BBG Watch Commentary

U.S. taxpayer-funded ($221 million FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA), which during the Cold War was a nimble U.S. state broadcaster able to counter Soviet propaganda with prompt and comprehensive news reporting, was at least one hour behind Germany’s state media outlet Deutsche Welle (DW), Russia’s state propaganda outlets RT and SPUTNIK, and Britain’s public broadcaster BBC in reporting on the exit polls results of today’s parliamentary elections in Germany.

Such lateness, for which there are no excuses since Germany’s own official state broadcaster already had reported these election results as reliable at least an hour earlier, have become common at the Voice of America in recent years.

As VOA News finally reported after 1:00 PM Washington, DC time, “Angela Merkel has won a fourth term as Germany’s Chancellor in a federal election whose outcome seemed inevitable since the start of campaigning three months ago.” “But her ruling Christian Democrats got a lower share of the vote than predicted and Germany’s far-right populists surged, securing a bigger vote than most pollsters forecast,” VOA told its audience with a considerable delay. All other major international broadcasters and other media outlets had this news at least for an hour before it appeared on the VOA News mobile website at about 1:15 PM Washington, DC time

Many of VOA’s senior managers, as well as senior managers of its parent federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) are currently scattered traveling abroad or recovering from jet lag, including VOA director Amanda Bennett who was seen recently in Bosnia attending a BBG-conducted workshop for local journalists.

Amanda Bennett was one of the first hires of BBG CEO John Lansing after he had been appointed to his position in 2015 toward the end of the Obama administration. BBG’s total budget, including VOA, is about $740 million including VOA (FY 2017), more than the U.S. was spending in one year in today’s dollars on media outreach and propaganda during World War II and during much of the Cold War. That money was well spent throughout most of the Cold War, but since then the Voice of America under the Broadcasting Board of Governors agency has entered a long period of decline and growing irrelevance, so much so that it is hardly ever mentioned in U.S. media and by U.S. media experts as any kind of counter to Russian or Chinese propaganda.

One of BBG CEO John Lansing’s first official acts at the agency was to approve the creation of a new position of VOA deputy director in an organization which was already bloated with numerous directors, deputy directors, program directors, program coordinators and senior advisors, with constantly diminishing ranks of actual journalists to make room for more bureaucrats. Many of these senior BBG and VOA executives and managers are now traveling abroad to take advantage of the generous agency travel budget at the end of the fiscal year. If these travel funds, which the bureaucracy has set aside for itself, are not used, they would be lost at the end of the fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the Voice of America newsroom lacks staff and resources to respond to breaking news, much less cover such news in full or live on Facebook.

DW, RT, and BBC all had live coverage from Germany both on their news websites and on their social media pages.

VOA did not even report the already known Germany vote results for at least one hour after DW, RT, SPUTNIK, and BBC had put up numerous breaking news stories on their websites and Facebook pages.

The time at the top of the screenshots posted here below this commentary is local time in Washington, DC.

VOA News finally had a report on the Germany vote results with a time stamp of 12:54 PM EDT, but as of 1:09 PM EDT, the updated report was still not seen on the VOA mobile news website. It finally appeared on the VOA mobile site at about 1:17-1:20 PM EDT.

But as of 2:40 PM EDT Sunday, September 24, the VOA English News Facebook page and most if not all of VOA’s Facebook pages in foreign languages still did not have any posts on Germany vote results.

As of 3:00 PM EDT, the VOA Russian Service Facebook page still has no post on the parliamentary election results in Germany, and neither does the VOA Mandarin Service. Its last Facebook page at 3:00 PM is three hours old. The Mandarin Service has four fewer broadcasters after five of its journalists were put on administrative leave with pay over a dispute with the VOA director and other senior managers.

It seems that only the VOA Turkish Service was truly prompt in reporting on the results of the German vote. Germany has a large number of voters and residents of Turkish descent, but it also has a number of voters and residents of Russian descent.

Screenshot of VOA Mobile Site Top Page at 1:09 PM EDT showing an outdated Germany vote report
VOA Germany Vote Report Screenshot at 1:09 PM EDT with 6:55 AM EDT News Report
Germany’s DW Facebook Page Screenshot with Parliamentary Election Exit Polls Results at 1:16 PM EDT
Russia’s RT Facebook Screenshot with Germany Vote Results at 1:17 PM EDT

Featured photo of Bundeskanzlerin der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Dr. Angela Merkel is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Armin Linnartz.