Tag Archives: VOA cuts

“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.”

Radio World: International Broadcasters Reconsider Shortwave

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Check out this article from Radio World which addresses the state of shortwave radio broadcasting.

Jeff White of WRMI and Kim Elliott of the VOA are both interviewed. Elliott even speaks about the virtues of the VOA Radiogram experiments which have had success circumventing shortwave radio jamming (broadcasts which were completely omitted from the BBG Special Committee report on the efficacy of shortwave radio).

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

US House passes H.R. 4490

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

View of the Capitol Building from the roof of the Voice of America on 330 Independence Ave., S.W.

The United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490) has just passed the the House today, next it will go before the US Senate.

This bill proposes major changes to the overall structure of US international broadcasting. Click here to read previous posts about the bill and read the press release below for more information.

We will update the SWLing Post with news about H.R.4490 as it is presented before the Senate–follow the tag HR4490.

(Source: House Committee On Foreign Affairs)

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, applauded House passage of bipartisan reform legislation to improve the missions, objectives, and effectiveness of U.S. international broadcasters, such as the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN).  The legislation, the United States International Communications Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4490) was unanimously passed by the Foreign Affairs Committee in April.  Chairman Royce and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Memberintroduced the legislation in April.

On House passage of H.R. 4490, Chairman Royce said:  “For many years, our international broadcasting has been broken and ineffective.  While strongmen, despots, and terrorists are working overtime on their public disinformation campaigns, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees our international broadcast efforts, meets once a month.  The status quo is a recipe for failure on the critical information front.  The legislation the House passed today provides serious reforms to U.S. international broadcasting, allowing for a strong, effective tool in the fight against censorship and harmful misinformation.”

H.R. 4490 reforms U.S. international broadcasting, including in the following ways:

Fixes Well-documented Management Problems — Currently, five U.S. international broadcasting entities report to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (“BBG”), a group of 9 part-time individuals, who meet once a month to make management decisions. Important decisions can languish if the Board does not have a quorum, which is often the case. This legislation would establish a full-time, day-to-day agency head and reduce the role of the Board to a more appropriate advisory capacity. These changes have been recommended by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General and are widely recognized as needed reforms.

Clarifies the Mission of the Voice of America (VOA) — The VOA charter states that VOA will provide a “clear and effective presentation of the policies of the United States.” Over time, VOA has abandoned this mission and adopted a mission of the so-called “surrogates” to provide uncensored local news and information to people in closed societies. This legislation makes clear that the Voice of America mission is to support U.S. public diplomacy efforts.

Consolidates “the Freedom Broadcasters” — Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN) have the same mission – to provide uncensored local news and information to people in closed societies – with different geographic reach. Consolidating these organizations into a single, non-federal organization will achieve cost savings, allow for closer collaboration, and improve responsiveness. While the consolidation would mean shared administrative staff and other economies of scale, they would retain their distinct “brand names.”

For information of Chairman Royce’s efforts to reform international broadcasting, visit www.foreignaffairs.house.gov/broadcasting.

The Straits Times: “Western radio broadcasters tuning out”

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Richard Cuff, for sharing this article from The Straits Times which interviews our friend Victor Goonetilleke. This is one of the first articles I’ve seen in the international press which gives a listener’s perspective on recent cuts to shortwave broadcasting.

Analog Radio Dial(Source: The Straits Times)

For 67-year-old Victor Goonetilleke, sitting with his headphones on in his house in the lush green Sri Lankan countryside, June 30 was the end of an era.

Voice of America’s (VOA) short-wave broadcasts to Asia abruptly went off the air, raising howls of protest from many of the US government-funded broadcaster’s listeners across the region.

But as the broadcasts had already been greatly diminished, this was not a surprise. The big Western radio broadcasters have gradually ceded the political “soft power” space they once dominated to a new heavyweight: China Radio International (CRI).

In recent years, Radio Canada International and Radio Netherlands Worldwide have shut down while the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and VOA have cut back on their range of languages and hours of programming. Now, the VOA has left Asia.

Mr Goonetilleke is not just an avid radio listener. He professionally monitors radio frequencies for the VOA. He is also a former veteran radio correspondent with Radio Netherlands for 24 years in an era when short-wave radio broadcasts from the likes of the BBC, VOA, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle were often lifelines to other worlds for hundreds of millions especially in times of conflict and misery.

The BBC now broadcasts in 29 languages across the planet, down from a peak of 69 in the 1970s. CRI broadcasts in 65, up from a reported 43 in 2006. Some programmes are run by local FM stations.

These days, Mr Goonetilleke can listen to four hours of CRI broadcasts in Sinhala and Tamil daily, compared with 30 minutes each on BBC.

CRI’s Tamil language broadcast is one of its oldest, run by fluent Tamil speaker Zhu Juanhua, a Shanghai native better known by her tens of thousands of listeners as Kalaiarasi.

According to the CRI website, it has 3,165 listener clubs around the planet, including CRI netizens’ clubs.

[Continue reading…]

 

NY Times: Journalists “at Odds With Union” over VOA’s role

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The New York Times, in a  recent article, describes a growing split between the VOA Union (American Federation of Government Employees Local 1812) and VOA journalists over the proposed changes to the VOA mission (via H.R. 4490), which would make it an active voice of American policy. (Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Marty, for sharing this relevant article).

Below is an excerpt from The Times; click here for the full article:

WASHINGTON — Voice of America journalists who are fighting to maintain what they say is their editorial independence are now at odds not only with Congress, but also with their own union.

The union, the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1812, recently endorsed a bill that would change language in the charter for the 72-year-old news agency and require it to actively support American policy. That came as a surprise to some Voice of America employees, who said the legislation would make them mouthpieces for government policy. They want the union to withdraw its letter of support.

“A lot of us would welcome change and reform, but not at the cost of undermining V.O.A.’s journalistic credibility,” said Jim Malone, a senior national correspondent at the government-financed news agency who is not a member of the union.

In its letter, union leaders said the agency’s managers had lost sight of their mission and were trying to turn the “V.O.A. into something they envisioned as a global variant of CNN.”

“In the end, some of the currently entrenched senior management represent a far greater threat to V.O.A.’s journalistic independence, indeed to the very existence of the V.O.A.,” the union wrote.

The danger, said the union’s president, Tim Shamble, is that the government could withdraw its financial support if the agency continued its current course. The federation represents about 40 percent of all Voice of America workers and 11 percent of the journalists in the central news division.

Continue reading…

For other posts about this topic, please follow the tag: HR4490