BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch has learned that Bruce Sherman is leaving the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) agency where he was
Director of the Office of Strategy and Development. BBG has new CEO and Director John Lansing since September 2015. John Lansing has said that while audience reach is important, what really counts is impact. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in 2013 while she was still Secretary of State and ex officio BBG member, that the Broadcasting Board of Governors was “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to tell a message around the world.”
The BBG website states that Bruce Sherman was “responsible for formulation and execution of BBG strategy, leading a team of senior managers and planners across all broadcast groups.” “He has overseen development of the three 5-year strategic plans, including the most recent 2012-2016, and is their principal author,” according to a statement on the BBG website. Another longtime BBG executive, International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) Deputy Director Jeffrey N. Trimble, who is not departing the agency at this time, provided “strategic editorial guidance.”
One of the highlights of Bruce Sherman’s long career at the Broadcasting Board of Governors was his public presentation of results of an opinion poll ordered by the BBG at U.S. taxpayer expense in Russia-occupied Crimea. The U.S. government did not recognize the annexation of sovereign Ukrainian territory. The poll was conducted shortly after the occupation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.
The Voice of America reported the BBG’s Crimea poll results, which experts in Ukraine, Russia, and in the U.S., described as questionable due to intimidation by the Russian occupiers and other factors. Neither the VOA report nor the BBG press release mentioned the intimidation factor.
“The survey of Crimeans after the Russian takeover showed they are overwhelmingly happy to be part of Russia, with nearly three-quarters of those surveyed saying their life will improve as part of Russia rather than Ukraine,” the 2014 VOA report said referencing the BBG-ordered poll.
“It is part of Russia now, and you saw that the support is huge for Russian government,” a VOA report quoted a Gallup pollster who was one of those making a public presentation in Washington of the poll results together with BBG’s International broadcasting Bureau executive Bruce Sherman and others.
Neither the 2014 BBG press release nor the VOA news report mentioned the Crimean Tatars who were deported from Crimea by Stalin. Half of the deportees died, mostly women and children. Those survivors who had returned to Crimea are believed to be strongly opposed to the annexation, as are ethnic Ukrainians, those who are now refugees, and those who have stayed in Crimea under Russian occupation. Neither BBG press release nor VOA news report addressed these issues or stated whether Crimean Tatars were included in the poll. Tatars represent approximately 12% of the population of Crimea. Bruce Sherman was not responsible for VOA programming. The VOA director at the time was David Ensor who is no longer with the agency.
As Director of the Office of Strategy and Development, Bruce Sherman is responsible for global strategy and research for the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). He directs formulation and execution of BBG strategy, leading a team of senior managers and planners across all broadcast groups. He has overseen development of the three 5-year strategic plans, including the most recent 2012-2016, and is their principal author.
Sherman joined the BBG in 1996 after twelve years at Radio Marti, the broadcasting service for Cuba, including five years as the station’s deputy director in charge of all daily operations. He also has played a central role in launching new strategic initiatives for the Muslim world, including Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV for the Middle East and Radio Farda for Iran. These and other strategic initiatives since 2002 have expanded the BBG’s worldwide audience from 100 million to over 185 million people weekly. [This information is outdated, but it remains on the BBG’s official site. BBG now claims a larger audience, but these claims are widely questioned (see meme).]
He built and also directs the BBG’s global media research program, with quantitative and qualitative studies in some 70 countries and an annual budget of $10 million. The program is one of the most comprehensive media research efforts in the world.
Sherman holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College.
Part of the IBB/BBG press release tile, “Ukraine Political Attitudes Split, Crimeans Turning To Russian Sources For News“ is significant, as it implies that Crimeans were simply opting for Russian news sources. The use of “cessation” in the IBB/BBG press release as a euphemism for forceful Russian termination of Ukrainian TV channels in Crimea was also striking.
Also astounding was the complete silence about the Crimean Tatars in the BBG press release and during the IBB presentation. Their deportation by Stalin from Crimea more than 70 years ago was marked in a statement from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, which it should be noted was not reported by VOA English News. (It was reported by the Ukrainian Service.)
Both Kerry and President Obama met in 2014 with Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, which was also not reported at the time by VOA English News.
