BBG Watch Commentary - The Committee for U.S. International BroadcastingRadio World reported on the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB) recommendation that instead of possible furloughs of either full-time employees or contract employees at the Voice of America, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) should look for sequestration savings by reducing the bureaucracy and spending at the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

READ MORE: CUSIB Looks at Sequestration, Radio World, March 12, 2013.

The IBB, which consumes the largest portion of the BBG budget, has grown tremendously in the last five years without expanding BBG’s global audience since 2008 despite getting more and more money each year and spending it increasingly on growing its own bureaucracy. CUSIB believes that it is time to put an end to IBB’s stifling control over the Voice of America and surrogate broadcasters, which is exercised thanks to the bureaucracy’s grab of the largest portion of the BBG’s budget.

According to CUSIB, it is time to declare the IBB-developed strategic plan a failure and to return decision making and much of IBB’s funding to those who actually produce programs and can make more rational decisions on program content and delivery than IBB’s central planners. CUSIB has pointed out among other things that the failure of IBB managers to promptly alert BBG members last year about the growing crisis at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is the latest proof that the central bureaucracy should not be allowed to dictate to broadcasters how to structure their programs, or be trusted to identify and correct its own errors.

As a response to this kind of criticism from CUSIB, BBG Watch was forwarded this defense of IBB’s performance, which was said to have been prepared by its senior staff:

“We aren’t at liberty to comment on budgetary decisions that the White House hasn’t yet announced. But as to current spending, it might help put things in perspective to note that management comprises 15 percent of the IBB budget, and there are many components to that. The rest of the IBB budget – the other 85 percent — is dedicated to direct and indirect costs of bringing news and information to audiences overseas; these include operating the transmitting and monitoring stations ($48 million in Fiscal Year 2012), satellite distribution ($32 million), transmission leases ($29 million), rent, security, information technology and other essential services, along with the cost of 24/7 FM facilities for RFE/RL in Afghanistan, Radio Sawa in Iraq, VOA in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere. Such mission-critical activities all come under the IBB budget.”

BBG Watch does not disagree that program delivery is a critical function and needs even greater funding than it is currently given. The problem, in our view, is how these resources are managed and whether they could be better managed by central bureaucrats or programmers and area experts. We are concerned that IBB’s senior staff has been expanding its own bureaucracy, imposing its plans on programmers and undermining their independence, but failing to increase BBG’s global audience since 2008. IBB senior staffers are now blaming their own failures on others, including BBG members.

BBG FY 2013 Budget Request
Broadcasting Board of Governors FY 2013 Budget Request