Audiences around the world, including in some of the most media-repressed countries, were able to watch President Trump’s first State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday evening, thanks to the networks of the BBG. The extensive coverage, which included the Democrat response by Representative Joe Kennedy, was distributed to more than 100 countries.
For many in those regions, the BBG networks served as the only source of accurate and unbiased coverage of the president’s address.
The speech, as well as the Democratic response, was carried live with simultaneous translation in English and nine other languages: Arabic, Persian, Mandarin, Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, French, Spanish, and Creole. Several other language services translated key quotes and ran live blogs on their Facebook pages and websites.
In-depth Coverage of Speech and Analysis
Each of the networks provided a wide variety of commentary on and reaction to the speech, including from leaders in their respective diaspora communities in the United States.
VOA Contributor Greta Van Susteren, along with VOA journalists Jim Malone, Steve Herman and Katherine Gypson, led English-language political analysis and commentary on radio, television, digital and Facebook Live.
VOA Russian, Mandarin and Persian services, and MBN’s Alhurra TV provided more than two hours of coverage and commentary in their own special programs.
For Russian speakers, Current Time, the 24 hour Russian language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, aired the speech and response, analysis and additional coverage by VOA’s Russian Service, on its digital TV network, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. More than 60,000 viewers watched the program on Facebook alone, generating more than 5,600 reactions, comments and shares. There were more than 327,000 impressions to VOA Russian’s SOTU-related content on Twitter. RFE/RL’s Radio Svoboda also streamed Current Time’s YouTube feed of SOTU, where it has been viewed 30,000 times and a wide variety of reactions from viewers.
For Persian speakers, VOA’s Persian Service and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda provided comprehensive coverage and analysis. Persian’s 2.5-hour live TV special on the address was broadcast live on TV and all digital platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. In addition, the service held exclusive interviews with Senator David Perdue (R-GA) and David Levinson, son of Bob Levinson who disappeared without a trace in Iran 11 years ago.
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda carried VOA Persian’s live feed of the speech and provided live-blogged coverage, as well as regular reporting that was shared by the U.S. State Department on its Persian Facebook. Since the speech, nearly 200 comments have been published on its webpage, with many expressing thanks to President Trump for supporting Iranian protesters, and some writing that the U.S. has double standards.
Middle East and Central Asia
Live coverage of the address and response with simultaneous Arabic translation was provided to millions in the Middle East and North Africa by MBN’s Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa.
Leading up to the address, Alhurra presented live updates from its correspondents in DC and Virginia and produced several in-depth reports related to the speech. The coverage discussed Americans’ expectations of the Trump administration moving forward and focused on the Middle East peace process, the economy and the stock market.
Alhurra’s live coverage started at 8:30 p.m. EST with a preview of the address and live reports from its correspondents at the White House and Congress. Following the speech and the Democratic response, Alhurra and Radio Sawa interviewed experts and analysts, as well as members of Congress.
The following day Alhurra hosted a special episode of its flagship political program Free Hour focusing on the address and the U.S. foreign policy with analysts from the U.S. and the region. Special reports, interviews with members of Congress and excerpts of the speech, and reaction from analysts, experts and citizens were played during newscasts and other programs throughout the day.
In addition to its extensive television coverage, Alhurra and Radio Sawa published live blogs, numerous videos, reports and stories on their websites and social media (including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) about the history of the speech, facts and figures, guests, Trump’s vision on immigration, healthcare and economy.
For Dari and Pashto speakers, VOA’s Afghan Service live streamed the speech and response live on it websites and Facebook pages. Dari and Pashto radio also provided live coverage with simultaneous translation of speech excerpts.
Following the speech, the service provided congressional and Afghan government reaction, as well as live reports to its affiliates, including Azadi, TOLO, RTA and Shamshad. RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan and Radio Mashaal also provided coverage and excerpts of the speech, and they generated discussion and debate on their social platforms. Two Mashaal stories and videos were viewed by more than 8,000 people.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the VOA Spanish Service worked closely to share resources and provide comprehensive coverage to Cuba and throughout Latin America of the address. VOA Spanish provided simultaneous translation via satellite for television and radio affiliates of the President’s speech, as well as the Democratic Spanish response by Virginia state delegate Elizabeth Guzman, of Peruvian descent. Television, radio and online affiliates in 17 Latin American countries. Radio and Television Marti aired a special program on the historical significance of past speeches, then carried VOA’s broadcast of the speech in Spanish, as well as the Spanish-language Democratic response, with Marti journalists and political analsts representing Republican and Democratic points of view. OCB provided live streaming on martinoticias.com and on Marti’s Facebook Live account.
Leveraging partnerships for extended reach
VOA’s Eurasia division provided live television reports for more than 40 television affiliates, including 22 for VOA Serbian. VOA Spanish prepared four radio reports and five television reports for affiliates, focusing primarily on immigration and foreign policy. VOA Indonesian conducted 15 live hits with eight national TV stations, and 20 live reports for seven major radio networks. VOA Turkish had reporters at the Russell building to do standups for affiliates, including Haberturk, Halk TV and Bloomberg TV.