New Announcement from USAGM Watch Citizen Journalists
Citizen journalists working as unpaid volunteers for non-partisan and independent USAGM Watch have decided to resume on an experimental, occasional basis their commentaries and reports on the publicly-funded activities of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). We see the continuing need for providing an independent oversight and a measure of civic accountability for the $800 million (recent average annual budget) federal agency which manages five networks: two federal organizations — the Voice of America (VOA) and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which oversees Radio and TV Martí — and three non-profit organizations — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA) and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) — which receive grants from USAGM. USAGM also provides grants to the Open Technology Fund (OTF).
If there is a positive response from our readers to our new initiative, we hope to continue and expand the work of BBG Watch, which suspended its publication in December 2020 when our co-founder, journalist Ted (Tadeusz) Lipien, who led VOA broadcasts to Poland during Solidarity trade union’s struggle for democracy in the 1980s, took the position of RFE/RL President, which he held until his removal by the new acting USAGM CEO in late January.
Lipien fully supports the work of his predecessor and successor at RFE/RL, Jamie Fly, and applauds his decisive dealing with blackmail by Russian President Vladimir Putin who is trying to force RFE/RL to leave Russia. This may soon happen and require special coverage by USAGM Watch. We also think that members of Congress who are close to their constituencies have been particularly helpful in improving USAGM operations.
We are eager to hear comments and suggestions from our readers for future coverage and commentary as we try to determine how in our citizen journalists’ roles we can best serve the needs of the struggling federal media agency, its foreign audiences, USAGM, VOA, OCB and grantee organizations’ employees, and American taxpayers who need to know if their tax money is wisely used.
You can contact us by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using the contact form on our website.
USAGM Watch Commentary
UPDATE: Five days after Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) issued his statement on Wednesday April 7, which was critical of U.S. Agency of Global Media (USAGM) CEO Kelu Chao’s appointment of new Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) Radio and Television Martí Director, three days after a VOA report on it was written on Friday but not released, and two days after USAGM Watch first signaled VOA’s delay in releasing the story, VOA English News posted its report on Senator Menendez’s criticism on Monday, April 12 at 8:26 AM. SEE: https://www.voanews.com/usa/usagm-pick-lead-cuba-broadcasting-draws-criticism-senator
enator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)–a strong critic of Michael Pack, former, Trump-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) who resigned after being told that he would be removed by President Biden immediately after the presidential inauguration in January–is criticizing the decision of Biden-approved acting USAGM CEO Kelu Chao to appoint Sylvia Rosabal to serve as Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), overseeing Radio and Television Martí.
“While I respect Ms. Rosabal’s journalism credentials, I do not think she is the right person to lead the OCB,” Senator Menendez said in a statement posted on his official U.S. Senate website on April 7.
“I am concerned that she is of the view of accommodation with the Cuban regime rather than of challenging its human rights violations and denial of democratic freedoms to its people,” Senator Menendez said in his statement.
Spanish-language media in the U.S. have reported on Senator Menendez’s statement on the appointment of the OCB director, but as of late Friday afternoon, the Voice of America (VOA), which is also managed by USAGM and where Kelu Chao held executive positions before being appointed to her current acting USAGM CEO job, has not yet posted a report in English or in Spanish.
Biden’s USAGM Transition Leader Richard Stengel pushed normalization with Castro’s Cuba for OCB and VOA in 2016. According to two officials who attended closed meetings of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in 2016, the then Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel aggressively pushed the Obama White House policy on relations with the Castro brothers’ communist regime in Cuba and questioned the mission of Radio and TV Marti broadcasts to the island produced by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami, FL. The two now former BBG executives who were present at these meetings said that Stengel vastly exaggerated any positive changes in the human rights situation as a result of President Obama’s visit to Havana in March 2016. In 2018, the Broadcasting Board of Governors changed its name to the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
PRESS RELEASE FROM SENATOR MENENDEZ (D-N.J.)
NEWARK – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the appointment of Sylvia Rosabal to serve as Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), overseeing Radio and Television Martí:
“As a network of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM), OCB’s mission is crystal clear: Provide the people of Cuba with ‘objective news and information programming.’ I have also been clear with the Administration that the person leading that mission should be someone with a track record of staunchly promoting liberty for all Cuban citizens, and delivering a message of solidarity between the U.S. and the people of Cuba while not condoning the Castro Regime.
“While I respect Ms. Rosabal’s journalism credentials, I do not think she is the right person to lead the OCB. I am concerned that she is of the view of accommodation with the Cuban regime rather than of challenging its human rights violations and denial of democratic freedoms to its people. Therefore, I will be seeking specific information on how she intends to promote the cause of freedom, the principles of a free press and of free speech in Cuba. The OCB Director needs to have a clear plan on how our broadcasting and surrogate broadcasting into the island can serve as a reliable and authoritative source of accurate, objective, and comprehensive news, commentary, and other information about events in Cuba and elsewhere in the context of the Castro regime’s authoritarian efforts to control information and access to information.
“Similarly, I will fight any effort to undermine TV and Radio Martí’s role in reaching the Cuban people with information, giving access to those who have been muzzled and beaten for decades simply for trying to fight for their basic rights, to speak their minds, and to broadcast the ugly realities of the Cuban regime.”
END OF PRESS RELEASE FROM SENATOR MENENDEZ
On April 7, U.S. Agency for Global Media announced that Acting Chief Executive Officer Kelu Chao selected Sylvia Rosabal to be the new Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.
PRESS RELEASE FROM USAGM
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) today announced that Acting Chief Executive Officer Kelu Chao selected Sylvia Rosabal to be the new Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB).
Sylvia Rosabal is an award-winning television and media executive with 30 years of experience at leading Spanish-language networks in the United States. She is the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow award, eight News and Documentary Emmys, and was named one of People en Español’s “25 Most Powerful Women.”
At Univision Network, Rosabal spearheaded the expansion of the news division and grew the network’s evening newscast into a ratings leader. As Senior Vice President of News at Telemundo Network, she served as the executive-in-charge of newsgathering and prime-time investigative specials, including the award-winning documentaries, “Muriendo por Cruzar (Dying to Cross)” and “Cosecha de Miseria (Harvest of Misery),” both co-productions with The Weather Channel.
Sylvia was born in Puerto Rico to Cuban parents. South Florida has been her home for over 40 years.
OCB is a USAGM public service media network that oversees Radio and Televisión Martí at its headquarters in Miami, Florida. Combined with martinoticias.com and its social media platforms, the Martís bring unbiased, objective, and professional news and information programming to one million Cuban adults each week.
END OF USAGM PRESS RELEASE