- What is the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)?
- Does the BBG have a role in formulating program content?
- What is the VOA Charter? What does it say?
- Do the programs contain propaganda?
- Do you try to persuade audiences to have a positive view of the United States or to support specific U.S. policies?
- What is the budget? Who decides where, and on what, the money is spent?
- Why should American taxpayers continue to fund international broadcasting when there is CNN and Sky Channel, etc.?
- How do you make decisions to cut or add languages or programs?
- Some broadcast entities such as VOA and RFE/RL broadcast in the same languages. Is the content of their programs similar?
- How many people do you reach?
- Where can I find BBG audience figures?
- How do you measure effectiveness?
- In what languages do you broadcast?
- Can BBG content be seen in the United States?
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is both the name of the independent federal government Agency that oversees all U.S. civilian international broadcasting, and the name of the Board that governs those broadcasts.
The BBG became an independent federal government agency on October 1, 1999. The broadcast organizations it oversees include the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).
The Board is composed of nine members with expertise in the fields of mass communications, broadcast media, or international affairs. Eight members (4 Democrats and 4 Republicans) are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The ninth, the Secretary of State, serves ex officio. The Secretary is represented on the Board by the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
- Matthew Armstrong
- Ambassador Ryan Crocker
- John Forbes Kerry, ex-officio
- Susan McCue
- Michael P. Meehan
- Jeffrey Shell
- Kenneth Weinstein
The role of the BBG is to supervise all broadcasting activities and to provide strategic management for the Agency. It serves as a firewall between U.S. Government policy makers and the broadcasters.
It is the job of the news directors, editors and broadcasters, under the strict journalistic standards spelled out in the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994 and the Journalistic Codes of Ethics of each of the broadcasters, to determine the stories that get covered.
The BBG Board is also charged with evaluating the mission and operation of its broadcast entities; assessing the quality, effectiveness, and professional integrity of its broadcasters; and determining the addition or deletion of language services.
President Gerald Ford first signed the VOA Charter into law in 1976, and it was subsequently included in the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, as amended. It serves as a basis for the “standards and principles” for all BBG broadcasting under that Act.
The purpose of the “Charter” is to guard the journalistic integrity of BBG’s programming. The language states that BBG programs will serve as a consistently reliable source of news. The news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive. Programming should also provide a balanced representation of American life and include clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States.
No. The mission of the BBG and its broadcasters is to broadcast accurate, balanced, and comprehensive news and information to an international audience. The mission to promote freedom and democracy is achieved through journalistic integrity and through the dissemination of factual news and information to an audience that typically does not have access to a free press.
Our mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. We do this by broadcasting accurate, objective, balanced news and information about the United States and the world. By doing so, and by serving as an example of free and professional journalism, we serve the long-range interests of the U.S.
The FY 2014 budget for the BBG is $731.1 million. As a federal agency, the BBG’s budget request is part of the President’s Budget request to the Congress. Decisions about funding levels and allocations are part of a decision-making process that takes into account Administration and Congressional priorities, the strategic interests of the United States, the effectiveness of our broadcasts, and the strength of press freedoms in the countries to which we broadcast.
U.S. international broadcasting continues to fill a critical void, especially in countries that lack a free press. Access to products like CNN International is far from universal and often limited to elite travelers in their hotel rooms. While the BBG broadcasts in 61 languages, CNN is largely limited to English speakers.
Reaching local populations in their own languages, as well as English, we can provide them with accurate and reliable news and provide an alternative to local media that may be prolific, but may also be government controlled and subject to censorship. Wherever possible, we broadcast in the media—TV, AM/FM or shortwave radio, and the Internet/new media—that give us the broadest possible reach.
The Agency must ensure that its program decisions reflect the U.S. national interest. Given funding constraints and changing foreign policy priorities, it is sometimes necessary to increase broadcasting to an area in crisis, while correspondingly reducing funding in other areas. Decisions to eliminate or reduce broadcast services are never easy.
Funding decisions are based on a variety of factors including audience access to outlets of free and balanced news, the effectiveness of the current programming, and U.S. strategic interests. Once countries have established reliable and professional media outlets, the need for our broadcasts diminishes.
The difference in the broadcasters’ roles lies in their programming emphases.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and Radio and TV Marti emphasize domestic news for their geographically-defined audiences. Covering developments specific to their target markets is their specialty, most notably in countries without a free press or in transition. At the same time, each one also covers regional and international issues and events (including those in the United States, as warranted) to ensure comprehensive news coverage.
The Voice of America emphasizes international and regional news and in-depth coverage of the United States. VOA also covers local events to ensure comprehensive news coverage, especially in areas where it operates solely such as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa, lone Arabic-language broadcasters in the Middle East except for Iraq, provide a full range of international, regional, and local news as well as consistent coverage of the U.S.
BBG broadcasters reach 206 million people around the world each week with more than 3,000 hours of original programming each week.
The Agency conducts extensive research on its worldwide broadcast audiences as part of its annual Language Service Review process. The results are organized by broadcast language in the BBG’s Language Service Review book available online here.
Following a year-long Strategic Review, the Agency issued a new Strategic Plan in November 2011 and launched a website www.bbgstrategy.com that is a rich resource for information on BBG market research.
Additional audience research can be found under Other Reports on the BBG website.
The BBG measures effectiveness in terms of the size of our audience, the quality and reliability of our programming, and whether our broadcasts increase the audience’s understanding of current events and American society and policies.
We contract with Gallup, an independent research organization, to conduct both qualitative and quantitative audience and market research and rely on industry experts such as AC Nielsen.
Audience size is measured as the number of adults (15+) who “listened or viewed last week” as determined by random sampling in the target area. This is the agreed-upon standard used by most international broadcasters. By that measure, the BBG’s audience has increased 80 percent since 2002.
The nature of our broadcasting, which aims at many countries where information is tightly controlled or where populations are hard to access, means that some audiences are difficult to measure. Countries or regions for which we can only conduct non-representative surveys, such as North Korea or Tibet, are not included in our audience estimates.
The BBG’s broadcast entities produce content in 61 languages. The list of languages follows.
- Special English
Eastern & Central Europe
- Crimean Tatar
- Afaan Oromoo
- French to Africa
- Portuguese to Africa
Middle East/North Africa
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and the media organizations that it supports can now make their content available in broadcast quality upon request within the United States. This is due to a law that went into effect on July 2, 2013, amending the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, known as the Smith-Mundt Act. Amending Smith-Mundt for this purpose was part of the strategic plan adopted in 2011 by the governing board overseeing the BBG. Program materials can be made available domestically, upon request, whenever doing so is consistent with all statutory authorities, prohibitions, principles, and standards. For more information please visit Facts About Smith-Mundt Modernization.