$500 Million for Negative China Coverage

Congress Proposes $500 Million for Negative News Coverage of China. It was an increase from an earlier proposed $300 million with an additional $500 million. Desperation shows it’s a sign of a Collapsing Empire.

The effort to counter China’s ‘malign influence’ would fund negative coverage of China’s Belt and Road Initiative—while also beefing up the US’s international lending.

The American Prospect by LEE Harris ~ February 9, 2022 // China Daily ~ February 25, 2022

A tech and manufacturing bill currently moving through Congress allocates $500 million for media outlets to produce journalism for overseas audiences that is critical of China.

America’s state-sponsored 500-million-dollar anti-China Lies and Propaganda

Meant to “combat Chinese disinformation,” the bill would direct funding to the US Agency for Global Media, a US-run foreign media service, as well as local outlets and programs to train foreign journalists.

The America COMPETES Act, just passed by the House, is an industrial policy plan for semiconductor production and supply chain resiliency. It sets aside technology investment funds for everything from high-level research to high school computer science.

If a domestic manufacturing bill seems like the wrong setting for spending on foreign news dispatches, sponsors say it’s a natural fit, since the need to stimulate American production is a matter of competition with Beijing. The sales pitch for reviving global competitiveness has been vivid: The country’s use of forced labor in Xinjiang camps, Nancy Pelosi said last week in a speech on the bill, “hurts American workers who have to compete with slave labor.”

The House version of the legislation, which passed last week, is a companion to the Senate’s more hawkish bill on China competition, USICA, which passed in June of last year. The plan is to merge both bills through a conference committee in the coming weeks.

The bills have titles penned by the Foreign Affairs Committees of each chamber. Both include a section named “Supporting independent media and countering disinformation.”

While both bills stipulate that the US-funded media coverage should be “independent,” that mandate could be at odds with other requirements in the legislation. There is, at the very least, an appearance of conflict. For example, the Senate bill aims to crowd out Chinese investment in developing countries, and also encourages criticism of China’s projects in those markets.

Critics of escalating tensions with Beijing expressed concerns over the push for anti-China coverage, saying it could potentially undermine the credibility of journalists involved in the reporting.

“We welcome support for journalism,” Tobita Chow, the director of Justice Is Global, a group that advocates for a more equitable world economy, told the Prospect. “But if the government is setting out ahead of time in legislation what the conclusion and the point of coverage is going to be, that doesn’t really qualify as genuine journalism.”

USA PROPAGANDA. $500 Million for Negative News Coverage of China

Editorially Independent State-Funded News

The Senate bill aims to produce more anti-China media for regions where it says the Chinese Communist Party and other rivals are ​​promoting “manipulated media markets.” It notes that the sponsored news will be “independent.”

Governments have long funded (relatively) impartial programming, from PBS’s educational shows for children to the titanic British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). But the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which would receive the majority of the media support in this bill package, has a troubled legacy.

A federally funded government agency, USAGM oversees outlets including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). The outlets have sometimes blurred the line between objective news coverage and pro-American propaganda—a distinction that all but dissolved in the Trump years.

After the OCB came under fire for airing a 2018 segment calling the philanthropist George Soros “a nonbelieving Jew of flexible morals,” it conducted an internal review that offers a candid look at US-run foreign media’s mission.

“A primordial rule of successful political messaging and modern marketing is that to influence people, you must usually first establish empathy with them,” the report explains. “OCB’s broadcasts and postings do that far too little. They seek instead to activate overt opposition and hostility to the entirety of the Cuban Revolution.” Instead, the report recommends a subtler approach that could more effectively sway Cuban public opinion.

The Trump administration put a registered lobbyist for Taiwan in control of Radio Free Asia, drawing criticism from journalists who said the outlet’s credibility was tarnished. And staffers at Voice of America wrote in a letter that orders to broadcast a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were an attempt to “stage a propaganda event.”

Progressive critics said that media funded as part of strategic rivalry with a peer competitor can lose its objectivity, or at least the appearance of objectivity.

US-run broadcast networks have been responsive to changing political currents as recently as last December, when Voice of America expanded coverage in the area and named its network’s first-ever Eastern Europe chief, citing rising tensions with Russia and “the impact of Russia’s and China’s influence throughout the region.”

In light of that history, anti-war activists have been wary of expansions to US-run news networks. While they were careful not to equate reporting by state-funded media in the United States, where robust free-speech laws protect journalists, to heavily censored state media in China, several progressive critics said that media funded as part of strategic rivalry with a peer competitor can lose its objectivity, or at least the appearance of objectivity.

“When the United States funds ‘independent’ media to report critically on China, very serious guardrails must be adhered to so that the US government doesn’t simply appear to be pushing its own form of propaganda and to protect the safety and credibility of reporters who cover China with a critical lens,” one congressional progressive staffer said. “Otherwise, this funding is just an exercise in crude soft-power projection, with many sources at risk of being much more easily dismissed or repressed as pawns of a US geopolitical strategy.”

