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Overview:

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent federal agency responsible for all non-military broadcasting sponsored by the U.S. government. Once a part of the United States Information Agency, BBG oversees seven international broadcasters. BBG seeks to “promote and sustain freedom” through the broadcast of news and information about the United States and the world to overseas audiences. Some of BBG’s networks were created to promote a pro-American message to audiences in the Middle East—but instead they have broadcast unflattering accounts of the U.S. In addition, the leadership of the BBG has been the source of its own, unwanted, news for misuse of federal funds for gambling and to reward personal friends.

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History:

In 1990, all U.S. government international broadcasting services began to work more closely, as new media made newsgathering faster and more prevalent. That year, the U.S. Information Agency established the Bureau of Broadcasting to consolidate its three broadcasting services: the Voice of America, WORLDNET Television and Film Service, and Radio and TV Marti. These three came together under one organization and were supported by the Office of Engineering and Technical Operations. In 1991, the Bureau of Broadcasting created the Office of Affiliate Relations and Audience Analysis (renamed the Office of Affiliate Relations and Media Training in 1996). This office was charged with establishing and maintaining a network of affiliated radio and television stations around the globe to broadcast Voice of America and WORLDNET produced programs. Today, more than 1,200 radio and television stations receive programming through the Office of Affiliate Relations.

 
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the International Broadcasting Act, which consolidated federal government international broadcasting even further. With this legislation, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) was created within the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BGG) was established. These governors were given oversight authority over all non-military government international broadcasting. The IBB is comprised of the Voice of America and Radio and TV Marti, along with the Office of Engineering and Technical Services. In 2004, WORLDNET TV was folded into Voice of America.
 
The BBG was organized under a Secretary of State (ex officio) and eight members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The first BBG was sworn in on August 11, 1995. The BBG became an independent agency on October 1, 1999, as a result of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998.
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What it Does:

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed o The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed o The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed of nine members, eight of whom are appointed by the President.

 
BBG’s programs consist of:
  • Voice of America (VOA) offers continuously updated programs on satellite, FM, AM and shortwave radio frequencies, as well as streaming media and downloadable formats at VOANews.com.  
  • Alhurra is a satellite TV channel broadcasting in the Middle East. 
  • Radio Sawa is an Arabic language radio station providing news and information to youth in Arabic-speaking countries. 
  • Radio Farda is a Persian language radio station based in Prague and Washington D.C. It broadcasts political, cultural, social and art news, with an emphasis on Iran. 
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a radio and communications organization broadcasting in 28 languages around the world via shortwave, AM, FM and the Internet. It tries to promote democracy by “disseminating factual information and ideas.”
  • Radio Free Asia (RFA) is a private radio station broadcasting in nine Asian languages.
  • Radio Marti and TV Marti is a radio and television broadcaster located in Miami broadcasting Spanish-language programs to Cuba and the United States.
 
In early 2010, the BBG conducted tests that successfully transmitted email data to computers in China, bypassing Chinese Internet censor filters. The technology used, called Feed Over Email (FOE), compresses data so it can travel in an encoded stealth mode, undetected, and be decoded at the receiving end.
 
The BBG is also using social media to support popular democratic movements around the world, with Voice of America setting up Facebook pages and partnering with online video site Citizen Global.
From the Web Site of Broadcasting Board of Governors

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The BBG spent more than $848 million on 30,536 contractor transactions during the period of FY 2002 to FY 2012. According to USASpending.gov, BBG paid for a variety of services, from communication, engineering and data storage to special studies and analyses in support of its programs.

 
These were the top five recipients of BBG money, including the amount each was paid by BBG and its percentage of overall contractor spending: 
1. Miscellaneous Foreign Contractors                                    $228,076,698 (27%) 
2. Intermedia Survey Institute                                                            $44,512,155    (5%)   
3. Thales                                                                                 $23,206,620    (3%)   
4. Asiasat BVI Limited                                                           $22,593,002    (3%)   
5. GPC Foreign Business                                                        $18,321,711    (2%)   
 
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Controversies:

BBG Networks Broadcast Anti-American Material

In June 2008, Alhurra and Sawa, founded by the Bush administration to promote a positive image of the United States in the Middle East, were found to have aired anti-American and anti-Israeli viewpoints, showcased pro-Iranian policies and given air time to a militant who called for the death of American soldiers in Iraq.
 
The federal government has spent almost $500 million to fund the Alhurra television network and the Sawa radio network. Launched as an alternative to Al Jazeera, Alhurra has suffered from numerous problems and gaffes. Alhurra’s reporters and commentators operate with little oversight. Alhurra’s president, Brian Conniff, does not speak Arabic and is unable to understand anything broadcast on the radio and television networks he is paid to manage. Conniff has no journalism experience and worked previously as a government auditor. His news director, Daniel Nassif, grew up in Lebanon and has no background in television. Before coming to the network, he helped promote the political aspirations in Washington of a Lebanese Christian former general.
 
BBG Head Removed from Board
In August 2006, The New York Times reported that Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, then-director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was being removed from office after a State Department report revealed that he had used his office to run a “horse racing operation” and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll. This came a year after Tomlinson had been removed from a position at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, after another inquiry found that he had violated rules meant to insulate public television and radio from political influence.
Broadcast Chief Misused Office, Inquiry Reports (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)          
 
Bush Appointees at Odds with National Public Radio Programming
In May 2005, The New York Times reported that executives at National Public Radio were increasingly at odds with Bush-appointed representatives at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), including Kenneth Tomlinson, then-chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. CPB led by Tomlinson had appointed two ombudsmen to judge the content of programs for balance, and NPR station managers criticized this decision, urging CPB not to interfere in its editorial decisions. CPB also blocked NPR from broadcasting its programs at a Voice of America radio station in Berlin.
A Battle Over Programming at National Public Radio (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
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Debate:

Should the Voice of America (VOA) and other U.S. Government-Sponsored Broadcasts Spend more Time Emphasizing American Values?

This topic was discussed at a congressional hearing in April 2011 by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
 
Yes:
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), chairman of the subcommittee, argued that the Broadcasting Board of Governors should steer their operations in the direction of promoting American values. The congressman and others believe the U.S. must accept the reality that it is fighting an “information war” with Islam, a war the country can’t afford to lose. “This is a very dangerous time, you must get activated,” Pamela Geller, the executive director of the Stop Islamization of America organization, said at a press conference. “Your children will not grow up in any world you will recognize. You will not like what comes after America.”
 
No:
Georgetown University lecturer Chris Chambers disagrees with the proposal to propagandize the VOA. To take this direction would only cause more residents of foreign countries to tune out these broadcasts, causing the U.S. to lose access to audiences. Emphasizing news and objective reporting will increase respect for U.S. government broadcasts, and allow the VOA to capture more listeners. Amir Fakhravar, with the Confederation of Iranian Students, complained at the hearing that the VOA’s Radio Farda has gone down the wrong path, bringing in staff with no journalism background and “boycotting and even slandering people they don’t agree with.”
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Former Directors:

James K. Glassman (June 2007 to December 2007)

 
James Glassman served as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for less than one year when he was selected by President George W. Bush in December 2007 to replace Karen Hughes as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department.
 
Glassman is a graduate of Harvard University, where he was managing editor of the university daily, The Crimson.
 
