BBG counters negative GAO report

WASHINGTON: A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that the US government-funded Radio Sawa and the Alhurra satellite TV networks lack uniform journalistic standards, credible mechanisms for measuring audiences, and general strategic oversight.

WASHINGTON: A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that the US government-funded Radio Sawa and the Alhurra satellite TV networks lack uniform journalistic standards, credible mechanisms for measuring audiences, and general strategic oversight.

However, Larry Hart, communications coordinator for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the services, said the report overall indicates "a great deal of progress" by the services. Hart said the BBG is confident about its audience measurement, which, based on AC Nielsen figures, is estimated at around 21.6 million last year. He said an outside consultant has reviewed Radio Sawa for its objectivity and a similar review for Alhurra is underway, and that an overall strategy for the two broadcast networks is also in development.

"What the GAO does is they look at every agency and they find things aren't done exactly the way they are supposed to be done," Hart said. "But the problem is that this gives the wrong the impression to people around the world."

The US government spends about $78 million annually on the Arab-language broadcasts with the aim of providing information to citizens of Arab countries on US actions and motives oversees.

A US State Department's Office of the Inspector investigation also alleges that BBG Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson used government resources, among other things, to support a horse-racing operation, as well as provide over $244,000 in contracting funds to a friend without providing any written documentation; a charge Tomlinson dismissed, via a statement, as resulting from "partisan divisions inside the BBG."

Tomlinson's statement read that he "spent far more time on broadcasting responsibilities at my farm and my private residences than I spent on my horses at the office—an average of one e-mail and two and a half minutes a day, using IG figures."

 

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