BBG Watch Commentary
If you think that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), run by current and former Hollywood and TV entertainment industry executives, some of whom have been doing private business in Putin’s Russia, can counter anti-American propaganda and disinformation from Kremlin media, you may have to adjust your expectations for this $777 million (FY 2017 Budget Request) federal agency.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is one of the U.S. taxpayer-funded media entities overseen by the federal BBG Board.
One concerned Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty journalist reported this to BBG Watch:
CONCERNED RFE/RL JOURNALIST: “Readers of the Uzbek website of RFE/RL on September 6 could enjoy the ‘Pravda’ newspaper style reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the grave of the former president of Uzbekistan in Karimov’s home city of Samarkand and placed flowers, but not a word was said that an authoritarian president visited the grave of another authoritarian figure.
Not a word was said to provide some context, such as the fact that Islam Karimov has died, but that he has not been punished by the international community for the shooting of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in the city of Andijan in 2005.
In the foreground, RFE/RL posted a very touching TASS photo of Putin – he sat down on one knee, showing deep sorrow at the grave of Karimov which is immersed in white roses.”
Here is a link to the RFE/RL Uzbek Service report in Russian, followed by an unofficial Google translation.
“Владимир Путин возложил цветы на могилу Ислама Каримова,” сентября 06, 2016 Радио Озодлик (“Vladimir Putin Laid Flowers on the Grave of Islam Karimov,” September 6, 2016, RFE/RL Uzbek Service)
Unofficial Google Translation
Vladimir Putin Laid Flowers On The Grave Of Islam Karimov | RFE/RL
[Photo Caption] Russian President Vladimir Putin laid a wreath at the tomb of the first President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov.
Russian President Vladimir Putin laid flowers on the grave of the first President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov. Immediately after arriving in Samarkand President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Prime Minister Shaukat Mirzijaeva, went to the cemetery where Karimov is buried.
President Islam Karimov, who died on September 2 this year as a result of a stroke, was buried September 3 in a quickly erected cemetery mausoleum Shahi Zinda in the ancient mosque Hazrat-Khizr in Samarkand.
Putin flew to Samarkand from China. During Karimov’s funeral, Russia’s leader was participating in the “Big 20” summit in China. For this reason, the Russian delegation which took part in the funeral procession in Samarkand was headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
According to observers, Putin arrived in Samarkand, not only to visit the cemetery where Islam Karimov is buried.
According to the blogger and independent journalist in Uzbekistan Alexey Volosevich, it is important for the Russian leadership to test the waters regarding the successor to the throne in Uzbekistan.
The September 3 funeral ceremony for the 78-year-old President Islam Karimov included delegations from 17 countries. Three days of mourning were declared in Uzbekistan.
When using our materials, reference to “Ozodlik” radio site [RFE/RL’s Radio Liberty Uzbek Service] is obligatory.
END RFE/RL CONTENT
BBG Watch Commentary
The RFE/RL journalist who wants to remain anonymous wrote that the Uzbek Service of RFE/RL published reports on the death of Karimov without context and without balance, making them look like a commercial for the deceased Uzbek dictator and for Russia’s authoritarian ruler Vladimir Putin.
Also see and read a “Pravda-style” report from the Voice of America (VOA) Russian Service:
“Voice of America used Putin’s narrative in a Russian report, ignored Biden on WWII history,” BBG Watch, September 6, 2016.
Putin’s Russia is not the only beneficiary of the lack of expert leadership, bad management and sloppy reporting by some of the BBG media entities.
Chinese propaganda and disinformation can also be found in reports posted online by the Voice of America.
READ: “Mao’s Influence Lingers in China, 40 Years After His Death,” Voice of America English News Website, September 10, 2016.
VOA and RFE/RL reports shown here can’t counter Russian and Chinese propaganda and disinformation because they help to promote and spread it.
In 2013, Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State and BBG Board member, described the Broadcasting Board of Governors as being “practically defunct.”
The federal agency has become even more defunct under the current BBG Board, chaired by Jeff Shell, and the new BBG CEO and Director John Lansing.
Neither of these two current and former successful private entertainment media executives has any previous experience in managing U.S. government operations, international news media outreach, foreign affairs, foreign policy, U.S. public diplomacy or in countering hostile propaganda from foreign governments or groups such as ISIL. Mismanagement and chaos at the agency and some of its media outlets have increased over the last twelve months.
