BBG Watch Commentary

The American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1812, published a commentary on the failure of the Voice of America management to cover news in a timely and comprehensive manner. Since the original publication of this article, BBG Watch reported that the VOA English website is more than just frequently late in posting news stories or uses short Reuters reports instead of original reporting by VOA correspondents. Last weekend, VOA failed to report altogether on a news story about a near nuclear explosion in the United States in 1961. Nearly all international media reported on this story, with BBC and Russia Today getting thousands of Facebook “Likes” for their reports.

This brings to mind the Soviet media silence on the Chernobyl disaster, although in the case of VOA it was most likely a management failure typical for this institution in recent years rather than an attempt at censorship.

On the Brazilian President U.S. visit incident, we know that VOA correspondents produced timely, balanced and comprehensive reports which were not posted on the website or were shortened and posted late. As the management crisis continues, quality reporting by Voice of America correspondents is wasted and Al Jazeera, BBC, and Russia Today continue to demolish VOA in social media engagement through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, readers’ comments and other platforms and indicators of audience participation. How much longer will this continue?

AFGE Local 1812


by American Federation of Government Employees, Local 1812

In an interview with The Huffington Post blogger Nicholas Kralev in his “Conversations with Nicholas Kralev” show, Voice of America Director David Ensor reminded the audience that VOA does not do propaganda nor does it represent the White House. Fair enough. Indeed, there has always been a firewall between the VOA and various administrations which was preserved when the VOA was transferred from the USIA after its absorption into the U.S. State Department and integrated in 1998 into a newly-formed Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

Mr. Ensor’s comments are nothing new. In fact, BBG/IBB officials have for years used the firewall as a reason to reject any attempt by the U.S. State Department or the White House to advance certain stories or push an agenda. However, the problem has evolved to the point that VOA no longer bothers to cover either the White House or the State Department as they should be covered by any self-respecting news organization, let alone one charged with presenting America to the world.


Near Nuclear Disaster in the U.S. in 1961 – BBC 16,390 Facebook Likes – Russia Today 6,900 – No news report on Voice of America English Website

Russia Today 1961 US Nuclear Incident[/aside]

For proof of how low VOA has sunk as a news organization under the current leadership, just refer to the story VOA posted on its web site regarding the decision of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to call off plans for a state visit to Washington in October because of revelations that the United States spied on her personal communications and those of other Brazilians. Now, a head of state cancelling a state visit is a major news story. However, VOA could not be bothered with doing its own stories about this incident, it simply ran a short Reuters story. This had nothing to do with attempts by the White House to push propaganda. It had everything to do with IBB management’s inability to carry out its most basic function: ensuring that the VOA, an alleged news organization, presents news from an American perspective to the world. Here was a major opportunity to “get the other side of the story”, to present to audiences around the world the NSA’s explanation of why it acted the way it did, what valid issues its sometimes questionable behavior raised, and what the administration is doing about it – as well as how Americans feel about the controversy.

In short, this was a golden opportunity for the VOA to do what its Charter says it should do. Instead, VOA yet again abdicated its responsibilities under its Charter. Primarily, because it has become clear that the BBG/IBB Executive Staff no longer considers the VOA as part of the U.S. government, but the private fiefdom of middle and senior managers who decide what VOA does and does not do, disregarding the opinions or input of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. taxpayers, and possibly even the administration.

Why anyone tolerates this state of affairs one day longer is a mystery to us. Therefore, we yet again call on the U.S. Congress to change this mindset and clear dereliction of duty. The journalists and broadcasters are eager, willing and able to carry out the mission of the Voice of America even if the incompetent and out-of-control bureaucrats are not.