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Would BBG Abuse Domestic Broadcasting?

Former VOA official worries about changes in Smith-Mundt Act

Proposed changes to U.S. law could allow the Broadcasting Board of Governors to abandon some foreign audiences in order to focus more on the U.S. media market and on domestic public relations. At least that’s the worry of Ted Lipien, a former Voice of America official who co-founded the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting, which sees itself as a non-partisan “media freedom advocate.”

The Smith-Mundt Act affects how the federal government communicates to foreign audiences through broadcasting and other means. As RW has reported, the BBG supports repeal of the 1948 ban on “domestic dissemination” of content to listeners and viewers in the United States.

The board believes the rule did not envision the Internet or satellite broadcasting, “which do not honor national boundaries,” and that with all of its 59 languages available online, “the agency cannot comply with this outdated statute.” It also says the law obstructs BBG from reaching significant expatriate communities in the United States.

Two congressmen now have introduced a modernization act, saying the country faces “a multitude of threats and we need to be able to counter them in a multitude of ways. Communication is among the most important.” They think the law ties the hands of America’s officials and have led inaccurate reporting by local media about issues affecting global security.

Lipien says he supports some of the changes but has “grave concerns that officials of the Broadcasting Board of Governors will use the new legislation to abandon some foreign audiences under the rule of repressive regimes in other countries to focus more on the U.S. media market and on domestic public relations.”

I find this topic fascinating and expect it will generate some political heat. Read what the bill’s supporters think and what CUSIB says as Lipien shares its concerns over abuse. Post your own thoughts below.