VOA director Amanda Bennett and RFE/RL president Thomas Kent are both accomplished former commercial media journalists and editors. But they lack experience in U.S. government operations, U.S. foreign policy, U.S. public diplomacy or in managing large media organizations.
Not as badly managed as VOA, journalism at RFE/RL has been deteriorating in recent years and months.
The RFE/RL Kazakh Service was not the only RFE/RL language service posting numerous reports and photos about the funeral in Samarkand and President Putin’s visit to Karimov’s grave. RFE/RL’s Tajik and Kyrgyz services offered similar coverage without challenging the Uzbek dictator’s legacy.
For example, the RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service has published not one but two photogalleries from the same memorial event in Tashkent. As a concerned RFE/RL journalist observed, the Kyrgyz Service didn’t do that even when a world famous writer Chingis Aitmatov was buried in Kyrgyzstan in 2008.
The first RFE/RL photogallery, titled “Last Tribute to Karimov” | RFE/RL was from the memorial service in Tashkent.
The second photogallery was called “Farewell to Karimov in Uzbekistan” | RFE/RL
The Kazakh Service has published the same photogallery “The Farewell Ceremony for Islam Karimov in Tashkent” | RFE/RL
The Uzbek service has published a short amateur video titled: “Some Female Uzbeks Could Not Hold Their Tears At Farewell To Karimov” | RFE/RL
This was followed by another video titled:
“The Uzbek Police Salute Their President For The Last Time” | RFE/RL
The RFE/RL Kazakh Service published two videos in the day of the funeral:
The RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service published 5 videos in one day from Karimov’s funeral:
One final example sent to us by a concerned RFE/RL journalist is a long RFE/RL Uzbek Service report titled “75-Year-Old Pensioner Went to Samarkand On The Bike To Read The Koran At The Grave Of Islam Karimov” | RFE/RL It includes an interview with the pensioner who had travelled in a 30-degree Celsius heat from Namangan to Samarkand. It takes 4 to 5 days to make this 521 km trip by bicycle.
CONCERNED RFE/RL JOURNALIST: “This touching report where the RFE/RL did not challenge the dictator’s legacy was probably the best gift to the Uzbek regime, but at the expense of the US taxpayers.
Not a word was said by the RFE/RL Uzbek Service in this report that the 27 years of unchallenged reign by Karimov [forced] millions of its citizens to earn their living in the Russia through slave labor.
Not a word was said about the fact that the RFE/RL Tashkent Bureau was closed in 2005 by Karimov’s order and that many RFE/RL Uzbek Service journalists have been subjected to repression.”
As if this were not enough, the journalist has provided us with more links to RFE/RL stories and videos about the funeral of the Uzbek dictator. One wonders whether in 1953, Radio Liberty would have offered this kind of coverage of Stalin’s funeral. For anyone who knows the history of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, the answer is obvious. Such one-sided, unbalanced coverage would have never been originated by the organization or tolerated by its American management during the Cold War.
“Aksaray Opened Its Doors For Those Who Wish To Read The Memorial Prayer For Karimov” | RFE/RL
“Farewell To President Karimov: Tashkent-Samarkand (Video)” | RFE/RL
“People Lined Up For Free Plov In Memory Of The First President Islam Karimov” | RFE/RL
“Samarkand Residents Are Going To The Grave Of Islam Karimov” | RFE/RL
This video taken from Uzbek TV was published also by the Kyrgyz Service:
Another video posted by the RFE/RL Uzbek Service continues the glorification of the dead dictator:
“People At Uzbek Embassy in Moscow Pay Their Respects To Karimov” | RFE/RL
The journalist reports that the RFE/RL Tajik Service also has contributed to the construction of the personality cult of Islam Karimov. The RFE/RL journalist told us that the Tajik Service has “the experience of active participation in the construction of the personality cult of Emomali Rahmon, the de facto ‘Tajik President For Life’.”
“In Tajikistan, Islam Karimov Is Considered A Great Politician” | RFE/RL
“The Leaders of Nations Spoke About The Death Of President of Uzbekistan” | RFE/RL
The RFE/RL English-language website has posted a video almost in full based on a video from Uzbek TV.
