BBG Watch Commentary
Joe Biden

In weekend mode, Voice of America is not reporting on Biden’s visit next week to Ukraine’s neighbors Poland and Lithuania, BBC and Voice of Russia are reporting.

In what is by now a familiar pattern, the badly managed U.S. taxpayer-funded international media outlet Voice of America is not reporting on Vice President Joe Biden’s travel to Poland and Lithuania next week, March 17-19th, to meet with regional partners to discuss events in Ukraine and other regional issues. VOA is also not reporting on the talks held in Kyiv today by a bipartisan U.S. Congressional delegation.

UPDATE: VOA eventually inserted two sentences about Biden’s trip in a report posted on the VOA English website hours after the trip had been reported by Voice of Russia and BBC. VOA did not have a separate report on Biden’s trip, as Voice of Russia did, and devoted only two sentences to it in a report on an expected UN vote on Crimea. The first mention of Biden’s visit on the VOA English news website appeared after 1:00 AM ET Saturday, about six hours after the White House released its statement.

BBC Latest NewsBoth BBC and Voice of Russia have already reported on the planned trip by Vice President Biden to Poland and Lithuania. Voice of America news reporting is often delayed for many hour on weekends and after business hours.

Voice of America English news website has also not reported on the talks in Kyiv today between leaders of the Ukrainian government and a bipartisan U.S. Congressional delegation led by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator John McCain.

As of 9:00 PM EDT Friday, neither the announcement of Vice President Biden’s visit to Poland and Lithuania nor the talks in Kyiv between the Ukrainian government and the U.S. Congressional delegation were reported on the VOA English news website.

Unian news agency reported that First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Vitaliy Yarema, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Andriy Parubiy and chairman of SBU Valentyn Nalyvaychenko discussed the situation in Crimea with the U.S. delegation. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt also participated in the talks, the agency reported.

VOA executives and the news organization’s management body, the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), which controls most of the budget, have so far failed to provide sufficient resources to the VOA newsroom and VOA Ukrainian and Russian services. These services are unable to regularly update their websites, as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages, while VOA English newsroom lacks both staff and good managers.

Voice of Russia, on the other hand, reported on the announcement of President Biden’s trip to Poland and Lithuania almost immediately after it was released by the White House at about 7:00 PM EDT Friday.

Joe Biden to visit Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, Lithuania next week
Fri, Mar 14, 2014
Source: Voice of Russia (Russia)

BBC mentioned Biden's planned trip.
BBC mentioned Biden’s planned trip.

BBC also reported on the trip almost immediately after the announcement was made.

Voice of Russia had a separate, full-length report on Vice President Biden’s planned trip to Central Europe to discuss the crisis in Crimea and NATO security issues.

As of 10:00 PM EDT, VOA reports on Ukraine on VOA’s main English website have not been updated for several hours. VOA’s Ukrainian and Russian websites also have not yet reported on Biden’s trip to Central Europe to discuss Ukraine and regional security.

It is unusual for the White House to announce a foreign trip by the Vice President on such a short notice to deal with substantive foreign policy issues. At the request of President Obama, Vice President Biden has been heavily involved with Secretary of State Kerry in managing the U.S. response to events in Ukraine and Russian military intervention in Crimea. VOA English news website has ignored many of Biden’s actions or reported on them late and superficially.

On Thursday, VOA’s English, Ukrainian, Russian and other news websites failed to report on Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House. The news came after business hours in Washington, but it was reported by other U.S. and international media outlets, including Radio Ukraine International.

VOA executives, Director David Ensor and Executive Editor Steve Redisch, seem unable to manage the emergency and are seen by VOA journalists as either distant or angry, sources told BBG Watch.

VOA was posting recently multiple reports on Canadian pop star Justin Bieber’s problems with the U.S. police while failing to provide timely reports on U.S. reactions to events in Ukraine and in Russia from the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department and the U.S. Congress.

The Voice of America Charter (U.S. Public Law 94-350) says that “VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”

Earlier, VOA produced dozens, perhaps even hundreds of reports on the British royal family (if VOA foreign language translations are included), but when asked by Matt Armstrong, a member of the oversight Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), why VOA has problems covering breaking news, Director Ensor said that it is “a resource issue.”

Critics counter that it is largely an issue of exceptionally bad management, although they also point out VOA could use surge funding to improve its news coverage to Ukraine, Russia and other countries.

Few think, however, that the current VOA leadership would be able to manage effectively and wisely any surge broadcasting or other expanded media outreach considering poor performance record so far and dismal employee morale believed to be caused largely by these senior executives.


Office of the Vice President

March 14, 2014

Vice President Biden to Travel to Poland and Lithuania

WASHINGTON, DC – The Vice President will travel to Poland and Lithuania next week, March 17-19th, to meet with regional partners to discuss events in Ukraine and other regional issues. In Warsaw and Vilnius, the Vice President will meet with the President and Prime Minister of Poland and the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. During his meetings, the Vice President will consult on steps to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and affirm our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and our enduring support for all of our allies and partners in Europe.