BBG Watch Commentary
Where is Dennis Mulhaupt?
It is the question being asked today at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) offices in Washington after rumors started to circulate that the BBG member was seen in Washington yesterday but did not show up for a Radio Free Asia board meeting. Because of his absence, the BBG board itself could not meet on Thursday.
The previously scheduled open BBG board meeting on November 15 was cancelled after Mulhaupt, who until now together with another Republican member Victor Ashe had a perfect attendance record, had informed other members that he would not be able to attend. Yet several sources reported seeing Mulhaupt on Thursday at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) offices in Washington, which — if true — raises an interesting question why would a BBG member make himself unavailable for a public BBG meeting and RFA board meeting.
There has been speculation that some BBG members did not want to hold a full open board meeting out of fear that difficult questions would have been raised in public about RFE/RL president Steven Korn and the crisis at Radio Liberty in Moscow, as well as questions about a decline in BBG’s worldwide audience figures and dismal employee morale results in the latest Office of Personnel Management (OPM) survey.
With two other BBG members reportedly traveling abroad, Mulhaupt’s presence was essential to have a quorum for the meeting to take place. Without him, the open board meeting could not be held. As an alternative presiding governor, Mulhaupt would have chaired the meeting since the interim presiding governor Michael Lynton is now in Japan in his role as a Sony executive.
Why are some BBG members not doing their job and providing oversight and leadership?
It is already the second open board meeting cancelled this year because not enough BBG members bothered to show up. And even when meetings are held, some members are absent or only participate by phone. BBG member Victor Ashe has been warning about having an absentee board and even wrote a letter to the editor of U.S. News & World Report in response to another letter from the BBG interim presiding governor Michael Lynton.
Lack of engagement on the part of some BBG members allows International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives and managers like Steven Korn to do essentially whatever they want and cause whatever damage they choose without worrying too much about any consequences of their actions.
No wonder that RFE/RL president Steven Korn, after creating a holy mess in Russia by firing dozens of Radio Liberty journalists and destroying the station’s pro-human rights programs and its reputation, is now in open defiance of the Strategy and Budget Committee and its chairman Michael Meehan by refusing to provide information on Masha Gessen’s salary and his recent trip to Moscow.
Gessen, Korn’s new pick for the Russian Service director, has turned the station’s website into a platform for her and her associates and fails to report important news such us the Obama-Putin phone call or Mikhail Gorbachev’s new book. The whole human rights and political opposition movement in Russia now sees the new Radio Liberty as an enemy. But while this formerly great pro-media freedom institution and the Broadcasting Board of Governors itself are falling apart, some BBG members continue to be AWOL.