Haha, so here’s some fun news: the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week included a provision that empowers the president to effectively control a taxpayer-funded global media arm. What could possibly go wrong?
Politico reports that a quiet provision on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act, propelled by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, will disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent U.S. agency that helps maintain the journalistic integrity of external broadcasting institutions including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks. In other words, the protections that prevented the U.S. from creating its own Russia Today were just blitzed.
Some background, from Politico:
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the largest public diplomacy program by the U.S. government, reaching an audience of 278 million by broadcasting in 100 countries and 61 languages. The agency was created in 1942 during World War II to send pro-Democratic news across Europe, as it aimed to counter Nazi and Japanese propaganda. The agency has since evolved into a more traditional news operation, while still pushing out the virtues of democracy worldwide.
To date, the nine-member board – which consists of four Republicans and four Democrats appointed by the president, as well as the secretary of state – has been a part-time operation, but it served as a firewall with the mission of preserving the integrity of the agency’s broadcasts. The organization’s charter calls for “accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity.”
Under the new rules, the BBG will be controlled by a CEO appointed by our new president, a propagandist.
The Washington Post editorial board writes that while the BBG had “serious problems”—the board was part-time, and “not all members took their duties seriously”—the creation of a CEO position three years ago mostly remedied the issue. According to Royce, this move was made, quite ironically, in the name of streamlining the agency “to help better deliver real news to people in countries where free press does not exist.” A difficult task when Nazi conspiracy theorists are running the show, no?
“There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” a Republican government official told Politico. “They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.”