BBG Watch Commentary
In a report in The Washington Free Beacon, “Voice of America on Mute,” Alana Goodman warns that the VOA supervisory board, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) seeks to slash editorial broadcasts in FY2014 budget, which would affect VOA Persian-language editorial broadcasts.
The push for slashing editorial broadcasts comes, however, from executives of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), the managerial arm of the BBG, and from top Voice of America managers. Sources told BBG Watch that bipartisan members of the part-time Board were incapable of checking and confronting every recommendation submitted to them by IBB officials. Many of previous IBB recommendations, such as the proposal to end Voice of America radio broadcasts to Tibet, had embarrassed the BBG Board and were eventually rejected by BBG members. IBB officials also embarrassed the Board by ignoring a public relations crisis in Russia triggered by the firing of Radio Liberty’s human rights reporters.
Alana Goodman reported in The Washington Free Beacon:
“Voice of America (VOA) is on track to eliminate all of its Persian-language editorial broadcasts to Iran if its supervisory board’s 2014 budget recommendation is approved by Congress, according to an internal memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The development is part of a larger effort by management to quietly phase out the airing of official U.S. government policy positions on the taxpayer-funded international broadcast services, sources say.
The Office of Policy, a five-person department at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) that produces the official U.S. government editorials aired on VOA, would have its budget slashed by nearly half if the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ proposal goes forward.”
Read More: Voice of America on Mute: VOA supervisory board seeks to slash editorial broadcasts in FY2014 budget by Alana Goodman, The Washington Free Beacon, September 19, 2013.
BBG Watch had commented earlier that the Voice of America is already in violation of its Congressional Charter requirements by failing to report or reporting late on major news developments involving the State Department and even the White House. There were no VOA English news reports on former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson protesting against false anti-American rumors in the Egyptian media and no reports on the State Department reaction when President Putin accused Secretary of State John Kerry of lying on the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. Reducing or eliminating Voice of America editorials will further limit presentation of U.S. foreign policy in VOA programs.[aside]
Near Nuclear Disaster in the U.S. in 1961 – BBC 16,390 Facebook Likes – Russia Today 6,900 – No news report on Voice of America English Website
The Voice of America English news website failed to report that the U.S. Air Force had inadvertently dropped an atomic bomb over North Carolina in 1961 that almost exploded. A BBC news story on this topic received more than 16,000 Facebook “Likes” and a Russia Today story had more than 6,900 Facebook “Likes.” Because they are short and posted late, if they are posted at all, most VOA news stories on the English-language website barely get a few Facebook “Likes.”
Sources told BBG Watch that most top IBB and VOA executives are ashamed of VOA Editorials and believe that they should be eliminated. They are the same managers responsible for the implosion of VOA news reporting and social media engagement.
But a claim of successful online audience outreach and digital strength is being made by International Broadcasting Bureau Director Richard Lobo who said at a recent Digital Innovation Expo hosted by IBB on Capitol Hill that “today we are reaching and engaging audiences like never before.”
Voice of America Director David Ensor said on August 6, 2013 during an all-staff meeting that “the state of VOA is strong and is getting stronger all the time.” Critics say, however, that he and his deputy, VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch, are responsible for record low employee morale and a highly dysfunctional news and web operation with dismal audience engagement through social media.
The Voice of America Charter (Public Law 94-350) says that “VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”
The law governing VOA operations also says that “VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.”
These days, VOA — with its failing management and news operation — is often in violation of these Congressional and legal requirements. VOA also often fails these days to fulfill its third mandate to present U.S. government responses to major news events.
“VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies. (Public Law 94-350)”
If VOA does not report on major news events, or posts late and short news times, it can hardly “present responsible discussions and opinion” on the policies of the United States.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) members who have oversight over VOA and IBB need to take action to address management problems at the center of U.S. international broadcasting.