Jan 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Controversial USAGM CEO Michael Pack is out

Voice of America
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker who was nominated by Donald Trump to lead the government's foreign media arm, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), left the agency Wednesday at the request of President Biden.

Why it matters: Pack's eight-month tenure was filled with controversy. Most recently, he was accused of fraud, as well as misuse of office. Observers and whistleblowers have alleged throughout his tenure that he was abusing his power in an attempt to transform the agency into a pro-Trump propaganda arm.

Details: Pack's actions, including abruptly firing the heads of the agencies he oversaw and withholding funds from nonprofits he managed — among other controversies — drew serious bipartisan backlash from Capitol Hill.

The big picture: USAGM, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, oversees five government-funded media arms that are intended to promote democracy around the world via factual reporting. It is also responsible for funding the Open Technology Fund, an internet freedom nonprofit.

  • The most famous of the five agencies it oversees is Voice of America, which was created nearly 80 years ago to combat Nazi propaganda during WWII. It also manages Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Network.

What they're saying: "The U.S. Agency for Global Media's mission is to further press and internet freedom around the world," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). "In conjunction with the Open Technology Fund, the agency has a track record of success in providing internet access and other vital support to those in China, Iran, Russia and other authoritarian countries.

  • I hope the next CEO will focus on expanding the agency's efforts around the world to promote a free and open press," McCaul, who has long been critical of Pack added.
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