Former Analyst Challenges USAGM Audience Measurement Methods, Claims of Sharp Increases
By Dan Robinson
A former analyst for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees taxpayer-funded broadcast and online media directed at overseas audiences, has publicly challenged the methods used by the agency in making audience size claims.
An audience research analyst for the U.S. Agency for Global Media (formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors) for many years, Kim Elliott, Ph.D., is the first former official to raise questions about USAGM figures.
His views, published online by the University of Southern California Center for Public Diplomacy blog, also appeared first in a small circulation subscription journal published by NASWA (North American Shortwave Association). This article is based on both pieces.[…]
President Barack Obama has signed into law S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017,” which includes a provision to reduce the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) governing board to an advisory status while making the BBG CEO position subject to a future nomination by the president and vetting and confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
While signing the legislation into law, President Obama expressed reservations about several of the 2017 NDAA provisions dealing with the U.S. Department of Defense. President Obama also had some reservations about the amendment dealing with the BBG, but they are not likely to have any practical effect during the waning days of his presidency.
[…]PRESIDENT OBAMA: “My Administration strongly supports the bill’s structural reform of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which streamlines BBG operations and reduces inefficiencies, while retaining the longstanding statutory firewall, protecting against interference with and maintaining the professional independence of the agency’s journalists and broadcasters and thus their credibility as sources of independent news and information. Section 1288 would elevate the current Chief Executive Officer of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to the head of the agency and reduce the current members of the Board, unless on expired terms, from serving as the collective head of the agency to serving as advisors to the Chief Executive Officer. While my Administration supports the empowerment of a Chief Executive Officer with the authority to carry out the BBG’s important functions, the manner of transition prescribed by section 1288 raises constitutional concerns related to my appointments and removal authority. My Administration will devise a plan to treat this provision in a manner that mitigates the constitutional concerns while adhering closely to the Congress’s intent.”[…]
BBG Watch has learned that a proposed privatization of the U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) is widely opposed by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal employees, their union, the independent Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org), and numerous foreign policy and public diplomacy professionals, as well as some former VOA journalists. At the same time, critics of privatization of America’s “Voice” strongly support structural reforms of its ailing federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which they blame for VOA’s troubles.
“A decision to reform the Broadcasting Board of Governors merits its own separate bill where both houses of Congress can debate and carefully consider the best course of action,” AFGE Local 1812 union told its Broadcasting Board of Governors members. “It should not be addressed in a stealth last minute amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act,” the union said. The union urged BBG employees to contact their senators and express their opposition to the amendment submitted by Congressman Mac Thornberry and “the offensive language is contained in section 310 (b) of the amendment.” The Senate version of the bill does not have this language, the union reported. Also see an earlier AFGE Local 1812 article, HERE WE GO AGAIN: Another Agency Attempt to De-federalize TV and Radio Marti.[…]
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.[…]
The website BBG Watch recently posted a guest commentary from an anonymous VOA reporter regarding the loss of VOA Weishi TV during the Hong Kong protests. Here is an excerpt from BBG Watch:
“On Monday, September 29, the loyal viewers of Voice of America (VOA) “Weishi,” the VOA Mandarin TV program, were surprised to see their TV screen turned into a blue graphic during some hours when the original program previously aired was repeated. In the place of the professionally produced VOA TV broadcast, audiences received radio signals from Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Audience surveys, although underestimating the viewership because many Chinese are reluctant to share sensitive and potentially dangerous information with strangers, show that the popularity of the 2-year-old VOA “Weishi” is growing by leaps and bounds in China. Some of its segments, including “History’s Mysteries,” “Pro&Con” and “Issues and Opinions,” already also attract many millions of viewers on YouTube. The management’s decision to take away some of the repeat hours from the “Weishi” programs will be devastating to VOA’s Mandarin broadcasting. Meanwhile, it will not help RFA, since very few people listen to radio via TV. If they do, there are existing channels leased by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) to broadcast radio programs via satellite to China and Tibet. IBB reports to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency and the bipartisan Board in charge of all U.S. taxpayer-supported media for audiences abroad.”