Andre Mendes Path From CIO To CEO Of The Broadcasting Board Of Governors

June 22, 2015
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by Peter High, published on Forbes


As interim CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Andre Mendes sits atop a broadcasting enterprise with as broad a reach as any in the western world. Unlike some other organizations that you might think of among leaders in this space, the BBG operates in the corners of the world that tend to be most inhospitable to the dissemination of unfiltered media. What makes Mendes even more interesting is his path to his current perch. He was a chief information officer before his further rise. As Mendes notes, however, with so much of media being dominated by new media, much of it of a social variety, his background as a technology executive are quite suitable to the times. In this interview, Mendes describes the mandate of the BBG and its various brands such as Voice of America, the traditional and new media methods he and his colleagues use, and his own unique path to become interim CEO.

(To listen to an unabridged audio version of this interview, please visit this link. This is the 20th article in the Beyond CIO series. To read the prior 19 articles, featuring interviews with executives at HP, Schneider National, Marsh & McLennan, Symantec, and Allstate, among others, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: Andre, for those who may not be familiar with your organization, you are the Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.  I wonder if you could take just a moment to describe this organization and its mandate.

Andre Mendes: The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the agency of the federal government that is responsible for all of the United States’ civilian broadcasts throughout the entire world. We have a very clear mission: to address populations that live under regimes that have no freedom of the press and freedom of information, and to address those populations in any platform in which they choose to consume news and other information.  We are about a $750 million agency that comprises five different networks of brands that disseminate information. The largest one is our flagship: the Voice of America, which is an organization with tremendous roots going back to the 1940’s with preponderant roles in World War II, and also during the Cold War in addressing the issues in Eastern Europe. Our other brands include Radio Free Asia, which addresses some of the freedom of the press issues in Southeast Asia; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which also has a strong role associated with disseminating information in the former Soviet Union and satellite countries; the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Networks, which is comprised of Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa and targets the Middle East in Arabic; and, finally, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which has been broadcasting into the island for a couple of decades, which has had a tremendous impact in the dissemination of information in what is one of the most restrictive systems in the world.

High: And in terms of methods, since you’re broadcasting in areas where the government often does not welcome the broadcasts, what methods are used?

Mendes: It’s actually an interesting proposition about this agency. We have what is likely the widest distribution portfolio of any western media organization. We range from operating very large short-wave stations throughout the entire world– some owned and operated, some via leases—to medium-wave stations running some of the largest AM transmitters, along with a large FM distribution network. We utilize satellites for direct-to-home for both TV and radio and data. We also have substantial presence on the web, on social media and through mobile dissemination, including Twitter. So from short-wave to Twitter, it is a lot of different steps. But the truth is that we operate in areas where short-wave is still a very viable mechanism. For example, in rural Afghanistan or North Korea or in parts of Africa, like Nigeria, where there is still a huge population numbers consuming short-wave, to medium-wave because it allows us have a very powerful signal from outside the borders of a country—it’s what is called a cross-border transmission methodology.  For example, in Iran, we have a very large transmitter in the United Arab Emirates that covers the entire country. We are constantly expanding our FM network, some of it being operated in some of the most dangerous, and to a certain degree, chaotic places in the world.

To read the full article, please visit Forbes

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