BBG Watch Commentary

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has posted today a press release, “BBG Networks Continue To Increase Coverage In Ukraine And Crimea,” which rightly praises news coverage in Ukraine and Crimea by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA) Ukrainian Service.

What VOA Ukrainian Service has been able to achieve, especially with its limited staff and resources, is especially remarkable considering overall management crisis at Voice of America and serious problems with VOA news reporting in English and in many other languages. These problems persist, as VOA lacks overall leadership and an effective executive editor.

The most recent example is the news, reported by BBC and others Friday, that President Putin had called President Obama to discuss Ukraine. As of 6:00 PM EDT, the Voice of America is not reporting this news. The White House released a statement on the Putin-Obama phone call at about 5:00 PM EDT.


BBC Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.06 PM EDT
BBC Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.06 PM EDT


BBC Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.06 PM EDT.


VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.07 PM EDT
VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.07 PM EDT


VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 6.07 PM EDT. The VOA top story also has nothing on the Putin-Obama phone call.


But other than this latest slip-up (and these slip-ups occur frequently, especially during off-hours), due to constant criticism from BBG Watch, protests from somewhat emboldened VOA correspondents, and reportedly angry inquiries from members of the oversight Broadcasting Board of Governors, there has been a slight improvement of Ukraine news coverage on the main VOA English news website. This coverage is still, however, spotty, especially during off business hours and on weekends, and it still lacks overall direction and editorial guidance. Progress is largely due to VOA reporters asserting themselves against indifferent and ineffective managers who for many months failed to respond to the crisis in Ukraine and had to be prompted to take some actions kicking and screaming.

VOA Ukrainian Service’s Myroslava Gongadze, whose photo appears in the BBG press release, is the widow of slain Ukrainian journalist Georgiy Gongadze and herself an outstanding journalist and anchor of the highly popular VOA Ukrainian television program which was started during the Orange Revolution. But VOA’s top management still has not provided the service with sufficient resources to promptly update its website and social pages and to cover all Ukraine-related news stories in the U.S. that deserve coverage.

Fortunately, RFE/RL is far better managed since the BBG-ordered management change in early 2013. RFE/RL quickly mobilized on its own to respond to the crisis and its overall performance has been excellent. Our sources do report, however, that apparently because of the recent resignation of RFE/RL president Kevin Klose and some continuing management problems in Radio Liberty’s Russian Service, its correspondents were not dispatched to Crimea as fast as they would have liked and some other decisions also have been delayed.

We agree, however, in general with the tone and content of the BBG press release and we applaud Radio Liberty and Voice of America journalists for their hard work.

We also call on the BBG to carry out management reforms at the senior level at Voice of America and to select a new president and CEO for RFE/RL as soon as possible.



Office of the Press Secretary


March 28, 2014

Readout of the President’s Call with President Putin

President Putin called President Obama today to discuss the U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, which Secretary Kerry had again presented to Foreign Minister Lavrov at the meeting at the Hague earlier this week, and which we developed following U.S. consultations with our Ukrainian and European partners. President Obama suggested that Russia put a concrete response in writing and the presidents agreed that Kerry and Lavrov would meet to discuss next steps.

President Obama noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections, and urged Russia to support this process and avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine.

President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the Government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis. President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.



BBG Networks Continue To Increase Coverage In Ukraine And Crimea

MARCH 28, 2014

VOA Ukrainian Service’s Myroslava Gongadze interviews Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, March 27
VOA Ukrainian Service’s Myroslava Gongadze interviews Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, March 27
Amid mounting tensions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the networks of the BBG continue to boost their service to audiences in the region, creating new methods of engagement and providing additional avenues for accurate and impartial news.

In addition to establishing a “Crimea Desk” dedicated to coverage in Russian, Crimean Tatar, and Ukrainian, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has just launched a new web site, Crimea Reality, which pulls together reports from correspondents throughout the region, including the increasingly volatile Crimea. The site makes available continuous reporting of the latest developments in Russian and Crimean Tatar and aggregates content produced by RFE/RL’s RussianTatar-Bashkir and Ukrainian Services.

To increase engagement and foster dialogue, RFE/RL has started “bridge” programming on radio and online, in which people from different parts of the country discuss and analyze current issues.  RFE/RL is also continuing to provide ongoing,live-blog and video coverage of events in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as its popular “Ukraine Unspun” blog, which dissects claims made by Russian and Ukrainian media, politicians and activists in the information war  that envelops the conflict.

Voice of America’s Ukrainian Service has increased its daily television “interactives” with two of Ukraine’s most prominent networks, ICTV and 1+1, and has begun airing these segments with Hromadske TV, a public television station that is simulcast on state TV’s Channel 1. Seen throughout Ukraine, the segments consist of Ukrainian moderators speaking with VOA correspondents to get breaking news and updates. These segments augment a series of special reports that VOA has produced for these networks.

VOA Ukraine also continues to provide vital TV and Internet coverage of international reaction and context. The service ran national prime-time television coverage in Ukraine with reports on President Barack Obama’s statements announcing sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion and annexation of Crimea. VOA Ukrainian’sChas-Time TV program aired an exclusive interview with Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he discussed the possibility of intensifying sanctions against Russia and targeting specific economic sectors if Russia continues with illegal and provocative actions against Ukraine.

Despite extremely dangerous reporting conditions, RFE/RL and VOA have been a constant source of unfettered news and information from the first protests in Kyiv, through the increasing violence, and the referendum in Crimea.