BBG Watch Media
The Voice of America (VOA), which is funded by U.S. taxpayers ($215 million in FY 2015) and overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG – total agency budget: $742 million in FY 2015) posted this shocking news on its VOA News Facebook page on Friday, April 8, 2016:
VOA NEWS FACEBOOK PAGE, FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2016: “A pair of city workers of the city of Morganton, North Carolina made a frightful discovery when they opened up an electric box. They found two dead snakes, apparently electrocuted after chewing through wires. The photo of this shocking discovery made its way to their Facebook page and attracted thousands of netizens.”
Photo: City of Morganton’s Facebook Page
One U.S.-based Facebook reader posted this revealing comment:
Eric Wegrzyn Soooo….you snag their picture for a post and decided to go through the trouble of giving them photo credit on your post when you could have simply shared the original post. Makes sense. #justsayin
Another Facebook user, Dwayne Johnson, commented: “voa has great impact.”
VOA News was neither first nor fast in its insignificant but curious social media news reporting. On April 8, VOA News reposted on its Facebook page the City of Morganton, NC snake photo, but did not embed, as noted by Eric Wegrzyn, the city’s original Facebook snake post, which was dated April 4. The same photo was posted by others on Reddit already a few days before VOA News noticed it and found it profoundly interesting for its worldwide audience.
Before the Voice of America was placed under the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA Handbooks informed its journalists that VOA does not report for its overseas audiences on U.S. news of only local significance or on purely local U.S. crime news.
“The BBG’s mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy,” according to a mission statement posted on the BBG website.
In October 2015, the VOA French to Africa Service posted on its website at the top of its U.S. news a story about an American couple who negotiated a delay in their arrest by the police so that they could make love one more time. The VOA French to Africa Service kept the sex-before-jail story in number one position for several days. After BBG Watch had written about it, VOA removed the sex-before-jail report from its website.
While doing Facebook posts designed purely for generating “Likes,” because more and more have nothing to do with VOA’s taxpayer-supported mission or even any links to the United States, VOA News (English) is often late in reporting significant U.S. news and U.S. foreign policy statements or misses some of them altogether. For example, VOA News had nothing last month on the U.S. Assistant Secretary and State Department Spokesperson John Kirby’s statement on the second anniversary of Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.
According to BBG Fact Sheet posted on the BBG official website, the agency has new leadership. According to BBG member Michael Kempner, the agency is seeing “a whirlwind of positive change.” According to Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), “this broken agency [the BBG] is losing the info war to ISIS & Putin.”
New Executive Leadership
In September 2015, John F. Lansing was named Chief Executive Officer and Director of the BBG. Lansing oversees all aspects of U.S. international media and provides day-to-day management of BBG’s operations, including oversight of the technical, professional, and administrative support as well as strategic guidance and management of other programs.
Lansing brings a deep understanding of journalism from roles as an award-winning photojournalist and field producer, assignment manager, managing editor, and news director at several television stations early in his career. Prior to joining the BBG he served as President of Scripps Networks, and previously as President and Chief Executive Officer of Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM).
Board of Governors
The bi-partisan board is comprised of nine members with expertise in the fields of mass communications, broadcast media, or international affairs. Eight members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The ninth, the Secretary of State, serves ex officio. As of Feb. 1, 2015 there is one vacancy on the Board.
Jeff Shell, Chairman
John Kerry (represented on the Board by the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Richard Stengel)
The Voice of America is required to operate under its congressionally-approved VOA Charter.
To protect the integrity of VOA programming and define the organization’s mission, the VOA Charter was drafted in 1960 and later signed into law on July 12, 1976, by President Gerald Ford. It reads:
The long-range interests of the United States are served by communicating directly with the peoples of the world by radio. To be effective, the Voice of America must win the attention and respect of listeners. These principles will therefore govern Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts:
1. VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.
2. VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.
3. VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350)