The US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) "hailed" the passage of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act in a press release last Thursday. The NDAA, signed into law by President Barack Obama last week, allows the government to broadcast propaganda within the United States of America.
The BBG said that it gives them the ability to broadcast their news and information programs to more than 100 countries and the United States. The NDAA provision was originally known as the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act when it was introduced to Congress in 2010.
This NDAA provision changed the US Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 — known as the Smith-Mundt Act. The 1948 law set the terms for government propaganda overseas and forbade its broadcast in the United States.
Government propaganda used on U.S. citizens, though outlawed since 1948, was used as recently as last decade. In 2005, news organizations discovered that the Bush administration was paying journalists to promote its policies. The Dep. of Education produced a video for news organizations to pass off as their own and they paid a journalist to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. They used tax payer dollars in both instances. According to Bloomberg, the department told the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that it wasn't propaganda because it was factual.
Bloomberg quoted the GAO as saying, "When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual. The essential fact of attribution is missing."
In a letter written to the Dept. of Education, the GAO said that the inspector general said as long as "information conveyed in the articles consisted of information and not advocacy of a particular point of view, disclosure of the department’s involvement in the writing of the articles was not necessary." The office then allowed the department to investigate itself on the matter.
According to that letter, it's plausible that at least some of the news and information received today, comes directly from the government via what the public considers legitimate news sources.
The BBG, whose board members include notable people such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe, says its mission is to "inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy."
BBG said that the authors of the 1948 bill, Sen. H. Alexander Smith, R-NJ, and Rep. Karl Mundt, R-SD, "could not have anticipated the advent of the World Wide Web or dramatic shifts in the population of the United States, including large communities of people from other countries seeking information via a variety of media in their native languages."
"The new law is a major breakthrough for U.S. international media," said Susan McCue, a member of the BBG Board’s Communications and Outreach Committee. "All Americans will now have access to the vital and informative reporting of our accomplished journalists around the world who are working under difficult circumstances in closed societies and developing countries. The news and programs they produce every day will benefit many US audiences, including diaspora communities."
The release said that "the new law allows this process to continue without regard to whether these programs might also be watched or heard by people within the United States, and expands the options for these programs’ distribution." It said that it does not allow them to create new programs aimed solely at U.S. audiences.
The Institute for Economics and Peace's Vice President, Michael Shank, told BuzzFeed: "Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences. That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators – who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer–funded propaganda promulgated by the US government – is disconcerting and dangerous."
Regarding several controversial provisions in the act, Obama said: "Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all. Our Constitution does not afford the President the opportunity to approve or reject statutory sections one by one. I am empowered either to sign the bill, or reject it, as a whole. In this case, though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore."
According to BuzzFeed, the Pentagon spends $4 billion each year to influence public opinion.