BBG Watch Commentary

The Jerusalem Post LogoAn article in The Jerusalem Post by Caroline B. Glick, “Our world: Why Obama will not change gears,” makes a reference to a decision by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to end Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasts to the Balkans and broadcasts to Iraq by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq.

While the author may see much larger political motives behind this move and is strongly critical of the Obama Administration, we have pointed out that to a large degree this particular decision was initiated by executives of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) to protect their jobs and their bureaucracy from expected budget cuts.

Instead of cutting their own vast bureaucracy and support services, which control 34 percent of the entire BBG budget and which have grown in positions by 37 percent in the last seven years, these officials proposed instead cutting U.S. news and information programs to strategic parts of the world. They do this every year and get the BBG in trouble with Congress as well as with public opinion abroad.

Neither members of Congress nor foreign journalists can understand such shortsightedness and suspect deeper political motives. To a degree they may be right, but to a large degree these decisions are made by bureaucrats who simply want to protect their jobs, salaries, and bonuses without thinking of course of America’s strategic interests or audiences deprived of access to uncensored and balanced news without propaganda.

Caroline B. Glick wrote in The Jerusalem Post:

“Just before Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated Russia’s takeover of Crimea, the US’s Broadcasting Board of Governors that controls Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty announced that it will be ending its broadcast to Iraq and the Balkans next year.

And this makes sense. As far as the Obama administration is concerned, Iraq ceased to exist in 2011, when the last US forces got out of the country.

As for the Baltics, well, really who cares about them? Russia, after all, wants the same things America does. Everything will be fine.”

The switch between the Balkans and the Baltics may be a Freudian slip, as the Baltic countries are now probably the ones most afraid of President Putin’s imperial aggression.

Several members of Congress have written letters to BBG Chairman Jeff Shell questioning the decision, which was most likely made even before he recently came on board and can be entirely blamed on the executive staff of the International Broadcasting Bureau, where Shell and the renewed BBG board has changed the management team.

Wicker pushes to keep foreign radio services open — IBB wants them cut to keep its own budget and positions, BBG Watch, March 12, 2014.

Congressman Hultgren urges BBG not to cut RFE/RL broadcasts to Iraq and the Balkans, BBG Watch, March 14, 2014.

Hopefully, Jeff Shell and the new board will be much more careful in reviewing recommendations they get from IBB officials and will not allow them to damage U.S. national security interests and public diplomacy image abroad.

READ MORE: Our world: Why Obama will not change gears, Caroline B. Glick, The Jerusalem Post, March 17, 2014.