Positioning ourselves for maximum impact
This is a very important time for U.S. international media. The global media landscape is evolving and many news organizations are reshaping the way they produce and deliver news. BBG is no different. We are carefully weighing pressing national security concerns, government-wide spending constraints and the need to fine-tune our operations to deliver more impact.
That’s why I’m pleased that the President’s FY2017 Budget Request included $777.8 million for the BBG. The budget, an increase of more than 3.5% over our FY2016 request, is evidence of President Obama’s confidence in us and the work we do. This increase will enable us to meet our challenges and achieve our objectives.
As you can see from our executive summary, this request reflects U.S. foreign policy priorities and increases our impact in places were press freedom and the freedom of expression are restricted, such as Russia, Cuba, Iran, China and globally where ISIL and its mission of violent extremism persists.
In addition to targeting these key spheres for our activities, the budget will position the BBG to better engage young and influential media consumers by aggressively moving to digital, video, mobile and social media networks. Specifically, our FY17 request prioritizes engaging young audiences who are impacted by Russian aggression and disinformation, or by media campaigns of groups such as ISIL. We also plan to expand the digital component of MBN’s successful Raise Your Voice campaign that has engaged Iraqi audiences on issues that have allowed ISIL to attract young fighters. We’ve requested $2.5 million to expand this campaign to Egypt, Central Asia and the Balkans.
Let me stress that although the BBG networks are shifting dramatically to digital media, we are not abandoning our other platforms. 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. We’ve also proposed an additional $2 million to expand our global distribution capability.
I must also emphasize our continued commitment to the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and its mission of promoting freedom and democracy by providing the people of Cuba with objective news and information programming. The Obama administration is requesting in its budget proposal the authority to reorganize OCB into a non-federal entity. But to be clear, OCB’s mission will not be touched, and the functions of Radio and TV Martí will remain the same. This authority request is part of the FY17 Budget Request, and it does not automatically result in a change. Indeed, the request still needs to follow the normal legislative process, including intense legislative scrutiny, before being considered.
I’m especially proud that the FY17 Budget Request is the result of unprecedented collaboration between the five BBG networks, under the leadership of the International Coordinating Council (ICC). We will continue to enhance this strategic cooperation, both now and in the future, in support of our unified vision. Because it is together that we will have the greatest impact.
Measuring audience impact is complicated. For a non-commercial media organization, we don’t measure impact in terms of revenue but in how our content helps advance our mission to “inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Earlier this month, I asked key representatives from all of the BBG’s networks to participate in an Impact Summit, where they shared their ideas on impact and how best to measure it in their broadcast regions. After two full days of intense and productive deliberations, we have come up with an assessment framework derived directly from the constituent elements of our mission.
Our research is used to assess our impact, study the media environments in which we operate and deliver audience feedback. The FY17 Budget Request includes an additional $2 million to enhance our research efforts. And on the heels of the Impact Summit, I’m glad we can support our research goals.
In the end, our FY17 Budget Request will allow our phenomenal staff to continue to deliver global and domestic news in support of freedom and democracy. That’s the only way we know how to do it.