BBG Watch Media

Following reports in the Washington Post and the Washington Times, FierceGovernment site noted that in the OPM’s 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) “came in close second” to the last place “with only 52 percent of employees saying they were satisfied with their jobs.”

FierceGovernment: “In OPM’s 2015 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, DHS came in dead last in the realm of employee satisfaction with only 47 percent of those surveyed from the agency saying they were satisfied with their job, pay and organization – the categories OPM uses to measure satisfaction.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors came in close second with only 52 percent of employees saying they were satisfied with their jobs. The Small Business Administration and the National Archives and Records Administration weren’t far behind with 53 percent each in the global satisfaction portion of the FEVS.

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FierceGovernment, September 30, 2015 | By Ryan McDermott: DHS, SBA and Broadcast Board ranked worst agencies for employee satisfaction, engagement in OPM survey

BBG Watch Commentary

After months of waiting, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) finally has John Lansing as new CEO and Director. He has been on board only about three weeks. He is not responsible for BBG’s poor employee morale in 2014 and 2015, but he has a colossal job ahead of him.

The Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results reflect employee attitudes at the BBG under BBG’s three-person interim management team which was led in 2014 and this year until last month by acting BBG CEO Andre Mendes.

These interim executives promised BBG employees compensatory time off for participating in the OPM survey. But despite an increase in survey participation, the embattled agency, which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called in 2013 “practically defunct” while serving as an ex officio member of the BBG Board of Governors, did not move beyond its usual place at the end of the list with regard to employee morale, job satisfaction and employee assessment of senior leadership.

Had OPM’s FEVS surveys included hundreds of BBG’s full-time contract employees who are poorly paid and denied basic government employment benefits, the agency’s results would have been likely much worse. Contract employees, who may represent as much as 40 percent of the entire Voice of America (VOA) workforce, are not surveyed by OPM, and neither are employees of BBG’s non-federal media entities: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN – Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa).

These grantee or surrogate media outlets are considered better managed than BBG’s federal entities. In addition to VOA, federal entities include BBG’s vast bureaucracy and program support structure — the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which accounts for 34 percent of the agency’s budget — and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB – Radio and TV Marti).

The interim IBB management team was considered a slight improvement over the previous one, but most of the other executives and managers were never replaced by the new BBG Board of Governors. The new board has been in place already for about two years.

Under pressure from BBG Chairman Jeff Shell, some of the most blatant management abuses, such as the 2009 illegal termination of a number of OCB (Office of Cuba Broadcasting – Radio and TV Marti) employees, were partly reversed. This may explain a slight improvement in some of BBG’s individual 2015 FEVS ratings, but it was not enough to move the agency forward. The BBG is still stuck at the bottom of the list.

Chairman Shell had suffered a major setback when Andy Lack, his first choice for the CEO position, left for a better job at NBC News after only a few weeks at the agency. There were high hopes that he would turn the agency around. He had decided not to stay when a better job opportunity came around. It will now be up to John Lansing to make a difference, but most experts agree that without a major restructuring by an act of Congress, the BBG will remain dysfunctional and will continue to be run by its entrenched bureaucracy.

During the past year, agency employees did not buy into outlandish claims of progress and success coming from the IBB/VOA management. To nearly everyone’s amazement, BBG’s Republican member Matt Armstrong had claimed that U.S. commercial media can use Voice of America English-language news reports because they are superior to what U.S. domestic media can provide. Such claims are blatant exaggerations. He also said that the Congressional criticism of the agency is overly harsh. VOA is not even able to report promptly, accurately and comprehensively on major Russian propaganda claims due to lack of resources and poor management. Edward Snowden has four times more Twitter followers on his new account than the VOA English news Twitter has been able to attract over many years. VOA Russian Service is not doing any better. There are also management problems at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) which has been without a permanent CEO for months. VOA also does not have a permanent director.

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While employees may have appreciated the departures or transfers of a few top IBB and VOA managers during Chairman Shell’s tenure, the failure to conduct a major management housecleaning two years ago doomed the agency to keeping its low employee morale status. While is not easy to fire government SES and GM-15 executives and managers, BBG employees realized that no serious management reform was ever contemplated by the executives in charge.

Perhaps John Lansing will change that. But reforming any dysfunctional organization requires replacing most of the management team. It is not easy to do this in a federal government agency, but it has to be done.

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