BBG Watch Commentary

In an interview with John Loeffler for his “Steel on Steel” radio program on January 20, 2018, Iran expert, journalist and writer Kenneth R. Timmerman said that many Iranian protesters call the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) the Voice of the Mullahs or the Voice of Teheran. Similar criticism of both VOA and Radio Farda to Iran, which is also U.S. taxpayer-funded through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency overseeing both VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), can be found in tweets from anti-regime Iranians. Radio Farda operates from RFE/RL headquarters in the Czech Republic. VOA is based in Washington.

But the current Republican chairman of the BBG board Kenneth Weinstein, while not commenting directly on the content of VOA or Radio Farda programs to Iran, in a letter to the Editor of The Wall Street Journal defended John F. Lansing who had been appointed in 2015 as BBG CEO during the Obama administration by the BBG board with a Democratic majority following a recommendation of his selection by the then BBG Democratic chairman Jeff Shell. Shell had a special relationship with Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s advisor and an implementor of his policy on Iran.

“CEO John Lansing has dramatically grown our digital efforts and broadened the number of tools and vendors available to increase and improve BBG’s anticensorship efforts,” Weinstein wrote in response to a highly critical Wall Street Journal editorial about the BBG.

Listen to full radio interview with Kenneth Timmerman.

Two Iranian human rights activists, Mariam Memarsadeghi and Akbar Atri, wrote in an op-ed in The Hill that “Voice of America Persian service should be resuscitated from its deplorable state,” echoing a similar call in The Wall Street Journal editorial to reform VOA’s parent federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is still being managed by holdover officials from the Obama administration. The Wall Street Journal called the BBG “slow and backward.”




MARIAM MEMARSADEGHI & AKBAR ATRI – THE HILL OP-ED: Voice of America Persian service should be resuscitated from its deplorable state. During the Obama administration, the network lost the large and loyal audience it had because popular, politically sharp programming was canceled and replaced with watered-down messaging to accompany appeasement and rapprochement with the Iranian regime. The outlet is poorly managed, with low morale among staff. If the Iranian people are to make a transition to democracy, they will need daily news and analysis from VOA that is robust and encouraging.