Wednesday, February 26, 2020

USAGM budget request focuses on regions of strategic importance and innovative programming

10 February, 2020
The President today released his Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request, detailing $637.3 million for U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to pursue its public service media mission to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.

"USAGM networks continue unprecedented growth in innovative programming and audience reach. There is a continued and strong global demand for accurate, professional, and issues-oriented journalism," said USAGM CEO and Director Grant K. Turner, adding, "Strategically investing our resources will enable us to remain a leading source of objective news and information globally.

USAGM is in the midst of a significant multi-year modernization effort designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency and to increase its impact in information-restricted places where the fundamental principles of democracy and human rights, such as press freedom, are gravely under siege. This undertaking advances USAGM's 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, and it aligns with the National Security Strategy and the President's management priorities of effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.

In a world awash in disinformation and propaganda, the agency recognizes the need to be dynamic and agile. Thus, USAGM is repositioning resources, refreshing staff skillsets and evolving its technological footprint to remain competitive in global media markets. Since the enactment of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorized the agency to pursue these on-going modernization initiatives, the agency has achieved important milestones using the resources invested in its operations, including:
Growing USAGM's measured weekly audience from 278 million people in FY 2017 to 350 million people at the end of FY 2019, an unprecedented 26 percent increase;
Expanding the agency's 24/7 Russian-language global TV and digital network, Current Time, and doubling the overall USAGM's measured weekly audience to 7.9 million Russian adults;
Launching a new 24/7 Persian-language global network, VOA 365-led by the Voice of America (VOA) in cooperation with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)-which builds on USAGM's position as the number one international television and radio broadcaster in Iran;
Conducting an end-to-end transformation of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), including significant changes to all television, radio and digital programming as well as content delivered to Syria and the Levant;
Development of a new global Mandarin-language strategy that combines VOA and Radio Free Asia (RFA) resources to provide innovative and engaging content. This effort-similar to other USAGM initiatives-pivots away from thinking about markets as countries, and instead targets a global network of Mandarin-speakers keen to access uncensored news and information. This effort also empowers both VOA and RFA to provide digital and social media content in China, as well as for diaspora communities, overseas workers and the growing cohort of Chinese citizens traveling around the world for business, leisure and education; and
Establishment of a new USAGM grantee, the Open Technology Fund (OTF), dedicated to advancing internet freedom tools, technologies and approaches to ensure that USAGM journalists and audiences can safely create, access and share digital news and other information without fear of repressive censorship or surveillance.
The agency will build on these successes in the President's FY 2021 Budget Request by prioritizing funding for regions of strategic importance to United States national security and foreign policy, leveraging technology and data, investing in a state-of-the-art media enterprise and combating online censorship and repressive surveillance. FY 2021 investments also include advancing the agency's multi-year transformation and modernization efforts to create exceptional content for the audiences that need it the most.

FY 2021 Budget Request for USAGM includes the following priorities:
Influencing Regions of Strategic Importance to United States National Security
Build on the success of the Russian-language Current Time network;
Enhance the programming of USAGM's new 24/7 Persian-language global network;
Launch RFA and VOA digital news initiatives to engage Mandarin-speaking audiences in China and beyond;
Maintain expanded reporting in Central America and Venezuela; and
Engage audiences in Eastern Europe-particularly new audiences in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania-where press freedom is on the decline.
Transforming and Modernizing USAGM Operations
Continue transforming USAGM's premium Arabic-language programming and leading-edge operations;
Advance internet freedom and combat online censorship and repressive surveillance with continued investments in OTF;
Leveraging Cuba's emerging digital revolution, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) will expand its digital reach and impact and ensure the production of content adheres to the highest journalistic standards; and
Lead through technology, data, and engagement by integrating field-leading tools and techniques into operations, research, and decision-making.
Additional information is available in the Fiscal Year 2021 Congressional Budget Request.