Through the hole in the firewall, President Obama nominates Richard M. Lobo to be director of the IBB.

Posted: 08 Feb 2010   Print   Send a link
"Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate ... Richard M. Lobo, Director, International Broadcasting Bureau. ... Richard M. Lobo is currently serving as chairman of the Florida Public Broadcasting Service Inc. Mr. Lobo is president and chief executive officer of WEDU (PBS)Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota. He previously was president and general manager of WTVJ in Miami, station manager for WNBC-TV in New York, and vice president and general manager of NBC stations in Chicago and Cleveland. ... He also served as Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in the United States Information Agency from 1994-1995." The White House, 4 February 2010.
     "Lobo, 73, still must be confirmed by the Senate, so he may not be leaving Tampa soon. But the executive, whose wife, Caren, spearheaded fundraising for Barack Obama in Florida during the 2008 presidential election, will eventually leave for Washington, D.C., if confirmed, working under the Broadcasting Board of Governors." Eric Deggans, St. Petersburg Times, 5 February 2010.
     Despite the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 placing US international broadcasting under the "firewall" of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a major defect in that Act is that the president still appoints (with Senate consent) the director of the International Broadcasting Bureau.
     On paper, the IBB is the parent entity of VOA and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí.) So the president does an end-run around the BBG by appointing the director of the IBB, and the BBG does an end-run around the IBB by appointing the director of VOA.
     Customarily, the IBB confines itself to engineering and administrative functions. It is generally not involved in content (although the IBB Office of Performance Review very much is). In theory, however, the president, if displeased by VOA content, could, though his/her IBB director, constrain services vital to VOA.
     Given Mr. Lobo's background in broadcasting, his instincts will likely be more journalistic than political. Nevertheless, his nomination is a reminder that US international broadcasting is badly in need of reform. Consolidation of US international broadcasting would eliminate the need for the IBB as a separate layer of bureaucracy.