BBG Watch Commentary

WT LogoThe Washington Times reporter Jim McElhatton has an article about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her concern over the decline of U.S. international broadcasting, including U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA).

Jim McElhatton noted that “Hillary Rodham Clinton has bemoaned the decline of the U.S. government’s broadcasting arm Voice of America, but as secretary of state she was an absentee overseer, failing to attend any meetings of the organization’s oversight board.”

The most recent example of Voice of America’s management crisis and its decline as a news organization was noted in two BBG Watch articles posted over the weekend. Last week, Voice of America English News failed to cover online riveting testimony in Congress by a Syrian defector-photographer known as “Caesar” about war crimes in Syria, his meeting with a National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden, and the arrival in the U.S. of a Sudanese Christian woman, Meriam Ibrahim, who once faced a death penalty because of her religious beliefs.

BBG Watch also reported that no Voice of America language service, not even the VOA Persian News Network (PNN) broadcasting to Iran, was found to have posted news online last week from Congress, State Department and White House on new Syrian torture testimony in Washington.

“Caesar’s” testimony was last Thursday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democratic Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 4490, the United States International Communications Reform Act, to reform the Voice of America together with the rest of U.S. international broadcasting. The bill was unanimously passed by the House of Representatives Monday in a voice vote.

The Washington Times article points out to BBG Watch’s earlier reporting about Mrs. Clinton:

“Also last week, the blog BBG Watch highlighted her criticism in a lengthy post titled ‘Hillary Clinton bemoans decline of U.S. outreach abroad through Voice of America‘, which quoted her testimony last year before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, when she referred to the BBG as ‘practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world’.”

The article also quotes former BBG Governor Victor Ashe who is a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland.

“’I wish Mrs. Clinton had attended a couple of meetings during her four years as secretary of state as her mere presence could have made a difference’, he said. ‘Any secretary of state could impact the board deliberations if they came with an agenda’.”

The article also quotes BBG spokeswoman Letitia King.

“Mrs. Clinton agreed with a proposal for a chief executive to take over day-to-day management of the operation. At the same time, however, Ms. King said that U.S.-funded international media is having ‘a significant impact for audiences in countries of strategic importance in the U.S.’”

READ MORE: Clinton skipped Voice of America meetings, now mourns its demise: Secretary of State attended no board meetings of government’s broadcasting arm, By Jim McElhatton – The Washington Times – Monday, August 4, 2014.