Give BBG A Chance to Redeem Itself
FreeMediaOnline.org, August 22, 2008, San Francisco — A former Voice of America executive suggested that the BBG should be encouraged to repair the damage it had caused U.S. international broadcasting in Eurasia. I agree. The suggestion was that the Board should take positive actions on its own rather than wait for Congress to force them to reverse the program cuts affecting Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and other media-at-risk countries.
Before 2008, the BBG did not have sufficient staff determination needed to overcome the opposition in Congress to its program cutting ideas at VOA in favor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. They succeeded this time through good staff work, secrecy and reported support from Senator Biden’s staff. Unfortunately for Congress and the American people, theirs was success based on bad judgment and parochial interests.
A few days before VOA Russian radio was cut and the Russian troops invaded Georgia, we had warned the BBG that Mr. Putin cannot be trusted. We also warned that RFE/RL operations in Russia and reporting will not be safe in case of a major crisis, and that RFE/RL faces serious problems in Russia already. Ukraine could be the next target of Russian expansion. The BBG could easily say that the situation has changed.
Unfortunately, the last BBG press release does not suggest much willingness to re-evaluate their strategy. I think they need to take a hard look at the geopolitical situation, their own and their staff’s conflict of interest issues, and PR operations. If they have any political sense left and care about America’s ability to safely and effectively communicate with foreign audiences in times of crisis, it’s possible they could still reverse their course. I hope they do.