BBG Watch Commentary

After experiencing yet another humiliation on Facebook with absolutely dismal social engagement numbers for its late posts on the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro when compared to similar Facebook posts by Russia’s RT and BBC, managers of U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) have interrupted their weekend to check on plans for VOA coverage of the story. VOA, led by director Amanda Bennet and deputy director Sandy Sugawara, is overseen by the vast federal bureaucracy of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) run by BBG CEO John Lansing.

Not that these federal government executives are not capable of planning, but it seems that their planning may be somewhat one-sided. Under their leadership, VOA program managers had not one but two pre-written “Hillary Clinton Wins” reports for VOA services to use on the U.S. election night on November 8, (VOA had no pre-written reports on Donald Trump.) However, the Voice of America was caught by surprise by Fidel Castro’s death even though he was 90 and in poor health.

Someone needs to tell aging dictators not to die on U.S. holiday weekends because the Voice of America, mismanaged for many years by BBG bureaucrats and VOA executives,  is just not ready to provide them with proper news coverage after their death. VOA can’t even cover all the news Monday to Friday from 9 to 5. Sorry, Fidel.  At least your friends at RT did a good job for you.

Actually, a few of the VOA reports today were quite OK, although VOA downplayed President-elect Donald Trump’s comments about Castro as a “brutal dictator” and focused much more attention on President Obama’s comments.

We have pointed out indirectly to Amanda Bennett, Sandy Sugawara, John Lansing and VOA newsroom managers that at this point comments from President-elect Trump have far more news value and more significance for future U.S. foreign policy than comments from lame-duck President Obama.  Nothing against President Obama, but that’s just how it is after U.S. presidential elections.

BBC easily grasped this well-known fact with its breaking news headline on Trump, but VOA newsroom did not. (One VOA writer actually did note the significance of Trump’s comment for future U.S. policy toward Cuba, but it was stuck at the end of a VOA report.)

Too bad that years of mismanagement, which is still continuing and getting worse, prevented international audiences from learning more about his story from VOA.

READ: Voice of America VOA English News about 10 hours late in posting to Facebook on Castro’s death, BBG Watch, November 26, 2016


READ: VOA, RT, BBC Facebook Castro posts compared: VOA 379; RT 11K; BBC 56K Likes, BBG Watch, November 26, 2016


READ: Many Voice of America services late on Castro’s death, Trump calling him “brutal dictator,” VOA journalists complain, BBG Watch, November 26, 2016


A Voice of America reporter sent us copies of internal emails with plans for VOA’s Saturday coverage of Castro’s death. Russia’s RT has had live Facebook coverage from Havana and Miami. VOA did not.

As of Saturday afternoon, RT has accumulated tens of thousands of Facebook Likes for its Castro posts and thousands of Shares and Comments.  BBC’s Facebook numbers were even more impressive, surpassing 56,000 Likes, 37,000 Shares and more than 3,500 Comments. One of the earliest VOA posts on Castro was showing as of Sunday afternoon less than 400 Likes, 19 Shares and 13 Comments.



From: Sandy Sugawara
Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2016 3:20:51 PM
To: Barry Newhouse; CN Releases; VOA Web Content Share; VOA Social Media
Cc: Clara Dominguez
Subject: Re: Castro Coverage Plans


Thanks Barry.

From: Barry Newhouse
Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2016 1:39:37 PM
To: CN Releases; VOA Web Content Share; VOA Social Media
Cc: Clara Dominguez; Sandy Sugawara
Subject: Castro Coverage Plans


This is the current Castro coverage plan for Saturday afternoon.


For questions, please contact the on-duty Hub editor at any time at x4302.


For any TV-related questions this evening, please contact Amy Katz at x5274


A coverage plan for Sunday and Monday is expected in the coming hours.




Expected PM

  1. Katz             -US-Cuba Future Analysis (TV)
  2. Gypson        -Cuba Human Rights – What’s next? (TV/WEB)
  3. Randle          -Cuba Econ Analysis (possible TV/WEB)

VOA Latam      -React: Miami & Cuba /Cuban embassy / Venezuela (SOTs for WEB/TV)

  1. Fatzick              -Trump Cuba (WEB)
  2. Hamdard     -Motion photo gallery for social platforms

-Social video of Latam Miami footage

Hub Writers    -Curation of Trump statements on Cuba (storify format)

-Raul Castro Profile (WEB)

-Web timeline (already issued)

-Fidel photo gallery (already issued)

-Infographics in progress (# of exiles fleeing by year, Cuba trade figures)



Already Published


CASTRO ANALYSIS                               16675432

US CUBA 1ST UPD                                16675095

US CUBA UPD1                              16675095

CASTRO REACT UPD3                 16674500

FIDEL CASTRO DEAD, 1st UPD – V       16673608

Rodgers VPKGN #6719927

CNPK #16673473