BBG Watch Commentary

Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post, whose extensive experience in reporting on foreign affairs includes work as the paper’s correspondent in Poland during Solidarity’s struggle for democracy, concluded in today’s op-ed article that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting, has “drastically reduced the audience and credibility of U.S. broadcaster Radio Liberty, driving a wedge between it and some of Russia’s most renowned human rights activists and journalists.”

Diehl points out, however, that the BBG took steps to remedy the situation by selecting Kevin Klose to run Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), “though the damage will be hard to undo.”

“Korn (former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president and CEO) resigned under pressure and was replaced last week by Kevin Klose, a former RFE/RL and National Public Radio chief whose dedication to its journalistic mission is unquestioned.”

Diehl also commented on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks in her final appearance before Congress as secretary of state that “we have abdicated the broadcasting arena. . . . Our Broadcasting Board of Governors is practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.”

Diehl agrees with many critics of the recent State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report that the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executive staffers persuaded gullible inspectors that a BBG member who actually tried to make IBB officials accountable for their failures and substandard performance should be blamed for the problems at the agency.

“The report blamed much of the trouble on board member Victor Ashe, a former ambassador to Poland who led the charge against Korn’s disastrous management of Radio Liberty.

In fact, Ashe understood what most of the rest of the board and staff did not: that Radio Free Europe was failing to deliver on its most essential mission — and the only one that really justifies its existence.”

Diehl observed that the Russians, whose freedoms are being more and more restricted under President Putin, “don’t need or want another Internet site pushing a mix of fluff and social commentary.”

READ MORE: Static at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, The Washington Post, February 3, 2013