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Smith-Mundt Act Amended

Allows BBG to disseminate materials within the U.S. originally intended for overseas audience

A new defense-related authorization bill signed by President Obama this week includes a provision that allows the Broadcasting Board of Governors to disseminate materials within the United States that were originally intended for audiences overseas.

The development means that news and information programs produced by BBG journalists for listeners in more than 100 countries can also be made available for broadcast within the United States, according to the BBG.

The provision repeals the domestic ban spelled out in the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. Capitol Hill supporters of the legislation, which was originally known as the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act when it was first introduced in Congress in 2010, have said such a change was long overdue considering that technological advances already make much of the content readily available in this country.

Presiding Governor Michael Lynton said the new law will allow the BBG to accept requests to provide its programs to organizations which, until now, it could not share them with, including U.S.-based broadcasters.

“This will enable more efficient use of agency resources, wider availability of our journalists’ vital and informative work, and greater transparency as more people in this country come to know what U.S. international broadcasting is about,” Lynton said.

The BBG said the new law makes no change to the BBG’s enabling statute, the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, which does not authorize the agency to create new programs solely for U.S. audiences.

The BBG, which continues to ramp up digital outreach through websites, blogs, mobile devices or other means, sets policies and provides oversight of U.S. government funded operations that broadcast overseas, includes Voice of America, Radio and TV Marti to Cuba, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network.

Congress Reconsiders Domestic BBG Ban