BBG Watch Commentary

Many Voice of America (VOA) journalists are beside themselves with a growing number of VOA Charter violations and postings by VOA of “ungrammatical dumb videos” that look as if they were produced by children for children. Such postings have accelerated under the leadership of Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) new CEO and director John Lansing (since September 2015) and VOA director Amanda Bennett (since April 2016). She has been a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.

Lansing, a successful former private sector executive in charge Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, DIY, Cooking Channel and Great American Country, has had no prior experience in foreign affairs, intercultural communications, government operations, U.S. foreign policy or U.S. public diplomacy. Bennett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, investigative journalist and editor, had some international experience but lacks experience in leading large public service organizations. Internal critics among Voice of America journalists accuse her of not understanding the VOA Charter and the VOA Journalistic Code, also based on the charter. As reported by Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson, BBG’s federal employees, including VOA reporters and broadcasters, have given the Lansing-Bennett team a vote of non-confidence on leadership skills in the 2016 OPM’s Federal Employees Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).

After Lansing told BBG employees that the survey results were not all that bad despite the BBG being described in the Washington Post column as “another regular bottom-feeder that oversees the Voice of America and other government broadcasters…going backward,”, a VOA reporter who requested anonymity wrote: “‘We are improving’ ???? You must be kidding, Mr. CEO!’.”

“More ungrammatical dumb videos that have nothing to do with the [VOA] charter,” one person commented and sent this link.

Earlier today BBG Watch reported a serious violation by the Voice of America of its U.S. public law charter.


How do you call Trump a pig in Ukrainian? Voice of America will tell you

voa-ukrainian-facebook-video-screen-shot-of-robert-de-niro-calling-donald-trump-pig-with-ukrainian-subtitles-2016-10-12-at-1-14-am-etHow do you call Donald Trump a pig in Ukrainian? U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224 million in FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA) will tell you in a specially versioned social media video with Ukrainian subtitles provided for the controversial comments made by actor Robert De Niro. De Niro’s views of Trump are shared by many other Hollywood celebrities, but VOA did not bother to include in its video production any responses from any of Trump’s political supporters, in particular the criticism of De Niro’s attack by another actor Jon Voight. He is one of the few in Hollywood who defends the Republican presidential candidate. In its video, VOA Ukrainian Service also failed to explain which groups in America support and which oppose the Trump candidacy, and why, or the role of Hollywood celebrities and media in U.S. political campaigns. The way it was presented, the Ukrainian Service video was nothing more than an anti-Trump political hit piece produced with U.S. taxpayers’ money by the U.S. government-run Voice of America.

READ MORE: How do you call Trump a pig in Ukrainian? Voice of America will tell you, BBG Watch, October 12, 2016.

After BBG Watch posted its commentary, Voice of America removed its De Niro video with Ukrainian subtitles, but we have saved screenshots and a copy of the VOA video. The caption in the featured screenshot above the post says “pig” or “swine” in Ukrainian. It is a translation of one of Robert De Niro’s descriptions of Donald Trump, which included many other similar insults and a threat of wanting to punch Trump in the face.


The now removed VOA Ukrainian video had no balance, context or any response from Trump’s supporters, as required by the VOA Charter.

Since Lansing and Bennett started working at the agency, the Voice of America has been posting an increasing number of poorly produced “click bait” animal videos, some of them with misspellings in their captions.

One of the most popular recent VOA videos was “Turtle Nesting in Mexico.” Another popular VOA video, which was subsequently removed, showed a fat American cat. Another VOA video showed a 50 year-old giant tortoise eating watermelon on his birthday in Australia, all produced at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. VOA journalists continue to complain about inexperienced leaders, poor management and low morale.

Screenshot from Voice of America video
Screenshot from Voice of America video

VOA Charter (Public Law 94-350) passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Gerald Ford on July 12, 1976 says that “VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.” It 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.”

VOA Journalistic Code says: “Whenever VOA reports a charge or accusation made by an individual or a group against another, or presents one side of a controversial issue, a response and/or balancing information will be included in the first use of a news item or feature containing that material.”

By taking the video of Robert De Niro’s attack on Donald Trump and producing its own report with added Ukranian subtitles but without any other content, explanation or balance, VOA Ukrainian Service appears to have violated both the VOA Charter and the VOA Journalistic Code.

As can be seen and heard in the Voice of America Ukrainian Service video posted on October 9 and in another VOA Ukrainian Facebook post on October 10, American actor Robert De Niro attacks Donald Trump, calling him “punk,” “dog,” “pig,” “con,” “buls**t artist,” “mutt,” “idiot,” “fool,” “bozo,” and “blatantly stupid.” VOA Ukrainian Service did not report at the same time that another Hollywood actor, Jon Voight, defended Donald Trump after De Niro likened him to a dog and also said that he wants to punch Trump the face.

“Trump’s words did not hurt anyone. Can you imagine if any Republican said words like Robert De Niro used – against Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? All hell would break loose,” Jon Voight was quoted by The Daily Caller.

In response, De Niro called Voight “delusional,” as reported by Britain’s Independent and other media.

A review of the VOA Ukrainian Service website and social media pages shows that anti-Trump reports and posts are far out of proportion to the support Trump enjoys among a considerable segment of the American electorate and some, but not all, of the conservative media.

Jon Voight tweeted his comments on the evening of October 8. The Daily Caller report was online on October 9 at 10:35 am. VOA Ukrainian Service posted its video with Ukrainian subtitles of Robert De Niro’s attack on Donald Trump on October 9 at 4:35 pm, many hours after content that could have provided some balance for an international audience was available to VOA journalists.

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