Between July 1993 and July 2004, he was an investing columnist for The Washington Post. For four years, he also wrote an op-ed column for The Washington Post on political and economic issues. His articles have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and other publications. Glassman's most recent book is The Secret Code of the Superior Investor.
 
Glassman was a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington public policy think tank. He was editor-in-chief of The American, AEI’s bimonthly magazine of business and economics.
 
He was also the former president of The Atlantic Monthly Co., publisher of The New Republic, executive vice president of US News & World Report, and editor-in-chief and co-owner of Roll Call, the congressional newspaper.
 
Glassman hosts the PBS program Ideas in Action, and previously hosted Capital Gang Sunday on CNN and TechnoPolitics on PBS. In 2000, he co-founded Tech Central Station.com, a technology and policy web site.
 
He was a member of the President’s Council on the 21st Century Workforce and serves on the board of trustees of the U.S. Chamber Foundation and the Intel Corp. Public Policy Advisory Board. He has been named to head the George W. Bush Institute at the Bush Presidential Library, scheduled to open at Southern Methodist University in 2013.
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Jamal Hasan 6 months ago
Truth can be stranger than fiction: my quarter century quest for a full-time position at the Voice of America Bangla Service. By Jamal Hasan I am a U.S. citizen of Bangladesh descent. We used to live in Florida until September of 1998. First time I took the VOA Bangla Broadcaster test back in 1985. The testing place was Miami, Florida. I got the passing score and was eligible to get a GS-9 level. My eligibility remained valid until August 8, 1988. The VOA Personnel Division, in a letter dated July 15, 1986 asked me to complete the necessary security papers to “expedite the processing of my application further”. I was fascinated to hear from them. I sent back the necessary papers duly filled in and signed by me. After not hearing from the VOA Personnel Division for a number of months, I inquired the matter with them. I was told the job was frozen due to a sudden federal budget cut. In reality, a person from abroad was hired during the same time period, which I later found out. After the year 1988, I took the test in Florida at least two more times and kept myself eligible to get a job until the late nineties. Notably, more than two persons were hired during the nineties, which I found out later. In 1995, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, a distant relative of my wife told me privately in his house in Rockville, Maryland that although I was a qualified candidate, the VOA Bangla Service Chief Mr. Iqbal Bahar Choudhury would like to have my total allegiance towards him. In this respect Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman gave the example of Mr. Kabiruddin Sarkar, who, according to Syed Ziaur Rahman, betrayed his so-called benefactor Iqbal Bahar Choudhury. Although I got a tacit assurance for getting a full-time job from Syed Ziaur Rahman in that informal meeting, that did not materialize in due time. Quite interestingly, at least two persons were hired after that episode. In the late nineties I met Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury a few times while we visited Washington DC area. In one meeting Mr. Choudhury told me, I would not be able to support my family with a POV (Purchase Order Vendor – part-time without any benefit position) job, which was available at the time. He suggested me to come to Washington DC area with a “project”, which means some kind of full-time job assignment. He assured me if I stayed nearby, my chance of getting a full-time job at VOA Bangla Service would be brighter. He also advised me to take the competitive tests on a regular basis to be on the pipeline. We moved to Maryland in September of 1998. I took a short-term contractual job with a private company after leaving my permanent full-time job with the State of Florida. My wife also had to quit her full-time bank job for this relocation. Because of a death in my family, I was not totally ready to retake the competitive test in 1999, whose eligibility ended a couple of years ago. However, in August of 2000 I took the test and obtained the qualifying score. I met Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury and requested him to remember me as a suitable candidate. In April of 2001 he hired someone from BBC, who was living in UK at the time. I brought up my situation with the then Director of VOA Mr. Robert Reilly. It seemed he was sympathetic to my situation. Suddenly I started to get calls from Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury, who left at least two voice messages at my home and one or two messages at my work at the US Census Bureau. I found out Mr. Choudhury was offering me a POV job, although I qualified to be a full-time Bangla Broadcaster at GS-9 level. During this time Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman also called me a few times and suggested me to take the offer. Mr. Rahman told me if I took the POV job, someday I would be considered to be a full-timer easily. I started to work as POV from January of 2002. While I was working at VOA Bangla Service as a POV, I had met Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury in person on a number of occasions. More than on one occasion Mr. Choudhury gave me the indication that someday I might be hired as a full-time Bangla broadcaster. He encouraged me to utilize most of my potential in broadcast performance. Also, several times he suggested me to move somewhere closer to Washington DC, where VOA Building is located. He was aware that after relocating from Florida, we had temporarily settled in a town not too far from Baltimore. In this aspect, I perceived that he might have been planning to hire me as a full-time broadcaster someday – otherwise he would not bother to tell me to move closer to DC. In 2003 Mr. Choudhury again recruited someone from BBC. The person also resided in UK. Before hiring the new employee, Mr. Choudhury did not give me any clue that I would be left out in his hiring process. I cannot recollect if I saw any job ad in IBB website depicting the particular position. After the second hiring of the staffer from BBC, I once discussed with Mr. Choudhury my job situation. I told him I was a qualified candidate who had been passing the required test for a number of times. Mr. Choudhury’s comment to me was, "test is not that important". He told me most important factor in the recruiting process was how fast I could do the translations, how proactive I would be in picking up assignments from the full-time regular staffers, how I could manage interviews etc. etc. In this respect I want to emphasize that usually the POVs aren’t given the opportunity to interview someone. In 2005, on a few occasions Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury asked me to call him by telephone to be in touch. He did not elaborate further on this gesture. He also advised me to read daily newspapers very attentively to keep abreast of current events. In course of time, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury was lessening his promising cue about giving me any regular full-time position. Nonetheless, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, my shift editor on Saturdays gave me a glow of hope once in a while. Mr. Rahman told me once they were aware I was a POV with great potentials and if I worked on the weekends I would be able to learn enough to be a full-timer. Mr. Rahman on numerous occasions told me that Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury was the ultimate decision maker who could provide me with my desired job. According to him, if Mr. Choudhury were pleased with me I would be getting the job eventually. I came to know that Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury once inquired his full-time staffers in a meeting about the quality of my performance. Most of the senior staffers told him I was an efficient broadcaster. In one occasion Mr. Choudhury once again gave me the impression that he had sympathy for me. In a one on one meeting he said to me that he would try his best to get me a full-time contractual job without benefit. He further added there were instances in other services [like in Hindi service] where people were hired full-time on a contractual basis. Unfortunately, that did not materialize. Nonetheless, in this particular circumstance his good intent towards me was well expressed. Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury’s well intention in my career effort seemed to be fading down gradually as time went by. Most importantly, one incidence could be indicative of his true agenda in matters of future hiring. One day, during the latter part of 2005 Mr. Choudhury asked me about the quality of performance of a regular broadcaster of the German Radio station Deutsche Welle. That person was Mr. Maskwaith Ahsan, who is in his late thirties. One thing is noteworthy; Mr. Maskwaith Ahsan did not have any television background. Mr.Choudhury was aware that my elder sister worked for the German radio station and he might have thought that I knew Mr. Ahsan. That particular inquiry from Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury shocked me to the greatest degree. I realized his future plan to recruit people for VOA Bangla Service revolved around picking current broadcasters of other foreign radio stations within a certain age group. That incidence shattered my all hopes to be a full-timer for the Service. I let Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury and Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman know about my experience as a Bangladesh Television News Producer. I even showed them photographs of me interviewing a few members of an American folk music group visiting Bangladesh. Also, I let Mr. Iqbal Chowdhury know that I was trained in Bangladesh by the world-renowned author of Broadcast Television, Dr. Herbert Zettl of San Francisco State University. When the advertisement of International Broadcaster (Bangla) GS-1001-12 [Announcement Number: M/P-05-183] was posted on the BBG homepage, I decided to apply. In the meantime I took the test in October of 2005 and got the qualifying score. Ironically, it was Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, who proctored my test, which he revealed to me after the score was finalized. I discussed my eligibility for this new position with Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman. Mr. Rahman told me, the VOA Bangla Service was looking for a “young face” from any of the private television stations in Bangladesh. He also mentioned the current TV people are used to modern broadcasting techniques. I realized my chance of even facing the interview was almost zero. Thus my dream for being a full-time employee has been evaporated in the thin air. I was wondering why Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury and Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman were giving me constant hope for a full-time job and how they were benefitted by squashing someone else’s dream! Quite amazingly, the talent of the first program of the VOA Bangla TV was nobody but Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury himself, who is almost in his seventies. He is now a familiar face in the VOA Bangla’s TV program “Washington Barta”. Other than the age factor, he does not have recent TV experience also. His television experience goes back to the days when he was a newscaster of Bangladesh TV before 1973, the year when he started to work for VOA Bangla http://www.voanews.com/bangla/banglastaff.cfm. Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman has been known to be a conduit for Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury. Often times, Mr. Rahman acted as a spokesperson of the VOA Bangla Service Chief. The tests used to be proctored among others by senior broadcasters like Roquia Haider and Dilara Hashem and Masuma Khatun Fahmi. Lately, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman has been proctoring some tests, which could lead someone to suspect the authenticity of test results. In this regard, one important point can be cited. In one evening of 2007, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman casually told me about a past occurrence. That happened when the VOA Bangla Service Chief was Mr. Ishtiaq Ahmed. A candidate from German Radio Deutsche Welle Mr. Sohel Samad was an applicant for the VOA Bangla Service job. Sohel took the test and Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman was assigned to proctor the test. Mr. Ziaur Rahman told me the then Service Chief Ishtiaq Ahmed asked him to give qualifying score for Mr. Sohel Samad because the candidate was his (Ishtiaq Ahmed’s) chosen one. Immediately I realized that was the time frame the VOA Personnel had asked me to complete the security papers indicating I might have been selected for the job. This sort of favoritism in a competitive test situation puts a question mark on the fairness of the selection process. Mr. Sohel Samad worked with the VOA Bangla Service until his untimely death in the mid-nineties. I heard from multiple sources that Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman himself failed in the Voice test in the entry exam, but got the job anyway. That episode is an open secret in the VOA Bangla Service. The favorite candidates sometimes have the opportune moments to get oriented for competitive tests. One favorite candidate of the VOA Bangla Service Chief, Shameem Chaudhury allegedly came to VOA office some nine years ago. Quite a few eyewitnesses told me that the particular candidate (that is Shameem Chaudhury) coming from a foreign land, was given a basic lesson of the VOA Bangla tests. The candidate was given some sample news reports from VOA sources to translate. Also, the candidate got a good overview of the equipment’s used in the VOA Bangla Service. It is as if the future favorite candidate was given all the training and orientation to pass the competitive test of a US federal agency. The test I passed five years ago was for GS-9 position. When I applied for the GS-12 position job [Announcement no: M/P-05-183], I asked an IBB Personnel staffer about this. She said the test I took was not meant for the new opening. It has been found that a candidate from UK came to VOA office six years ago and took the test. That test was, quite obviously, meant for GS-9 position. Now, the question may arise, did Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury consider the new recruit based on a GS-9 level job’s test score? Or, was any other criteria used for measuring his eligibility for the job? In this case, one important information can be relevant. Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman was openly bragging in the office that the new recruit got the highest score in the test. Hypothetically speaking, the new recruit might have taken the test before the hiring and that was meant for GS-12 job [Announcement Number: M/P-05-183]. Then again the question arises, why that specialized test for the GS-12 job was not open to all candidates? I am totally disgusted at the hiring practices prevailed in the Voice of America Bangla Service. The scenario can be described in a few sentences. Mr. Iqbal Bahar Choudhury, a native-born Bangladeshi goes to Bangladesh to recruit employees for a U.S. federal job. He scouts, picks, chooses and hires a candidate of his liking. Ultimately, the Director of the Voice of America and members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors are left out in the selection process for hiring important personnel for a sensitive U.S. governmental agency. The bottom line is, in a democratic society like in USA, VOA Bangla Service Chief recruits people like a dictator. Even the President of the United States cannot hire people so easily! Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury by denying me to face a broad interview stopped the process of equal employment opportunity. Moreover, he is personally responsible to mislead me in my career endeavor. Thus a qualified U.S. citizen was constantly left out, whereas non-US citizens on more than two occasions were given the highest preference. Due to the frequent illness of a few senior staffers, the Managing Editor of VOA Bangla gave me the opportunity to read broadcast news. Since July 25, 2006, I successfully performed newscast for VOA Bangla in the morning and evening shows. Not only that, I assisted the full-time broadcasters in regard to selection of prospective interviewees. A few of the notable interviewees connected by me are Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear physicist, Dr. A.K. Jalaluddin, a literacy expert of India and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In May of 2007, a non-US citizen VOA Bangla broadcaster allegedly breached the trust bestowed upon her. Sources said, this person, who was handpicked by Iqbal B. Choudhury from abroad, had committed not only unethical but supposedly a serious offense. It was alleged, that person in question in order to save long-distance telephone bill utilized the studio and engaged a VOA engineer for personal gossip with her acquaintance in Bangladesh. The hour long chitchat consisted of series of vilification laced with profanity about her co-workers. Quite ironically, the alleged perpetrator forgot to delete the recorded audio-file from the dalet. Very soon, this came to the notice of all the full-time staffers of the VOA Bangla. Copies of the scandalous “telephone gate”’s audio file were circulated among them. Unfortunately, the VOA Bangla service Chief Iqbal B. Choudhury did not take any action against her. Sources say, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury’s favorite person, the alleged perpetrator repeated the same unethical behavior more than once. Yet, presumably no action was taken against this individual. In the beginning of 2008, I came across with the VOA Bangla Service Chief outside the office building. I inquired about any future opening. He gave me a tentative assurance of providing me with a contractual full-time job without any benefit. The salary he offered me was simply preposterous. He told me if I was ready to take the job with the salary of $20,000 per annum. He asked me to take time to think about it. I decided not to respond to this inhumane generosity from his part. In September of 2009, a senior staffer with connection to the inner circle of VOA Bangla Service Chief gave me stunning news. The person told me, “Jamal, you must know that Mr. Iqbal Bahar Choudhury will never hire you as a full-time broadcaster. So, please do not cherish any dream about joining the service on a full-time basis.” In fact, I was not too much hopeful about my future at the VOA Bangla. After this dramatic disclosure from an authentic source, I realized even if I have gotten the perfect score in the test, even if I have acquired all the credentials to perform the job, Mr. Choudhury would never hire me as a full-timer. I understood the ground reality that the VOA Bangla Service Chief was running the office as if it was his property of serfdom. Because there is no accountability, no check and balance or there is no fairness, he can simply run the show like an autocrat of a banana republic. One day in November of 2009, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury called me in his office. He told me not to disclose this important piece of information. He suggested, the VOA Bangla management was thinking of letting me to do the VOA Bangla’s website design on a part-time basis. He asked me if I was interested to take the responsibility. I replied in affirmative. Although the conversation went on in cordial fashion, back in my mind I was very sure it was another of Mr. Choudhury’s nefarious midgame. He was aware I took the competitive test again in 2009 and scored a very high point. I politely asked him if I had any hope of getting a full-time job. At the time the only full-time broadcaster from West Bengal, India announced his early retirement. Mr. Choudhury very tactfully told me the authority was looking for a candidate from India with Television background. In the beginning of December of 2009, all the part-timers (POV’s) were communicated through grapevine that because of the elimination of the Bangla Service’s Breakfast Show, their service would no more be required from the beginning of the following year. On December 18, 2009, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury threw a feast to the departing part-time employees. In the function he did not utter a single word about the sudden elimination of the part-timers’ career. One young lady was introduced in the gathering. Sources said that individual without any broadcasting experience was selected to be the only full-time contractual multi-media person. The sources further added, the authority was looking for a “below forty female” to face the camera and microphone – thus she was hired. In essence, seven POV’s lost their jobs for this totally inexperienced individual. What a good example of age discrimination in a federal agency! Since January of 2010 I was forcibly out of my now former work place called the Voice of America. Thus, my quarter century quest for a full-time job with the Voice of America Bangla Service came to an end at last.
Jamal Hasan 7 years ago
The VOA Bangla Service Chief Iqbal B. Choudhury finally decided to retire. June 18th,2010 was his last day at work. Here is the video link of his farewell party: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeDtKvPqkkw
Jamal Hasan 7 years ago
[MY LETTER TO VOA DIRECTOR] Mr. Danforth W. Austin December 21, 2009 Director, Voice of America 330 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20237. Dear Mr. Austin, With great pain and anguish I am writing this letter to you. I have been working with the Voice of America Bangla Service for the last eight years as a part-time broadcaster, commonly known as POV. I a...

