BBG reviews audience growth and network collaboration, honors distinguished journalists

Members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors met in Washington, D.C. to receive the latest audience estimates from the annual Performance and Accountability Report, as well as to review other collaborative efforts within the agency.

BBG Chairman Jeff Shell and the Board also discussed the conference report of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act and expressed their enduring support for BBG’s unique mission and for the journalistic independence of its networks.

The Chairman and the Board commended BBG’s journalists for their steadfastness and fearlessness in the face of persecution around the world. They also applauded BBG’s management team and staff for the agency’s remarkable growth and for their passion and commitment to the mission.

BBG CEO and Director John Lansing briefed the Board on the joint Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America Russian-language digital network Current Time.

“Current Time is dedicated to professional journalism and promoting democratic values,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent. Kent said the network, which currently provides 6 hours of daily original programming with live news headlines eight times a day, recorded over 1.3 million visits to its website in October 2016. On Facebook, almost 3.5 million users engaged with its content, and nearly 16 million views of Current Time videos were recorded.

The Russian-language digital network, which is in its soft launch, will formally present its 24-hour program schedule next year.

Jeffrey Trimble, IBB Deputy Director, briefed the Board on the recent Performance and Accountability Report, which revealed the agency’s largest single year audience gain, increasing from 226 million to 278 million weekly, an increase of 52 million.

The Voice of America, which represents 94% of the total agency growth, saw the majority of that come from its affiliation strategy for Indonesia and Latin America.

“It is significant,” said VOA Director Amanda Bennett, “because we have here the world’s most populous Muslim country, a place of still active extremist activity and recruiting, and Latin America, where many of the services are rated ‘not free.’”

“We have become essentially the Washington bureau for hundreds and hundreds of television shows in Latin and South American,” Bennett added. “Our audience growth is coupled with an increasing significance in many parts of the world.”

BBG’s weekly digital audiences also grew by over 40% in the past year.

The Board also got a preview of the 2016 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards scheduled for December 1. Lansing said the award “underscores the courage, integrity and professionalism,” of BBG journalists who often risk their lives and that of their families “as they go out and seek the truth.”

BBG Chairman Shell also outlined the current threats faced by BBG journalists, including six RFE/RL Tajikistan correspondents who recently had their accreditation revoked in what is the most recent in a series of incidents targeting their reporting in the country.

“To those journalist risking their lives every day because of our mission, we support you,” said Shell.

The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 23, 2017.

About the BBG

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international media. Its mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG networks 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 Martí). BBG programming has a measured audience of 278 million in more than 100 countries and in 61 languages.