The sudden resignation of Walter Isaacson as Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors will further paralyze an already dysfunctional organization in desperate need of restructuring to move beyond yesterday and meet the requirements of today and tomorrow. This comes at a critical time when the BBG is attempting to complete and gain support for a new strategic plan.
Possibly indicative of the internal confusion in the fallout of Walter’s surprising decision, the BBG has yet to make an announcement on their Chairman’s departure. A current rumor is Michael Lynton, a current member of a the BBG, will be appointed Chairman by the President. (By the way, Lynton missed 4 or 8 board meetings in 2011.)
A vigorous and informed, not more emotional, discussion is necessary on both the future of the U.S. International Broadcasting and the structure and purpose of the BBG. All, including members of the BBG, admit the current structure does not work. The fallout from Walter’s resignation will amplify the lack of attention to the Board by the White House (Democrat or Republican) and the problematic structure of the Board.
The BBG is unique and often described as the only federal agency run by a committee. The Board is comprised of 8 Presidential appointments confirmed by the Senate plus the Secretary of State as ex officio (represented by the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, or Acting Under Secretary as it is now). These are part-time advisors, or at least in theory. In practice and by requirement, they are called on to do more than provide strategic guidance and advice as managers. This is permitted by legislation (22 USC 6204). Whether the current function was intended by design or not, past performance and common sense makes it clear this model comes up short. Our foreign policy and national security requires we get this right, or at least better. The taxpayer deserves better, as do those who work at the many components of the BBG.
Next week, suggestions for revamping the BBG will appear on this blog. Some ideas to be presented may be in the BBG’s forthcoming plan, but as that plan is still largely unknown and unconfirmed, despite vitriolic articles against the plan or the published “narrative”, they may not.
Your thoughts and comments, and guest posts, on this subject are welcome.