BBG Watch Commentary
Reports and editorials in U.S. media have begun noticing the mass firing of Radio Liberty journalists and cessation of broadcasts on medium wave in Moscow. Not all reporters and commentators realize that a change in Russian law prevented Radio Liberty from keeping its exclusive broadcasting license in Russia. But some are also not aware that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty management failed to make a strong effort to find alternative broadcasting arrangements that are still open to Western media in Russia, including the Voice of America (VOA). It appears that RFE/RL and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives did not make any effort to place Radio Liberty Russian programs on a VOA affiliate station in Moscow.
In that sense, U.S. media reports and editorials may be right, the Obama Administration — in this case Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees RFE/RL, and the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau which negotiates rebroadcasting deals — have not tried to demand reciprocity from the Russian government and capitulated to Mr. Putin without a fight.
Some articles suggest, quoting RFE/RL President Steven Korn, that the mass firing was part of a digital transition, but they fail to note that the first group of media professionals fired by Mr. Korn were the members of Radio Liberty’s outstanding Internet team who have created one of the most successful hybrid multimedia — text-audio-video-social media-mobile devices — independent news website in Russia and increased traffic in the last three years almost 10 times. The new Radio Liberty director Masha Gessen has had no significant new media or radio experience and according to reports compiled by former Radio Liberty employees the number of site visitors at her previous employer had declined while she was in charge.