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New Report Urges Overhaul of US Govt. International Broadcasting


FILE - Czech President Vaclav Havel (C) signs a memory book at the entrance of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague, May 4, 2001.

FILE - Czech President Vaclav Havel (C) signs a memory book at the entrance of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague, May 4, 2001.

A new study in the United States says the government should overhaul its international broadcasting operations so that they support U.S. foreign policy objectives and strategic American interests.

The report released Wednesday was written mostly by former officials of the government's Broadcasting Board of Governors and one of its divisions, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty -- a news operation whose broadcasts once were aimed at people living in communist countries during the height of the Cold War.

The BBG oversees Voice of America, whose website, radio and television broadcasts and mobile platforms reach 164 million people around the world each week in 45 languages.

The report concludes that the U.S. government's current broadcasting "mission is unclear, its attachment to U.S. foreign policy strategies tenuous at best, and its organizational structure ineffective."

It said foreign governments "with anti-U.S. messaging are fomenting an information war, and winning" against American interests.

The report called for a revamped Voice of America operation, one in which "America should be shown in all its complexity, nuance and diversity." Yet the report said "detractors should be denied an opportunity to tarnish America."

The latest report, presented at a forum staged by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, is part of an ongoing debate in Washington on what role the government's international broadcasting operations ought to play.

Legislation calling for an overhaul to "promote" U.S. foreign policy passed the House of Representatives last year, but died in the Senate. New legislative proposals are likely again this year.

In response to the new report, the BBG's interim CEO and director, André Mendes, said, "While we respect the intent of the report’s authors and distinguished interview subjects, we see a disconnect between the external perceptions of the BBG and the actual measures and demonstrable impact of our networks."

Mendes said the report contains many well-known criticisms of the agency. But he said, "We see evidence of the effectiveness of our programs from our audiences around the world, from 2,500 on-the-ground media partners, and from professional research and other credible measurements of audience engagement."

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