U.S. News & World Report article on VOA notes firings at Radio Liberty, idleness of BBG members

BBG Watch Commentary

U.S. News & World Report Facebook LogoThe destruction of Radio Liberty story is not going away. In an article devoted largely to mismanagement at the Voice of America (VOA) and the dysfunctional state of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), U.S. News & World Report‘s Elizabeth Flock also reported the mass firing of journalists at Radio Liberty in Moscow.

“Radio Liberty just announced that it was going off the air in Russia, leading to the elimination of 40 people from its Moscow operation. Though the service will still be heard on shortwave, the majority of its efforts will be put toward the Internet. An angry Radio Liberty employee told NPR the management was caving to pressure from the Kremlin; management says the broadcaster just needed to do more with less.”

Doing more with less is not exactly accurate. The RFE/RL management is keeping all the money but has fired the outstanding old Internet team in Moscow and all the best Radio Liberty journalists. RFE/RL executives managed to alienate by this move almost all major human rights leaders and democratic politicians in Russia, not to mention independent media professionals. The new Radio Liberty director Masha Gessen is completely isolated, unable to recruit any respectable independent journalist, and her new media team has no experience in audio or video. She has lost web visitors for her previous employers.

U.S. News & World Report article focused at some length on the idleness of BBG members:

“Many board members have high-profile jobs elsewhere and aren’t active. Board member Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, has not attended a board meeting in person for a year. (She recently announced her resignation at the end of 2012, which will leave three unfilled positions.)

During one recent meeting, the board’s interim chairman typed on his blackberry for the better part of an hour before leaving early. The member who led the meeting in his stead sought to railroad through a number of items without discussion, and still the board did not complete half of the items on the agenda.

‘We can’t do our job in an hour and 15 minutes,’ said Victor Ashe, former U.S. Ambassador to Poland and a current board member, as the meeting closed.”

The interim chairman is Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Corporation of America and Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Read more: Voice of America, 70 Years Later, Faces Bureaucratic Troubles by Elizabeth Flock, U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 19, 2012.

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