BBG Watch Commentary

03-20-14 10.50AM EDT, VOA Homepage. Still No Link or Mention of Obama Statement
03-20-14 10.50AM EDT, VOA Homepage. Still No Link or Mention of Obama Statement

03-20-14 10.50AM EDT, VOA Homepage. There is still no link or any mention of Obama statement.

03-20-14. BBC World Homepage, Obama-Ukraine Live
03-20-14 10.50AM. BBC World Homepage, Obama-Ukraine Live

03-20-14 10.50AM. BBC World Homepage, Obama-Ukraine Live.

After two recent failures in online streaming of presidential statements on Ukraine and criticism from BBG Watch and BBG members, Voice of America executives managed to arrange for a live streaming of President Obama’s remarks Thursday on imposing additional sanctions against Russia.

Voice of America even managed to post a headline rather quickly after the president spoke, which it did not do on previous occasions.

What VOA executives still failed to do — and it may be partly our fault since in our role as VOA’s remote managing editors we did not offer this advice before as it was such nobrainer — VOA managers did not think of posting sufficiently early an alert to website visitors to expect live online streaming. BBC had its alert much earlier than VOA even though the live event was with the President of the United States.

BBC did better than VOA in other respects as well. BBC had an almost immediate headline.

BBC provided a caption for the live video, something that was not present on the VOA live link.

The live VOA link to Obama’s statement was small and condensed, in comparison with the huge, clear version on BBC World News.


VOA With Obama Live Link 3-20-14
VOA With Obama Live Link 3-20-14

3-20-14. VOA With Obama Live Link.

BBC Europe Page with Live Obama Link 3-20-14
BBC Europe Page with Live Obama Link 3-20-14

3-20-14. BBC Europe Page with Live Obama Link.

However, there is some progress, for which we take some credit.

VOA putting a live link/window on the homepage to Obama’s upcoming statement is something new and something VOA correspondents were trying to get VOA executives to do for the last few years and failed until criticism from BBG Watch and pressure from BBG members apparently opened their eyes.


VOA Interview with John Kerry


VOA Interview with Kerry 3-20-14


The strange thing about this Voice of America interview with John Kerry is that on the day when President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia it was conducted for the VOA Farsi Service to Iran. If the interview was arranged long time ago, one would expect that VOA executives should have tried to make it an interview with VOA Ukrainian and Russian services instead. We do not know whether they did and failed or not, or whether it occurred to them that from a journalistic and news perspective, it would have been much more appropriate to make it an interview with VOA’s Ukrainian and Russian services.

In any case, it is somewhat of an achievement that VOA got this interview. We suspect that a new BBG member, Richard Stengel, who is now Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, might have helped to get it arranged, but we have no confirmation.

It was good that the VOA report did focus first on Russia, but then, unlike some of their senior executives, individual VOA correspondents know what they are doing.

Kerry Tells VOA He Hopes for No Russian Tension Spillover



Amanda Scott

March 20, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told VOA that the United States is prepared to impose additional sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

In an exclusive interview with VOA’s Persian service, Kerry said Russia’s actions run the risk of destabilizing Ukraine.

“I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interests to have this,” he said. “First of all, it’s in nobody’s interests to have Ukraine made more dangerous by Russia moving troops or becoming more provocative.”

“Secondly, it’s in nobody’s interests to have this grow rather than de-escalate. Thirdly, it’s in nobody’s interests to have other serious issues become the victim even further like Syria, Iran, Afghanistan where we’ve been able to cooperate,” he said.

Kerry’s comments came Thursday, the same day that U.S. President Barack Obama expanded economic sanctions against Moscow, targeting 20 Russian lawmakers and senior officials, as well a bank that provides them support.

Kerry said the U.S. will not allow the actions of one country to destroy what he called the “post-World War II order” and “international structure,” adding that it is up to Russian President Vladimir Putin to decide how to proceed.

The complete VOA interview with Secretary of State John Kerry:



“We are prepared to respond very, very strongly with additional, serious, sector sanctions if they continue to engage in illegal and provocative activities,” Kerry said.

Kerry said he does not believe that tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine will impact their work on other international issues such as Iran’s nuclear program.

“I think that the talks are much too important to the world, to the future of Iranians, to the future of our relationship,” he said.

“I think Russia has a profound interest in seeing it resolved – the questions about the program – that’s why Russia is part of the P5+1 effort where everyone is in unity and agreement that Iran needs to show, like other countries do, what its program is all about, and Russia’s very committed to that I think,” he said.

Western nations accuse Iran of using its uranium enrichment program to make nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Kerry said he is hopeful that the issues involving Iran, the United States and the international community can be resolved without confrontation.

“We would like nothing more than to see the issues that are blocking our ability to move forward dealt with – it would be wonderful for everybody – and the challenge is for leaders to try and find a way forward,” he said.

“President Obama is committed to diplomacy and to dialogue as a first step, but you know it’s really up to the regime,” Kerry.said.

Kerry said an agreement is achievable, and that Iran has a right to a peaceful nuclear program, but that it must meet the international standards of accountability, transparency and restraint that exist in other programs in the world.

“Iran knows that our absolute bottom line is there will not be, cannot be a nuclear weapon,” he said. “That’s our bottom line. And if it’s a peaceful program, then it ought to be very easy to show everybody it’s a peaceful program; it’s not hard to do that if you’re serious.”

In a holiday message commemorating the Persian New Year, President Obama said reaching a final agreement to the nuclear issue will be difficult, but that he is committed to finding a practical solution.

On Wednesday, negotiators for Iran and the six world powers adjourned what they called “substantive and useful” talks on Iran’s nuclear program. The talks will resume next month in Vienna.