BBG Watch Commentary

RFERL MalalaWe have reported extensively on how the Voice of America (VOA) failed to cover Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai’s visit in the United States, her appearance on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, and her meeting with President Obama. The VOA newsroom and the VOA web team were alerted to the White House meeting by a VOA correspondent and given all the information well ahead of time but failed to post a comprehensive and journalistically solid news story.

But not all U.S.-funded international broadcasters are failing to do what they are being paid for by American taxpayers. Surrogate broadcasters, such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), are generally doing a fine job of reporting news for international audiences.

The bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency that runs VOA and other U.S. government-funded international broadcasters, has recently carried out management reforms at RFE/RL and put in charge of it veteran journalist and media executive Kevin Klose. He has greatly improved RFE/RL’s news reporting, while VOA news operation has been getting progressively dysfunctional.

But for various reasons, primarily strong resistance from government bureaucrats who technically are working for the BBG but in fact cannot be controlled, BBG members have been unable to carry out management reforms at the Voice of America and their own executive management arm, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

The Voice of America has been in the midst of a major management crisis for several years, aggravated by the management meltdown at IBB. Ironically, IBB executives want to limit management independence of surrogate broadcasters such as RFE/RL and Radio Free Asia (RFA) and bring them under central control of their IBB bureaucracy.

Should the BBG board allow this to happen, RFE/RL’s and RFA’s news reporting would soon start to resemble late, incomplete and missing news reporting on the VOA English website.

Here is a RFE/RL news report with outstanding videos, “On U.S. TV, Malala Wows With Compassion,” that the Voice of America also should have had but did not.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors must break the bureaucratic resistance and carry out immediate management reforms at VOA and IBB.

It should be pointed out that Voice of America journalists are not at fault here. They are deprived of resources and often prevented from doing their job right by incompetent senior executives. They themselves are victims of VOA and IBB top management, which has created the worst workplace with the lowest employee morale in the entire federal government, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).

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