BBG Watch

In a highly unusual plea to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), scholar and writer Martha Bayles asked BBG board members to look to qualified outside candidates for the job of permanent president of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

In an article published on the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC) website, Martha Bayles warned about “poor judgment, and a degree of secretiveness, that is the exact opposite of what RFE/RL stands for.” She wrote that when she was in Prague last summer doing research for a report on “best practices” throughout the US international media system, she discovered to her astonishment that a directive had been issued ordering RFE/RL staff not to meet with her. She reported that that directive was widely ignored, but she noted that it reflected poorly on RFE/RL’s senior management.


MARTHA BAYLES: “It is no secret that the BBG staff has a history of overreaching and micromanaging, and that the BBG board members have a history of letting this happen, because they serve on a part-time basis that makes it difficult to acquire the necessary understanding to make decisions on their own. Of late, this problem has been mitigated by the recruitment of more knowledgeable board members and the appointment of former Scripps Networks CEO John Lansing as CEO of the board. But from where I sit, the decision to make Mr. Pejic head of RFE/RL has all the hallmarks of overreach by the BBG staff.”

BBG Watch could not confirm to whom the BBG board plans to offer the job of permanent RFE/RL president. A highly-qualified outside candidate, a well-known American journalist, has withdrawn his candidacy in frustration over the prolonged bureaucratic selection process by the BBG. This Broken Agency is Losing the Info War to ISIS & Putin,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a press release Tuesday in reference to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Ms. Bayles suspects the BBG staff of frustrating efforts by new CEO John Lansing to improve governance of the agency.


READ MORE: “Who Will Head RFE/RL?,” By Martha Bayles, Public Diplomacy Council, February 24, 2016.

Martha Bayles latest book, “Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad” (Yale 2014) was described by American Diplomacy as “the freshest and most original treatment of U.S. Public Diplomacy in many years.”

From Wikipedia article on Martha Bayles:


Martha Bayles has written widely on the arts, media, cultural policy, and U.S. public diplomacy.
Her essays and reviews have appeared in many national and international publications, including the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek, Boston Globe, Atlantic Monthly, and The New Republic. She is a former TV and arts critic for the Wall Street Journal and a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, Weekly Standard, and Claremont Review of Books. She is also an educator, having taught at Harvard University, Claremont McKenna College, and Boston College. She has lectured around the world on public diplomacy and popular culture. Her books, “Hole In Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music,” “Ain’t That a Shame? Censorship and the Culture of Transgression,” and, most recently, “Through a Screen Darkly: Popular Culture, Public Diplomacy, and America’s Image Abroad,” have received high praise. Sam Schulman called Bayles “one of the great unsung critics of the baby boom generation.” Bayles received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University and her master’s in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
As of 2014, Bayles teaches humanities at Boston College.