BBG Watch Commentary
The House of Representatives voted to include in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act an amendment, crafted by Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep Ed Royce (R-CA), to establish a Global Engagement Center and reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
The amendment as passed will go to the Senate which can either accept it, or give their own version which would necessitate the House and the Senate going into conference where its points can still be argued.
The amendment does not specify what establishing “a non-profit organization to carry out the mission of the Voice of America” would mean for current VOA journalists and other staffers who are federal government employees.
1. Codifies the CEO position;
2. Devolves all of the Board’s authorities to the CEO;
3. Eliminates the Board (existing Board members can complete their current terms);
4. Authorizes the CEO to make grants to RFE/RL, MBN, and RFA contingent upon their consolidating into a single organization;
5. Makes it clear that RFE/RL, MBN, and RFA (or their consolidated organization) report to the CEO;
6. Authorizes the CEO to change the name of the BBG pursuant to Congressional notification;
7. Authorizes the CEO to establish a non-profit organization to carry out the mission of the Voice of America and includes a Sense of the Congress that the VOA mission should remain unchanged from that articulated in H.R.2323.
Chairman Royce, who has been a longtime critic of the BBG and author of earlier legislative proposals to reform the $778 million (FY 2017 Budget Request) agency which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called “practically defunct,” has issued a statement praising the passage of the BBG reform amendment by the House of Representatives.
In January, a senior congressional staffer commented to BBG Watch on the opposition of Broadcasting Board of Governors leaders to the key reforms in H.R. 2323. The senior congressional staffer predicted at that time that Congress may want to use a “nuclear option” to reform the BBG.
Any subsequent legislation will not make additional concessions to the BBG leadership; if anything, there will be a roll back of concessions already made, a senior congressional staffer told BBG Watch last January.
“BBG leadership’s actions here are quite sad,” is the feeling among House Foreign Affairs Committee members. Essentially they’re saying they want it their way or not at all… “they’re taking their ball and going home,” a congressional source told BBG Watch five months ago and predicted that Congress is likely to propose even more drastic BBG reforms.
SEE: New BBG CEO John Lansing is having a positive impact, but is it enough?, BBG Watch, January 29, 2016
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS PRESS RELEASE
Media Contact 202-225-5021
MAY 19, 2016
Washington, D.C. – Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the following statement after the House voted to include in the FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act an amendment, crafted by Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Chairman Royce, to establish a Global Engagement Center and reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors:
“One of the big reasons Russia and ISIS have been winning the information war is that our international broadcasting has been crippled by bureaucracy. Real, meaningful reform to the systemically broken Broadcasting Board of Governors and its unwieldy management structure has long been a priority of mine. This amendment to replace the part-time board with an empowered and permanent CEO is an important step forward.
“Obviously, our work is far from done. U.S. broadcasters helped take down the Iron Curtain by countering propaganda with accurate news and information in real time. They can win today’s fight – over the airwaves and on the internet – but they must have a clear mission and necessary support.”
NOTE: For more on Chairman Royce’s long push for reforms to U.S. international broadcasting, click HERE.