BBG Watch Commentary

Photo on the BBG website shows Michael Lynton and Dana Perino attending the BBG meeting in Miami on April 20. Both Lynton and Perino were absent at that meeting.
Photo on the BBG website shows Michael Lynton and Dana Perino attending the BBG meeting in Miami on April 20. Both Lynton and Perino were absent at that meeting.

A photo on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) website shows Governors Michael Lynton and Dana Perino at the BBG meeting in Miami on April 20, 2012. There is only one problem with the photo: neither Michael Lynton nor Dana Perino attended the Miami meeting during which BBG members who were present voted to reverse the Board’s earlier decision to end Voice of America Tibetan radio broadcasts and to shut down the VOA Cantonese Service.

Perino and Lynton along with Governor S. Enders Wimbush have the worst attendance record at BBG meetings. Wimbush did attend the meeting and voted with the majority to restore funding for VOA broadcasts to Tibet and China despite his earlier support for the cuts.

The third BBG Governor in the photo is former mayor of Knoxville and former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe who has the best attendance record at BBG meetings and who has led the fight to save Tibetan and Cantonese broadcasts. He was supported by Governors Michael Meehan and Susan McCue. Meehan and McCue do not appear in the photo, and neither does Governor Dennis Mulhaupt who presided over the meeting in Miami as a replacement for Michael Lynton. Lynton is the BBG’s interim presiding governor following the departure of Chairman Walter Isaacson in February, 2012.

As to why this particular photo was used, there could be several possible explanations, although only one of them seems plausible.

One conspiratorial explanation is that perhaps a dissident BBG staffer was trying to make fun of slacker Board members in an attempt to shame them into attending to their duties in the future. Or it could have been a deliberate placement of a Soviet-style fake photo by the public relations staff to show absentee Board members hard at work.

We prefer not to believe such wild theories and are inclined to attribute the photo to pure and simple laziness. Someone was too lazy to get a real photo from the meeting so they used an old image from some other BBG event without bothering to check whether all the persons in the photo were attending the Miami meeting. Using an old photo would have been in any case deceptive, especially for a communications agency that claims to practice and promote accurate and objective journalism.

But the far bigger problem are BBG members who fail to attend to their duties and allow incompetent staff to lead the agency from one disaster to another.

Cutting VOA broadcasts to Tibet and China while the Chinese government increases repression and Tibetan monks self-immolate to shock the conscience of the world???

What were BBG members thinking? Or perhaps they did not know what their executive staff was doing because they missed so many meetings.

While the BBG executive staff can’t get their photos straight, they do generate plans designed to increase their own bureaucratic control and power while incidentally getting the BBG members in trouble with the Congress and the constituent groups that support U.S. international broadcasting.

Their latest such scheme is the merger of the surrogate broadcasters: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). Let’s hope that this time all BBG members will attend their meetings and pay attention.

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