BBG Watch Commentary

Russian ambassador to Poland has implied that Poland, not Hitler and Stalin, was responsible for the start of World War II in 1939. Where was the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) on this Russian propaganda story? Apparently nowhere.

VOA executives and mid-level managers who should have been paying attention were likely away on their international travels using end of the fiscal year money. It was the weekend and the VOA English newsroom and language services have minimal staffing even on weekdays. Some VOA English newsroom reporters object to “countering” Russian propaganda. They specifically protested against “countering violent extremism.” Some of them often don’t get more than 10 Facebook “Shares” and hardly any comments for their news reports on the main VOA English news website. But it’s more likely that in this case no one was paying any attention. VOA lacks area and regional experts. The money goes to the bureaucracy. It’s a result of years of mismanagement. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), where the Voice of America belongs, has new CEO and Director, John Lansing, but he has only been on the job a few days. VOA and especially BBG’s surrogate media outlets have many foreign language services whose journalists believe in exposing propaganda and countering it with accurate information and balanced analysis.

“Russian Ambassador Sergey Andreev on Friday described the Soviet’s 1939 invasion of Poland as an act of self-defense, not aggression,” Germany’s Deustche Welle reported. “The comment prompted Poland’s Foreign Ministry to declare that the ambassador had undermined “historical truth” and seemed to be trying to justify Stalinist crimes,” DW added.

SEE: Poland furious after Russia blames them for starting WWII, Deutsche Welle, September 26, 2015

BBC reported:

“Poland is to summon the Russian ambassador over remarks which appeared to suggest he said Poland was partly to blame for the start of World War Two.
Sergey Andreyev said Poland had blocked a coalition against Nazi Germany several times in the run-up to war.
He also said the USSR’s invasion of Poland in 1939 was not an aggression.”

SEE: Russia and Poland in spat over World War Two cause, BBC, September 26, 2015

RFE/RL had a short, poorly-edited news item in English based on wire agencies reports.

Poland Outraged Over Russian Envoy Blaming Warsaw For WWII, RFE/RL, September 26, 2015

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RFE/RL Russian Service, however, had two reports. Link

A search of the Voice of America Russian Service website showed none.

A strong recommendation from a Russian independent journalist and new media scholar for VOA to report more on history being distorted by President Putin’s propaganda machine is being largely ignored.

In 2011, Dr. Nikolay Rudenskiy who was hired by the BBG to do an evaluation of the VOA Russian Service observed: “History also matters. There is an apparent scarcity of historical themes on the VOA site.”

Dr. Rudenskiy also concluded in a 2011 study commissioned and paid for by the BBG that the VOA Russian website showed a “pro-Putin bias.” Some but not enough improvement has been seen since then.

an analysis of its leadership and management which was the focus of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) September 2013 “Inspection of U.S. International Broadcasting to Russia.” Some of the OIG report’s findings are still relevant, especially when it comes to leadership and oversight at the Voice of America.

OIG Inspection of U.S. International Broadcasting to Russia

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