BBG Watch Commentary

donald-trump-official-photoIn violation of its Congressional Charter, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) has posted several hit pieces on Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign.

Donald Trump now appears to be the winner of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, according to AP. His administration, if his win is confirmed, will likely determine the future of the Voice of America’s parent federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

One of the VOA hit pieces on Donald Trump was a video of Hollywood actor Robert De Niro calling Trump “dog” and other names, which the Voice of America translated into Ukrainian and posted on Facebook without any counter-response. Balance and comprehensiveness are mandated by the VOA Charter and VOA Journalistic Code when such charges or accusations are made.

VOA Charter, which is U.S. law, requires VOA programs to be fair and balanced. VOA did not ask Donald Trump or his supporters for a response and did not include one. We are not saying that VOA should not have reported on Robert De Niro’s comments, but any such VOA report would have to been balanced.

After criticism from the watch dog group BBG Watch, their own journalists, and other critics, the management of the Voice of America removed the video from Facebook but did not issue an apology.

VOA has produced several other anti-Donald Trump pieces during the 2016 election campaign.

The Voice of America was also accused by Senator Bernie Sanders’s supporters of “state-media bias.”

VOA budget in FY2017 is $224 million. VOA is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described in 2013 as “practically defunct” in its ability to carry out its job of U.S. international media outreach. BBG’s entire budget, including VOA’s, is $777 million in FY2017. Voice of America’s director is Amanda Bennett. John F. Lansing is BBG CEO and Director. Jeff Shell is the outgoing BBG Chairman.

In the past, when the Voice of America operated under the former United States Information Agency (USIA), VOA journalists carefully avoided making their partisan political views public and tried much harder to remain objective in their news reporting for VOA. This has changed under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. A Voice of America journalist recently posted on a private but publicly accessible Facebook page, on which the journalist’s VOA job is mentioned, that “if F*ckface Von Clownstick gets elected on Nov 8 I will not be able to say anything on Facebook against him anymore, as dictatorship will have descended on this land.”

Such comments would have never been made by Voice of America journalists in public before VOA had transferred from USIA to the BBG. While VOA journalists are certainly free to have and to express in private strong political opinions, respectable news organizations generally do not allow their employees to make such partisan statements in public because they can be seen as undermining their objectivity and credibility with the audience. VOA journalists are either U.S. federal government employees or government contractors.

Link to VOA Trump hit video which has been removed from Voice of America Facebook page after internal and outside criticism.