BBG Watch Commentary on USAGM

Apparently not disturbed by knowledge of public diplomacy or experience to know what is and what is not appropriate to do for the head of a U.S. government agency pursuing media freedom and transparency abroad at U.S. taxpayers’ expense, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Director and CEO John Lansing, an Obama administration holdover appointee with no prior government or public diplomacy experience, has called for a “closed event” [Emphasis Added] “exploring the evolution of U.S. global media.”

U.S. global media refers to such U.S. government-funded media entities as the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

According to Mr. Lansing’s invitation sent out to a select group of people, the “closed event” about U.S. government-run and taxpayer-funded media is to be held — of all places — at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, September 12, 2018.

Members of Congress and members of U.S. media should demand that the meeting about what will be the renamed U.S. government agency — as of August 22, it will be called the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) — be made open to the media and the public, including U.S. taxpayers who pay the agency’s bills and Mr. Lansing’s federal salary.

Mr. Lansing’s invitation also make a reference to “corporate restructuring.” He should perhaps be told by the White House and members of Congress that this kind of language should not be used about a U.S. government entity. There is nothing wrong about seeking private counsel in a government office, but calling for a “closed event” about a U.S. government media agency at the National Press Club and inviting a large number of people under a cloak of secrecy shows a remarkable public relations insensitivity.

Mr. Lansing needs to be told that calling for a “closed event” about a government agency devoted to media freedom and transparency abroad is a spectacularly bad idea from a public diplomacy and public relations perspective.

Whoever came up with this idea or approved it should perhaps step down.

We can think of no United States Information Agency (USIA) or Voice of America (VOA) head during the Cold War who would have called for a closed meeting of this kind at the public venue of the National Press Club. It would have been a propaganda disaster for the U.S. government easily exploited by Russian propaganda.

Mr. Lansing and his multiple BBG (soon to be USAGM) senior assistants do not seem to realize this. Fine points of public diplomacy do not seem to bother them.

If there is no management change anytime soon, the Broadcasting Board of Governors will remain an agency with a new name — the U.S. Agency for Global Media — with the same management team which has been responsible, among other things, for a systemic failure on Iran media coverage and for being the worst-managed federal agency with the lowest employee morale.

SEE: Same As It Ever Was – Agency for Global Media USAGM or Broadcasting Board of Governors BBG Under John Lansing, By The Federalist, BBG Watch, August 17, 2018.


ALSO SEE: Lacking Broader Context on Iran – 2017 AFPC Study of BBG, now USAGM, BBG Watch, August 20, 2018.