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Democracy in action: BBG networks bring midterm elections to the world

As voters went to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 4, the media networks within the Broadcasting Board of Governors showcased democracy in action and engaged global audiences with the democratic process. The Voice of America, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia connected  audiences in 61 languages in over 100 countries  to the electoral process with live coverage, analysis, and interactives.

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The Voice of America teamed up with radio and TV affiliate stations around the world to provide enhanced coverage of this year’s midterm elections in each of its 45 languages, producing multiple TV packages on the elections and special coverage targeted to specific audiences.  VOA journalists explained to global audiences the gravity of the elections, and brought them up-to-date news and analysis throughout the election process.

Prior to the elections, VOA National Editor Jim Malone penned the All About America blog explaining the midterm elections. Election-day coverage included online updates on results and breaking news, with posts on social media in English and across VOA language services.  VOA covered the broad span of midterm election news, including ballot initiatives, foreign policy implications of the results, and other aspects of the race.

VOA invited expert analysts on multiple shows to answer these questions of interest to overseas audiences. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns provided analysis of what the GOP victories mean for U.S. foreign policy.

In addition, VOA coordinated with partners and affiliates to bring live footage of the democratic process to the world. VOA broadcast live interactives before, during, and after election day with its partners across the globe, including RTHK and D100 in Hong Kong; 938LIVE in Singapore; Panamericana in Bolivia; Dozhd and Russian Business Channel (RBC) in Russia; and many others. In Nigeria, in addition to using VOA commentary, Channels TV highlighted a VOA story on Ebola’s impact on the midterm elections to connect the crisis in West Africa with the U.S. vote. Numerous TV affiliates carried VOA programming across Eurasia, Africa, Asia and Latin America, where VOA’s Spanish Service covered the midterm elections with its Washington Bureau Strategy for partner stations in the Americas.

VOA also went out into the field, to give audiences a closer look at the voting process. In one case, VOA Somali went into the polling stations in Minnesota and did a live program with Somalia, including Q&A with voter at the polls. Election day reporting in the field also included original video of voters and politicians in Iowa and Texas to provide a closer look at the issues and show democracy in action.

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The Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa) brought audiences across the Middle East and North Africa news, analysis, and reactions before, during, and after the elections.  The networks explained the importance of the elections, delved into the historical context, examined the role of foreign policy and security concerns, and described Arab-American participation as well as issues of importance to voters.

Special programming on Alhurra included a daily, hour-long program, U.S. Midterm Elections 2014 leading up to Election Day, featuring Republican and Democratic analysts in each episode. Alhurra’s live coverage began at 13:00 GMT Tuesday with a special 2-hour edition of U.S Midterm Elections 2014. Correspondents tackled the topic of the elections’ potential impact on U.S. relations with the region and included a global perspective.  Special guests included major policymakers from the region such as Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Hoshyar Zebari; the former advisor to the Egyptian President Ayman Iman Saydah; Saudi Shoura Council member Abadulla Zalfah and Raanan Gissin, former Senior Advisor to the Israeli Prime Minister.

Alhurra’s Al Youm engaged college students in Egypt, UAE, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Jordan and Iraq.  Reporters asked students what they thought President Obama’s priorities should be and invited them to say what question they would ask the President if they had the chance.  Radio Sawa’s unique coverage included the role of advertising and featured political experts from the Palestinian Territories, Iran, Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.   As the results rolled in, Sawa Magazine examined the main issues for voters and what is next for the U.S. Congress.

On Election Day, Alhurra and Radio Sawa reported on-the-scene from polling stations, interviewing voters about the issues. Alhurra also followed two Arab-Americans as they set out to vote, to allow viewers to share in the experience.

On Nov. 5, Alhurra hosted an hour-long election recap with Michael O’Hanlon from Brookings Institution and Thomas Donnelly from American Enterprise Institute. The political analysts and Alhurra’s congressional correspondent Rana Abtar discussed the changes in the congressional makeup and how that could impact U.S. foreign policy.

Alhurra.com continues to post updates on the results on its website, and has showcased reporting online, including features on how candidates are reaching out to Arab voters and how changes in the Senate could impact U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East.

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Radio and Television Martí coverage explained the importance of the electoral process and the foundational value of a multiparty system as part of a democratic society.

TV Martí produced ELECCIONES 2014: RUMBO AL CONGRESO, a special half-hour show on the race for Florida’s 26th District in which incumbent Democrat Joe Garcia faced Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo.  In a campaign where Cuba played heavily, these Cuban-American candidates sat down for one-on-one interviews to discuss their positions on the trade embargo against Cuba and the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Radio Martí had live coverage Tuesday night from 9-11pm with analysis and commentary about the midterm elections, and covered key races online.

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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has recently reported on elections in Ukraine and other countries in its target region, and the midterm elections gave RFE/RL an opportunity to show audiences how the U.S. conducts its own voting and analysis.

In its “Persian Letters” blog, RFE/RL offered insight into the reaction in Iran to the Republican victory in the elections and how the results may affect the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the U.S. and other major world powers. RFE/RL also analyzed the potential impact of the election on the main U.S. Senate committees that deal with U.S. foreign policy and national security: foreign relations, armed services and intelligence.

RFE/RL also tapped VOA and other reporting for election coverage that was translated and used by many of its broadcast services, including those serving audiences in Russia, Iran, Moldova, Ukraine, and the countries of the Balkan region.

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As Radio Free Asia reports on democratic movements in Hong Kong, mainland China and Vietnam as well as the progress of democracy in Cambodia and Burma, the U.S. midterm elections provided an opportunity to showcase credible, fair elections.

RFA’s Khmer Service, which broadcasts to Cambodia, interviewed Koul Panha, the director of The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL).  Panha visited D.C. to observe the U.S. mid-term elections and plans to share his observations with his fellow citizens in Cambodia. Since the controversial Cambodian general election in July 2013, calls have grown for an independent panel to probe charges of electoral fraud and irregularities and implementation of voting reforms. For much of 2013 and the early months of 2014, this included large-scale pro-opposition party demonstrations throughout Cambodia over contested election results.

ABOUT

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is the independent federal agency that oversees all government-supported U.S. civilian international media. The mission of the BBG is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. Networks within the BBG include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti).  BBG programming reaches an audience of 206 million in more than 100 countries and in 61 languages.