WASHINGTON – The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today announced that Ambassador Alberto M. Fernandez will join the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN) as its new president beginning July 17, 2017. In this role, he will oversee MBN’s multimedia operations in the U.S. and across the Middle East, including its digital properties, Alhurra Television networks and Radio Sawa.
MBN is a private, not for profit, multimedia corporation funded by the BBG that provides news and information to the 22 Arabic speaking countries across the Middle East and North Africa. With a weekly audience of more than 27.5 million people, MBN supports democratic values by expanding the spectrum of ideas in the region and producing accurate, professional, and independent news and information on all media platforms; and is a trailblazer in audience engagement.
Brian Conniff, BBG veteran and current MBN President, is leaving the company after 11 years. Under his leadership, MBN has grown to be a forward-looking, flexible organization responding to the region’s evolving media environment and challenges. “It has been a pleasure to work with the professionals of MBN,” said Conniff. “This transition comes at a time of strategic importance as the organization continues to focus its content and seek new ways to increase its impact. I am confident that Ambassador Fernandez will advance MBN’s important work and continue to increase its impact.”
In response to Conniff’s announcement, John Lansing, CEO and Director of the BBG said, “Brian has played a significant role in BBG’s growth throughout the years, and his expertise and counsel has been invaluable to me. He is an extraordinary leader and has worked very closely with other network leadership to streamline our collective and individual efforts, and to develop creative programming that demonstrates real impact. Ambassador Fernandez is inheriting a first class team with a portfolio of major initiatives.”
Ambassador Fernandez, a fluent Arabic speaker, will join BBG from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), where he served as Vice President from 2015 to 2017. During his Foreign Service career, he was widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and impactful U.S. Foreign Service voices in the Arabic-language media. Ambassador Fernandez held numerous roles at the U.S. Department of State, including the Department’s Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Chief of Mission in Sudan, Director for Near East Public Diplomacy and Director for Iraq Public Diplomacy. He was a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor and was a recipient of a 2008 Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the 2006 Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy, and a 2003 Superior Honor Award for his work in Afghanistan, among other awards. He also served as a Foreign Service Officer in Iraq, Kuwait, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United Arab Emirates, and as USIA desk officer for Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan.
Ambassador Fernandez is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the Defense Language Institute. Ambassador Fernandez has also lectured and debated on U.S. foreign policy in numerous public venues, and has published in several publications, including Brookings Institution publications, the Foreign Service Journal, Journal of International Security Affairs, Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Cipher Brief, Providence, the Harvard Review of Latin America, Middle East Quarterly and the Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society (JAAS). He is also a Non-Resident Fellow in Middle East Media and Politics at the TRENDS Foundation in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Kenneth Weinstein, Chairman of the Board for the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, conveyed the Board’s support for the selection, “Ambassador Fernandez shares our values and focus on long-term growth,” he said. “He has the perfect combination of skill, experience, and regional expertise that we need to continue driving forward at MBN. We are pleased that he accepted this challenge and look forward to working with him. The Board and I are also very grateful to Brian Conniff for his passion and leadership, and thank him for his accomplishments over many years of dedicated service to the agency.”
“I am truly honored and humbled to join the Broadcasting Board of Governors as the President of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks,” said Fernandez. “I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to the impact the BBG’s networks have on millions of lives around the world. MBN is a media leader in the region, and I look forward to joining with its dedicated and accomplished staff to continue its growth momentum in new and creative ways.”
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international media, whose mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). BBG programming has a measured audience of 278 million in more than 100 countries and in 61 languages.