BBG Watch Commentary
Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost – IBB: The Babble-Rama
by The Federalist
Before we get to the “main event,” some –
A couple of weeks ago, the agency announced a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Gone! Not even the shortest tenure in that position in the agency on record. The candidate did not report for duty.
We don’t know. However, for our friends in Congress and at the White House, all kinds of alarms should be going off:
Just how bad are the agency’s financial accounting practices? How messed up is the agency’s money situation, particularly as it heads into sequestration? Last and definitely not least – has there been some hanky-panky involving agency funds?
By now, we all know this agency very well and its deserved reputation – via its embedded International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) careerists – the worst organization in the Federal Government. Never assume any positives about the place or the people running it. Leave no stone unturned.
Yes, this agency screams for some serious investigations. Right at the top of the list, as we’ve said before –
Follow The Money
We’ll say it again –
Follow The Money!
You never know – you may want to have some Federal marshals standing by.
A serious investigation needs to get rolling sooner rather than later.
Another person who probably wishes he could say, “Hasta la vista, baby!” is Richard Lobo, the IBB executive director. Unfortunately for his political fortunes, his “stewardship” of the agency has splattered the administration with a whole lot of dirt it doesn’t need or want. As a result, if and until we learn otherwise, Mr. Lobo appears to be suffering from a form of political internal exile. He is likely seen as being too radioactive to move out of the Cohen Building and send elsewhere. The reputation of the place which has been passed along to him will be ever-present, doggedly, relentlessly. If the administration keeps him there for the next four years, it will be a very long time.
Losing a CFO barely before new paint dries on her office walls and even before she moves in is not a good sign.
As reported in BBG Watch, an anniversary of sorts has taken place marking 60 years of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). We are not sure if it’s an anniversary or a wake because we are uncertain what portends for the future of this agency, particularly in view of the debris field left by the destruction of the RFE/RL Russian Service.
We note that Ambassador Ashe made a statement marking the occasion. As always, he renewed his support for employees who do the work of the agency. While not offering specifics as to the future of the RFE/RL Russian service employees who were summarily dismissed, Ambassador Ashe did accent the positive in what he hopes Kevin Klose, in his capacity as RFE/RL president, may bring to the situation.
Statements were also issued by Board members Dennis Mulhaupt and Susan McCue.
And we have a statement from Jeffrey Trimble, the IBB deputy executive director. We have read his statement carefully and view it as very closely guarded in its remarks.
Remember, Mr. Trimble, a top recipient of awards for his past performance, is supposedly in charge of the Board’s “Russian review” of RFE/RL’s Russian Service and the media environment in Russia. That might be one reason that Trimble is holding his cards close.
But perhaps not the only reason.
At the same time, we are not seeing much from this “review” to date. And we must also note that the IBB – twice – tried to get the BBG members to endorse the new RFE/RL Russian Service chief when the proverbial was hitting the fan big time. We know what that kind of maneuver was intended to do – legitimize the termination of the veteran RFE/RL staff and cement the new service chief and regime in place. That kind of renders a “review” stillborn with forgone conclusions. Fortunately, the Board rejected this IBB sleight of hand.
Whose idea was that?
Another thing we’ve said before – if you really want to investigate the circumstances surrounding the RFE/RL Russian Service debacle, it needs to be conducted by persons outside the agency and that Third Floor, Cohen Building cabal who perhaps has knowledge of certain things that would not be well received by coming to light and in terms of how this fiasco came about and was executed.
Ambassador Ashe’s statement suggests that the BBG was unaware of what was in store for the RFE/RL Russian Service before the fact.
If so, then who did?
We note that Steve Springer of the Voice of America (VOA) Central Newsroom is going on a detail to the agency’s Persian (Iranian) News Network (PNN). Sources indicate that he is going there to assist Billy Otwell (formerly of the agency’s Office of Program Review and now heading up PNN) with the service’s news operation. Word making the rounds in the Cohen Building is that Otwell remarked, “We’re building him (Springer) a bunker right in the middle of the room.”
That got a good laugh from us. It’s a bit of gallows humor, courtesy of Mr. Otwell. PNN has a reputation for sending managers to career oblivion within the Cohen Building, sometimes out of the building completely. Those pesky Iranians. They know how to fight. The reasons may not always be the right reasons, but they can be effective, formidable.
“Resistance is futile,” if you are a PNN manager.
Even in a bunker. Especially in a bunker. That equates with being –
Surrounded. Cut off. Your fate sealed.
It’s hard to top all these latest doings – the testament to dysfunctional US Government international broadcasting.
Nevertheless, we took a look at another one of those press releases from the agency, this one dated February 27, 2013:
“Citizen Journalism Training in Moldova Teaches Ethics and Innovation”
It is something to see the word “ethics” being associated with anything involving the agency. Consider the antics of the IBB to corrupt a State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation with its agenda of gross insubordination, its attempt to purloin the authority of the BBG and to pursue personal attacks against Board members, especially Ambassador Victor Ashe, but others as well.
We are not slamming the participants or the agency employees tasked with this assignment. Rather, we believe it important to take note of the hypocrisy of the IBB and its efforts to attach itself to values it doesn’t have or has corrupted.
Elsewhere in the press release:
“The rise of digital media has changed the way information flows.” said Bruce Sherman, Director of the BBG’s Office of Strategy and Development, “Media are no longer exclusively hierarchical, coming from large national and international providers, but rather are decentralized and networked, coming from a vast number of sources including individuals who can tell their stories directly to global audiences.”
One of our associates quipped, “You need an interpreter to translate what Sherman is saying.”
That had us rolling in our chair laughing.
But the truth of the matter is the statement is revealing of several things:
It is a perfect illustration of what former Secretary of State Clinton observed as the dysfunction inside the agency.
What we see here is Sherman talking in circles and trafficking in oxymorons. For example, you can’t be “decentralized and networked” at the same time. The end result is anarchy – no one in charge, no disciplined way of processing or resourcing news coverage and presenting news and information intelligently, that is credible and reliable.
“Individuals telling their stories directly to global audiences” does not equate with fact-based, verifiable, objective journalism or with any other strict set of uniform journalistic principles. It equates with a mosh pit of babble, sometimes deliberately and intentionally skewed or false.
How many times have we seen videos posted on the Internet go viral, accepted as fact, reported as fact and later proved to be false?
Further, this “citizen journalist” thing is overblown – sort of like the so-called “Arab Spring.” You know how we feel about that wishful and jaded term of art.
That’s the anarchistic world of “global media” in the 21st century – where real journalism, accurate news and information, competes daily with disinformation, misinformation and outright fiction all on overdrive.
Another thing Sherman’s statement does is run contrary to some of the stated agency goals involving its alleged effort to consolidate US Government international broadcasting. The statement is the antithesis of a consolidated and disciplined broadcast environment.
In effect, what Sherman’s statement does is put the agency out of business, in the new world of media in the 21st century with Sherman’s vision of “a vast number of sources including individuals who can tell their stories directly to global audiences.”
If this is the case or were to devolve to be the case,
The agency is dead.
Especially when coupled with all the other things we note in this commentary.
Former Secretary of State Clinton has it right:
And don’t believe for a moment that an insubordinate and defiant IBB or some CEO magically popping up out of nowhere will save the agency or its mission.
It’s all right before us: a trajectory for the end to an agency with a valid mission but in the hands of the wrong people.
Very wrong people.