Proposed Government Information Service
WHETHER the United States shall continue in time of peace to practice some of the arts of organized persuasion which contributed to Allied victory in the war will shortly be decided by Congress. The question is raised by the State Department's request for an appropriation of $19 million to finance its world-wide cultural and information program during the next fiscal year. The program had a mixed reception in Congress. A part of it won quick support from most members, but another part was regarded with suspicion—as smacking of the propaganda activities carried on by totalitarian powers before the war.
When reporting the State Department appropriation bill, Apr. 9, the House Appropriations Committee slashed the funds for the information program to $10 million. Although the appropriation bill has already reached the floor of the House, the State Department still lacks statutory authority to carry on the planned activities, except in Latin America. A bill to provide the necessary authority for the program on a world-wide basis has been stalled for months in the House Rules Committee. Recently, moreover, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which reported the measure Dec. 17, 1945, decided to reopen hearings at a date not yet specified. The bill as reported would limit the authorization of appropriations to a two-year period ending June 30, 1948.
State Department Controversy with News Agencies
Opposition to continuing the government's foreign information activities in peacetime was drawn sharply to public attention last January, when the Associated Press and the United Press decided to terminate the arrangements under which they had been supplying their news reports to government agencies, at engineering cost, for use in shortwave broadcasts and for distribution abroad through government channels. In announcing its action, Jan. 14, the Associated Press said it recognized “the possibility of useful purpose served by governments in the maintenance throughout the world of official libraries of information.” It held, however, that “Government cannot engage in newscasting without creating the fear of propaganda which necessarily would reflect upon the objectivity of the news services from which such newscasts are prepared.”
Assistant Secretary of State Benton protested that the A. P.'s “arbitrary decision” to discontinue service to the government's short-wave broadcasting programs created “an obstacle to the conduct of American foreign policy.” In a letter to the president of the A. P., Jan. 16, he said: