BBG Watch Commentary

For many hours Monday, Voice of America English website could not post its own original report on the dozens of protesters killed in Egypt. It carried instead a short news item from Reuters, which received only a few Facebook “Likes.” Meanwhile, Al Jazeera English, Russia Today English, and BBC English not only posted their own original news reports from Egypt with videos and photos; they received thousands of Facebook “Likes.” Cuts to personnel and bad management at the top make it impossible for VOA to function as a timely provider of international and U.S. news to audiences abroad.

Finally, VOA posted its own report on the earlier protests in Egypt with Reuters video. VOA English newsroom was not able, however, to cover on its own or provide video for international audiences from today’s White House press conference which included President Obama spokesman’s comments on violence in Egypt. The VOA English website had only a short news item from Reuters that received 0 (zero) Facebook “Likes.”

Voice of America English website did not do much better earlier in the day on covering overnight violence in Egypt.

VOA English, 15Tweet, 8F. Like, 7-8-13


The VOA English report on the killing of dozens of Egyptian demonstrators had only 15 Tweets and 8 Facebook “Likes.”  It had stayed on the site for hours without being updated. Like the vast majority of news items on the VOA English website, it was not going anywhere in terms of social media engagement. Contrast this with Russia Today English news report. It had 249 Tweets and over 1,100 Facebook “Likes.”



Al Jazeera English report on the same topic had 705 Tweets and over 3,600 Facebook “Likes.” Again, VOA’s numbers were 15 and 8 and both stories were online for about the same time.


Al Jazeera English, 705Tweets, 3600F. Likes, 7-8-13


The Voice of America English news item from Reuters on the White House press conference had 2 Tweets and 0 (zero) Facebook “Likes.”


VOA-Reuters-White-House-Egypt, 7-8-13


The VOA – Reuters report had exactly 183 words.

BBC English had its own story, much more detailed story, on the same White House press conference, “White House refuses to make Egypt ‘coup’ determination.” The BBC story  had 418 words, compared to VOA’s 183. It was more than twice as long.

The BBC story had 110 Tweets and 117 Facebook Likes compared to 2 Tweets and 0 (zero) Facebook “Likes.” The BBC story was only recently posted.

BBC on White House, 110Tweets, 117F. Likes, 7-8-13


Even as of 7:00PM Washington time, international audiences would not be able to find video of White House spokesman Jay Carney commenting on the situation in Egypt, neither on the Voice of America main English news website nor on the VOA YouTube channel. They would, however, find it on Al Jazeera’s English YouTube channel, “US reacts to the violence in Cairo,” Al Jazeera English.

Article by former Voice of America (VOA) journalist Gary Thomas in Columbia Journalism Review on journalistic practices at VOA and management of U.S. international broadcasting within the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).In attacking a former Voice of America senior correspondent Gary Thomas who had published an article in Columbia Journalism Review outlining serious inadequacies in VOA news coverage, management and employee morale, Kyle King,  a spokesman for Voice of America director David Ensor responded that “A simple look at the Voice of America’s website demonstrates we are a hard-hitting and effective international multimedia news organization. ”

Both Director Ensor, who is now believed to be on an extended summer vacation, and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) director Richard Lobo, who was recently in Europe, have been telling Congressional staffers, members of Congress and reporters that Voice of America has an outstanding social media outreach program. It was developed thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in technology projects. “Today we are reaching and engaging audiences like never before,” said Director of International Broadcasting Bureau  Richard Lobo at a recent Digital Innovation Expo hosted by IBB on Capitol Hill.

Over the weekend, Voice of America English news website had no original coverage of the South Korean plane crash in San Francisco despite the fact that it was an American-built plane that crashed in the United States with 141 Chinese passengers and other international travelers on board.

On the plane crash, VOA also first used a short Reuters news report that soon became outdated and was not updated by VOA for at least three hours. Al Jazeera, BBC, and Russia Today provided extensive coverage of the crash with numerous photos and videos. China’s international satellite television channel, CCTV, created a special web page devoted only to the coverage of the crash. It included numerous video reports from the United States.

See: China’s CCTV coverage of San Francisco plane crash puts Voice of America to shame, BBG Watch.

Al Jazeera, BBC and Russia Today plane crash reports received thousands of Facebook “Likes.” VOA’s Reuters report received less than 10 Facebook “Likes.” VOA’s equally short report on the crash posted later also received very few “Likes.” Russia Today’s initial video report on the crash had over 30,000 YouTube views. VOA English website and YouTube page did not have any crash related videos as of Sunday evening.

We are wondering whether VOA Director Ensor and IBB Director Lobo are looking at the same social media engagement statistics we are or are they and their top deputies giving themselves their own Facebook “Likes,” which might explain their self-satisfied comments to the media, members of Congress and Congressional staffers.

The situation with Voice of America and its news reporting operations couldn’t be worse. VOA has fallen hopelessly behind Al Jazeera, the Russians and the Chinese. If the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) cannot do something — BBG lacks a quorum and its attempts to reform IBB are being strongly resisted by the IBB leadership — the Congress needs to step in as soon as possible.

We invite VOA Director Ensor, IBB Director Lobo, VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch and IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble to watch this Al Jazeera video of the White House spokesman discussing violence in Egypt. As of early evening in Washington, DC, you will not find this video on VOA’s main English online platforms.

You should thank Al Jazeera for posting it and admire its logo. As of 7:20 PM DC time, there were still 0 (zero) Facebook “Likes” or Recommend” for the Voice of America’s brief news item from Reuters on President Obama spokesman’s comments on Egypt. Are you sure Mr. Lobo that you “are reaching and engaging audiences like never before”?