New Op-ed: We Need The Voice Of America
he corporate media’s outrage du jour concerns the Voice of America (VOA).
VOA is the government-funded international broadcast service, our official radio channel to the world. President Trump has exercised his prerogative to replace the political appointees overseeing the enterprise.
The usual suspects, the New York Times and Washington Post among them, are sounding the alarm because the man President Trump chose, Michael Pack, is—gasp!—a conservative with ties—quelle horreur!—to Stephen K. Bannon!
Dozens of stories and editorials raise the specter, without evidence as some like to say, that VOA will become VO-MAGA, an arm of the Trump reelection committee. “The potential for Mr. Trump to impose his own self-interested vision of news,” is worrisome, the Gray Lady worries.
The alarmist articles say more about the corporate media themselves than about the Voice of America.
First, it’s necessary to set a baseline: VOA and its parent, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, have been mismanaged for years. (A wag might say it has this in common with its corporate media counterparts.)
“Since 2007, [Agency for Global Media] has been at or near the bottom in the ‘Best Places to Work in the Federal Government’ ratings,” the Washington Post tells us. “In all nine categories rated in the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), conducted by the Office of Personnel Management, the [agency] was lower than the government-wide average.”
Despite morale-boosting events such as raffles, a fitness-center open house, a chocolate bake-off in time for Valentine’s Day, bingo night, happy hour, checkers and chess, “Morale at the agency is still abysmal,” Timothy Shamble, president of the American Federation of Government Employees told the Post.
The dysfunctional nature of the organization is no secret. Hillary Clinton told Congress VOA was “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.” The State Department inspector general called it “dysfunctional.”
Then we had the senior official who pleaded guilty to stealing government money in 2018 while he was employed at the agency in Washington, D.C. This former State Department employee padded his expense account, forged doctor reports, and submitted falsified invoices and repair estimates to an insurance company regarding a claim for repairs to his home in Virginia. The criminal mastermind even used his government-issued laptop to create the fake documents. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison
And let’s not forget the 15 VOA employees were sacked for taking a $5,000 bribe from a Nigerian state governor visiting the VOA’s D.C. offices in 2018. A member of the Nigerian official entourage “handed down ‘a brown envelope’ containing $5,000 to one of the VOA staff that walked them to their car” and that staffer shared it with the other staffers, Nigerian media reports:
Sources familiar with the issue said that almost all “government officials from Nigeria that visit VOA drop some money after the encounter. That is the tradition. That doesn’t mean that it was solicited by the journalists. The fact is officials give money, and the journalists collect it,” the source who declined being named said.
The head of VOA’s Nigerian language service also is suspected of alleged “sundry illegal financial activities,” including padding the rent at the Nigeria office, skimming salaries of part-time staff, and falsifying payments of ghost stringers. The FBI sent agents to Nigeria to speak with staff members who were forced to kick back a “huge part of their monthly pay.”
The kickbacks may be one reason employees have been giving the agency such low ratings.
The “Death of Objectivity”? Oh, Please
This long history of dysfunction and criminality was forgotten once President Trump moved to put fresh leadership in place.
Now the problem, the doomsayers predict, is the imminent death of independent objective reporting at VOA.
What’s amusing about this claim is how our corporate media overlords show a complete lack of self-awareness by holding themselves up as exemplars of said independent, objective reporting.
They are essentially saying that if VOA doesn’t do what the rest of the Washington press corps is doing, that’s prima facie evidence of political interference in the newsroom.
This assumes, falsely, that the commercial media are unbiased. Moreover, it assumes that the VOA is supposed to do what the commercial news media do.
The VOA’s charter clearly states it has a responsibility to “represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.”
Further, VOA “will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.”
That tells us VOA is, or at least is supposed to be, a cat of a different color than corporate media.
No one would accuse CNN and MSNBC of presenting “a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.” If you support President Trump you have an easier time getting booked for arrest than getting booked for an appearance on either of those outlets.
Neither can the cable networks’ programming be described as offering “responsible discussions and opinion on the policies of the United States.” If only Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Rachel Maddow, and Joy Reid lived up to that standard.
Citizens of Nowhere
The other point in the charter says “VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news.” That’s strike three against CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Washington Post, New York Times, AP and all the others who force-fed America one-sided totally false baseless Russia collusion conspiracy theories for years and then didn’t even bother to admit they were wrong when the truth came out.
The United States would be well served if our commercial news media were consistently reliable and authoritative, presented a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought, and presented responsible discussions and opinion on the policies of the United States.
Instead, they stoke racial animosity and undermine faith in America’s fundamental institutions if that helps them attract the largest possible audience to sell to globalist corporate sponsors.
And therein lies the deeper problem. The executives, journalists, and pundits populating the New York-D.C. media universe see themselves as global, not American, citizens. They equate nationalism with fascism. CNN uses John Lennon’s paean to a world without nations as its New Year’s theme song. NBC sponsors the Global Citizen Festival.
As mobs deface monuments to American heritage, major media personalities cannot summon a voice to denounce the anarchy or defend our heritage.
Now more than ever, we could use a Voice of America—at home as well as abroad.
Curtis Ellis is the Senior Policy Director for America First Policies.