Recording from U.S. broadcasting meeting has unexplained gaps

BBG Watch Commentary

Remember President Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, and the 18½ minute gap in President Nixon White House tapes? Some of us do.

International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Director Richard Lobo had been tasked with ensuring the full recording of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) telephonic board meeting on April 24. He was in fact one of the important participants in the meeting, as were some other IBB officials and staffers. BBG, the agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting, had announced previously on its official website that the audio recording and transcript of the meeting would me made available online to the public shortly after the conclusion of the board’s session.

Coming shortly after the Boston terror bombings, it was an important meeting of U.S. officials responsible for programs designed to counter jihadist propaganda abroad with accurate news and information. Some of these officials had tried earlier to end U.S.-funded broadcasts to Chechnya, an enclave in Russia from where the family of the suspected bombers came from.

We now learn that there is a mysterious gap or gaps in the recording. The audio has not been posted on the BBG website and no official explanation was provided. Sources told us that not even BBG members can get the full story as to why a gap or gaps in the recording have occurred. They are baffled and frustrated by their inability to control IBB bureaucracy, which keeps failing them again and again without suffering any consequences.

In fact, it is BBG members who get blamed in the media for the mistakes of IBB bureaucrats whom they can’t replace, one source told BBG Watch. They can’t even hire their own chief of staff because top IBB executives are making it difficult, the source added. Michael Lynton’s inexplicable absence contributes to the crisis and makes the agency ungovernable at the time of increased risks to U.S. national security in the aftermath of the Boston terror bombings. The fact that some of the IBB officials had proposed last year to end broadcasts to Chechnya, the ancestral homeland of the suspected bombers, and to fire a number of experienced journalists, underscores how critical reform of the IBB bureaucracy has become.

The board meeting itself was controversial because it was called as a way of pressuring BBG’s Interim Presiding Governor Michael Lynton to participate. Without him, the board has no quorum. Without a quorum, BBG members can’t take formal votes, which makes the federal agency virtually ungovernable and contrary to what the law provides. With the four BBG members unable to give orders to IBB Director Lobo, he can do whatever he wants. Again, this is not what the Congress has intended.

Michael Lynton was again absent during the telephonic conference call on April 24. Again, there has been no explanation that we know of. The board had no quorum and therefore it did not have a formal meeting. Again, to pressure Michael Lynton to appear, BBG members who were present voted to recess their meeting until Many 15.

Sources told us that BBG members who participated in the April 24 conference call were extremely unhappy with both Lynton and Lobo. According to sources, Lobo apparently made some statements as to how he sees his role if the BBG board has no quorum. We were told that he questioned whether he can implement decisions made by the majority of BBG members present if there is no quorum. The question everybody wants to have an answer to is whether Lynton and Lobo are coordinating their actions.

We are told now that there is a gap in the audio recording from the April 24 session and that no one has so far explained why it happened. U.S. international broadcasts contribute to America’s security. Americans have the right to know why Michael Lynton fails to show up for Broadcasting Board of Governors meetings, why agency officials defy wishes of BBG members, and why International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard Lobo cannot produce a full recording from the most recent board meeting.

Members of Congress had previously accused IBB officials on several occasions of deliberately ignoring Congressional directives. This has become a matter of U.S. national security and the Congress should demand answers from Michael Lynton, as well as Director Lobo and his senior staffers.

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