BBG Watch Commentary

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employee union, AFGE Local 1812, has posted on its website an article applauding BBG members for taking action to resolve the crisis at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) brought about by programming changes introduced by RFE/RL president Steven Korn and his firing of experienced and respected Radio Liberty Russian Service journalists in Moscow.

The RFE/RL corporate board, which is composed of all BBG members, met today in a teleconference for about an hour. All BBG members and a State Department official representing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in the discussion. RFE/RL board decided to make it a formal meeting despite an earlier proposal from RFE/RL chair Dennis Mulhaupt that it should be an informal meeting, which would prevent taking a vote. Mulhaupt was viewed as Korn’s last remaining supporter among BBG members, but sources told us that even he has reconciled himself with the idea that Korn must leave RFE/RL.

Despite having a formal meeting, the RFE/RL board made no substantive decisions as the expected letter of resignation from Steven Korn did not arrive.

Some sources within the BBG administration speculate that the letter will arrive later today with the effective resignation date toward the end of January.

Meanwhile, sources tell us, BBG members continue to look for an interim and/or permanent replacement for Korn.


The web site BBG Watch reports that the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Corporate Board is planning to meet today Monday, December 31st, to discuss the crisis at Radio Liberty and personnel issues in the wake of Steven Korn’s expected resignation as RFE/RL president and CEO.


This is a step in the right direction. It is time for the members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), several of whom also serve as members of the RFE/RL Board of Directors, to regain control of one of the most vital tools of U.S. public diplomacy: international broadcasting to Russia. We can only hope that the BBG will reverse the catastrophic decision of the RFE/RL Director and at the same time, give Russians and other countries an unforgettable lesson in how the U.S. system of rights and responsibilities works as well as shedding light on the time-honored practice enshrined in the U.S. Constitution of the individual and collective right to petition for redress of grievance. This is a unique opportunity to repair the damaged reputation of Radio Liberty and also the United States in Russia.

Stunning damage has been done these past months to U.S. public diplomacy in the ongoing Radio Liberty Russian debacle. In a misguided attempt to apply the worst of private sector techniques to a public broadcasting agency, RFE/RL president Steven Korn, a former CNN employee, allowed what appears to have been an experienced, competent team of journalists to be fired and replaced with more pliable staffers who did not appear to mind covering “softer” stories. Stories anyone can find on the Internet, rather than solid stories about corruption, human rights violations and political cronyism, the crushing of opposition and punitive laws which appear increasingly rife in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The fired journalists are “highly respected among supporters of democracy in Russia who rallied to their defense, including chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alexeeva and former President Mikhail Gorbachev”, added BBG Watch. A number of these fired journalists recently received prestigious journalism awards including the Sakharov Prize.

We encourage the BBG, once it is done trying to repair the damage at RFE/RL, to focus again on the damage being done to VOA and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting these past years by the Agency’s management. The same techniques disastrously applied to RFE/RL have begun to apply to VOA. The damage can be stopped, it can be reversed.

But it’s up to the BBG. It would be a worthwhile New Year’s Resolution.

Posted: Monday, Dec 31, 2012