The board chair and the CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, both familiar names in broadcasting and cable circles, asked Congress to give the group's CEO position more power and to allow BBG more flexibility to fund its operations.
Jeff Shell, BBG board chair and chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, andJohn Lansing, BBG's new CEO and former president of Scripps Networks were testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is considering possible reforms to BBG.
BBG overseas government-backed international media outlets including VOA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
Shell said in his testimony that BBG had already given Lansing as much power as it could "legally delegate" to Lansing, recognizing there was only so much a board whose members all had other jobs could do.
"First, and foremost, we need the Congress to fully enshrine the CEO as the operational lead at BBG," Shell said, including giving the CEO the power to redirect resources without having to go to the full board for a vote every time.
Currently the board can't delegate spending authority, which means not a penny can be shifted, "even under the most urgent of circumstances," without that board vote.
Shell also said BBG needs to be able to get funding, either from other agencies or from its own fund, to support "surges," when it is asked to shift its resources quickly to hot spots.
Lansing seconded Shell's' call for a stronger CEO position. "We need legislation to enshrine a Chief Executive Officer position at the BBG who is empowered to manage all BBG operations and functions, including the ability to shift resources as needed and appoint senior officials," he said.
Lansing also said any media company in this day and age that is not remaking itself risks irrelevancy.
At the hearing, committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said BBG needed "reorganizing" to be "a more effective voice." He called Lansing's appointment a step in the right direction and supported boosting his powers.
Corker said BBG is not sufficiently prioritizing language services, and broadcasters "aren't being held accountable for achieving results."
The House has proposed a BBG reform bill, and Corker said the committee is vetting that proposal.
Ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he also supported a stronger CEO and recognized that BBG needed reforming. He said while the world moves quickly, BBG does not have the flexibility to put its resources where they are needed when they are needed.