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Founded: 1995
Annual Budget: $720.15 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 1,871 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.bbg.gov/
Broadcasting Board of Governors
Stengel, Richard
Previous Chairman

Richard Stengel, who had a long career at Time magazine before joining the Obama administration, was nominated on November 28, 2016, to serve as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 

Stengel is from New York City. He went to Princeton University, where he played on the basketball team, including on the winning squad in the 1975 National Invitation Tournament. He graduated in 1977 and went on to study English and history at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

 

Stengel began at Time in 1981, initially writing for them as well as for other publications such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. He covered the 1988 presidential campaign for Time. In 1990, he came out with the book “January Sun: One Day, Three Lives, A South African Town,” which covered the period just before apartheid ended. The book caught the notice of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, and Stengel was retained to ghostwrite Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.” Stengel subsequently wrote “Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage,” about the time he spent with Mandela, and “You’re Too Kind, A Brief History of Flattery.”

 

Stengel returned to Time, and covered the 1996 presidential race. He left in 1999, when he took a leave of absence from the magazine to write speeches for Sen. Bill Bradley, who was running for president. Stengel had met Bradley when Bradley spoke to one of his classes at Princeton. Stengel also taught journalism classes at his alma mater during this period.

 

After Bradley’s campaign ended in 2000, Stengel went back to Time to lead Time.com. He subsequently served as culture editor and nation editor. Stengel stayed at the magazine four years before leaving again, this time to become president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a museum in Philadelphia.

 

However, that lasted only two years before being named in 2006 as Time’s managing editor. The magazine was at somewhat of a crossroads, dealing like most print publications with declining circulation. Stengel revamped the magazine, putting more focus on analysis and hard news. He even changed Time’s publication day to Friday, giving the magazine to subscribers for their weekend reading. Lowlights of his tenure included many layoffs and criticism for Time’s choice as 2006 Person of the Year: You.

 

Stengel left Time in 2013 and the following year joined the State Department as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Among other parts of his job, he was tasked with countering ISIS’ message. Stengel remained in that job until he was nominated for the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 

If Stengel is confirmed by the Senate, he probably shouldn’t get too comfortable. His term expires August 13, 2017.

 

Stengel is married to Mary Pfaff, whom he met while in South Africa working with Mandela. They have two sons, Anton, and Gabriel, who is Mandela’s godson.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

The Time of Their Lives (by Joe Hagen, New York)

Richard Stengel Is Chosen to Be Top Editor at Time (by Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times)

Q&A: Richard Stengel ’77 on Nelson Mandela (by Louis Jacobson, Princeton Alumni Weekly)

Biography (Wikipedia)

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Shell, Jeffrey
Former Chairman

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a controversy and scandal plagued independent federal agency responsible for all non-military broadcasting sponsored by the U.S. government, is set to get a new chairman. President Obama on September 12 announced his intent to nominate broadcasting executive Jeffrey Shell, currently President of NBCUniversal International, to succeed Walter Isaacson, who has been chair since June 2010.

 

Born circa 1965, Shell earned B.S. degrees in Economics and Applied Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1987. After working two years at Wall Street investment banking firm Salomon Brothers, Shell later told an interviewer “I wanted to work for a real business,” and returned to school to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1991.

 

Shell began his career on the business side of television working in the Corporate Strategic Planning Group at the Walt Disney Company, and then in a variety of positions at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, including as president of the FOX Cable Networks Group. Shell worked for Gemstar TV Guide International from 2002 to 2005, starting as co-president and co-chief operating officer and ending as CEO.

 

Shell was president of Comcast Programming Group from 2005 to 2011, responsible for Comcast’s national and regional television networks, including E! Entertainment Network, Style Network, G4, the Golf Channel, PBS KIDS Sprout, VERSUS, TV One, International Channel networks, and eleven regional sports networks run under the aegis of Comcast Sports Group. Since 2011, Jeff Shell has been president, but not CEO, of NBCUniversal, based in London, U.K., and responsible for overseeing International TV Distribution, Global Television Networks, and International Television Production.

 

Shell serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the National Constitution Center, and is active in a number of organizations involved in public school reform. A Democrat, Shell has made political contribution totaling $222,950 since 1995, mostly to Democratic candidates and committees, including $82,600 to the Democratic National Committee, $16,500 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and thousands to numerous Democratic candidates, mostly at the Senatorial level. He has also contributed $42,000 to two broadcasting-related PACs: $25,000 to ComCast PAC and $17,000 to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. According to the website OpenSecrets, Shell has contributed to neither of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, nor to his 2004 Senate campaign.

 

Shell and his wife Laura have a daughter, Anna.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

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Overview:

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent federal agency responsible for all non-military broadcasting sponsored by the U.S. government. Once a part of the United States Information Agency, BBG oversees seven international broadcasters. BBG seeks to “promote and sustain freedom” through the broadcast of news and information about the United States and the world to overseas audiences. Some of BBG’s networks were created to promote a pro-American message to audiences in the Middle East—but instead they have broadcast unflattering accounts of the U.S. In addition, the leadership of the BBG has been the source of its own, unwanted, news for misuse of federal funds for gambling and to reward personal friends.

