Lawmakers in Washington held an oversight hearing Thursday examining the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency of Voice of America and other U.S.-funded media networks.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, issued a subpoena for Michael Pack, the USAGM CEO, to appear and answer lawmakers’ questions. Pack indicated he has a scheduling conflict and cannot attend.
Besides Pack, other invited speakers included former executives who resigned or who were fired soon after Pack took charge of the agency in June. These executives included former VOA Director Amanda Bennett; Jamie Fly, former Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty president; and Karen Kornbluh, chair of the board of directors of the Open Technology Fund.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns over the firings of the agency’s top media organization leaders, the agency’s denial of visa extensions for its foreign journalists, and other issues that critics say are eroding the editorial independence of the U.S.-funded news networks that broadcast to foreign audiences.
Pack, a former independent film and television producer, and head of a conservative foundation, has defended his actions in interviews and in communications with USAGM staff, saying he wants to protect the agency’s editorial independence and make it more effective in achieving its mission.
Pack has also said that government audits revealed serious, years-long security problems that were left unaddressed by the agency’s previous leaders.