BBG Watch Commentary

Michael Meehan
Michael Meehan

Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) member Michael Meehan tried to introduce this resolution, but since it was not submitted seven days in advance, it could not be voted upon today at the BBG meeting today.

The resolution will likely be discussed at the next BBG meeting in August.



June 20, 2014

WHEREAS, broadcasting to Iran is a strategic priority of the United States and of the BBG (Broadcasting Board of Governors);

WHEREAS, the BBG currently broadcasts to Iran Persian-language news and information programming through the Voice of America’s Persian Service (VOA Persian) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda with a total combined budget of over $25 million a year with a workforce comprised of over 70 VOA Persian full-time staff, approximately 100 additional VOA Persian contactors, and approximately 50 RFE/RL staff members;

WHEREAS, in the 2011-2016 Strategic Plan adopted by the Board in October 2011, the Board decided, as strategic objectives, to streamline and consolidate broadcasting activities and eliminate overlap where feasible, and to move newsgathering and reporting assets closer to the markets which BBG serves;

WHEREAS, in April 2014, the Board adopted a resolution accepting the recommendations of the Agency staff to “harmonize” the VOA Persian and Radio Farda services (the “Resolution”);

WHEREAS, the Resolution required that Agency staff to report back to the plenary Board by the June 2014 BBG Board meeting on the progress made in harmonizing the two services as measured against the “guide posts” underlying the Resolution;

WHEREAS, there has been only incremental progress made in this effort to harmonize BBG-sponsored broadcasting to Iran, rather than the significant operational progress needed;

WHEREAS, the Board believes that consolidating Persian-language news and information programming activities in the Prague headquarters of RFE/RL would achieve the objectives outlined in the Strategic Plan; and

WHEREAS, the allocation of funds among the federal and non-federal elements of United States international broadcasting is a non-delegable authority of the Board under the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (as amended).

NOW, THEREFORE, the Board decides as follows:

1. Harmonizing the Persian-language news and information programming of VOA and RFE/RL in accordance with the guidelines presented in the Final USIM Iran Strategy Report described in Attachment 1 (the “Iran Strategy Report”) has not contributed significantly to the achievement of the Board’s strategic objectives for broadcasting to Iran. Therefore, upon the Effective Date (defined below),

(a) all Persian-language news and information programming activities sponsored by BBG shall be undertaken solely by RFE/RL through Radio Farda at a level to be determined by the Board and will be located at RFE/RL’s headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic;

(b) BBG will cease all Persian-language broadcasting through the VOA’s Persian Service and all other VOA Persian-language programming, if any, will be phased out according to a transition plan to be developed by July 31, 2014;

(c) the grant to RFE/RL will be increased to fund the expanded Persian-language news and information programming as described herein.

2. The Board hereby directs the Director of Global Strategy to work in close cooperation with the RFE/RL President and the VOA Director to prepare a transition plan to give effect to the Board’s directive described in Section 1 above. The transition plan shall be presented to the Board at its next meeting in August 2014. The transition plan shall include recommendations covering the following matters:

a. Expansion of Radio Farda programming to Iran in order to match or exceed the amount and variety of programming now being offered collectively by the VOA Persian Service and Radio Farda.

b. The structured phase-out of the VOA Persian Service consistent with applicable law and regulation and making best use of the “lessons learned” from the transition of VOA Arabic programming to MBN.

c. A human capital plan and a detailed budget (including a recommended RFE/RL grant amount) to support the expansion of programming and structured VOA Persian Service phase-out described in paragraphs (a) and (b) above.

3. The Board hereby directs the Director of Global Strategy to prepare and submit to BBG’s Congressional oversight committees a reprogramming notification describing the transition of Persian-language broadcasting activities contemplated hereby.

4. The Effective Date shall be the date on which the later of the following:

a. The date selected by the Board as the effective date of transition in a transition plan approved by the Board; and

b. The date on which all legally required notifications have been made in order to give effect to the Board-approved transition plan.

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