Info war-mongers: Usual suspects in cash call to fight ‘anti-US messaging’

Former US broadcasting officials, diplomats and politicians are calling for a complete overhaul of government-funded news operations, arguing that Washington’s rivals are winning the information war.

“US international communications strategy should be rebuilt from the ground up,” says a report previewed by Reuters on Wednesday. It was written by two former government broadcasters citing assessments from 30 foreign policy and diplomacy professionals.

Competitors with “anti-US messaging” are “fomenting an information war – and winning,” claims the study, co-written by former Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) governor and director of Radio Liberty S. Enders Wimbush and former Radio France Europe/Radio Liberty vice president Elizabeth Portale.

Under the present arrangement, with roots going back to the 1940s, the BBG is overseeing what Reuters described as a “hodgepodge” of federal entities such as Voice of America and non-profits funded by government grants, like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Wimbush and Portale argue that the BBG’s “political firewall” separating the media from US national security agencies is “overblown,” and that broadcasters are not always in tune with US foreign policy objectives as a result.

BBG’s 2016 budget proposal is asking for $751.1 million to “increase global engagement, move more aggressively into television and digital media, and support high priority audiences.” The agency is asking for $15.4 million to create and expand Russian-language programing and social media content. By comparison, its combined efforts against the Islamic State would amount to $6.1 million.

READ MORE: Head of US state media put RT on same challenge list as ISIS, Boko Haram

Facing what it says is “Russian aggression and Russian-language propaganda,” the BBG is asking for money to “provide credible journalism and information at scale in order to provide Russian language speakers with a fair and balanced picture of the world.”

Speaking with RT, William Jones of the weekly news magazine Executive Intelligence Review said there are other intentions behind the proposal.

“They are very frightened about the fact that their big lie about what is going on in Ukraine and elsewhere, and the situation in Russia generally, people just aren’t swallowing it. So they have to spend a lot of funds in order to try and get the message out,” Jones said. “They are not interested in truth. If they were interested in the truth, they wouldn’t be doing the things they are doing.”

Earlier this month, new BBG CEO Andrew Lack resigned after just six weeks on the job. Shortly after his appointment in January, he equated RT with terrorists when referring to challenges to US media.

“We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram,” Lack told The New York Times.

“Our nation is getting beat by Putin propaganda and our international broadcasting is floundering. It's unacceptable,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican, said after Lack’s resignation.

Last year, Royce proposed a bill that would unify all US government broadcasters into the US International Communications Agency, while regional grant recipients such as RFE/RL would be consolidated into a 'Freedom News Network.' Passed by the House, the bill has yet to appear before the Senate.

However, the “general consensus” of experts polled in the Wimbush-Portale report is that “no reform would likely go far enough” to fix the challenges facing US international broadcasting.