Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), the Middle East Broadcasting Network in Arabic, (MBN) and Radio-TV Marti in Spanish to Cuba.
Combined, the five networks have an estimated reach of 350 million users a week (on-line, TV and radio) in nearly 60 languages. Since late 1999, they have been managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, recently re-named the U.S. Government Agency for Global Media (USAGM).
Mr. Lansing, who joined the Agency in September 2015, was the first full-time chief executive officer to offer vitally-needed overall coordination of the five networks. Before his appointment, the networks had been administered by a part-time BBG that usually met every two months. Now, it has full-time, hour-by-hour collaborative management — essential in today’s rapidly changing multi-media world.
—Introduction, two weeks after Mr. Lansing’s appointment, of an executive committee of the five network CEOs to exchange plans and coordinate upcoming content and innovations with each other.
This was a first in the 77-year history of U.S. international broadcasting.
—Inauguration of around-the-clock real-time collaborations in providing jointly-produced broadcasts of VOA and RFE/RL:
- The pioneering joint effort was in Russian and entitled Current Time, produced at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague with updated segments from that network and VOA.
- A second joint 24/7 VOA-RFE/RL broadcast in Persian to Iran, VOA 365, produced at Voice headquarters in Washington and incorporating segments of RFE/RL broadcasts produced for its Persian language transmissions known as Radio Farda.
- A planned third joint around the clock multimedia service to China, jointly produced by VOA and Radio Free Asia. The two networks now reach an average of 70 million PRC users in Mandarin, Tibetan, and Cantonese, and RFA broadcasts in Uighur spoken in northwestern China, as well.
- Under John Lansing’s leadership and four newly-recruited network CEOs, strategic planners and the organization now formally re-named the U.S. Agency for Global Media are taking a new approach in deciding language priorities and reach. Until 2018, they concentrated on speakers in individual closed societies only, such as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Now they focus on the needs of exiled or newly-arrived language speakers in diaspora communities around the world, as well.
- Another important innovation of the Lansing era was the creation of a USAGM Employee Association, a support organization for fallen and injured journalists and their families. Over nearly eight decades, at least a score of journalists of the five networks have been killed or seriously injured in on-scene news coverage around the globe.
The Impact of Improved Coordination and Planning:
On September 5, the RFE/RL-VOA coproduced Current Time launched a seven-part TV series entitled InterNYET for Russian audiences. RFE/RL’s new president Jamie Fly said: “We are definitely a leader in both the Russian-speaking news and features markets, providing our audiences high-quality, independently-produced content that is simply not available anywhere else.”
Last year, according to an RFE/RL press release, surveys indicate that Current Time videos received more than 520 million views on-line and across social media platforms. More than half of these came from inside Russia. Last month, on a single day, August 10th, some 1.5 million online viewers watched live coverage of Russian police violence against anti-government protesters. Two-thirds of those mass demonstrations were relayed via YouTube, Facebook, and even a Russian language social media website, VKontakte. Overall, U.S. international broadcasters have boosted their reach by more than 100 million viewers and listeners during Mr. Lansing’s years with the agency. The USAGM board chairman, Kenneth Weinstein, said: “John has put us on solid footing to advance our mission to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
In a farewell note to the staff, Mr. Lansing concluded:
“While NPR is an icon of excellent journalism and leading it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it will be difficult to leave my USAGM family and the exceptional work we do together. As a life-long journalist myself, I want you to know that I will continue to root for you and the USAGM mission. You are and always will be an inspiration to me.
“Please keep abiding by the highest standards of professional journalism. Please keep fighting for press freedom. Please keep telling the truth. The world needs you now more than ever.”
NPR, which broadcasts in English principally to the United States, also can be heard in many areas of the globe and has an estimated weekly radio audience of 28.5 million. Its news coverage is global in scope, with 34 news bureaus evenly divided between the United States and overseas.
Imagine the potential of continuing expanded cooperation between National Public Radio, under John Lansing’s leadership and the U.S. Agency for Global Media he has handled with distinction since joining USAGM four years ago this week.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More