BBG Watch Commentary
U.S. taxpayer-funded (Annual budget: $234.7 million; Employees: 1,078) Voice of America (VOA), managed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), violated its VOA Charter, which is U.S. law, and its own Journalistic Code when it posted online an Associated Press (AP) report with inaccurate information about the Covington Catholic High School students being confronted by a Native American activist. USAGM was previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). The agency has an annual budget (FY 2018 requested) of $685.2 million.
(Photo: John F. Lansing, USAGM CEO since 2015)
The Voice of America did not admit its mistake on the Covington students story and did not apologize to the students and their families.
The VOA Charter says that “VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news.” The Charter requires VOA news to “be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”
The VOA Charter also says that “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.”
In addition to failing to check on the accuracy of the AP report and present the views of both sides of the incident, as VOA was by law required to do, a federal employee who works as a Voice of America central English newsroom reporter who apparently failed to check on the accuracy of VOA’s initial reporting said in a Twitter newsfeed with a “VOA” handle that the Covington Catholic High School students “should be outed on social media.” The Twitter account is clearly identified as belonging to a VOA reporter.
The Voice of America reporter tweeted on January 19, 2019:
This is a disgusting and mortifying display or privilege and disrespect by a group of students from the Covington Catholic Boys School in Kentucky. Every one of them should be outed on social media and face stern discipline by the school and Diocese. #NativeAmericans #IPM2019
On January 20, the same VOA reporter tweeted:
1/2 It occurs to me that there may be a silver lining to the incident in DC in which Omaha citizen and US veteran Nathan Phillips was taunted by racist Catholic schoolboys – it has garnered national attention and outrage, reminding ppl about the racism #NativeAmericans have…
In another tweet on January 20, the VOA reporter said:
1/2 … endure since colonizers first landed here. It demonstrates that Native Americans are still here, they are resilient in spite of all efforts to break and remove them. Moving forward, I hope all Americans will remember we are guests in their home and behave accordingly.
Media reports say that lawyers representing a Covington Catholic High School student are preparing for a possible libel suit. They reportedly sent letters to a number of media organizations, but the U.S. taxpayer-funded and government-managed Voice of America and the U.S. Agency for Global Media were not on the published list.
The USAGM (formerly BBG) and VOA have been dysfunctional and mismanaged for years. In 2013, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the BBG “practically defunct.”
The latest USAGM scandal revealed by The New York Times and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs involved illegal targeting of Americans with Facebook ads by both VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) which is also managed by USAGM.
(Photo: Amanda Bennett, VOA Director since 2016)
The two top agency leaders were appointed during the Obama administration and have not been replaced. John F. Lansing joined USAGM as CEO and Director in September 2015. Amanda Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor and was named Director of the Voice of America in March 2016.