End the culture of corruption at the US Agency for Global Media | Ted Lipien | THE HILL

In my new op-ed in THE HILL, I explain how U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) leaders and their careless or calculated personnel policies and disregard for employee and institutional security have undermined an institution that helped to win the Cold War. I was part of the winning team as a journalist and media executive. Since then, the agency’s leaders, especially in the last decade, have made the Voice of America (VOA) ineffective and most likely dangerous to U.S. national security and the cause of human rights and nonviolent progress. I call for bipartisan-driven reform of the U.S. Agency for Global Media and the Voice of America and greater oversight powers for the International Broadcasting Advisory Board (IBAB).

Major elements of the nearly one-billion-dollar U.S. government media agency, especially the central English-language operation within VOA, its flagship broadcaster, have lost their purpose and effectiveness.

My view of a 100% tax-funded VOA staffed by U.S. federal government employees and contractors is the same as Uri Berliner’s view of NPR, which is only partially government-funded: “An open-minded spirit no longer exists within NPR, and now, predictably, we don’t have an audience that reflects America.” A former USAGM CEO, John Lansing, was, until recently, NPR’s CEO.

NPR is a domestic U.S. broadcaster. Much of the Voice of America, especially its English-language programming – which by law should be directed only abroad but is available online to Americans and gets a large portion of views in the United States – similarly does not reflect America, as it is required to do, also by a congressional mandate.

Uri Berliner wrote that NPR “has lost America’s trust.” Most Americans have no idea what USAGM and VOA are and what they are supposed to do, but these U.S. government institutions have lost the trust of Congress members who know something about them.

VOA does not reflect America because that has been the choice of the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s longtime leaders, whom the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), accuses of corruption – his allegations presented in the latest HFAC report on USAGM.

Signs of USAGM’s ineffectiveness are everywhere: Afghanistan, Iran, African nations siding with Russia against Ukraine and with Hamas against the U.S., China … the list is endless. Former VOA journalists and executives among us helped win the Cold War with strong support for non-violence and basic human rights. Some of the current VOA editors and journalists express one-sided support for Hamas.

It did not have to be like this if USAGM and VOA had different senior leaders who would not tolerate violations of the VOA Charter, would not hire former propagandists for Putin’s state media without proper vetting, and would not allow activist journalism by VOA’s federal government employees, including calls for violent destruction of Israel. I wrote in THE HILL that the agency is in need of a change of leadership and reform, with bipartisan support from Congress and the White House.

End the culture of corruption at the US Agency for Global Media


My connection to the Voice of America and its managing agency deepened my concern after the committee released its latest report. I dedicated my career to the cause of press freedom, working at VOA and its agency from 1973 until 2006, where I played a pivotal role in bringing democracy to Poland as the chief of VOA’s Polish Service. 

I reported for VOA from behind the Iron Curtain. I interviewed dissidents and pro-democracy leaders, including Solidarity leader and future Polish President Lech Wałęsa, future Pope John Paul II and George H.W. Bush. Later, I built a network of affiliate stations in Afghanistan and other countries and served in various leadership roles. This personal history underscores my fears over the gravity of the situation.