BBG Watch

In an interview with New York Times reporter Ron Nixon, newly sworn-in Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Andy Lack said that if the federal agency that oversees the five networks and broadcasting operations of U.S. international media is “behind Russia and China, and that’s a big if, that will change.”

“I’m less concerned about where the agency is at and more focused on where we are going,” Andy Lack is quoted on the New York Times January 21, 2015 article, “U.S. Seeking a Stronger World Media Voice.”

“We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today [RT] which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram,” Andy Lack told The New York Times. “But I firmly believe that this agency has a role to play in facing those challenges,” he said.

The article says that the Broadcasting Board of Governors “had become known more for its dysfunction than for managing broadcast programs that reach more than 200 million people every week.”

Ron Nixon quoted BBG Chairman Jeff Shell as expressing strong confidence in Andy Lack whom he had recruited for the job.

“Andy Lack is the perfect person for the position given his background as a journalist who has run several major media organizations,” said Jeffrey Shell, the president of NBC Universal and chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

The New York Times also interviewed former Voice of America acting associate director and current co-director of the independent NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – Ted Lipien.

Ted Lipien, a former Voice of America staffer and prominent critic of the board of governors, agrees. “I’m quite optimistic, and if anyone can turn the organization around, it’s him, given his background,” Mr. Lipien said. “But he faces immense challenges.”

The article says that “critics of United States international broadcasting, particularly the Voice of America, say the services have been slow to report major news and slower to embrace digital technologies.”

The article also refers to a bipartisan reform bill, H.R. 4490, which was passed unanimously by the House Foreign Relations Committee and the House of Representatives last year. The bill, written by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, Republican of California, and Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat of New York who is committee’s ranking member, would make the current Broadcasting Board of Governors “an advisory board, create a new communications agency and alter Voice of America’s charter to make it more of a mouthpiece for American policy,” Ron Nixon reported in The New York Times. The bill would have to be reintroduced in the current Congress.

The New York Times article also says that there is a split within the Voice of America over the employee union’s support for the reform bill. The article quotes the union president (American Federation of Government Employees Local 1812) Timothy Shamble as saying that although members supported having an executive to run the day-to-day operations at the agency, most did not expect much to change.

“Our members are taking a wait-and-see approach, but don’t expect much because many of the middle managers that they see as the source of the problems are still in place,” Timothy Shamble said.


READ: U.S. Seeking a Stronger World Media Voice: Broadcasting Board of Governors Names Chief Executive, By Ron Nixon, The New York Times, January 21, 2015.


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