BBG Watch Commentary
In one of the best investigative journalism reports on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a contributing editor for Vanity Fair Judy Bachrach describes in an article for World Affairs journal the complete disintegration of the taxpayer-funded Radio Liberty.
In addition to reporting that RFE/RL president and CEO had been told by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to vacate his post by February, Bachrach also reports that Andrei Babitsky, a renowned war correspondent who was captured and tortured by Russian soldiers during the Chechnya atrocities, was ordered to apologize to Masha Gessen, the new Russian Service director appointed by Korn. Babitsky criticized her management of the Russian Service, and she, like Korn, does not take kindly to criticism. Babitsky may have a chance of not getting canned, however, because the BBG took away Korn’s authority to fire any more employees, Bachrach reported.
Bachrach quotes BBG member Victor Ashe: “To turn Russian dissidents who used to be strong proponents of RFE and RL into opponents—even Vladimir Putin couldn’t have arranged that on his worst day.” The current management “does not understand why people go to RFE/RL websites.” Bachrach reported about “pathetically smutty videos,” which were put on the RFE/RL Kazakh Service website to attract a younger audience.
Bachrach concludes that under Steven Korn’s “brief aegis and that of his most trusted aide, Julia Ragona, who is vice president for content, Radio Liberty, a onetime free speech and hard news beacon, has turned into a bloodbath, full of fear, fury—and almost no sound at all.”
She also explained that it was not easy for her to get permission to attend the open meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), but eventually she pressured the BBG staff to admit her.
“As it turned out, you really and truly needed a ticket to get into the December meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to try to figure out what’s going on with the complete disintegration of the taxpayer-funded Radio Liberty. Or to find out the fate of its highly problematic president, Steven Korn, a former CNN executive who has both led and fueled its meltdown. And as it also turned out, the board representatives were in no hurry to give that ticket to the press or, once the meeting was over, to encourage the press (i.e., me) to linger in order to discover what was bubbling beneath the blather. Korn especially wasn’t open to chat, his ruddy face as grim and rigid as Stonehenge, and his response to my interview request—a terse “I’m going on vacation”—as true a thing as he’s ever said.”