Disaster at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Is anyone actually noticing the disaster being perpetrated against Radio Free Europe by its new management? Is anyone going to stop this madness?

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  1. jan palach says:

    Is anyone noticing what is happening at RFE/RL? That is a really good question. As I read this site, most of the attention for the past month or so has been on VOA, Tibet and China, so I do not think we on the forefront of anyone’s mind at the Governors or BBG staff. In fact, we were told on Monday that only four Governors are expected to come to Prague in June for that month’s board meeting. This is a very strong signal that at least four members of the board are not that interested in learning how their actions are affecting our work. Perhaps they are afraid to look us in the eyes, after providing us with a management team that places little value on the actual journalism we are presenting to our audiences.

    As to the original questions posed I assume by one of my collegagues here at RFE/RL, I have heard three theories as to why our current management behaves the way they do.

    The first is that they are truly in over their heads. Our President did some tangential work for CNN and his friend former Governor Isaacson brought him on board because he dreamed of reliving that triumph by creating a new CNN. Once he realized that competing with private news outlets was not what the U.S. taxpayers hired him for, Chairman Isaacson left, and now President Korn is left without clear instructions, and is now looking to find a new path. This would explain his recent attempts at outreach to the RFE/RL staff. If we were not too afraid to give him the advice of the collective experience of hundreds of journalists, we might be able to redirect his efforts more productively.

    The second theory is that the current team was chosen to make us more compliant when it comes time to consolidate the operations of the grantees. Maybe after a year or two a senior management team that shows very little interest in our actual work, we will be so happy for the opportunity to work for someone else, that we will willingly embrace the change of management, even if it means a change in the focus of our journalism.

    The third theory is the most widespread amongst my colleagues, which is unfortunate as it is the one that most affects morale. The theory goes that President Korn was brought in to close down RFE/RL, and that ignoring our output and shifting our focus from radio to the web, our stories will be lost in clutter of available information on the internet. This assumes that unfriendly governments will not be blocking access to our websites, which is a dubious assumption at best. The overriding sentiment of backers of this theory is that the U.S. Government does not want to continue to fund U.S. International Broadcasting, and they have instructed the BBG to move away from radio and TV, put all of us onto the internet to wither and die on the vine. Then when it is shown that our message is being lost, it will be easy to convince Congress that USIB is no longer needed.

    Regardless of the validity of any of the above theories, my colleagues and I will continue to do our best for the audiences in our respective home countries until such a time as we are no longer needed by them or wanted by the BBG.

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