Thursday, June 25, 2020

USAGM CEO Michael Pack moves to restore VOA Editorials to former prominence

June 24, 2020                                                                                               

WASHINGTON - Just one week after starting in his public service role, U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) CEO Michael Pack has begun to restore VOA Editorials to its former prominence.

The mission of the USAGM Office of Policy (POL) is to produce - as stated in the International Broadcasting Act - "editorials, broadcast by the Voice of America, which present the views of the United States Government." The Voice of America (VOA) Charter itself declares that VOA will not only "present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively," but also "present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions."

"It is imperative that VOA Editorials once again be fully employed by VOA," said CEO Pack. "These editorials do not just communicate the policies of the U.S. government, further they express the foundational American principles and values in which those policies are grounded. Editorials, by their very nature, are meant to express the views of their house institution. In this case, the house institution is the U.S. government, of which VOA - a federal public service media organization - is a part. As such, it has been invested with both the trust and the funding of the American people."

Distinct from news and features programming, editorials are the only place in all of U.S. international broadcasting where administration policy, set by the president, is communicated directly in the name of the U.S. government to audiences abroad in various languages. This video explains the role of VOA Editorials.

POL currently works closely with the U.S. Department of State to clear editorials, interview officials for original content for editorials, and jointly release social media campaigns. Unfortunately, various bureaucratic additions to the standing Memorandum of Understanding and Standard Operating Procedure for editorial clearance have rendered the clearance process unwieldy and excessively slow. It recently took, for example, an entire month to propose, approve, and clear a time-sensitive editorial on sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Further diminishing the influence of editorials, their usage in broadcasting by VOA - though required by law - is unknown because it has not been tracked for years by
either USAGM or VOA. The limited data available suggest that usage is spotty at best and nowhere near what is needed for VOA to be in compliance. This is a direct result of decisions imposed on POL by previous USAGM and VOA management.

To support POL, guarantee that the views of the U.S. government are presented, and ensure that VOA meets its legal obligations, CEO Pack directed the following actions:
A streamlined clearance process for editorials will be established;
VOA Editorials will be featured at the top of VOA's home page (rather than be housed on a separate website, as it is now) as well as appear in Google searches alongside news content;
All VOA language services will resume usage of editorials, especially editorials of interest to their audiences and those that deal with U.S. policy in the region to which they broadcast, and;
VOA will track and report editorial usage to POL, and it will encourage language services to engage directly with POL on suggested topics of interest to their audiences.
These bold actions are pursuant to Pack's promise to rebuild the USAGM's reputation, boost employee morale, and improve content.

"For decades, stretching back to the Cold War," Pack added, "VOA Editorials successfully served our country's national interest by spreading the ideal of freedom of expression and other human rights to millions of individuals in closed regimes. VOA Editorials will now be empowered to resume its critical work in order to assist the broader effort to confront the disinformation and censorship campaigns of America's adversaries."

"The USAGM Office of Policy," said Charles Goolsby, longtime Director of POL, "looks forward to working with the new CEO and VOA Director to restore proper usage of editorials on all platforms so that the administration's foreign policy can be adequately presented and explained to the audiences of the dozens of language services of Voice of America."
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