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BBG Board Feels Push for Reforms

Shell acknowledged the amount of buzz on possible reforms to its five networks is high

A move by some in Congress to overhaul the structure of the Broadcast Board of Governors has the attention of the government entity that manages international broadcasting for the United States. At the BBG’s monthly board meeting last week, BBG Chairman Jeff Shell acknowledged the amount of buzz on possible reforms to its five networks is high.

“Congress is at a high point of activity. There has been a flurry of activity to possibly change the composition and structure of the BBG. We are preparing a position on the reforms,” Shell said. “We are still trying to figure out the implications of some of the provisions that we like.”

Critics of the BBG have been banging the drum for an overhaul for several years. Most recently, an amendment to the House of Representatives FY 2017 defense spending bill would leave open the possibility of the Voice of America transitioning to an independent grantee organization, if designated as such by the CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Currently, VOA and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting are tax-payer funded federal broadcasting entities of the BBG. The Board also oversees three grantee organizations: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

The amendment to FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act was submitted by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and passed on a voice vote in May. Thornberry serves as the chairman of the House Armed Service Committee.

Several other board members spoke at the meeting and acknowledged the amendment deserves considerable deliberation. Gov. Michael Kempner said, “There are provisions that depending on how they are defined we may like and some that we may not like.”

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