Tag Archives: BBG

BBG’s Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Budget Request

BBG-Budget-Request

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who shares a link to the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Budget Request.

Click here to download as a PDF.

I’ve read key portions of the request.

Regarding shortwave, the BBG are asking for budget reductions in almost all of the BBG shortwave broadcasting arms, with a few exceptions.   They acknowledge, in each case, that shortwave broadcasting is not as cost-effective as other means of distribution (including FM, Internet and satellite). The do acknowledge that shortwave broadcasting is still needed in some strategic markets. Here is, perhaps, the most telling quote I found:

“To serve audiences in less developed areas of the world, BBG must continue to broadcast via traditional technologies such as shortwave and maintain capability on these platforms by replacing antiquated equipment. But to stay relevant in competitive news markets and serve current and future audiences, BBG must invest in new cutting-edge technology. In areas where ownership and usage of shortwave radio has declined significantly, the Agency has evolved away from broadcasting in shortwave.”

A few specific highlights from the request:

Page 19

4) ENHANCE HIGH FREQUENCY TRANSMISSION CAPABILITY ($2.8M)
BBG will continue the shortwave realignment project that began in FY 2014, which increases shortwave transmission capability at its Kuwait Transmitting Station. This enhancement provides improved coverage to underserved areas of the world and
reduces operating costs by decreasing reliance on external leases. All aspects of
this proposal focus on improving transmission capability, while continuing
to reach audiences in Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Tibet and
Western China. The added capacity will support broadcasts for RFE/RL, RFA and
VOA.

At $2.00 per broadcast hour, Kuwait provides the highest return on investment in the BBG transmitting station portfolio. Thus, BBG began expansion of the facility in FY 2014 with
the construction of a new high frequency antenna and design of the transmitter building expansion. The proposed investment, extending through FY 2018, will bring the Kuwait
Transmitting Station up to the maximum capability allowed by the country agreement and will enable the Agency to decrease overall operating costs for the foreseeable future. When the realignment project is completed, the Kuwait station will have ten shortwave transmitters with associated antennas.[…]

Page 22:

Reduce Shortwave Costs [-$2.90M] The Office of Technology, Services, and Innovation (TSI) will eliminate less effective transmission frequencies and realign transmissions to end high cost leases. TSI will realize additional reductions to antiquated technologies by reducing transmissions to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and Kurdish-speaking regions and eliminating shortwave to Russia, the Caucasus, Belarus, Laos, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Burundi. Audiences in these countries access news and information on more efficient,[…]

Page 69

STRATEGY BASED ON AUDIENCE
MEDIA HABITS
Using research on audience media habits, TSI will continue to move away from less effective legacy shortwave and medium wave transmissions toward other technologies, where appropriate, to reach larger and younger audiences. Where shortwave remains important, TSI is building a more cost-effective transmission infrastructure to support broadcast requirements. Of particular note are efforts at the Kuwait Transmitting Station. Because of the station’s strategic importance and low operating costs, TSI is installing a new shortwave antenna that is expected to be operational in FY 2015 and will expand the station’s transmitter building in FY 2016 to accommodate future transmitter build-outs.[…]

Page 109

To serve audiences in less developed areas of the world, BBG must continue to broadcast via traditional technologies such as shortwave and maintain capability on these platforms by replacing antiquated equipment. But to stay relevant in competitive news markets and serve current and future audiences, BBG must invest in new cutting-edge technology. In areas where ownership and usage of shortwave radio has declined significantly, the Agency has evolved away from broadcasting in shortwave.
BBG has closed transmission stations, repurposed equipment and invested these savings in platforms that the audience has shifted to, primarily in digital media technology and other high-priority programming.

Click here to download the full request as a PDF.

Breaking news: OIG Report on the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station

Fullscreen capture 3182016 51138 PM

I’ve just received a copy of the Office of Inspections (OIG) report on the VOA transmitting station in Greenville, NC. The full OIG report is now in the public domain as a PDF.

Here are a few highlights…

A summary of what OIG found:

  • The Broadcasting Board of Governors Special Committee on the future of shortwave broadcasting issued the report “To Be Where the Audience Is,” in August 2014. It concluded that the demand for shortwave broadcasting is declining in most of its audience markets. The report referred to transmission to Cuba twice, but fell short of recommending to close any Broadcasting Board of Governors shortwave transmitting stations.
  • The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station reports to the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and Office of Technology, Services, and Innovation. The dual reporting structure has not affected operations negatively.
  • Administrative operations for the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station were effective, except in management of human resources. Specifically, the station
    manager’s position description was outdated and the performance evaluations record keeping did not comply with Federal regulations.
  • The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station had effective internal controls processes in place. The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station management were
    cognizant of internal controls and provides effective oversight of operations.
  • The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station complied with the Broadcasting Board of Governors and applicable Federal regulations for contracting, property management, and safety. The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station complied with the Broadcasting Board of Governors review processes for unliquidated obligations and the purchase card program.
  • The security and emergency preparedness at the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station met the Interagency Security Committee, Office of Security, and Office of
    Technology, Services, and Innovation policies and standards. The employees participated in emergency drills and complete required insider threat training
    annually.
The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station's mail building, located in the center of the 2800 acres campus. (Click to enlarge)

