Fresh Start for the Broadcasting Board of Governors

Last week, the White House announced its nominees for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. For the first time since the BBG was created fourteen years ago, the Board will change completely with the new slate of eight candidates. If all the nominees are confirmed, it will be the first time since 2004 the Board was at 100%.

The Board has nine members: eight confirmed by the Senate plus the Secretary of State (as ex officio), represented by the Secretary’s designee, the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the United States Government’s non-military broadcasting. These services have always been central to America’s effort to inform and engage global audiences, commonly referred to today as public diplomacy.

A Governor’s term is three years and “shall be selected by the President from among Americans distinguished in the fields of mass communications, print, broadcast media, or foreign affairs.” No more than four members of the Board is to be from the same party and the terms were intended to be staggered to prevent wholesale appointments. To stagger the terms of the initial members, two members were to have one year terms, three others would have two year terms, and the remaining three would serve three years. Since Governors serve until replaced, not when their term ends, it has been common for Governors to serve long past the end of the term. The terms of the four Governors currently serving ended between 3 and 5 years ago.

The White House is attempting reestablish staggered terms with the new nominees. Victor Ashe (a former mayor and recently Ambassador to Poland), Michael Meehan (previously nominated to the Board by President George W. Bush and a business partner of the husband of Judith McHale’s Chief of Staff ), and S. Enders Wimbush will serve terms expiring August 13, 2010. Susan McCue and Dennis Mulhaupt (fellow USC Trojan), both previously nominated by President George W. Bush, will serve terms expiring August 13, 2011. Michael Lynton, Walter Isaacson, and Dana Perino, will serve terms expiring August 13, 2012. White House supplied bios on each are here and here.

Like most advisory boards, the Governors, including the Chairman, are part-timers. They are the only part-time advisory members with financial responsibility of an agency. Because they are not full-time employees, they are not subject to disclosure requirements for financial or business relationships.

The combined audience of the broadcasting the Board 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. The Board was established in 1995 and become autonomous with the abolishment of the United States Information Agency in 1999.

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