- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The U.S. Agency for Global Media — the independent federal agency which operates Voice of America and four other international broadcast sources — has revealed the size of its typical weekly audience — and it’s huge.

The five networks together reached a record-breaking 354 million people in a typical week during fiscal 2020 — and it is “the biggest audience ever” for the agency, which broadcasts in 100 countries, and in 62 languages. The mammoth audience has increased by 4 million since last year.

“People around the world crave independent, unbiased news and I’m so proud that our federal networks and grantees were able to deliver it, especially during COVID-19 when there was so much disinformation,” said Michael Pack, CEO of the agency.

His broadcasters and journalists “work to report the truth to people who need it the most,” Mr. Pack noted in an annual report to Congress released Tuesday.

“The agency endeavors to counter disinformation and propaganda with accurate reporting on local in-country issues from politics to economics to entertainment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, record numbers tuned into the agency’s networks at a time when foreign governments were manufacturing disinformation and propaganda,” he said in the report.

Those networks include the aforementioned Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks. All deliver news and programming via radio, television, and internet.

Online, the overall audience has grown by 32% while social media engagement is up by 83% in the last year. Some programming literally skyrocketed — such as content in Mandarin, where overall audience numbers increased by 400% while views of video content shot up by 800% in the last year.

Overall audience growth occurred in several “key markets” — particularly Iraq, Venezuela, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The federal broadcaster also reached “large audiences in countries of key U.S. national security and foreign affairs interest.” China is first on that list with a typical audience of 65.4 million; Iran and Russia are also in the top 10.

“The growth came in the middle of a global pandemic when it was a challenge to not only report the news, but also to collect data to see how many people were getting information,” the agency said.

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