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History:

In 1990, all U.S. government international broadcasting services began to work more closely, as new media made newsgathering faster and more prevalent. That year, the U.S. Information Agency established the Bureau of Broadcasting to consolidate its three broadcasting services: the Voice of America, WORLDNET Television and Film Service, and Radio and TV Marti. These three came together under one organization and were supported by the Office of Engineering and Technical Operations. In 1991, the Bureau of Broadcasting created the Office of Affiliate Relations and Audience Analysis (renamed the Office of Affiliate Relations and Media Training in 1996). This office was charged with establishing and maintaining a network of affiliated radio and television stations around the globe to broadcast Voice of America and WORLDNET produced programs. Today, more than 1,200 radio and television stations receive programming through the Office of Affiliate Relations.

 
In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the International Broadcasting Act, which consolidated federal government international broadcasting even further. With this legislation, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) was created within the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BGG) was established. These governors were given oversight authority over all non-military government international broadcasting. The IBB is comprised of the Voice of America and Radio and TV Marti, along with the Office of Engineering and Technical Services. In 2004, WORLDNET TV was folded into Voice of America.
 
The BBG was organized under a Secretary of State (ex officio) and eight members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The first BBG was sworn in on August 11, 1995. The BBG became an independent agency on October 1, 1999, as a result of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998.
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What it Does:

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed o The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed o The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is responsible for all non-military international broadcasting sponsored by the federal government. In order to “promote and sustain freedom,” the BBG seeks to broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world overseas audiences. BBG’s work involves reaching mass audiences by programming content for AM, FM, audio and video satellite, shortwave radio and the Internet, through seven independent broadcasting organizations that collectively broadcast in 65 languages in more than 125 markets around the world. The BBG is composed of nine members, eight of whom are appointed by the President.

 
BBG’s programs consist of:
  • Voice of America (VOA) offers continuously updated programs on satellite, FM, AM and shortwave radio frequencies, as well as streaming media and downloadable formats at VOANews.com.  
  • Alhurra is a satellite TV channel broadcasting in the Middle East. 
  • Radio Sawa is an Arabic language radio station providing news and information to youth in Arabic-speaking countries. 
  • Radio Farda is a Persian language radio station based in Prague and Washington D.C. It broadcasts political, cultural, social and art news, with an emphasis on Iran. 
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a radio and communications organization broadcasting in 28 languages around the world via shortwave, AM, FM and the Internet. It tries to promote democracy by “disseminating factual information and ideas.”
  • Radio Free Asia (RFA) is a private radio station broadcasting in nine Asian languages.
  • Radio Marti and TV Marti is a radio and television broadcaster located in Miami broadcasting Spanish-language programs to Cuba and the United States.
 
In early 2010, the BBG conducted tests that successfully transmitted email data to computers in China, bypassing Chinese Internet censor filters. The technology used, called Feed Over Email (FOE), compresses data so it can travel in an encoded stealth mode, undetected, and be decoded at the receiving end.
 
The BBG is also using social media to support popular democratic movements around the world, with Voice of America setting up Facebook pages and partnering with online video site Citizen Global.
From the Web Site of Broadcasting Board of Governors

 

 

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Where Does the Money Go:

The BBG spent more than $848 million on 30,536 contractor transactions during the period of FY 2002 to FY 2012. According to USASpending.gov, BBG paid for a variety of services, from communication, engineering and data storage to special studies and analyses in support of its programs.

 
These were the top five recipients of BBG money, including the amount each was paid by BBG and its percentage of overall contractor spending: 
1. Miscellaneous Foreign Contractors                                    $228,076,698 (27%) 
2. Intermedia Survey Institute                                                            $44,512,155    (5%)   
3. Thales                                                                                 $23,206,620    (3%)   
4. Asiasat BVI Limited                                                           $22,593,002    (3%)   
5. GPC Foreign Business                                                        $18,321,711    (2%)   
 
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Controversies:

BBG Networks Broadcast Anti-American Material

In June 2008, Alhurra and Sawa, founded by the Bush administration to promote a positive image of the United States in the Middle East, were found to have aired anti-American and anti-Israeli viewpoints, showcased pro-Iranian policies and given air time to a militant who called for the death of American soldiers in Iraq.
 
The federal government has spent almost $500 million to fund the Alhurra television network and the Sawa radio network. Launched as an alternative to Al Jazeera, Alhurra has suffered from numerous problems and gaffes. Alhurra’s reporters and commentators operate with little oversight. Alhurra’s president, Brian Conniff, does not speak Arabic and is unable to understand anything broadcast on the radio and television networks he is paid to manage. Conniff has no journalism experience and worked previously as a government auditor. His news director, Daniel Nassif, grew up in Lebanon and has no background in television. Before coming to the network, he helped promote the political aspirations in Washington of a Lebanese Christian former general.
 
BBG Head Removed from Board
In August 2006, The New York Times reported that Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, then-director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was being removed from office after a State Department report revealed that he had used his office to run a “horse racing operation” and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll. This came a year after Tomlinson had been removed from a position at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, after another inquiry found that he had violated rules meant to insulate public television and radio from political influence.
Broadcast Chief Misused Office, Inquiry Reports (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)          
 
Bush Appointees at Odds with National Public Radio Programming
In May 2005, The New York Times reported that executives at National Public Radio were increasingly at odds with Bush-appointed representatives at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), including Kenneth Tomlinson, then-chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. CPB led by Tomlinson had appointed two ombudsmen to judge the content of programs for balance, and NPR station managers criticized this decision, urging CPB not to interfere in its editorial decisions. CPB also blocked NPR from broadcasting its programs at a Voice of America radio station in Berlin.
A Battle Over Programming at National Public Radio (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
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Debate:

Should the Voice of America (VOA) and other U.S. Government-Sponsored Broadcasts Spend more Time Emphasizing American Values?

This topic was discussed at a congressional hearing in April 2011 by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
 
Yes:
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), chairman of the subcommittee, argued that the Broadcasting Board of Governors should steer their operations in the direction of promoting American values. The congressman and others believe the U.S. must accept the reality that it is fighting an “information war” with Islam, a war the country can’t afford to lose. “This is a very dangerous time, you must get activated,” Pamela Geller, the executive director of the Stop Islamization of America organization, said at a press conference. “Your children will not grow up in any world you will recognize. You will not like what comes after America.”
 
No:
Georgetown University lecturer Chris Chambers disagrees with the proposal to propagandize the VOA. To take this direction would only cause more residents of foreign countries to tune out these broadcasts, causing the U.S. to lose access to audiences. Emphasizing news and objective reporting will increase respect for U.S. government broadcasts, and allow the VOA to capture more listeners. Amir Fakhravar, with the Confederation of Iranian Students, complained at the hearing that the VOA’s Radio Farda has gone down the wrong path, bringing in staff with no journalism background and “boycotting and even slandering people they don’t agree with.”
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Former Directors:

James K. Glassman (June 2007 to December 2007)

 
James Glassman served as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for less than one year when he was selected by President George W. Bush in December 2007 to replace Karen Hughes as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department.
 
