In a rare move for a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a struggling federal agency which oversees U.S. government-funded news and information broadcasts for foreign audiences, BBG Governor Ambassador Victor Ashe raised the issue of employee morale at the Voice of America (VOA), one of the broadcasting entities managed by the BBG.
Speaking at an open BBG meeting on October 13, 2011, Ambassador Ashe acknowledged that despite a minor improvement in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, BBG remains near the very bottom among all federal agencies in terms of employee morale.
Link to the video on YouTube
Ambassador Ashe made his comments after meeting with the Voice of America employees who prepare programs for Africa. He also met with staffers who conduct employee training seminars.
Ambassador Ashe pointed out that 45 percent of all VOA employees are private contractors, whose views about the management are not surveyed by the OPM. He described these contract employees as “generally an unhappy group of people,” who — unlike regular VOA employees — are not entitled to various benefits and do not get regular pay raises. Private contractors working at the Voice of America, also known as POVs (Purchase Order Vendors), cannot even receive flu shots, which are available to other employees.
BBG Watch has learned from reliable sources that some BBG members and their executive staff were unhappy about Ambassador Ashe’s employee morale comments. BBG officials who implemented many of the existing policies have been consistently rated in the OPM surveys as being the worst managers within the Federal workforce.
At the same Broadcasting Board of Governors meeting on October 13, the BBG announced a new mission statement for U.S. international broadcasting operations. It emphasizes engagement with the audiences targeted by the BBG-managed media entities. The BBG also announced a new strategic plan.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) encompasses all U.S. civilian international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio and TV MartÃ, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN)â€”Radio Sawa and Alhurra Television.
BBG broadcasters distribute programming in 59 languages to an estimated weekly audience of 165 million people via radio, TV, the Internet and other new media.
The BBG has been criticized in the media and in Congress for proposing, as part of its new strategic plan, to end all Voice of America radio and television broadcasts to China and to rely instead on the Internet, which is heavily censored by the Chinese authorities. The BBG plan has been blocked in Congress for the time being. The Senate Committee on Appropriations has criticized the agency management for lacking transparency.
The independent Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB), which was formed recently to promote journalism in defense of media freedom and human rights, announced that it will be reviewing the BBG strategic plan and asking its Advisory Board for opinions and recommendations to make sure that those who are denied access to news and information can receive it easily and safely from the BBG.