U.S. International Broadcasting:

Strategic Planning and Performance Management System Could Be Improved

NSIAD-00-222: Published: Sep 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined whether the Broadcasting Board of Governors: broadcasters (1) responded to the specific limitations and cost-cutting expectations regarding Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's operations; (2) implemented an annual language service review process; and (3) instituted a strategic planning and performance management system.

GAO noted that: (1) the Board met its mandates under the 1994 U.S. International Broadcasting Act to reduce Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's annual budget by lowering its budget from $208 million in fiscal year (FY) 1994 to approximately $71 million in FY 1996; (2) it did this by taking several actions including relocating its operation from Munich, Germany, to Prague, Czech Republic and significantly reducing staff; (3) additional savings were made by: (a) eliminating several hundred hours of broadcast overlap; (b) eliminating and modifying a limited number of language services; (c) consolidating transmission operations under the International Broadcasting Bureau; and (d) deploying digital sound recording and editing technology, which has increased Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's staff efficiency and effectiveness; (4) the Board completed a comprehensive language service review in January 2000 that sought to systematically evaluate U.S. international broadcast priorities and program impact; (5) the Board intends to use this information to strategically reallocate approximately $4.5 million in language service funds from emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe to several African countries and selected countries in other regions; (6) according to the Board, it intends to continue to use the annual language service review process to strategically analyze broadcast priorities, program funding, and resource allocations; (7) the Board has not yet established an effective strategic planning and performance management system that incorporates Government Performance and Results Act planning, the annual language service review process, and the program reviews of individual language services conducted by the International Broadcasting Bureau and the surrogate broadcasters; (8) the Board's FY 2001 performance plan is deficient because of missing or imprecise performance goals or indicators and a lack of key implementation strategies and related resource requirements that detail the key issues facing the Board; (9) the Board has not established a standard program review approach, which would help ensure that consistent and meaningful measures of program quality are developed across broadcast entities; and (10) it has also not incorporated specific audience size and composition targets into the program review process, which would help ensure that program reviews culminate in a written report that identifies the specific actions needed to achieve agreed-upon performance goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Board recently revised its performance planning and reporting system to focus on its primary strategic goal which is to reach large audiences in key strategic areas such as the Middle East. The Board has also begun to develop performance plans at the language service level which include audience size as a key performance indicator.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the Board's oversight and provide greater assurance that international broadcasting funds are being effectively expended, the Chairman, Broadcasting Board of Governors should include in the Board's performance plan a clearer indication of how its broadcast mission, strategic objectives, performance goals, and performance indicators relate to each other and establish an audience and other goals, as appropriate at the individual language service level.

    Agency Affected: Broadcasting Board of Governors

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: While the Board's performance plan does not include details on key implementation strategies and resource requirements, the Board's annual language service review process provides an effective forum for considering these strategies and related resource requirements.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the Board's oversight and provide greater assurance that international broadcasting funds are being effectively expended, the Chairman, Broadcasting Board of Governors, should include implementation strategies and related resource requirements in its performance plan.

    Agency Affected: Broadcasting Board of Governors

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Status activity requested, no response to date.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the Board's oversight and provide greater assurance that international broadcasting funds are being effectively expended, the Chairman, Broadcasting Board of Governors, should analyze overseas news-gathering networks across its broadcast entities to determine if resources could be more effectively deployed.

    Agency Affected: Broadcasting Board of Governors

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Board standardized its program review processes by instituting language service performance plans with audience targets and by requiring that program reviews produce action plans keyed to audience size targets. These changes have helped ensure that the key components of the Board's strategic planning and performance management system are focused on the Board's new strategic objective of reaching large audiences in areas of key strategic interest to the United States.

    Recommendation: To strengthen the Board's oversight and provide greater assurance that international broadcasting funds are being effectively expended, the Chairman, Broadcasting Board of Governors, should institute a standardized approach to conducting program quality assessments and require that program reviews produce a detailed action plan that responds to specific audience size and composition targets established at the Results Act and annual language service review level.

    Agency Affected: Broadcasting Board of Governors

 

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