For members of AFGE Local 1812 who keep hoping against all hope that somehow, Agency management will come to its senses, its latest response to Radio World’’s Dec. 12th story (republished by the TVTechnology website) is nothing short of “business as usual.” We refer here to the article with the embarrassing headline: BBG Receives Ignominious Distinction
Rather than acknowledge that its ill-fated decisions have had a disastrous impact on the Agency, those running the Agency offered Radio World the usual spin: VOA employees are not happy because of “budgetary pressures and economic uncertainty, an ongoing pay freeze and the widespread criticism of federal employees in public discourse.” In other words, the fact that employees rated, yet again, the Broadcasting Board of Governors as the No. 1 worst place to work in the federal government, among mid-sized agencies, has nothing to do with the people who’ve been running the Agency for at least the past 10 years.
Management repeated to Radio World the very tired argument that it remains “committed to making measurable improvements over the next year” in employee morale. Words don’t cost anything. Deeds don’t necessarily follow, as employees know only too well.
Nothing has changed at the Agency in the past several months. Management is still telling chums that the Voice of America’s mission no longer matters, that there is no difference between what VOA provides, which is supposed to present the United States to the world, and BBG’s surrogate radios, which are supposed to offer an alternative to local news to foreign audiences.
The VOA’s English language newsroom remains eviscerated, and awaits more assaults, leaving language services in a void, since they neither have the time nor the means to write their own news as they scurry about trying vainly to do Radio/TV/Web/Twitter/Facebook/SMS on a radio budget.
The Agency is still focused on new media, to the detriment of the more efficient, more reliable “old”, as they call it, media. A third of its employees are still contractors, many long-term,with no rights, no retirement, no health insurance, no nothing.
In its response to Radio World, Agency management notes that it has “engaged the Partnership for Public Service to help”, with a consultants’ fee, of course. “The PPS facilitated a series of focus groups with employees and contractors and are working with senior leaders to develop an action plan to understand and tackle employee satisfaction issues.”
AFGE Local 1812 had hopes that the Partnership for Public Service might be a fair broker in this matter. That trust was rocked to its foundations by an article that appeared in the November 13th Washington Post featuring a fawning interview with the current VOA Director — David Ensor — conducted by Tom Fox, vice-president of the Partnership for Public Service (PPS). At a time when PPS employees were questioning Agency staff about the sources of their discontent, Mr. Fox could find little wrong to discuss with Mr. Ensor, choosing instead to accentuate the positive, and severely harming the PPS credibility with Agency employees in the process.
For so many tiresome years, Agency management had gone through the motions of pretending that it wants changes and improvement while staying focused on its goal to dismantle the tried, true and trustworthy Voice of America and replace it with a bastardized copy of CNN.
We have seen the results of such misguided policies not only in dropping BBG audience numbers, in sinking employee morale, but in the royal mess underway at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where a prize-winning and effective Russian service was pretty much destroyed in the name of multimedia change in less than three months, doing irreparable damage to U.S. foreign policy.
There is talk of replacing management at RFL/RL. We say it’s time to change management at the Voice of America as well and we call again on Congress to put an end to this reform farce which is costing U.S. tax payers a fortune.
Posted: Friday, Dec 28, 2012