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BBG Says Its Broadcasts Draw 165 Million Weekly

U.S. international broadcasters attract large audiences in key countries, according to report, though the number has declined slightly

U.S. international broadcasters continue to draw large global audiences on radio, television and the Internet in key countries, according to the newest Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Performance and Accountability Report, released this week.

Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia and Burma are among countries where BBG entities (like VOA and Radio Free Asia) reached “substantial” audiences in 2010 due to expanded transmissions, new television offerings and additional affiliate distribution platforms.

BBG says its broadcasters reach an estimated 165 million people a week over various platforms. It defines these audiences as adults who say they listen or watch BBG programming at least once a week. Local market research firms conduct the BBG’s audience research using a combination of personal and phone interviews.

Some BBG statistics from its report:

In Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Azadi and Voice of America’s Afghan service reach 65% of adults. In Burma, the BBG’s first-ever national survey there found that some 8 million people tune in to Radio Free Asia and VOA. The U.S. is the leading international broadcaster in Iran, the report states, with the VOA’s popular Persian News Network and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda. In Iraq, Alhurra TV reaches 66% of adults each week, and Radio Sawa is the second most popular radio station in the country. In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, VOA reaches around 25 million people weekly.

The BBG says it is delivering news to growing audiences on the Internet, via text messaging and new media platforms, continuing active outreach to young audiences, independent bloggers and nascent social networks. Its largest Internet audiences are in Iraq, Mogadishu, Somalia, Kuwait and Oman.

Overall, the report finds that more than 165 million people turn to U.S. international broadcasts across media platforms every week. That’s down from BBG’s 2009 audience estimate of 171 million people. The report states that U.S. international broadcasting faces ongoing distribution challenges including increased local competition, crowded FM markets and fragmented TV markets. Persistent jamming in Iran contributed to the audience decline as did the discontinuation of VOA broadcasts in Hindi. Increased media fragmentation in Pakistan and the loss of key affiliates in Ukraine were additional contributors to audience declines.

The BBG’s global audience estimate is included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Performance and Accountability Report, which catalogs the Agency’s achievements against a series of defined performance measures and results.

We Can’t Allow Ourselves to Be Out-Communicated by Our Enemies” (Oct. 2010)