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BBG networks join forces to provide extensive coverage of the U.S. – North Korean summit

BBG networks coordinated comprehensive coverage of the historic summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

During the June 11-12 summit, BBG networks surged broadcast hours and worked around the clock to provide its audience and affiliates with up-to-date information and coverage. VOA led the effort coordinating logistical arrangements for the 32 reporters, videographers and support staff from VOA, OCB, RFA, and MBN including credentials, travel arrangements, and setting up work space and locations for live shots. Many other RFE/RL language services also covered the summit, localizing the coverage for their audiences.

However, the collaboration went beyond logistics. The networks shared and distributed content, including lining up talent to appear on shows across the agencies. Planning Editors from each entity worked to lay out a joint coverage plan that played to the strengths of each entity, minimizing duplication.

VOA Korean and Mandarin sent reporters to Singapore who broadcast live from the summit providing viewers with the latest news and local reaction. VOA’s White House Mandarin correspondent also reported for Indonesia’s Metro TV who had requested coverage support. VOA Korean provided extensive coverage on the ground in Singapore including an engaging Q&A session broadcast on radio, TV, and web, explaining the major points of the joint statement Trump and Kim signed after their meeting.

For the first time, RFA’s Korean Service doubled its daily live short- and medium-wave broadcast period from one hour to 3.25 hours. It dispatched three reporters to cover the historic summit. RFA’s reporting team provided rich input for 17 radio and eight video reports and analyses, whose production was coordinated by its Seoul and DC bureaus. Reports mirroring the broadcasts were posted on the Korean service’s website while strong visual content was specially created for social media platforms.

VOA Spanish shared radio reports with Radio Marti throughout the summit. Spanish reporters went live 112 times reporting for other leading radio and television stations throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America with up-to-the-minute reporting and contextual information on the summit. The team participated in five television specials on the summit with reporters on the ground. Spanish Service reporters in Singapore also provided live reports to English newscasts as well as affiliates in Indonesia and India. TV Marti focused its original coverage on the importance of pressing North Korea on issues of human rights and religious freedom.

In Iran, the summit was a major topic of conversation as it signaled how the U.S. will now deal with rogue nations with nuclear ambitions. VOA Persian added hours of special programming, providing live, continuous and comprehensive coverage of the meetings, including special live programming when the meetings were occurring. The service also sent a reporter to Singapore in advance of the talks, providing around-the-clock, live, on-scene coverage of the comings and goings in connection with the events of the week. RFE/RL’s Radio Farda supplemented coverage with its Seoul-based correspondent, which included a live blog of the events on the Persian-language website.

Alhurra had two reporters covering events live from Singapore to provide viewers with up-to-the-minute live coverage as events unfolded. The network’s broadcast included more than five hours of live coverage from Singapore including the live shots of the initial meeting, the signing of the joint statement and the post meeting press briefing. Alhurra’s flagship talk show Free Hour examined the reaction to the summit and looked ahead to the next steps. Another program, All Directions, hosted American foreign policy experts who examined what lessons Iran could take from the summit.

Digital impact

Across the board, BBG websites saw an increase in traffic and content consumption in the two days during the US-North Korean summit.

Visits to VOA websites were up 13% compared to the daily average. Article views and audio plays were also up, 16% and 6% respectively, but video consumption drew the most increase at 31%. Top articles across VOA were dominated by summit-related content. Greta Van Susteren’s with President Trump drew over 20,000 page views and was also the top summit-related video on VOA websites.

The RFA Korean web team in both DC and Seoul continually posted updates on RFA social media platforms to ensure its web audience was able to keep up with fast-moving developments. Korean Service’s Facebook user engagement increased more than six times the usual rate during summit period (from June 9th-12th) from the same previous cycle (June 2nd-5th).

Current Time

Current Time offered live 24/7 coverage updates and simultaneous translation of President Trump’s news conference. VOA Russian’s team in Washington provided expert analysis and insights, and simultaneous translation of President Trump’s remarks that were live-streamed on Current Time, as well as on the VOA digital media platforms. VOA Russian’s Natasha Mozgovaya, alone, provided nine live reports over a six-hour window from Singapore.

Despite the early hours of the meeting for Current Time’s main audiences, the live broadcast collected over 100,000 views on YouTube and other social media platforms. Guests on the live show included filmmaker and Current Time host Vitaly Mansky, whose renowned 2015 documentary, Under the Sun, was shot over a year in North Korea. Videos including Current Time’s overnight livestream, have been viewed some 600,000 times. Current Time Digital also posted a video of Yeon Mi Park, a North Korean activist who escaped the hermit kingdom as a teenager, who testifies to the horrific human rights abuses that continue unchecked in the country. That video has so for been viewed more than 1 million times.