Improved Oversight Can Reduce Broadcast Violations at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Gao ID: NSIAD-85-93 June 24, 1985

In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) broadcast controls and the Board for International Broadcasting's (BIB) program oversight activities.

GAO found that, since 1982, new RFE/RL management has made several changes to improve staff morale, enhance journalistic independence, and improve program quality. Under these changes, some program controls have been relaxed or eliminated. In place of pre-broadcast script review, more reliance is placed on those responsible for preparing and airing the broadcasts and on post-broadcast evaluations to ensure guideline compliance. These changes have the effect of lessening management's direct involvement in programming. Postbroadcast analysis has identified 18 potential violations in the first 8 months of 1984 and questioned the airing of 29 additional programs. GAO found that controls for averting violations are hindered by: (1) not having a senior-level focal point to ensure policy compliance; (2) lack of communication on policy guidance; (3) noncompliance with instructions; (4) staff shortages; and (5) the lack of a system for tracking violations and ensuring corrective action. GAO also found: (1) little documentation of BIB oversight activities; (2) that BIB had not effectively used its staff to assist in program oversight; and (3) that coordination with outside sources of feedback on programs has decreased. In addition, BIB has not revised its regulations to reflect its federal oversight and the members' corporate responsibilities.


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