BBG Watch Commentary

“Look what went viral from VOA — 27+ million views. Seriously, it’s worth a watch — 10 seconds. Never seen anything like it,” wrote Voice of America (VOA) director Amanda Bennett on her Facebook page. U.S. taxpayer-funded VOA (Annual Budget $224 million) is overseen by the broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a federal agency with the annual budget of $777.8 million, including VOA.

We are not against occasional levity and good entertainment to present American life and culture. We are not even against some click bait posts when they drive traffic to the website, but seriously, is this what VOA was created to do and how it should use taxpayers’ money? Is this the best use of VOA director’s time? During the 2016 presidential election campaign, the VOA director also became excited about a video in which Donald Trump was described by an illegal immigrant as a candidate of “hate and prejudice.” These statements send messages to VOA journalists and some will take them seriously. Judging by what has already happened, VOA staffers will attempt to produce more of such videos and posts in response to VOA director’s social media comments.

One of VOA’s key roles, as stated in the VOA Charter (U.S. Public Law 94-350) is: “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 BBG’s mission, as stated on its website, “is to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”

No further comment, but recent VOA productions also included a Trump Inauguration Bingo, an interactive online game which many thought was designed to ridicule President Trump on his inauguration day in addition to other similar anti-Trump social media posts. There was also a Russian tank cat video, originally a Russian propaganda video used by Russia’s disinformation outlets RT and SPUTNIK to create a nice a fuzzy feeling about the Russian military and detract attention from its military aggression in Ukraine. The VOA Trump Inauguration Bingo was removed after being exposed by BBG Watch.

BBG CEO John F. Lansing said that the agency is “moving aggressively” in the area of digital media and has “the greatest respect for the U.S. President.”

Voice of America Screen Shot of Trump Inauguration Bingo 2017-01-20 at 12.04 PM ET