voice of america

January 1, 2017
December 21, 2016

Kim Andrew Elliott was around for the founding of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Here, he muses on its demise and why it matters.

President-elect Trump is about to inherit a newly empowered Voice of America that some officials fear could serve as an unfettered propaganda arm for the former reality TV star who has flirted for years with launching his own network. Buried on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week is a provision that would disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

An amendment quietly inserted into the annual National Defense Authorization Act by Republican House leaders would abolish the broadcasting board and place VOA, RFE/RL and other international news and information operations under the direct control of a chief executive appointed by the president. The new executive would hire and fire senior media personnel and manage their budgets.

The House Friday passed the National Defense Authorization Act. That is the bill that would, among many other things, abolish the board of governors (people) that oversees the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) (media outlets/news operations) and concentrate authority in the CEO of BBG. BBG oversees government-backed, nonmilitary international media outlets.

So far, American public diplomacy efforts directed at the North Korean people have remained almost entirely focused on radio broadcasting. [...] It is important to remember that the main focus would not be propaganda, but rather entertainment with an underlying goal to provide accurate, trustworthy information – the type of information can create change, particularly in such a closed-off environment.

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