By BBG Watch
April 24, 2012
At the meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Miami on April 20, BBG Governor Susan McCue made a statement in support of restoring funding in FY 2013 for continuing Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to Tibet and China by achieving savings in management expenditures.
Susan McCue, a Democrat serving on the bipartisan Board, commended the BBG Strategy and Budget Committee which made a recommendation to restore funding in the next fiscal year for Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts to Tibet and the VOA Cantonese Service. Some Radio Free Asia (RFA) programs facing cuts in FY 2013 were also saved. The decision approved by the whole Board was announced at the Miami meeting by BBG Governor Michael Meehan, another Democrat who supported BBG’s senior Republican member Ambassador Victor Ashe in his early efforts to save these broadcasts.
VOA radio to Tibet and VOA Cantonese radio, television and Internet programs were to be eliminated in the next fiscal year under a controversial proposal approved earlier by the BBG at the recommendation of their executive staff. Some BBG members later said privately that they were not adequately briefed by the staff on the details of the cuts and public comments.
After numerous protests and a plea from human rights activist and Holocaust survivor Annette Lantos, the full Board voted last Friday to reject parts of the earlier budget plan and to restore funding for these broadcasts. Even Republican member S. Enders Wimbush, who had previously sided with the executive staff in supporting elimination of VOA radio and television in Mandarin and Cantonese to China, as well as elimination of VOA Tibetan radio, eventually voted to keep these programs on the air.
On the question of funding for Tibetan and Chinese broadcasts, Susan McCue suggested that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) staff should look for savings in management expenditures:
A public suggestion by a Broadcasting Board of Governors member that savings can be found in management expenditures rather than in cutting programs is highly unusual. Until recently, BBG members almost always accepted recommendations of their executive staffers who protected and expanded management positions and expenditures while eliminating and reducing broadcasts and other news programs.
BBG Watch commends Governor McCue for her statement. We also commend other BBG members who changed their mind on the value of broadcasting to Tibet and China. BBG Watch is particularly pleased that Governor Wimbush changed his position on this issue.
It was also revealed at the BBG meeting in Miami that Susan McCue is working on a comprehensive legislative proposal to reform U.S. international broadcasting. She referred to this proposal at the open meeting as “U.S. Broadcasting Innovation Act” but did not disclose any details and did not ask for public comments.
She and another BBG Democratic member Michael Meehan disagreed politely during the open meeting on the merits of the proposal to partially merge administrative functions of the BBG-managed surrogate broadcasters — Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). McCue supports going ahead with the proposed merger, while both Meehan and Victor Ashe have raised reservations about the plan.
Susan McCue has considerable experience on Capitol Hill, as does
Michael Meehan. She was chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid from 1999 to 2006. She also held numerous communications positions
in government and campaigns. She is now President of Message Global, a
strategic advocacy firm she founded in 2008 for social action campaigns.
She was also the founding President and CEO of The ONE Campaign to
combat extreme global poverty. She is currently Vice Chair of Humanity
United and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
For more background:
Controversial BBG grantee merger plan report is available online
April 21, 2012
During its meeting at the headquarters of Radio and TV Martí in Miami on April 20, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) discussed the plan to merge administrative functions of the surrogate broadcasters — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
The merger plan is highly controversial. Critics of the plan argue that the surrogate broadcasters have been successful in large part due to their independence and regional specialization. These broadcasters were established by various U.S. administrations and the U.S. Congress to operate independently. Their independence has always been viewed as their greatest asset in serving information needs of people living in countries without free media.
Here are some of the major points made by the critics of the merger:
Bureaucrats and bureaucratic generalists will replace professionals who are experts on their target countries and regions and care deeply about their specific missions.
There are strong concerns that BBG and IBB executives want to take control over the surrogate broadcasters and to limit public and Congressional scrutiny.
The same BBG and IBB executives who drafted the merger proposal also wanted to end radio and television broadcasts to Tibet and proposed other cuts to U.S. international broadcasting while protecting and expanding their bureaucratic operations. Due to overwhelming public criticism, the Board rejected their proposed programming cuts to Tibet and China.
The proposed merger could become an administrative disaster if the same officials are in charge of implementing the plan and are put in charge of the new administrative structure.
The projected savings are questionable and the final costs of the merger could be much higher due to expected administrative complications resulting from the merger.
It is unclear how the new CEO would be selected.
The role of the International Broadcasting Bureau with its director, deputy director and a growing number of highly-paid officials is not explained in the merger proposal.
A reform of IBB could achieve much greater savings for U.S. taxpayers without undermining the independence and effectiveness of the surrogate broadcasters.
IBB executives are wasting millions of dollars and pay themselves high bonuses despite being rated in OPM employee opinion surveys as the worst leaders and managers in the entire federal government. Putting them in charge of the merger represent a serious risk to U.S. international broadcasting assets which are also national security assets.
The BBG is also planning to waste millions of dollars on the redundant Global News Network.
Even individual BBG members have strong misgivings about the merger plan and the Global News Network.
Heads of some of the surrogate broadcasters have also expressed strong misgivings about the merger plan. They fear that the plan will make their organizations much less effective.
The official BBG announcement says:
The interim report can be viewed here: Click to View