Iraqi men watch BBG's Alhurra TV
Iraqi men watch BBG's Alhurra TV

BBG measures audience growth in key markets

Iraqi men watch BBG's Alhurra TV
Iraqi men watch Alhurra TV

Washington, D.C. – U.S. government-funded, civilian international broadcasters reached an estimated 175 million people per week on a variety of media platforms in 2012, including large audiences in countries that are key priorities for U.S. foreign policy, the Broadcasting Board of Governors announced today.

The figure, which reflects the combined viewership and listenership 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), is a net decrease of 12 million from last year’s record total as detailed in the BBG’s annual Performance Accountability Report.  While this drop likely reflects actual loss in overall audience, some of it may also be attributable to a change in research providers and resulting changes in the survey questionnaire, both of which occurred during FY 2012.

“Reliable and high-quality research informs our strategies, which in turn helps us fulfill our critical mission of reaching marketplaces around the globe, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan,” said BBG Presiding Governor Michael Lynton.  “This agency is committed to evaluating and assessing performance through a rigorous research program as required by law. And as audience preferences change, we will continue to innovate on all platforms — radio, TV, the Internet and social media.”

Audiences grew substantially in Iran, where more than 10 million people watch or hear BBG programs, and in other key countries including Libya, and Ethiopia. The largest change was in Indonesia, where audience numbers dropped by 17.4 million, from 38 million to 21 million people, in part due to a potential overestimate in 2011.  Among other countries that saw audience declines were Egypt, Nigeria, and Burma, as these markets became more competitive and open; in Haiti, where surge broadcasts instituted after the 2010 earthquake diminished; and in Russia, where government media regulations have curtailed distribution.

BBG broadcasts reached significant audiences in other important markets, including 75 percent of the adult population in Afghanistan, 75 percent in the Somaliland and Puntland regions of Somalia, 67 percent in Iraq, 30 percent in Libya, and 27 percent in the FATA region of Pakistan.  In FY 2012, the BBG enhanced its distribution network, adding new FM transmitters in key cities in Libya and Afghanistan.

Consistent with the practice of other international broadcasters, the BBG measures and reports unduplicated audience; each individual, regardless of how many programs watched or listened to, or media platforms used, is counted only once. This is a conservative approach to quantifying the audience and in keeping with the mission of BBG to inform and engage people, rather than count individual interactions with them.

Other indices of impact — such as how trustworthy audiences find BBG programming and how much the broadcasts increase their understanding, the scope or quality of an individual’s consumption of BBG programming, the level of social media engagement, website page views, file downloads or media citations of BBG news coverage — are important factors considered for program and strategic planning purposes.

Radio and TV are increasingly close in terms of reach by platform, with radio reaching more than 95 million people per week and television measures in at 92 million people. The Internet audience was between 12 and 13 million, with the largest online audiences measured in Iraq, at 2.7 million.

The audience estimate includes research conducted within the past five years in over 70 countries and territories and surveys representing 2.8 billion people in markets around the globe. The 2012 Performance and Accountability Report will be available to download on Nov. 16. For further facts and figures as well as information on research methods, please refer to the following information.

BBG 2012 Audience Overview (PDF)

BBG Research Methodology (PDF)