Last week Congress passed the National DefenseAuthorization Act. A provision tucked into the defense bill guts the bipartisan Voice of America board — which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other networks —and lets the president appoint a CEO.
More importantly, the network is also now allowed access to U.S. audiences (previously banned by law). This is stoking fears that Trump could wield a powerful propaganda arm (as if the conservative media entertainment complex does not already serve this function). Trump to inherit state-run TV network with expanded reach:
President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit a newly empowered Voice of America that some officials fear could serve as an unfettered propaganda arm for the former reality TV star who has flirted for years with launching his own network.
Buried on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week is a provision that would disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent U.S. agency that includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.
The move — pushed by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce as a way to streamline the agency — concentrates control into a powerful CEO who is appointed by the president.
That change, combined with a 2013 legislative revision that allows the network to legally reach a U.S. audience, which was once banned, could pave the way for Trump-approved content created by the U.S. diplomacy arm, if he chooses to exploit the opportunity.
Essentially, Trump is finally getting his Trump TV — financed by taxpayers to the tune of $800 million per year. And some of the few people in the know aren’t happy about it.
“Congress unwittingly just gave President-elect Trump unchecked control of all U.S. media outlets,” said Michael Kempner, a Democratic member of the board who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was a Hillary Clinton donor. “No president, either Democrat or Republican, should have that kind of control. It’s a public jewel. Its independence is what makes it so credible.”
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Now that Trump is getting for free a major media apparatus with loosened restrictions, Democratic and Republican members of the current board are alarmed.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the largest public diplomacy program by the U.S. government, reaching an audience of 278 million by broadcasting in 100 countries and 61 languages. The agency was created in 1942 during World War II to send pro-democracy news across Europe, as it aimed to counter Nazi and Japanese propaganda. The agency has since evolved into a more traditional news operation, while still pushing out the virtues of democracy worldwide.
To date, the nine-member board — which consists of four Republicans and four Democrats appointed by the president, as well as the secretary of state — has been a part-time operation, but it served as a firewall with the mission of preserving the integrity of the agency’s broadcasts. The organization’s charter calls for “accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity.”
A Republican government official familiar with the agency’s work warned that abolishing the board will make it susceptible to the influence of Trump’s allies, including his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign.
“There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” the Republican official said. “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.”
Officials in particular fear that Trump and his allies could change the agency’s posture toward Russia, considering how Trump has expressed a positive view of President Vladimir Putin.
Multiple media outlets in the BBG family aim to counter Russia propaganda, including CurrentTime, which was introduced two years ago and broadcasts in Russia according to the NPR model, and Radio Free Europe. With Radio Free Asia, the U.S. also pushes back against China’s state messages, and Trump and his allies could potentially use the network to antagonize the country, which the president-elect already alarmed with his call with the Taiwanese president.
Because of the modification of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013, the BBG can now broadcast in the U.S., too. But the influence on the domestic market could be even more subtle, the Republican official warned.
A BBG CEO influenced by the administration could penetrate established media outlets with packages, series or other news products produced by the BBG’s networks but picked up and aired by traditional media like Fox News or Breitbart. Many U.S. outlets currently use content from VOA.
“No money would even change hands, you’ve had no effect on the budget,” the official said. “But it will denigrate the product.”
The official added, “It’s extremely troubling. It’s going to be bad for U.S. international broadcasters and their credibility.”
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The legislation also gives the president the power to appoint an advisory board — which will consist of five members, including the secretary of state — but it has no statutory power.
The provision does, however, squeeze in a provision for an inspector general from the State Department who would “respect the journalistic integrity of all the broadcasters covered by this Act.”
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After the bill passed through the House, Lansing sent a memo to BBG staffers promising that “the legislation makes NO change to the firewall between the federal government and the journalists of our five networks.”
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But some say this firewall is still not enough to protect the organization from the pressure of some of Trump’s most media savvy advisers like Bannon.
“On Jan. 21, we’ll have a welcoming ceremony for our next CEO, who could be Steve Bannon, or Laura Ingraham or Ann Coulter,” said a senior Voice of America staffer.
Nah, Trump fluffer Sean Hannity has yet to be rewarded for his services with a White House appointment. Maybe he will be Trump’s new minister of propaganda.
Don’t expect any pushback from the complicit mainstream media conglomerates. They got their marching orders from Trump last month. Donald Trump’s media summit was a ‘f___ing firing squad’:
Donald Trump scolded media big shots during an off-the-record Trump Tower sitdown on Monday, sources told The Post.
“It was like a f−−−ing firing squad,” one source said of the encounter.
“Trump started with [CNN chief] Jeff Zucker and said, ‘I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and you should be ashamed,’ ” the source said.
“The meeting was a total disaster. The TV execs and anchors went in there thinking they would be discussing the access they would get to the Trump administration, but instead they got a Trump-style dressing-down,” the source added.
A second source confirmed the fireworks.
“The meeting took place in a big boardroom and there were about 30 or 40 people, including the big news anchors from all the networks,” the other source said.
“Trump kept saying, ‘We’re in a room of liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong.’ He addressed everyone in the room, calling the media dishonest, deceitful liars. He called out Jeff Zucker by name and said everyone at CNN was a liar, and CNN was [a] network of liars,” the source said.
“Trump didn’t say [NBC reporter] Katy Tur by name, but talked about an NBC female correspondent who got it wrong, then he referred to a horrible network correspondent who cried when Hillary lost who hosted a debate — which was Martha Raddatz, who was also in the room.”
The stunned reporters tried to get a word in edgewise to discuss access to a Trump administration.
“[‘CBS Good Morning’ co-host Gayle] King did not stand up, but asked some question, ‘How do you propose we the media work with you?’ Chuck Todd asked some pretty pointed questions. David Muir asked, ‘How are you going to cope living in DC while your family is in NYC?’ It was a horrible meeting.”
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The hour-long session included top execs from network and cable news channels. Among the attendees were NBC’s Deborah Turness, Lester Holt and Chuck Todd; ABC’s James Goldston, George Stephanopoulos, David Muir and Martha Raddatz; CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, John Dickerson, Charlie Rose, Christopher Isham and King; Fox News’ Bill Shine, Jack Abernethy, Jay Wallace and Suzanne Scott; MSNBC’s Phil Griffin, and CNN’s Jeff Zucker and Erin Burnett.
“The meeting was off the record, meaning the participants agreed not to talk about the substance of the conversations.”
I’m sorry, but this is totally unacceptable. The president-elect is essentially dictating to the media conglomerates how they are to report on his administration. The American public needs to know every word spoken in that meeting, and by whom. There should never have been any agreement that the meeting was off the record.