BBG Watch Commentary
UPDATE: As of 7:30PM ET Monday, December 9, 2013, the Voice of America English news website is still not reporting on Vice President Biden’s phone call with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The VOA website appears to be functioning normally otherwise. The VOA search engine is now working and is not showing any VOA English News reports today about Vice President Biden.
The Voice of Russia (VOR), which President Putin ordered today to merge with the RIA Novosti news agency into Rossia Segodnya (Russia Today) international news agency, is reporting that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Monday to express concern about the situation there and worries about the potential for violence between the government and protesters.
While U.S. international broadcaster the Voice of America (VOA) has nothing on this story on its English-language news website, Voice of Russia reports quotes from a White House statement as saying that “The Vice President underscored the need to immediately de-escalate the situation and begin a dialogue with opposition leaders on developing a consensus way forward for Ukraine.” Voice of Russia also reports that Biden said violence had no place in a democratic society and stressed US support for Ukrainian ties to Europe.
The Voice of America Ukrainian website, however, is reporting on Vice President Joe Biden phone call to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The VOA Russian Service also produced its own 120-word short news item on the phone call.
But while one or two VOA foreign language services are offering this news, the vast majority of other VOA foreign language services do not because they rely on central VOA news output in English.
Earlier last week, the Voice of America English website also failed to cover Vice President Joe Biden’s speech in Beijing, China, on human rights and media freedom.
Meanwhile, Voice of Russia also reported that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and Senior National Security Staff Director for Russia Celeste Wallander were in Moscow Monday, December 9, for meetings with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov, Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov and civil society leaders.
Voice of Russia reported that in meetings with Russian government officials, “Assistant Secretary Nuland expressed U.S. deep concern about the situation in Ukraine, and urged Russia to use its influence to press for peace, human dignity and a political solution.”
“Assistant Secretary Nuland made clear to Russian counterparts that the U.S supports Ukraine’s European choice, a non-violent and just political resolution to the current standoff, and a return to economic health with the support of the International Monetary Fund,” Voice of Russia reported
Again, these news reports were on the Voice of Russia [Emphasis added.] (VOR) English news website and not on the Voice of America [Emphasis added.] (VOA) English news website.
The Washington Post and other U.S. media are also reporting on Vice President Biden’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
See: “Biden calls Ukraine leader, urges halt to violence,” AP, The Washington Post, December 9, 2013.
The VOA English website still has no news about Biden’s call to Yanukovych, even though the following statement has been posted on the White House website for several hours:
The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release December 09, 2013
In a phone call today with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Vice President Biden expressed his deep concern about the situation in Ukraine and the growing potential for violence. The Vice President underscored the need to immediately de-escalate the situation and begin a dialogue with opposition leaders on developing a consensus way forward for Ukraine. He noted that violence has no place in a democratic society and is incompatible with our strategic relationship. The Vice President reaffirmed the strong support of the United States for Ukraine’s European aspirations and welcomed President Yanukovych’s commitment to maintaining this path. He underscored the close alignment of the United States and the European Union, and welcomed the upcoming visits of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and State Department Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland to Kyiv.
The Voice of America Charter, which is a congressionally-passed law setting up VOA’s mission, says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350).” The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees VOA and other U.S. government-funded media outlets serving audiences abroad, says that “the BBG’s mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
These days, however, international audiences may learn more and more quickly about U.S. foreign policy moves from the Voice of Russia and Russia Today than from the Voice of America. While some of their reporting may be at times objective, Kremlin-controled media outlets often present news with a definite anti-American bias.
We have searched the VOA English website page by page and could not find anything on Vice President Biden’s phone call or the visit to Moscow by the State Department delegation. The search function on the VOA English website has been disabled, apparently due to maintenance. It may also be a sign that the site is under attack. However, VOA has been consistently not reporting many news stories or being late and superficial at other times when the site is functioning normally. The site was functioning normally last week when VOA English News failed to post any report on Vice President Biden’s remarks about press censorship in China.
Critics say that VOA English News has been practically defunct in recent years. Instead of providing original news coverage from Ukraine over the weekend, the Voice of America English website relied on news reports from Reuters, a UK-based news agency. Last week the VOA English website failed to cover Lech Wałęsa’s visit to the U.S. Congress and his comments on the lack of America’s and President Obama’s moral and political leadership on the international scene. The Voice of America English website also failed to cover Vice President Joe Biden’s speech in Beijing, China, on human rights and media freedom.
One former VOA broadcaster observed that if the Voice of America covered the news in the 1980s the same way as it does now, Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa might still be sitting in a communist jail.
Critics blame top VOA executives for the poor news management. VOA correspondents often cannot get their reports posted on the VOA English website for many hours and their suggestions are often ignored by the top management.