Washington, DC – The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today released its FY 2014 budget request to help U.S. international media meet its strategic priorities in light of dynamic global media environments and current spending constraints.
“Tight budgets require us to prioritize the use of our resources even as we strive to make the best use of 21st century opportunities to inform, engage, and connect with our audiences,” said Michael Meehan, chairman of the board’s Strategy and Budget Committee. “As is true across the federal government, we have to take a hard look at spending — seeking efficiencies wherever possible and limiting the impact on our mission-critical work.”
For FY 2014, the BBG has requested $731 million for U.S. international media. The request contains proposed investments designed to increase the impact and reach of U.S. international broadcasting with $13.9 million primarily to support critical initiatives to counter violent extremism. The investments as a whole would:
- Create a multi-channel, multi-language information and engagement initiative targeting youth in the Trans-Sahel region of Africa.
- Provide deeper, on-the ground coverage in the critical Maghreb region – the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
- Engage new audiences in Burma by investing in the creation and distribution of compelling content for distribution over TV satellite, local affiliates, mobile, and other digital platforms.
- Realign transmission assets and upgrade other infrastructure to improve service to critical audiences and to reduce reliance on external leases.
The request also contains $12.5 million in Internet anti-censorship funding to continue a broad-based approach to the deployment of emerging technologies and partnerships with cutting-edge experts, developers and in-country networks.
Included in the budget request is a legislative proposal to establish a Chief Executive Officer for all civilian U.S. international media. Establishing a CEO is a key objective of the BBG and the Administration. The proposal will improve the management and efficiency of BBG operations, helping to mitigate the challenges of a part-time board. The BBG’s governing board has repeatedly voiced support for creation of a CEO, an element in their five-year strategic plan, had has previously submitted language to Congress for such a position. The Department of State’s Office of the Inspector General underscored the importance of such an action.
The CEO will be empowered to provide day-to-day executive leadership for U.S. international broadcasting and will have management authority over the federal and non-federal elements. The Board will hire and supervise the CEO, retaining the critical role of setting the strategic direction of U.S. international media, as well as evaluating its journalistic quality and maintaining its journalistic integrity.
The BBG’s strategic plan provides the context for the budget request and notes that to be competitive in today’s complex media markets, the agency must innovate as never before. To have the resources and management structures to enable such innovation, the agency must integrate its operations.
Proposed shifts include scaling back selected language services to reduce overlap, increasing cooperation, and ensuring that broadcasters will provide complementary content; streamlining and restructuring central news operations; realizing savings in information technology; and making other administrative and support reductions in ways that will not diminish the agency’s ability to execute its mission.
The FY 2014 budget request includes program, transmission and staffing reductions across all the networks — at the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting — and the International Broadcasting Bureau, in part through efforts to continue to restructure operations and end duplication. This includes rationalizing distribution through reductions of some cross-border (shortwave and medium wave) broadcasts where they have the least impact – either because audiences are small, or because people prefer to access programs on other, more popular media, including FM radio, television, and the Internet. The VOA Greek and RFE/RL Balkan services would be closed under this proposed budget.
“Some of these changes, if enacted, will be very difficult on the men and women involved,” Meehan said. “We will do everything possible to minimize the impact on our employees through agency buyouts, early-out authority and reducing positions via attrition.”
The BBG FY 2014 budget request is available here.
The BBG FY 2014 Investment Proposals are available here.
The BBG FY 2014 Chief Executive Officer Proposal with legislative language is available here.