BBG Watch Commentary

BBG Watch has received a number of questions from Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) employees who would like BBG CEO John Lansing to answer them at the upcoming Town Hall meeting on July 12, 2018 but, as they told us, they and many others are afraid to ask such questions openly and disclose their identity knowing what has happened to five VOA Mandarin Service broadcasters who had questioned the Senior Management’s decision and were put on forced administrative leave.

Thursday, July 12, 2018 – All employees and contractors are invited to a global town hall with BBG CEO & Director John F. Lansing. BBG network leadership and senior management will be present.

Here are our questions, please post them for us:

a. Many jobs have not been filled for years at the BBG–do more with less. However, in recent weeks BBG Management has posted two senior SES positions, both are Deputy Directors for Mr. Lansing.

With limited vacancies, why does BBG Senior Management create new positions to enhance BBG corporate support? Why now? Right before expected arrival of the new CEO?

b. VOA posted the CIO position (SES) last month. TSI already has a CIO position. Why does VOA need to duplicate this position with TSI?

This question was raised with CEO John Lansing at a TSI gathering. It is against President Trump’s Federal Government Reform requirement. VOA has not had its own CIO for years, why now? Right before the expected arrival of the new CEO?

c. VOA posted and selected the Chief of Staff (GS-15) two months ago, for insiders only. VOA leadership has been operating without this position for more than two years; but they rushed to select the Chief of Staff as soon as the White House nominated the new BBG CEO. Do they have any professional courtesy for the new leadership?

d. Digital Strategy – what are the results under the current BBG CEO and VOA Director?

CEO John Lansing has been talking about digital strategy for more than two years now. Across all entities, digital is the magic word that guarantees additional resources; funding is transferred and extra digital enhancements are received. But what are the results other than new highly-paid bureaucratic, administrative and managerial positions?

For example, VOA has the new SES deputy director since 2016 focusing on digital strategy. This new position is in addition to the Director for Digital Strategy (GS-15), Chief Digital Officer (GS-15), and many GS13 and GS14 digital positions. RFE/RL has created a multi-million dollars Digiteam in the name of confronting Russian propaganda. MBN has proposed to cancel most SAWA’s FM radio presence to focus on digital efforts. OCB is also moving away from its traditional media to digital.

But what we have seen is digital leads at all entities aggressively pushing clickbait tactics without a meaningful mission and programming strategy.

Even with the use of embarrassing clickbait content and paid Facebook ads, according to the break-downs of BBG claimed 278 million audience–only about 15% comes from digital media, and only 1.5% (4 million out of 278 millions) is digital exclusive. No wonder most of VOA postings received less than a hundred views, and other entities are worse than VOA.

BBG’s digital strategy is no strategy at all in terms of mission or results; in its current form it’s a real shame, and a true waste of taxpayers’ money.

e. Friends and Former Associates of Amanda Bennett and Sandy Sugawara, VOA Director and Deputy Director.

As the mainstream media downsized drastically, colleagues and peers from their previous professional lives appear to be picking up more and more work at the Cohen Building with various Voice of America operations. We have seen new staffers, advisors, consultants, and contributors, and of course, a declared pro bono contributor Greta Van Sustern.

How many more are they?

With the exception of Greta Van Sustern who works pro bono, how much do the others cost? Have any VOA jobs been cut or remain unfilled to provide work for these individuals?

f. Haroon’s Satellites–there are several TSI/VOA staffer being detailed to the new BBG OPR Director Haroon Ullah; several newly hired consultants and several advisors are also working for him. Mr. Haroon is surrounded by his former State Department colleagues at the Cohen building. He has quickly expanded his arena at the expense of other BBG services. How many more are they, and what do they do that was not done before by BBG and VOA employees?

g. In addition to OPR, other IBB support services are adding extra staffers: Communication, Congressional, General Council, Management Analysis, TSI, BBG front office, etc. The only IBB service with shrinking staff is the Office of Policy which produces daily editorials for VOA as mandated law. Why are they shrinking?

h. The trend of BBG recent key hires – more and more are from Department of State. DOS staffers have found shelters at the BBG, with enhanced duties and promotions here. For example, two Chief of Staffs for Mr. Lansing. Why DOS?



From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Monday, July 2, 2018 10:00 AM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Join CEO Lansing for a BBG Global Town Hall July 12, 2018

All employees and contractors are invited to a global town hall with BBG CEO & Director John F. Lansing.

BBG network leadership and senior management will be present.

Date: Thursday, July 12, 2018
Time: 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM EDT
Location: Cohen Auditorium, 330 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC

Please send questions for the CEO in advance to and use the subject line “BBG Global Town Hall.”

For those unable to attend in person, the meeting will be available on the house RF channel 46 and streamed live on Workplace our new internal social media platform. Join Workplace before the event so that you will be logged-in and ready to stream.

1 comment
  1. So the BBG has become a jobs program for failed journalists and unhirable bureaucrats. Interesting stewardship of taxper money.

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