BBG Watch Commentary

BBG Board Meeting April 24, 2013The mystery continues whether the U.S. international broadcasting agency’s Interim Presiding Governor Michael Lynton will participate in Wednesday’s Broadcasting Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) meeting. He has not shown up for any meetings during the last four months, thus bringing important board’s business to a halt. The BBG board is now down to five members and without Michael Lynton it has no quorum. Members cannot vote on any critical issues.


BBG Interim Presiding Governor Michael Lynton

Michael Lynton is CEO of Sony Entertainment, Inc. He is the former CEO of AOL Europe and Chairman and CEO of Pearson plc’s Penguin Group.

Mr. Lynton is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the boards of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Rand Corporation, and the Harvard Board of Overseers.

He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School and is proficient in French, German and Dutch.

Lynton was named the BBG’s interim presiding governor following the departure of Chairman Walter Isaacson in February, 2012. He also serves as a member of the Governance Committee

Lynton was appointed to the board on July 2, 2010 to a term expiring on August 13, 2012. By law, any member whose term has expired may serve until a successor has been appointed and qualified.[/aside]

Lynton’s absence has created a true emergency as the board is unable to address various national security-related challenges that became even more urgent after the Boston bombings. Dozens of fired Radio Liberty journalists are still unable to work for BBG in producing programs for the Russian Federation, including Chechnya, the ancestral homeland of the Boston bombings suspects.

Former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty management team in Prague and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) officials in Washington proposed last year to end radio programs to Chechnya.

Active BBG members, who have already initiated reforms at RFE/RL, still face a challenge in reforming the IBB bureaucracy. Lynton’s absence makes this process, important for U.S. national security, more difficult. On the other hand, Lynton’s company, Sony Entertainment, does business in Russia and China, which raises questions of conflict of interest. It might be better for all concerned if Mr. Lynton resigned and someone else would be quickly nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate to take his place on the BBG board. In the meantime, however, he should attend BBG meetings until either Jeff Shell or Matt Armstrong are confirmed to maintain a quorum, but he should excuse himself from any votes dealing with broadcasting to Russia and China.

Agency sources told BBG Watch that in an attempt to shame Lynton and force him to attend, other BBG members decided to adjourn their April 11, 2013 meeting due to lack of quorum and to continue it on April 24 rather than wait for their next regular meeting in June, which will be in Prague, the Czech Republic. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has its headquarters in Prague.

Lynton’s long absence has not been explained. Some speculate that he may be unhappy with other BBG members, Victor Ashe, Susan McCue and Michael Meehan, over their decision to initiate management reforms at RFE/RL. Lynton supported former RFE/RL president Steven Korn.

This is what a BBG press release has to say about Wednesday’s meeting:

“The Broadcasting Board of Governors will hold a meeting by telephone on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. EDT. This is a continuation of the April 11, 2013 meeting adjourned due to lack of quorum. The agenda includes reports from the Board’s Governance and Strategy and Budget committees. Topics include progress on compliance with the January 2013 Office of Inspector General’s report, the Board staffing plan, the language service review process, and an update on the agency’s strategic plan.

An audio recording and transcript will be available following the meeting on”

According to agency sources, the April 24 meeting will deal with the business that could not be dealt with on April 10 or 11 because of the absence of a quorum.  But there will be no quorum, if Michael Lynton again fails to participate.

Waiting for Godot continues. Some agency employees have been heard joking whether Michael Lynton should not be placed on the FBI’s “Most Missing List.” But especially now, after the Boston bombings and the role that U.S. international broadcasting could play in countering jihadist anti-American propaganda, this is no joking matter.