'Anti-Propaganda' Ban Repealed, Freeing State Dept. To Direct Its Broadcasting Arm At American Citizens

from the 'our-top-pre-approved-story-tonight...' dept

The US government has a bit of a PR problem at the moment, thanks to Ed Snowden's leaks and a decade-plus of general antipathy towards its constituents' rights and liberties growing out of its War on Terror.

Fortunately, the government now has a chance to aim its official version of today's news at US citizens, thanks to the repeal of a so-called "anti-propaganda" law earlier this month.

For decades, a so-called anti-propaganda law prevented the U.S. government's mammoth broadcasting arm from delivering programming to American audiences. But on July 2, that came silently to an end with the implementation of a new reform passed in January. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption in a reform initially criticized as a green light for U.S. domestic propaganda efforts.
The Broadcast Board of Governors, which produces programming like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, has been prevented from aiming its programming at Americans since the 1970's when the Smith-Mundt Act (which authorized the State Dept. to communicate with foreign audiences via many methods, radio being one of them) was amended to prohibit domestic dissemination of the BBG's broadcasts. This was done to distance the State Department's efforts from the internal propaganda machine operated by the Soviet Union.

Now, the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 (part of the National Defense Authorization Act) has repealed the domestic prohibition, allowing the government's broadcasting to be directed at/created for Americans for the first time in over 40 years.

BBG spokesperson Lynne Weil says these efforts aren't simply pro-government hype machines.
"They don't shy away from stories that don't shed the best light on the United States," she told The Cable. She pointed to the charters of VOA and RFE: "Our journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible, discussion, and open debate."

A former U.S. government source with knowledge of the BBG says the organization is no Pravda, but it does advance U.S. interests in more subtle ways. In Somalia, for instance, VOA serves as counterprogramming to outlets peddling anti-American or jihadist sentiment. "Somalis have three options for news," the source said, "word of mouth, Al-Shabaab or VOA Somalia."
As Weil points out, this will bring a new level of transparency to the BBG as communicating to Americans is no longer prohibited. If nothing else, transcripts of BBG programming will be easier for Americans to get ahold of. A court ruled in 1998 that the limitations of the Smith-Mundt Act exempted the Voice of America from releasing transcripts in response to FOIA requests.

Another possible plus is the fact that the BBG will provide a free, "local" news source for immigrant populations.
The agency wants to reach diaspora communities, such as St. Paul Minnesota's significant Somali expat community. "Those people can get Al-Shabaab, they can get Russia Today, but they couldn't get access to their taxpayer-funded news sources like VOA Somalia," the source said.
These positives aside, the thought of a state-run news agency being allowed to direct its efforts at Americans is still uncomfortable. Despite claims of independence, it's hard to believe the source is 100% trustworthy when its stated purpose is to run flack for the State Department in foreign nations. (Of course, the mainstream media outlets haven't shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG's efforts seem redundant.)

While the BBG may provide a less-biased source of news for many foreigners (or at least provide a different bias), the purpose of its broadcasts to its new American audience is less clear. The fact that the State Department is behind the effort doesn't do much to allay fears that the BBG will become a tool of domestic propaganda. The State Department's reaction to the leak of diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks was to block its employees' access to the site (or any site containing the word "Wikileaks") and demand the digital documents be "returned." How will a state-run press react to developments like these? Will it be forced to play by the department's rules, no matter how illogical, or will it be able to deal with them in a more forthright manner?

In a time where the administration seems to be forced to play defense with increasing frequency, it's hard to believe it won't be willing to exploit this addition to its PR arsenal.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: domestic propaganda, propaganda, state department, us government, voice of america

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:19pm

    >Implying that they ever stopped to begin with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    theDude, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:23pm

    meet the new boss

    it's hard to believe the source is 100% trustworthy when its stated purpose is to [sell tampons and dish detergent]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FM Hilton, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:37pm

    What does this remind you of?

    Is this going to be the real competitor for Fox News?

    "The official government line..today."

    As reported by Fox & Friends.

    Oh, hell-just merge the two and have done with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:43pm

    It doesn't really matter at this point. If these cable news stations were state-run, it would be exactly the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:53pm


      Agree... They are state run.

