Ambassador Ashe on the Broadcasting Board of Governors

Victor H. Ashe (Ambassador to Poland, 2004-2009)

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The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) runs Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting. It also oversees the same Board for Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia. BBG continues to operate shorthanded as two vacancies continue to exist and two other current members are on the third year each of an expired term.

The Secretary of State is a Board member by law but has never attended a single Board meeting in the 16 year history of BBG. This is most unfortunate but gives Secretary of State John Kerry an opportunity to make a real difference by attending Board meetings from time to time. No one expects him to attend every meeting but going to some would make a real difference. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did meet twice with the former Board but never attended a formal meeting.

The senior BBG staff continues to operate separate from Board direction although new chair Jeff Shell is attempting to rein in some questionable activities such as 9 staff attending a Paris Internet conference in December when the current government shutdown suggests a need for frugality. The Board’s contract with Gallup for up to $10 million a year continues, although a far reduced amount could produce the amount needed for research in my view.

Morale at the agency continues at rock bottom according to OPM surveys. The AFGE is treated poorly by management and a new contract has not been signed in over three years now.

Another former ambassador, Ryan Crocker, now serves on the Board as I did. My best wishes go out to him as he tries to get a handle on these many issues led ably by Jeff Shell. The real question is whether the Board has the fortitude and stomach to force changes at the senior staff level in the Cohen Building.

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