Broadcasting Board of Governors: empty seats at the public diplomacy table

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, or BBG, is the agency overseeing all United States public diplomacy broadcasting, that is non-military broadcasting for audiences outside of the territorial US.

It is also the name of the Board that governs those broadcasts that nominally consists of nine members, eight of which are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. By law, no more than four members may be from the same political party (in effect, four Republicans and four Democrats). The ninth member is the current Secretary of State (ex officio).

The BBG is also the agency everybody seems to love to hate.

In the spirit of the popular incumbency chart published here on the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, below you’ll find a unique chart and timeline on the membership of the Board that you won’t find anywhere else.

What many critics of the BBG may not know is that the Board has not had its full compliment of 8 members (plus ex officio member, the Secretary of State) since Veronique Rodman stepped down in December 2004. With the departure of Ted Kaufman in December 2008 (to take Vice President Biden’s Senate seat from Delaware), there are now only four sitting members, just enough for a quorum when including the Under Secretary Judith McHale, the Secretary of State’s representative. The Board has been without a Chairman since Jim Glassman vacated it 10 June 2008 to become the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

The vacant seats have been empty for between 232 days (in the case of now-Sen. Kaufman) and nearly 5 years (average: over 1.5 years).

The four remaining members are 3-5 years beyond the expiration of their terms, which were generally 3 years long (although some may be appointed to one year, or two years, and may be renewed).

Clearly, some attention needs to be paid to the BBG, not the least of which is getting some leadership in-place. Certainly this is not the creation of the Obama Administration (Jim Glassman blasted the situation at the Smith-Mundt Symposium the week before President Obama’s inauguration), but it is one the Administration must address sooner than later.

Board Member

Dates of Service

Replaced by (w/date)

Date Term Expired

Past Due

Days Vacant

Burke, David (D)* 8/14/1995 10/31/1998 Pattiz 11/13/2000 8/13/1998 79 744
Spielvogel, Carl (D) 8/14/1995 8/8/2000 Blaya 11/19/2002 8/13/1999 361 833
Lord, Bette Bao (R) 8/14/1995 11/12/2000 Ledbetter 11/13/2000 8/13/1997 1187 1
Mora, Alberto (R) 8/14/1995 8/3/2001 Simmons 11/27/2002 8/13/2003 481
Korologos, Tom (R) 8/14/1995 8/5/2002 Tomlinson 8/6/2002 8/13/2001 357 1
Nathanson, Marc (D)* 8/14/1995 9/12/2002 Hirschberg 12/9/2002 8/13/2001 395 88
Halpern, Cheryl (R) 8/14/1995 11/26/2002 Cullum 11/26/2002 8/13/1999 1201 0
Ledbetter, Robert (R) 11/13/2000 12/22/2003 Rodman 12/26/2003 8/13/2003 131 4
Rodman, Veronique (R) 12/26/2003 12/11/2004 McKinnon 1/4/2007 Recess Appt 754
Tomlinson, Kenneth (R) 8/6/2002 6/6/2007 Glassman 6/8/2007 8/13/2004 1027 2
Pattiz, Norm (D) 11/13/2000 2/28/2006


8/13/2004 564 1239
McKinnon, Mark (R) 1/4/2007 12/31/2007


Recess Appt 568
Glassman, James (R)* 6/8/2007 6/10/2008


8/13/2007 302 406
Kaufman, Edward (D) 8/14/1995 12/1/2008


8/13/2006 841 232
Blaya, Joaquin (D) 11/19/2002

Currently serving

8/13/2005 1438
Cullum, Blanquita (R) 11/26/2002

Currently serving

8/13/2005 1438
Simmons, Steven J. (R) 11/27/2002

Currently serving

8/13/2006 1073
Hirschberg, D. Jeffrey (D) 12/9/2002

Currently serving

8/13/2004 1803
Today: 7/21/2009

* – denotes Board Chairman

The members’ terms are depicted below along a time axis with arrows indicating succession. For example, Bette Bao Lord served on the board from August 1995 to November 2000. Her seat was then filled by Robert Ledbetter, Veronique Rodman, and Mark McKinnon. The bars with members’ names to the right represent currently serving members. Note that th
e board has been short at least one member since 2004.

Chart of Broadcasting Board of Governor's terms

If we are serious about the information element of power, it is time we spend more time focusing on the leadership of this element. Word  is nominees will be coming before Congress leaves for summer…

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