Broadcasting Board of Governors – Messages

by The Federalist

David Ensor, the Voice of America (VOA) director, made another swing through the Newsroom on Thursday, July 19 with a small entourage of other senior agency officials.

Let’s examine some of the remarks coming out of that meeting.

One of the first things Ensor got to was a defense of what we see as the chaos the Central Newsroom has become.  He believes the mosh pit of co-mingled content from the different US international broadcasting entities and the various language services is a form of “rising to challenges.”  He suggests that anyone who feels otherwise should be told they are wrong.

Well, here we are!  We believe otherwise and would like to suggest that Mr. Ensor reconsider his position.  We think he’s the one getting it wrong.

You want to know why?  The answer is simple: it isn’t working.  Perhaps Mr. Ensor doesn’t know it is not working.  Perhaps he is trying to bolster the managers of the Newsroom.  Perhaps he is trying to convince the staff that it’s working.  That’s three strikes.  

And there may also be a fourth strike: there wasn’t a whole lot coming from the staff praising what Mr. Ensor and his Newsroom managers are doing.  That should tell you something, if Mr. Ensor is paying attention.

Wasn’t it Mr. Ensor who said there was no turning back from where the agency was going with the Newsroom when he first came on board as VOA director?  He may be right – which also means that the agency is stuck with something that is a never-ending calamity.

That is the kind of thing that resonates with the staff and those who follow what’s going on.

Successful execution of the agency’s mission is predicated upon how well the VOA Central Newsroom carries out the provisions of the VOA Charter.  This is an important subject in its own right, worthy of further comment.  For the moment, Mr. Ensor and his senior Newsroom managers get an Unsatisfactory performance evaluation in covering the principles of the Charter.  Why?

Senior officials of the agency go out of their way to virtually deny the existence of the Charter.  Instead, they prefer to talk about “supporting freedom and democracy.”  This is replacing the principles of the Charter with one of various potential outcomes. We completely agree that free, uncensored news helps freedom and democracy, but right off the bat, this leads to an important question:

How do BBG and IBB executives define “supporting freedom and democracy?”

Here’s another one: How do they define “freedom” and “democracy?”

Want another one?  What happens when their interpretation of “supporting freedom and democracy” collides with self-determination, local cultural values, sectarian violence or civil war?

And here’s the real kicker: What if the intended audience doesn’t understand or want their style of “freedom and democracy?”  

In turn, this leads to the entire issue of the agency being a shill for propaganda: either its own propaganda or that of others.

Back to the meeting:

A question was raised as to whether or not the agency heard the message from the Congress concerning cuts to the VOA Newsroom and other agency operations (the Congress being opposed to such cuts).

The response from one of Mr. Ensor’s entourage was that the message was heard “loud and clear.”

These folks up on the Third Floor may have heard the message.  They may acknowledge hearing the message.  However, that does not mean – nor should it be interpreted to mean – that they agree with the message, are happy to get the message or intend to conform their behavior to the message.

With these IBB types, it’s not what they say, it’s what they do.

We subscribe to the view alluded to in the letter from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) that much of what the agency is up to in its so-called “consolidation” is an end-run around Congressional intent.  We see it as that and more: a power grab to obstruct Congressional intent and defeat the system of checks and balances between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

And, if you pay attention to what Ensor remarked in follow-up, it is clear that the careerists are not backing off the potential for a reduction-in-force for FY2014.  We know these careerists very well.  They are determined to have it their way – at the expense of the agency’s mission and it’s employees.

Finally, Mr. Ensor made it plain that he supports the idea of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO).  As far as that manifestation of power-grabbing goes, here’s a thought:

To our point of view, EVERYONE on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building is tainted by the still-unfolding debacle they have perpetrated with their ironclad commitment to demolishing US international broadcasting with their “flim flam strategic plan.”  

For example, after numerous attempts to cut broadcasts to Tibet, do you really believe that these careerists believe in “supporting freedom and democracy” in Tibet?  We know they made a BIG production of saying so with Michael Meehan of the BBG front and center to make a statement of agency commitment to broadcasts to the Tibetan people.  However, with all respect to Governor Meehan, we look at the track record and that track record has required a substantial commitment of Tibetan activists to turn back repeated attempts by the BBG/IBB effort to silence VOA Tibetan broadcasts.  Without that commitment, supported by “Congressional intent,” those broadcasts to Tibet would be long gone.

The never-ending hypocrisy of the BBG/IBB.

The image you want to have in your mind’s eye is one we used previously: a bunch of North Korean generals.  Are the IBB functionaries your pals?  Is “We Can Work It Out” their mantra?

Forget it.

You have to watch every move they make.

Think about the global audiences that have wanted to put trust in VOA broadcasts only to see the agency cut broadcast frequencies, cut and/or eliminate broadcasts altogether.  Do you trust these guys who year after year threaten to cut or eliminate more broadcasts?

In addition to the trust issue comes another one: lack of reliability.  These bureaucrats, with their penchant for bonuses, have contributed mightily to losing the information war by making it plain that the United States is unreliable.  This adds a broader and much deeper issue: commitment.  Really, the only sense of commitment these guys have is to another round of bonuses.

Trust, reliability, commitment?

Save it for another day and someone else.

The BBG/IBB score big fat zeros on all three counts.

The Federalist
July 2012