BBG Watch Commentary
In an article posted on the Commentary magazine blog, Michael Rubin proposes a simple strategy for the Voice of America.
In “Voice of America Needs a Strategy,” Rubin offers this proposal:
“The Broadcasting Board of Governors should identify in each country hostile to the United States or behind an iron curtain what journalists in that country aren’t allowed to pursue.”
“Given limited resources, VOA broadcasting to that country should focus on those banned subjects. That would guarantee relevance, an audience, and invariably bolster American interests as well.”
READ MORE: Voice of America Needs a Strategy, Michael Rubin, Commentary, May 5, 2014.
We agree with Michael Rubin. This had been the strategy of many VOA language services and journalists before the current dysfunctional management structure was put in place and new executives took over running VOA and the agency. VOA services used to focus on these tabu topics from the perspective of the U.S. government, U.S. experts and journalists. Not every country to which VOA directs its news programs is as closed as Iran, but U.S. news and opinions still do not get coverage unless VOA provides it.
This strategy is still followed by a few VOA language services, including the outstanding VOA Ukrainian Service, which continues to provide hard to get news and opinions from the United States, working without adequate resources not being provided by the powerful, self-serving and constantly expanding bureaucracy.
What the Voice of America needs is a new effective management that understands VOA’s mission as described in the VOA Charter.
Rubin writes that that “VOA should not be simply an ordinary news service” and refers to its past failures in programming to Iran, with which he was familiar and wrote about it. He admits, however, that he has not followed VOA programming to Iran in recent years.
But there are more recent examples of VOA’s failures not only in news reporting to Iran but to the entire world. One such example was provided last year by a member of Congress and Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL). His observation and more recent reporting by BBG Watch confirm that there have been no significant improvements. If anything, mismanagement has gotten worse, and VOA continues to fail as a news organization.
As the Iranian people went to the polls in historic numbers, BBC Persian provided 24/7 coverage of the elections, yet PNN ( Voice of America Persian TV ) instead chose to broadcast a music program and a show about historical maps rather than offer continuous election news, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said at a congressional hearing in June 2013.
REP. TED DEUTCH (D-FL), HOUSE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS HEARING< JUNE 2013: Why? If I can just ask, is the mission so unclear? Is it so muddled that it would be impossible for the editors, for the people who run the station to know, that on the election day, when the entire world is focusing on your country, that the news network might actually cover the news taking place in that country? And if so, how do we fix that? How do we clarify the mission? Who needs to do it? Who needs to be told? What has to happen so that they actually behave like a news networks so that the Iranian people can get good, can get clear, real news from this outlet?”
These problems are not limited to the VOA Iranian Service. A 2011 study commissioned by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) from a highly respected media scholar and independent journalist in Russia, revealed that Voice of America allowed “pro-Putin bias” to creep in into its Russian news.
Earlier this year, VOA English News published a map online showing Crimea to be part of Russia.
In 2011, VOA produced a news video consisting of largely unchallenged North Korean propaganda and scenes of well-stocked stores and well-fed children of the elite in a country known to have experienced starvation. VOA executives even bragged about this video in a press release.
Link to the video on YouTube.
A few months ago, VOA produced a video showing a blood-thirsty zombie character dressed as Uncle Sam attacking a Pakistani.
Between 2011 and 2014, VOA posted dozens of reports on the British royal wedding, the British royal baby christening and Canadian pop-star Justin Bieber while sometimes failing to report on important statements about Ukraine and Russia from Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry, and key members of Congress.
