As fiscal conservatives continue to seek avenues through which to derail the federal gravy train, it helps from time to time to take a look at the mind-numbingly long list of federal departments and agencies that are on board. Of course, this list is hardly exhaustive – just one that is publicly available – but it can certainly give us some concrete ideas on how and where to cut the spending.
About: “On October 1, 1999, the Broadcasting Board Governors (BBG) became the independent federal agency responsible for all U.S. government and government sponsored, non military, international broadcasting. This was the result of the 1998 Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act (Public Law 105-277), the single most important legislation affecting U.S. international broadcasting since the early 1950s.”
FY 2010 Budget: $745.5 million (Source)
The Broadcasting Board of Governors might be more aptly named the American Bureau of Propaganda. The stated mission of the BBG is to “promote and sustain freedom and democracy by broadcasting accurate and objective news and information about the United States and the world to audiences overseas.” Wait – how can you be objective and also aim to “promote and sustain freedom and democracy?” In addition, the BBG contains various subsidiaries designed to “reach key audiences in strategically important countries.” Remember, though – just because they have “key audiences” that they would like to reach and influence, does not mean that they are not objective.
While the aforementioned Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act created the BBG, this type of foreign propaganda broadcasting has been going on for quite some time. Previously, in the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (now codified as Title 22, Chapter 71 of the U.S. Code), federal government radio broadcasting was established in Asia and Europe. While Radio Free Asia had a sunset clause, this clause has become about as meaningful as the Patriot Act’s sunset clause: the date of the sunset is continually pushed back, most recently in October of 2009 in a measured signed by President Obama. The Act was also amended in 2002 to immediately establish U.S. government radio in Afghanistan.
In this Act, the Congress declared that “it is the policy of the United States to promote the right of freedom of opinion and expression” in the rest of the world. Not only is our federal government imperialistic when it comes to our ever-expanding military presence, but also when it comes to using taxpayer dollars to influence the citizens of foreign countries, some of which we have invaded.
While the BBG’s aim in the Muslim world is to combat what they refer to as “hate speech” in the media of the Middle East, they blissfully ignore the fact that our troops are still on the ground and our installed regimes are still in place. The BBG can portray America as a bastion of free enterprise, religious tolerance, and social justice all they want; it does nothing to erase the images of troops parading around right outside their window. Furthermore, those of us here at home know all too well that America is not the “shining city on a hill” that we are so eager to present to the world.
While spinning our PR image to the rest of the world might seem like a good idea, we would do well to realize that no spinning would be necessary were it not for our foreign interventions. The Constitution grants no authority to handle international relations in such a way, except under the broad interpretation that every radio host on every U.S. government station is a foreign Ambassador. We can save not only the $745.5 million budget of the BGG, but also create additional revenue by selling off the infrastructure needed to broadcast. Of course, we should probably do a little something about our foreign policy first.
Visibility: Little to none
Ease of Abolishing: Easy
Taxpayer Expense: Moderate