Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost:  Surprise!

by The Federalist


(Note: We thought The Federalist was taking a break for the holidays.  We were mistaken!  The Federalist offers some thoughts on 2012 and looks ahead to 2013.)

Yes, we did say after our last post that we would be back in January 2013.  However:

The work of the Federalist goes on right through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

One must remain ever vigilant in dealing with the schemers on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.

2013 is shaping up to be another bad year for these folks.  Here are some of the things on our US Government international broadcasting radar:


The Central Newsroom: We will continue our series on the effort by the Broadcasting Board of Governors/International Broadcasting Bureau (BBG/IBB) to dismantle the Voice of America (VOA) Central Newsroom.  We will take a look at the Office of Program Review (OPR) staffers who were principally involved in this demolitions job.  We have a lot of material to work with and may extend the series periodically.


The Federal Employee Survey: The 2012 employee survey hasn’t escaped our attention either.  How can it?  The agency has consistently hit bottom in these surveys since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) introduced them.


If you want a good laugh, here’s a statement from the “Office of Propaganda” (the agency’s Public Relations Office) on the latest survey results, as offered to the publication Radio World:


“Between budgetary pressures and economic uncertainty, an ongoing pay freeze and the widespread criticism of federal employees in public discourse, people in most federal agencies are not as enthusiastic as they used to be. And this agency remains no exception.”

“Our governing board and our senior management team are committed to making measurable improvements over the next year […].  We have engaged the Partnership for Public Service to help. They facilitated a series of focus groups with employees and contractors and are working with senior leaders to develop an action plan to understand and tackle employee satisfaction issues.”

“At the same time, we know our employees have a strong commitment to their work and believe in the importance of our mission.”


The last sentence is probably the one, true statement as applies to the agency specifically – and it has nothing to do with the characters-in-charge on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.  And it is just like the IBB to purloin or exploit a quality of the agency’s employees which these same officials have made no positive contribution toward.

As for the rest of the statement as pertains to the agency:


This is the IBB spin machine at work.

The only thing the characters on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building are interested in is maintaining the integral parts of their status quo.  That is their “action plan.”

They’ve been doing it since Day One in the survey process – and this has been going on for almost a decade.

What the Third Floor is doing is adding to its “CYA” paper trail: saying one thing and doing something totally different.

The Partnership for Public Service: window dressing.

The agency Ombudsman: window dressing.

The so-called “forum” meetings with the agency’s unions (until AFGE Local 1812 – rightly – ended its participation): window dressing.

Focus groups: you’ve got to be kidding.

You already know what we call this: motion without movement.


The existing paradigm is what matters most with senior agency officials and they will defend it to the death of their careers, their six-figure salaries and bonuses.  The only way the paradigm will change is by way of some external force.  And right now, as muddled as national governance is, it seemingly isn’t on the horizon.  If anything, those above the BBG/IBB are busy with national priorities and national dysfunction.  And as far as this tiny piece of dysfunction is concerned, it seems that folks over at State, the White House and the Congress will likely allow the place to devolve and implode.  It’s doing so now, making it easier to focus on more pressing problems.

Secretary Clinton’s prophetic statement, “We are losing the information war…” may have been a signal that the fate of the agency had been sealed: failed mission, failed agency.

(We wouldn’t want anyone on the IBB to be on our management team.  They’re toxic.)


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL): What a fiasco.  The main event is the firing of the veteran RFE/RL Russian Service broadcasters: the way it was done and the duplicitous reasons why it was done.  We’re not sure why it was done from the standpoint of professional journalism.  The fired employees have been supported by human rights organizations both inside and outside Russia.  They have also been given awards for their work, especially their online, multimedia reporting.  You would think these employees would be vital assets to the RFE/RL mission.  However, Steve Korn, the RFE/RL seem to see things a different way, putting Russian media gadfly Masha Gessen in charge of the service, firing the veteran employees and watching the audience evaporate.

And let’s not forget the latest form of trickery from the IBB – its so-called “Russian Review.”  That’s a joke.  The name of this game is to avoid accountability for the fiasco perpetrated by Korn, perhaps with active IBB guidance and maybe even support.

As to the fired employees, one thing you get to learn about the Russians:  when they put their minds to something, they don’t give up.  They have fought back, established their own operation and are not about to let go.  This is a story that keeps on giving, as evident in the reporting appearing on BBG Watch and elsewhere.

This is a good lesson for employees inside the Cohen Building.  If you don’t fight, you lose.  The Third Floor wants you to lose.  In this regard, we commend the leadership of the AFGE Local 1812 union in challenging agency actions and winning some big decisions via administrative law procedures.  It is not an easy task.


For You “Arab Springers” Out There: Looks like the Muslim Brotherhood’s proposed constitution in Egypt will pass.  The civil war in Syria continues (both sides charged with war crimes and the insurgents infiltrated by al-Qaeda fighters).  Let’s not forget Libya/Benghazi.  Al-Qaeda fighters control parts of Mali.  Hamas militants have fired rocket barrages into Israel (the rockets coming from Iran via Egypt).

For all the kumbaya advocates out there thinking that what has been going on in the Arab/Muslim world is some kind of “Summer of Love,” consider this:

“Be careful what you wish for.  You may get it.”

Another laugh moment:

From an RFE/RL press release dated December 19, 2012:


“Iranians can begin their day with a new, two hour block of live television programming from RFE/RL’s Radio Farda and VOA Persian Television, through a groundbreaking collaboration between the two international broadcasters. Radio Farda’s Breakfast with News and VOA’s Radio Tamasha are now being aired weekday mornings on VOA’s Persian Television channel, which broadcasts into Iran on the Hotbird satellite and on Livestation, a 24/7 Internet streaming platform. This represents the first time a Radio Farda production has appeared on television. …”


Of course, the press release doesn’t mention that the Iranians like to block satellite transmissions of both radio and television programs delivered via satellite from the US Government.  And on top of that, the Iranians, Russians and Chinese are backing a resolution in the United Nations to “regulate” (i.e., block) the Internet.

The agency continues to insist on an audience share in Iran of 20%.  But none of the data the agency has produced supports that claim.  To all outward appearances: IBB hocus-pocus.

Speaking of hocus-pocus: POOF!  The amazing disappearing act of the allegedly popular Farsi “Parazit” program speaks volumes.

And last but not least:


The FY2014 Budget:


Ladies and Gentlemen, a country that is already TRILLIONS of dollars in debt has already zoomed over the fiscal cliff.   Whatever – and IF ever – the Congress and the White House agree to something with regard resolving to the nation’s financial woes, those woes are not going to go away overnight.  Indeed they could be around for quite a while.

With this in mind, we fully expect more bad news for the failed agency with a failed mission.   In FY2013, the administration/agency budget proposal called for the elimination of 14 of 43 VOA language services and the elimination of over 200 positions, a large chunk of about 40 positions identified as coming out of the VOA Newsroom.  The IBB didn’t get the cuts it wanted, in part because the Congress couldn’t agree on a budget.  And on its current trajectory, it’s likely they won’t agree on the FY2014 one either.  But we’re getting ahead of things – sort of like that Mayan calendar.

We know these IBB types very, very well.  You can be sure that they likely intend to go after those same cuts again in FY2014 and add even more.  The IBB philosophy: expect more, get more!  It doesn’t always work in reality, but that isn’t going to stop them from trying.

Like we said: be ever vigilant with the BBG/IBB.


The Federalist

December 2012