BBG Watch Commentary
Visitors of the Voice of America (VOA) Facebook page on mobile platforms were exposed to a strange “Have Questions? Call Voice of America” icon showing the North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un, the son and successor of the late Kim Jong-il who was known as the “Dear Leader.” VOA once used the “Dear Leader” title to describe Kim Jong-un’s father in a video which was largely a presentation of North Korean regime’s propaganda.
At the time this 2011 Voice of America video was posted online, many wondered what VOA was trying to achieve by repeating North Korean propaganda.
Such programming failures are still common these days at the Voice of America, which is part of the poorly-managed Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency. The entire U.S. foreign media outreach cost U.S. taxpayers about $777 million in FY 2017. $224 million of the BBG’s budget is allocated to VOA. Most of the agency’s money is used by the BBG’s vast bureaucracy which has grown by leaps and bounds over the last two decades but has little appreciation for the truly horrific human rights violations in countries like North Korea.
Not that they are likely to be able to use the Internet while in North Korea, but we suspect that North Koreans who may have had family members imprisoned or executed by the regime would not be thrilled with the photo of their country’s dictator on the VOA Facebook page asking them to call VOA, even if — as we suspect — the photo was most likely randomly chosen. Someone at VOA and BBG should have been paying attention. Victims of human rights abuses anywhere in the world would likely find such a photo icon on the VOA Facebook page bizarre, if not offensive.
Fortunately, Radio Free Asia (RFA), also part of the BBG but with a much smaller budget, is paying attention to such details and has been countering North Korean propaganda since it started broadcasting in Korean in 1997.