Glassman is a graduate of Harvard University, where he was managing editor of the university daily, The Crimson.
 
Between July 1993 and July 2004, he was an investing columnist for The Washington Post. For four years, he also wrote an op-ed column for The Washington Post on political and economic issues. His articles have been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and other publications. Glassman's most recent book is The Secret Code of the Superior Investor.
 
Glassman was a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington public policy think tank. He was editor-in-chief of The American, AEI’s bimonthly magazine of business and economics.
 
He was also the former president of The Atlantic Monthly Co., publisher of The New Republic, executive vice president of US News & World Report, and editor-in-chief and co-owner of Roll Call, the congressional newspaper.
 
Glassman hosts the PBS program Ideas in Action, and previously hosted Capital Gang Sunday on CNN and TechnoPolitics on PBS. In 2000, he co-founded Tech Central Station.com, a technology and policy web site.
 
He was a member of the President’s Council on the 21st Century Workforce and serves on the board of trustees of the U.S. Chamber Foundation and the Intel Corp. Public Policy Advisory Board. He has been named to head the George W. Bush Institute at the Bush Presidential Library, scheduled to open at Southern Methodist University in 2013.
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Jamal Hasan 6 months ago
Truth can be stranger than fiction: my quarter century quest for a full-time position at the Voice of America Bangla Service. By Jamal Hasan I am a U.S. citizen of Bangladesh descent. We used to live in Florida until September of 1998. First time I took the VOA Bangla Broadcaster test back in 1985. The testing place was Miami, Florida. I got the passing score and was eligible to get a GS-9 level. My eligibility remained valid until August 8, 1988. The VOA Personnel Division, in a letter dated July 15, 1986 asked me to complete the necessary security papers to “expedite the processing of my application further”. I was fascinated to hear from them. I sent back the necessary papers duly filled in and signed by me. After not hearing from the VOA Personnel Division for a number of months, I inquired the matter with them. I was told the job was frozen due to a sudden federal budget cut. In reality, a person from abroad was hired during the same time period, which I later found out. After the year 1988, I took the test in Florida at least two more times and kept myself eligible to get a job until the late nineties. Notably, more than two persons were hired during the nineties, which I found out later. In 1995, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, a distant relative of my wife told me privately in his house in Rockville, Maryland that although I was a qualified candidate, the VOA Bangla Service Chief Mr. Iqbal Bahar Choudhury would like to have my total allegiance towards him. In this respect Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman gave the example of Mr. Kabiruddin Sarkar, who, according to Syed Ziaur Rahman, betrayed his so-called benefactor Iqbal Bahar Choudhury. Although I got a tacit assurance for getting a full-time job from Syed Ziaur Rahman in that informal meeting, that did not materialize in due time. Quite interestingly, at least two persons were hired after that episode. In the late nineties I met Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury a few times while we visited Washington DC area. In one meeting Mr. Choudhury told me, I would not be able to support my family with a POV (Purchase Order Vendor – part-time without any benefit position) job, which was available at the time. He suggested me to come to Washington DC area with a “project”, which means some kind of full-time job assignment. He assured me if I stayed nearby, my chance of getting a full-time job at VOA Bangla Service would be brighter. He also advised me to take the competitive tests on a regular basis to be on the pipeline. We moved to Maryland in September of 1998. I took a short-term contractual job with a private company after leaving my permanent full-time job with the State of Florida. My wife also had to quit her full-time bank job for this relocation. Because of a death in my family, I was not totally ready to retake the competitive test in 1999, whose eligibility ended a couple of years ago. However, in August of 2000 I took the test and obtained the qualifying score. I met Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury and requested him to remember me as a suitable candidate. In April of 2001 he hired someone from BBC, who was living in UK at the time. I brought up my situation with the then Director of VOA Mr. Robert Reilly. It seemed he was sympathetic to my situation. Suddenly I started to get calls from Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury, who left at least two voice messages at my home and one or two messages at my work at the US Census Bureau. I found out Mr. Choudhury was offering me a POV job, although I qualified to be a full-time Bangla Broadcaster at GS-9 level. During this time Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman also called me a few times and suggested me to take the offer. Mr. Rahman told me if I took the POV job, someday I would be considered to be a full-timer easily. I started to work as POV from January of 2002. While I was working at VOA Bangla Service as a POV, I had met Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury in person on a number of occasions. More than on one occasion Mr. Choudhury gave me the indication that someday I might be hired as a full-time Bangla broadcaster. He encouraged me to utilize most of my potential in broadcast performance. Also, several times he suggested me to move somewhere closer to Washington DC, where VOA Building is located. He was aware that after relocating from Florida, we had temporarily settled in a town not too far from Baltimore. In this aspect, I perceived that he might have been planning to hire me as a full-time broadcaster someday – otherwise he would not bother to tell me to move closer to DC. In 2003 Mr. Choudhury again recruited someone from BBC. The person also resided in UK. Before hiring the new employee, Mr. Choudhury did not give me any clue that I would be left out in his hiring process. I cannot recollect if I saw any job ad in IBB website depicting the particular position. After the second hiring of the staffer from BBC, I once discussed with Mr. Choudhury my job situation. I told him I was a qualified candidate who had been passing the required test for a number of times. Mr. Choudhury’s comment to me was, "test is not that important". He told me most important factor in the recruiting process was how fast I could do the translations, how proactive I would be in picking up assignments from the full-time regular staffers, how I could manage interviews etc. etc. In this respect I want to emphasize that usually the POVs aren’t given the opportunity to interview someone. In 2005, on a few occasions Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury asked me to call him by telephone to be in touch. He did not elaborate further on this gesture. He also advised me to read daily newspapers very attentively to keep abreast of current events. In course of time, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury was lessening his promising cue about giving me any regular full-time position. Nonetheless, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, my shift editor on Saturdays gave me a glow of hope once in a while. Mr. Rahman told me once they were aware I was a POV with great potentials and if I worked on the weekends I would be able to learn enough to be a full-timer. Mr. Rahman on numerous occasions told me that Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury was the ultimate decision maker who could provide me with my desired job. According to him, if Mr. Choudhury were pleased with me I would be getting the job eventually. I came to know that Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury once inquired his full-time staffers in a meeting about the quality of my performance. Most of the senior staffers told him I was an efficient broadcaster. In one occasion Mr. Choudhury once again gave me the impression that he had sympathy for me. In a one on one meeting he said to me that he would try his best to get me a full-time contractual job without benefit. He further added there were instances in other services [like in Hindi service] where people were hired full-time on a contractual basis. Unfortunately, that did not materialize. Nonetheless, in this particular circumstance his good intent towards me was well expressed. Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury’s well intention in my career effort seemed to be fading down gradually as time went by. Most importantly, one incidence could be indicative of his true agenda in matters of future hiring. One day, during the latter part of 2005 Mr. Choudhury asked me about the quality of performance of a regular broadcaster of the German Radio station Deutsche Welle. That person was Mr. Maskwaith Ahsan, who is in his late thirties. One thing is noteworthy; Mr. Maskwaith Ahsan did not have any television background. Mr.Choudhury was aware that my elder sister worked for the German radio station and he might have thought that I knew Mr. Ahsan. That particular inquiry from Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury shocked me to the greatest degree. I realized his future plan to recruit people for VOA Bangla Service revolved around picking current broadcasters of other foreign radio stations within a certain age group. That incidence shattered my all hopes to be a full-timer for the Service. I let Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury and Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman know about my experience as a Bangladesh Television News Producer. I even showed them photographs of me interviewing a few members of an American folk music group visiting Bangladesh. Also, I let Mr. Iqbal Chowdhury know that I was trained in Bangladesh by the world-renowned author of Broadcast Television, Dr. Herbert Zettl of San Francisco State University. When the advertisement of International Broadcaster (Bangla) GS-1001-12 [Announcement Number: M/P-05-183] was posted on the BBG homepage, I decided to apply. In the meantime I took the test in October of 2005 and got the qualifying score. Ironically, it was Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman, who proctored my test, which he revealed to me after the score was finalized. I discussed my eligibility for this new position with Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman. Mr. Rahman told me, the VOA Bangla Service was looking for a “young face” from any of the private television stations in Bangladesh. He also mentioned the current TV people are used to modern broadcasting techniques. I realized my chance of even facing the interview was almost zero. Thus my dream for being a full-time employee has been evaporated in the thin air. I was wondering why Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury and Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman were giving me constant hope for a full-time job and how they were benefitted by squashing someone else’s dream! Quite amazingly, the talent of the first program of the VOA Bangla TV was nobody but Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury himself, who is almost in his seventies. He is now a familiar face in the VOA Bangla’s TV program “Washington Barta”. Other than the age factor, he does not have recent TV experience also. His television experience goes back to the days when he was a newscaster of Bangladesh TV before 1973, the year when he started to work for VOA Bangla http://www.voanews.com/bangla/banglastaff.cfm. Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman has been known to be a conduit for Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury. Often times, Mr. Rahman acted as a spokesperson of the VOA Bangla Service Chief. The tests used to be proctored among others by senior broadcasters like Roquia Haider and Dilara Hashem and Masuma Khatun Fahmi. Lately, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman has been proctoring some tests, which could lead someone to suspect the authenticity of test results. In this regard, one important point can be cited. In one evening of 2007, Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman casually told me about a past occurrence. That happened when the VOA Bangla Service Chief was Mr. Ishtiaq Ahmed. A candidate from German Radio Deutsche Welle Mr. Sohel Samad was an applicant for the VOA Bangla Service job. Sohel took the test and Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman was assigned to proctor the test. Mr. Ziaur Rahman told me the then Service Chief Ishtiaq Ahmed asked him to give qualifying score for Mr. Sohel Samad because the candidate was his (Ishtiaq Ahmed’s) chosen one. Immediately I realized that was the time frame the VOA Personnel had asked me to complete the security papers indicating I might have been selected for the job. This sort of favoritism in a competitive test situation puts a question mark on the fairness of the selection process. Mr. Sohel Samad worked with the VOA Bangla Service until his untimely death in the mid-nineties. I heard from multiple sources that Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman himself failed in the Voice test in the entry exam, but got the job anyway. That episode is an open secret in the VOA Bangla Service. The favorite candidates sometimes have the opportune moments to get oriented for competitive tests. One favorite candidate of the VOA Bangla Service Chief, Shameem Chaudhury allegedly came to VOA office some nine years ago. Quite a few eyewitnesses told me that the particular candidate (that is Shameem Chaudhury) coming from a foreign land, was given a basic lesson of the VOA Bangla tests. The candidate was given some sample news reports from VOA sources to translate. Also, the candidate got a good overview of the equipment’s used in the VOA Bangla Service. It is as if the future favorite candidate was given all the training and orientation to pass the competitive test of a US federal agency. The test I passed five years ago was for GS-9 position. When I applied for the GS-12 position job [Announcement no: M/P-05-183], I asked an IBB Personnel staffer about this. She said the test I took was not meant for the new opening. It has been found that a candidate from UK came to VOA office six years ago and took the test. That test was, quite obviously, meant for GS-9 position. Now, the question may arise, did Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury consider the new recruit based on a GS-9 level job’s test score? Or, was any other criteria used for measuring his eligibility for the job? In this case, one important information can be relevant. Mr. Syed Ziaur Rahman was openly bragging in the office that the new recruit got the highest score in the test. Hypothetically speaking, the new recruit might have taken the test before the hiring and that was meant for GS-12 job [Announcement Number: M/P-05-183]. Then again the question arises, why that specialized test for the GS-12 job was not open to all candidates? I am totally disgusted at the hiring practices prevailed in the Voice of America Bangla Service. The scenario can be described in a few sentences. Mr. Iqbal Bahar Choudhury, a native-born Bangladeshi goes to Bangladesh to recruit employees for a U.S. federal job. He scouts, picks, chooses and hires a candidate of his liking. Ultimately, the Director of the Voice of America and members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors are left out in the selection process for hiring important personnel for a sensitive U.S. governmental agency. The bottom line is, in a democratic society like in USA, VOA Bangla Service Chief recruits people like a dictator. Even the President of the United States cannot hire people so easily! Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury by denying me to face a broad interview stopped the process of equal employment opportunity. Moreover, he is personally responsible to mislead me in my career endeavor. Thus a qualified U.S. citizen was constantly left out, whereas non-US citizens on more than two occasions were given the highest preference. Due to the frequent illness of a few senior staffers, the Managing Editor of VOA Bangla gave me the opportunity to read broadcast news. Since July 25, 2006, I successfully performed newscast for VOA Bangla in the morning and evening shows. Not only that, I assisted the full-time broadcasters in regard to selection of prospective interviewees. A few of the notable interviewees connected by me are Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear physicist, Dr. A.K. Jalaluddin, a literacy expert of India and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In May of 2007, a non-US citizen VOA Bangla broadcaster allegedly breached the trust bestowed upon her. Sources said, this person, who was handpicked by Iqbal B. Choudhury from abroad, had committed not only unethical but supposedly a serious offense. It was alleged, that person in question in order to save long-distance telephone bill utilized the studio and engaged a VOA engineer for personal gossip with her acquaintance in Bangladesh. The hour long chitchat consisted of series of vilification laced with profanity about her co-workers. Quite ironically, the alleged perpetrator forgot to delete the recorded audio-file from the dalet. Very soon, this came to the notice of all the full-time staffers of the VOA Bangla. Copies of the scandalous “telephone gate”’s audio file were circulated among them. Unfortunately, the VOA Bangla service Chief Iqbal B. Choudhury did not take any action against her. Sources say, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury’s favorite person, the alleged perpetrator repeated the same unethical behavior more than once. Yet, presumably no action was taken against this individual. In the beginning of 2008, I came across with the VOA Bangla Service Chief outside the office building. I inquired about any future opening. He gave me a tentative assurance of providing me with a contractual full-time job without any benefit. The salary he offered me was simply preposterous. He told me if I was ready to take the job with the salary of $20,000 per annum. He asked me to take time to think about it. I decided not to respond to this inhumane generosity from his part. In September of 2009, a senior staffer with connection to the inner circle of VOA Bangla Service Chief gave me stunning news. The person told me, “Jamal, you must know that Mr. Iqbal Bahar Choudhury will never hire you as a full-time broadcaster. So, please do not cherish any dream about joining the service on a full-time basis.” In fact, I was not too much hopeful about my future at the VOA Bangla. After this dramatic disclosure from an authentic source, I realized even if I have gotten the perfect score in the test, even if I have acquired all the credentials to perform the job, Mr. Choudhury would never hire me as a full-timer. I understood the ground reality that the VOA Bangla Service Chief was running the office as if it was his property of serfdom. Because there is no accountability, no check and balance or there is no fairness, he can simply run the show like an autocrat of a banana republic. One day in November of 2009, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury called me in his office. He told me not to disclose this important piece of information. He suggested, the VOA Bangla management was thinking of letting me to do the VOA Bangla’s website design on a part-time basis. He asked me if I was interested to take the responsibility. I replied in affirmative. Although the conversation went on in cordial fashion, back in my mind I was very sure it was another of Mr. Choudhury’s nefarious midgame. He was aware I took the competitive test again in 2009 and scored a very high point. I politely asked him if I had any hope of getting a full-time job. At the time the only full-time broadcaster from West Bengal, India announced his early retirement. Mr. Choudhury very tactfully told me the authority was looking for a candidate from India with Television background. In the beginning of December of 2009, all the part-timers (POV’s) were communicated through grapevine that because of the elimination of the Bangla Service’s Breakfast Show, their service would no more be required from the beginning of the following year. On December 18, 2009, Mr. Iqbal B. Choudhury threw a feast to the departing part-time employees. In the function he did not utter a single word about the sudden elimination of the part-timers’ career. One young lady was introduced in the gathering. Sources said that individual without any broadcasting experience was selected to be the only full-time contractual multi-media person. The sources further added, the authority was looking for a “below forty female” to face the camera and microphone – thus she was hired. In essence, seven POV’s lost their jobs for this totally inexperienced individual. What a good example of age discrimination in a federal agency! Since January of 2010 I was forcibly out of my now former work place called the Voice of America. Thus, my quarter century quest for a full-time job with the Voice of America Bangla Service came to an end at last.
Jamal Hasan 7 years ago
The VOA Bangla Service Chief Iqbal B. Choudhury finally decided to retire. June 18th,2010 was his last day at work. Here is the video link of his farewell party: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeDtKvPqkkw
Jamal Hasan 7 years ago
[MY LETTER TO VOA DIRECTOR] Mr. Danforth W. Austin December 21, 2009 Director, Voice of America 330 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20237. Dear Mr. Austin, With great pain and anguish I am writing this letter to you. I have been working with the Voice of America Bangla Service for the last eight years as a part-time broadcaster, commonly known as POV. I a...