      They go to the same parties. They are in the same golf clubs. They have the same donors/advertisers. They take the government stance on every issue. The media serve the government.

      Even fox news is pro Obama when it's the establishment under scrutiny. Obama's people illegally spy on everyone. Fox News doesn't complain at all. But Benghazi, now there is a real fake scandal to push.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 1:58pm

    By the definition of propaganda, I'm not sure how the US Navy's slogan "A global force - for good" does not already qualify.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TheNinth, 12 Mar 2015 @ 6:13am

      Navy Slogan, "A global force for good"..

      I like the one being bandied about re: the IDF:

      The IDF--World's Most Moral Murderers™ * or, without the pejorative,

      The IDF--World's Most Moral Military™ Tagline: We only kill those who, in our humble opinion, need to die.

      * Reminiscent of Lewis Carrol /Charles Dodgson's poem, The Walrus & the Carpenter:
      "I weep for you," the Walrus said:
      "I deeply sympathize."
      With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
      Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.

      "O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
      "You've had a pleasant run!
      Shall we be trotting home again?'
      But answer came there none--
      And this was scarcely odd, because
      They'd eaten every one.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2013 @ 2:12pm

    "Of course, the mainstream media outlets haven't shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG's efforts seem redundant."

    My thought exactly. Mainstream media already is a 'Propaganda Tool' for the US Government. I always had my suspicions this was the case, but the Snowden saga all but confirmed it.

    Shortly after the NSA leaks, every 'mainstream' news organization in the US was covering the NSA story, in an unscripted fashion.

    About 1 week after the story broke, it's like all the 'mainstream' news agencies got government memos and I slowly saw coverage about the NSA spying trickle off. Now most of the coverage is about "Bringing Snowden to justice".

    I even watched one NBC news host make the statement, "And the hunt for Edward Snowden continues". One of the correspondent reporters on live link then said, "It's not much of a hunt, we know exactly where Snowden is at. The Transit Area in Russia's International airport."

    So there you have it, the 'mainstream' propaganda machine hard at work labeling Snowden as a 'hunted fugitive', except it's not much of hunt when you know his exact location...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      The Real Michael, 16 Jul 2013 @ 6:07am


      Exactly. I noticed this too, as did people on forums who are really vocal about the media doing everything they can to distract from Snowden's message.

      The mainstream media has been state-run for several years, much like Iran's, China's and so forth, so this 'anti-propaganda' ban, if true, comes as no surprise. Most people don't even bother with MSM outlets anymore because their sole purpose is to distract, propagate lies and create division among us, even attempting to start a race riot (Zimmerman trial). They fuel hate and sow discord.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ed Allen, 15 Jul 2013 @ 2:14pm

    Licensed Journalists only

    The next step is making the leakers' channels illegitimate and then, if that does not shut down enough of them, criminalize dispensing any but official "news".

    It is going to get _REALLY_UGLY_ before this is over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    No One, 15 Jul 2013 @ 3:56pm


    This law is one of those asinine holdovers from the forties.

    Take this for example; Back in the sixties, Gregory Peck did an excellent documentary on JFK, called 'Years of Lightning, Day of Drums'. But because the movie was funded by the US Information Agency, you can't legally view it in the US. (Except in person, at the Kennedy Center, and it took an act of Congress to even allow that!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Internet Zen Master (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 4:32pm

    Oh great.

    Soon the US will have its own version of China Daily.

    Now will have FOUR news organizations to classify:

    MSNBC: Left-Leaning (or as they like to call it, "Forward").
    FOX: Right-Leaning (Or "Fair and Balanced")
    CNN: Incompetent
    BBG: Bullshit

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Akari Mizunashi (profile), 15 Jul 2013 @ 7:16pm

    "My fellow Americans. This is President Eden..."

    If you've played Fallout 3, you'll know what comes next.

    Anti-propaganda also meant anti-brainwashing.

    Now, we'll get to see our "government" broadcast "propaganda" and if "Little Miss Honey BooBoo" has taught me anything, it's that people will believe what they hear.

