BBG Watch Commentary
Even Russia’s state international media outlet, Russia Today, posted on its English news website a George Clooney video in support of Ukrainian protesters, while the Voice of America (VOA) English news does not provide its own original reporting from Kiev but relies instead on Reuters reports without any videos and often very few photos.
See: “Mass protests in Kiev: LIVE UPDATES,” Russia Today, December 9, 2013.
While Russia Today, which serves international audiences, has tried to maintain some objectivity, most of the time, however, the Kremlin-controlled domestic Russian mass media, especially state TV, have been skewering the news from Ukraine. This proves the necessity of timely and effective Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) radio and TV broadcasts and online multimedia news content.
Max Seddon reported on BuzzFeed that “as several hundred thousand people took to the streets Sunday in possibly the largest anti-government protest since Ukraine’s political crisis started last month, pro-Kremlin Russian media desperately scrambled to play down numbers.”
“Channel One claimed that “only a few hundred” people attended the protests, which were “dying out.” NTV, famous for its pseudo-documentary hit pieces on the Kremlin’s enemies, had a reporter spend a whole week filming an elderly woman complaining about the noise the protests made near her apartment.” “Russian TV Scrambles To Play Down Ukraine Protests,” Max Seddon, BuzzFeed, December 8, 2013.
It is simply astounding that VOA Director David Ensor and Executive Editor Steve Redisch did not arrange for a VOA English News correspondent to be permanently present and reporting from Ukraine at this time.
But while VOA English News is practically defunct and unable to provide original coverage from Ukraine or even from Washington, DC, fortunately, the VOA Ukrainian Service still offers extensive coverage of protests in Kiev and American reactions, but only in Ukrainian.
Other VOA language services do not get adequate VOA English news content they can use in their coverage of Ukraine. This means that these audiences are not getting good quality VOA news from the United States.
Social media usage indicators show that these international audiences increasingly turn for news to Russia Today, Al Jazeera or BBC. These outlets regularly get thousands of Facebook “Likes” for their original reports from Ukraine, while Reuters reports on the VOA English website rarely get more than two dozen “Likes.”
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which like VOA also falls under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), is providing outstanding coverage of protests in Ukraine in Ukrainian, Russian, English and in other languages of its broadcast region.
The Voice of America (VOA) has worldwide reach. Its poor news reporting performance in English leaves many international audiences underserved.
Last week the Voice of America 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. As one former VOA broadcaster observed, with the kind of news coverage the Voice of America provides these days, Polish Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa might still be sitting in a communist prison.
“George Clooney, one of the greatest actors of our time, is also known for his humanitarian involvement. Clooney advocates worldwide for his liberal and political beliefs. Now, the two-time Oscar winner addressed a message directly to the Ukrainian people. He sent this video to Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko to participate actively in their movement for democracy in the Ukraine.”