Feds Repeal ‘Domestic Propaganda’ Ban

With the updating of the Smith-Mundt Act, some are criticizing the repeal of rules that banned certain government-sponsored news broadcasts–such as Voice of America–from being aired inside the USA.

John Hudson of Foreign Policy, for instance, calls the move a “repeal” of the ban on government propaganda and says it will unleash “thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption.”

“Until this month,” Hudson says, “a vast ocean of U.S. programming produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks could only be viewed or listened to at broadcast quality in foreign countries.”

But with new amendments to the Smith-Mundt Act, those broadcast outlets will for the first time be allowed to broadcast inside the USA programming meant to appeal to specific communities.

Voice of America is valued by many for having brought news of the outside world to millions of news hungry Soviets during the Cold War and many Poles credit the American-sponsored radio broadcasts with helping to free Poland from the grip of the Soviet Union.

One community that these government-sponsored programs are targeting today is the Somali community. VOA and other government broadcast agencies want to be able to serve the immigrant community here in the USA as well as their compatriots in Somalia itself.

Hudson quotes an unnamed, former government official saying that Somalis are indeed an important audience of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). “Somalis have three options for news, word of mouth, al-Shabab, or VOA Somalia.” But once they get here immigrants lose touch with VOA.

“Those people can get al-Shabab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn’t get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VOA Somalia. It was silly,” Hudson’s source told him.

A writer for Buzzfeed initially blasted the amending of Smith-Mundt saying that now the Department of Defense would be able to begin propagandizing American citizens directly.

As it happens, though, Buzzfeeder Michael Hastings was not well enough informed about the amendments. Smith-Mundt only applies to the Department of State and the agencies created by the federal government to disseminate information abroad, not any and all agencies and departments of the federal government.

Still, not everyone is completely comfortable with the changes. Tim Cushing of TechDirt.com noted his discomfort saying, “The fact that the State Department is behind the effort doesn’t do much to allay fears that the BBG will become a tool of domestic propaganda.”

On the other hand, Cushing also points out that the progressive media is already a mouthpiece for the government all too often. Cushing ruefully says that the media “haven’t shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG’s efforts seem redundant.”

Despite the criticism, BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil says that their news product is independent, free of outright propaganda, and presents “fair and accurate news.”

“[The broadcasts] don’t shy away from stories that don’t shed the best light on the United States,” Weil said. “Our journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.”

Hudson seems to agree that the updated law has its advantages. “But now that its materials are allowed to be broadcast by local radio stations and TV networks, they won’t be a complete mystery to Americans,” he wrote.

“Previously, the legislation had the effect of clouding and hiding this stuff,” Hudson’s inside source told him. “Now we’ll have a better sense: Gee some of this stuff is really good. Or gee some of this stuff is really bad. At least we’ll know now.”

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  • Hank_M

    MSNBC isn’t going to like this.

  • Commander_Chico

    VOA and its sisters like Radio Sawa and Al Hurra is not as bad as CNN wrt warmongering.

    I say, let them all in, like you can get in other, freer, countries – VOA, BBC World, Russia Today, Al Jazeera, CCTV-9, DW, France 24, AXN, NWK, RAI, etc.

    There’s a big world out there, Americans are isolated.

  • Lawrence Westlake

    VOA can’t hold a candle propaganda-wise to the likes of NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, Time, Newsweek, CNN, MSNBC and the big city newsrags.

  • jim_m

    Not a problem. This just formalizes what we already have with the MSM.

  • LiberalNightmare

    Wonder what NPR Thinks about the new competition.

    • jim_m

      More like a new mission (well, not really new).

  • Commander_Chico

    OT, since Wizbang editors have not yet received their orders from Wingnut Central and the Kochs on what to write about the NSA:

    This is the roll call on the amendment to limit the NSA’s power to spy on Americans.

    The amendment was offered by a freedom loving Republican, Justin Amash, but more Republicans than Democrats voted against it.

