OPINION

COVID-19 Reaches the Agency

By The Federalist

The COVID-19 virus outbreak has been felt inside the hallways of the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Washington headquarters which house Voice of America (VOA) Internet, radio and television operations.

In one instance, a group of Voice of America radio technicians has been sent home to self-quarantine as a precautionary measure when one of the group may have been exposed to the virus. Most other employees have been told to work from home and have worked hard to put programs on the air and program content on the Internet under very difficult circumstances. But not everyone can work from home.

Several of what are known as “core” radio studios have been closed down in order to be cleaned.

VOA operates many radio and television studios. The closures represent some of the “core” radio studios but there are also additional studios as well, including what are known as “language area production studios” or “LAPS” and additional studios for the agency’s television component.

On the radio side, technicians, production specialists and language service personnel don’t confine themselves to one specific studio. They enter and exit a variety of these studios through a revolving 24-hour period depending on live broadcasts and production sessions all governed by a scheduling system run by the agency’s broadcast and production “Traffic” division.

Television control rooms are equally close quarters for those working in them. While most employees now work from home, some still are required to work at the USAGM/VOA headquarters building in Washington.

How effective the agency’s disinfecting measures have been to this point and whether they will be maintained on a continuous and vigorous basis remains to be seen. 

Like the general US population, the staff inside the Cohen Building may be exposed to the virus and not know it, in the absence of any outward symptoms, or in a delay of manifest symptoms.

Further, some of the staff still required to show up for work at the USAGM/VOA headquarters may also be reliant upon public transportation, including the area Metro subway and bus transit system, other rail systems and bus services.

In short, these employees mingle with the general population. They need groceries and other necessities.

These potential exposures, as well as the workspaces used by the agency’s broadcast employees, create the risk of additional cases of COVID-19.

We have seen the impact of the virus on other 24/7 operations, most notably police and fire departments in the Washington, DC area. The same thing occurs: individuals exhibit symptoms and other individuals are ordered to self-quarantine.

At best, the reality is that in spite of whatever measures the agency takes, there is the possibility that the measures may only provide a partial and not a complete relief.

And in general, the efforts of government and health officials are intended to slow the progress of the virus through the general population.

Contrary to the constant mantra coming from the agency and its press releases, the agency and the Voice of America under their current leadership is not a testament to executing a successful mission even at the best of times. Its global presence has been severely diminished. Experts find the agency’s audience data untrustworthy. Some of the loss of impact has come from the broad expansion of globalized media. Some of it has come from successful interdiction operations by foreign governments blocking access to the agency’s programs. Some of it most certainly has come from a dysfunctional bureaucracy unwilling to come to grips with reality. As we have heard more than once, the agency’s leaders have “the Midas Touch” in reverse: in other words, whatever they try to do isn’t golden. It turns to…well, you get the picture:

Making an embarrassing COVID-19 mistake and causing panic in Serbia whose leaders already lean toward Russia and China and use such mistakes to attack VOA and its credibility.

Incredibly, VOA has been also promoting Chinese, Russian and Cuban propaganda and failing to report on US efforts to assist other countries in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these videos put by VOA with VOA logos on social media with no additional content came straight from propaganda departments of foreign governments.

Voice of America Video showing Chinese Team Arriving to Assist in Italy Coronavirus Battle, march 13, 2020.
VOICE OF AMERICA VIDEO SHOWING Chinese Medical Team, Equipment Arriving in Milan, Italy, march 18, 2020.
Voice of America Video showing Medical Equipment from China Arriving in Serbia, march 21, 2020.
VOice of america Video showing Coronavirus Test Kits Arriving in Ukraine From China, march 23, 2020.

The COVID-19 crisis cannot be blamed for VOA putting foreign propaganda videos on its social media platforms. The Voice of America has done it before the current pandemic. Some of these one-sided videos were spreading anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda.

Rallies in Pakistan condemning Pres. Trump declaring Jerusalem…

Hundreds of Islamists have rallied in major cities across Pakistan, condemning President Trump for declaring the city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. VIDEO: Rallies in Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta.The al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab urged "all Muslims to raise arms and defend the blessed al-Aqsa from the Zionist occupiers supported by America, because what was taken by force can only be restored by force." https://www.voanews.com/a/palestinian-israeli-clashes-erupt-after-trumps-jerusalem-shift-/4153449.html

Posted by Voice of America – VOA on Thursday, December 7, 2017

VOA Director Amanda Bennett meeting with controversial foreign politicians.

during her visit to the balkans in 2017, VOA Director Amanda Bennett Bennett met two presidents — Filip Vujanovic of Montenegro, and Ilir Meta of Albania and three prime ministers — Ana Brnabic of Serbia, Edi Rama of Albania, and Ramush Haradinaj of Kosovo. 

Voice of America targeting Americans with its partisan content in violation of the VOA Charter and until a few months ago targeting Americans with facebook ads.

VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA) UKRAINIAN SERVICE ANTI-TRUMP ROBERT DE NIRO VIDEO 2016 SCREENSHOT WITH DE NIRO’S “I WOULDN’T MIND SMACKING HIM IN THE FACE” COMMENT TRANSLATED INTO UKRAINIAN. THIS WAS POSSIBLY THE FIRST VOICE OF AMERICA PRODUCED REPORT WHICH CONDONED VIOLENCE AGAINST AN AMERICAN POLITICAL FIGURE OR ANY POLITICAL FIGURE IN THE WORLD. THE ONE-SIDED VIDEO WITH ORIGINAL ENGLISH AUDIO AND ENHANCED BY THE VOICE OF AMERICA WITH FOREIGN LANGUAGE SUBTITLES SHOWS HOLLYWOOD ACTOR ROBERT DE NIRO CALLING DONALD TRUMP “PUNK,” “DOG,” “PIG,” “CON,” “BULS**T ARTIST,” “MUTT,” “IDIOT,” “FOOL,” “BOZO,” AND “BLATANTLY STUPID.” The video was eventually removed.

This agency lags far behind most other notable international media. It has become an afterthought. It has some pockets of success but they are more often than not overshadowed by lackluster performance in much of the rest of the agency.

As expected, agency press releases make unilateral declarations of impact and effectiveness particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, attempting to lay claim to audience gains.

These claims are delusional at best: grandiose statements intended to preserve the agency’s bureaucracy when even a casual examination of agency program content on social media (which it claims to be a TOP priority) is lackluster at best. These numbers tell us what we already know: the agency is resting on the cusp of being ignored or forgotten by much of the global population.

We all know what needs to be done:

Clean house.

The Federalist

March 2020

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