BBG Watch Commentary

DW Hunter Biden Report
DW Hunter Biden Report

The Voice of America (VOA) English website did not have a news report on Hunter Biden, the son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, joining the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas company. Despite wide international interest and reporting on this controversial news story, including one-sided reports by RT and Voice of Russia, Voice of America English News ignored it.

Al Jazeera, BBC, and countless other major international and U.S. media outlets reported on Hunter Biden and his Ukraine connection in English and in other languages.

Russia’s RT news report, “Son of US VP Joe Biden appointed to board of major Ukrainian gas company,” RT, May 13, 2014, had over 10,000 Facebook Likes as of 1:00 AM, May 21, and 331 comments. Most VOA English news reports get only a few dozen Facebook Shares.

It is not known whether VOA executives intentionally decided to ignore this news story because of its sensitive nature or whether it was yet another example of mismanagement and numerous violations of the VOA Charter under their watch.

VOA English News did not have a report on this story even though there was an official response from the White House, which said it can’t see any problem in Biden’s taking the job. The VOA Charter 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)

Deutsche Welle, on the other hand, did have not one, but two news reports on Hunter Biden that were accurate, balanced and comprehensive — a requirement for the Voice of America under its Charter.

SEE: Who are Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian bosses?, Roman Goncharenko, DW, May 16, 2014

SEE: Muted response to Biden son’s Ukraine job, Gero Schließ, DW, May 16, 2014

DW reported that the White House said it can’t see any problem in Biden’s recent appointment. DW also reported that Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to comment further, stating only that “Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the vice president or president.”

DW even quoted Michael Sawkiw, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, backing the president’s spokesman. VOA English News did not have any of this reporting, although one would logically expect that VOA would be covering this U.S. news story and controversy it generated, as required by the VOA Charter.

DW news reports on Hunter Biden were both sophisticated and sufficient for the subject matter. VOA services to Russia and Ukraine did have reports on the Hunter Biden controversy, but VOA English News and most other VOA language services did not.

In the case of this rather important and widely reported news story, Germany’s Deutsche Welle had a news report in English that the Voice of America should have had, but did not.

Such news reporting failures may cause the Voice of America to be shut down by the U.S. Congress, although it’s more likely that Congress will insist on management reforms. But Rep. Matt Salmon, the Arizona Republican, is offering legislation to eliminate federal funding for the Voice of America for mismanagement and violations of the VOA Charter.

While originally commissioned to provide a “clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States”, the VOA has veered from its original mission and has, sadly, become another duplicative, federal program,” Salmon said in a statement. “Rather than working to fulfill its original mission, VOA has fallen into the rut of merely mimicking other news outlets by simply reporting news. Unbiased news reporting is important in countries where freedom of the press is limited. Because of this, the United States already funds organizations tasked with disseminating unfiltered news to regions of the world that lack a free press. While a worthy cause, it is not one VOA was primarily tasked to do,” Rep. Matt Salmon said in a statement.

Another bill dealing with the Voice of America, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490), has already been unanimously approved in a fully bipartisan action by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which Rep. Salmon is a member, and sent to the whole House for consideration.

H.R. 4490 introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce, with Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel and seven other co-sponsors, would not abolish the Voice of America but would subject it to much stricter management controls.