    REPUBLICAN AYES 94 NOES 134 Not voting 6

    DEMOCRATIC AYES 111 NOES 83 Not voting 6

    You can see the names of the friends and the enemies of liberty and privacy, both R and D here:



    • Chico, if you’d just stop stealing the mail then the checks and the talking points would have gotten through.
      (Just when I get to thinking you use your brain for something more than a cushion to keep your ears from colliding, you come out with that Koch crap…)

      • Brucehenry

        Keep that thought in mind next time we get a Wizbangian treatise on the evil SOROS. Remember to scold whoever posts it.

        • Problem is – Soros DOES fund things like MediaMatters.

          “Six years after the Alliance endorsed MMfA, financier George Soros—a founding and continuing member of the Alliance—announced in 2010 that he was donating $1 million to MMfA. Soros said: “Despite repeated assertions to the contrary by various Fox News commentators, I have not to date been a funder of Media Matters.” Soros said concern over “recent evidence suggesting that the incendiary rhetoric of Fox News hosts may incite violence” had moved him to donate to MMfA, which thanked Soros for announcing his donation “quickly and transparently”

          That’s $1 mil directly. How much has been slipped under the table or through other means?

          This might give a clue…


          So I guess if it’s perfectly okay for him to donate to further his ideas regarding activism, then whatever the Koch brothers do must be just as acceptable, right?


          • jim_m

            It is never acceptable for a conservative to express their opinion in public or in any way provide funding to promote policies that they believe in.

          • Brucehenry

            Yes it’s fine. It’s also fine for others to point it out, as Chico has done above with the Kochs and you have done here with Soros.

            My point was your silence when someone points a finger at Soros and your rush to proclaim it ridiculous when someone points at the Kochs.

          • I speak on what I choose to speak on.

            If my choices offend you, that’s… well, just the way it is.

          • Brucehenry

            Sure, that’s fine, and if you choose to speak on the fact that Soros gives money to groups he likes, and choose to ignore or pooh-pooh the fact that the Kochs do the same, that’s up to you. I choose to point out the double standard, Isn’t it great how free speech works?

          • Yep. Glad we agree!

          • Retired military

            Remember when pointing that finger Bruce the thumb points back to you.
            Don’t talk about the splinter in someone’s eye when you have a timber in yours.
            I have made the same statement in reference to your posts as you just made in ref to JLawson’s

          • Retired military

            May I point out you do the same thing on issues when folks like Chico or SpongeBob or anyone of a dozen former liberal posters here said things about dozens of issues.
            In fact I even asked what you thought about was going through Obama’s mind one time and you would not answer stating you didn’t know what was going through his mind.

          • jim_m

            Bruce’s excuse is always that he does not need to criticize people on the left because we do such a good job of that. There is never ay need for Bruce to stand up and be counted.

          • jim_m

            The difference between the Kochs and Soros is that Soros, who already has practice helping send people to the death camps, is focused on supporting organizations that are interested in silencing dissent, the Kochs are trying to promote a message.

            There is a difference between promoting an idea and promoting silence.

            If there is any doubt what the left thinks of conservative ideas, just look here. Conservatives are identified as enemies of the state merely for their ideas. The left is already starting to criminalize political thought that conflicts with their own.

      • Commander_Chico

        There are some things here that stink of pay-for-play.

        For example, the California tobacco tax articles and the Pebble Mine articles. I read somewhere that the Kochs actually have an interest in Pebble Mine, but haven’t followed it up.

        Anyways, I didn’t want to talk about the Kochs, I wanted to talk about the NSA and provoke others to do so.

        • Retired military

          So you choose option A. THe oligaphy.

          Oh wait are the Koch’s jewish because if they are it could be C. The JOOS

          • Commander_Chico

            Guess nobody has the balls to discuss the NSA.

          • Or perhaps no one cares what you care about.

  • Constitution First

    Old news, the press has been smoking barry for six years now.

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