BBG Watch Commentary
On one of the most crucial news days so far of Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA – $224M FY 2017), belonging to the dysfunctional Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG – $777M) agency, did not carry live on Facebook his address at a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. Russia’s RT broadcast Trump’s speech live on Facebook, as did BBC, Washington Post, New York Times, and many other major news organizations.
During President Trump’s speech Wednesday, VOA was also not updating its English news Facebook page with new posts.
The latest VOA News post on Facebook during that time was sensationally titled: “White House Reeling After Twin Allegations Related to Russia.” The question is how balanced was the VOA piece, while VOA failed to carry live Trump’s speech.
When a word like “reeling” is in the title, that plants a subjective emotion in the mind of the reader, one media expert observed. VOA later changed the title of the report to “Facing Congressional Inquiries, Trump Blames Media for His Troubles” after updating it many hours after President Trump delivered his address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
At 2:09 PM ET Wednesday, May 17, the VOA “White House Reeling” Facebook post was showing only four (4) comments. The BBC live Facebook transmission of President Trump’s speech was showing at 2:07 PM ET 6,200 LIVE views, 171,000 overall views, and 2,200 comments. That is an enormous difference. Even RT had 133 live views, 29,400 overall views and 24 comments at 12:10 PM ET. No one looking at these numbers and comparing them to VOA’s numbers can say that the Voice of America English news has any relevance internationally.
When the Voice of America occasionally puts a program or an event on Facebook Live, it gets embarrassingly low number of live views. A few days ago, VOA Asia program was showing at one time only six (6) live views on Facebook and never got more than 14 live views. Not counting VOA staffers monitoring the program, it would seem that among billions of people, the broadcast might have had three or four live viewers on Facebook in Asia at any one time.
VOA Asia broadcast got slightly more live views today on Facebook. It was promoted as “VOA talks to Ivy Teng Lei about her experience as an undocumented immigrant. Join the conversation!!”
The number of live views hovered around 50, but some of them could have been friends and relatives of the interviewee and VOA managers and employees. There are 7.5 billion people in the entire world, 3.2 billion of them Internet users, 1.5 billion English speakers, most of whom are Internet users.
Since about half of VOA English web traffic comes from the U.S., that may very well leave only between a few live viewers to the VOA Asia English-language program in Asia.
VOA sometimes gets a larger number of non-live views on Facebook, but they are usually for animal videos produced especially by VOA as click bait to show that it has some viewership.
Even those videos get almost no engagement from the audience, such as meaningful comments relating to VOA’s mission paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Meanwhile, VOA, its director Amanda Bennett, deputy director Sandy Sugawara, and their boss, BBG CEO John F. Lansing, are reeling from VOA’s latest scandal: the shortening of a VOA Mandarin Service interview with whistleblower Guo Wengui which caused a major damage to VOA’s reputation in China. Instead of accepting responsibility for their own wrong decisions and lack of proper planning and oversight, VOA’s senior managers put five Chinese-speaking journalists on administrative leave. Chinese Americans have been staging protests in front of the VOA building in Washington, D.C.