BBG Watch Commentary
Helle C. Dale, the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow in public diplomacy, has published another article in which she discusses proposed reforms to U.S. international media outreach managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
Ms. Dale wrote:
“Reform has support from a plethora of experts and former directors of broadcasting services. Aspects of the bill are also supported by the White House, in the person of Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, who addressed the BBG meeting on August 13. Rhodes argued that the State Department needs a stronger voice in the leadership of Voice of America (VOA). This stronger voice is mandated in H.R. 4490, though the provision has caused gnashing of teeth at VOA, where some staff want to be a government-funded CNN, “pure” of policy content. In fact, VOA management continuously tries to downgrade or eliminate VOA editorials that explain U.S. foreign policy.”
“Gnashing of teeth at VOA,” mentioned by Ms. Dale, was best expressed by VOA senior correspondent Al Pessin. Writing on his own behalf, Pessin stated his opposition to the bill in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times, “Op-Ed Back off, Congress, and keep Voice of America real.” In his article, Pessin refers to the bipartisan Royce – Engel bill as “the Royce bill.”
Ms. Dale notes that action in the Senate on the bipartisan BBG reform legislation is still pending. “A companion bill to H.R. 4490, sponsored by Senator Bob Corker (R–TN), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, remains in drafting. With Congress back for just a brief September session before the November elections, time is short,” she wrote.
The Heritage Foundation scholar made three suggestions for changing the bill in the Senate:
“Remove the new broadcasting advisory boards from any role in selecting a director. Directors should be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Support continued shortwave broadcasting, which is being eliminated by the current BBG in favor of Internet messaging. Vast areas of the world are not on the Web, or even have electricity.
Move the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in with the other surrogate radio broadcasters, such as Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, whose mission is to promote democracy and broadcast news to countries under authoritarian regimes.”
The last suggestion is not likely to win support from the BBG employee union.
Helle Dale, The Daily Signal, September 11, 2014.