World News

US Lawmakers Mulling International Broadcasting Changes

A group of U.S. lawmakers is seeking to overhaul the country's international news and programming broadcasts, saying they should be consistent with and supportive of the country's foreign policy objectives.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, says the body that oversees U.S. foreign broadcasting operations, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is "badly broken" and should be replaced.

Voice of America is overseen by the BBG. If the new legislation passes, it would be governed by a new supervisory body, to be called the U.S. International Communications Agency.

Royce said Wednesday the reorganization is necessary to bolster U.S. broadcasting in the face of growing competition from Russian, Chinese and other foreign international broadcasters.



"Unlike decades past, today's media landscape is highly competitive. Other countries are sprinting forward. We're still standing still."



VOA Director David Ensor said the organization does not comment on pending legislation. "VOA continues to carry out its important mission providing reliable, accurate and comprehensive news. It currently reaches an estimated 164 million people around the world each week."

Royce and the Democratic and Republican lawmakers co-sponsoring the legislation are seeking to consolidate some half-dozen U.S. international broadcasting agencies into just two. Their legislation says VOA should focus on coverage of the United States and international developments that affect the U.S.

The bill said VOA should air newscasts that promote and are consistent with "the broad foreign policies of the United States."

Currently, VOA operates under a 1976 charter that requires that it serve as a "consistently reliable and authoritative source of news" that is "accurate, objective and comprehensive." The charter also requires that VOA present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.



The measure also says U.S.-funded broadcasting overseas should not duplicate the activities of American commercial broadcasters.

The legislation calls for the existing BBG governors to complete their terms as governors of the new International Communications Agency. However, a new chief executive would be appointed to oversee the agency's day-to-day operations.

The three U.S. broadcasting arms that target specific regions of the world -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network -- would be merged into a new "Freedom News Network." The network would focus on providing uncensored local and regional news and analysis to countries where free media do not exist.

The bill would leave VOA as "the flagship brand" of the new agency, offering "accurate, objective and comprehensive" news of the United States, its policies, its people and international developments of interest to the U.S. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which operates Radio and TV Marti, would continue its current activities "within" VOA.

The Foreign Affairs Committee started consideration of the reforms Wednesday, but the overall fate of the legislation is uncertain. Even if it is passed in the House of Representatives, it would have to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama.

Over the years, numerous U.S. officials have sought to reorganize the government's international broadcasting operations, often debating whether the United States should provide an independent source of news to countries without a free press or be more an arm of U.S. diplomatic efforts.

One critic was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is considering whether to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. Before she left office in early 2013, she described the Broadcasting Board of Governors as "practically defunct in terms of its capacity to tell a message around the world."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs