By pure coincidence, two new senior executives of the London-based BBC World Service and the Washington-based Voice of America and four other U.S. overseas networks were named on May 4 and 5. Together, those networks reach more than two-thirds of a billion users a week — the largest ever in both the BBC’s and the VOA’s global reach.
Restructuring at U.S.-Funded International Media
The new CEO of U.S.-funded international broadcasting is Michael Pack, the director of the former U.S. WorldNet Television service in the late 1980s and since then, senior producer of a number of non-government public service TV programs in the U.S. Mr. Pack will oversee VOA and America’s four other multimedia networks. His appointment was approved June 4 by a 53-38 vote of the U.S. Senate, and Mr. Pack will be operating in a modified executive restructuring of U.S.-funded overseas media.
The departing CEO, Grant Turner, has served since last October 1. He issued a departure message thanking the VOA staff and those of the other four U.S. government-funded networks for their work. He added: “I’m sure you will join me in congratulating Mr. Pack on his confirmation and welcoming him… Like me, I know that he will be deeply impressed by your dedication to our mission, and in awe of the power of your amazing journalism.”
Mr.Turner also clarified legislative changes in the way American public overseas networks will be organized as he leaves office. In his farewell message to the more than 3,000 workers in U.S. government overseas broadcasts, the departing CEO said:
“I hope you will join me in thanking the members of our bipartisan Governing Board (widely known as the presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed Broadcasting Board of Governors). All of them have served well beyond their standard (three-year) terms to provide a continuity of leadership until this time.”
“Upon Mr. Pack’s confirmation,” Mr. Turner explained, “the Governing Board is dissolved, and a (new) Advisory Board will be constituted to provide advice and guidance to the (new) CEO.” That Advisory Board’s membership still remains to be determined.
(VOA is the largest of the five multimedia U.S. federally-funded overseas networks. Others are: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcast Network in Arabic and Radio-TV Marti in Spanish to Cuba. They all report to CEO Pack, now the senior executive in what was known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors but was recently renamed as the U.S. Agency for Global Media (the USAGM).
Management Restructuring at the BBC
The new highest-ranking senior executive of the BBC is Tim Davie, the BBC Studios supervisor and veteran staff member who has served as Acting Director since 2013, joined the corporation in 2005, and now assumes charge of the entire BBC, in the U.K. and globally.
Mr. Davie will officially assume his new post as the BBC’s 17th senior executive on September 1.
Britain’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Oliver Dowden praised the appointment, saying that “he has underlined his commitment to impartiality at the BBC as well as the need for further reform.”
Additional Background on the Pack Appointment
Mr. Pack was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 4. That process took two years, because of a complex confirmation process in the U.S. Senate and concerns that Mr. Pack might have misallocated funding between private profit and non-profit TV organizations for which he sought donations. That was cleared up by the Senate subcommittee in late May, setting the stage for his confirmation by the full Senate.
On April 15 at the White House, Mr.Trump became the first U.S. president to sharply criticize VOA during a nationally-televised press conference. “If you heard what’s coming out of the Voice of America,” the President said, “it’s disgusting… things they say are disgusting toward our country… it’s a disgrace.”
Although Mr. Trump offered no details, it was obvious from a widely-circulated White House newsletter, 1600, that his ire was centered on a VOA report about the re-opening of the Chinese city of Wuhan after an extended closure due to the outbreak there of the original COVID-19 virus. He urged the Senate to act quickly on confirming his nominee for CEO, Mr. Pack. (The final hearing of that confirmation by the Senate subcommittee on foreign affairs was still pending).
VOA Director Amanda Bennett also in April, issued an official statement to clarify the situation: “One of the big differences between publicly-funded independent media like the Voice of America and state-controlled media is that we are free to show all sides of an issue and are actually mandated to do so by law as stated in the VOA Charter signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976. We are thoroughly covering China’s disinformation and misinformation in English and Mandarin and at the same time reporting factually — as we always do in all 47 of our broadcast languages — on other events in China.”
The law was passed in 1976 and reiterated 1998 reiterating the Voice’s mandate to “serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”
I served under 14 VOA directors during my 36 years at the Voice, and can assure you that all of them, whether confirmed by Congress during Republican or Democratic administrations, endorsed the Charter and shielded the Voice from interference in its critical mission. Mr. Pack assured the Senate subcommittee last September that he would honor the networks’ commitment to accurate, objective, and balanced news.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More