BBG Watch Commentary

U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224 million in FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA) has produced and posted online an original VOA video report which prominently features Jesse Sbaih, an unsuccessful candidate in Democratic Party primary election in Nevada earlier this year, making a serious allegation of religious bias against U.S. Senate Democratic Leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). Jesse Sbaih alleges that Senator Reid had told him that he [Sbaih] cannot win because he is Muslim.

The Voice of America video shows Jesse Sbaih saying: “He said, let me be blunt with you. You cannot win this race because you are Muslim.”

But according to a March 29, 2016 report by David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post, “Nev. candidate says Reid urged him to quit, because ‘a Muslim cannot win this race.’,” Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman in Reid’s Senate office said that “Senator Reid did not say that.”

“Jesse Sbaih is a liar and that’s why he is going to lose,” Washington Post quotes Kristen Orthman.

The short VOA video does not include a response from Senator Reid’s office to the allegation and does not mention that Jesse Sbaih lost badly in Democratic primary.

The fact that the Voice of America would choose to air such a serious allegation, which also reflects badly on the United States, without any balance or response is highly disturbing. It shows that VOA and its parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), are in a state of crisis, decline and chaos under inexperienced leadership. There have been many instances in recent months of Voice of America posting online one-sided reports on controversial issues without countervailing facts or opinions.

Earlier this year, Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters accused the Voice of America of posting a “hit piece” and showing “state media bias” in VOA’s coverage of his run for presidential nomination in Democratic Party primaries.

“As broad as that mandate may seem, electioneering and hit pieces on US citizens obviously fall outside those parameters. VOA does not have the right to advocate for a particular candidate or even to attack one. That is not within its charter, nor should any US citizen have to subsidize their own defamation.” Dan Wright wrote in ShadowProof article titled “US STATE MEDIA RUNS HIT PIECE ON BERNIE SANDERS, Dan Wright, ShadowProof, June 16, 2016.

The VOA Charter, U.S. Public Law 94-350 which governs the activities of the Voice of America, says “VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”

The VOA Charter also says that “VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.”

The Voice of America Journalistic Code says: “Whenever VOA reports a charge or accusation made by an individual or a group against another, or presents one side of a controversial issue, a response and/or balancing information will be included in the first use of a news item or feature containing that material.”

  1. VOA can’t even make a sizzle reel.

    Amanda Bennett
    Today, 7:00 AM
    VOA Notices


    I am super excited about the work that we do here. So excited that I’ve decided to bring in a company to profile some of our best talent. In an effort to continue telling our story, I’ve tasked Blue Chalk Media to create a sizzle reel (pilot episode) highlighting a few of our journalists. The company specializes in telling stories about media. They will begin filming in the building today (10/19) and tomorrow (10/20). We will then use the sizzle reel to gage potential for more episodes. If you see some unfamiliar faces around with camera equipment, please be sure to welcome them.

    My best,

  2. I wonder how much the Blue Chalk people will be paid and how the reel they produce will serve VOA audiences — unless of course the audience is Congress?

  3. This Bennett email raises so many questions. What is the purpose of a journalist sizzle reel? What is the audience? How was a New York production company chosen? Was a contract competed properly? And why wasn’t this done in house – in a building filled with producers, camera operators, and video editors? Apparently Bennett has as much faith in the VOA workforce as the workforce has in management. This is a new low in the tone-deaf, ham-handed and flat-footed Bennett/Lansing leadership.

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