BBG Watch Commentary

As a result of poor management by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and its bureaucratic bloat, about 40% (forty percent) of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) workforce represents now non-essential employees.


Official BBG Document

Conduct of Foreign Relations Activities Essential to the National Security

The BBG Office of General Counsel has issued a memorandum establishing that there is a sufficient legal basis for the Board’s determination that United States international broadcasting activities of the BBG qualify as “foreign relations essential to the national security” and are, therefore,excepted activities which may continue during the appropriations lapse. These excepted activities represent the minimum activities necessary to produce and distribute Voice of America (VOA) and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) programming and to distribute programming of the BBG. Federal employees who are covered by this exception include the minimum VOA, OCB and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) employees required to produce and distribute relevant programming.

Similarly, the BBG Office of General Counsel has determined that the grantees (RFA, RFE/RL, and MBN) also engage in core broadcasting activities for the Agency that qualify as “foreign relations essential to the national security” and are, therefore, excepted activities which may continue during the appropriations lapse. Accordingly, the Agency may incur obligations in support of the grantees’ core broadcasting activities.

The scope of this excepted activity is based on the following programming assumptions:

    •   Minimum operations necessary to keep the BBG global distribution network operational
    •   Current broadcasting distribution schedule remains, with minimum operations necessaryto stay on the air
    •   Highest priority live news programs continue
  •   Breaking news is covered
  •   No new programs or projects are initiated
  •   Evergreen and pre-recorded material will be used to the highest extent possible
  •   Internet and new media operations continue as appropriate
  •   Excepted employees are the minimum number necessary to produce and distribute theseprograms

Activities that fall under this category represent approximately 59.8% of the BBG workforce or an estimated 964 staff.*

Lapse in Appropriations – Guidance (September 2013)

Lapse In Appropriations


Official BBG Press Release


Core BBG Activities To Continue During U.S. Government Shutdown


BBG LogoMany parts of the Broadcasting Board of Governors have had to shut down due to a lapse in appropriations for the U.S. federal government, but BBG-supported media are still bringing news and information programs to audiences around the world.

U.S. international media activities under the BBG that are deemed “foreign relations essential to national security,” such as news programming and distribution, are excepted from the shutdown and will continue. Information follows on ongoing operations as well as cancellations.

Broadcasting and Distribution of Programming

The networks under the BBG will continue to produce and distribute news and information in 61 languages to audiences in more than 100 countries. This programming from both the federal and non-federal networks will carry on with support from a reduced staff of the International Broadcasting Bureau.

Voice of America (VOA) and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), along with the grantee broadcasting networks — Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa) — will continue programming during the appropriations lapse.

The BBG networks will cover breaking news and high-priority live programming. The current broadcasting distribution schedule will remain in place, while the numbers of support personnel are reduced. Internet and new media operations will continue as necessary for overseas audiences. Further information detailing the agency’s operations plan for a lapse in appropriations, along with FAQs can be found here.

Events and Other Activities

The BBG-Gallup Research Briefing planned for October 2 on media use in Mali and Somalia is postponed until further notice.

Updates to the BBG website ( will be limited to information about the shutdown and any other essential notices. Employees can call 202-382-8222 for information on the status of agency operations.

Contractors will continue work unless otherwise notified by their contract officer. Questions concerning contract work should be directed to the Office of Contracts.

For any media questions concerning agency activities during the lapse in appropriations, please contact Letitia King at 202-203-4400 or