BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 1.23PM EST. At that time, VOA English website still had no headline and no report on President Obama's statement on Russia and Ukraine.
VOA Homepage Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 1.23PM EST. At that time, VOA English website still had no headline and no report on President Obama’s statement on Russia and Ukraine.

Voice of America (VOA) English news website streamed President Obama’s statement on Russia and Ukraine live. This is considerable progress because last Friday when President Obama made an earlier statement on Russia and Ukraine, VOA did not carry it live and did not even have a correspondent present at the White House.

But despite having live streaming this time, it still took VOA about half a hour to post on its English news homepage a first headline about President Obama’s today’s statement. (A later check showed that it took about 18-20 minutes after the president started speaking and about 13-15 minutes after he had finished his statement to post a headline and just one short sentence — hardly a big achievement for a U.S. news organization when the President of the United States is speaking about a major geopolitical crisis.) That short sentence was not augmented for another 20 to 30 minutes.

BBC and Deutsche Welle (DW) were much faster in providing more detailed information about President Obama’s statement. Both BBC and DW also reported on Secretary Kerry’s statement in Rome, while VOA had nothing on it as late as 2:15 PM EST.

The VOA report on President Obama’s statement to which the headline on VOA’s homepage that eventually appeared linked to initially had only one sentence — just a few words — about what the president said and nothing about what the White House press secretary was still saying to reporters. While the streaming of the press secretary’s answers to reporters’ questions was still going on on the VOA website, new VOA website visitors would not have learned much for well over an hour what the president or even the press secretary had said earlier.

As of 1:40 PM EST, this is actually all VOA English website visitors would have learned about President Obama’s statement at that time (VOA Ukrainian and VOA Russian websites also did not have much more at that time):

VOA English news one sentence on President Obama’s statement (seen at 1:40PM EST, posted at about 1:23PM EST and still not expanded): “Speaking at the White House on the escalating crisis in Ukraine, President Barack Obama has condemned a secession initiative put forth by Russian-backed lawmakers in Ukraine’s Crimea, calling it a violation of International Law. He also reiterates the West’s backing of Ukraine’s new government.”

Meanwhile, BBC was reporting the following:

BBC 1:14PM: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, now on the podium, refuses to name the individuals targeted by US sanctions.

BBC 1:10PM: President Obama: If Russia continues to violate international law, the US and its allies will remain firm.

BBC 1:10PM: President Obama says the Crimea referendum “would violate international law” and that any decision on Crimea “must include the Ukrainian government”.

BBC 1:09PM: Mr Obama says US targeted sanctions were taken in coordination with European allies. “I am confident we are moving forward together,” he says.

BBC 1:09PM: US President Barack Obama is talking from the White House on the Ukraine crisis.


Ukraine crisis: Latest updates

At 1:50PM EST, Voice of America was still streaming live the White House press secretary speaking from the White House, but — unlike BBC — VOA was not posting any text summaries of significant points President Obama and the press secretary had made earlier.

Voice of America was also not reporting live on Secretary Kerry’s simultaneous comments in Rome on the situation in Ukraine. BBC was not streaming Kerry’s comments but it was posting text updates.

BBC 1:49PM: Asked on differences within the EU on how to deal with Ukraine, John Kerry denied any “gaps” between EU members, saying “fundamentally there is no difference whatsoever”. “Europe on its own has announced that they have taken some steps,” he continues.

BBC 1:32PM: Crimea is “in Ukraine”, Mr Kerry stresses in response to a question on the referendum called earlier by the Crimean parliament. “Ukrainians need to live by Ukrainian law and by the constitution,” he adds.

BBC 1:29PM : Ukraine has the international community’s full support, says Mr Kerry. “We want everyone to understand that our preference is to get back to normality, where the rights of Ukraine are respected and Ukrainian territorial integrity is respected,” he adds.

BBC 1:29PM: John Kerry: We cannot allow Russia or any country to defy international law with impunity.

BBC 1:28PM: The choices Russia made have escalated the situation in Ukraine, says Mr Kerry. But we believe Russia has the option to make the right choices, he adds.

BBC 1:28PM: Mr Kerry says the US has taken specific steps in response to events in Ukraine, including tough visa restrictions on a number of individuals.

BBC 1:2PM: US Secretary of State John Kerry is now speaking from Rome.

BBC 1:18PM: President Obama addressing reporters at the White House on Ukraine, a short while ago.


Ukraine crisis: Latest updates

Germany’s Deutsche Welle has also reported briefly on Secretary Kerry’s statement in Rome, while Voice of America (English, Ukrainian, and Russian) still had nothing on his statement as of 2:15PM EST. VOA also did not elaborate, as BBC and DW did, that “the White House provided a legal framework for economic sanctions, instead of immediately imposing them.”

DW 1:25 PM – US Secretary of State John Kerry elaborates on US sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s intervention in Crimea. The State Department has imposed visa bans against those responsible for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, including people who have claimed authority in Crimea without Ukraine’s authorization. President Obama has provided the US Treasury Department with the legal authority to freeze the financial assets of those who allegedly caused the crisis. The White House provided a legal framework for economic sanctions, instead of immediately imposing them, in order to retain flexibility in negotiations with Moscow.

DW 1:10 PM – In a televised statement, US President Barack Obama says that the proposed referendum in Crimea violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law. The president went on to say that international observers should be deployed in all of Ukraine, as well as Crimea, to ensure the rights of ethnic Russians. The US and the EU are united in their response and Congress should make American resources available to the government in Kyiv, according to the US president.


Thu, Mar 06, 2014
Source: DW (Germany)

By 2:20 PM EST, the VOA English news report included a few more sentences on what President Obama said, but it was still very little. The VOA report has no video of President Obama speaking.

VOA Ukrainian and Russian services also still have very little text and no video on President Obama. Both services have not been given sufficient resources by VOA management, while VOA English news reporting is still very badly managed.

While BBC has far more resources than VOA, President Obama should be clearly Voice of America’s primary news story, not per se, but when speaking on the record on such an overwhelmingly important geopolitical crisis between Russia and the West.

His statement, as well as Secretary Kerry’s statement, deserved live online updates by VOA. Germany’s Deutsche Welle does not have more resources than VOA, and yet DW does a far better job reporting even on U.S. news stories. Despite a small improvement, mismanagement at Voice of America continues. This is still amateur hour. Veteran VOA reporters — those who have not yet left in frustration — are very unhappy with their executive manager.

As of 2:30 PM EST, VOA websites are still not reporting on Secretary Kerry’s statement in Rome.

Comments are closed.