White House nominates a new slate to the Broadcasting Board of Governors

The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the United States Government’s non-military broadcasting. Its function is to provide managerial guidance from talented private sector leaders. The combined audience of the broadcasting it oversees is over 171 million, an increase of 71% over 2003, according to the BBG. Programming is in 60 languages and is provided though online media, satellite, terrestrial and cable television, as well as shortwave, AM, and FM radio. Like most advisory boards, the Governors, including the Chairman, are part-timers.

The Board is to have eight members, including the Chairman, plus the Secretary of State as an ex officio member. For over a year, however, the Board barely had quorum, and only if the Secretary of State was included. Four seats on the Board have been vacant for between one year to nearly 4 years while the terms of the seated Governors expired between 3.5 and 5.5 years ago. For all the lip service to the urgency to communicate with the world, the Board has been long neglected.

Yesterday, the White House announced a whole new slate for the Broadcasting Board of Governors: Walter Isaacson, as Chairman, Michael Lynton, Susan McCue, Michael Meehan, Victor H. Ashe, Dennis Mulhaupt, Dana Perino, and S. Enders Wimbush. The announcements and bios are here and here. Isaacson has been a candidate for over six months but has rumored to have held out until all the vacancies were filled.

Change is good, but more change is needed: the Chairman must become a full-time position in order to fully support and champion the needs of US Government broadcasting.

Let’s hope the nominees are confirmed quickly.

Will the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy be getting some attention soon?

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One Reply to “White House nominates a new slate to the Broadcasting Board of Governors”

  1. There’s a good case, Matt, for keeping the position of BBG Chair part-time. That’s because the history of BBG (and its predecessor, BIB) has been to attract forceful advocates precisely because they don’t have to give up their day jobs and go through the financial disclosure process. There’s a full-time staff that does the legwork (disclosure: I was once one of them). I would argue that the reason we even still have a strong foundation for USG international broadcasting goes back to Steve Forbes’s tenure as BIB Chairman: it was he who orquestrated a sophisticated defense of RFE and RL at a time when the post-Cold War budget ax was seeking out (and found) victims.All the host of full-time political appointees at USIA did nothing to preserve that entity, yet part-timer Forbes and his plugged-in fellow Board members (including a younger Karl Rove, Readers Digest Editor-in-Chief Ken Tomlinson, former Rep. Dan Mica, and the late AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland) kept Uncle Sam’s surrogate broadcasting capacity intact. In fact, the opposite case can be made: a part-time chair empowered with clear statutory oversight authority is exactly what has maintained an effective USG international broadcasting capacity, in contrast to, say, the toothless U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
    The lesson? Perhaps it’s not the issue of full-time vs. part-time, but rather the quality of the appointees that matters. And, as you have stated clearly, the pressing need for vacancies to be filled promptly.

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