Rep. Salmon introduces bill to defund Voice of America

Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05)

Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05)

(Source:  sonorannews.com via Dan Robinson)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05) announced the eighth Shrink our Spending Initiative bill focused on highlighting and cutting wasteful, taxpayer-funded programs. Upon introduction of his latest bill to eliminate federal funding for Voice of America, Salmon released the following statement:

“My eighth SOS bill is aimed at cutting yet another duplicative, federal program and saving you 212 million dollars by doing so. While originally commissioned to provide a ‘clear and effective presentation’ of U.S. policy, Voice of America (VOA) has veered from its original mission and become a government-funded news outlet. The United States already funds organizations that disseminate unfiltered news to regions of the world that lack a free press.

“Technology has also rendered Cold War relics, such as VOA, obsolete. The rise of the Internet and social media, especially in closed countries have connected the world in ways we could have never imagined, and with their success, and other U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcasting programs, it makes fiscal sense to eliminate this superfluous, federally-funded entity.”[…]

Click here to read the full article.

Click here if you would like to contact Rep. Matt Salmon.

Ed Royce to champion “new approach” to US international broadcasting

US Representative, Ed Royce

US Representative, Ed Royce

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Michael, for sharing a link to this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Ed Royce (R), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Here is a short clip from the piece:

“Vladimir Putin has a secret army. It’s an army of thousands of “trolls,” TV anchors and others who work day and night spreading anti-American propaganda on the Internet, airwaves and newspapers throughout Russia and the world. Mr. Putin uses these misinformation warriors to destabilize his neighbors and control parts of Ukraine. This force may be more dangerous than any military, because no artillery can stop their lies from spreading and undermining U.S. security interests in Europe.

Neither can the U.S. international broadcasting services that performed such a valuable service during the Cold War. They have withered until they are no longer capable of meeting today’s challenges. Until this changes, Russia’s president and his propaganda will flourish.

[…]From its inception, the BBG has drawn criticism from right, left and center. A part-time board that is supposed to oversee and spend $740 million a year, it has a fundamentally flawed structure. A 2013 Inspector General report for the State Department found the BBG to be dysfunctional. The same year, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the BBG as “practically defunct.” No wonder the agency isn’t coming close to competing with Mr. Putin.

Righting this ship must be an urgent foreign-policy priority. I will soon introduce bipartisan legislation to do just that. The bill would charge one U.S. broadcasting organization (VOA) with reporting U.S. policy and other global news, and another, including RFE/RL and similar services, to act as the free press in repressive societies like Russia. Each organization will have its own CEO and its own board, with accountability that is clear to all[…]”

Read Ed Royce’s full Op Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal online.

Update: Dan Robinson also points out this piece, by Ron Nixon, published in the NY Times.

Can the VOA justify its funding?

voa logoJonathan Marks followed up his last post with two more pieces from the Media Network Vintage Vault, again, on the topic of US international broadcasting.

Jonathan writes:

Interesting to see there was opposition to RFE/RL expansion in 1992. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn06081992radio-free-asia

And Bill Whitacre is good in this edition: http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn07051992voakorea

My question remains: can VOA still justify the funding it has? It has spent billions over the last few decades, but has little to show for it.

No doubt, with the recent loss of CEO Andy Lack and the announcement that VOA Director, David Ensor, is stepping down, the VOA is struggling to remain viable.  I don’t believe this is due to a lack of good reporters or internal innovators, rather, a lack of proper management.

Jonathan also found this recently published report titled, “Reassessing US International Broadcasting” by S. Enders Wimbush and Elizabeth M. Portale. Click here to download the full report as a PDF.

BBG Watch confirms Andrew Lack’s departure

BBG-LogoOnly moments after posting news that Andrew Lack may be leaving the BBG CEO position to rejoin NBC, the website BBG Watch has confirmed Lack’s departure.

Click here to read BBG Watch’s full story.

Leaving so soon? The BBG may lose their new CEO, Andy Lack

Jeff Shell, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, congratulates Andy Lack after swearing him in as the first ever CEO of U.S. international media. (Image Source: BBG Press Release)

Jeff Shell, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, congratulates Andy Lack after swearing him in as the first ever CEO of U.S. international media. (Image Source: BBG Press Release)

Many thanks to Dan Robinson, who shared links to several news stories that propose Andrew Lack may be leaving the CEO position of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to return to NBC.

Here’s a clip from the Washington Post:

Former NBC news president and former Bloomberg Media chairman Andy Lack, who was brought in to fix the perennially troubled U.S. international media operations, is leaving after just six weeks on the job.

[…] Lack is in negotiations with NBC News to return to a top job there, according to report Tuesday in Variety, the entertainment news publication, dashing the hopes of State Department and BBG officials who wanted the high-powered media executive to energize U.S. overseas media operations.

The negotiations were spurred, Variety noted, by the crisis set off at NBC News by the Brian Williams debacle and suspension.

So rather than right the ship at BBG — he had talked about growing the operation, not cutting it — Lack is apparently going off to right the other ship.”

[Read the full article on the Washington Post website.]

Indeed, this story was featured in the following news sources:

If Andy does make the move, we’ll post an update.

