The Washington Post

Broadcasting Board “dysfunctional” IG says

Voice of America coffeee cup. VOA no longer uses these colors, changing the logo to blue, gray and green several years ago. (David Byrd/David Byrd)

But the Broadcasting Board of Governors — which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and (the un-watched) TV Marti, Radio Free Asia and so on — has managed to earn that.

And, after reading the 20-page report, it’s hard not to conclude that the chronically troubled agency desperately needs a top-to-bottom overhaul.

The BBG’s “dysfunction stems from a flawed legislative structure and acute internal dissension,” the report concludes, noting that a part-time board “cannot effectively supervise” the operations.

There are openings on the nine-member board, but before you sign up, the report found that “board dynamics are characterized by a degree of hostility that renders its deliberative process ineffectual.”

“Board meetings are dominated by one member” — apparently Victor Ashe , a former Republican Knoxville mayor and President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Poland — “whose tactics and personal attacks on colleagues and staff have created an unprofessional and unproductive atmosphere.”

But the IG said the overall board is hampered by “chronic vacancies and absences of board members” . . .“fails to stand by its own decisions”and conducts “disorganized” meetings. They’ve failed to “impose discipline” on Ashe, the report said, and since the others “have allowed the tactics of one [board member] to hamstring the board, they bear some responsibility for its being dysfunctional.”

Before we could call him, Ashe e-mailed us a response to the report, saying the un-named governor was “undoubtedly me.” The IG “failed to identify a single area of waste “ in the $730 million operation, he wrote, and “failed to discuss the low morale” at the broadcasting units.

Ashe noted that he “had a perfect attendance record” at board meetings and has “raised numerous issues” on matters such “waste, low morale. . . and excessive travel to international conferences.”

And the employee union quickly blasted the report as little more than a “hatchet job,” and ”primarily” a character assassination of Ashe. In a statement, the union said Ashe had raised “legitimate concerns” about an agency that “continually ranks as the worst managed federal government agency.”

For its part, the board said in a statement Friday — Ashe withdrew his support for it over the weekend — that “the BBG appreciates the work” by the IG’s team and that the members “take their findings seriously and have enacted some of the recommended actions. . .”

Quite unclear whether the dysfunctional Congress can improve the situation.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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