BBG Watch Commentary

The Voice of America (VOA) and its taxpayer-funded parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG – $777 million in FY 2017 Budget Request) are charged by U.S. law with correcting false, inaccurate or incomplete news, whether it is generated by Russian and Chinese propaganda or by undereducated and sloppy Western reporters. Unfortunately, VOA is on occasion helping to spread misleading historical narratives and disinformation from Russia and China.

According to various estimates, Mao Zedong‘s “policies caused the deaths of tens of millions of people in China during his 27-year reign, more than any other Twentieth Century leader; the number of people who died under his regime range from 40 million to as many as 70 million.” It is more than the number of people who were killed or died as a result of policies and repressions under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Germany’s Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.

But visitors to the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America website would not learn this from reading an AP report, Mao’s Influence Lingers in China, 40 Years After His Death,” posted online on September 10, 2016 by VOA editors.

The report chosen by VOA closely mirrors Chinese Communist Party’s current propaganda, a high-level Broadcasting Board of Governors official, who is critical of his own agency’s leadership and would like to improve its performance through management reforms, told BBG Watch. The BBG oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Middle East Broadcasting Neworks (MBN – Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV) and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB – Radio and TV Marti.)

The VOA Charter, Public Law 94-350 signed on July 12, 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford says that “VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”

Mao’s Influence Lingers in China, 40 Years After His Death, Voice of America, September 10, 2016

The “practically defunct” BBG federal agency (Hillary Clinton’s description in 2013) has become more chaotic in recent months under the inexperienced leadership of BBG CEO John Lansing and new VOA director Amanda Bennett.

Lansing is a former successful private entertainment TV executive with no prior experience in U.S. government operations, foreign affairs, international news outreach, foreign policy or public diplomacy. Bennett, herself an Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, lacks experience in managing large news organizations.

The Voice of America has also been repeating Vladimir Putin’s Russian propaganda and disinformation. One of recent VOA Russian Service’s reports about history ignored Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s alliance with Hitler and his murderous rule.

READ: Voice of America used Putin’s narrative in a Russian report, ignored Biden on WWII history, BBG Watch, September 6, 2016

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty went out of its way recently to contribute to the personality cult of recently deceased Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov.

READ: Enjoy ‘Pravda-style’ reports from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) at US taxpayers’ expense, BBG Watch, September 14, 2016.

The BBG Board Chairman Jeff Shell was reported recently to be going on a private business trip to Putin’s Russia accompanied and assisted by BBG CEO Lansing and other BBG executives, RFE/RL’s news president Thomas Kent and BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) deputy director Jeff Trimble. The Russians refused to let Jeff Shell into the country, in a show of harassment and humiliation by Russia’s security services at the Moscow airport, but allowed the other BBG executives to enter.

State and White House more honest, less deceptive on Jeff Shell than BBG bureaucracy and VOA, BBG Watch, July 15, 2016

It appears that various dictators have an upper hand against the mismanaged Broadcasting Board of Governors, whether they are long dead, recently deceased, or still in power.

President Obama and major U.S. candidates in this year’s presidential election don’t even bother to mention the BBG, Voice of America or Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty because of BBG’s ineffectiveness and growing irrelevance. Hillary Clinton’s description of the Broadcasting Board of Governors as being “practically defunct” is, unfortunately, still true.

Hillary Clinton on BBG and Voice of America, BBG Watch, July 24, 2016


Photo: Mao at Stalin’s side on a ceremony arranged for Stalin’s 71th birthday in Moscow in December 1949. Behind between them is Marshal of the Soviet Union Nikolai Bulganin. on the right hand of Stalin is Walter Ulbricht of East Germany and at the edge Mongolia’s Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal.


John Lansing
John Lansing

BBG CEO John Lansing’s Perspective

From: IBB Notices Admin
Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 2:12:22 PM
To: IBB Notices Administration
Subject: Year in Review & Looking Forward

Dear Colleagues,

Today marks my one year of service at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and I continue to be impressed by the dedicated group of people who work here in the Cohen Building, across our five BBG brands, and around the world.

Over the past year I have watched this exceptional team achieve strong audience growth, give life to exciting new content opportunities, particularly in digital and mobile media, push for industry-leading ways to achieve impact in our programming, as we collectively work to inform, engage and connect with people in support of freedom and democracy.

Together, we have achieved a lot.

The ICC – Strategic Coordination

One of the most impactful things we did last year was form the U.S. international media Coordinating Committee (ICC) to facilitate strategic coordination across the BBG’s five networks and the IBB. There have been substantive improvements in favor of our key audiences based on this coordinated and strategic approach from Russia to China, Iran, Cuba, North Korea and covering CVE. The ICC now meets twice a month with me to discuss further collaboration and jointly worked with the IBB to develop and submit our FY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets.

Measuring BBG’s Impact on Key Audiences

Equally important, together we are growing our focus on achieving impact through our journalism. BBG reaches an audience of 226 million weekly, which only goes to show the hunger for our accurate and reliable content around the world. But it is also clear that reach is not enough – we need our journalism and programming to impact the lives of our audiences and their communities as well. That is why I was so pleased when, in February of this year, we hosted an Impact Summit where research directors of each BBG network came together and agreed upon an enhanced Impact Model to evaluate all BBG content.

Aggressive Push into Digital / Mobile / Social

We also made several advancements to increase access and engagement on social/mobile platforms to reach younger, more urban audiences, future leaders and influencers. There already was a lot of work being done in this area before I arrived, but I am proud to say that we are pushing the envelope significantly further. In just a few weeks, we will convene a Social Media Summit to look at best practices across BBG, establish baseline expectations, and promote future growth in mobile / social media across our networks.

Putting Our Audiences First – On Their Terms

And we continue to create and scale up innovative and compelling new content and reporting that is making a difference around the world. For instance:

— MBN’s multi-platform Raise Your Voice initiative is connecting audiences in the Middle East as they fight back against ISIS recruitment

— OCB’s aggressive push to open up Cuba to Internet freedom

— RFA’s powerful investigative stories halting the construction of faulty health clinics by North Korea in Africa

— RFE/RL’s collaborative success story with an expanded Current Time on all platforms and aggressive DIGIM strategy

— VOA’s collaboration on Current Time, and its successful launch of the Global Town Hall in Somalia

And there is so much more being done across our networks, and at the IBB, that I simply do not have space to list them all here.

None of these advancements would be possible without your tireless support, commitment, and mission-driven energy – whether you are contributing to the team at IBB or serving in any of the many responsibilities at our networks. It is YOUR work that earns our audiences’ respect as a trusted source of news and safe access to a free Internet.

Yet, while this has been a remarkable year and we made many strides, there is still more we need to do to continue to transform our global operations to succeed in today’s rapidly evolving media environment. I look forward to working alongside you for the next year to do just that.

But, for the moment, I only wish to say this: I am proud to come to work every day and work alongside all of you to achieve our important mission. The BBG team is an extraordinary one, and I thank you for welcoming me.

With sincere gratitude,

John F. Lansing

CEO and Director

Broadcasting Board of Governors