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Founded: 1995
Annual Budget: $720.15 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 1,871 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.bbg.gov/
Broadcasting Board of Governors
Stengel, Richard
Previous Chairman

Richard Stengel, who had a long career at Time magazine before joining the Obama administration, was nominated on November 28, 2016, to serve as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 

Stengel is from New York City. He went to Princeton University, where he played on the basketball team, including on the winning squad in the 1975 National Invitation Tournament. He graduated in 1977 and went on to study English and history at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

 

Stengel began at Time in 1981, initially writing for them as well as for other publications such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. He covered the 1988 presidential campaign for Time. In 1990, he came out with the book “January Sun: One Day, Three Lives, A South African Town,” which covered the period just before apartheid ended. The book caught the notice of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, and Stengel was retained to ghostwrite Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.” Stengel subsequently wrote “Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage,” about the time he spent with Mandela, and “You’re Too Kind, A Brief History of Flattery.”

 

Stengel returned to Time, and covered the 1996 presidential race. He left in 1999, when he took a leave of absence from the magazine to write speeches for Sen. Bill Bradley, who was running for president. Stengel had met Bradley when Bradley spoke to one of his classes at Princeton. Stengel also taught journalism classes at his alma mater during this period.

 

After Bradley’s campaign ended in 2000, Stengel went back to Time to lead Time.com. He subsequently served as culture editor and nation editor. Stengel stayed at the magazine four years before leaving again, this time to become president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a museum in Philadelphia.

 

However, that lasted only two years before being named in 2006 as Time’s managing editor. The magazine was at somewhat of a crossroads, dealing like most print publications with declining circulation. Stengel revamped the magazine, putting more focus on analysis and hard news. He even changed Time’s publication day to Friday, giving the magazine to subscribers for their weekend reading. Lowlights of his tenure included many layoffs and criticism for Time’s choice as 2006 Person of the Year: You.

 

Stengel left Time in 2013 and the following year joined the State Department as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Among other parts of his job, he was tasked with countering ISIS’ message. Stengel remained in that job until he was nominated for the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

 

If Stengel is confirmed by the Senate, he probably shouldn’t get too comfortable. His term expires August 13, 2017.

 

Stengel is married to Mary Pfaff, whom he met while in South Africa working with Mandela. They have two sons, Anton, and Gabriel, who is Mandela’s godson.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

The Time of Their Lives (by Joe Hagen, New York)

Richard Stengel Is Chosen to Be Top Editor at Time (by Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times)

Q&A: Richard Stengel ’77 on Nelson Mandela (by Louis Jacobson, Princeton Alumni Weekly)

Biography (Wikipedia)

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Shell, Jeffrey
Former Chairman

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a controversy and scandal plagued independent federal agency responsible for all non-military broadcasting sponsored by the U.S. government, is set to get a new chairman. President Obama on September 12 announced his intent to nominate broadcasting executive Jeffrey Shell, currently President of NBCUniversal International, to succeed Walter Isaacson, who has been chair since June 2010.

 

Born circa 1965, Shell earned B.S. degrees in Economics and Applied Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1987. After working two years at Wall Street investment banking firm Salomon Brothers, Shell later told an interviewer “I wanted to work for a real business,” and returned to school to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1991.

 

Shell began his career on the business side of television working in the Corporate Strategic Planning Group at the Walt Disney Company, and then in a variety of positions at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, including as president of the FOX Cable Networks Group. Shell worked for Gemstar TV Guide International from 2002 to 2005, starting as co-president and co-chief operating officer and ending as CEO.

 

Shell was president of Comcast Programming Group from 2005 to 2011, responsible for Comcast’s national and regional television networks, including E! Entertainment Network, Style Network, G4, the Golf Channel, PBS KIDS Sprout, VERSUS, TV One, International Channel networks, and eleven regional sports networks run under the aegis of Comcast Sports Group. Since 2011, Jeff Shell has been president, but not CEO, of NBCUniversal, based in London, U.K., and responsible for overseeing International TV Distribution, Global Television Networks, and International Television Production.

 

Shell serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the National Constitution Center, and is active in a number of organizations involved in public school reform. A Democrat, Shell has made political contribution totaling $222,950 since 1995, mostly to Democratic candidates and committees, including $82,600 to the Democratic National Committee, $16,500 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and thousands to numerous Democratic candidates, mostly at the Senatorial level. He has also contributed $42,000 to two broadcasting-related PACs: $25,000 to ComCast PAC and $17,000 to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. According to the website OpenSecrets, Shell has contributed to neither of President Obama’s presidential campaigns, nor to his 2004 Senate campaign.

 

Shell and his wife Laura have a daughter, Anna.

-Matt Bewig

 

Official Biography

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