BBG Watch Commentary

KerryOfficialPortraitWhile the Voice of America (VOA) Ukrainian Service continues to provide excellent coverage of events in Ukraine and reactions to them in the U.S., the main VOA English news website and the vast majority of more than 40 other VOA language services offer woefully inadequate coverage of Ukraine due to severe management crisis and collapse of news reporting at the U.S. taxpayer-funded international media outlet.

Today U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has joined a long list of other high-level U.S. administration officials and members of Congress, including Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), whose recent statements condemning undemocratic measures taken by the Ukrainian authorities have been ignored by VOA English news and most VOA language services.

As Secretary of State, John Kerry is an ex officio member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which has oversight authority over Voice of America executives. But VOA management is not only ignoring Kerry. It has also ignored in VOA news reporting a recent statement on the lack of media freedom in Russia issued by BBG Chairman Jeff Shell.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a grantee surrogate media outlet also under the oversight of the BBG, did report on Secretary Kerry’s statement on Ukraine and generally provides excellent news coverage, but unlike VOA, it targets a limited number of countries and does not specialize in U.S. news.

Recent sharp questioning of Voice of America Director David Ensor by BBG member Matt Armstrong about inadequacy of VOA news reporting has also not produced any changes in management practices at VOA. While Shell and other BBG members are believed to be planning comprehensive management reforms at VOA, they have not come soon enough to help with VOA’s coverage of events in Ukraine.

VOA English news website ignored a special hearing on Ukraine held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and statement by two high-level State Department officials. It also ignored on Thursday a reaction from the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki to the passage of undemocratic legislation in Ukraine.

Secretary Kerry made a special point of delivering on-camera remarks on Ukraine Friday morning in Washington. Nearly 12 hours later, the primary VOA English website does not have any report on his remarks. Instead, it features two outdated reports from Reuters, one of which says that Ukraine’s President Yanukovych still has to sign the controversial legislation restricting public protests, free speech, independent media, and activities of non-governmental organizations.

These two outdated Reuters reports on the VOA English website show 2 (two) and 9 (nine) Facebook “Likes” respectively, as of 11:45 PM ET, Jan. 17.

President Yanukovych had in fact signed the law many hours ago. It immediately became a top news story on the BBC English website. BBC also reported on Secretary Kerry’s remarks and quoted from them.

The latest BBC news report from Ukraine, which includes quotes from Secretary Kerry’s remarks, “Ukraine’s president signs anti-protest bill into law, BBC,” shows 1,217 Facebook “Likes” as of 11:45 PM ET, Jan. 17.

As of 11:45 PM ET, Jan. 17, there is still nothing on the main Voice of America English news website on Secretary Kerry’s remarks on Ukraine or on the signing of the controversial law by President Yanukovych.

The VOA Charter (Public Law 94-350) requires the Voice of America “to present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and … also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”

Remarks of Secretary of State John Kerry, Jan. 17, on Yesterday’s Events in Ukraine

Secretary of State John Kerry commented on yesterday’s events in Ukraine before hіs meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos in Washington, D.C., January 17.

Державний секретар США Джон Керрі прокоментував учорашні події в Україні перед своєю зустріччю із міністром закордонних справ Греції Євангелосом Венізелосом 17 січня у Вашингтоні.

Link to Video of Remarks of Secretary of State John Kerry on Yesterday’s Events in Ukraine.

FULL TRANSCRIPT — SECRETARY KERRY ON UKRAINE from Kerry, Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos Before Their Meeting, January 17, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: “I do want to say one word quickly about the events that took place yesterday in Ukraine. The legislation that was rammed through the Rada without transparency and accountability violates all the norms of the OSCE and the EU. We believe deeply that the people of Ukraine want to affiliate and want to be associated with Europe and they want to turn in that direction. And the steps that were taken yesterday are anti-democratic, they’re wrong, they are taking from the people of Ukraine their choice and their opportunity for the future. So we will continue to stay focused on this issue, but this kind of anti-democratic maneuver is extremely disturbing and should be a concern to every nation that wants to see the people of Ukraine be able to not only express their wish but see it executed through the political process.”

Read more: SECRETARY KERRY ON UKRAINE from Kerry, Greek Foreign Minister Venizelos Before Their Meeting, January 17, 2014.