BBG Watch Commentary

The captain has just announced new promotions.
The captain has just announced new promotions.

A Voice of America journalist, who for obvious reasons wants to remain anonymous, has sent us a description of questionable and employee morale killing promotions among top ranking managers while dozens of VOA newsroom and English programs employees face possible dismissals (RIFs – Reductions-in-Force) as part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) proposed cuts in the FY 2013 budget.

Due to overwhelming public protests and outrage among members of Congress from both parties, BBG members have recently reversed their decision to cut VOA radio broadcasts to Tibet and to close down the VOA Cantonese Service. A petition to save VOA Spanish broadcasts to Latin America has been delivered to members of Congress who have oversight over the BBG. We have heard of various efforts to save VOA Turkish, Greek, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Burmese broadcasts. Little has been heard, however, from VOA English newsroom and English programs employees who also face drastic cuts in the number of positions and broadcasts.

Reports reaching BBG Watch describe these journalists as stunned and demoralized by arbitrary actions of some top managers who are either unfamiliar with international broadcasting, are perceived overbearing, or both. Employees have been complaining, individually and in groups, about some of their managers to Voice of America director David Ensor and to BBG member Victor Ashe who is seen as a champion of improving employee rights and morale. Results of these complaints are not known.

Here is a submission by an anonymous VOA journalist. Some names have been removed.

It strikes several current and former newsroom people that it is highly inappropriate for VOA to be naming and promoting a new news department managing editor when they are only a few months away from possible crippling RIFs.

It is worth noting that several people in the news division ALREADY carry deputy managing editor titles. Would it not have been more appropriate and budget-wise to name one of them to this seemingly broader role? There are also questions whether the job had been properly posted in the first place.

The selected individual has been at VOA only since 2010 — and as such a prime RIF candidate due to lack of seniority — could this promotion be an act of favoritism to shield the person from a layoff?

Overall, this fits nicely into the BBG pattern, which your website has already noted, of merrily creating new positions and promoting favorites even as the sword of deep cuts hangs over. Worth noting that VOA elevated front office favorites to new deputy director jobs early this year even though impending budget cuts were already clear.