Andrew Lack sworn-in as CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors

Jeff Shell, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, congratulates Andy Lack after swearing him in as the first ever CEO of U.S. international media. (Image Source: BBG Press Release)

Jeff Shell, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, congratulates Andy Lack after swearing him in as the first ever CEO of U.S. international media. (Image Source: BBG Press Release)

Below, you’ll find the full press release from the BBG regarding Andy Lack’s appointment. At the end of the press release I’ve noted another article from the NY Times.

(Source: BBG Press Release)

WASHINGTON – Respected journalist and media executive Andrew Lack was sworn-in today as the Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees the five networks and broadcasting operations of U.S. international media. Those networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

Lack is the first-ever CEO of U.S. international media. Creating the position of a CEO has been a key objective of the agency’s governing board and the Administration.

“We are at a unique time in the extraordinary history of this agency. The 21st Century’s global war on information is increasingly threatening to our country and our values,” said Lack. “I am lucky to join a great group of journalists and news professionals spread across the globe who care so deeply about our critical role in that battle.”

Lack’s selection follows an almost year-long search process that began in October 2013.

“To say we are fortunate that Andy has agreed to accept this challenge is a huge understatement,” said Jeff Shell, Chairman of the BBG. “He is an experienced media executive, a respected journalist, and an energetic and inspirational leader. We are grateful that Andy has decided to serve his country and lead the BBG at this critical juncture.”

Prior to being selected by the BBG, Lack served as the Chairman of the Bloomberg Media Group. He joined Bloomberg in October 2008 as CEO of its Global Media Group and was responsible for expanding television, radio, magazine, conference and digital businesses.

Previous to joining Bloomberg, Lack was Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, where he led the company’s roster of prominent international artists and vast catalog of recorded music from around the world. Before joining Sony Music Entertainment, he was president and chief operating officer of NBC, where he oversaw entertainment, news (including MSNBC and CNBC), NBC stations, sales and broadcast and network operations. He was responsible for expanding the Today show to three hours and creating the show’s street-side studio in New York’s Rockefeller Center.

From 1993 to 2001, Lack was president of NBC News, which he transformed into America’s most-watched news organization through NBC Nightly News, Meet the Press, Today and Dateline NBC.

Before going to NBC, Lack spent much of his television career at CBS News. After joining in 1976, within a year, he became a prominent producer for 60 Minutes and subsequently, senior executive producer of CBS Reports. Lack’s broadcasts at CBS earned numerous honors, including 16 Emmy Awards and 4 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Journalism Awards.

Lack received a bachelor’s degree from the College of Fine Arts at Boston University, where he is currently a trustee.

SWLing Post contributor, Richard Cuff also notes this article about Andrew Lack from the NY Times. An excerpt:

Before Mr. Lack’s appointment, day-to-day international broadcasting operations were overseen by a board that had become known more for its dysfunction than for managing broadcast programs that reach more than 200 million people every week. Now, with Mr. Lack at the helm, the feeling in the agency and in Congress is that the broadcasting board is better positioned to counter the increasing hostile and suspicious views of Americans aboard, and more forcefully engage international rivals such as China and Russia in the high-stakes information war.

I was particularly drawn to to a quote by Ted Lipien, a former VOA staffer and outspoken critic of the BBG. Mr Lipen states:

“I’m quite optimistic, and if anyone can turn the organization around, it’s [Andrew Lack], given his background,” […]“But he faces immense challenges.”

Indeed, “immense challenges” may even be an understatement.

Bon courage to you, Mr. Lack! Let’s certainly hope for the best.

VOA Reduced TV to China during Hong Kong protests

VOA-Weishi-TV

The website BBG Watch recently posted a guest commentary from an anonymous VOA reporter regarding the loss of VOA Weishi TV during the Hong Kong protests. Here is an excerpt from BBG Watch:

“On Monday, September 29, the loyal viewers of Voice of America (VOA) “Weishi,” the VOA Mandarin TV program, were surprised to see their TV screen turned into a blue graphic during some hours when the original program previously aired was repeated. In the place of the professionally produced VOA TV broadcast, audiences received radio signals from Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Audience surveys, although underestimating the viewership because many Chinese are reluctant to share sensitive and potentially dangerous information with strangers, show that the popularity of the 2-year-old VOA “Weishi” is growing by leaps and bounds in China. Some of its segments, including “History’s Mysteries,” “Pro&Con” and “Issues and Opinions,” already also attract many millions of viewers on YouTube. The management’s decision to take away some of the repeat hours from the “Weishi” programs will be devastating to VOA’s Mandarin broadcasting. Meanwhile, it will not help RFA, since very few people listen to radio via TV. If they do, there are existing channels leased by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) to broadcast radio programs via satellite to China and Tibet. IBB reports to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency and the bipartisan Board in charge of all U.S. taxpayer-supported media for audiences abroad.”

Read the full commentary on the BBG Watch website.

I listened to China Radio International a few times during the peak of the protests and–no surprise–there was absolutely no mention or even hint of an uprising. Indeed, China has been actively blocking international TV news outlets like CNN and social media sites like Instagram.

China-WPFI-001

China is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world in terms of press freedoms–175th out of a possible 180 countries on the 2014 World Press Freedoms Index.