BBG Watch Media Commentary
A new report by Susan Crabtree in The Washington Free Beacon provides additional details on the investigation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee which uncovered new spate of management failures at the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) such runs such U.S. taxpayer-funded media outlets as the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and is still being managed by officials appointed during the Obama administration who, according to many critics both among Republicans and Democrats in Congress, are inexperienced and incapable of managing a federal agency, federal employees and media outlets which by law should serve only overseas audiences. The current management has allowed biased and partisan news coverage which was then promoted to Americans by federal government employees with targeted Facebook ads paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Current USAGM CEO John Lansing, VOA Director Amanda Bennett, and members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the previous name of the USAGM agency, had been warned for several years about some of these illegal practices and management failures but took no effect actions to correct them.
A three-month congressional investigation uncovered new evidence of management failures at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the Voice of America and related taxpayer-funded media outlets.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R., Calif.) on Friday released an oversight report that faulted “insufficient management” for allowing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America to run Facebook ads that illegally targeted audience in the United States. The ads run counter to the USAGM’s mission to focus on countering U.S. adversaries’ propaganda overseas.
The Facebook ads violated the Smith-Mundt Act, which prohibits domestic dissemination of U.S. taxpayer-funded content produced by the State Department and related agencies, the Foreign Affairs investigation found.
READ MORE: Royce: USAGM, VOA Management Must Be Strengthened: Investigation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee uncovered new spate of management failures. By Susan Crabtree. The Washington Free Beacon, December 22, 2018
Susan Crabtree reported that in October, the VOA fired or disciplined 15 of its journalists after an internal investigation found they had accepted bribes passed to them by a Nigerian official.
She also reported that “a late November report by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution cited concerns about Chinese officials’ influence on American institutions, including specific details about its “charm offensive and tougher tactics” on VOA and Radio Free Asia employees working in China, including details about the Chinese embassy officials meeting annually with VOA leaders of its Mandarin service to express their opinions about the content.”
The Washington Free Beacon article pointed out that the Hoover Institution study “also cited what it called a ‘pattern’ by VOA Mandarin Service of avoiding stories that could be perceived to be too tough on China and detailed activities by Chinese security officials it said amount to “a campaign of intimidation against some VOA and RFA staffers and their family members.”
Susan Crabtree also reported that “in another incident, a month before the presidential campaign, the BBG’s Ukrainian service posted online an unedited video, with subtitles and the VOA logo, of Robert De Niro unloading on Trump, calling him a ‘dog,’ a ‘pig,’ and a ‘con.'” “It was not part of a larger story, and the Ukrainian service removed it after criticism,” the Washington Free Beacon report noted.
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Her bio says that she is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.
ALSO SEE: USAGM CEO John Lansing ignored early warnings of ads targeting Americans, BBG Watch, December 21, 2018
SEE: December 2018 Oversight Investigation, U.S. Int’l Broadcasting in the Digital Age: Getting Advertising Right, Report by Chairman Edward R. Royce