Tag Archives: RFA

“Shifting away from shortwave”: Significant reductions for BBG under FY 2018 budget

Edward R. Murrow Transmission Site near Greenville, North Carolina

(Source: BBG Press Release via Dan Robinson)

FY 2018 budget request reflects key BBG priorities amid spending constraints

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Broadcasting Board of Governors today released the FY 2018 budget request to support key U.S. foreign policy goals by providing news and information around the world while accommodating the current tight fiscal climate.

“As is true throughout the federal government, the budgetary environment requires that we prioritize our resources while emphasizing impact and maintaining the level of excellence our audiences have come to expect,” said CEO John F. Lansing. “Despite reductions in spending, we are committed to our mission, impacting the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world by providing accurate, unbiased, and uncensored news and information.”

The tight fiscal environment necessitates BBG to improve operational efficiencies and make difficult resource trade-offs to effectively meet performance goals and support U.S. foreign policy priorities.

The $685.1 million budget request includes transmission, program and staffing reductions across all BBG networks—the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks—and the International Broadcasting Bureau, including the Office of Technology, Services and Innovation. This includes reducing, and in some cases, eliminating certain language service capacities; shifting away from shortwave transmissions where they have the least impact; and optimizing information technology.

Although the funding request represents a 12.9 percent reduction from the FY 2017 enacted budget, it prioritizes funding for U.S. foreign policy goals, including combatting violent extremism, countering Russian disinformation, and enhancing programming for North Korean audiences. It also capitalizes on the momentum gained from the streamlining of operations in 2016 and the aggressive shift to digital already underway at each of the five networks.

The request includes $680.4 million for International Broadcasting Operations, including Federal and non-Federal networks, as well as $4.7 million for Broadcasting Capital Improvements.

The FY 2018 budget request contains proposals to continue the agency’s responsive shift to the most effective media platforms, respond readily to crises, keep pace with shifts in audience demographics and interests, and sharpen strategy and results measurement to drive performance.

BBG’s extensive network of seasoned, professional and well-connected journalists is particularly strong in regions where ISIS, Russia, Iran, China and other global actors that do not share American values are attempting to make further inroads.

“Should Congress enact this budget, there is no doubt that staff reductions would be difficult,” Lansing said. “We will do everything possible to minimize the effect on our employees by emphasizing attrition, early retirement opportunities, and agency buyouts for federal employees wherever possible. Our staff and journalists are the core of what drives our impact around the world. We will do everything we can to safeguard our greatest asset.”

National Defense Authorization Act passes House, now moves to Senate

SX-99-Dial-Nar

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who writes:

This just came to my attention. It seems that William McClellan (Mac) Thornberry, the Republican representative of Texas’s 13th congressional district and Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, proposed an amendment to H.R.4909 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 that would revamp how the Voice of America, RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, etc. are managed:
https://www.congress.gov/amendment/114th-congress/house-amendment/1018/actions

Text of amendment is here:
http://amendments-rules.house.gov/amendments/GECv3517161723182318.pdf

It appears the amendment was accepted by the House and the House passed the amended H.R.4909 — National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 and it has moved on to the Senate:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4909

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.

2015 Annual Meeting of the NASB in Washington DC

Washington_Capitol

If you can make the trek to Washington DC on May 21st and 22nd, you might consider attending the 2015 NASB (National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters) Annual Meeting. Attendance is free of charge, but you must register in advance (click here for the registration form).

The meeting is being held at the Radio Free Asia headquarters at 2025 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036.

I attended and even presented at an NASB meeting some years ago and really enjoyed the experience. Indeed, if this meeting wasn’t on the heels of the Dayton Hamvention, I would most likely attend this year as well. Perhaps if the stars align, I might just make it anyway.

I’ve pasted the full itinerary below, but if you’re interested in attending, you should read all of the meeting details at the NASB website.

Thursday, May 21
12:00-12:30 pm – Tour of Radio Free Asia (group one)
12:30-1:00 pm – Tour of Radio Free Asia (group two)
1:00 pm – Official Opening of 25th annual meeting of the NASB by Libby Liu, President, Radio Free Asia
1:05 pm – Opening remarks by Brady Murray, President, NASB; and A.J. Janitschek, RFA
1:15 pm – “The Peoples’ Radio: Media Expansion in Hitler’s Germany” – presentation by Dr. Jerry Plummer, WWCR
1:45 pm – FCC Update – Tom Lucey, FCC International Bureau
2:00 pm – 25 Years of the NASB – Doug Garlinger, former NASB President
2:30 pm – Coffee Break
3:00 pm – TWR Presentation, including KTWR DRM Trials – Lauren Libby, President, TWR
3:30 pm – HFCC Oman Conference – slide show by Jeff & Thais White, WRMI
4:00 pm – HFCC Brisbane Conference – slide show from Ken Lingwood, Reach Beyond Australia
4:15 pm – Finally, Some Good News from Madagascar! – Charles Caudill, President, World Christian Broadcasting
4:30 pm – Coffee Break
5:00 pm – End of Thursday afternoon presentations – break before dinner
7:00 pm – Meet at St. Gregory Hotel lobby – walk together to Irish restaurant for dinner
7:30 pm – Dinner at Irish Whiskey Public House, 1207 19th Street, NW
Friday, May 22
9:00 am – DRM Update from Calvin Carter, Continental Electronics (DRM Consortium Steering Board member)
9:30 am – IBB Engineering Update – Gerhard Straub, US International Broadcasting Bureau
10:00 am – “Ubuntu – Radio Ready” by A.J. Janitschek, Radio Free Asia
10:30 am – Coffee Break
11:00 am – Shortwave Audience Research and VOA Radiogram – Update from Dr. Kim Andrew EIllott, IBB
11:30 am – Update on KVOH, Voice of Hope – Africa and Voice of Hope – Israel – presentation by John Tayloe and Ray Robinson
12:00 pm – Lunch at Meiwah Chinese restaurant, 1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW (a short walk from Radio Free Asia)
2:00 pm – NASB Business Meeting – topics to be discussed include plans for the 2016 annual meeting, updating the NASB website, a 25th anniversary NASB QSL/contest for shortwave listeners, a possible NASB shortwave listeners meeting in Brisbane, Australia in conjunction with the HFCC Conference in August, financial reports, election of officers
4:00 pm – Brief board meeting for NASB Board members
4:30 pm – Adjournment. Dinner on your own.

Can the VOA justify its funding?

voa logoJonathan Marks followed up his last post with two more pieces from the Media Network Vintage Vault, again, on the topic of US international broadcasting.

Jonathan writes:

Interesting to see there was opposition to RFE/RL expansion in 1992. http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn06081992radio-free-asia

And Bill Whitacre is good in this edition: http://jonathanmarks.libsyn.com/mn07051992voakorea

My question remains: can VOA still justify the funding it has? It has spent billions over the last few decades, but has little to show for it.

No doubt, with the recent loss of CEO Andy Lack and the announcement that VOA Director, David Ensor, is stepping down, the VOA is struggling to remain viable.  I don’t believe this is due to a lack of good reporters or internal innovators, rather, a lack of proper management.

Jonathan also found this recently published report titled, “Reassessing US International Broadcasting” by S. Enders Wimbush and Elizabeth M. Portale. Click here to download the full report as a PDF.