caption = VOICE OF AMERICA COVERAGE OF BRITISH ROYALS IN 2011 and 2013
alignment = none
width = 630px
collapse_state = collapsed
bg_colour = #CEECF5
Excited Crowds Fill London Streets for Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English Website, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Royal Wedding Ceremony Steeped in Grandeur, Tradition Voice of America (VOA) English Website, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Kate Middleton Wears Wedding Dress by Sarah Burton Voice of America (VOA) English Website, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Wedding Celebrations Held in Streets Across Britain Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Americans Rise Early for Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Celebrities, Sports Stars Among Royal Wedding Guests Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 28, 2011 8:00 PM
Britain Hopes for Billion-Dollar Economic Boost from Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 27, 2011 8:00 PM
Crowds Gather for Britain’s Royal Wedding; Syrian Diplomat Pulled Off Guest List Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 27, 2011 8:00 PM
London Readies for Royal Wedding Day Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 27, 2011 8:00 PM
Formal Clothing, Informal Speeches Typical at British Weddings Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 26, 2011 8:00 PM
British Public Divided Over Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 25, 2011 8:00 PM
Britain Preparing Security for Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 25, 2011 8:00 PM
Britain’s Royal Wedding: From Cake to Clergy Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 25, 2011 8:00 PM
Bahrain Prince Declines British Royal Wedding Invitation Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 24, 2011 8:00 PM
David Beckham, Elton John Among Royal Wedding Guests Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 24, 2011 8:00 PM
Britain Notes Big Change in Royal Wedding Souvenirs Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 21, 2011 8:00 PM
Prince William, Bride-to-Be Middleton Visit Princess Diana’s Grave Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 20, 2011 8:00 PM
Britain’s Queen Formally Approves Prince William’s Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 20, 2011 8:00 PM
Britain’s Queen Celebrates 85th Birthday Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 20, 2011 8:00 PM
Royal Wedding: William & Kate Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 20, 2011 8:50 AM
A Royal Obsession, Do Americans Care? Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 19, 2011 8:00 PM
Muslim Group Applies to Protest Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 18, 2011 8:00 PM
YouTube to Air Britain’s Royal Wedding Live Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 18, 2011 8:00 PM
Princesses in Training Get Tips at Royal Tea Party Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 17, 2011 8:00 PM
10 Ways You Can Get Into the Spirit of the Royal Wedding Voice of America (VOA) English website, April 14, 2011 8:00 PM
British Royal Engagement Sparks Interest in Modern Monarchies Voice of America (VOA) English website, November 29, 2010 7:00 PM
Britain Announces Royal Wedding Date Voice of America (VOA) English website, November 22, 2010 7:00 PM
VOA on British Royal Christening, October 2013
Among five reports on the VOA website on the royal christening in Britain posted on October 23 and 24, 2013, none has more than 20 Facebook “Likes” as of October 28, 2013, one had zero Facebook “Likes” and another one had three.
October 23, 2013 12:08 PM
……..was born on July 22. In the arms of his mother as she left the the palace’s Chapel Royal, George was dressed in a long cream satin robe that was a replica of an 1841 gown made for the christening of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter. Kate, a style icon whose outfits often increase sales of similar garments, wore an off-white, ruffled skirt-suit, made by British fashion house Alexander McQueen, and pillbox hat by British milliner Jane Taylor ….
October 23, 2013 8:20 AM
……..William and Kate’s decision is a break with the tradition of choosing royal dignitaries to take on the ceremonial role, and a continuation of their effort to portray a more informal, modern image to austerity-hit Britons. After the christening, guests will attend a private tea at Clarence House, hosted by Prince Charles and Camilla. Hollywood photographer Jason Bell has been tapped to take official photos of the event, that will include a “historic multi-generational photograph” of the queen
Reporters: VOA News
October 23, 2013 12:14 AM
Carla Babb Prince George, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is being christened in Britain on Wednesday. In a break from tradition, the christening of the world’s most famous baby will be as low key as possible. Three months ago, Prince William and his wife Catherine shared their bundle of joy with the world. And just as the royal couple broke with tradition ….
Reporters: Carla Babb
October 22, 2013 9:59 AM
Reuters A British photographer known for his portraits of rock stars and Hollywood actors was named on Tuesday as the official photographer of the world’s newest celebrity – Prince George. Prince William and his wife Kate have chosen Jason Bell to photograph the christening on Wednesday, October 23, of their son, the third-in-line to the British throne, a palace statement said. Bell, 44, is an award-winning photographer best known for portraits of celebrities such as musician Paul McCartney, footballer David Beckham ….
October 23, 2013 12:19 PM
a central London chapel, where he made his first public appearance since his birth in July. Prince George was seen in the arms of his father, Prince William, as the elder prince and his wife Kate arrived at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace for Wednesday’s traditional Anglican Christian ceremony. The infant was wearing a white satin gown, a replica of one made for Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter in 1841. In a private ceremony inside the chapel ….
VOA posted online a fake interview with a Putin critic designed to discredit the democratic opposition in Russia. It was probably produced by Putin’s security services and delivered to VOA in such a way as to make it appear genuine.
VOA mistranslated comments by a former U.S. secretary of defense. This recent mistake was then exploited by Putin’s propaganda machine as the crisis in Ukraine raged.
Michael Rubin’s article refers to the bipartisan bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), its Ranking Democratic Member, which was unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week for consideration by the full House and the Senate, HR 4490, The United States International Communications Reform Act.
The bill is not perfect, but without it there will be no reform at the Voice of America.
Voice of America not only needs a strategy; it desperately needs a new management.