BBG Watch Commentary

In a letter to the Editor of The Los Angeles Times, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) John F. Lansing, who was appointed to his position in 2015 during the Obama administration, has blasted critics who, among many charges of mismanagement leveled against him, have exposed illegal targeting of Americans in Facebook ads by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA), two of several U.S. tax-funded media entities placed under Lansing’s watch. Lansing implied that such excesses were “the mistakes of a few” [Emphasis added], and not his.

Lansing also wrote that violations of “the highest professional standards of broadcast journalism” were “met with direct and rigorous attention,” [Emphasis added.] even though there have been numerous and repeated offenses lasting over a period of many months long after Lansing was first warned about such violations. A one-sided propaganda and partisan video produced for Russian-language program “Current Time” in June 2016 has been kept on USAGM websites for 30 months and was still seen on December 25, 2018.

Lansing wrote:

USAGM CEO JOHN LASNING: Our journalism is required by law to be “conducted in accordance with the highest professional standards of broadcast journalism,” which by definition does not allow propaganda. Any violation of these standards at all five USAGM networks is met with direct and rigorous attention.
Breaches in reporting ethics and standards cannot and should not be attributed to an administration change. Nor should the mistakes of a few be used to discredit the award-winning work of thousands of fearless USAGM journalists around the globe. READ MORE

Both VOA and RFE/RL have illegally targeted Americans with Facebook ads, an investigation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee has revealed. The investigation was requested by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) who will soon be retiring.

A one-sided political and partisan propaganda video was produced with Russian subtitles for “Current Time” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Voice of America (VOA) Russian TV and online platform paid for by U.S. taxpayers through the USAGM, previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).



The “Current Time” video was produced and posted online by the agency in June 2016. It was still seen on USAGM websites on December 25, 2018. It cannot be determined whether this particular video was boosted by RFE/RL or VOA with illegal Facebook ads targeting Americans, but similar agency-produced one-sided reports and videos were being repeatedly illegally advertised to Americans at U.S. taxpayers’ expense, according to media reports and the report on the investigation conducted by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Voice of America produces journalism. To suggest it’s a propaganda arm is outrageous.” Letters to the Editor of The Los Angeles Times, December 23, 2018.


There have been other charges of serious mismanagement at the United States Agency for Global Media under Lansing’s watch which were confirmed by independent outside groups.

According to a report of the Working Group on Chinese Influence Activities in the United States prepared by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Center on US-China Relations at Asia Society in New York, “starting in the first decade of the 2000s, the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, and the leadership of VOA’s Mandarin service began an annual meeting to allow embassy officials to voice their opinions about VOA’s content.”

The Hoover Institution and Asia Society report also says that “VOA personalities have hosted events at the embassy,” and one of VOA’s TV editors “even publicly pledged his allegiance to China at an embassy event.” The report cited “interview with VOA staff” as a source of this piece of information.

An independent study conducted in 2017 at the request of the Broadcasting Board of Governors has found that the Persian services of the Voice of America (VOA Persian Service) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Radio Farda) were spreading propaganda of the Iranian regime and their reporting was highly biased.

The American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) study reached many devastating conclusions.



“This dynamic, on the whole, perpetuated to audiences the appearance of pro-regime propaganda, rather than objective reporting, on the part of both the VOA and Farda.”