Broadcasting Board of Governors Information War Lost


Grim Realities


By The Federalist

We take note of two recent headlines to BBG Watch reports on the performance of the Voice of America (VOA) in the matter of the targeted killings of police officers in the American city of Dallas, Texas:

Voice of America improves police shootings coverage after director intervenes but still lags behind other media.”

Voice of America was not updating Facebook news page during key hours of Dallas crisis.”

Unlike some other BBG Watch contributors and editors, we tend to have a different perspective.

“Improves” may very well not be the right choice of words in this case.

If one looks at the larger picture, if the VOA director (Amanda Bennett) had to intervene directly as suggested, that would validate what we already know: the Voice of America is systemically incapable of carrying out basic news coverage. It has deemphasized coverage of breaking and developing news and is then forced to scramble when reputable international broadcasters are far ahead and above the agency’s untimely response to major domestic and international news.

The actions of the agency have made it plain: if you want to follow breaking and developing news, go elsewhere. In many instances, this means either domestic American media (when accessible) or the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) which has the unchallenged and unquestionable global reach in various languages as well as English. Unfortunately, some also go to Russia’s RT which has proven that it can cover breaking stories, including U.S. news, faster and more comprehensively than VOA while infusing its coverage with propaganda and disinformation. International audiences will get the news first on RT, and definitely on the BBC, but RT will succeed in skewing news reporting for those who can’t find adequate coverage on VOA’s websites and in its radio and TV broadcasts.

That’s it. It doesn’t get any plainer than that.

Breaking and developing news has been and remains a secondary consideration of the Voice of America. It is a thing of the agency’s increasingly distant past.

Ms. Bennett can do hands-on interventions to the point of exhaustion – and exhausted she will be because, to outward appearances, she is in denial regarding the scope of the agency’s meltdown.

Ms. Bennett needs to disabuse herself of the notion that she is surrounded by a “fantastic leadership team.” That’s a crock. Anyone with lengthy experience in dealing with these people knows that it’s a crock.

Ms. Bennett does not have a “fantastic leadership team.” She doesn’t have an “A” team, a “B” team or a “Z” team.

What surrounds Ms. Bennett is a collection of purveyors of the status quo developed by a core group of senior officials. These people and others elevated to key positions follow the doctrine to preserve the status quo without regard to the consequences to the agency and/or its mission. Others might be inclined to label these individuals: self-aggrandizers, self-promoters: people more than willing to engage in behavior for their own self-interest.

Across the board, it’s bad. It’s really bad.

And more than likely irreparable.

It appears readily apparent that Ms. Bennett hasn’t taken the time to review the results of the annual Federal employee surveys from the first to the most recent. The record tells the story. The worst marks of all come in the category of leadership. In effect: the lack of leadership.

You can’t fix problems by denying the reality and by making statements that reinforce a false narrative.

Certain Members of Congress do understand the problem. Legislation to reform, reorganize or even close this agency is not developed on a whim. These legislative efforts reflect deep and systemic problems which agency officials refuse to acknowledge or address in any meaningful or timely manner.

In effect, Ms. Bennett is surrounded by individuals who have protected themselves from being accountable, in part by fabricating what amounts to false narratives in highly favorable performance evaluations and heaping cash awards on top of their six-figure salaries.

This is a corrupt agency: and this is how it has played out for years.

We recall that Ms. Bennett has brought in “consultants” to study the situation. Perhaps these individuals should start from this point:

“One of the worst agencies in the Federal Government.”

And then, find out how, why and by whose hands the agency has deservedly earned this label.

It’s not rocket science. But you have to listen to people who know: some people in government, some outside government but collectively people who know this agency very, very well.

Do not doubt for an instant that protecting the status quo may very well include keeping Ms. Bennett off-balance. As we said, she can intervene to the point of exhaustion in the failings of the VOA newsroom and elsewhere but the fundamental malignancies remain.

We reemphasize the point: the agency may be past the point of no return. Trying to salvage the agency, in its current construct, in the hands of the same people, is an exercise in futility.

Saving the agency’s mission is a valid objective. Saving the agency as it exists today is not.

Someone familiar with the agency and its operations put it this way:

“Information dominance. Information superiority. If the agency cannot be both, it has no reason to exist. And it has established a record that says it cannot and will not be both.”

In the 21st century, this is the agency’s legacy. Past its prime. Past the point of recovery.

Accountability. There is no accountability for senior agency officials and the record of failure they have amassed. As long as that is the case – and it will be under Lansing and Bennett – nothing has changed.

It is time to find new paths, new directions and individuals with superior leadership skills.

All three must come from elsewhere, outside the Cohen Building.

And if it can’t or won’t be done – or worth the effort:

Shut it down and create something that will work.

The Federalist

July 2016