BBG Watch Commentary

As of Wednesday morning, the Voice of America (VOA) report on President Obama's Syria speech showed zero comments from online readers. An Al Jazeera report on the speech had
As of Wednesday morning, the Voice of America (VOA) report on President Obama’s Syria speech showed zero comments from online readers. An Al Jazeera report on the speech had over 350 comments.

As of 10:45 AM Washington, DC time, the Voice of America (VOA) English website still shows 0 (zero) comments from online readers for VOA’s news report on President Obama’s speech on Syria (Obama Backs Diplomacy on Syria, But Force Still Possible, VOA News). The same story on Al Jazeera (worldwide site) shows 355 comments. The Russia Today story shows 97 comments.

There is no U.S. Obama speech reactions piece on the VOA homepage. Tuesday night, a very short VOA report on the speech without any video had only 15 Facebook “Likes” three hours after the speech, while BBC and Russia Today reports with videos already had hundreds.

It took VOA several hours to add video to its report. As of this morning, the VOA homepage was still featuring an animal video instead of video from President Obama’s speech.

The VOA report on Obama’s Syria speech eventually managed to get 378 Facebook “Likes,” as of 11 AM Wednesday, but it still shows only 9 (nine) Tweets, 2 (two) Google+ and 0 (zero) comments.

The BBC report shows this morning 3,433 Facebook “Likes” and 1,043 Tweets.

The Russia Today report shows 1,300 Facebook “Likes” and 322 Tweets and 97 comments.

The Al Jazeera report shows 642 Facebook “Likes,” 206 Tweets and 355 comments.

There are zero comments on the VOA report even though the comment plugin is now open. It may not have been open last night. Most VOA news stories get only a handful of comments, Facebook “Likes” and Tweets compared to hundreds and thousands, even tens of thousands, for BBC, Russia Today, and Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera America, which is different from Al Jazeera’s worldwide English site, and BBC reported on U.S. reactions to President Obama’s speech. Voice of America did not.

VOA Featured Video after President Obama's speech to the nation on Syria.
VOA Featured Video after President Obama’s speech to the nation on Syria.

AL JAZEERA AMERICA Reaction to Obama’s address Tuesday night included criticism from Republicans.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus called the president’s handling of Syria embarrassing.

“The administration’s handling of the U.S. response to Syria has been so haphazard it’s disappointed even the president’s most ardent supporters,” he said. “His rudderless diplomacy has embarrassed America on the world stage.”

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Obama did not go far enough to support the opposition in Syria. They bemoaned a lack of a plan to “test the seriousness” of the Russian proposal.

“We regret … that he did not speak more forcefully about the need to increase our military assistance to moderate opposition forces in Syria,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that “the president justly made clear tonight that the threat of military action remains on the table as we continue to work to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

BBG Watch has described Voice of America’s minimal reporting on President Obama’s Syria speech as “shameful” and said that “VOA central news gathering and news reporting operation has imploded.”

In terms of audience engagement through social media, the Voice of America has fallen so far behind Al Jazeera, BBC and Russia Today that it can be described as irrelevant as an international news source. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees Voice of America operations, says that “the BBG’s mission is to inform, engage and connect people [emphasis added] around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG members, however, have had a difficult time trying to force management reforms due to strong resistance from the executive staff of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) headed by IBB Director Richard Lobo and IBB Deputy Director Jeff Trimble, sources told BBG Watch.

Voice of America journalists have complained for years to VOA Director David Ensor, VOA Executive Editor Steve Redish about mismanagement at the top executive ranks and the failing news and web operation, but their complaints have been completely ignored. Instead, the VOA management launched a campaign of intimidation and attacks on its critics.