BBG Watch Commentary

Both Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) have posted on their websites lists of their journalistic accomplishments in 2013. Both organizations are journalistically independent, but are funded by U.S. taxpayers and overseen by the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in Washington, DC.

Often referred to as surrogate media outlets, they are by U.S. legislation required to provide free media reporting by journalists from countries where governments practice press censorship or where there are other obstacles to normal functioning of free media.

Radio Free Asia has shown its accomplishments in a short video:

Link to Video:  RFA Headlines in 2013
Link to Video: RFA Headlines in 2013

RFA journalistic awards received in 2013 can be seen here.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has posted online a list of its best reports in 2013:

Exclusive Interviews And Reports From Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, and Iran

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the first photo of the former oligarch and Kremlin critic after his release, Berlin, 20 Dec 2013

December 20, 2013

A roundup of original stories and exclusive interviews from throughout RFE/RL’s Services and Central Newsroom. More


Both RFA and RFE/RL appear to be well-managed and doing excellent news reporting as envisioned by the U.S. Congress to help provide news, information and opinions to people in countries without free media. In 2012, there was a major management crisis at RFE/RL, which affected news reporting. But a new CEO, Kevin Klose, who took over at the request of the BBG in January 2013, initiated management reforms and has restored high journalistic standards, as seen in the quality of RFE/RL’s news reports in recent months.

However, the Voice of America (VOA), which is also overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, appears to be in the midst of a major management crisis that has continued for several years. VOA often fails to post and update news in a timely manner. Its executives have not produced a list of 2013 accomplishments similar to those put out by RFA and RFE/RL.

The VOA public relations website shows, however, a link to “VOA DEEP DIVE WITH DAVID ENSOR,” with the following description: “VOA Director David Ensor gave a multimedia presentation on the Voice of America to the Broadcasting Board of Governors on Wednesday, December 18th, 2013.”

During the presentation, Director Ensor was sharply questioned by BBG Governor Matt Armstrong about inadequacies of VOA news coverage.

The Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which runs Radio and TV Marti, has not yet posted any end-of-the-year reviews in English of its 2013 journalistic accomplishments.

The Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), which runs Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa has only a very basic English-language website and also does not show any lists of recent journalistic accomplishments or awards.

Information about Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa, which is posted on the BBG website, is more than a year old.

Information about Radio and TV Marti, posted on the BBG website, is also more than a year old.

Information about VOA and RFE/RL has also not been updated on the BBG website for more than a year. The BBG website is maintained by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which is also in the midst of a major management crisis. Members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors have recently announced personnel changes at IBB and promised further reforms.

But even despite these continuing management problems, which are especially acute at IBB and VOA, journalists working for all of BBG’s media entities are still capable of producing outstanding multimedia news reports.

While VOA English news service has basically collapsed under bad management at the top level of the organization, the VOA Ukrainian Service and some of the other VOA language services, are still trying to maintain high journalistic standards despite limited resources and employee-unfriendly work environment.

These journalists deserve full support and appreciation for the great work they are doing. We hope that the BBG will come to their rescue soon by aggressively expanding management reforms already initiated at IBB, and earlier at RFE/RL.