BBG Watch Commentary

Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John F. Lansing apparently gave an interview to Russia’s propaganda channel SPUTNIK.

If granting an interview to a well-known anti-U.S. and anti-Western Kremlin disinformation and information war outlet was not a bad enough sign of incredible inexperience and poor judgement on his part, what John F. Lansing told SPUTNIK, if he is quoted correctly and it is not a fake interview, is truly stunning.

SPUTNIK reported: “Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO and Director John Lansing says that the United States and Russia are not in an information war.”


JOHN LANSING AS QUOTED BY SPUTNIK: “I wouldn’t call it an information war,” Lansing said on Tuesday. “I would say that our interest is in US international media being professional, independent, and objective, and truth telling in its approach.”


READ MORE: Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO: US, Russia Not in State of Information War, SPUTNIK (Russia), February 8, 2017.


We have contacted several Russia and international media experts and this is what they all agree on:


“It is clear that Mr. Lansing lacks much needed media savvy on the international stage. He should have known better than to engage with SPUTNIK, one of the two of Kremlin’s main propaganda and disinformation outlets. But if that’s what Mr. Lansing needs to do to keep his job, we understand, although we hope that the Trump administration will realize the tremendous importance of having an experienced person in charge of how America responds to hostile disinformation, misinformation, withholding of information, lies, exaggerations, omissions, and innuendos from hostile propaganda actors such as SPUTNIK and RT.”

Under John Lansing’s watch since September 2015, the BBG’s flagship broadcaster, the Voice of America (VOA), managed by VOA director Amanda Bennett, has reached the level of partisan bias never before seen in VOA’s 75 years of existence.

Several VOA newsroom reporters mocked then President-elect Donald Trump at a holiday party held at the VOA headquarters last December, calling him “a joke.” They also made fun of Trump’s wife and daughter. At least one VOA staffer live-streamed the anti-Trump jokes, including a sex joke about the future First Lady Melania Trump.

During the 2016 presidential election campaign, a VOA foreign language service posted online a video in which Donald Trump was called by a Hollywood actor ““punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” VOA did not attach to the video a rebuttal or a response of any kind. It was a clear violation of the VOA Charter. The video was eventually removed after BBG Watch reported about it.



To this day, some VOA reporters continue to mock President Trump in their social media postings, both personal and even VOA job-related. One VOA reporter used an F-word to describe Trump in a personal social media post which was accessible by Facebook users.

In another stunning admission of BBG management and leadership failure, the Voice of America Persian Service manager’s alleged Twitter account was declared last week to belong to an impostor and was shut down, even though it was followed for several years as a legitimate Twitter account by the VOA Persian Service, the BBG management, the VOA Public Relations Office, scores of VOA, MBN, BBC and other U.S. and international journalists, as well as Iranian human rights activists and others.

How such an allegedly fake Twitter account in the name of the VOA Persian Service manager could have survived and fool the public for so long without anyone at the BBG or VOA alerting the public for several years is another stunning mystery and a stunning poof of the current BBG management’s inability to lead America’s digital outreach to the world which is full of anti-American and anti-democratic propaganda and disinformation.

According to John Lansing, the BBG will not be countering propaganda but engaging in good journalism. We would like to point out that to have good journalism one must be able to see through propaganda and disinformation, to identify its sources, such as SPUTNIK, and to be able to correct their lies rather than grant them interviews.

Broadcasting Board of Governors Republican member Matt Armstrong, who has resigned recently his position on the now advisory board, told contacts in Congress that he has lost faith and confidence in the ability of the BBG Chief Executive Officer John Lansing to lead the agency effectively in support of U.S. foreign policy.

According to congressional sources, Matt Armstrong told his contacts on the Hill that when the BBG Board still had full governing authority, Lansing disregarded the recommendations, concerns, and requests of Members of the Board, and has willfully withheld information from the Board.

BBG Watch has learned that these statements from Matt Armstrong were shared with the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) who was one of the key sponsors of the bipartisan legislation to reform the BBG. The BBG reform amendment was signed into law by President Obama before he left office. The legislation gives President Trump the authority to nominate a new BBG CEO who would be subject to vetting and confirmation by the U.S. Senate. John Lansing, a former private sector entertainment TV cable network manager, is not a presidential appointee confirmed by the Senate. He was recommended for his BBG position by former BBG Democratic chairman, Hollywood executive Jeff Shell.

Some media outlets such as The Washington Post, Politico and MSNBC have posted reports and commentaries expressing grave concern that President Trump may appoint someone to the BBG who will follow the White House line, but these media outlets have failed to discover and report on truly stunning violations of journalistic balance and ethics at the Voice of America under the current VOA/BBG leadership left over from the Obama administration.


1 comment
  1. John Lansing’s regrettable luck of sound professional judgment is singularly harmful for American public diplomacy. In the letter (excerpts follow) sent January 23rd from Prague to Messrs. Matt Ciepielowski and Matt Schuck, president Trump’s transition representatives at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, I wrote: “…One may assume that candidacy of Mr. John Lansing, serving since September 2015 as BBG’s CEO and Director, will be out of your consideration. His understanding of American public diplomacy, as the tool and mirror of American public image abroad, is simply negligent. In particular, his reaction – or rather total absence of any reaction — to events surrounding Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the largest American broadcasting entity overseas, is the scandalous proof of his professional inability. Inability to the detriment of the United States.”

    Lev Roitman
    RFE/RL senior commentator
    (retired after thirty years with the Radios in New York, Munich, and Prague),
    publisher, lawyer

    Letter (excerpts):

    “U.S. federal agency tasked with American public diplomacy abroad, succeeded to alienate quite a number of respectable international NGOs, lost trust of critical foreign audiences and respect of democratically oriented media, brought shame to the United States…

    “From Prague, RFE/RL broadcasts in 26 languages to 23 countries…It employs hundreds of non-Czechs and non-Americans deprived by BBG-RFE/RL labor policies of both American and Czech legal protections. Void of rights foreigners form the bulk of RFE/RL’s editorial staff…

    “Armenian citizen Anna Karapetian and Croatian Snjezana Pelivan were fired by RFE/RL without any indicated reason or cause, after years of impeccable service with “very good” and/or “excellent” regular performance reviews… Their official Complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva ( ),
    “National Discrimination of Hundreds Foreign Employees of American Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague Practiced by U.S. Federal Government Agency Broadcasting Board of Governors Serving as RFE/RL’s Board of Directors,”
    is pending for consideration. It is morally and legally devastating document – for BBG reputation…

    “Pelivan’s and Karapetian’s Complaint is supported by numerous international NGOs, prominent human rights defenders and political figures who personally appealed to BBG. As Armenian newspaper AZG Daily wrote:
    “The most devious anti-American mind would not be able to design such an international media campaign devastating to RFE/RL and, by natural extension, to American image and trustworthiness abroad, as the American RFE/RL managed to cause on its own…”

    “What was done by BBG CEO and Director John Lansing in order to achieve the recall of the damaging American interests Complaint? He did NOTHING, despite Mmes. Karapetian and Pelivan wrote to him suggesting personal meeting already during his first visit to Prague. He preferred not to answer their letter…

    “Their forced by necessity Complaint to United Nations Human Rights Council may and should be recalled. Headed by Joaquin Maza Martelli of El Salvador 48-members-strong UN HRC, which today includes such notorious violators of human rights as Cuba, China, Philippines, Venezuela, etc., is not a proper place to discuss American public diplomacy turned public disaster by inept American federal agency – the BBG.”

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