BBG Watch Commentary
New Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Jeff Shell said today that all new BBG members “want to be here.” At his first open BBG meeting held Wednesday in Washington, DC, Shell also honored Ambassador Victor Ashe and other recent former BBG members for their service as BBG Governors.
Speaking about himself and two other new members, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Matt Armstrong, as well as Susan McCue and Michael Meehan who have already served on the BBG Board for several years, Jeff Shell said “we’re not here for any other reason than we want to be here and we believe in this place.”
Speaking about former BBG member Ambassador Victor Ashe, Jeff Shell said:
“Victor Ashe is somebody with whom during the last 11 months I have talked quite frequently. When we talk about somebody who wanted to be here and did the work, there is nobody probably in the history of the BBG Board who has put in more time and effort than Victor Ashe did for this organization and for this Board. He came in with an illustrious career, a longtime mayor of Knoxville. I know many people from Knoxville where he is beloved there. He went on to be an Ambassador and then joined this Board. I think — I was looking at the annals — that he may be the only member of the Board to have a perfect attendance record. I hope to match him. He came to every meeting, put in the work. He has assured me that he will continue to be interested in U.S. international broadcasting and will be able to help this organization going forward. … I want to thank Victor.”
Speaking about Michael Lynton, Jeff Shell said:
“Michael Lynton is actually an old friend of mine. I’ve known Michael Lynton since early 90s. Michael was asked by the White House to step in when Walter (Isaacson) resigned. As Presiding Chair, he was told (it would be) one meeting, may be two before they have another Chairman. And that stretched to — I don’t know, someone tell me — 18 months or something like that. Michael has got a busy job, but he put in a lot of time into this place too and did a good job kind of keeping things moving along while the Board transitioned. And he also has assured me that he believes in this place and will continue to help us where he can from his perch at Sony.”
Michael Lynton often missed BBG meetings. He also strongly supported the previous Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) management team that was eventually replaced by a decision of other BBG members after causing a major internal crisis at the Prague-based broadcaster and a public diplomacy scandal with the firing of dozens of Radio Liberty’s human rights reporters in Russia.
Speaking about former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine, who represented the Secretary of State at BBG meetings, Jeff Shell said that she did an extremely good job, in a very calm and stable way, in representing the State Department’s interests and helping to form a bridge between the State Department and this organization.”
Tara Sonenshine joined Victor Ashe and BBG Governors Susan McCue and Michael Meehan in pushing for the resolution of the Radio Liberty crisis with the appointment in January of Kevin Klose as interim acting RFE/RL President.
Speaking about former BBG member Dennis Mulhaupt, Jeff Shell pointed out that like Victor Ashe, Dennis Mulhaupt had an excellent attendance record and put in a lot of time and effort into BBG matters. Mulhaupt, however, also strongly supported the previous Radio Liberty management team that was eventually replaced when Kevin Klose took over.
Shell did not refer in his comments to the events at RFE/RL.
Shell said that he knew all former BBG members of whom he was speaking and that they all had served the Board and their country well.
The BBG Board passed a resolution Wednesday honoring all three former recent BBG members and Tara Sonenshine.
Also see: BBG Chairman Jeff Shell: ‘Best way to showcase freedom and democracy is by free media’, BBG Watch.