Ashe Exit from Broadcasting Board Stirs Protests

Victor Ashe’s departure from a federal board that oversees the government’s foreign broadcasting agency is causing almost as much conflict as his tenure on the panel, reports Michael Collins.
President Barack Obama is looking to replace Ashe on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency that watches over government-supported broadcasters such as Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe.
But Ashe’s removal has brought howls of protest from conservatives and some broadcasting groups, who note that he is the only Republican on the board, even though by law the panel is supposed to be evenly split among Democrats and Republicans. Obama has nominated another Republican, former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, as Ashe’s successor. But Ashe’s backers argue he should be allowed to stay on as well given the dearth of GOP representation on the panel.
What’s more, some of Ashe’s defenders suspect he is being replaced because his attempts to ferret out waste and mismanagement have rankled the broadcasting agency’s top executives.
“He has upset a lot of people who were used to having the board rubber stamp what they want to do,” said Timothy Shamble, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1812, the union that represents broadcasters and journalists at Voice of America.
Shamble and others have written letters to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asking him to help keep Ashe on the board.
Ashe, a former Knoxville mayor who also served as U.S. ambassador to Poland, said he is not seeking another term on the board. Obama appointed him to the panel in late 2009 to fill an unexpired term. Ashe’s term ended in August 2010, but by law he is allowed to continue serving until his successor is nominated and confirmed.
“I will continue serving until replaced and work on those issues which I have previously worked on,” Ashe said via email, citing openness in government, less waste, fairness to employees and outreach to people living under repressive regimes that censor objective news.
Ashe said Crocker is “an excellent nominee” to serve on the board. But he, too, believes it’s important to have four Democrats and four Republicans on the nine-member panel. (By law, the ninth board member is the sitting secretary of state.) A bipartisan split on the board “helps to assure an objective, honest approach to news reporting,” Ashe said.
Right now, five of the nine board seats are vacant.

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