BBG Watch Commentary
An event of sorts took place today, Monday, September 23, at the Cohen building at 330 Independence Avenue, SW in Washington, DC, housing the headquarters of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and the Voice of America (VOA).
It was an event of sorts because no member of the public had been invited to participate and no one outside of the small circle of IBB executives had known about in advance or could learn about it afterwards.
Sources inside the Cohen building told BBG Watch that on orders of IBB Director Richard Lobo and IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble, a former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member, Ambassador Victor Ashe, was invited to come to the HR office in the building and stand in the corner to receive a plaque with the BBG Board resolution honoring his recently concluded public service in overseeing U.S. international broadcasting.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the longest serving former mayor of Knoxville, and a public servant who had been appointed to several high federal boards by both Democratic and Republican Presidents, Victor Ashe is not someone who is short on recognition, but inside sources told us that, in light of his accomplishments and longtime service to his country, his treatment by top IBB officials has been especially humiliating and appalling.
In their effort to make sure that the presentation of the plaque to someone as senior as Ambassador Ashe was not done in public, these official have shown once again that they have absolutely no class.
Yet this comes as no surprise to many since they are the same officials who for several years have been in charge of a federal agency with the lowest employee morale — an agency called by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “dysfunctional” and “defunct.”
That is exactly how the vast majority of BBG employees also feel about their agency, and in particular about the IBB leadership.
Former BBG member Ambassador Victor Ashe has been greatly admired and respected by rank-and-file employees. By making sure that these employees and members of the public could not attend the event, IBB executives have shown themselves for what they truly are.
What a contrast to the newly-confirmed BBG Board Chairman Jeff Shell who had this to say about Ambassador Ashe at the BBG open meeting in late August:
“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.”
BBG members, however, only meet once a month or every two months. It remains to be seen whether the new Board under Shell’s chairmanship will be engaged enough and be able to change the dysfunctional corporate culture forced upon the BBG and its employees in recent years by IBB executives. The previous Board, on which Victor Ashe had served, took only a few initial steps to confront the IBB bureaucracy which were immediately met with strong resistance from IBB’s top bureaucrats.
As we quoted recently from a BBC report, “Why people give into temptation when no-one’s watching“: “In short, we know the recipe for harmful behaviour – stress, poor or absent guidelines, a strict hierarchy with dissociation from others and from the consequences of our actions, established group culture and lack of oversight. These factors create sick workplaces,…” The International Broadcasting Bureau is one of them.
Ambassador Ashe had tried to bring a measure of transparency and accountability to the way IBB executive staff operates. But through their behavior, these executives have shown what they think of him, what they think of the American public, and what they think of most past and current BBG members. They reconfirmed their desire and strong determination to do their work when no-one’s watching and to be accountable to no-one. The new BBG Board must not allow these officials to continue their destructive management practices. Unless this is done quickly, the agency will remain dysfunctional and defunct.
In a photo taken in the HR office in the Cohen building and posted on the BBG website, one can see a large TV screen in the background, some stacked chairs, and a small computer desk with TV remote controls. A U.S. flag is in the corner next to some of the chairs.
BBG Press Release
SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
Governor Matt Armstrong today presented Ambassador Victor Ashe with a plaque of the board’s resolution honoring Ashe. Also on hand for the presentation were Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau Dick Lobo and IBB Deputy Director Jeffrey Trimble.