    Goodbye, America. Our Founding Fathers wouldn't be proud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Gray Adder, 16 Jul 2013 @ 5:44am

    You gotta wonder...

    ...why this somehow got passed when practically everything else kicking around Congress sits in limbo. Could it be that the Republicans intend to use this after the dark day when they regain the White House? Sure, they have Fox News, but they only have partial control over News Corp.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonimus, 17 Jul 2013 @ 5:06am

    Why is this comment not from the giving themselves more rope to hang themselves with department? The Government will abuse this and get themselves into more hot water before this round of we are trying to give you security stop complaining about your rights is done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Larry A. Singleton, 17 Jul 2013 @ 11:47am


    What's the difference. The country is in decline. The idiots don't read. They don't squawk when their rights are taken away. Today we have "press one for english" tomorrow it's going to be mandatory to allow the Muslim Brotherhood into grade schools to teach your children how wonderful Islam is. Oh, that's right. They're already doing that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymus, 18 Jul 2013 @ 3:52pm

      Re: Sheeple

      The entire Muslim thing is created and controlled by the CIA....the al-Queda was created by the CIA and the lower echelon Muslims copped to it because they thought it was the politically correct thing to do...

      I personally don't particularly care for the Koran (or the Bible for that matter) but I do not believe that the Muslim people in power could possibly be stupid enough to cut US citizens heads off on tape in order to gain world sympathy...it doesn't take much to realize that the only outfit that type of manipulation could serve would be the US War Machine...

      The Shah of Iran might have been replaced as the puppet , but if you think that the CIA really lost it's control over any of their puppet regimes , your only kidding yourself...

      The Shah , The Marcos, Noriega , Saddam and all the rest . ..they set'em up , use them , just to shoot them down and all to create the illusion of 'foreign delinquents' that require more US dollars to protect us from them...

      The US War Machine is the World Mob who will force you to buy into their protection and if you think the people who have been controlling the world for the past centuries are stupid , you are mistaken as they have run their war games to the end game in every possible scenario...including US Civil War...

      Where are the trillions that were announced as missing from the US military budget announced the day before the WTC ???...what a convenient time to make that announcement that essentially fell through the cracks of propaganda , so blow the WTC (and building 7)up and the sheeple gladly gave them trillions more...

      The US military is asking / requesting that soldiers not hesitate to shoot unarmed civilians as a requisite for proper patriotic duty to the 'commander-in-chief ' of the US Forces i.e. the US president...
      The hope for good is that the military code also includes that soldiers have a duty to disobey what they now to be illegal orders...but they are being told that the president cannot give an illegal ordser , because he is the commander in chief...

      The young testosterone filled 18 and 19 year olds want any excuse to shoot people (hard core reality) , so talk to your friends and family in the military and try and instill in them to support the US Constitution and any order that contradicts the US Constitution is an illegal order.

      Where is the 800 million unaccounted for Katrina aid ?
      They use HAARP to create disasters and then steal the aid money...

      Why aren't charges being brought against the NSA and the president for treasonous acts against the People of the USA...as soon as Bush and Obama signed those executive orders placing them above Congress and the Supreme Court/ US Constitution system of checks and balances they should have been handcuffed on Live Media , placed in Prison and tried for Treason and failure to uphold the US Constitution which they swore to uphold...

      The Entire System is corrupt from top to bottom and every single incumbent needs to go...corruption may be part of our nature , but maybe we can stymie it by periodically replacing every incumbent...

      The rhetoric is most likely a futile waste of time until they reassess the next right move to total world fascism...

      The 2nd Amendment MAD is going to have to be implemented, like it or not...better to starve the power crazed scum , and hope that those of us who survive will be able to use the US Constitution to re-create a new start....it is a very scary scenario although there doesn't seem to be any real workable alternative and it's just a case of putting off the inevitable...the longer the people delay , the more time the fascists have to tighten their game plan...

