The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

VOA chief threatens to ‘kill’ other U.S. broadcast stations if . . .

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The infighting among the U.S. broadcasting units overseen by the chronically troubled (some say dysfunctional) Broadcasting Board of Governors seems to have gotten worse as Congress debates a bill that could alter the units’ mandates.

The  broadcasters include the venerable Voice of America and the various “Frees,” such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting.

At a farewell editorial meeting last week, VOA director David Ensor, a longtime CNN national security reporter who’s leaving in a few weeks after four years running the agency, accused unidentified folks at the “Frees” of teaming up with members of Congress against the VOA.

There are apparently some at the “Frees” trying to get Congress to make them stand alone under their own umbrella and change the VOA’s mandate from reporting news worldwide to a much narrower mandate of only reporting events in this country. That’s a move Ensor said would be a “death sentence” for the VOA.

Outside of Africa, VOA shares coverage with one of the Radio Frees. The bill would mean the VOA would cover only international and U.S. news (but not news within each country in the local language.)

” . . . don’t attack us and try to put us in this little narrow lane, to kill us off,” Ensor said, according to a tape recording of the meeting that’s floating on the Hill, “because if you do I am going to point out how much rent you’re paying on M Street, or on Connecticut Avenue.” Yikes! (We’re told the rent on M Street for Radio Free Asia is about $3 million.) Radio Free Europe’s offices are in Prague with only a small support staff on Connecticut Avenue Northwest.

“Instead, let’s just all be reasonable and honest about what it is we do,” he said, urging the other units to “stop telling politicians to try to put us in a little lane that will kill us off, because I am going to come kill you if you do that.  You know, we’re all going to make the arguments.  You haven’t got clean hands.”

Sounds like a dysfunctional family indeed.  Kinda like Congress.