BBG Watch Commentary

“Our audiences rely on our journalists for timely and accurate coverage of events affecting them,” said Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Jeff Shell to commemorate World Press Freedom Day (May 3).

His emphasis on timely news reporting is significant, since senior executives of the Voice of America (VOA), one of the entities under the supervision of the BBG, have mismanaged the organization, particularly its news reporting, to such a degree that it takes VOA sometimes four hours to report on news from the Congress, the White House, the State Department or anywhere else in the United States and the world. Some significant news are never reported by VOA or given only a couple of sentences.

That is why U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member, have introduced H.R. 4490, the United States International Communications Reform Act.  A House Foreign Affairs Committee press release said that VOA has abandoned its mission of “clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States.”

Among other things, VOA English News ignored the visit to Ukraine and Armenia by a bipartisan Congressional delegation which was led by Rep. Ed Royce and Rep. Eliot Engel. VOA English News also ignored President Obama’s statements on the genocide of Armenians in 1915 and the Holocaust Memorial Day.

Sources told BBG Watch that Chairman Shell wisely issued instructions to heads of BBG entities not to comment on or oppose the Congressional bill. He no doubt hopes that with the help of Congress the Voice of America with the rest of the agency will be reformed. The BBG can’t do it on its own without legislative changes. This would be the best contribution to press freedom around the world.



Accurate, Reliable Journalism Is More Essential Than Ever Before, BBG Says In Marking World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom DayTo commemorate World Press Freedom Day (May 3), reporters from around the globe, leaders of U.S. international media, and other staff of the Broadcasting Board of Governors today released aninteractive presentation containing video testimonials that underscore the importance of press freedom.

BBG-supported news and information programs reach an estimated 206 million people each week in more than 100 countries where the media face significant restrictions.

“Our audiences rely on our journalists for timely and accurate coverage of events affecting them,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell.  “And given the diminished state of media freedom today, our mission is more important than ever.  I applaud the men and women of U.S. international media for speaking out on this occasion, and for their hard work every day.”

In their testimonials, staff for the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Martís, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks speak from experience about the impact of media freedom, and the heads of the networks underscore the importance of safeguarding journalists and promoting freedom of information.

In a just-released report, the non-governmental organization Freedom House found that global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in a decade.  Their 2013 Press Freedom Rankings reveal that only one person in seven lives where the media are free.  Despite positive developments in several countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Freedom House indicated declines in every region of the world, particularly in the Middle East, Ukraine and East Africa.  The trend toward repression has included increased physical attacks on reporters, censorship and intimidation.

The BBG promotes media freedom through the unbiased news coverage of its networks, programs to combat censorship on the Internet, journalism training programs and partnerships with local affiliates. Information on threats that BBG journalists face and repressive tactics they encounter in countries that lack press freedom can be found here.