      Learn how to live in the high mountains of the world as they provide the highest degree of natural protection against any of their technological weapons...they could never get the afghani rebels out , but the afghani's were born into a life of resistance fighters...
      US citizens are fat / lazy and it will take alot of work to make serious soldiers out of us on the hardcore level...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2020 @ 8:58am

      Re: Sheeple

      already happening with CHINA doing the most of it. COMMUNISM 101 happening in k-12 college and private universities.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    They already have the I.P., 29 Sep 2013 @ 11:17pm

    Main Stream Media

    Well what did you expect to happen when we allow huge corporations to buy up all the media outlets? There where100 or so (the site says 50 but i have seen bigger examples) differently owned media influences in this country not to long ago. There is now 6...
    Disney, General Electric, Newscorp, Viacom, Time-Warner, and CBS. They own 90% of everything you are exposed to.
    Pretty good illustration:
    http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-americ a-2012-6
    The government is owned by the biggest contributors I have seen videos of the politicians outright asking for their bribes, it disgusting.

    Who is "too big to fail"? Who got all the money from the bailouts with specific insertion into the legislation to allow themselves to delegate and distribute the bailout money as they see fit? The Banksters. They sell our country out to the highest bidder and prance these politicians around on a stage telling us sweet lies and give us the illusion of "choice".
    The popular vote doesn't even matter, that is what the electoral colleges are for. Our president is chosen in, not voted in.
    our congress needs term limits.. why do you think they have them for the president? They need to loose the ability to exempt themselves from anything they pass on the people.. (isn't there a constitution or something that says they can't?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bgmcb (profile), 17 Dec 2013 @ 10:36pm

    propaganda ban?

    When they lifted the propaganda ban I did not know they got an exemption for the sponsored content banner at the same time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2015 @ 7:55pm

    Few months later pro-American Nazi revolution started in Ukraine. Coincidence theory...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Patrick Thompson, 30 May 2016 @ 8:38pm

    more uncomfortable than fox fascist propaganda network?

    more uncomfortable than fox fascist propaganda network, lying to dimwitted conservatives on a daily basis?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fdsf, 10 Jun 2016 @ 6:58pm

    What have they been doing lately?

    So what have they been doing all these years? does anyone know?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Franklin E. Tompkins, 9 Jul 2016 @ 7:41am

    Operation Mongoose

    Google "Operation Mongoose."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    drifter (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 11:10am

    media ownership

    Who Runs the Media?

