Bill would enhance international U.S. broadcasting efforts

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced legislation on Monday that would enhance international broadcasting efforts by the United States to promote the free flow of information abroad.

Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the committee, co-authored the bipartisan United States International Communications Reform Act after a recent visit to Ukraine.

During the trip, Royce and Engel learned about the strategic role of U.S. international broadcasting efforts in eastern Ukraine to counter Russian propaganda.

“The free flow of information and ideas is at the core of a democratic society,” Royce said. “Across the globe – whether it is reaching the young Iranian protesting the regime in Tehran, covering the elections in Afghanistan, or countering Russian propaganda in Eastern Europe – freedom of information is key to the success of our national security objectives. Unfortunately, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the agency charged with leading the U.S. effort to inform and empower foreign audiences, is badly broken. It is time for broad reforms; now more than ever, U.S. international broadcasts must be effective.”

Currently, the BBG is comprised of nine part-time members that meet once a month. Important decisions are often delayed when the BBG is unable to establish a quorum. The bill would establish a full-time agency and reduce the BBG to an advisory role.

The bill would also clarify the mission of Voice of America (VOA), which aims to provide a clear and effective presentation of U.S. policy.

“Around the world, millions of people are denied access to objective news,” Engel said. “My recent trip to Ukraine was a strong reminder that the competition of ideas is still very much alive and that the United States has an important role to play in facilitating the free flow of information and in sharing our values. The legislation that Chairman Royce and I introduced will strengthen our international broadcasting operations by improving management, enhancing coordination and empowering journalists and editors to produce high-quality programming that keeps pace with the rapidly evolving international media landscape.”

The bill would also consolidate three radio broadcasts in Europe, Asia and the Middle East into one non-federal organization called the Freedom Broadcasters. The move is designed to realize cost savings, promote collaboration and improve responsiveness.