BBG Watch Commentary

Journalists working for U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) are complaining that because of poor management which saw the growth of bureaucracy and the shrinkage of reporting positions, many VOA services were late last night and this morning in reporting on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s death and the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s statement calling Castro a “brutal dictator.”

The Voice of America’s VOA English News was about ten (10) hours behind Russia’s RT, BBC, and other international media in posting its first Castro death story on Facebook.

READ: VOA, RT, BBC Facebook Castro posts compared: VOA 379; RT 11K; BBC 56K Likes, BBG Watch, November 26, 2016

The Voice of America is managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a still highly dysfunctional federal agency, which then Secretary of State and herself BBG board member Hillary Clinton called in 2013 “practically defunct.”

A VOA reporter, who wants to remain anonymous, wrote to us early Saturday morning:


A VOA REPORTER: “For the newsroom not to be ready for this death is shameful, especially considering the Mariel boatlift, the Cuban missile crisis, the Obama administration’s opening of relations with Cuba. His age and ill health should have been a clue for the newsroom to have something ready to go on a moment’s notice. Why weren’t they ready?
It is journalistic malpractice.
This is what you get when you have a deserted newsroom overnight.”


The same reporter later added: “Seems like the [Voice of America] website is improving on this story, but almost 12 hours after Castro’s death.”

The first VOA English News story on Castro’s death appeared to have been rather timely and well-written although far from comprehensive, but VOA apparently did not have any additional material on Castro already prepared. Many VOA foreign language services were late in reporting and updating the Castro death story. VOA English News and VOA foreign language services were still slow in their online postings on the story Saturday morning.

bbc-trump-calls-castro-brutal-dictatorrt-live-from-miami-on-castoTrump’s “brutal dictator” statement was breaking top news on BBC well before VOA News reported it in English in a sixth paragraph of a report posted online at 11:25 am ET.

Russian propaganda website RT was live from Miami and Havana while America’s media voice for international audiences, the Voice of America, was not, not even from Miami, Florida, USA.

A Voice of America reporter told us:

“Within the past few weeks [there was] an email telling about plans for a breaking news operation in the [VOA] newsroom…”

The VOA reporter added a question: “So did that only apply if the news breaks between 9 and 5 Monday through Friday?”

While BBC top news headline at 11:09 am ET was on Trump’s comment about Castro, VOA’s report posted at 11:25 am ET was still leading with President Obama’s comments. Led by executives who after Trump’s victory would not even use his name in their post-election messages to staff, VOA editors are either following their leaders or are unaware that at this point comments by President-elect Donald Trump about Castro and Cuba are far more significant for U.S. foreign policy and for reporting on this story than any comments by lame-duck President Barack Obama. This is basic news judgement that the Voice of America should have, but does not under the current leadership, while BBC does.

VOA management had made sure that two “Hillary Clinton Wins” programs were pre-written before the November 8 U.S. presidential election vote, but VOA had no programs ready for Donald Trump winning the election, as he did. VOA management was also not ready for Castro’s death even though the dictator was 90 years old and in poor health for some time.