Middle America newspapers call for restoring ‘Big Brother’ domestic propaganda ban for BBG

BBG Watch Commentary

The Post and CourierThe Post and Courier, the main daily newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, has called for restoring the Smith-Mundt government propaganda ban on domestic distribution of U.S. international broadcasting programs such as those produced by the Voice of America (VOA) under the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

Columbia MissourianThe editorial, titled, Big Brother in the Wings?, was picked up by The Columbia Missourian, a daily morning newspaper published in Columbia, Missouri, in an editorial, “WHAT OTHERS SAY: Congress should restore propaganda ban,” and also posted online by The Miami Herald in “South Carolina editorial roundup” from Associated Press (AP).

“The U.S. government spends about $700 million a year to produce and broadcast articles, reports and commentary designed to reflect credit on itself and aimed at foreign audiences. Until July 1, it was not allowed to beam these products at Americans living in the United States. As a sponsor of the ban said, the government should not be allowed to aim its propaganda at U.S. citizens and taxpayers.

That has all changed. Thanks to a law signed by President Obama last January, the ban on domestic dissemination of the products of the agency that oversees the government’s huge propaganda effort came to an end at the beginning of this month.

The name of that agency is the “independent” Broadcasting Board of Governors or BBG. It may smack of paranoia to suggest that the initials really stand for Big Brother Government, but there is real cause for concern.”

“The ban on domestic distribution of BBG’s products should be restored by Congress as quickly as possible,” The Post and Courier concludes.

Officials in charge of U.S. international broadcasting who work for the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and who pushed for the removal of the domestic propaganda ban in the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and advised members of the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors failed to anticipate public backlash in America against their move.

Editorials such as these and other critical articles in American newspapers undermine bipartisan support for the important overseas mission of U.S. international broadcasting that journalists preparing these programs had enjoyed before IBB executives decided to ask Congress to modify the Smith-Mundt domestic propaganda ban. The Voice of America did not need this poorly-planned and poorly-executed legislative change to fulfill its international broadcasting mission. IBB executives were completely unprepared for the media and public backlash in the United States.

Agency officials are also trying to hide such critical articles from their own staff and others by not including them in the “BBG Media Highlights,” which are distributed to subscribers and posted online. They failed to include a recent critical op-ed in The Washington Times and a National Review Online article, both dealing with problems within the International Broadcasting Bureau. Internal censorship is widely practiced by those who are charged with supporting press freedom abroad.

Read more in The Post and Courier.

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