BBG Watch Commentary

Initiated by government bureaucracy, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act is ruining Voice of America’s reputation for no good reason.

International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) officials have achieved what KGB disinformation and propaganda machine could not achieve during the Cold War despite trying. They have undermined bipartisan support for VOA and made it a subject of domestic controversy. Through their actions these IBB bureaucrats, are ruining VOA’s good name and its ability to serve audiences abroad.

We are not saying that U.S. media is completely wrong in questioning the change in the Smith-Mundt Act or that they are wrong expressing fears about what government bureaucrats are doing, plan to do or will do with their new powers to distribute news to Americans. Maintream media and bloggers have every right to be concerned.

What we are saying is that this controversy is harming the good name of the Voice of America (VOA) and its journalists for no good reason other than what officials in the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) have done to bring it upon themselves and VOA with the change in the law they wanted only for themselves.

We could see the political storm coming miles away.

Serving only overseas audiences, especially those in countries without free media, the Voice of America enjoyed a secure identity and bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans.

Now, VOA has become a subject of unwanted domestic controversy. It is being wrongly portrayed in U.S. media as a government propaganda outfit only because IBB officials and some of their supporters within the State Department and among foreign policy and national security consultants wanted the Smith-Mundt Act changed to justify more jobs, more funding and something new to do for themselves.

They used deceptive and misleading arguments to modify the old law.

IBB officials had put out many misleading statements that contradicted and hid the following facts which were very well known to them:

1. It was legal under the old law for Americans and American media to to use and rebroadcast Voice of America programs in the U.S. if they wanted to.

2. American citizens and American media already had easy access to these programs on the Internet, on shortwave radio, and on communications satellites.

3. Ethnic communities in the U.S. and their media were already using VOA programs.

4. There was no great demand for these programs in the U.S. Anybody who wanted them already could get them.

5. The only thing the old law did was to prohibit government officials like themselves from actively distributing and marketing VOA programs to Americans.

The old law did not restrict the rights of Americans. It restricted the powers of government officials within IBB. They did not like it.

Why did they not predict and warn members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), their oversight bipartisan board, that the change in the law will become highly controversial and may undermine future funding for VOA?

Here are links to some of the articles that are making Voice of America and its outstanding journalists look bad. Compliments of IBB — the worst managers in the entire federal government according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).

Op-Ed: US propaganda ban overturned with help of government propaganda – ‎12 hours ago‎
Would government officials resort to deceptive propaganda to help them get Congress to overturn an old law, the Smith-Mundt Act, which prohibited them from distributing government-funded news to Americans? They most certainly did by telling members of Congress that Americans were somehow denied having any kind of access to Voice of America (VOA) news and that great many Americans were demanding that the law be changed. These claims advanced by officials of the International Broadcasting Bureau 

Voice of America could air in the US as anti-propaganda law is dropped

The Verge – ‎18 hours ago‎
Earlier this month a legal change went into effect that many are worried will enable government-run organizations like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe — all arms of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — to distribute their federally-funded radio and TV shows to the unsuspecting public. But even with the change,  The broadcast restrictions were done away with by an amendment to the Smith-Mundt Act, which was passed last year but didn’t go into effect until July 2nd. In a piece commenting on the 

US Government-Funded Domestic Propaganda Has Officially Hit The Airwaves

San Francisco Chronicle – ‎Jul 16, 2013‎
which was inserted into the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The reform effectively nullifies the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which was amended in 1985 specifically to prohibit U.S. organizations from using information “to influence public opinion in the United States.” The new law enables U.S. government programming such as Voice of America (VoA) — an outlet created in 1942 to promote a positive understanding of the U.S. abroad — t0 broadcast directly to domestic audiences for the first time.

US Ends Ban on Domestic Propaganda

Opposing Views – ‎9 hours ago‎
The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 went into effect July 2, allowing the U.S. Department of State to share propaganda with Americans that was once meant only for foreign audiences. Under the law, the Broadcasting Board of Governors can now broadcast Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other networks that inform listeners on freedom and democracy. Proponents say allowing broadcasting in America will be an effective tool in discouraging recruitment advances made by al-Qaeda and other 

US Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans

Foreign Policy (blog) – ‎Jul 16, 2013‎
Until this month, a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in foreign countries. The programming  One example included a report by the late BuzzFeed reporter Michael Hastings, who suggested that the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act would open the door to Pentagon propaganda of U.S. audiences. In fact, as 

Good news: USA propaganda will now play to all Americans – ‎Jul 16, 2013‎
Now, though, an update to the Cold War era law known as the Smith-Mundt Act means that content from outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe — which create shows in 61 languages for more than 100 countries — can flow to American ears.

Americans Finally Have Access to American Propaganda

The Atlantic Wire – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
As Foreign Policy’s John Hudson explains, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 went into effect July 2, and allows government-made news — which includes products like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the Middle East Broadcasting 

Op-Ed: I’m not afraid of Voice of America news in the US, but . . . – ‎12 hours ago‎
While I welcome the repeal of the Smith-Mundt restriction on the distribution of VOA news in the United States, I am at the same time concerned, however, what those in charge of these programs are doing and might do in the future. Extreme caution is required when government officials are …. the Smith-Mundt restriction on domestic distribution of VOA news. He became an expert on the old law, lobbied for its repeal and argues that VOA news is not government propaganda and can serve well domestic communities.
Politix – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
The ban on domestic propaganda has been overturned, meaning that state-funded media such as Radio Liberty and Voice of America can now be heard domestically. The Smith-MundtModernization Act of 2012 overturned the ban, The Atlantic reports.

Now Legalized, US Propaganda Swears It’s ‘Fair and Accurate’ – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
In May of last year I noted at this blog reports that an amendment had been slipped into the 2013 NDAA bill that nullified two U.S. laws – the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987 – that ban domestic propaganda Until this month, a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in 

US ends ban on ‘domestic propaganda

RT (blog) – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
The BBG is the independent government agency that broadcasts Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other networks created “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” – and a new law now allows the agency to provide members of the American public with program  A couple of current lawmakers were singing a different tune when they proposed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 last year, though, which became official just two weeks ago.

US-Funded News Can Now Reach Americans

RIA Novosti – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
“US Repeals Propaganda Ban,” read a headline in Foreign Policy Magazine. “Congressmen Seek to Lift Propaganda Ban,” read BuzzFeed before the act was passed. Use of the word ‘propaganda‘ is particularly offensive to Voice of America. “It is our policy to 

United States Lifts Ban On Domestic Propaganda, Here Is What You Need To – ‎Jul 16, 2013‎
The modernized version of the Smith–Mundt Act allows Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to let US households tune-in to hear the type of programming that was previously intended for global audiences only. BBG operates news outlets such as Voice of 

Federally sponsored radio and TV programs coming soon to cable – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
Since 1948, American law has not allowed for government sponsored or funded propaganda programming. We should  The Smith Mundt, now referred to as the Smith-MundtModernization Act of 2012, removes the prohibition of public diplomacy programming from being available to the American public. What type  Voice of America; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa); Radio Free Asia; Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). What does 

With Ban Repealed, US Aims Propaganda Machine at Domestic Audience

Reason – ‎Jul 15, 2013‎
Until this month, a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in  Fulbright’s amendment to Smith-Mundt was bolstered in 1985 by Nebraska Senator Edward Zorinsky, who argued that such “propaganda” should be kept out of America as to distinguish the U.S. “from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a 

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