The Washington Post

Budget cuts? The GAO says it’s found some

Voice of America coffee cup (David Byrd/David Byrd)

U.S. international broadcasters — such as the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe; Radio Free Asia — are overseen by Broadcasting Board of Governors, which gets about $752 million a year in federal funds.

But “nearly two-thirds of the BBG language services” — meaning the folks who produce the news and other stories for various languages and regions — “overlap with another BBG service by providing programs to the same countries in the same languages,” the GAO found.

In addition, there are many places where people can tune in to British and German and other allied broadcasts, the report said.

The savings would amount to about 20 percent of the entire BBG budget, the GAO estimated. And that doesn’t even include cutting out things like Radio and TV Marti, which broadcast to Cuba but are blocked (especially TV Marti) by the Cuban government so scarcely anyone ever gets them. They cost around $30 million a year.

The BBG says there is indeed overlap and it’s working on that, but it’s ”simplistic” to say the savings would amount to $149 million a year and that the “overlap” doesn’t account for important differences in programming.

But the GAO and the agency agree that much of the overlap is, as the BBG notes in its response, “mandated by statute,” meaning Congress.

No one seriously thinks anyone is going to shut down or even cut un-watched TV Marti. And moves to shut down any single one of the others are always greeted, one Senate staffer told us, by howls of “not in my galactic back yard.”

Hey. Just a great democracy in action.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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