President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit a newly empowered Voice of America that some officials fear could serve as an unfettered propaganda arm for the former reality TV star who has flirted for years with launching his own network.
Buried on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week is a provision that would disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent U.S. agency that includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.
The move — pushed by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce as a way to streamline the agency — concentrates control into a powerful CEO who is appointed by the president.
That change, combined with a 2013 legislative revision that allows the network to legally reach a U.S. audience, which was once banned, could pave the way for Trump-approved content created by the U.S. diplomacy arm, if he chooses to exploit the opportunity.
Essentially, Trump is finally getting his Trump TV — financed by taxpayers to the tune of $800 million per year. And some of the few people in the know aren’t happy about it.
“Congress unwittingly just gave President-elect Trump unchecked control of all U.S. media outlets,” said Michael Kempner, a Democratic member of the board who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was a Hillary Clinton donor. “No president, either Democrat or Republican, should have that kind of control. It’s a public jewel. Its independence is what makes it so credible.”