BBG Watch Commentary


During the Cold War, U.S. taxpayer-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was a giant of specialized news reporting and analysis about the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. These days, under increasing bureaucratic control by its oversight agency in Washington, DC, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), RFE/RL news content looks more and more like equally superficial and sloppy news content of BBG’s federal government media outlet, the Voice of America (VOA).

RFE/RL, based in Prague, Czech Republic, is still a non-federal entity within the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors, but without a permanent leadership for over two years, it is picking up more and more of BBG’s and VOA’s “good-enough-for-government-work” reporting habits. Many of RFE/RL’s English-language news reports, like VOA news reports, are quickly compiled from wire service dispatches by inexperienced writers, lack balance against various forms of foreign (mostly Russian) propaganda, and are full of embarrassing mistakes.

International audiences are more likely these days to get in-depth and balanced coverage in English about Eastern Europe and Russia from Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) or BBC than from RFE/RL or VOA. Check out this recent RFE/RL news report, “Russia Promises ‘Asymmetric’ Response To NATO Buildup In East” | RFE/RL, which is based on reporting by TASS and Interfax and simply repeats Kremlin propaganda without any attempt by RFE/RL to provide context or balance.

ALSO SEE: “RFE/RL as Radio Free Kremlin, Not An April Fools Day Joke” | BBG Watch, April 1, 2016


A more recent RFE/RL report, while not completely one-sided, Polish Minister Says Russia More Dangerous Than Islamic State” | RFE/RL, has only 168 words.
RFERL Screenshot April 15 2016

The Voice of America (VOA News) had nothing online on this news topic.

Compared to VOA’s non-reporting and RFE/RL’s 168-word report, Russia’s RT gave the story full treatment in two different reports posted online.

RT Twitter LogoRT’s report Russia more dangerous than ‘non-existential ISIS threat’ – Polish FM | RT, had over 1,000 words and a video. RT also posted later one of its typical propaganda analyses of the story, Poland’s ‘Russia bigger threat than ISIS’ statement – ‘absolutely ridiculous & dangerous’ | RT.

RFE/RL report does not even come close to be any kind of counter to RT propaganda. RFE/RL noted that its report was compiled from “reporting by Reuters and AFP.” On top of everything else, RFE/RL misspelled the name of Poland’s foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski. RFE/RL shows his last name as “Waszczkowski” (sic).

Who among sophisticated English-speaking audiences can take such superficial and sloppy RFE/RL reporting seriously?

Equally sloppy re-writes of wire service reports can be seen regularly on the main VOA English news website.

VOA and President Obama on First Name Basis Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8:25 PM ET
VOA and President Obama on First Name Basis Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 8:25 PM ET

SEE: “Sloppy Voice of America on first name basis with President Obama” | BBG Watch, March 30, 2016

Compare the RFE/RL report on Polish foreign minister’s comments about Russia and ISIS to in-depth coverage of the same news by Deutsche Welle. The DW report, Polish foreign minister says Russia more dangerous than IS” | DW

Compared to RFE/RL’s report, which is thin both on content and analysis, the DW report has over 1,000 words and includes a video of a lengthy DW interview with Minister Waszczykowski.

RFE/RL’s mission statement says that “RFE/RL provides objective news, analysis, and discussion of domestic and regional issues crucial to successful democratic and free-market transformations.”

DW’s slogan is “Made for minds.”

RFE/RL describes its mission in a few more words, but these days it often fails to deliver on its promise.

SEE: RFE/RL competes with SPUTNIK and RT in promoting Putin humor | BBG Watch, April 14, 2016

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s editorial standards have become so loose under the temporary leadership of the last two years that international audiences are often puzzled whether they are looking at RFE/RL, RT, or ISIS social media content.
RFERL Wholesale Racism in Israel Facebook Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.50 PM ET

SEE: “‘Wholesale racism’ in Israel: RFE/RL Facebook message paid by U.S. taxes” | BBG Watch, March 27, 2016

Some of the “good-enough-for-government-work” RFE/RL English-language social media reporting may actually be dangerous for the U.S. government and U.S. national security as false incendiary messages could encourage terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. New VOA director, Amanda Bennett, has just been named by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA has been without permanent director for one year. RFE/RL has been without permanent chief executive for over two years.