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U.S. International Broadcasting Budget Would Shrink

Some services to be pared back, some languages cut and social media expanded

The Broadcasting Board of Governors on Monday sent its FY2013 budget request to Capitol Hill believing a 4.2% decrease in current spending levels will be enough to meet the approval of Congress at a time of fiscal austerity.

The $720 million request includes program, transmission and staffing reductions at the Voice of America, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network. A total of four broadcast language services are proposed for elimination, including Greek, Avar and Chechen. The request calls for another $21 million in cuts in administrative and tech support services costs across the agency and BBG grantee organizations.

The FY2013 budget request contains $9 million in increases for elevated social media and building out the agency’s digital infrastructure, according to the BBG. It also asks for $11.6 million in censorship fighting Internet circumvention funding.

“We are going to take a hard look at everything and try to achieve these efficiencies without sacrificing our mission,” said Richard Lobo, director of the International Broadcasting Bureau.

Lobo said any potential savings from BBG’s current discussions to restructure administrative services among RFE/RL, RFA and MBN are not reflected in the FY2013 budget request.

According to BBG estimates the five U.S. government-funded civilian networks currently reach 187 million people each week.