Congress recently changed the management structure of the government-run propaganda arm, igniting Democratic fears that Republican President-elect Donald Trump will use the federal news arm as a version of “Trump TV,” according to a Monday report from Politico.
The Voice Of America is part of a media empire controlled by the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors, and includes Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.
The VOA was created during World War II by the “office of the coordinator of information,” and created pro-American news throughout the globe. The Cold War created the VOA that exists today, as the operation grew to combat the “more dangerous propaganda of the Soviets.”
The recent passage of the National Defense Authorization act disbanded the board of governors, instead paving the way for a single CEO the president appoints.
That key change, coupled with the fact that government-owned media is allowed to broadcast inside the borders of the United States as of 2013, has Democrats afraid of what Trump will do to the organization designed to promote a pro-American government viewpoint in the world.
The board of governors oversees a massive operation that serves an audience of 278 million individuals across 100 countries. The Board of Governors has always consisted of 4 Republicans, 4 Democrats, and the secretary of state.
“There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” an unnamed Republican official told Politico. “They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.”
The current chairman of the board has an opposing view. Instead of paving the way for more Trump control of the news network, the recent changes to the structure of the board make it easier for a governing body to control the large organization. Chairman Jeff Shell asserts that a part-time board isn’t capable of meeting the needs of the organization, and welcomes the change.
“To have part-time board members to manage something like this is completely unrealistic, so I very much support the empowered CEO than a board,” he said, adding, “There’s always a risk with any federal agency, whether this administration or another that they’re going to use the organization in a partisan.”
“They must be revitalized to effectively carry out their mission in this age of viral terrorism and digital propaganda … My provision takes an important first step in this process by replacing the BBG’s part-time board with a permanent CEO to help better deliver real news to people in countries where free press does not exist.”
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