    Viacom - Sumner Redstone, Chairman Emeritus, former CEO is Jewish
    Viacom - Philippe Dauman, President, CEO and Chairman is Jewish 
    Viacom - Shari Redstone, Vice-chairwoman isJewish
    Viacom - Owns BET, Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1, Logo TV, Comedy Central, Palladia, Spike, and Epix
    News Corp - Rupert Murdoch Exec Co-Chairman former CEO is a Zionist (some say he’s Jewish).
    News Corp - Owns The Times, The Sun, Dow Jones & Company, The Wall Street Journal
    News Corp - Owns HarperCollins, Fox Entertainment Group (owners of the 20th Century Fox film studio and the Fox Broadcasting Company)
    21st Century Fox - Rupert Murdoch Exec Co-Chairman former CEO
    Fox News - Rupert Murdoch
    Fox Entertainment Group - Rupert Murdoch
    News Corp - Rupert Murdoch Exec Chairman
    Walt Disney - Robert Iger President and CEO isJewish
    Walt Disney Motion Picture Group - Orin Aviv Pres of production is Jewish
    Comcast - Julian Brodsky Co-Fonder is Jewish
    Comcast - Ralph Roberts Co-Fonder is Jewish
    Comcast - Brian L. Roberts CEO and Chairmane isJewish
    Comcast - David L. Cohen Exec VP is Jewish
    Comcast - Stephen B. Burke Exec VP is Jewish
    CNN Worldwide - Jeff Zucker, President is Jewish
    CNBC - Mark Hoffman CEO and President isJewish
    NBC - Stephen B. Burke CEO is Jewish
    NBC - Robert Greenblatt Chairman is Jewish
    NBC - Jeff Gaspin Former Chairman is Jewish
    CNN Worldwide - Jeff Zucker, President is Jewish
    CBS - Leslie Moonves, President is Jewish
    CBS - Shari Redstone Vice-chairwoman is Jewish
    CBS - Sumner Redstone Chairman Emeritus
    CBS - Sumner Redstone, former owner is Jewish
    Vox - Ezra Klein, Editor-in-Cheif is Jewish
    Screw - Al Goldstein, Publisher and Pornographer is Jewish
    Variety - Steve Gaydos, Executive Editor is Jewish
    Variety - Peter Bart, Co-Editor-in-Chief is Jewish
    Chicago Tribune - Sam Zell, Owner is Jewish
    Los Angeles Times - Sam Zell, Owner is Jewish
    The New York Times- Ochs-Sulzberger family, majority shareholders are Jews
    The Washington Post - Donald E. Graham, CEO and Chaiman is Jewish
    Daily News - Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman, Owner is Jewish
    The New York Post - Rupert Murdoch, Owner isJewish
    Wall Street Journal - Rupert Murdoch, Owner isJewish
    U.S. News and World Report - Mortimer Benjamin Zuckerman, Owner is Jewish
    DreamWorks - Stacy Snider, Co-chairman and CEO is Jewish
    DreamWorks - David Geffen, Co-chairman isJewish
    BBC Television - Danny Cohen, Director is Jewish
    MGM - Harry Sloan, Chairman and CEO is Jewish
    CW - Dawn Ostroff, President of Entertainment isJewish
    Warner Brothers - Barry M. Meyer, Chairman and CEO is Jewish
    Warner Brothers - Alan F. Horn, President and COO is Jewish
    Warner Brothers - Jeff Robinov, President of Productionis Jewish
    Warner Brothers - Martin Shafer, Chairman and CEO of
    Castle Rock Entertainment is Jewish
    Warner Brothers - Bruce Rosenblum, President of Television Group is Jewish
    Warner Brothers - Peter Rot, President of Television Production is Jewish
    Warner Independent Pictures - Polly Cohen President is Jewish
    Fox Filmed Entertainment - Thomas Rothman, Chairman and CEO is Jewish
    Sony Picture - Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO is Jewish
    Regency Pictures - Arnon Milchan, Chairman isJewish
    USA Network - Toby Graff, Senior VP of Public Affairs is Jewish
    Showtime - Matthew C. Blank, Chairman and CEO is Jewish
    Showtime - Robert Greenblatt, President isJewish
    Universal Studios - Jeff Shells Chairman isJewish
    Universal Studios - Rowan Conn, CFO is Jewish
    Universal Studios - Adam Fogelson, Chairman isJewish
    Paramount Pictures - Brad Grey, CEO and Chairman is Jewish
    Paramount Pictures - Jesse L. Lasky, co-founder, a Jew
    Paramount Pictures - Adolph Zukor, co-founder, a Jew
    Paramount Vantage - John Lesher, Co-president is Jewish
    Paramount Vantage - Nick Meyer, Co-president isJewish
    RCA - Owns NBC - David Sarnoff Founder isJewish
    Tribune Company - Eddy W. Hartenstein, President and CEO is Jewish
    And the list goes on and on and on…

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jade Johnson, 13 Oct 2019 @ 1:14pm

    No Coincidence

    Those who are paying close attention will remember how corrupt Eric Holder had said that "we need to really BRAINWASH people into thinking differently about guns" & needed to be more than just a catchy ad on Mondays & this was set in motion via the green light of propaganda in the form of media's heavy promotion of one "mass shooting" after another, each one surpasses the previous as the "worst in history". Bear in mind that people have legally owned guns for centuries, murder has been around & illegal as well yet once this act was repealed, it started with Sandy Hoax & has run non-stop ever since. The problem is, these fake events do not inspire people to believe that the non-criminals should be unarmed, instead it suggests that we should all cherish & embrace our 2nd amendment to protect ourselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    m, 15 Apr 2020 @ 8:54am

    who of you /us /we decides what is truth what is propaganda what is outright lies

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Covid-19 Nuremberg Trials Death penalty, 1 Aug 2021 @ 8:49pm

    QUI QUI QUI ???

    Who Runs the Media?
    Who Runs the Propaganda Machine?
    Who Runs the vaXX pusher LIES 24/7 ???

    QUI QUI QUI ???

    Covid-19 Nuremberg Trials incoming
    Death penalty for
    ALL the GUILTY
    collaborators included

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.