The head of U.S. international broadcasting continues to push aggressively for expansion of global digital, video, mobile and social media outlets. However, Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO John Lansing says the growth of those platforms does not mean the broadcaster is abandoning legacy platforms like radio.
The BBG oversees radio, television and Internet programming in 60 languages to approximately 100 countries. Its networks are Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN).
“We continue to add radio programs such as VOA’s daily Amharic-language show to Ethiopia, and we plan to invest $4.55 million in the expansion of shortwave broadcast infrastructure in Kuwait, from where low-cost shortwave broadcasts reach multiple regions, including Africa,” Lansing wrote in his blog. “We’ve also proposed an additional $2 million to expand our global distribution capability.”
The president’s FY2017 budget request includes $777.8 million for the BBG; it would be an increase from the organization’s $749.6 million in actual funding for FY2016. The budget proposal also requests a reorganizing the Office of Cuba Broadcasting into a non-federal entity.
Lansing writes in his blog that such a move would not mean a change in the OCB’s mission and functions of Radio and TV Martí.
Lansing, who continues to stress better coordination and flexibility among the BBG networks, says the budget request reflects U.S. foreign policy and increases BBG’s impact in places where freedom of the press and of expression are restricted, such as Russia, Cuba, Iran, China and anywhere ISIL and its mission of violent extremism persists.
The budget request goes to Congress where lawmakers will likely spend the next eight months before the start of fiscal 2017 offering their revisions to President Obama’s proposals before passing a compromise budget bill.
There still a possibility Congress could reform the BBG further. The U.S. International Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 2323) was passed by the House foreign Affairs Committee last year and would create a second CEO and a second board to manage MBN, RFE/RL and RFA.