The staffer added that progressive legislators would push for outlets and journalists receiving US funding or training to disclose that relationship transparently in their reporting.

“The Chinese state’s own attempts to manipulate public opinion overseas tend to backfire,” Jake Werner, a researcher on China at Boston University and co-founder of Justice Is Global, told the Prospect. Although the funding could produce some good journalism, he said, “it would also tend to sow doubt and hostility toward journalists doing critical reporting on China’s activities among key audiences like overseas Chinese.”

Responding to a request for comment, Rohit Mahajan, a spokesperson for Radio Free Asia, referred the Prospect to RFA’s mission statement.

“Radio Free Asia’s journalists do not engage in propaganda,” Mahajan added. “RFA brings fact-based, independent news to millions living in places where authoritarians and elites do everything in their power to silence a free press and free speech.”

Amendment to Limit Production of Propaganda

In the 1970s, following reports that Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were backed with CIA funds, Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright, a pre-eminent critic of American foreign policy, argued that the “radios … [should] take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics.” While most of Fulbright’s opposition to US-run broadcasting was unsuccessful, he led a reform effort that restricted the distribution of overseas propaganda material to Americans.

Rep. Edward Zorinsky (D-NE) later extended that reform, arguing that refraining from propagandizing the American people “distinguishes us, as a free society, from the Soviet Union where domestic propaganda is a principal government activity.”

That prohibition, which extended to Radio Free Asia and other USAGM networks, was in place until 2012. An amendment in that year’s defense authorization bill repealed the ban on disseminating propaganda to domestic audiences. A spokesperson for the USAGM (then called the Broadcasting Board of Governors) said at the time that repealing the ban would increase transparency and help the agency reach diaspora groups living in America, such as Somali expats in Minnesota.

Now, progressives concerned about the new enthusiasm for producing reporting critical of competitors are hoping to limit the likelihood that new funding produces propaganda. An amendment to the House bill, introduced by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), would prohibit the use of any funds “for publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by the Congress.”

“The initial goal was to try to revive that long-standing prohibition on propagandizing people in the United States,” Erik Sperling, the executive director of Just Foreign Policy, told the Prospect. Sperling’s group worked on developing the Escobar amendment.

When reached for comment, Sperling said he was surprised to see that language specifying “United States” had been cut from the amendment after he had last seen it. While his organization had only planned to push for the more modest request not to propagandize Americans, he welcomed a more general mandate not to distribute propaganda overseas.

The amendment passed among two dozen Congressional Progressive Caucus amendments to the House legislation. Since a ban on propaganda could be at odds with more hawkish coverage of China, it remains to be seen how it will be reconciled with the bill’s broader priorities. A progressive staffer said it is intended as a “guardrail.”

China Criticism Aimed at Arenas Where US Seeks to Compete

Funding critical news coverage in a bill package that heightens competition with the subjects of that coverage could call into doubt the objectivity of US-run media.

One example is coverage of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Senate bill encourages criticism of the BRI, which it is directly seeking to compete with.

China in recent years has erected ports, bridges, and other public works in countries from Pakistan to Peru. The result is an imperial-scale influence campaign, targeted at developing countries and geostrategic choke points, that has been compared to the Marshall Plan, America’s spending to rebuild Western Europe and contain the Soviet Union after World War II.

Since taking office, President Biden has talked about wresting back turf from China with rival investments, particularly in nearby Latin America and the Caribbean. USICA, the Senate bill, would raise US spending through the Inter-American Development Bank, and introduce “conditionality measures” to block partner countries from borrowing simultaneously from China.

One subtitle of USICA creates a “Countering Chinese Influence Fund” totaling $1.5 billion over a five-year period, with more than a third of funds aimed at media outlets.

The push to counter China, the subtitle explains, should “raise awareness of and increase transparency regarding the negative impact of activities related to the Belt and Road Initiative.” It should also urge “support for market-based alternatives in key economic sectors, such as digital economy, energy, and infrastructure.”

The House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees did not respond to questions from the Prospect, including on how bill sponsors define “disinformation” and “misinformation.” The terms are not defined in either bill.

~~~~

On Life Support: Sign of a Collapsing Empire

BENEFICIARIES

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Voice of America

Radio Free Europe

Radio Free Asia (RFA)

WION ~ GRATiTAS; headquartered in New Delhi

India TV; headquartered in Noida, Uttar Pradesh

CNN-News18, operating in conjuction with Firstpost and CNBC-TV18; headquartered in Mumbai

ANI News (Asian News International); headquartered in New Delhi

Hindustan Times; headquartered in New Delhi

Republic TV; headquartered in Mumbai

NDTV; headquartered in New Delhi

Epoch Times

New Tang Dynasty TV, or NTD

~ by Joel Huan on September 6, 2022.

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