BBG Watch Commentary

Judy BachrachIn one of the best investigative journalism reports on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a contributing editor for Vanity Fair Judy Bachrach describes in a new article for World Affairs journal the complete disintegration of the taxpayer-funded Radio Liberty combined with wasteful spending of U.S. taxpayers’ money by RFE/RL executives.

Judy Bachrach points out in her article that much of the fault for the meltdown and wasteful spending at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty falls on the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of all U.S. civilian international broadcasting, including RFE/RL, whose president and CEO, Steven Korn, has announced his resignation effective January 25. RFE/RL is based in Prague, the Czech Republic. Korn claims that he resigned for purely personal reasons to be with his family in the U.S. Bachrach refers to reports that he was in fact asked to resign by the BBG.

“As those of you who have been following this twisted tale already know, in reality (and despite his denials) Korn was asked to leave his post by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The BBG is a group of political appointees who nominally watch over the doings of the organization that is supposed provide superb news and commentary to those in parts of the world where unbiased journalism is often rare.

In practice, however, most board members don’t appear to know what’s going on. They not only handpicked the disastrous Korn, but allowed both him and his top subordinates—the incompetent, clueless, but fiercely ambitious Julia Ragona (who has never been a journalist) and Masha Gessen (a self-serving, richly rewarded journalist of sorts)—untrammeled liberty to wreck a valuable organization, turning it into pit of rage and retribution from which it may never recover.”

“Why did Korn purchase,” Bachrach asks, “in order to enhance his apartment on Prague’s elegant Parizska Street, furniture and furnishings amounting to $36,000—a sum that constitutes, according to those who know, 40 percent more than his RFE/RL allotment?”

Some of the most expensive apartments in Prague are on Parziska Street (Parisian Street), located in the Old Town, the most expensive part of Prague. Parziska is the poshest street there, filled with the most exclusive shops, restaurants and beautiful art nouveau buildings. Korn likes to present himself as an executive who brought austerity to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Bachrach then writes:

“Korn basically didn’t set up shop in Prague until a few months after his June 2011 appointment (he delayed his permanent arrival for reasons no one can understand). Yet within short order, the new president wants (a) a Prague housing allowance of $4,200, which was about $1,000 more than the allowance of his predecessor, (b) costly furnishings, (c) to spend an inordinate amount of time in Atlanta, and (d) to leave?”

READ MORE: Steven Korn’s Wasteful Personal Spending at RFE/RL, Judy Bachrach, World Affairs, January 7, 2012

ALSO READ: “Steven Korn’s Disastrous Tenure at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: A Postmortem” by Judy Bachrach, World Affairs, December 31, 2012.

ALSO READ: “Korn Fired: Meltdown at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty” by Judy Bachrach, World Affairs, December 24, 2012.