Thursday, 22 Oct 2020

U.S. House committee calls Trump broadcasting chief to testify

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday called the new head of U.S. government broadcasting operations to testify next month, citing concern about editorial independence under President Donald Trump’s appointee after a spate of dismissals.

Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the Democratic-led committee, called on Michael Pack, the newly appointed chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, to testify at a hearing on July 8.

The press office at the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the announcement or whether Pack would appear.

Pack, a conservative filmmaker, last week removed the heads of four of the organizations under the AGM umbrella – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Network and the Open Technology Fund – and replaced the bi-partisan boards that govern and advise the services mostly with political appointees from Trump’s administration.

U.S. law requires the government-funded broadcasters to operate independently and remain free from interference by any presidential administration.

Democrats had objected to Trump’s appointment of Pack for years, saying they feared he would see his role as forcing favorable coverage of Trump’s administration. Pack is a close ally of conservative political activists including Steve Bannon, once a top aide to Trump.

Trump has criticized Voice of America as he has blamed China for worsening the coronavirus outbreak. His administration accused VOA of amplifying Chinese propaganda after a segment on a light show marking the reopening of the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Pack was confirmed by the Republican-led U.S. Senate this month, with only one Democrat voting in favor of his confirmation.

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