EXCLUSIVE BBG Watch Commentary

BBGLogoBlueUsually well-informed sources confirmed to BBG Watch that Andy Lack, Chairman of Bloomberg Media Group, Bloomberg L.P.,is being eyed for the new public service position of CEO of all U.S. civilian international media outreach under the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), an independent federal agency which itself faces a bipartisan reform effort in Congress.

The members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors will meet in a closed session on Friday, September 19, 2014, to discuss the results of a search effort for potential candidates for the position of the Chief Executive Officer.

A biography of Andy Lack can be seen here.

With the BBG’s main broadcaster, the Voice of America (VOA), experiencing a major management meltdown, social media irrelevancy and questionable projects with repressive regimes, the agency desperately needs a high energy and effective CEO who can run the agency composed of both government entities — VOA, Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) and the enormous government program support bureaucracy of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) — and public, non-profit media entities — Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN).

The BBG is also looking at becoming only an advisory board if the bipartisan reform bill, H.R. 4490, passes the Senate and is signed by the President

Andy Lack would fit the bill, although no one can be certain how a successful private sector media executive would perform when faced with failed government bureaucrats who enjoy job security but are responsible for the agency’s dysfunctional status and demoralized workforce. Moving them aside and replacing them will not be easy. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who was ex officio BBG member, called the agency “practically defunct” in its capacity to engage foreign audiences on behalf of the United States. She also mentioned the decline of U.S. international media outreach, including the Voice of America, in her latest book.

Another question to ask is why any successful private sector executive would want to take this government job unless they want a complete change in their life and want to devote themselves to public service at a very low pay by private sector standards. Wanting to devote himself to public service at the BBG would be an admirable act for someone in his position. The agency certainly needs someone like him.

The CEO coming from the private sector would have to understand the public policy purpose and Congressional support for having the VOA Charter and the so-called surrogate media entities devoted primarily not to maximizing the audience but serving the goals of media freedom and free speech. Current BBG Chairman Jeff Shell appears to understand these distinctions, but some previous BBG chairmen and members did not and received no useful advice from staff.

The most difficult part of the CEO job will be reforming VOA and IBB, sources familiar with the organization told BBG Watch. These two entities have been mismanaged for years and have some of the lowest employee morale in the entire federal government. H.R. 4490 would abolish IBB and separate the federal part of the agency from the much better managed semi-private entities. These have also suffered under the bloated and interfering central bureaucracy in Washington.

Whether Andy Lack would be offered the job and decides to accept it remains to be seen, but if he does it would be a major achievement for the BBG Chairman Jeff Shell and the current board to have a high profile CEO provided he can manage a government bureacracy just as well as a private media company. It will not be an easy task and the selection has not been yet finalized and approved by the board.

An announcement on the result of the BBG CEO search and any board action is expected Friday or Monday.