Final comments from a concerned RFE/RL journalist:
“Compare all of this with RFE/RL’s coverage of the killing of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov in Moscow, when the RFE/RL Central Asian services published a minimum about Nemtsov’s assassination, let along the death of Nelson Mandela or Vaclav Havel, when Central Asian services and the whole RFE/RL corporation had published only one obituary which was written by the RFE/RL Newsroom in advance.
The new RFE/RL president Thomas Kent has no power to change anything, or he does not have the will or authority, or he does not have management experience because he has never been a media organization manager.”
These RFE/RL headlines and links show that Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO and Director John Lansing and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty President Thomas Kent have no idea what kind of online material language services produce and how to manage these services.
If they do, or are in fact encouraging the posting of such content to increase “Clicks” and “Likes,” then the BBG and RFE/RL are in even greater trouble than anyone could imagine.
READ: “Firehose of Falsehoods: Russian propaganda is pervasive, and America is behind the power curve in countering it.” By William Courtney and Christopher Paul. U.S. News & World Report, September 9, 2016.
BBG CEO John Lansing’s Perspective
From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 2:12:22 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Year in Review & Looking Forward
Today marks my one year of service at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and I continue to be impressed by the dedicated group of people who work here in the Cohen Building, across our five BBG brands, and around the world.
Over the past year I have watched this exceptional team achieve strong audience growth, give life to exciting new content opportunities, particularly in digital and mobile media, push for industry-leading ways to achieve impact in our programming, as we collectively work to inform, engage and connect with people in support of freedom and democracy.
Together, we have achieved a lot.
The ICC – Strategic Coordination
One of the most impactful things we did last year was form the U.S. international media Coordinating Committee (ICC) to facilitate strategic coordination across the BBG’s five networks and the IBB. There have been substantive improvements in favor of our key audiences based on this coordinated and strategic approach from Russia to China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea and covering CVE. The ICC now meets twice a month with me to discuss further collaboration and jointly worked with the IBB to develop and submit our FY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets.
Measuring BBG’s Impact on Key Audiences
Equally important, together we are growing our focus on achieving impact through our journalism. BBG reaches an audience of 226 million weekly, which only goes to show the hunger for our accurate and reliable content around the world. But it is also clear that reach is not enough – we need our journalism and programming to impact the lives of our audiences and their communities as well. That is why I was so pleased when, in February of this year, we hosted an Impact Summit where research directors of each BBG network came together and agreed upon an enhanced Impact Model to evaluate all BBG content.
Aggressive Push into Digital / Mobile / Social
We also made several advancements to increase access and engagement on social/mobile platforms to reach younger, more urban audiences, future leaders and influencers. There already was a lot of work being done in this area before I arrived, but I am proud to say that we are pushing the envelope significantly further. In just a few weeks, we will convene a Social Media Summit to look at best practices across BBG, establish baseline expectations, and promote future growth in mobile / social media across our networks.
Putting Our Audiences First – On Their Terms
And we continue to create and scale up innovative and compelling new content and reporting that is making a difference around the world. For instance:
— MBN’s multi-platform Raise Your Voice initiative is connecting audiences in the Middle East as they fight back against ISIS recruitment
— OCB’s aggressive push to open up Cuba to Internet freedom
— RFA’s powerful investigative stories halting the construction of faulty health clinics by North Korea in Africa
— RFE/RL’s collaborative success story with an expanded Current Time on all platforms and aggressive DIGIM strategy
— VOA’s collaboration on Current Time, and its successful launch of the Global Town Hall in Somalia
And there is so much more being done across our networks, and at the IBB, that I simply do not have space to list them all here.
None of these advancements would be possible without your tireless support, commitment, and mission-driven energy – whether you are contributing to the team at IBB or serving in any of the many responsibilities at our networks. It is YOUR work that earns our audiences’ respect as a trusted source of news and safe access to a free Internet.
Yet, while this has been a remarkable year and we made many strides, there is still more we need to do to continue to transform our global operations to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving media environment. I look forward to working alongside you for the next year to do just that.
But, for the moment, I only wish to say this: I am proud to come to work every day and work alongside all of you to achieve our important mission. The BBG team is an extraordinary one, and I thank you for welcoming me.
With sincere gratitude,
John F. Lansing
CEO and Director
Broadcasting Board of Governors