BBG Watch Commentary

Government Executive LogoGovernment Executive reporter Charles S. Clark, who often writes about the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), has published a few new details of the 2012 controversial firing of Radio Liberty journalists in Russia.

Many famous Russian opposition and human rights leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Lyudmila Alexeeva, had strongly protested against the mass firing of dozens of highly respected and talented Radio Liberty broadcasters and Internet specialists until the crisis was resolved thanks to the intervention by the BBG Board.

The BBG’s federal bureaucracy, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), whose leadership was since also partially reformed by the Board but without any firings of IBB’s SES executives, did nothing in 2012 to prevent or resolve the Radio Liberty crisis. It had to be resolved by Broadcasting Board of Governors members themselves, particularly Ambassador Victor Ashe, Susan McCue, and Michael Meehan who had met in Moscow with Russian human rights leaders and some of the fired journalists.

The article, “Firing Feds, Private Sector-Style,” which mentions the current scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department and an Environmental Protection Agency employee’s day-long porn viewing habit, notes that it is difficult to fire federal employees, but it points to the 2012 firings at the semi-private but still 100% U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as an example of abrupt firing of journalists that got the former RFE/RL management into trouble and led to the change of management instead.

Some of the fired journalists were later rehired by the new management put in place by the BBG in 2013 to reform RFE/RL. These reforms carried out by Kevin Klose were largely successful. During his short, second tenure at RFE/RL as president and CEO, Klose restored Radio Liberty’s high journalistic reputation in Russia as well as its online and social media outreach, which steeply declined during the 2012 crisis.

RFE/RL is now providing outstanding multimedia coverage of events in Ukraine and Russia, using many of the reporters whom the previous management had fired in 2012.

“But there’s at least one recent episode at which abruptness backfired in the due-process world of the federal sector. It occurred at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, from which Government Executive was able to tease out some fresh details of the situation.” — Government Executive

READ MORE: Firing Feds, Private Sector-Style, By Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, June 10, 2014.