BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch has reported frequently that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Republican member Dana Perino has been missing BBG meetings. She has not attended in person the last 10 open BBG meetings and only participated in some BBG discussions by phone.
We’ve heard that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), who is responsible for recommending Republicans for presidential nominations to serve on the BBG board, has been unhappy that some Republican members don’t take this public service job seriously, leaving only Ambassador Victor Ashe to provide leadership on the Republican side.
Other Republican BBG member, Dennis Mulhaupt, who does attend all the meetings, has frequently taken sides against Ashe. Ashe is practically running BBG meetings, although he does not preside over them.
The Interim Presiding Governor is Michael Lynton and has a busy job as one of top executives with SONY. He often asks Mulhaupt to run BBG meetings in his absence. During these meetings, Ashe asks most questions and makes most comments, creating an impression that he’s actually presiding.
But reflecting a possible change in his views, Mulhaupt suggested at the last BBG meeting that any decision on the highly controversial proposal to merge the administration of the BBG’s grantee broadcasters — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), which includes Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV — be postponed until January 2013. The BBG executive staff favors this proposal because it would give it more control over the so far independent grantee broadcasters. Ashe and Michael Meehan strongly oppose this proposal, fearing that limiting the independence of the grantee broadcasters would not only violate Congressional intent but it might also allow BBG’s government bureaucrats in Washington to undermine their effectiveness.
We did point out that at the last open BBG meeting on September 13 Dana Perino was again absent and that during most of the meeting Ashe was speaking and asking questions about various pressing issues. He also complained bitterly that by limiting the meeting to one hour and fifteen minutes, the BBG executive staff made it impossible for BBG members to do their job. Dennis Mulhaupt defended the staff on this issue.
We also pointed out that while Ms. Perino has been by far the most absent BBG governor, other BBG members — both current and former — are also known for missing meetings. We blame this appalling behavior, in part, for the agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting being in total disarray and for the dismal morale of its journalists and broadcasters. They are trying to do a good job despite terrible odds.
All of this is because BBG members allow the agency to be run by one of the worst management team in the federal government and, on critical issues, they often accept their recommendations instead of doing due diligence and using their own judgement. Consequently, these staff recommendations embarrass the agency and many — such as their proposal to terminate Voice of America broadcasts to China and Tibet — have been blocked in Congress.
The official BBG announcement says that Ms. Perino will leave the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but not until the end of the year. It would be highly unlikely that Perino could be replaced soon by another Republican if she were to leave earlier. President Obama has nominated Jeffrey Shell to be a new BBG Democratic member and the new BBG Chairman if his nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. There are questions whether Shell, who lives and works in London and is a busy executive at NBCUniversal International, will be able to devote sufficient time and attention to his duties as BBG chairman, assuming he is confirmed by the Senate.
There have been rumors that the White House is considering to nominate former U.S. Senator Norman Coleman as a new Republican member, but Perino’s early departure would require nominating yet another Republican.
Our question is: is Ms. Perino planning to do any BBG work between now and December 31? BBG members like Victor Ashe, Michael Meehan, and Susan McCue — who have been trying to protect the agency from the follies of its executive staff — could use her help if she were willing to put in some effort. We hope that she could at least do that.
Official BBG Press Release
SEPTEMBER 19, 2012
BBG Board member Dana Perino today told her colleagues that she would be leaving the Broadcasting Board of Governors at the end of the year.
“As you know, ever since I moved to New York, I have not been able to participate as much as I would have liked, nor could I fulfill the expectations I have for my own public service. I do not see that changing in the foreseeable future; therefore, I felt the best thing to do was clear the way for someone else,” Perino wrote in a note to her fellow Board members.
“I am honored to have been chosen to serve, though I’m more overwhelmed by the friendships I’ve made. The city of Washington, DC could use many more of you working to steer structural and content improvements at the BBG to support its role in spreading freedom of expression and self-determination around the world.”
Perino said she had informed the White House and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) that she will resign on December 31.
Presiding Governor Michael Lynton praised Perino for her work and said her fellow Board members would be sorry to see her go. “Dana has brought tremendous acumen and energy to her work with us,” Lynton said. “She has taken part in pivotal strategic decisions. And with her experience at the highest levels of government, Dana has made an important contribution to advancing the Board’s goals for reforming this agency.”
Perino is the former White House press secretary to President George W. Bush and the creator of Minute Mentoring, a program helping young women entering the workforce. She previously served in the U.S. Justice Department, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Congress.
Here is the entire text of her note:
Dear Fellow Board Members –
Today I let the White House and Sen. McConnell know that I would be resigning my governorship on December 31, 2012.
As you know, ever since I moved to New York, I have not been able to participate as much as I would have liked, nor could I fulfill the expectations I have for my own public service. I do not see that changing in the foreseeable future; therefore, I felt the best thing to do was clear the way for someone else.
I am honored to have been chosen to serve, though I’m more overwhelmed by the friendships I’ve made. The city of Washington, DC could use many more of you working to steer structural and content improvements at the BBG to support its role in spreading freedom of expression and self-determination around the world.