BBG Watch Commentary
The Voice of America (VOA) and its parent federal agency, United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), did not answer a media inquiry question as to why VOA and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda Persian reporters or VOA English News reporters were absent from Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Secretary of Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin special press conference at the Washington Foreign Press Center on November 5, 2018 at which they discussed and answered questions about new U.S. sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime.
Instead, the agency in charge of U.S. media outlets serving foreign audiences provided long, purposely confusing and in parts misleading statement designed to show how well, quickly and extensively the press conference was covered.
In reality, VOA English News website coverage was far from quick or extensive, with much of it the day after the press conference. The VOA Public Relations response makes it appear that VOA English News coverage was immediate. Both before and after Secretary Pompeo’s press conference, VOA News was posting highly one-sided reports on the Trump administration new policy on Iran sanctions.
VOICE OF AMERICA PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE RESPONSE
VOA participated on the background teleconference call in advance of Secretary Pompeo’s press conference and covered the press conference via the State Department livestream of the event.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE COVERAGE
VOA had extensive coverage on its English language website: the first story on the issue posted at 3:20 a.m. which was then updated at 10:30 a.m., 11:06 a.m., 11:42 a.m., 3:18 p.m. and many other times during the day.
A television package was also issued to the house and a television CN package was issued to the house at 6:01 a.m. and then updated and reissued with the presser at 10:01 a.m.
The story was posted to Facebook on November 5 at 8:56 a.m. and on Twitter first at 00:56 a.m. ahead of the press conference.
PERSIAN LANGUAGE COVERAGE
VOA Persian interrupted regular programming and broadcasted the presser live as a breaking news event from start to finish in full, with simultaneous translation on satellite TV channel, and streamed the event live in full on VOA Persian website.
The web write-up story was posted at the end of the event.
Video soundbites were posted on all digital platforms after the press conference broadcast concluded.
Opening statements by Pompeo and Mnuchin were also broadcasted on regular Early News newscast at 9:30 a.m. and on News at Nine at 12:30 p.m. and on Late News at 3:00 p.m.
END OF VOICE OF AMERICA PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE RESPONSE
An independent study of VOA Persian and Radio Farda commissioned by the BBG showed the failure of the agency’s leadership and the services’ management to ensure unbiased coverage. In fact, the 2017 study by the American Foreign Policy Council found extreme and long lasting bias, unchallenged repeating of Iranian regime propaganda by both VOA and Radio Farda and not providing a full range of American opinions or a comprehensive presentation of official US policy of the Trump administration by both VOA Persian Service and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda.
It would seem that in light of that study there are good reasons to ask questions as to why VOA and Radio Farda did not have their reporters at Secretary Pompeo’s news conference on Iran sanctions.
VOA posted on its main English News website AP report, “US Iran Sanctions List Draws Mockery, Warnings,” which did not meet the VOA Charter requirements for balance. This AP report was posted by VOA many hours after Secretary Pompeo’s press conference.
An Iranian-American expert who was present at Secretary Pompeo’s press conference on Iran sanctions posted this comment on social media:
Mahtab Farid: “It was painful to watch how all the major Farsi media outlets including Voice of America (VOA), Radio Farda, and BBC Farsi didn’t attend the most important press conference today at the Foreign Press Center with Secretary Pompeo. He and Secretary Mnuchin answered important questions about the sanctions. Amanda Bennett.”
“Can anyone ask why VOA is not present to ask questions and instead covers the livesteam? Then why VOA Persian News Network sends several reporters and producers for European press conferences and New York events, yet they can’t send someone local? Abhorrent!!!!!”
“…I have covered numerous FPC press events both as a Radio Farda and VOA reporter and have always been welcomed. Unfortunately, due to lack of vision by the VOA management for the news, even a recent important panel with Brian Hook at Hudson Institute on US policy towards Iran wasn’t attended by VOA reporters.”
The United States Agency for Global Media, which controls both VOA and RFE/RL Radio Farda, was previously called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). USAGM CEO is John F. Lansing. VOA Director is Amanda Bennett. Both were appointed during the Obama administration. President Trump has nominated film documentarian and former United States Information Agency (USIA) Worldnet Television Director Michael Pack to be the new CEO, but he has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.