BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Ukrainian Service SaturdayWhile Voice of America (VOA) English News was in a full holiday mode in the last few days and failed to provide adequate news coverage and to update numerous major news stories, including anti-govenment protests in Ukraine, the VOA Ukrainian Service offered outstanding original coverage of the protests, as did Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

VOA English News had only one sentence on Saturday on U.S. responses to Ukrainian protests, but the VOA Ukrainian Service posted an original video report from a demonstration near the White House and multiple other reports from Ukraine and from the United States.

The VOA English news website was rarely updated during the holiday weekend and relied heavily on reports from Reuters and other news agencies. Even this kind of secondary reporting on the VOA English website was often late and minimal in terms of details and the use of photos and videos.

A short news item from VOA English News on Ukrainian protests on Sunday, that was not updated for many hours, received less than 20 Facebook “Likes,” while original reports from Ukraine on BBC and Russia Today had thousands of “Likes.”

VOA English News was also hours late in reporting on the NYC train derailment. Both BBC and Russia Today had the NYC train derailment as their top stories many hours before VOA, offering far more information than VOA and getting thousands of Tweets and Facebook “Likes,” while VOA received almost no social media response to its late and short report.

The vast majority of VOA language services had to rely on inadequate VOA English News coverage over the weekend. This included the VOA Russian Service. As of 9AM ET Monday, the VOA Russian website is still showing a translation of an outdated 125-word VOA English News report.

The VOA Ukrainian Service, however, provided outstanding live news coverage from Ukraine, as did RFE/RL Russian Service.

VOA Ukrainian Service video report from Saturday protest near the White House

The RFE/RL Russian Service is offering live video updates from Ukraine and reporting that the protests have spread from Kiev to other cities: Украинский конфликт перешел в регионы, RFERL Russian Service.

The RFE/RL English website is also offering good coverage with frequent updates: Live Blog: Protests In Ukraine, RFERL English website.

While the VOA English News report on Ukraine protests got barely a few Facebook “Likes,” the RFE/RL English News report had more than a thousand by Monday morning Washington, DC time.

Critics say that the Voice of America has been in a major management crisis for several years under the current leadership of VOA Director David Ensor and VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch. The problems have been compounded by mismanagement at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). Its director Richard Lobo had retired on November 30, a few months after Jeff Shell became new Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chairman. Sources told BBG Watch that further management reforms demanded by Shell and other BBG members are expected at IBB and VOA.

The Voice of America English News coverage is practically nonfunctioning on holidays, weekends and at night.