Tuesday, January 5th 2016
“Russia has reorganized and intensified its international propaganda machine so effectively over the past decade that some Western lawmakers and diplomats say Washington now is badly losing a global messaging war to the increasingly modernized blitz of anti-U.S. content from Moscow-backed news operations.” This was the lead of a report by Guy Taylor, National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times. His December 27, 2015, article, “Russia propaganda machine gains on U.S.,” provided an overview of the debate over the effectiveness and organization of U.S. overseas broadcasting. The debate has been brought to the fore by a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2323. Here are just a few key points from Taylor’s article.
- What is most mind-boggling, some U.S. lawmakers say, is how Moscow has brought about this propaganda revolution during a post-Cold War period in which America’s own government-financed news operations, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America have remained largely stagnant in terms of their reach around the world.
- “It’s remarkable to see the sophisticated media offense that Putin is conducting across Eastern Europe, Central Europe, the Middle East and Latin America through Russia Today,” said Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
- For years, Mr. Royce has been calling for an overhaul of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, asserting that its management structure is bloated and disorganized — the board is run by nine part-time White House-appointed members who meet once a month — and that its flagship news operations lack a clear mission focus.
- Mr. Royce is pushing legislation with Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, the Foreign Affairs Committee’s ranking Democrat, that would establish a full-time, day-to-day agency leader for the Broadcasting Board of Governors and attempt to reduce duplication among the organization’s more than 60 services to free up funding for newer and more forward-leaning initiatives.
- But officials with the Broadcasting Board of Governors say they already are spearheading internal reforms.
- “Modern technologies have provided new avenues for disseminating lies and distortions to massive audiences,” Mr. Engel said. “Unfortunately, America’s ability to respond effectively hasn’t kept pace.”
- An essential point often missed about RFE/RL, VOA and other entities such as the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks is that the content they produce “is not propaganda,” said Laurie Moy, a spokeswoman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
- “It’s the beauty of this agency,” she said. “The way we’re structured, there is a clear firewall that prevents the government from dictating control over our journalists. It’s our belief that true journalism, unbiased and uncensored information, is the best counter to propaganda.”