By RON NIXON AUG. 17, 2015, nytimes.com
WASHINGTON — John Lansing, a retired cable television executive, was
named Monday as the new chief executive of the Broadcasting Board of
Governors, the agency that oversees United States government-supported,
civilian international news media such as Voice of America and Radio Free
Mr. Lansing, a former president of Scripps Networks Interactive, replaces
Andrew Lack, who stepped down from the position in March just 42 days into
the job to become president of NBC News. Mr. Lansing will take over the
agency in September.
While he is not as well known as Mr. Lack, members of the board of
governors say Mr. Lansing is the right choice to lead the agency, which has
struggled to find its footing in a changing media environment. Former staff
members and members of Congress have criticized the agency for failing to
counter the propaganda of countries like Russia and stateless actors such as
the Islamic State.
“John is a proven executive and a remarkable, transformative leader in
multi-platform content strategies, development and distribution,” said Jeffrey
Shell, the chairman of NBC Universal Filmed Entertainment and chairman of
the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
In an interview, Mr. Lansing said he hoped to begin carrying out a
number of reform initiatives recommended by the board of governors.
“I want to make sure that we have a communications link to the world
using tools like Twitter, Facebook and other digital communications that are
grounded in a free press and that can counter whatever propaganda is out
there,” he said.
Having a chief executive to oversee the various news organizations has
long been a goal of the board and members of Congress, many of whom said
the agency needed one person to oversee the sprawling public broadcaster.
The day-to-day running of international broadcasting operations was
overseen by a nine-member board that had become known more for its
dysfunction than for managing broadcast programs that reach more than 215
million people around the world every week.
The new board has been praised for making critical reforms at the agency,
including overseeing efforts to modernize its equipment and expand its reach.
The agency has also broadened its use of social media and mobile apps and has
become less dependent on shortwave radio, a relic of the Cold War. And the
agency has stepped up its efforts to counter terrorist organizations like the
Islamic State, creating shows such as Raise Your Voice in Iraq, a TV and radio
Now, with Mr. Lansing in charge, the feeling at the agency is that the
broadcasting board will be better positioned to continue its overhaul and more
forcefully engage international rivals like China and Russia in the high-stakes
“The issue today is not a lack of information, it’s that we are awash in
information, much of it propaganda,” said Richard A. Stengel, the under
secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, who represents
Secretary of State John Kerry on the board of governors. “John’s task will not
only be to help the agency get out the view of America, but allow people to
have a discussion about those views and policies.”
Mr. Lansing will still have to win over a skeptical Congress, which has
been critical of the board. A bipartisan bill passed by the House Foreign Affairs
Committee and written by the committee’s chairman, Representative Ed
Royce, Republican of California, and Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat
of New York and the committee’s ranking member, would make several
changes at the agency, including making the current board of governors an
advisory board and creating a new communications agency called the Freedom
Mr. Lansing served nine years as president of Scripps Networks
Interactive, where he was responsible for the network’s $2.5 billion cable
division, which includes the Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel, DIY, the Cooking Channel and Great American Country.
Before taking on his new position, Mr. Lansing was most recently
president and chief executive of the Cable and Telecommunications
Association for Marketing, a marketing association made up of 90 of the top
United States and Canadian cable companies and television programmers.
Mr. Lansing began his career at age 17 as a news photographer at WPSDTV
in Paducah, Ky.