BBG Watch Commentary
Writing about the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Robert Schadler, a senior fellow for Public Diplomacy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC, noted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of the BBG despite having been a board member in charge of U.S. International broadcasting throughout her tenure at the State Department:
“Yet one can’t help but wonder if her tenure would have been far better had she exercised a bit more attention to a board she sat on—and which has been excoriated recently by Mrs. Clinton’s own department as dysfunctional and badly damaging to key foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Schadler focuses on the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report, which while grossly inaccurate and biased–it was essentially written by bureaucrats wanting to take control and authority away from the BBG broad–it does note that some BBG members fail “to prepare for and attend Board meetings,” and that at their meetings there has been a lack of “any discussion of overall U.S. Government policy priorities in relation to the world media.”
Schadler did not note that despite the OIG’s scathing criticism of absentee BBG members, the board’s interim presiding governor Michael Lynton was once again absent during the board’s last meeting in Washington on February 22. Because of Lynton’s absence and the fact that the meeting was not announced in the Federal Register, the last week’s session was not an official board meeting. But the alternative presiding chair Dennis Mulhaupt did an excellent job of leading the discussion.
Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine, who now represents Secretary Kerry at BBG meetings, asked astute broadcasting policy questions. BBG members also welcomed Kevin Klose as the new acting president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The board gave him a mandate to repair the damage to RFE/RL’s reputation as a serious journalistic institution caused by the former management team in Prague and BBG’s own bureaucratic staff in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) in Washington.
Despite Michael Lynton’s absences, it appears that the rest of the BBG board is finally taking steps to bring the BBG/IBB bureaucracy to account for its past spectacular failures and to provide new direction and oversight for U.S. international broadcasting. BBG members are also looking for a new permanent General Counsel in an attempt to help them change the culture of top management’s hostility toward employees and their unions and to put a stop to discrimination against foreign born journalists and contractors. Some BBG members want to find a lawyer who is familiar with human rights and public diplomacy issues, sources told BBG Watch.
In the U.S. News & World Report blog, Robert Schadler expressed hope that Secretary of State Kerry will do a better job than Hillary Clinton as an ex offico member of the BBG:
“Yet during her tenure as secretary of state, it was Mrs. Clinton herself who lacked the vision, and the perseverance, to correct this state of affairs. Let’s hope that her successor at the State Department, former Massachusetts senator John Kerry, does better. Because, as the past decade of conflict in the Middle East has demonstrated convincingly, allowing the jihadist narrative to fill the void costs lives.”
“Hillary Clinton’s Unfinished Business at the Broadcasting Board of Governors,” Robert Schadler, U.S. News & World Report (blog)