BBG Watch Commentary

If electricity and digital outages, disrupting for hours and in some cases several days delivery and production of numerous radio and television programs, were not enough (READ: One BBG executive apologizes, others keep silent), Voice of America (VOA) broadcasters got hit with “Extreme Temperature Swings” in the federal building in Washington they share with VOA’s parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). This latest one is by far not the biggest problem for BBG, but combined with many other unresolved problems of many years it helps to explain dismal employee morale at the agency.

VOA is overseen by the part-time bipartisan BBG board and new BBG CEO and Director (since September 2015) John Lansing. He is not responsible for causing these problems or even for not being able to anticipate and prevent them (he has not been at the agency long enough and has not had time replace the management team), but they are quickly becoming his problems.

These repeated failures experienced by VOA journalists and broadcasters are nothing new, but presumably they must be quite a shock to Mr. Lansing who had a very successful private sector career in TV management but without any prior U.S. government service experience.

BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) together with the Office of Technology, Services and Innovation (TSI) provide management and technical support. Their combined budget is larger than VOA’s budget or those of other BBG’s media entities. IBB has been adding staff, offices and money to its budget for years as the agency moved from one crisis to another and was described in 2013 by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “practically defunct.” A bipartisan reform bill pending in Congress, H.R. 2323, would break up some of BBG’s government bureaucracy and presumably give media outlets like VOA more control over resources, including technical support.

Extreme temperature fluctuations, as unpleasant as they are for broadcasters and other employees, including the poorly-paid and exploited contract employees (READ: $400M class action suit may signal more trouble ahead for new BBG CEO), they will no doubt be resolved (perhaps by the changing weather) only to reappear again in a few months. This has been a pattern with the agency’s bureaucratic government management for years. Voice of America journalists are beset by much bigger problems, which are also attributed to dismal management and waste of resources by the central BBG bureaucracy (READ: VOA News days behind BBC, RT, DW, NYT on Cologne attacks). Giving the BBG’s federal bureaucracy more control over all of U.S. International Media would be an invitation to disaster.

For now, let’s blame Extreme Temperature Swings on Global Warming or on GSA.

From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Thursday, January 7, 2016 10:01:54 AM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Temperature fluctuations
Over the past week we have been experiencing extreme temperature swings in the Cohen building, this is in part due to the abnormal temperature changes outside. The building engineers have been working diligently to stay ahead of the problem by make changes to the temperature settings.
If you are experiencing any problems in your area, they can be reported to the Facilities Management Division by either submitting an online request … or by selecting the link below. They can also be reported by calling … Monday-Friday, 7am-5pm. All other times call Radio Master Control: … . Please include the room number, and your name and contact information.


Unlike the earlier digital data processing and storage problems, which lasted over many days (the power failure in December disrupted operations for many hours with IBB being unable to quickly provide emergency power), another technical failure yesterday was apparently resolved.

From: Ralph Cassano
Sent: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 8:05 PM
To: VOA Radio Users; VOA Radio Traffic; VOA Radio Master Control
Cc: IT Digital Management Division; Information Technology and CIO Managers; Technology Support Services Directorate; TSS Managers; VOA Newsroom; Andre Mendes; John Johnson; Terry Balazs
Subject: Radiosuite Connection Errors
At about 7:30pm, we began to receive reports of Radiosuite connection errors. Radio studio control rooms could not load rundowns and desktop users were reporting database connection errors.
The problem was a database connection issue with the Radiosuite servers. At this time, the system administrator has corrected the database connection issue.
PLEASE NOTE: You would be advised to exit the Radiosuite application and restart it before continuing work.

Ralph Cassano
IT Specialist
Digital Media Support Division (T/SD)
Technology Services Support Directorate


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