BBG PRESS RELEASE
JUNE 3, 2014
WASHINGTON – Ukrainians’ political attitudes diverge by region despite the majority of the country turning to only a handful of top TV outlets for news, according to new survey results released today by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The research shows Crimea as having a very different news market; in 2012, the top five news sources were Ukrainian, whereas now all five are Russia-based TV channels and social media.
People in the west, north, and center regions of Ukraine are more likely to hold a favorable view of the role played by U.S. in the crisis than those in the east, south, and Crimea. On the other hand, respondents in the east, south, and Crimea are more likely to see Russia as playing a mostly positive role. Support for economic reform, joining the EU, and NATO integration are similarly divided by region.
“The only consensus point across the country is that the vast majority of Ukrainians are opposed to foreign involvement in decisions about the country’s future,” said Neli Esipova, director of research, global migration and regional director for Gallup.
The crisis has taken a toll on the media environment in Ukraine, resulting in the cessation of broadcasts by some TV channels. However, these changes have not significantly affected Ukrainians’ sources for news.
“Only one in five Crimeans say the cessation of some Ukrainian TV channels in Crimea has changed their newsgathering habits, and only one in 10 Ukrainians outside Crimea say that the cessation in broadcasting of some Russian TV channels has changed their newsgathering habits,” said Sarah Glacel, senior audience research specialist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
As in previous years, five Ukrainian television channels remain the top news sources for Ukrainians across ethnic groups and regions, with the exception of Crimea. Unlike the rest of Ukraine, the top sources for news in Crimea changed dramatically from 2012. All top sources in 2012 were Ukrainian, while in 2014 all five top sources were Russia-based, including social network Vkontakte.
The results of the survey, conducted April 21-29, 2014, showed that 83% of Crimeans felt that the results of the March 16 referendum on Crimea’s status likely reflected the views of most people there. This view is shared only by 30% in the rest of the country. Most Crimeans (74%) also responded that they believe that life would be better as part of Russia.
A research brief and presentation with further information about these findings can be found here, and a recording of the briefing will be added in the coming days. More information about the BBG’s media research series is available here.
VOICE OF AMERICA NEWS
June 06, 2014 12:29 AM
WASHINGTON — A new Gallup poll shows a wide split in how Ukrainians and those living on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia, view the conflict in their country. Ukrainians as a whole tend to be divided by where they live and sometimes by whether they are ethnic Ukrainians or ethnic Russians.
There are daily armed clashes in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian insurgents looking to secede from Ukraine and the Kyiv government’s security forces. And there is relative peace, seemingly a world away, in western Ukraine.
A new Gallup poll shows just how wide the gulf is between western and eastern Ukraine. The president of Washington-based Freedom House, David Kramer, said the split within Ukraine is growing.
“What we’re seeing now is wider splits have come about as a result of Russian influence and Russian pressure… It is more divided now than it was before events starting in Crimea in March,” said Kramer.
Gallup interviewed 1,400 Ukrainians, and another 500 in Crimea in April, the month after Moscow took control of the Ukrainian territory. The survey was funded by the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors, the parent agency of the Voice of America.
It showed substantially more support for the American role in the current crisis in western Ukraine, with sharply diminished views of the U.S. in the southern and eastern regions of the country, and almost none in Crimea.
Gallup pollster Neli Esipova said the split among Ukrainians is not surprising.
“In the last eight, nine years when we collect data in Ukraine, we see it all the time on most of the aspects of life actually. Any political situation we ask of the country, even economics in the country, the split between different regions and between different ethnic groups existed for years, and the government didn’t pay attention to it,” said Esipova.
The survey of Crimeans after the Russian takeover showed they are overwhelmingly happy to be part of Russia, with nearly three-quarters of those surveyed saying their life will improve as part of Russia rather than Ukraine.
“It is part of Russia now, and you saw that the support is huge for Russian government,” said Esipova.
Kramer thinks that as time passes, Crimeans may rethink their affinity for Russia.
“I would say let’s check in with people living in Crimea in a while and see whether life in fact has really gotten better. Russia‘s made all sorts of promises that will cost Russia lots of money: to boost salaries, to boost pensions. Russia right now economically is not really in a position to do that,” said Kramer.
The poll showed that Ukrainians are split evenly on whether they would be willing to endure a diminished standard of living for a year or two while the Kyiv government looks to fix its moribund economy.