BBG Watch Commentary

Ted Lipien, former VOA acting associate director who now serves on the board of directors of the nongovernmental Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB), has shared with us an email he sent to Lynne Weil, new Director of Communications and External Affairs of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). Ted Lipien’s email is in response to Ms. Weil’s comment (attached at the end of this post) to Lipien’s op-ed in The Washington Times. Mr. Lipien told us that he sent copies of his email to all BBG members, except Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, the Acting Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, whose email address he did not have, to VOA Director David Ensor and IBB Director Richard Lobo.

Dear Lynne, I saw your letter to The Washington Times on John Brown’s [public diplomacy] blog. I will post the attached response. It is lengthy because I quote extensively from the BBG evaluation of the VOA Russian website. I don’t mind criticism, I engage in it myself, but I must say that the various accusations against my journalism, especially in the “VOA Public Relations” comment, are extremely lame, less in your response, although you do accuse me of crimes I never committed. I never said that the BBG completely ignored the VOA anniversary, it’s just that their new website is a mess and they had nothing on it on the home page on Feb. 1. I was very reluctant at first to write the op-ed for the WT because it hurts entire VOA, but decided that it was the only way to get BBG members to do something to reform the Russian Service, to reevaluate BBG’s commercially-minded approach to program placement and staffing,…[stop] ignoring Voice of America’s special role in supporting human rights, public diplomacy and representing America, which is the only thing U.S. taxpayers may be willing to pay for. I don’t believe you can mix VOA with surrogate broadcasters or surrogate broadcasters with VOA. I also strongly support surrogate broadcasters where they are really needed. They need to be truly independent. If you read the “VOA Public Relations” response on the WT site, the VOA, IBB, and BBG management team is still in complete denial. I hope David Ensor isn’t. I thought that his response, although lacking specifics, was quite good. At least he did not engage in character assassination. I know that you had to respond. I wish your response was more objective. But I’m willing to live with it. The “VOA Public Relations” response was something else. Contrary to what you may have heard I have no axes to grind with anyone at the BBG. I left the organization on very good terms at the top of my career. I do, however, object very strongly to those who want to eliminate VOA broadcasting, deny its special role, privatize it, staff it with contract employees and exploit them shamelessly. Claims that you can’t have a great website and radio and satellite TV at the same time…

See the article here:

LIPIEN: VOA harms Putin opposition in Russia

Faked interviews, lax Web security are signs a shakeup is needed

The Washington Times, February 12, 2012