Broadcasting Board of Governors to hold a closed meeting to review staff's budget recommendations
According to the announcement, which has been posted but does not appear on the home page of the BBG’s official website, the members will meet in a special session to receive and consider staff recommendations regarding the agency’s FY 2014 budget proposal. The meeting will be conducted telephonically. Open BBG meetings can be viewed online.
For a number of years, BBG executives have been receiving the worst ratings for management knowledge and leadership in government-wide Office of Personnel Management (OPM) employee opinion surveys. Despite this record, they have been granting themselves large performance bonus awards, some as high as $10,000, while proposing to eliminate broadcasts to countries without free media and firing dozens of journalists. Members of Congress from both parties rejected most of their program cutting proposals and accused BBG executives of poor management and excessive secrecy.
BBG Governor Victor Ashe issued a statement (PDF File) explaining his vote against closing the BBG meeting says: “I understand the reasons pushing for a closed meeting but I strongly believe in as many open meetings as possible. My vote against this closed meeting on August 17 reminds all that these issues need to be carefully considered and reviewed.”
Other BBG members, including Democrats: Michael Meehan, Susan McCue, and Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine, have supported Ashe on transparency and some other issues while taking different positions on others. They have also been critical of the BBG executive staff which reports to the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) director Richard Lobo.
The BBG enjoys very little support among media freedom groups and in the U.S. Congress. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has written a letter to the BBG Interim Presiding Governor Michael Lynton protesting the BBG plans to consolidate grantee broadcasters — Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) — as violating of Congressional intent.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has criticized the lack of transparency at the BBG and its plans to end Voice of America broadcasts to Tibet and China. In a letter to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) condemned the recently-passed BBG resolution on non-disclosure of internal deliberative information as “a blow to government transparency and a threat to the abilities of Congress to effectively conduct oversight.” There are widespread reports of poor employee morale at the BBG, particularly at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
There has been also strong Congressional and public opposition to the plan to modify the Smith-Mundt Act to allow BBG officials to target Americans with government information programs.
The Voice of America Executive Editor Steve Redisch, who was put in charge of reforming VOA programs to Iran, has stirred controversy by his request to the United Nations to review press accreditation of an independent American journalist Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press who annoyed the VOA executive with complaints.
BBG executives have also granted themselves bonuses in 2011 that in some cases were higher than in the previous year but for still unknown reasons do not appear in the online database of salaries and bonuses of federal employees.
While the database shows $0.00 for most executive bonuses in 2011, many high-level BBG executives have in fact received thousands of dollars in performance awards.
Because the August 17 Broadcasting Board of Governors meeting will be closed, members of Congress and the public will not be able to judge how some of these issues are addressed by BBG members.
Statements from the official Broadcasting Board of Governors website:
How long will it take, one wonders, until this most embarrassing agency of the federal government, with its aloof but dangerous board members (except apparently for Victor Ashe), and officials such as Redisch and others who continue to rake in tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses, are exposed and held up to the light of public and media scrutiny? You know Washington is broken when an agency and its top managers can simply flip employees, the public, and Congress the finger and get away with it. Washington Post? New York Times? Some aggressive news web site or blogger? Is there no one willing to take these people on?