BBG Watch Commentary
As of 11 PM ET, Friday, December 29, 2017, Voice of America (VOA) English News has not posted a single Facebook video of the Iranian protests. Zero, (0). VOA English News had, however, time and resources to post on Thursday, which was the first day of the demonstrations in Iran, a Voice of America Facebook video on “Condom Clothing” | VOA.
While the Voice of America could find no time to post a VOA English News video on the Iranians protesting against the Islamist regime, it managed easily to post recently six (6) VOA English News Facebook videos showing the burnings of U.S. and Israeli flags and other protests against the U.S. decision on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Those VOA English News videos have registered well over 3 million Facebook views.
Audiences in the Middle East could have watched those earlier protests against President Trump, U.S. and Israel on multiple media outlets, including Al Jazeera and Russia’s RT; videos of Thursday’s and Friday’s Iranian protests have been far less common online, especially for the Iranians living in Iran
What does this say about VOA English Newsroom and the management of the Voice of America by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency with its $740 million (FY 2017) budget?
In a recent response to the media, the VOA management claimed that there had been only two (2) Jerusalem-related raw sound/raw footage VOA Facebook protest videos; in fact, there were six (6) such videos. Somewhere along the chain of command within VOA someone did not tell the whole truth to the person who wrote the management’s response.
During the Cold War, workers’ strikes and protests such as the ones this week in Iran would have immediately triggered a special news emergency response from the upper management of the Voice of America. The leadership’s response would have followed well-established procedures for an immediate increase in news coverage in English and in vernacular languages on all media platforms. But to do this, the current leadership of the BBG and VOA would need experienced leaders who know how to manage a government agency and government workforce.
During the Cold War years, VOA director, VOA program director and possibly someone from the United States Information Agency (USIA) would have been immediately notified about major strikes and protests in countries without free media. This would immediately result in a hands-on management of VOA reporting on the crisis at least at the level of the VOA deputy director and VOA program director, if not the VOA director. Many previous VOA directors would have managed such a crisis themselves. Judging by the fact, that VOA English News had only an outdated AP story and no updates and no videos until the end of the second day of the Iranian protests shows that there is now a spectacular failure of leadership at VOA and at the BBG.
As of 11:10 PM ET, the VOA News English website still did not show the Iran story on its primary news homepage. By that time, there were two new Iran stories inside the VOA website, but one would have to search for them because they were not being shown on the VOA English News homepage. The timestamp on the VOA website video on the Iranian protests was 5:30 PM ET today. This video somehow did not make it onto the VOA News Facebook page or any other Iran-related story. One wonders why not.
By looking at YouTube, we could tell that the VOA Persian Service was also rather late posting videos on the protests.
The second VOA English News story, “US Condemns Arrest of Peaceful Protesters in Iran,” had the initial timestamp of 6:48 PM today and was updated at 10:51 PM ET. VOA English News was again quite late and never updated its homepage with the Iran story despite its enormous news significance. The first VOA News Facebook post (no video) on Iran demonstrations was at 5:00 PM. Today was already the second day of new major protests in Iran.
Take a look at the VOA English News homepage screenshot at 11:17 PM ET today and compare it to BBC homepage screenshot, where several Iran stories have been prominently featured at the very top of the BBC homepage all day. Deutsche Welle (DW) handled the Iran story the same way as BBC.
Interestingly, Russia’s RT and and America’s VOA seem to be the only major international broadcasters that did not feature the Iranian protests story on their English-language news homepages today.
Similarly, VOA and RT gave enormous prominence to videos showing the burnings of U.S. and Israeli flags during recent demonstrations in the Muslim world against the decision on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. VOA and RT had an amazingly similar approach to both news stories.
A screenshot of the VOA English News YouTube videos as of 11:30 PM today does not show a single VOA video on the Iranian protests.
However, when one compares VOA English News coverage of the Iran protests with what VOA English News did for the recent anti-American and anti-Israeli protests, there were six (6), one-sided VOA English News videos, most of them showing the burning of U.S. and Israeli flags. VOA News went all the way on those previous anti-American and anti-Israeli protests. The requirements of the VOA Charter were violated multiple times by one-sided, no context, no balance raw footage videos posted on Facebook by the Voice of America. The workers’ protests in Iran, on the other hand, got no video coverage whatsoever by VOA English News on its Facebook page as of Friday.
Featured Photo: Award-winning journalist Sandy Sugawara, who played a leading role in transforming The Washington Post’s newsroom to a data-driven, digital operation, was sworn in as Deputy Director of the Voice of America on Monday, May 2, 2016, joining the leadership team of Amanda Bennett, who was sworn in as VOA’s new Director on April 18, 2016. John Lansing was named BBG CEO in August 2015.
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA)
VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA)
TOTAL VIEWS DEC. 2017 FOR RAW FOOTAGE VOA VIDEOS SHOWING BURNING OF U.S. AND ISRAELI FLAGS AND OTHER PROTEST: 3,596,000
“Protests in Istanbul” | VOA 193,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 19.
“Clashes in Ramallah, Bethlehem” | VOA 486,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Rallies in Pakistan condemning Pres. Trump declaring Jerusalem…” | VOA 785,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Protests around the Muslim world over Jerusalem” | VOA 1,400,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Scuffles in Jerusalem” | VOA 370,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.
“Israeli undercover forces arrest Palestinians during clashes” | VOA 360,000 Facebook Views as of Dec. 17.