BBG Watch Commentary
U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) has not reported on its English news website the tragic news that four Iranian-expatriate musicians living in Brooklyn, New York — members of a popular Iranian rock band The Yellow Dogs, which is banned in Iran — have been shot dead in what authorities are labelling a murder-suicide.
U.S. and international media, including The Washington Post blog, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, The Telegraph and BBC in the UK and media in other countries are all reporting on the story. Al Jazeera America website posted an AP report on the murder. But Iranian FARS news agency had nothing on the story in English, just like VOA English News.
BBC had a report posted online early Monday, “Yellow Dogs shooting: US-Iranian band members killed in NY,” which by Monday night had nearly 10,000 Facebook “Likes,” indicating great interest in the story worldwide. It was the third most shared news story on the BBC English website.
While VOA English News had nothing on this story, the VOA Persian website did have a very short (only 95 words) news item on the murder. VOA Persian news item had 85 Facebook “Likes” by Monday evening. The BBC English online news report, which also included three photos, was much longer (640 words) than the VOA Persian news report. The VOA Persian Service is also known as Persian News Network or PNN.
With over 1 million total “Likes,” BBC Persian Facebook page is far more frequently accessed than the VOA Facebook page, which has only 227,000 “Likes.”
But the question remains why English-speaking international audiences had to go to the BBC English website to learn about the tragic murder of popular Iranian musicians living in the United States rather than to be able to find this news with more details and original reporting on the Voice of America English website?
Iran is an important news topic even in terms of non-political news. Both BBC English and BBC Persian know this.
It is not that the VOA English news website stays away from popular culture and entertainment news stories in favor of political ones. On the contrary, VOA English website often misses important political and human rights-related news stories and posts news features, which also get very few Facebook “Likes.” VOA recently posted five reports on royal christening in Great Britain, a report on finishing schools in Switzerland, a report on a zombie convention in the United States, and a report on Miss Universe beauty pageant in Moscow.
But it is rather inexplicable why the VOA English website had nothing on the tragic death of Iranian rock musicians in the United States – a story of great resonance internationally, including Iran, that got nearly 10,000 Facebook “Likes” on the BBC English website and more than 2,700 on the BBC Persian Facebook page.
The Voice of America in the midst of a crippling management crisis has missed yet another news story.
Also read: What is more important for Voice of America – Americans in Russian jail or beauty pageant in Moscow?, BBG Watch, November 11, 2013.
The Yellow Dogs were from Tehran, Iran. They sang in English and played Western instruments, citing Joy Division as an influence. Their music was not approved by Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and was therefore Illegal. They performed in Bahman Ghobadi‘s Cannes Un Certain Regard award-winning film, No One Knows About Persian Cats and were interviewed by Reza Sayah for CNN before leaving Iran in 2010.
The Yellow Dogs 2009 CNN Interview