives undertaken by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA), which are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency. She also said Wednesday at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that she and Secretary of State John Kerry join the Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and other Committee members in supporting reform of the BBG. Last year, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bipartisan H.R. 4490 bill to reform the BBG, which was later passed by the full House of Representatives. While there were some questions and reservations about the bill’s wording with regard to the VOA Charter, the BBG employee union, AFGE Local 1812, strongly supported the passage of the bill, as did some former BBG members. A few current and former VOA English news correspondents published op-eds and posted Facebook messages opposing the bill, presenting it as an attempt to turn VOA into the U.S. government’s propaganda tool. Co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), strongly denied that this was the bill’s intention.

The H.R. 4490 International Communications Reform Act of 2014 was not taken up by the U.S. Senate last year. A new BBG reform bill is expected to be reintroduced in 2015.

“We’re working with you on that,” Nuland said. “We have some differences — slight — with your proposed legislation,” Nuland added and followed up with a praise of some to the recent work under the Broadcasting Board of Governors umbrella.

VICTORIA NULAND: “But I do want to do a shout out to BBG and its affiliates for the work that they have been doing over the last year to counter Russian propaganda, particularly to support broadcasting in Ukraine.

They have devoted $22.6 million to Russian-language programming, 104% increase over Maidan spending [?].

RFE/RL and VOA have now launched a half-hour new Russian-language program, “Current Time,” which helps fill the gap in clean news.

It’s being pulled down by broadcasters all across the periphery of Russia, and parts of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine are also receiving it, and they are now reaching about 6.6 million viewers.

So, they have been good partners to us, and out budget supports doing more together.”

CHAIRMAN ED ROYCE: “We follow that very closely, and we also are in consultations with those in theatre about the effectiveness.

Trust us when we say: reforming the BBG is necessary at this time.

We have to be able to take some decisive actions to get this back up and running the way it worked effectively in the 1980s.”

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PRESS RELEASE

House Committee On

Foreign Affairs

Chairman Ed Royce

Chairman Royce Statement on Resignation of U.S. International Broadcasting Executive Andy Lack

Media Contact (202)225-5021

MAR 5, 2015

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement on the resignation of Andy Lack as the Chief Executive Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG):

“Mr. Lack resigned from his position as CEO after only 42 days in office, an incredibly short tenure by any measure. This resignation, once again, leaves the Broadcasting Board of Governors truly rudderless. For too long, the BBG has lurched from crisis to crisis, destroying the reputation of brands like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe in the process. Two successive Secretaries of State have called for reform of the BBG. Secretary Clinton called the agency ‘defunct,’ and Secretary Kerry last week stated that he is ‘absolutely committed to the reform of the BBG.’ Their statements echo calls by the Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office for far-reaching reforms.

“Over the years, defenders of the status quo have argued that the BBG is generally on the right track and that only minor reforms or hiring the right CEO would do the trick. In reality, the BBG’s problems go far beyond one person or one office. CEOs come and go, yet the BBG limps along. Our nation is getting beat by Putin propaganda and our international broadcasting is floundering. It’s unacceptable.

“In the coming weeks, I will reintroduce legislation to reform fundamentally this dysfunctional agency. In the last Congress, this legislation passed the House unanimously, and I expect it to move to the President’s desk for signature this Congress.”

Note: In July, the House passed H.R. 4490 the International Communications Reform Act of 2014 unanimously by voice vote. The legislation calls for the consolidation of six organizations into two and makes important cost-saving reforms to the structure of U.S. international communications. More information on #BrokenBroadcasting is available HERE.

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VIDEO PRODUCED BY BBG WATCH FROM COMMITTEE VIDEO STREAMING

Statements and comments on the need for reform of the Broadcasting Board of Governors made at a hearing Tuesday, March 04, 2015, of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Ambassador Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

LINK TO VIDEO

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