Trump Sticks With Pack for Broadcasting Chief

The president re-nominated the conservative filmmaker after Corker, Menendez blocked him last year

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January 17, 2019

President Trump has re-nominated documentary filmmaker Michael Pack to lead the nation's taxpayer-funded global broadcasting operation, which was created to counter propaganda from repressive regimes but critics say has lost its focus and needs reform.

Trump's decision to tap Pack once again for the post in the new Congress demonstrates the president's commitment to bringing new direction to the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which has an annual budget of $680 million and oversees the Voice of America and related media outlets.

Pack, a documentary filmmaker who previously served as a Corporation for Public Broadcasting executive and director of the film and television service of the former U.S. Information Agency, is a senior fellow at the conservative Claremont Institute and its Review of Books.

With conservative Sen. James Risch (R., Idaho ) newly installed as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Pack is expected to win confirmation after Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and former Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) held up the nomination last year.

Corker, who was the Foreign Relations chairman at the time, and Menendez also led an unsuccessful effort late last year to pass a bill designed to diminish the power of the USAGM post before Pack took the helm.

Both efforts were part of intense partisan battle over what reforms are necessary to re-focus the USAGM on its propaganda-countering mission. Conservative critics believe the agency has completely lost its way and in recent years has become nothing more than another liberal-leaning news outlet akin to NBC or CNN, only taxpayer-funded.

Under Pack's direction, liberal critics say they are worried that Trump officials could get too involved with USAGM operations and it could become a megaphone for the administration and pro-Trump propaganda vehicle.

They cite his ties to former White House adviser Steve Bannon as cause for concern. The two worked together on two documentaries, but supporters say Pack would in no way be beholden to Bannon, especially after his failing out with Trump.

Conservative supporters of new leadership at the broadcasting agencies say most of the current top officials, who were appointed by President Obama, and their liberal backers are worried that the coverage will cease to tilt leftward and will no longer highlight and prioritize explicitly anti-Trump coverage.