BBG Watch Media Commentary


RAND experts William Courtney and Christopher Paul wrote in an article, “Firehose of Falsehoods: Russian propaganda is pervasive, and America is behind the power curve in countering it.” in U.S. News & World Report that the United States is not effectively responding to the threat of Kremlin’s propaganda offensive.

RAND Corporation (Research AND Development) is an American nonprofit global policy think tank financed by the U.S. government, private endowment, corporations and individuals.

The problem may be, however, even much worse under the inexperienced leadership of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) CEO John Lansing and new Voice of America (VOA) Director Amanda Bennett, who is also inexperienced in managing a large U.S. government media outreach organization, than this already highly critical U.S. News & World Report article written by RAND experts suggests.

As reported by BBG Watch, Voice of America sometimes helps to spread Russian and Chinese propaganda.

In this VOA Russian video [“Voice of America used Putin’s narrative in a Russian report, ignored Biden on WWII history“], the Voice of America repeated many of the current Kremlin propaganda themes about Stalin and the outbreak of World War II while ignoring his initial alliance with Hitler, illegal annexation of other countries, millions of people starved or murdered during his rule and the enslavement of much of Eastern Europe after World War II.

In this AP report posted on the main VOA English news website, the Voice of America helped to advance the Chinese propaganda themes by ignoring to mention millions of Chinese who had lost their lives Mao Zedong’s murderous rule.

With such a disturbing record of actually advancing Russian and Chinese propaganda narratives due to poor leadership, mismanagement and ignorance, it would be hard to expect the mismanaged Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Voice of America to actually counter Russian disinformation.

RAND experts William Courtney and Christopher Paul make a strong case in their U.S. News & World Report article that the BBG is not up to the task. They recommend the passage of a bipartisan BBG reform bill, which both BBG CEO John Lansing and BBG Chairman Jeff Shell strongly oppose when it comes to structural reorganization of the underperforming federal agency. Jeff Shell was reported to be doing private business in Putin’s Russia on behalf of his private employer NBC’s Universal Filmed Entertainment. John Lansing has no prior U.S. government, foreign affairs, U.S. foreign policy, public diplomacy or international news outreach experience.

As an example of how inexperienced some of the top Broadcasting Board of Governors executives are, according to several sources, one high-level BBG official told a group of incredulous Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) professional journalists that until a few years ago Russia was almost a democracy.

But RFE/RL, which is also overseen by the BBG, has problems similar to VOA, although not as acute.

On September 6, readers of the Uzbek website of RFE/RL could enjoy the “Pravda” newspaper style reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the grave of the former president of Uzbekistan in Karimov’s home city of Samarkand and placed flowers, but not a word was said that an authoritarian president visited the grave of another authoritarian figure.


William Courtney, one of the co-authors of the U.S. News & World Report article, is an adjunct senior fellow at RAND and former U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia; he advised on the integration in 1999 of USIA into the Department of State.

Christopher Paul is a senior social scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School of Public Policy and a member of the adjunct faculty of the Center for Economic Development, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University.


WILLIAM COURTNEY AND CHRISTOPHER PAUL IN U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: “U.S. public diplomacy is under-performing. In 2013 then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that the Broadcasting Board of Governors – which oversees the Voice of America, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and other surrogate media – is “practically defunct.” Reforms in a bipartisan congressional bill could improve their operation.”


READ MORE: “Firehose of Falsehoods: Russian propaganda is pervasive, and America is behind the power curve in countering it.” By William Courtney and Christopher Paul. U.S. News & World Report, September 9, 2016.


The same commentary was also posted on TheRandBlog:

Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It.” By Christopher Paul and William Courtney, TheRandBlog, September 13, 2016.