BBG Watch Commentary

149 – this is no typo. The number of Live Voice of America (VOA) Facebook views for Greta Van Susteren interview with U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton was at one time only one hundred and forty nine (149) people — worldwide. That’s far fewer Live Facebook viewers than even the number of VOA employees working in Washington, which is a few thousand.

Voice of America Live Facebook views for Greta Van Susteren interview with U.S. National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton hovered between under 150 to about 180 at any one time in the entire world. Out of the world’s approximately 7.5 billion inhabitants, 1.5 billion speak English — that’s 20% of the Earth’s population. Facebook has about 2 billion active monthly users of whom many access Facebook in English. The interview and the VOA program were in English.

At about the same time VOA was getting from under 150 to about 180 Live Facebook views worldwide for U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, FOX News was getting 3,000 Live Facebook views for House Democratic leaders weekly news conference. A meeting of party politicians in the U.S. was not exactly the most exciting show for Facebook users to watch but Fox still easily beat VOA in live Facebook views many times over.

NowThis News was getting over 750 Live Facebook views for its UN Security Council transmission, also at about the same time. Again, not a terribly exciting news topic.

On the other hand, Greta Van Susteren’s interview with John Bolton touched upon some very important U.S. foreign policy issues with regard to several foreign countries and several conflicts, but VOA was beaten in live views through no fault of either one of them by every U.S. media outlet we checked that had a live Facebook transmission at about the same time despite VOA management’s boasts of having a large overseas audience. NowThis News is a relatively new U.S. online media venture and is not a large operation, but it still easily beat VOA in Live Facebook views.

Even a newspaper in a medium size European country was getting over 340 Live Facebook views for a cultural interview with an ordinary journalist at about the same time of day the following day.

The embarrassingly low number of Live Facebook views for a significant interview with a high-ranking U.S. official offered by the taxpayer-funded Voice of America is no fault of Greta Van Susteren or Ambassador Bolton, an excellent interviewer and an important guest. This is what the Voice of America has become under the management of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

One VOA journalist who does not want to be named for fear of retaliation from the management had this to say:

“The numbers don’t lie; in fact, they embarrass!

“All this effort, and for what?

Can we take some comfort in the knowledge that at least some of the language services have impact and
are respected and influential in their countries?

If we don’t even have that, then what the hell are we doing here???”