BBG Watch

For some reason, Voice of America (VOA) Central English Newsroom did not produce a separate news report with a summary text and/or transcript of a rare VOA interview, in which NASA astronaut Scott Kelly “gently schools VOA,” as one VOA broadcaster put it, on space flight duration records and explains the mission of the latest International Space Station flight. VOA Learning English posted the Space Station interview video on its Learning English YouTube page, but VOA Central English News had no video on its own separate YouTube account, and no news report on the interview on the VOA English “NEWS” or “SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY” pages.

It was a rare interview, of which Voice of America should be proud, perhaps with the exception of the somewhat confusing first question which NASA astronaut Scott Kelly handled well, but VOA failed to take full multimedia advantage of its accomplishment. Technically, the interview with Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko was well executed, “thanks … to TV broadcast technicians Jamaal Teagle and Robert Conyers … [who coordinated] with NASA to ensure that everything went smoothly during this rare VOA interview opportunity.” But the subsequent treatment of the interview by VOA Central News and VOA website mishaps were nothing to write home about.

Poor worldwide audience engagement numbers for the interview show that it was a missed opportunity.

As of January 31, the VOA Learning English video with the interview posted on January 20 is showing only 1,300 YouTube views. On VOA Learning English Facebook page, the video is showing 2,900 views as of January 31. These are hardly great numbers among VOA’s worldwide audience for such a rare interview.

We provide (below) a transcript of the first question and answer for the VOA interview for the embedded VOA video (below).

Visitors to VOA Learning English site have also been frustrated by VOA’s treatment of the NASA interview. At least as of Sunday, 5:30 PM EST, the VOA Learning English site has been showing “Learning English Live Chat with the International Space Station,” post with a video of PBS News segments rather than the actual VOA interview with the Space Station crew. We made observations on some of the issues of how Voice of America treats its foreign audiences with “good-enough-for-government-work” attitudes in: Is Voice of America talking down to foreign audiences?, BBG Watch, January 29, 2016, and received the following comment:

January 31, 2016 at 2:48 pm
“I’ve been saying this for years to anyone who will listen, and few editors and bosses around here do, about the patronizing attitude VOA has towards its listening and now reading and viewing audiences. As someone who has done a lot if global traveling, I know first-hand how resentful non-Americans are at being talked to like children by Americans. There’s no reason for it.”


Frequent technical mishaps and a cavalier way of managing Voice of America websites are also disrespectful of the audience.

VOA Learning English Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 2.07 PM EST

by: Bob Hurley from: USA
01/20/2016 2:28 PM
“So…WHERE IS THE INTERVIEW?? 5 minutes into the interview I realized I had to copy and paste the text in your article. Very poor execution on the website. Hyperlinks are incredibly basic. the video promo should have been replaced with the Live Feed. Period. Why make people run all over your site searching for what they want to see, ultimately missing it.”


Voice of America


VOA Talks With ISS Astronauts

VOA News

Published January 20, 2016

VOA’s Anne Ball interviews U.S. astronaut, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut, Flight Engineer Mikhail Kornienko on the International Space Station on Wednesday.

MISSION CONTROL HOUSTON: “Voice of America, This is Mission Control Houston.

NASA ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY: We hear you loud and clear. Welcome aboard the Space Station.

VOICE OF AMERICA: Scott and Mikhail. You are space pioneers. This is the first time that anybody has been up in space longer than six months, and you’ve been there eleven months now.

We had someone from our worldwide audience at VOA write in and wanted to know, from Ethiopia, what is your mission?

Can you tell us what is your mission?

What are you doing up there?

NASA ASTRONAUT SCOTT KELLY: Well, this actually isn’t the first time people have been up in space for longer than six months.

We’ve had crew members on the International Space Station for longer than that. I think a little bit over 200 days. And the Russian have flown their cosmonauts on the MIR Space Station I think before that for a year, and in some cases longer.

But this is the first time we’ve been flying this long on the International Space Station. We’ve been here for over ten months and we’ll leave in March. We launched in March. And our mission here is to understand the effects, mostly the effects on our physiology and psychology, of long-duration space flights so we can eventually go on to Mars. And the Space Station is a really unique facility to do this kind of research, and we have it, so we should use it for that.


Voice of America


HashtagVOA: #YearinSpace

Published January 26, 2016

US Astronaut Scott Kelly has spent more than 300 days aboard the International Space Station. He spoke to VOA about his experience. On this week’s HashtagVOA, we will hear some excerpts and get insight from experts about Commander Kelly’s #YearinSpace.


Voice of America Learning English


Join VOA LE for a Chat With Men in Space!


Where will you be Wednesday, January 20, at 14:20 UTC?

Here with VOA Learning English! We’ll be talking live with the astronauts now flying above us in the International Space Station!

Our Science Correspondent Anne Ball will speak live with NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. The team is conducting year-long experiments as practice for a future mission to Mars.

Please tune into our live broadcast on to hear what these brave scientists have to say about life in space.

See you then!