The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station’s mail building, located in the center of the 2800 acres campus. (Click to enlarge)

Regarding the future of the station:

BBG has not evaluated the return on investment of the Station’s operations to determine its effectiveness in advancing the U.S. international media strategies. The BBG’s Special Committee report refers twice to transmissions to Cuba but falls short of recommending to close any BBG shortwave transmitting stations. Congress continues funding the Station’s budget even though on February 1, 2010, the BBG FY 2011 budget request proposed the closure of the Station.

Futhermore, in FY 2011, the Senate Committee on Appropriations asked BBG to submit a “multiyear strategic plan for broadcasting to Cuba to include an analysis of options for disseminating news and information to Cuba and a report on the cost effectiveness of each.”

The Office of Management and Budget’s Global Engagement Resource Guidance for FY 2015 and for FY 2016 address the need to modernize U.S. International media by “transitioning away from the use of shortwave radio where this platform is ineffective, toward more widely used media platforms like mobile, television, and the internet.” The United States International Broadcasting Act, Public Law 103-236, Section 303(a)(1) and (7) states that BBG has the responsibility to “be consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States” and “to effectively reach a significant audience.” Section 305(a)(7) states the Board is also authorized to “ensure that all broadcasting elements receive the highest quality and cost effective delivery services.” Given BBG’s limited resources and changes in technology as well as the significance of Cuba to U.S. national security objectives, BBG risks missing an opportunity to engage with Cuban audiences in a digital media environment.

Recommendation 1: The Broadcasting Board of Governors should prepare a written
cost/benefit evaluation of the Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station to determine its
efficiency and effectiveness for continuing, reducing, or eliminating operations. (Action: BBG)

The full report:

Click here to download the full report as a PDF.

For a little context, this is the same station I’ve visited multiple times and even posted a photo tour of (click here to view) several years ago.

BBG Watch: Apology issued for digital media outages

BBG-LogoSome of you may have noticed that the Voice of America has been having problems with their online and internal digital content the past few days.

The BBG Watch–a watchdog for US government broadcasting–took a very critical look at the recent failures and connects them to a much bigger picture of dysfunction.

Click here to read the BBG Watch story.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor (and former VOA White House Correspondent) Dan Robinson, for the tip.

BBG Watch: BBG hit with $400M employee contractors suit

BBG-Logo(Source: BBG Watch via Dan Robinson)

A $400 million class action lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims against the Broadcasting Board of Governors over personnel and contracting practices overseen by top agency officials in recent years. The plaintiffs, several Voice of America (VOA) workers, allege that the U.S. government-funded, international news broadcaster’s Board of Governors denied proper pay and benefits to VOA employees intentionally misclassified as independent contractors by agency officials, Law360 website reported.

As reported by Law360, plaintiffs in the latest class action lawsuit allege that the Broadcasting Board of Governors has implemented a system of using “Purchase Order Vendors” (POVs) “for services indistinguishable from those of direct employees, to avoid a 30 percent budget increase from providing the lawful wages, paid leave, workers compensation, and tax contributions the workers are owed.”

“The BBG put the plaintiffs and class members on purchase orders so it could extract their faithful service to the United States while avoiding payment of the more substantial compensation that is owed to federal employees,” the complaint states.[…]

Continue reading on the BBG Watch website…

Castro wants an end to US broadcasts directed at Cuba

Havana, Cuba (Photo: Wikimedia)

Havana, Cuba (Photo: Wikimedia)

(Source: VOA News)

Cuban President Raul Castro is urging the U.S. government to stop radio and television broadcasts that Cuba considers harmful, while also saying that his government is willing to keep improving relations with the United States.

In a speech broadcast on state television Friday, Castro said that his government will “continue insisting that to reach normalized relations, it is imperative that the United States government eliminate all of these policies from the past.”

He noted that the U.S. government continues to broadcast to Cuba, including transmissions of Radio Marti and TV Marti, despite Cuba’s objections. Radio Marti and TV Marti are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which is also the parent organization of the Voice of America.

Castro also criticized U.S. immigration policy that allows Cuban migrants to live in the United States if they reach U.S. territory.

“A preferential migration policy continues to be applied to Cuban citizens, which is evidenced by the enforcement of the wet foot/dry foot policy, the Medical Professional Parole Program and the Cuban Adjustment Act, which encourage an illegal, unsafe, disorderly and irregular migration, foment human smuggling and other related crimes, and create problems to other countries,” Castro said.

Continue reading on VOA News online…