The US Congress continues a tendency of providing more funding to the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) than it requires.
- In 2020, the US Agency for Global Media, which coordinates the work of Voice of America and Radio Liberty, is to likely be allocated $ 808 million – approximately $180 million more than the agency asks for.
- For 2019, USAGM (then BBG) asked for $661 million, and was given almost $ 808 million.
- For 2018, they asked for $685 million – received $807.5 million.
- For 2017 they asked for $778 million – received $782 million.
This appears to be contrasting the tendency of the Department of Defense – continuously asking for more and not being given it, the USAGM continuously asks for less and keeps receiving more and more.
This constant increase in funding expresses the US Congress dissatisfaction with any possibility of scaling down the activities of US media abroad and specifically in Russia.
The activities of Voice of America and Radio Liberty (VOA, RFE / RL), including foreign ones, are coordinated by the USAGM, funded by the US government. For its work in the 2020 fiscal year (in the United States it begins on October 1, 2019 and ends on September 30, 2020), the ministry asks $628 million from the congress, that is, 22% less than in the previous year.
Despite the fact that the budget rationale states that it is necessary to concentrate efforts on priority areas, including Russia, the cut in funding, in the opinion of the authors of the document, should directly concern Russian-language services. In particular, this relates to reducing the budget of the Russian edition of Voice of America by 50% and the budgets of the Russian-language service of Radio Liberty and the online media project of Present Time.
That is, of course, unacceptable. On May 20, 2019, the Appropriation Committee of the United States House of Representatives introduced a new bill, according to which it is proposed to keep the amount of USAGM funding at the level of 2019.
This is specifically aimed at countering Russia’s alleged efforts.
“Funds appropriated by this Act shall be made available to support democracy programs, as defined in section 7032(c) of this Act, in the Russian Federation, countries along the Russian periphery, and other countries in Europe and Eurasia targeted by, or potentially vulnerable to, the malign influence campaigns of the Russian Federation: Provided, That not later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a multi-year strategy for such programs in the manner described under this section in the report accompanying this Act.”
The bill is accompanied by a report providing an overview of the USAGM’s activities throughout 2018.
The report that accompanies the bill determines other strategic directions for the work of the USAGM information resources.
For example, in China, this is work in potentially unstable, “problematic” regions, such as Tibet (the committee requires that the agency at least not reduce broadcasting in the region). Congressmen also support plans to strengthen the work of the Uygur service of Radio Free Asia. Particular attention is paid to broadcasting to Venezuela, North Korea and Iran.
In 2018, the US Agency for Global Media reported on the growth of the audience of its resources around the world – 345 million unique users per week. According to the ministry, this is 67 million more than in 2017.
In Russia, the agency also reports substantial growth (7.7 million adult Russians, according to statistics presented in the report, visiting one of the platforms at least once a week) and increasing the coverage of their services (according to the agency, 7.5% of the total adult population country).
As noted in the report, about two thirds of media surveyed respondents said they trusted the content of Radio Liberty and the Present Time channel, while about half of the respondents trust in the content of Voice of America.
The former journalist of Radio Liberty, Andrei Babitsky, believes that there is no reason to speak about the confidence of Russians in resources that have finally become tools of direct propaganda.
“Since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, the existence of “Liberty” began as a propaganda ram. Previously, “Liberty” was used to be perceived as an analytical resource that allows you to get acquainted with the opposite point of view of the official one. And now we are dealing with gross fraud, very poorly cooked up, with fake news and other filth. “
In 2019, the Russian-language editions of Voice of America, Radio Liberty and the related project “Present” received $ 29.28 million of direct funding from the US budget.
An attempt to integrate into modern informational trends is part of the USAGM development plan. To attract users, the agency expands the production of digital video production.
Documentary films and short materials that fit comfortably into the format of social networks are aimed at the so-called generation Z (people born after 1995).
“The digital generation of Russians, whose political life has almost completely fallen during the rule of the current authoritarian regime in the country,” is how this generation is described in the agency’s documents.
Important topics include education in America, new technologies, the future of the world of work, and the “manipulation of the Kremlin in the media.”
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