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Information Agency
UnitedStatesInformationAgency-Seal.svg
UnitedStatesInformationAgency-Logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed August, 1953
Dissolved October 1, 1999
Superseding agency State Department
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.

The United States Information Agency (USIA), which existed from 1953 to 1999, was a United States agency devoted to "public diplomacy". In 1999, USIA's broadcasting functions were moved to the newly created Broadcasting Board of Governors, and its exchange and non-broadcasting information functions were given to the newly-created Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

Contents

Mission

The USIA's mission was "to understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions, and their counterparts abroad".[1]

Its stated goals were:

  • To explain and advocate U.S. policies in terms that are credible and meaningful in foreign cultures;
  • To provide information about the official policies of the United States, and about the people, values and institutions which influence those policies;
  • To bring the benefits of international engagement to American citizens and institutions by helping them build strong long-term relationships with their counterparts overseas;
  • To advise the President and U.S. government policy-makers on the ways in which foreign attitudes will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of U.S. policies.[1]

The USIA was established in August 1953, although cultural and educational exchange functions remained in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State until 1978, when they were shifted to USIA. Following a brief period during the Carter administration, when it was called the International Communications Agency (ICA), to avoid confusion with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the agency's name was restored to USIA in August 1982. The agency was known as United States Information Service (USIS) overseas but could not use that abbreviation domestically to avoid confusion with the United States Immigration Service.

There were two basic statutes authorizing the programs of the Agency. The first was the Smith-Mundt Act, which authorized information programs including Voice of America as well as the Radio and TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba. Voice of America was intended as an unbiased and balanced "Voice from America" as originally broadcast during World War II. The Smith-Mundt Act established a so-called "Charter" which required balanced news, dual sourcing, etc.

The second statute authorizing USIA's activities was the Fulbright-Hays Act, which authorized the international cultural and educational exchanges (the Fulbright Scholarship Program). Thus "Fulbrighters" were grant recipients under the USIA educational and cultural exchange program. To ensure that those grant programs would be fair and unbiased there were a series of grantees of educational and cultural expertise who chose the actual grantee recipients.

As part of the increased dialogue between people of the U.S. and people of foreign countries, USIA was also the agency principally responsible for U.S. participation at World's Fairs outside the United States.

The Foreign Affairs and Restructuring Act abolished the U.S. Information Agency effective 1999-10-01, when its information (but not broadcasting) and exchange functions were folded into the Department of State under the newly-created Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

Broadcasting functions, including Voice of America, Radio and TV Marti as well as other U.S. Government supported broadcasting such as Radio Free Europe (Eastern Europe) and Radio Liberty (the former Soviet Union) were consolidated as an independent entity under the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which continues independently (as a separate entity from the State Department) today.

Possible reestablishment

2008 presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) announced his support for bringing the agency back.[2]

In 2008, Christian Whiton, an official in the George W. Bush administration involved with promoting democracy, called publicly for the establishment of a USIA-like strategic communications agency focused on the nonviolent practice of political warfare.[1]

See also

References

Further reading

  • Bardos, Arthur, "'Public Diplomacy': An Old Art, a New Profession", Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 2001
  • Bogart, Leo, Premises For Propaganda: The United States Information Agency's Operating Assumptions in the Cold War, ISBN 0029043905
  • Snow, Nancy, Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America's Culture to the World, ISBN 1888363746
  • Kiehl, William P. (ed.) "America's Dialogue with the World", ISBN 0-9764391-1-5
  • Sorensen, Thomas C. "Word War: The Story of American Propaganda" (1968) ISBN 3530827509 ISBN 978-3530827507
  • Tobia, Simona "Advertising America. The United States Information Service in Italy (1945-1956)", LED Edizioni Universitarie, ISBN 978-88-7916-400-9

External links

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