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House Passes U.S. International Broadcasting Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved legislation to shake up the structure of America’s international broadcasting outlets. If it becomes law, the bipartisan bill, authored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), would overhaul the current Broadcasting Board of Governors into an advisory board for a new U.S. International Communications Agency. The media outlet Voice of America (VOA) would be brought under the jurisdiction of this new independent Executive Branch agency, and it would be clarified that VOA is intended to support U.S. public diplomacy efforts. VOA would also be called upon to represent “the whole of the United States” and present “a balanced and comprehensive projection of the diversity of thought and institutions of the United States.” A “Freedom News Network” would also be created to consolidate the outlets Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle Eastern Broadcasting Network. 

While some critics worry that this new structure may hamper journalistic independence, Chairman Royce asserted, “For many years, our international broadcasting has been broken and ineffective. …The status quo is a recipe for failure on the critical information front. The legislation the House passed today provides serious reforms to U.S. international broadcasting, allowing for a strong, effective tool in the fight against censorship and harmful misinformation.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: August 1, 2014

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