Global Media Agency Brings on New Broadcasting Network Heads
Michael Pack dismissed the previous ones shortly after coming into office in June.
The leader of the global media agency recently brought on new heads of its broadcasting networks after removing the previous ones upon coming into office last June.
Besides dismissing the network heads, Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Global Media Agency, has been making other controversial management and editorial changes over the last seven months. Last month, the Office of Special Counsel determined in its ongoing investigation that there is a “substantial likelihood” that top agency leadership engaged in wrongdoing. Nevertheless, the agency announced the new appointments between December 18 and December 22, with Pack lauding each for their experience and what they will bring to the agency.
Victoria Coates will be president of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. She was most recently a senior policy adviser for national security issues in the Energy Department's Office of the Secretary and served as Secretary Dan Brouillette’s representative in the Middle East and North Africa. Kelley Sullivan, who was serving as acting president, will go back to her former position as the network’s vice president.
Coates was reassigned to Energy in February from the National Security Council amid speculations she was the anonymous author of the New York Times op-ed and book about being the “resistance” within the Trump administration.
Stephen Yates, international affairs strategist, will be president of Radio Free Asia. Yates was deputy assistant for national security affairs to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001 to 2005 and was a language analyst at the Defense Department from 1991 to 1996.
Ted Lipien, who previously worked at the agency in various capacities from 1973 to 2006, will be CEO and president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Daisy Sindelar, who was holding the role in an acting capacity, will return to her former position as the network’s vice president and editor-in-chief.
“Few people have a greater understanding than Ted of the multifaceted operation and mission of U.S. international broadcasting,” Pack said in the announcement. “Ted is an ardent and captivating advocate of democracy who will excel at sharing America’s founding principles and ideals with the world.”
Lipien has penned numerous commentaries for The Washington Examiner, in which he wrote the “dangerously naive [Voice of America] journalists [made] fools of themselves” by writing a letter to the then-acting VOA director in August expressing concerns about Pack’s actions. In another, Lipien wrote that the “real danger” of Biden’s presidential win was that “VOA will continue to be a voice against conservative America.”
Libby Liu, the head of the Open Technology Fund (an independent nonprofit within the agency dedicated to internet freedom, was among those fired in June, although she technically resigned, according to CNN. Pack appointed James Miles, former Secretary of State of South Carolina, to be the acting CEO in July.
Last month, Pack also named Jeffrey Scott Shapiro to be director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, who has been with the office since 2017 and was most recently the acting director. Previously he was an investigative attorney and journalist. “Jeffrey is a tremendous civil servant, thoroughly committed to advancing America’s principles and the cause of freedom in Cuba,” said Pack.
Meanwhile, CNN reported over the summer that Shapiro is “an ally of the ultra-conservative former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon,” and in 2017 “his goal was to turn the entire USAGM—then called the Broadcasting Board of Governors—into a ‘Bannon legacy.’”
Kim Andrew Elliott, a retired VOA audience research analyst and media journalist, criticized what Pack has done to the agency and the recent appointments in an opinion article for The Hill on Wednesday.
“After he is inaugurated, Biden will probably be able to fire Pack, as he has promised,” Elliott wrote. “Because of [recent] legislative provisions and bureaucratic maneuvers, Biden may not so easily be able to remove the five entity heads. These executives could stay long enough to do significant damage to the credibility of U.S. international broadcasting, at which point it may need to be rebuilt from the ashes.”
Separate from questions about how Pack is managing the agency, the District of Columbia attorney general filed a lawsuit on Tuesday alleging Pack oversaw the illegal funneling of $4 million from his nonprofit to a for-profit film company over a 12-year period.
“District law requires nonprofits to use their tax-exempt funds for their stated public purpose and not to benefit a private individual or company,” said Attorney General Karl Racine. “We have filed suit to recover these funds and ensure they are properly spent.”