The United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Board of Governors met yesterday in Washington, D.C. to review current operations and to discuss the ongoing efforts by USAGM’s five networks to provide audiences in closed societies, or where free media is not yet fully established, with consistently accurate, objective, professional, and independent news and information.
In attendance for the first time was Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Michelle Giuda, who recently was delegated the authorities of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and will represent U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the USAGM’s Board of Governors.
USAGM Chief Executive Officer and Director John F. Lansing presented to the Board a wide array of new programs and special projects that foster debate, exemplify democratic principles, and support free media. An example included the extensive coverage of the growing political and economic crisis in Venezuela which was cited by network leaders as a topic of keen interest in each of their broadcast regions.
Daisy Sindelar, Acting President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, presented a report on the network’s recently reopened Bulgarian-language service and its efforts to reach Russian audiences outside of the Moscow metropolitan area.
Director of Voice of America Amanda Bennett showed highlights from a new half-hour English TV program called Our Voices focusing on African women throughout the continent and around the world that has proved to be enormously popular. In just a few weeks, more than 30 VOA affiliates in Africa have picked it up, making it one of the fastest growing programs in recent memory.
Radio Free Asia President Libby Liu spoke of a special project aimed at revealing the truth about cracks in China’s economy to Chinese audiences. Official state media, Liu explained, is failing to report on the nation’s recent negative economic indicators, leaving people frustrated and insecure. RFA’s Gray Rhino series is providing audiences a clear, fact-based look at what is actually happening within the Chinese economy and an accurate explanation of what people are seeing in their daily lives.
CEO Lansing also briefed the Board on the completion of a comprehensive human resources investigation at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting after an anti-Semitic report on George Soros that aired in May 2018. In addition to directing a disciplinary review process and several terminations, CEO Lansing has organized a review of all OCB content going back several months to strengthen its programming and address any patterns of sub-standard journalism.
Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein and other governors thanked USAGM and network staff for their sacrifices and dedication while working through the recent government shutdown. “This is an unbelievably turbulent time in world affairs and at a time like this, this agency is needed more than ever,” Chairman Weinstein said. “I want to especially recognize the hard work people put in during the government shutdown, when people had to make immense personal sacrifices. On behalf of the Board, I want to salute all of you for your hard work and dedication.”