BBG Watch Commentary

Several recent media reports point to serious problems at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), its Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to Iran and VOA Russian website. Russian Accuses Voice Of America Of Fake Interview by MICHELE KELEMEN

Critics blame the overall culture of mismanagement and contempt for rank-and-file journalists by a small group of entrenched executives who have just proposed to cut $17 million form the VOA budget. They plan to end VOA radio broadcasts to Tibet, to eliminate the VOA Cantonese Service and to cut more than 200 positions.

Meanwhile, Voice of America broadcasts to Iran and Russia continue to attract negative attention for poor performance and, in the case of the VOA Russian Service, favoring a pro-Kremlin view while ignoring American viewpoints on human rights violations in Russia and Vladimir Putin’s autocratic rule. America’s enemies in Russia, China and Iran have good reasons to cheer. U.S. taxpayers funding pro-Putin VOA programs – Washington Examiner.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is also being criticized for mishandling broadcasting to the Middle East by BBG-run Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa.

A Bloomberg editorial, “U.S. Broadcast for Iran Might Be Free, But Doesn’t Have to Be Cheap: View,” asks: “Programs that go on and on. Shows that lack focus. Graphics and production values that make Iranian state TV look hip by comparison. Why has the U.S.-run Persian News Network been so bad for so long?”

The Bloomberg editorial notes that the Broadcasting Board of Governors just announced a 2013 budget that would cut VOA’s allocation by $17 million. “The network should cancel them [proposed budget cuts] and focus on what it can do well,” the editorial says in reference to the VOA Persian satirical TV program “Parazit.”

The PNN web site is off-putting, the editorial notes. The Bloomberg editorial concludes that “When a well-executed show like ‘Parazit’ can begin to undercut the legitimacy of the Iranian regime, there’s no telling what a superlative network could do.”

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, the Washington Bureau Chief of Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai, who used to work for the BBG-managed Alhurra TV, wrote in The Huffington Post article, “Alhurra and the Arab Spring,” that “VOA Arabic had a respected Arabic Service, but the Bush administration decided to replace” it with Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV, which — he argues — undermined both transparency and accountability.

“There is one thing in common between Congress-funded Arabic TV, Alhurra, and countries of the Arab Spring. Both have unaccountable leaders, who have been in place since forever, and who look like they are staying indefinitely,” the journalist wrote. He also noted that “Since then, the leaders of Alhurra and Sawa, none of them a journalist, have remained in place and have outlasted administrations and Congresses.”