Top BBG official predicts 'old white men' will lose jobs under merger plan
“Old White Guys” — BBG Watch has learned from reliable sources that a top Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) official has written an email to a BBG member in which he brags about getting rid of “old white men” in anticipation of the BBG plan to merge some of its broadcasting entities — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Radio Free Asia (RFA), and Middle East Broadcasting Netwoks (MBN) into a single corporate structure. We have learned subsequently that the actual quote was “old white guys” and was made in reference to the part of the organization under the official’s control. He is known, however, to be one of the very few enthusiastic supporters of the merger proposal and may have seen it as an opportunity to get a head start on personnel changes. Sources tell us that as someone with links to BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson, the official did not fear to lose his own job in the merger, but his remark may have damaged him beyond repair. Isaacson was reportedly horrified when he learned about it.
According to our sources, the email created a panic among BBG members who became afraid of a legal liability if the proposed merger goes forward and male employees who may lose their jobs decide to sue the BBG claiming race and gender discrimination.
Our sources tell us that a BBG member called for an urgent meeting at which the majority of members decided to reverse some recent personnel decisions which might be perceived as being directed against “old white males.” BBG members, who also serve on the boards of the surrogate broadcasting entities, even considered adopting a resolution expressing their opposition to any form of discrimination based on race, age, gender, religion, and national origin. In the end — we are told — a resolution was adopted although there was some discussion. One BBG member, who supported the official being discussed, reportedly stormed out of the meeting and had to be persuaded to return.
BBG Watch is not releasing the names of the individuals pending further confirmation of this story. The BBG merger plan remains highly controversial. It was evaluated by the Deloitte consulting firm which urged the BBG to proceed quickly to counter negative employee reaction. Deloitte is set to earn $1.3 million dollars if the plan goes forward.
The Deloitte study promises only minor savings. Our sources also told us that the heads of some of the broadcasting entities which would be affected by the merger informed the Board that they are not completely supportive of the plan as the Deloitte study implies.
The current administrative setup developed after World War II by prominent American foreign policy, military, and intelligence experts and supported by Congress grants the so-called “surrogate broadcasters” maximum programming and administrative independence to allow them to specialize in regional news gathering in support of democracy and human rights and to distance them from the U.S. Government. At the same time, the same group, also with the support of Congress, advocated keeping the Voice of America as the official broadcaster of the United States.
The merger plan supported by the BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson also anticipates de-Federalizing and privatizing the Voice of America. Isaacson, a former CNN Chairman, has a vision of turning BBG into a large, centralized news agency. Isaacson also wants to privatize the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which oversees the operations of Radio and TV Martí from its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Radio and TV Martí provide news for people in Cuba, where media are controlled and highly censored by the authorities. Their de-Federalization would be viewed by Cubans in Cuba, Cuban Americans and many members of Congress as a major victory for the Castro regime.
A similar concept of centralized news gathering and centralized institutional structure was vigorously opposed by the early architects of U.S. international broadcasting as unsuitable for providing news and information to countries without free media. An overly-centralized system was kept at the Voice of America, where it diminished its effectiveness compared to the surrogate broadcasters who enjoyed considerable independence. The U.S. Congress granted VOA full editorial independence in 1976 while confirming its official role of the United States radio for international audiences. The centralized news gathering system at VOA was eventually modified during the Reagan Administration, allowing VOA foreign language services to gain the independence they needed to become more effective broadcasters.
While the surrogate independent radio model had among its early architects and supporters such famous Americans as General Dwight Eisenhower, General Charles Douglas (C.D.) Jackson, the hero of the Berlin Airlift General Lucius Clay, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and former Under Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew, the author of the containment policy George Kennan, U.S. intelligence specialist Frank Wisner, CIA Director Allen W. Dulles, Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane and many other distinguished members, including Ronald Reagan, the current BBG plan was developed by bureaucrats who are completely unknown to the general public, as are most of the BBG members.
BBG Watch has learned that one of the authors of the BBG strategic plan may lose his current position for, among other things, not alerting BBG members to the opposition they encountered in Congress to their proposal to end all Voice of America radio and television broadcasts to China. We are told, however, that he will be moved to another job and given a raise at the time when due to his recommendations some VOA foreign language services are being closed down and their American news reporting and public diplomacy functions terminated. Top BBG officials have salaries well in excess of $100,000. One such salary could pay a good part of operating expenses of one small VOA foreign language service.
Only one BBG member Victor Ashe, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Poland, has foreign policy experience. He has expressed his reservations about the merger plan and the Deloitte study. The job of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs who represents Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an ex officio member, at BBG meetings has been recently vacant. Tara Sonenshine, the Executive Vice President of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), had been nominated to this position by President Obama but her nomination has not yet been confirmed.
Ironically, all the architects of the current U.S. international broadcasting institutional setup and the members of Congress who supported it have been “old white men.”