Thursday, May 8, 2014

VOA Partners With Nigerian Television Station As Kidnapping Dominates Headlines

As the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria continues to captivate the world's attention, one of the biggest international news networks has decided to solidify their partnership with a Nigerian news operation to help enhance it's coverage.

Voice of America, which boasts 164 million weekly viewers worldwide, is launching a new segment every Wednesday on it's "Africa 54" newscast featuring Channels TV Nigeria reporter Cynthia Areh, who'll discuss "hot topics in Nigeria and across the continent".

Areh made her first appearance via telephone this week and disputed the narrative being spread by many proponents of the #BringBackOurGirls movement that the Nigerian government wasn't doing enough to rescue the girls captured by terrorist group Boko Haram.

"The government was doing more acting than talking. It appeared as though it wasn't doing anything from the start when the girls were actually abducted. The government was doing something but not communicating it," Areh told anchor Vincent Makori.

"But now that the protests have gone global it is now making it's progress known to it's citizens, making it's progress known to the world and keeping everybody in check," Areh said.

Channels TV Nigeria and Voice of America were already partners before Wednesday's announcement. Ironically, as a car bomb rocked the capital of Abuja on May 1st, Channels TV was airing a recap of the NBA playoffs with VOA's sports correspondent Sonny Young contributing to coverage via Skype.

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Channels TV Nigeria, which was recently awarded as the best station in the country by the Nigeria Media Merit Award Trust, has also featured VOA's news reporters while covering global stories such as the South Sudan crisis. 

This addition should help VOA's coverage of the ongoing situation in Nigeria since the network lacks a bureau in West Africa. Channels TV Nigeria provides VOA with resources on the ground as developments continue to surface, which is important for VOA's coverage given it's reach.

VOA's director David Esnor announced in 2013 that the network was looking to build facilities in Abuja but there is no word on where progress is at the moment.

Recently, calls have been made for VOA to change their mission from being an editorially independent journalistic outlet to becoming a network which supports the United States' foreign policy goals. Legislation has already been agreed to by members of the House of Representatives but it isn't known when this bill would go up for vote.

Voice of America was originally established in 1942 to combat Japanese and Nazi propaganda, according to Foreign Policy magazine. The Ford administration would eventually turn VOA around into it's current state as an unbiased, independent news network funded by the U.S. government which would serve individuals living under "repressive regimes".

Questions arise as to whether VOA would be able to continue to partner with independent networks such as Channels TV if they were to become the United States' alternative to Russia Today or CCTV.

Would an independent news network want to be associated with a United States propagandist network? Would losing partnerships with independent networks hurt VOA's coverage of big international stories?

Alternatively, it also raises the question of whether international viewers living under repressive regimes continue to depend on VOA for unbiased news coverage with the rise of social media platforms and the Internet. 

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