BBG Watch Commentary
New Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing must be a reader of BBG Watch, or executives and program managers under him are afraid that he might be. Since September, he has been in charge of the BBG federal agency, which includes U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA).
After two posts by our watch dog site: “Faire l’amour is top U.S. news today on Voice of America French” and “Florida couple having sex while facing arrest number one U.S. news story on Voice of America French site for five days,” the French to Africa Service of the Voice of America has removed from its website a U.S. “sex-before-jail” story, which was a word-for-word re-posting of an Agence France Press (AFP) report. The VOA French service to Africa also started to update its USA News page.
A link to the VOA French report: “USA: un couple résiste à son arrestation pendant six heures pour faire l’amour” (Translation: “USA: a couple resists arrest for six hours to make love”) now shows that the page does not exist.
But this being a badly managed U.S. government operation, VOA managers failed to remove a Facebook post on the story. It’s still online with the “sex-before-jail” title on Facebook, although its link to the report on the VOA website no longer works because the VOA report itself has been removed.
We admit that there is a certain element of amusement to the AFP story copied word-for-word by the Voice of America.
The question is whether U.S. taxpayer-funded VOA should spend taxpayers’ dollars reporting on minor crimes in the U.S.
The posting of an AFP report in full, but describing it only “Avec AFP” (“With AFP”), was journalistically dishonest on the part of the Voice of America. VOA did not change anything in the AFP story except adding a photo which had absolutely nothing to do with the story or its location. The incident happened at a mobile home in Florida. VOA showed a picture of a mobile home partly destroyed by a hurricane several years earlier in another U.S. state
We would say that if French to Africa Service was running a top-notch news site with timely and comprehensive news content and news analysis, a lighter American news story, properly written and providing some context for an international audience, could be added from time to time in a proper place.
In this case, the completely insignificant “sex-before-jail” story was placed as a number one VOA U.S. news item. Voice of America French to Africa Service not only kept it in that position for five days; the service also did not update its U.S. news for five days.
This is an indication of a serious management problem, not just at the foreign language service level, but also within the top ranks of the Voice of America and the BBG’s vast program support and bureaucratic structure, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).
When VOA removed the story, it still did not fix the problem of updating news on the French to Africa Service website, or made sure desktop and mobile websites were working properly. None of VOA’s desktop and mobile sites and many of VOA applications are working properly. News posting and updating is a mess. VOA lacks reporters and resources. Its annual budget is about $200 million, but IBB, which is in charge of setting up and running VOA websites but produces no programs, has a combined budget of $239 million.
A group of BBG employees told John Lansing in an anonymous letter (they fear retaliation from executives and managers) that IBB program support functions have been inadequate and mismanaged for years while IBB bureaucracy kept growing by leaps and bounds.
The link to “Other U.S. News” on the French to Africa homepage still points to a page that has not been updated for months.
Additionally, the pages used to show that a particular item cannot be found are different for the desktop version and the mobile version of the site. That would not be a problem except for some unexplained reason the page for the mobile site lists RFE/RL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) as offering the search function, embarrassing a BBG grantee media outlet that is not responsible for VOA’s journalistic mistakes, although RFE/RL may be running IBB’s content management system.
Here are some screenshots of the VOA French to Africa Service report that has been removed from the VOA website.