Trump Taps Bannon Ally for Top Broadcasting Job

Some in Washington worry he will turn the agency into a mouthpiece for Trump, but others say the threat is overblown.

U.S. President Donald Trump stands alongside then-White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 18, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump stands alongside then-White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 18, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has tapped a conservative filmmaker who is a close ally of former White House strategist Steve Bannon to lead the broadcasting arm of the U.S. government, a $685 million agency that oversees prominent U.S.-funded outlets including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Michael Pack, who ran the conservative Claremont Institute, is a sharp critic of what he calls the “politically correct agenda” at universities around the country, where he says liberal media professors indoctrinate students with courses on environmental filmmaking and gay culture.

The White House on Friday evening announced Pack’s nomination to be CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The position requires Senate confirmation.

If confirmed, Pack will take over a troubled government agency roiled by fierce political infighting since Trump took office, according to sources inside the board and others familiar with internal deliberation.

In addition to VOA and RFE/RL, Pack would oversee the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, which collectively reach 278 million people each week in 61 languages around the world, according to the board’s own figures. The Trump administration requested $661 million for the agency’s budget in fiscal year 2019.

Pack, a former executive of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has worked on two documentaries with Bannon. In an article he wrote last year, Pack said liberals had a “politically correct stranglehold” over film schools.

Students are treated to courses on environmental filmmaking, social media, gay and lesbian films, activist filmmaking, which all push the familiar politically correct agenda,” he wrote in The Federalist.

“Students are taught to make films that view American history and society solely through the lens of race, class, and gender. Professors in film studies tend to be even more liberal than their counterparts in other disciplines. Each year, they indoctrinate a new crop of tens of thousands of young students.”

Critics have raised alarm bells over the proposed appointment under a new management configuration, saying Trump could turn the Broadcasting Board of Governors into his own personal propaganda machine — a charge other experts dismiss because the CEO has no editorial oversight over the sprawling organization.

Traditionally, the board was overseen by a bipartisan board of directors, but a provision of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act passed under former President Barack Obama gave them a mandate to dissolve the board, consolidate power into the CEO position, and create a new board that only serves in an advisory capacity.

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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