For propaganda & ‘democracy promotion’: State Dept seeks budget to counter RT
Citing the influence of RT.com, Secretary of State John Kerry has asked US lawmakers for more money for propaganda and “democracy promotion” programs around the world.
“Russia Today (sic) can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry told the House Appropriations Subcommittee, apparently forgetting that Voice of America had been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.
He raised the topic earlier in the day before the House Foreign Affairs committee, where Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), opened the hearing with the allegation that “Russia’s military aggression is matched only by its propaganda.” To Kerry’s approval, Royce went on to claim that “Russia is spending more than $500 million annually to mislead audiences, sow divisions, and push conspiracy out over RT television.”
Royce’s remarks echo the claim made by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chief Andrew Lack last month, when he listed “Russia Today” (sic) in the same breath as ISIS and Boko Haram as one of the challenges facing his agency.
In reality, RT’s budget for 2015 is less than half the amount cited by Representative Royce – $225 million, according to the current exchange rate, or 13.85 billion rubles. By contrast, the US government media receives $721 million. The BBC World Service, which complained about RT “winning the information war” in January, is funded to the tune of $375 million a year.
In the budget proposal submitted by Kerry, the Department of State is asking for “$639 million to help our friends in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as they seek to strengthen their democracies, withstand pressure from Russia, and to integrate more closely into Europe.” [PDF] The Department of State is also requesting over $2 billion – described as “a significant increase” – for “democracy, human rights, and governance programs.”
Not everyone agrees that American claims on the nature of the global media war are factually correct. Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute, Daniel McAdams, is one dissenting voice.
“I think the problem the US has is they have an unlimited advertising budget, but the product they’re selling is not very attractive overseas. People are tired of US interventionism; they’re tired of US exceptionalism; they’re tired of the US bombing their country – if you’re a Somalian, you don’t care about listening to a radio broadcast from the US, you just wish the US would stop bombing you,” McAdams believes.
“But I’ll say one thing. The BBG budget is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the US government influences media oversees. There’s probably another $100 million in direct support to so-called ‘independent news publications’ oversees, and these are all different newspapers and broadcasting outfits that tow the US line that aren’t directly US-related.”
Following Kerry’s claims, the host of RT’s ‘In the Now‘ program, Anissa Naouai, launched a Kickstarter project to take a stand against the US corporate media empire and State Department.
She said the secretary of state’s demand for more money to tackle “enemies” like RT is baseless, as corporations already invest hundreds of billions of dollars into mainstream media, which controls “almost all outlets.”
The US Broadcasting Board of Directors, which is responsible for Washington’s propaganda abroad, also boasts a hefty budget of over $700 million.
Naouai urged viewers to send a strong symbolic message to Kerry and the mainstream media, stating that “money can’t buy ALL the airwaves” and instead urging support for Our Sunny World, a partner foundation with Autism Europe.