This press release was posted today on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs website.
” Millions of dollars have been squandered….We cannot allow incompetence and Washington bureaucracy to hold us back any longer,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee press release says.
As if wanting to prove the House Foreign Affairs Committee is right, Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) bureaucratic and technical support arm, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), could not arrange for a live streaming of President Obama video on the home page of Voice of America’s (VOA) primary news site, voanews.com, with his statement that Guantanamo Bay prison undermines national security. IBB also had problems streaming comments by BBG CEO and Director John Lansing and BBG Chairman Jeff Shell at a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the FY2017 budget request, introduce members of his leadership team, and to discuss the shared BBG mission with network heads. Some Voice of America journalists were described as outraged by their agency’s inability to support their work and other operations.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is also facing a $400 million federal class action lawsuit filed in December 2015 on behalf of BBG’s numerous contract employees who allege insufficient pay for doing federal work and lack of benefits and protections.
BBG’s Chairman and CEO treated to more VOA technical problems on important news and staff meeting day
Many VOA foreign languages services had nothing online on President Obama’s Guantanamo statement several hours after it was delivered.
As of 7:45 p.m. EST, VOA English news report on President Obama’s Guantanamo statement was showing only 2 (two) comments.
TWO…..count em….TWO comments, one from
a person in NJ who is a frequent visitor to VOA’s page.
The second comment is also from the United States. This passes for worldwide audience engagement for Voice of America English news on VOA news site.
The same story on the Washington Post news site, “Obama asks lawmakers to lift obstacles to closing prison at Guantanamo Bay” is showing 1,828 comments as of 10:40 p.m., Tuesday, February 23, 2016. At 10:40 p.m., the number of comments on the VOA report, “Obama: Guantanamo Prison Undermines National Security,” went up from 2 to 3. The third comment, by the same person who frequently posts comments on the VOA site, is also showing that it is from the United States.
If The Washington Post can get over 1,800 comments and VOA only 3 on the same story, it is rather obvious that the principle VOA English news website has become completely irrelevant when it comes to audience engagement.
That’s why the House Committee on Foreign Affairs chaired by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) is telling the Broadcasting Board of Governors:
“Enough is enough. … A generation ago, we broadcast America’s values – including freedom and respect for human rights – to help win the Cold War. Today, the United States must rely on this strategy again to counter Putin and help defeat ISIS and its online caliphate. We cannot allow incompetence and Washington bureaucracy to hold us back any longer.”
Media Contact 202-225-5021
FEB 23, 2016
Last week Secretary Kerry went to Hollywood. But don’t get too excited – the State Department’s dream for a blockbuster about last year’s Iran talks doesn’t seem headed to production anytime soon.
Instead, Secretary Kerry hit Tinseltown looking for help to counter ISIS propaganda. And while it’s true Hollywood can be a powerful voice, let’s be clear: we’re not losing the battle of ideas to ISIS and Vladimir Putin today because of a lack of A-list cameos or special effects.
In reality, the problem is much more basic. And it all starts with a Washington agency – the Broadcasting Board of Governors – that has a $750 million annual budget and a mandate to oversee U.S. international broadcasting services including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
For years, the BBG, which is headed by nine part-time governors, has been widely condemned as “ineffectual,” “unprofessional,” “unproductive,” “useless and perhaps fatally broken.” Millions of dollars have been squandered. Mismanagement and incompetence is so deeply rooted within BBG that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the agency “practically defunct” in 2013 before warning, “we’re letting the Jihadist narrative fill a void.”
Today, despite repeated pledges from BBG that it can fix itself, little has changed:
- Independent auditors continue to raise alarms about BBG management failings;
- Instead of tackling the systemic problems with BBG, the Obama administration continues to tinker around the edges with new task forces and outreach campaigns – like Sec. Kerry’s trip to Hollywood, and;
- The United States continues to lose the information war to radical Islamist terrorists and Vladimir Putin.
In fact, it took the BBG six months to produce a single 30-minute program in the Russian language following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This $2.5 million program, Current Time, was quickly taken off air in Latvia due to low viewership. Meanwhile the VOA has stopped broadcasting to the Middle East in Arabic entirely.
Enough is enough. America desperately needs a modern, dynamic international broadcasting agency to take on ISIS and Russia’s propaganda in real time, over the internet and on the airwaves with the accurate news and information.
That’s why Chairman Royce continues to lead the fight for legislation – The United States International Communications Reform Act (H.R. 2323) – to fix the BBG’s management crisis, clarify the mission of the VOA, and redirect dollars currently feeding the bureaucracy to actually boost funding for programming in the field.
A generation ago, we broadcast America’s values – including freedom and respect for human rights – to help win the Cold War. Today, the United States must rely on this strategy again to counter Putin and help defeat ISIS and its online caliphate. We cannot allow incompetence and Washington bureaucracy to hold us back any longer.