International Broadcasting: New Strategic Approach Focuses
on Reaching Large Audiences but Lacks Measurable Program Objectives,
GAO-03-772, July 2003
Results in brief
with its new strategic approach to broadcasting, the Board has
several new programs focusing on attracting
larger audiences in priority markets and supporting the war on
terrorism. Launched in March 2002, Radio Sawa in the Middle East
replaced VOA’s Arabic-language service and represents the
Board's first attempt to implement the new tailored approach to
broadcasting. Based on extensive research of the target audience,
Radio Sawa incorporates brief news bulletins in a popular music
format aimed at young listeners. A new initiative in Afghanistan
called the Afghanistan Radio Network and a language service to
Iran called Radio Farda also have adhered to the Board's new broadcasting
approach and support the Board’s efforts in the war on terrorism.
Estimated start-up and recurring costs for these three projects
through fiscal year 2003 total about $116 million. As funds become
available, the Board intends to launch other high-priority projects
using its new broadcasting approach, such as an Arabic language
television network in the Middle East.
While the Board’s new approach to broadcasting is based
on the need to reach large audiences in priority markets, there
is not a single long-term strategic goal or related program objective
to gauge the Board’s success in increasing audience size.
Further, the strategic goals that are included in the plan (for
example, employing modern broadcast techniques, assuring broadcaster
credibility, and telling America’s story) are not supported
by measurable program objectives and do not provide a basis for
assessing the Board’s performance in these key areas. While
we recognize that measuring impact is complex, we identified a
number of key effectiveness measures that could form a starting
point for creating measurable program objectives that support the
full range of the Board’s strategic goals. These measures
include audience size in specific markets; audience awareness of
BBG broadcasting; the credibility of U.S. language service broadcasts;
and whether VOA language services effectively present information
about U.S. thought, institutions, and policies to target audiences.
The Board’s key challenge in executing its strategy is how
to generate large audiences while dealing with a number of market,
organizational, and resource issues. The Board identified several
shortcomings in U.S. market competitiveness including outdated
programs and delivery systems. It plans to overcome these problems
by promoting, among other things, new formats and technologies.
Topping the list of organizational challenges is the disparate
structure of the agency, which consists of seven separate broadcast
entities and a mix of federal agency and grantee organizations
that must be collectively managed by a part-time Board of Governors.
To overcome this challenge, the Board proposes treating the broadcast
services of the separate entities as a “single system” under
the Board’s direct control and ongoing oversight. While the
Board’s solutions to many of its challenges may suffice,
our analysis revealed that a number of other program options could
be considered in the future if the Board’s efforts falter
or prove ineffective. One option would be to further consolidate
all entities into one organization to streamline the management
structure, simplify budget and programming decisions, and reduce
duplicative staff and functions. Finally, the Board has concluded
that the agency’s resources are currently spread across too
many language services. We found strong support among BBG managers
for cutting the number of language services to focus resources
on a limited number of priority markets. However, the Board has
not established a strategic vision for how many languages should
be pursued and what level of overlap and duplication among its
many entities is appropriate.
This report makes several recommendations to the Board to help
improve agency operations and measurement of program performance.
The Board provided written comments on a draft of this report and
largely concurred with our report recommendations.
Full Report: GAO:
U.S. International Broadcasting: New Strategic Approach Focuses
Large Audiences but Lacks Measurable Program Objectives