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."



Eliot Engel, a co-sponsor and the leading Democratic Party member on the committee, stressed the importance that the broadcasting agencies retain their reputation for accurate, unbiased reporting.



"Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this bill maintains the requirement that U.S.-funded programming serve as objective sources of news and information, and not simply as a mouthpiece for U.S. foreign policy. It's absolutely critical that the news be accurate and seen as credible by the foreign audiences we're trying to reach."



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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs