Center for Strategic Communication

Sponsored by Chairman Edward Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), the U.S. International Communications Reform Act was passed unanimously through the Foreign Affairs Committee in May. Should it be approved by Congress, this bill, while making much-needed structural and management changes, does not answer the existential questions surrounding America’s state-sponsored international media. It requires the Voice of America to broadcast content that “is consistent with and promotes the broad foreign policies of the United States,” and yet “accurate, objective, and comprehensive.” These two practices are not compatible, and risk alienating the very foreign audiences that U.S. international broadcasting is meant to reach. Understanding this, a number of voices have come out in support of maintaining the journalistic credibility of U.S. international broadcasting:

Asking the Right Questions about U.S. International Broadcasting (Matthew Wallin & Jed Willard, The Diplomat)

“International broadcasting may be a tool intended to serve the foreign policy goals of the United States, but it must also serve the needs of the foreign audience to be useful and effective.”

Voice of America Needs to Keep its Objective Voice (Editorial Board, Washington Post)

“The United States will never beat China and Russia in the game of official propaganda, but it can win the war of ideas — if it doesn’t lose faith in its own principles.”

The Pitch of America’s Voice (Editorial Board, New York Times)

“It is critical that the sponsors guarantee the American public as much as the world that standards of professional journalism will not be sacrificed in favor of a simplistic propaganda megaphone.”

US Should Not Adopt “Information Warfare” Approach (Reporters without Borders)

“The International Communications Reform Act reverses the priorities of the 1994 law currently in effect. Programming focused on the United States and its foreign policy would be more important that providing independent news and information to the population of countries where it is otherwise inaccessible.”

Back off, Congress, and Keep Voice of America Real (Al Pessin, LA Times)

“If we sling mud with the Russian, Chinese and Al Qaeda media, we’ll just get dirty.”

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