U.S. International Media Reach Record Audiences, with TV Overtaking Radio

Alhurra’ s correspondent Omar Twati reporting from Libya

Alhurra TV’s correspondent Omar Twati reporting from Libya

Washington, D.C. – Programming across the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ global media networks reached an estimated 206 million people per week in 2013, including large audiences in countries that are strategically critical for U.S. foreign policy.

The 206 million weekly reach reflects the combined TV, radio, Internet, and mobile audiences of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa) and is a net increase of nearly 31 million from last year’s total, as detailed in the BBG’s 2013 Performance Accountability Report. For the first time, TV audiences have surpassed radio, with the TV audience measuring 110 million and radio reaching 109 million people per week. The Internet audience has grown substantially from last year, with 22 million reached online. Some of the increase represents data from countries that were not surveyed previously.

“Our journalists produce high quality programming, and we’re finding fresh ways to innovate in content delivery. This makes it possible for the networks supported by the BBG to reach these record-breaking audiences,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell. “Through these means, we help to nurture and sustain free, open, democratic societies by supporting free press and free expression, and by conveying the American democratic experience to countries where the media are not free. This research data is critical in helping us navigate challenging media environments, and connecting with audiences on the platforms that they prefer.”

The BBG strongly believes in meeting audiences on their media of choice. As such, the BBG employs diverse distribution models across its broadcast regions, ranging from syndication by placing an Alhurra TV program on a popular channel in Egypt, to Radio Free Asia and VOA’s shortwave programs in tightly-controlled countries such as North Korea.

The BBG’s largest audiences are in Indonesia (21.6 million), Nigeria (20.7 million), Mexico (14.9 million), and Iran (14.5 million), all countries in which the BBG has made strides in innovative programming.

  • In Indonesia, drawing on an affiliate-based strategy, VOA content is carried on six of the top national TV networks as well as on FM radio stations across the country. VOA also seeks digital distribution opportunities, particularly on mobile devices, ownership of which is growing rapidly in Indonesia.
  • In northern Nigeria, where the terrorist group Boko Haram has a foothold, VOA added weekend programming and a new SMS mobile service in the past year to provide breaking news updates. In 2013, the BBG expanded its overall broadcast reach in Africa by installing FM transmitters in Bamako, Mali, Juba, South Sudan, and N’Djamena, Chad.
  • In Mexico, VOA has partnered with high-profile affiliates to successfully place its Spanish Service’s “U.S. Bureau” programming on networks where audiences most want to see it.
  • In Iran, the BBG has achieved success with a multi-platform, multi-network model. Programs are available on direct-to-home satellite television, as well as online and on mobile phones, 24 hours a day. VOA Persian and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda recently launched a program collaboration in the form of Radio Farda’s first TV program on VOA’s and RFE/RL’s satellite channels.

Audiences grew substantially in Pakistan, where more than 7.5 million people watch or hear BBG programming. In an effort to reach younger audiences there, VOA’s Urdu Service placed fast-paced TV programs on competitive cable networks providing insight into American values and daily life.

Afghanistan and Iraq continue to be in the top ten BBG audiences globally, though decreases in reach suggest evolving media sectors as more local media organizations commence operations.

The data for the 2013 audience estimate come from surveys of adult (age 15+) populations in more than 90 countries conducted around the world over the past 5 years. More than 80% of these surveys were conducted with the previous two years.

For further facts and figures as well as information on research methods, please refer to the following information.

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