This commentary was sent to BBG Watch by a Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty journalist who uses Jan Palach as his pen name.
After the budget announcement meeting from two weeks ago, my colleagues and I now know what our President meant when he kept saying that, “Prague would be just fine” after the merger of RFE/RL, RFA and MBN. What he meant was that after all the reductions coming before the merger, we can hardly expect to lose more broadcast personnel and still maintain the integrity of our broadcasts.
From what I can tell by his speech, over 80% of the people who will lose their jobs are coming from those who produce news. This is based on the assumption that the nine management positions that will be cut were actually necessary.
From what he said, six of these have been empty for quite some time, two were recently let go and one is retiring soon. So are these really cuts? Or are they just words used to trying to trick us into thinking that our management will be “suffering cuts” along with the broadcasters? Are we in Broadcasting actually expected to shoulder closer to 90% of the reductions?
Regardless of the percentage, we are now being asked to produce the same level of content , manage social media sites and write blogs with less people. Meanwhile the offices on the fourth floor remain fully occupied.
Now to be fair to President Korn, I am sure most of these cuts were in the works before he took the job, and he did say in the meeting that he did not agree with a lot of what was being asked of us in terms of cost savings, and that he will fight to turn back some of these cuts if he can. If this is true, it will have been the first time that he has communicated a desire to work in the best interests of RFE/RL, as opposed to touting the BBG party line.
He also recently sent an email telling us that if we have concerns about what is going on, please feel free to stop by and speak to him personally, an open door policy that has not been previously communicated to the staff. The fact that President Korn’s open door policy began the day he left Prague for a month notwithstanding, both of these changes are positive steps, though a long time coming and perhaps too little, too late.
One can only believe that if he had begun his tenure with the attitude that he was hired to lead us, as opposed to carrying the water for the BBG’s Strategic Plan, we would have a more balanced approach to cost savings. I am writing this in hopes that President Korn’s actions will match is words, but only time will answer that question.
Read another commentary by Jan Palach: Message to Broadcasting Board of Governors: Yes, some of us are cowards and we are ashamed.