BBG Watch Commentary
Despite a tremendous humanitarian tragedy in Iraq involving tens of thousands of Kurds and Kurdish-speaking Yazidis, the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) has not been regularly updating the Twitter account of its Kurdish language VOA service even on the day of U.S. aid air drops for Kurdish refugees stranded without food in the mountains of northern Iraq.
VOA senior management and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), specifically its International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), apparently have not made arrangements to provide the VOA Kurdish Service with additional resources to be able to update its website and social media pages 24/7 during this unprecedented crisis.
A screenshot of the VOA Kurdish Service Twitter account, taken at 3:52 AM EDT, Saturday, August 9, 2014, shows that its latest tweet was 47 minutes ago, but the one before the last one was 11 hours old.
VOA, BBG and IBB management, however, seems to be under the impression that the VOA Kurdish Service is performing well online. According to the agency’s spokesperson, “the Kurdish Service reports a sizeable increase in traffic for both the Kurdish and Kurdi sites this week. Numbers have almost doubled from August 3 to August 7. Kurdish Service staff updated their websites and all social media pages immediately following President Obama’s address on Thursday evening. Their coverage of the President’s remarks on Facebook has resulted in 2,310 ‘Likes.'”
The overall traffic to the Kurdish sites, while understandably increasing during such an enormous humanitarian crisis, does not appear to be large or the agency spokesperson would have provided those numbers. According to the spokesperson, research indicates that the Kurdish population in northern Iraq is predominantly a television audience, but tens of thousands of refugees stranded in the mountains would be unlikely to have access to TV programs. They may have access to shortwave radio transmissions on battery powered radios. As late as two weeks ago, the BBG and IBB wanted to eliminate these VOA Kurdish radio shortwave transmissions, but due to widespread and strong protests the agency’s management postponed these cuts.
On Friday and Saturday, updates of the VOA Kurdish Service website, Facebook and Twitter have been rare and sporadic.
The VOA Kurdish Service Twitter account has only slightly over 6,000 Followers. Its Facebook page has 22.7K “Likes.”