Cory Fritz

Last week Secretary Kerry went to Hollywood.  But don’t get too excited – the State Department’s dream for a blockbuster about last year’s Iran talks doesn’t seem headed to production anytime soon.

Instead, Secretary Kerry hit Tinseltown looking for help to counter ISIS propaganda.  And while it’s true Hollywood can be a powerful voice, let’s be clear: we’re not losing the battle of ideas to ISIS and Vladimir Putin today because of a lack of A-list cameos or special effects.

In reality, the problem is much more basic.  And it all starts with a Washington agency – the Broadcasting Board of Governors – that has a $750 million annual budget and a mandate to oversee U.S. international broadcasting services including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

For years, the BBG, which is headed by nine part-time governors, has been widely condemned as “ineffectual,” “unprofessional,” “unproductive,” “useless and perhaps fatally broken.”  Millions of dollars have been squandered.  Mismanagement and incompetence is so deeply rooted within BBG that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the agency “practically defunct” in 2013 before warning, “we’re letting the Jihadist narrative fill a void.”

Today, despite repeated pledges from BBG that it can fix itself, little has changed:

  • Independent auditors continue to raise alarms about BBG management failings;
  • Instead of tackling the systemic problems with BBG, the Obama administration continues to tinker around the edges with new task forces and outreach campaigns – like Sec. Kerry’s trip to Hollywood, and;
  • The United States continues to lose the information war to radical Islamist terrorists and Vladimir Putin.

In fact, it took the BBG six months to produce a single 30-minute program in the Russian language following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.  This $2.5 million program, Current Time, was quickly taken off air in Latvia due to low viewership.  Meanwhile the VOA has stopped broadcasting to the Middle East in Arabic entirely.

Enough is enough.  America desperately needs a modern, dynamic international broadcasting agency to take on ISIS and Russia’s propaganda in real time, over the internet and on the airwaves with the accurate news and information.

That’s why Chairman Royce continues to lead the fight for legislation – The United States International Communications Reform Act (H.R. 2323) – to fix the BBG’s management crisis, clarify the mission of the VOA, and redirect dollars currently feeding the bureaucracy to actually boost funding for programming in the field.

A generation ago, we broadcast America’s values – including freedom and respect for human rights – to help win the Cold War.  Today, the United States must rely on this strategy again to counter Putin and help defeat ISIS and its online caliphate.  We cannot allow incompetence and Washington bureaucracy to hold us back any longer.