VOA Leadership Resigns

The top two people running Voice of America have resigned in the wake of the confirmation of a new CEO of the parent U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). 

The Senate June 4 approved the nomination of conservative documentary filmmaker Michael Pack as head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) with the title CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. 

Related: Senate Approves Global Media CEO Pack

VOA director Amanda Bennett and her deputy, Sandra Sugawara, resigned June 15, VOA reported, saying that gives Pack the freedom to replace them with his own picks. 

They sought to reassure the staff, according to VOA. "[N]othing about you, your passion, your mission or your integrity, changes' with Pack’s takeover of VOA and other U.S. government media organizations," it reported. 

“Michael Pack swore before Congress to respect and honor the firewall that guarantees VOA’s independence, which in turn plays the single most important role in the stunning trust our audiences around the world have in us,” they added. 

Pack's nomination was held up for a couple of years by Democrats concerned about his ties to conservative Trump confidant Steve Bannon. 

The New York Times reported that the nomination holdup was also tied to an investigation into the funding relationship between Pack's nonprofit and for-profit film group.  

USAGM oversees government-funded independent news outlets providing info to countries where press freedom is problematic. Those outlets include the iconic Voice of America, which Trump attacked during the press conference, saying what was coming out of VOA was "disgusting."  

In pushing for funding cuts for international broadcasting, the White House said that it has concluded that "information statecraft and public diplomacy programs by the U.S. Government have been tepid, fragmented, and not fully effective in countering the exploitation of information by U.S. rivals." The Administration has said it doesn't want to continue to fund projects whose effectiveness is unknown and whose efforts are not coordinated across government agencies. 

VOA and the other outlets used to be overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but the President moved to a CEO-led model.  

Pack is president of film and TV production company Manifold Productions where he has written and directed documentaries (God and the Inner City, The Fall of Newt Gingrich, Campus Culture Wars: Five Stories about Political Correctness), principally for PBS. He served as SVP of TV programming for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2003-2006 and in 2002-2005 served on the National Council on the Humanities.  

Pack is no stranger to VOA, having served as director of WORLDNET, which is now VOA-TV.  

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.