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BBG Assesses Listening With Impact Model

Audience estimates show gains in some countries, losses in others

The Broadcasting Board of Governors released its global audience estimates this week. It shows U.S. international media has a total of approximately 226 million weekly people in unduplicated audience, which includes radio, TV and the Internet.

Audience estimates are critical to the BBG to prove to Congress that its broadcasts are relevant and have an impact on worldwide audiences. The FY2016 budget submission for BBG was $752 million.

The BBG oversees all U.S. civilian international media, including the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and TV Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, which includes Radio Sawa and Alhurra Television.

Sonja Gloeckle, director of BBG’s Office of Research and Assessment, said in a conference call Monday the biggest audience gains in 2015 came in Mexico, Thailand, Iraq, China, Nigeria and Kenya. The largest listening losses occurred in Ethiopia and Egypt.

Figures released this week for the first time included listener estimates from Botswana, Malawi, Estonia and the Dominican Republic, which resulted in a net gain of approximately one million in new audience. Data from Syria and Taiwan was aged out, which resulted in a loss of six million listeners, according to Gloeckle.

The BBG, which has its audience data collected by Gallup Poll, estimates its radio services reached a weekly total of 102 million people.

The BBG is also increasing the number of FM broadcasts across Africa, according to Bruce Sherman, director of BBG’s Office of Strategy and Development.

“AM broadcasts continue into number of countries, and we even continue shortwave broadcasting to places where shortwave still works, like Afghanistan, northern Nigeria and other places,” Sherman said.

Digital audiences increased from 25 million to 32 million due in part to circumvention tools used by Radio Free Asia and VOA to evade the Chinese firewall and engage audiences in that country. Overall, the BBG cited large gains in digital and television audiences. The network’s TV audiences grew some 18 million people with strong growth in Africa, Russia and Latin America, according to the BBG audience report.

The largest audiences by country in 2015 were found in Indonesia, Mexico Nigeria and Iran. Once again, this year the VOA had the largest estimated weekly audience of any of the networks with 187.7 million.

No audience estimates are available for Radio and TV Marti in Cuba because of the unreliability of survey data in that country, according to the BBG. The broadcaster says it is planning to survey Cuba in FY2016.

BBG officials say broadcaster is using what it calls the “Impact Model” as a means to help guide and measure the BBG’s impact on the world through its networks.

“This is the first full year we are receiving data on our ability to inform, engage, connect and influence our audience through the news,” said Robert Bole, BBG director of global strategy.

Boles says the BBG will continue to expand coordination and content sharing across all five BBG networks under the leadership of new CEO John Lansing.

For a different take, also see: Broadcasting Board of Governors Claims a Record Audience Despite Dismal VOA Social Media Stats