U.S.-sponsored international programming on radio, television and Internet reached a record 206 million people per week in 2013, the Broadcasting Board of Governors reported on Monday.
The estimated increase of 31 million over the 2012 tally is reported in the agency’s annual Performance Accountability Report and is based on Gallup surveys of adult populations in more than 90 countries over the past five years. For first time, TV audiences for BBG’s news and cultural programming outpaced radio audiences.
BBG overseas combined TV, radio, Internet, and mobile audiences of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Martí, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa).
“Our journalists produce high quality programming, and we’re finding fresh ways to innovate in content delivery. This makes it possible for the networks supported by the BBG to reach these record-breaking audiences,” said BBG Chairman Jeff Shell in a statement. “Through these means, we help to nurture and sustain free, open, democratic societies by supporting free press and free expression, and by conveying the American democratic experience to countries where the media are not free. This research data is critical in helping us navigate challenging media environments, and connecting with audiences on the platforms that they prefer.”
Audience size is just one measure of impact, said Bruce Sherman, director of BBG’s Office of Strategy and Development, in a Monday conference call with reporters. “We also look at reach as a contribution to impact, but once we’ve gauged reach, we look at what people are doing with the formation, how the information we provide is used in their media environment, the extent it is picked up by other outlets and the extent which it drives the news agenda” in the 90 countries the programs reach. The BBG’s largest audiences are in Indonesia (21.6 million), Nigeria (20.7 million), Mexico (14.9 million), and Iran (14.5 million), all countries in which the BBG has made strides in innovative programming.
Jeffrey Trimble, acting director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, in a Monday conference call with reporters, stressed that the record performance is important to BBG’s commitment to “transparency and accountability to the administration, to Congress, to the public, to the media, and to anyone interested in how taxpayer dollars are spent.” The surveys, he added, are useful both to managers and budget decision makers.