Today in Juba, South Sudan, the US Broadcasting Board of Governors reached an historic agreement with the new nation on a wide range of activities to advance media development. Three Board members, Michael Meehan, Dana Perino, and Susan McCue, established a broad agreement on new FM licences, affiliate access, journalism training and technical support.

“The US and the South Sudanese will forever celebrate our nations’ independence in early July,” said BBG Governor Michael Meehan. “The BBG is committed to helping the world’s newest democracy stand up on its feet and make sure that through a free media all its citizens’ voices are heard.”

“Free media is the cornerstone of any democracy and as South Sudan emerges as the world’s newest nation, the BBG stands with the Sudanese to propel the free flow of news and information. In particular, we look forward to dialogues on critical issues like maternal, newborn and child health, education for women and girls and economic growth,” said BBG Governor Susan McCue.

“The trip to South Sudan allowed us to see first-hand all of the challenges, as well as the hope, and has encouraged us to do more to expand our coverage area and continue to improve our content. One way we can help is to work on closing the gap in education by adding more instructional programmes in English. We also made significant headway for additional cooperation with the government of South Sudan and will be following through on our commitments,” said BBG Governor Dana Perino.

The Ministry of Information pledged to grant licences for FM broadcasting for Voice of America (VOA) and other BBG broadcasting including Arabic-language programs from the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). In addition, the BBG will have access to government-run FM stations as radio affiliates. The BBG agreed to provide technical assistance and journalism training as well as evaluate the avenues for broadcasting in additional languages.

The three members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors also participated in a VOA-organized town hall meeting at which citizens and government officials discussed important challenges facing the new country. The Board members are visiting Ethiopia, South Sudan and Nigeria to broaden the VOA’s reach and impact in Africa.

Updates, observations, and photos about the trip will be posted via Twitter (hashtag #usib) and in a Weblog.

(Source: Broadcasting Board of Governors 24.06.2011)