House Passes Broadcasting Board of Governors Remake

The House Friday passed the National Defense Authorization Act. That is the bill that would, among many other things, abolish the board of governors (people) that oversees the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) (media outlets/news operations) and concentrate authority in the CEO of BBG.

BBG oversees government-backed, nonmilitary international media outlets including VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

The Senate is expected to follow suit and pass the act next week, which would lead to major organizational reforms of BBG.

The board would actually be transitioned to an advisory board, advising the CEO, then phased out.

The International Broadcasting Advisory Board, as it is being called, will eventually consist of five members, including the Secretary of State, serving three-year terms. In the near term, it could be more since the current Broadcasting Board of Governors will get to serve on that board initially until their current terms expire.

Members of the advisory board cannot be government officials but will be "distinguished in the fields of public diplomacy, mass communications, print, broadcast or digital media, or foreign affairs," the bill says.

The position of Director of International Broadcasting is being eliminated, with that authority transferring to the CEO.

Under the bill, the CEO can meld all but VOA into a "single, consolidated private, non-profit corporation" under his or her control, "which may broadcast and provide news and information to audiences wherever the agency may broadcast, for activities that the Chief Executive Officer determines are consistent with the purposes of this Act" and can select, "any name for such a consolidated grantee [the services are all funded by government grants]."

The mission of that consolidated corporation would be to 1) counter state-sponsored propaganda, 2) provide uncensored local and regional news and analysis, 3) help countries help themselves in terms of indigenous news capabilities and 4) promote unrestricted access to uncensored information sources, especially the internet.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.