BBG Watch Media
In his “In the Loop” Washington Post column, Al Kamen reports on former Voice of America (VOA) director David Ensor’s blunt threat to other media organizations within the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). At the time Mr. Ensor made his comment last week he was apparently still a U.S. government official in charge of VOA.
The Voice of America is a federal entity while the other news organizations David Ensor was referring to, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Radio Free Asia (RFA), are non-federal entities receiving taxpayers’ grants from the BBG which oversees all of them.
The BBG is headed by a bipartisan board. Its nine members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, with the U.S. Secretary of State serving as an ex officio BBG member. The BBG board selects VOA directors. David Ensor was selected by the BBG board which was different from the current board under the chairmanship of Jeff Shell. The new board will select the next Voice of America director.
Some former BBG and VOA officials described David Ensor’s comment about freedom radios and his earlier public comment as a U.S. government employee critical of U.S. lawmakers who support bipartisan reform legislation as “stunning and counterproductive.” They welcomed the appointment of highly respected Voice of America journalist and manager Kelu Chao as VOA acting director.
As Al Kamen explains in his column, David Ensor is opposed to the bipartisan bill H.R. 2323 which is designed to reform the BBG and make non-federal BBG entities more independent from the federal bureaucracy. The reform bill promises to make RFE/RL, RFA, VOA, Radio and TV Marti and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) more effective in exposing foreign propaganda and disinformation, especially from Putin’s Russia in the case of RFE/RL and VOA, the bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), say.
As Al Kamen reported, David Ensor fears that the bill, which was unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where Rep. Royce is Chairman and Rep. Engel is Ranking Member, would restrict local foreign news reporting by VOA. H.R. 2323 now awaits a vote in the whole House which had passed a previous version of the bill last year.
The bill says that VOA should focus more on U.S. news in accordance with its Charter. There is some controversy whether it would in fact substantially restrict foreign news reporting by VOA since the VOA Charter language which call for accurate, balanced and comprehensive news reporting by VOA has been incorporated into the legislation. Officials in charge of RFE/RL and RFA have not commented publicly on the bill in accordance with BBG chairman Jeff Shell’s instructions. They have also not issued any threats to restrict VOA news reporting in any way.
READ MORE: VOA chief threatens to ‘kill’ other U.S. broadcast stations if . . ., Al Kamen, The Washington Post, June 4, 2015