House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce has called for a complete overhaul of the U.S. government agency that oversees civilian broadcasting abroad, saying the current Broadcasting Board of Governors is effectively "defunct" and "real change" is needed to send American voices of freedom to people who aren't as free.
"We need an overhaul of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and a complete reinvigoration of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and the Voice of America," the California Republican said. "Real change is needed to offset the propaganda in Russia and the Middle East."
At a media breakfast on Friday hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Royce specifically criticized the "the part-time Board of Governors, which very often cannot find a quorum." He called for replacing the current structure of three disparate broadcasting bodies by combining them into "a single institute."
"It would be put under a CEO and have an advisory panel, and operate like the NED," he said, referring to the National Endowment for Democracy, the umbrella agency that oversees the four core pro-democracy nongovernmental organizations.
But Royce strongly emphasized that the message of the streamlined broadcasting agency must also be overhauled. He urged that it should communicate the same things as it did during the Cold War.
The Californian pointed out that "friendly voices" and messages of freedom were heard from U.S. broadcasts under his political hero Ronald Reagan. A younger Royce worked as executive director of Reagan's youth campaign in the California primary during Reagan's 1976 challenge to President Gerald Ford.
"Radio Free Liberty and Radio Free Europe helped instruct a generation of young Germans and helped shape" the present free Germany, he said, noting that many Germans have said the positive messages they heard on those broadcasts were light years removed "from the bombastic rhetoric of [Communist] East Germany."
Recalling a decision made by Radio Liberty not to broadcast into what was then Yugoslavia, Royce said that years after that country dissolved into civil war and broke up into several states, he met a young man from the former Yugoslav state of Croatia.
"He told me all he had to listen to was hate radio from the Serbs [who forged the present nation of Serbia], hate radio from Bosnia-Herzegovina [now an independent state], and his own peoples' hate radio."
The Croatian contrasted those broadcasts, Royce said, with broadcasts under U.S. aegis by Czechoslovakian anti-Communist leader Vaclav Havel, and told him, "If only we heard what I heard, we would not have had the loss of life we did."
Royce noted that in a polar opposite situation to the bloodshed that swept former Yugoslav states in the 1990s, "Czechoslovakia became independent and then peacefully divided itself into the Czech Republic and Slovakia without a shot being fired."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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