BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch proudly, independently and fearlessly continues to be a watch dog project run by a group of current and former Voice of America (VOA) journalists, reporters from other media outlets funded by American taxpayers through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and other contributors and supporters in the United States and worldwide.
The Government Executive article by Charles S. Clark mentions several of BBG Watch’s accomplishments, including helping Radio Liberty journalists in Russia get their jobs back before Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea. The article also mentions BBG Watch’s contribution to preventing the BBG’s federal government bureaucracy, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), from carrying out its recommendation to shut down all VOA direct radio and satellite television broadcasts to China and VOA radio broadcasts to Tibet.
The article does not go into more recent investigative reporting by BBG Watch, including reports on a politically explosive and faulty poll carried out by IBB in Russia-annexed Crimea, IBB’s promotion of misleading Crimea survey results and VOA’s reporting of pro-Kremlin propaganda points with no questions asked.
BBG Watch has also been reporting in recent months on what appears to be a successful effort by AFGE Local 1812 union to bring justice for Radio and TV Marti broadcasters illegally RIFed in 2009.
We have also reported on the debate over H.R. 4490, the bipartisan, Royce – Engel United States International Communications Reform Act.
Most of BBG Watch commentators have taken the position that the bill needs to be strongly supported for its management reforms provisions, but its language regarding VOA’s mission should be modified to include the entire VOA Charter and eliminate any wording that could undermine VOA’s journalistic independence. Some current and former VOA English Newsroom employees do not like BBG Watch commentators expressing strong support for H.R. 4490, but almost all VOA employees agree that the organization is badly managed and needs reforming.
The most recent BBG Watch reporting was on contempt shown by the agency’s senior management by not informing its audiences and VOA radio program hosts well in advance of the date of planned cuts to shortwave broadcasts to Asia at the end of last month. The IBB bureaucracy cut broadcasts to the most vulnerable groups of radio listeners with none or very few other options to get uncensored news from the United States.
The bureaucracy defends this move as saving $1.6 million, while IBB has increased the number of its bureaucratic positions in the last several years by 40% at the cost of multiple millions of dollars to U.S. taxpayers. During the same time, IBB recommended cutting numerous other broadcasts and journalistic positions and spent millions on new media projects that failed to help VOA become a hybrid media organization capable of engaging large audiences through social media because in the process VOA executives have largely destroyed VOA news gathering and news reporting capabilities, especially by VOA Newsroom. VOA English News Twitter account has nearly ten times fewer Twitter Followers (slightly over 100,000) than the U.S. State Department Twitter page (over 900,000) devoted to public diplomacy.