BBG Watch Commentary
Helle Dale, the Heritage Foundation’s senior fellow for public diplomacy, has an op-ed in The Washington Times expressing her strong support for the bipartisan Royce – Engel U.S. International Broadcasting Reform Legislation, H.R. 4490, the United States International Communications Reform Act.
HELLE DALE: Some profess outrage that Congress would dare “interfere.” “Back Off, Congress, And Keep Voice of America Real” blared a Los Angeles Times commentary by a VOA foreign correspondent. A Washington Post editorial fumed that H.R. 4490, the United States International Communications Reform Act moving through the House, “would take a dangerous step toward converting the most venerable and listened-to U.S. outlet, Voice of America, into another official mouthpiece.”
The “mouthpiece” concern seems terribly overwrought. The bill states repeatedly that Voice of America will continue to “provide accurate, objective, comprehensive information with the understanding that these three values provide credibility among global news audiences.”
Moreover, the longer the BBG goes unreformed, the more likely it becomes that Congress will simply wash its hands of the whole enterprise and find other uses for the more than $700 million budgeted for U.S. International Broadcasting. That is how high dissatisfaction with the agency is running on the Hill.
It’s not just lawmakers who are frustrated with the agency. The Office of Management and Budget has long rated personnel morale at the BBG as the lowest in government. Much of that derives from the Board’s repeated decisions to cut services.
Those decisions have proved unwise. For example, the BBG all but eliminated broadcasts to Ukraine and Russia over the last several years. That left the U.S. unable to broadcast into Crimea as Vladimir Putin’s Russia gobbled it up. As Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Committee on Foreign Relations, the BBG is “practically defunct.”
READ MORE: DALE: Only way to save U.S. international broadcasting is complete reform, Helle Dale, The Washington Times, June 23, 2014.