BBG Watch Commentary

A leaked rehearsal video for the Russian-language Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)-Voice of America (VOA) television news program “Current Time” is being exploited in the broadcasting region to embarrass the program’s staff. “Current Time” is a U.S. taxpayer-funded TV broadcast produced jointly by VOA in Washington and RFE/RL which is based in Prague, in the Czech Republic, where the taping apparently took place. This being a joint VOA and RFE/RL program, the leaked tape was specifically used in a popular social media post to name and embarrass the Voice of America.

Even more disturbing is that someone inside of the mismanaged and dysfunctional U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), previously known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which manages both entities, appears to have leaked this rehearsal video that is now being exploited to score propaganda points. Senior BBG executives created “Current Time” during the Obama Administration as a joint RFE/RL-VOA project and are ultimately responsible for management of the program.

Russian propagandists have focused on the leaked video to make fun of the U.S. media agency’s TV outreach to Russian-speaking audiences.

The video is embarrassing because a young “Current Time” reporter finds it difficult to answer simple political questions about Ukraine and shows a poor command of Russian. She is Ukrainian and Russian appears not to be her first language. Adding to the embarrassment, a Russian “Current Time” program host who was asking her questions reacts to her language difficulties with highly dismissive gestures.

One Russian-language social media post making fun of the leaked “Current Time” program rehearsal video has now over half a million views.

Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB officer. It would not be surprising if the Russians had someone on the inside of the U.S. Federal agency, including its non-Federal entities, who would leak such a video. It could also be an act of an agency employee or contractor frustrated with the senior management’s inability to hire competent reporters and to provide effective leadership.

The agency has suffered one setback after another under its holdover Obama Administration executives.

Another recent scandal, widely reported by U.S. media, had to do with an anti-Semitic report on TV Marti in the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) in Miami, which also falls under the lax supervision of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Both VOA and RFE/RL Radio Farda broadcasts to Iran were declared in a recent independent study to include pro-Iran regime propaganda and failing to reflect the full spectrum of U.S. views on Iran. USAGM CEO John Lansing may announce yet another investigation, but he seems incapable of leading the agency and stopping such scandals.


SEE: “USAGM Holdover CEO Was Warned in 2017 About Anti-Semitism in His Agency’s Programs,” BBG Watch, October 31, 2018