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The U.S. Capitol is seen at night on the eve of a potential federal government shutdown, in Washington September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque The U.S. Capitol is seen at night on the eve of a potential federal government shutdown, in Washington September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  

Foreign propaganda broadcasts to Cuba, Europe ‘essential’ during shutdown

The government may have shut down, but the show must go on… if it’s a show the U.S. beams to foreign audiences, that is.

Foreign Policy reports that the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which transmits federally-funded propaganda to more than 100 countries, announced Tuesday that most of its broadcasts would continue despite a government shutdown.

“U.S. international media activities under the BBG that are deemed ‘foreign relations essential to national security,’ such as news programming and distribution, are excepted from the shutdown and will continue,” a statement on the board’s website explained.

“The current broadcasting distribution schedule will remain in place,” it continued. “Internet and new media operations will continue as necessary for audiences overseas.”

The board did, however, promise to reduce support personnel and use pre-recorded material if possible.

The BBG spends around $750 million each year to produce and transmit Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other pro-American news and entertainment shows designed for foreign consumption.

Among the board’s less well-known programs are TV and Radio Marti, outlets designed to penetrate Cuba’s media market with anti-Castro messaging. The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported that these programs have almost no audience on the communist island, despite the $28 million spent on them last year.

A senior congressional staffer interviewed by Foreign Policy marvelled at the decision to keep the BBG open, particularly since many of the broadcasts are so ineffective.

“If the Martis shut down, we risk forfeiting our .001% of marketshare on the island we’ve spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars cultivating,” the aide said sarcastically.

BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil was quick to defend her agency’s “essential” status.  “The fact that the Office of Management and Budget signed off on this indicates how high a priority its broadcasting activities are,” she told Foreign Policy, claiming that a legal determination had declared the broadcasts “foreign relations essential to national security.”

“The mission of the agency is to inform, engage and unite people around the world in support of freedom and democracy,” she added.

While the BBG pursues its important national security mission, 400,000 Defense Department employees and 70 percent of civilian intelligence workers are stuck at home, having been deemed “non-essential.”

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