Rumors, Myths and Untruths
UNTRUTH USAGM programs are just propaganda
No. The mission of USAGM and its networks is to broadcast accurate, balanced, and comprehensive news and information to an international audience. The mission to promote freedom and democracy is achieved through journalistic integrity and through the dissemination of factual news and information to an audience that typically does not have access to a free press. USAGM broadcasters know that their effectiveness is based on their credibility and that their listeners are not interested in propaganda.
MYTH It is against the law to view USAGM content in the United States
United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) and the media organizations that it supports can now make their content available in broadcast quality upon request within the United States. This is due to a law that went into effect on July 2, 2013, amending the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, known as the Smith-Mundt Act. Amending Smith-Mundt for this purpose was part of the strategic plan adopted in 2011 by the governing board overseeing the then BBG. Program materials can be made available domestically, upon request, and whenever doing so is consistent with all statutory authorities, prohibitions, principles, and standards. Read more about the Smith-Mundt amendment here.
RUMOR The USAGM can focus its broadcasting on the United States
No. USAGM’s enabling statute, the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, authorizes the agency to create programs for foreign audiences. USAGM is not authorized to begin broadcasting or to create programming for audiences in the United States. We do not seek to change that. USAGM continues to focus on overseas audiences. Read more about the Smith-Mundt amendment here.
UNTRUTH USAGM has an unlimited budget
As a federal agency, USAGM’s budget request is part of the President’s Budget request to the Congress. Decisions about funding levels and allocations are part of a decision-making process that takes into account Administration and Congressional priorities, the strategic interests of the United States, the effectiveness of our broadcasts, and the strength of press freedoms in the countries to which we broadcast.
The most recent budget request is for $685 million.
MYTH U.S. global media is unnecessary when there are CNN and Sky Channel
U.S. global media continues to fill a critical void, especially in countries that lack a free press. Access to products like CNN International is far from universal and often limited to elite travelers in their hotel rooms. While USAGM broadcasts in 59 languages, CNN is largely limited to English speakers.
By reaching local populations in their own languages, as well as English, we can provide them with accurate and reliable news and provide an alternative to local media that may be prolific, but may also be government controlled and subject to censorship.
UNTRUTH USAGM entities such as VOA and RFE/RL often duplicate efforts by broadcasting in the same languages.
The difference in the networks’ roles lies in their programming emphases.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and Radio and TV Martí emphasize domestic news for their geographically-defined audiences. Covering developments specific to their target markets is their specialty, most notably in countries without a free press or in transition. At the same time, each one also covers regional and international issues and events (including those in the United States, as warranted) to ensure comprehensive news coverage.
The Voice of America emphasizes international and regional news and in-depth coverage of the United States. VOA also covers local events to ensure comprehensive news coverage, especially in areas where it operates solely such as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa, lone Arabic-language broadcasters in the Middle East except for Iraq, provide a full range of international, regional, and local news as well as consistent coverage of the U.S.
What is the firewall?
An essential guarantee of the journalistic credibility of U.S. global media content is the firewall enshrined in USAGM’s enabling legislation, the U.S. International Broadcasting Act.
The firewall prohibits interference by U.S. government officials, including the USAGM’s Chief Executive Officer, in the objective, independent reporting of news by USAGM networks (VOA, RFE/RL, RFA, MBN, and Radio and TV Martí), thereby safeguarding the ability of USAGM journalists to develop content that reflects the highest professional standards of journalism, free of political interference.
USAGM reforms contained in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 maintained the longstanding statutory firewall language protecting the professional independence of USAGM journalists.
The firewall is not meant to discourage USAGM journalists from interviewing government officials, or USG officials from appearing on USAGM programs. But the firewall is critical to ensure that USAGM journalists and editors can make the final decisions on what stories to cover, and how they are covered.