March 7, 2013
For Immediate Release
CUSIB Statement on Sequestration and Recent BBG Developments
The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) has released the following statement in response to recent developments at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG):
“CUSIB appreciates the efforts made by the BBG to mark the 60th Anniversary of Radio Liberty’s first broadcast in Russia. We are pleased that Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Lyudmila Alexeeva was warmly greeted in Washington by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Board Co-Chair and BBG member Susan McCue, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine and RFE/RL Acting President Kevin Klose. We see it as a welcome change in BBG’s and RFE/RL’s strategic outlook.
CUSIB commends Governor Michael Meehan’s announcement in February that the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) senior executive staff and entity heads were instructed by BBG Board members to minimize any impact of sequestration on Agency and entity employees, especially in regard to any employee furloughs.
We are concerned that if sequestration continues, the management may take this as an opportunity to target the most vulnerable groups of employees, including the VOA employees who are under contract and who now constitute over 30 percent of VOA workforce. We urge senior staffers to look for other savings in BBG budgets.
We continue to hope for a speedy reinstatement of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalists who were sacked by the former administration. We support efforts of RFE/RL Acting President Kevin Klose as he faces difficult decisions to restore good management and eliminate injustices and employee discrimination that have been plaguing the U.S. taxpayer-funded media freedom broadcaster for some time.
We continue to insist that the BBG rescind its 50 million dollar, five-year contract with the Gallup Organization, not only because of the Department of Justice (DOJ) legal action against Gallup, but also because of serious questions about the contract’s benefits for USIB. We believe that the BBG can easily obtain more useful and more targeted audience research at a much lower cost. Such research should focus more on measuring impact of BBG programs in nations without free media.
We urge the BBG to reassess the need for a high number of IBB executive positions, consultants, and corporate contractors. They have failed in the last five years to deliver on their promises of building audiences using commercial models while downplaying the BBG’s pro-democracy and pro-human rights mission.
The current budget crisis is an opportunity to re-evaluate the IBB’s role and turn it into a small, efficient service-oriented unit which would be more responsive to the BBG Board and to programmers. Such restructuring would provide savings and give programming entities more resources. It would also allow them more independence to use their expertise in delivering targeted uncensored news to those who need it most in countries without democracy and without free media.
The BBG should not accept at face value promises that consolidation and bureaucratic expansion would result in savings and improvements. The IBB’s track record does not support such an assumption. The key to Voice of America’s and surrogate broadcasters’ success is their independence and having sufficient resources to do their jobs without bureaucratic interference. The IBB, which does not produce any programs, consumes the largest part of the BBG’s budget.
We urge Congress to start treating U.S. international broadcasting as a high-impact national security asset and to support it with resources that national security requires in these dangerous and uncertain times. USIB is a low-cost/high-benefit alternative to defense spending, but it receives only a minuscule portion of U.S. national security funding.
As further defense budget cuts loom, CUSIB believes that reallocation of federal spending to soft-power U.S.-funded news programs for foreign audiences would be a wise use of taxpayers’ money.
Enemies of democracy fear uncensored information much more than they fear other threats to their cruel but unstable regimes. The U.S. can make itself more secure by adequate funding of its international news and information programs.”
For further information, please contact:
Ann Noonan, co-founder and Executive Director
Ted Lipien, co-founder and Director
You may also email us at: email@example.com.
The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization working to strengthen free flow of uncensored news from the United States to countries with restricted and developing media environments.