voice of america

August 8, 2014

If signed into law, HR4490 will end the Voice of America as the world has known it for over seven decades.

Voice of America officials are concerned that a new House bill to overhaul U.S.-controlled international broadcasting will have a "devastating" effect on the network's journalistic integrity if it is signed into law.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would overhaul U.S. international broadcasting, including this agency, the Voice of America, four other government-financed broadcasters and the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees all of them. Supporters of the bipartisan bill say the United States needs to fight back more effectively in the war of information against countries like Russia and China. But some opponents of the bill say they fear it would undermine VOA's journalistic integrity and its reputation.

The Ukrainian flag is once again proudly flying above the former separatist bastion of Sloviansk. One by one, the towns and villages of Donbas are being recaptured. But even as Ukraine gains the edge in its military conflict with Russia, the information battle continues to be one of David against Goliath. Whether it’s through the state media giant Russia Today, soft power campaigns or diplomatic backchannels, the Kremlin has implemented what some commentators have dubbed “the biggest information special operation” to date. 

China and Russia are fighting a heated war with the United States. It is an intense battle of words and ideas fought between state-sponsored broadcasters, on the airwaves and online. In 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said straightforwardly that the U.S. is “engaged in an information war.” She concluded her analysis to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations by saying that in the fight against emerging international broadcasters, “we are losing that war.”

While our foes are working 24/7 to demonize the United States, the management of our international broadcasting meets once a month. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton rightfully called U.S. international broadcasting “practically defunct.”

Deutsche Welle, BBC, France 24 and Voice of America are amongst numerous members of the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) who are angered by Ethiopian authorities’ intentional jam of satellite programs, and claim the action is a violation of international agreements. 

As authoritarian states such as Russia and China ramp up well-funded and sophisticated global propaganda operations, U.S. officials and members of Congress fret that the U.S. government’s information operations are lagging behind. There is some reason for concern. The five international broadcasters funded by the federal government have long suffered from poor organization, bad management and confused missions.