BBG Watch Commentary
President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Michael W. Kempner to be member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a bipartisan board which overseas U.S. civilian media outreach abroad through such outlets at the Voice of America (VOA), which is experiencing a lot of management problems. BBG also overseas grantee surrogate broadcasters such as Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) which has recovered its excellent reputation after management changes initiated by BBG. New BBG chairman Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment and also an Obama appointee, has initiated management reforms at the BBG’s support and management organization, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which acquired a reputation for bureaucratic expansion and dysfunctionality. Shortly before leaving office as Secretary of State in early 2013, Hillary Clinton who was herself then still an ex officio member of the BBG board called U.S. international media outlet “defunct.” VOA has been known to post dozens of news reports on the British royal family while failing to report on statements on human rights and religious freedom from the White House, the State Department, and members of Congress.
Kempner, who if confirmed by the Senate will be one of the BBG members to deal with these management problems, is the founder, president, and CEO of of the MWW Group, a major American public relations firm.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is both the name of the independent federal agency that oversees all U.S. civilian international media and the name of the board that governs those broadcasts. In addition to VOA, IBB, RFA, and RFE/RL, the board also oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which includes Radio and TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), which includes Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa. All these entities are funded by U.S. taxpayers through Congressional appropriations. IBB, OCB, and VOA are federal entities. MBN, RFA, and RFE/RL are private grantee organizations.
The BBG’s mission, posted on its website, “is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
The Voice of America operates under a separate VOA Charter (Public Law 94-350), which requires VOA to “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news,” “to present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions,” and to “present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and … responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”
Kempner would serve as a Democrat on the bipartisan BBG board. His nomination requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The BBG board is composed of nine members with expertise in the fields of mass communications, broadcast media, or international affairs. Eight members, four Democrats and four Republicans, are appointment by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The ninth, the Secretary of State, serves ex officio.
Wikipedia has the following entry on President Obama’s latest nominee to the BBG:
Michael W. Kempner is the founder, President, and CEO of the MWW Group, a top American Public Relations firm headquartered in East Rutherford, New Jersey with 10 offices across the United States and England. Kempner is also known for his service to the U.S. government in varied capacities and for his political fundraising efforts for the Democratic Party. He is a Deputy Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee, a National Finance co-chair for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential run, Deputy Finance Director of the Obama Campaign, a member of Obama for President National Finance Committee, and is a member of the DNC National Finance Council. As the President and CEO of MWW, Kempner has won a variety of awards, including the 2013 American Business Awards’ Executive of the year in the Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations category, 2013 Bulldog Stars of PR Awards’ Communications Professional of the Year, 2013 Bulldog Stars of PR Awards’ Agency Professional of the Year, 2012 International Business Awards’ Public Relations Executive of the Year, 2012 American Business Awards’ PR Executive of the Year, and the 2012 PR News Awards’ Professional of the Year. Kempner has also been inducted into the PR Hall of Fame by PR News.
Kempner’s bio on the WWW website describes him as “a nationally recognized authority on crisis management, public affairs, business to business, consumer marketing and corporate social responsibility.”