A significant change in the way the government-funded Voice of America is run could empower the Trump administration to use the media outlet as it’s unofficial propaganda machine, Politico first reported.
The change–which abolished the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent federal agency that oversees VOA, Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia–was slipped into the 1,404th page of the National Defense Authorization Act mostly unnoticed last week. The bill already passed. It replaces the bipartisan Broadcasting Board of Governors with a single CEO appointed by the President and subject to Senate confirmation.
“Congress unwittingly just gave President-elect Trump unchecked control of all U.S. media outlets,” said Michael Kempner, a Democratic member of the board told Politico. “No president, either Democrat or Republican, should have that kind of control. It’s a public jewel. It’s independence is what makes it so credible.”
Voice of America based its legitimacy on the principle that it was run by a bipartisan board– essentially keeping it removed from the partisan political preferences of particular administrations. The organization’s mission was to report the news with “accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity,” Politico reported.
Now, Politico points out “Trump is finally getting his Trump TV – financed by taxpayers to the tune of $800 million per year.”
While Politico noted that it was unclear if the Trump administration is aware of the change, Trump’s past ventures in reality TV, beauty pageants and his general obsession with coverage is deeply troublesome for those who work at the network, which was created in the 1940s to act as a counter to German and Japanese propaganda.
“There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” one Republican official said, according to Politico. “They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.”
According to Politico, the change was pushed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) (pictured).
A spokesman for the committee said that this was not done for Trump.
“This isn’t about the president-elect. This is just the latest attempt to fight reforms that install basic standards of accountability at the BBG,” the spokesman Cory Fritz told Politico.
The bill is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.