In two articles on his public diplomacy blog, MountainRunner.us, Matt Armstrong, former Republican member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) who is now a frequent critic of President Trump and his administration, has asserted that “a lack of leadership by the administration … allows Director Bennett to misuse scarce resources to run VOA as just another news agency competing with US media for audience instead of reaching and empowering audiences abroad.”

In his articles, Armstrong discusses criticism by the White House of the Voice of America (VOA) last week for what the Trump administration sees as allowing foreign propaganda to seep into VOA programming. Amanda Bennett is an Obama administration era appointee who has been in her position since 2016.

Even after the White House criticized the Voice of America for promoting foreign propaganda, the VOA China Branch posted an uninterrupted two-minute video of the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman bashing the U.S. government for criticizing China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While continuing to criticize the Trump White House for ignoring management scandals at what is now known as the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Matt Armstrong believes that the VOA’s tweet from China and use of the AP article on China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which the White House saw as promoting Chinese government propaganda, indicate that the agency has lost its way. Armstrong believes that this is a problem of leadership from the agency’s acting CEO to VOA Director down to the regional branch and the language service.

According to Armstrong, the past and the latest management and programming scandals at the Voice of America and in some other parts of the agency also reflect a failure of leadership through oversight, including the Trump White House, which he believes had ample room and time to declare VOA has lost its way.

One can lament the politicization of VOA, but the action of the last CEO also made it possible for the entire agency to become similarly politicized with little in the way of recourse when Congress is blind and paralyzed and the White House is incompetent.

The former CEO whom Armstrong criticized was also appointed during the Obama administration. John F. Lansing was hired in 2015 and left his USAGM position in September 2019 to become president and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR).

The past CEO of BBG, who is now the president and CEO of NPR, lied and withheld information to the Governors, Members and staff in the Senate, and to the State Department to abolish the board and thus remove that level of oversight in December 2016. The legislative change meant the head of the then-BBG was a “CEO” had all of the power of the agency who was to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. This can obviously lead to a highly-politicized agency.

Armstrong has frequently pointed out that he does not in any way support President Trump. He has been a fierce critic of the Trump administration.

He believes, however, that the lack of leadership and management problems at the Voice of America under its current director Amanda Bennett and at the agency under its current temporary CEO are real and require urgent action.

It should be apparent at this point that there is a problem of leadership at both VOA and USAGM that has permitted the situation to not just perpetuate but potentially get worse, as Director Bennett’s mission-deaf comments reveal.

Armstrong blames what he sees as politicization of the entire agency on former CEO John Lansing and on incompetence of the White House. In his view, Congress also has failed to exercise effective oversight.

One can lament the politicization of VOA, but the action of the last CEO also made it possible for the entire agency to become similarly politicized with little in the way of recourse when Congress is blind and paralyzed and the White House is incompetent.

From August 2013 through January 2017, Matt Armstrong served as a Governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, since renamed the U.S. Agency for Global Media. From 2012 through 2018, he served as a Member of the Board of The Public Diplomacy Council and served as Board Secretary from 2014 to 2016. In 2011, he served as the Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

READ MORE:

Understanding the White House’s Attack on VOA. By Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner.us, April 14, 2020.

Managing the problem: VOA, Smith-Mundt, and oversight. By Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner.us, April 15, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like
Read More

BBG reform bill expected in Congress

BBG Watch Commentary See: “Major reform of U.S. international broadcasting and public diplomacy to be proposed in Congress,”…