BBG Watch and USAGM Watch website is edited and published by unpaid volunteers, including many current and former employees of U.S. international broadcasting. They are working to restore good management and sharp news focus to taxpayer-funded American media outreach abroad.
Both websites are published by the same unpaid volunteers, including many current and former agency employees and journalists. Our websites focus on the activities of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) which in FY 2019 had an annual budget of $807,686,000. For years, USAGM has been one of the most scandal-plagued among federal agencies. We have tried to improve its performance and value to U.S. taxpayers by providing independent and non-partisan reporting, feedback and commentary. We are independent and are not currently affiliated with USAGM or its media entities.
Almost all of our volunteers are journalists and/or media executives with many years of experience, in both public and private media sector. USAGMWatch.com is the successor website of BBGWatch.com, which was founded in 2008 and will remain accessible online and be updated as our primary news and commentary website and archive.
We recognize the importance of tax-funded U.S. international media outreach, especially in countries without free press, as well as the agency’s role in explaining America to the world. These taxpayer-funded, U.S. government-managed media and public diplomacy activities abroad are critically important at the time of increased threats to journalism and press freedom from propaganda and disinformation.
The management of the USAGM federal agency has been criticized in recent years in many media reports for the loss of focus, mission creep, employee morale problems and greatly diminished relevance of its programs abroad, with increasing tendencies, especially among some Voice of America (VOA) leaders and journalists, to engage in partisan domestic propaganda in the United States and sometimes repeating foreign propaganda without any questioning. Recognizing the severity of these problems and their negative impact on what should be the journalistic mission of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, our volunteers are working to restore good management and sharp news focus to taxpayer-funded American media outreach abroad. We firmly believe that the VOA Charter, which is U.S. law, must be strictly observed. Furthermore, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 (Public Law 112-239), SEC. 1078. DISSEMINATION ABROAD OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNITED STATES, makes it clear that “No funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States.“
In more than ten years of its existence, BBG Watch, which will now continue as BBG- USAGM Watch, helped to uncover and publicize multiple abuses in the U.S. Agency for Global Media and in some of its media entities, including violations of the VOA Charter, domestic partisan propaganda in Voice of America programs, targeting of Americans with USAGM social media ads, Russian and Chinese propaganda, hiring of a former anti-U.S. propagandist, censorship of Iranian and Chinese dissidents and mistreatment of employees. BBG Watch has been quoted by New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, CNN, NBCNews, NPR and other U.S. and international media. Our watch dog website has been mentioned in the Congressional Record.
Ted Lipien is a co-founder and supporter of BBG Watch and USAGM Watch. He is a former VOA acting associate director, former VOA Eurasia Division director, former BBG regional Eurasia marketing director and former VOA Polish Service chief during the Solidarity trade union’s struggle for democracy in Poland.
Hijacking of “USAGMWatch.com” Domain By Federal Officials
In 2018, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)–the federal agency which oversees the Voice of America, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN)–changed its name to the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM). Shortly before the name change became official on August 28, 2018, publishers of BBGWatch.com discovered that the agency’s management made it impossible for them to register the USAGMWatch.com domain name. In an act of interference with domestic press, USAGM took actions to keep domain names, USAGMWatch.com and USAGMWatch.org, unavailable for use by our journalists who have been reporting on the agency management’s failures for BBGWatch.com since 2008. Registering USAGM “Watch” domain names by the agency’s officials was an obvious attempt to stifle media inquires and public criticism.
When their interference with domestic media was exposed, USAGM’s management eventually promised in September 2018 to release the domain names it had misappropriated, but someone who apparently was connected with the agency immediately re-registered the “USAGMWatch.com” domain name, making it again unavailable for our use. The second registration lapsed in early 2020, and this time we were able to acquire it and launch USAGMWatch.com in early March 2020. Old articles can still be viewed on the BBGWatch.com archival website.