Voice of America digitally unprepared for Republican Convention

BBG Watch Commentary

U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) ($224.4 million in FY 2017) did quite poorly in digital live coverage of Donald Trump’s first speech Thursday night as the official Republican nominee for U.S. president.

VOA had Donald Trump’s live on its website, but it was buried in the VOA site’s “Live Blog.” Though the live window was at the top of the VOA’s “Live Blog,” the video window was strangely truncated — nothing like BBC which prominently showed Donald Trump’s speech live on the front page.

VOA later corrected the truncated video window, which was subsequently strangely carrying video feed by PBS “Newshour.” BBC continued to feature Donald Trump on its front page, in contrast to VOA burying the feed in the VOA English “Live Blog.”

UPDATE: While the Voice of America, unlike the BBC, did not put live video of Donald Trump’s speech on its main English News homepage, probably because too many viewers would overwhelm VOA’s IT infrastructure, VOA director Amanda Bennett reported later that “thanks to Matthew Baise and a talented VOA crew, we were able to offer some election coverage that no one else could: Donald Trump’s acceptance speech simultaneously translated live into Persian, Russia, Chinese, and Spanish.” We could not ascertain whether live online coverage of Donald Trump’s speech in foreign languages on VOA websites was free from technical glitches.

In an e-mail sent to staff on Wednesday, July 20, an executive of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) ($777.8 million in FY 2017, including VOA’s $224.4 million) warned Voice of America journalists covering the Republican convention that “in order to avoid any bandwidth problems,” they must completely discontinue non-business use of high bandwidth video sites like ESPN, YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, and other such services. VOA journalists were also told to completely discontinue usage of Internet streaming of convention feeds that are available over broadcast TV in the office.

This should have been anticipated a year ago or longer and fixed by the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) before the Republican and Democratic conventions this summer. VOA reporters described it as yet another testament to lack of planning which continues under new CEO John Lansing who relies on longtime IBB executives despite their record of poor performance and failures.

The BBC or others would never get caught unprepared as this, one former BBG broadcast engineer observed. BBG/IBB executives have been cutting programs and expanding the agency’s bureaucracy instead of replacing and upgrading digital systems. The expansion of bureaucratic positions has continued under the new CEO, with new and old non-programming, administrative and largely technical jobs being advertised by BBG/IBB officials nearly every week since Lansing came on board in September 2015.

A former VOA senior journalist said that one would never see any manager at BBC issuing a note like this.

From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2016 10:33 AM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: PLEASE READ – A message from Andre Mendes

Dear colleagues:

First of all let me thank you for your assistance in eliminating non-business and non-essential traffic on out Internet links.

As you know, today and tomorrow will be the most important nights of the Convention in Cleveland and as such your help will be again requested starting immediately.

In order to avoid any bandwidth problems and effective immediately we need you to:

• Completely discontinue non-business use of high bandwidth video sites like ESPN, YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, and other such services.

• Completely discontinue usage of Internet streaming of convention feeds that are available over broadcast TV in the office.

• Avoid installation of Mobile Phone application updates from 12 PM through midnight.

• Refrain from any large Internet downloads of server or workstation upgrade packages.

• Be extremely thoughtful of overall non-business Internet capacity usage.

We will be actively monitoring bandwidth both in total utilization and for heavy consumption workstations.

Thank you in advance for your collaboration as we go about covering the most important conventions in quite a long time.

Best regards,

Andre V. Mendes
CIUO/CTO
BBG

2016-07-21_231139 BBC Front Page With Trump Live

2016-07-21_231139 BBC Front Page With Trump Live

2016-07-21_225152 VOA USA Votes Page

2016-07-21_225152 VOA USA Votes Page

2016-07-21_225058 BBC Trump Live

2016-07-21_225058 BBC Trump Live

2016-07-21_224918 BBC with Trump Live

2016-07-21_224918 BBC with Trump Live

2016-07-21_224856 VOA No Trump Live

2016-07-21_224856 VOA No Trump Live

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