Smith-Mundt Act eliminated, VOA free to broadcast domestically

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(Source: VOA News)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Voice of America will soon be able to make its programs available to the U.S. public following passage of new legislation signed by President Obama Wednesday.

The legislation, which is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, eliminates the longstanding ban on domestic distribution of VOA programs that was part of the original U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (known as Smith-Mundt).

In the coming months, Voice of America and other U.S. international broadcasters will draft regulations governing how they will fulfill domestic requests for release of original programs and materials.

The legislation will not change the focus of the agency’s broadcasts, which are aimed exclusively at international audiences.  The new rules will only affect programs broadcast after July 1st, 2013.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) has hailed the new law, which updates one of the founding statutes of public diplomacy in the United States, a change that the Board has long supported and had incorporated into its strategic plan.  (See BBG Press Release)

Presiding BBG Governor Michael Lynton said the new law will allow the BBG to accept requests to provide its programs to organizations which, until now, it could not share them with, including U.S.-based broadcasters, publications, universities, non-governmental organizations, and others that have requested these materials over the years.  Lynton said the new law will allow “greater transparency as more people in this country come to know what U.S. International broadcasting is about.”

“The new law is a major breakthrough for U.S. international media,” said Susan McCue, a member of the BBG Board’s Communications and Outreach Committee.  “All Americans will now have access to the vital and informative reporting of our accomplished journalists around the world who are working under difficult circumstances in closed societies and developing countries.”

For more information about this release contact Kyle King at the VOA Public Relations office in Washington at (202) 203-4959, or  For more information about VOA visit the Public Relations website at, or the main news site

We’ve mentioned the Smith-Mundt Act before. Kim Elliott also has more articles and comments on this recent legislation.

2 thoughts on “Smith-Mundt Act eliminated, VOA free to broadcast domestically

  1. Bob Quslera

    No — that is not right. Read the announcement. This does not mean
    that VOA is free to DIRECT broadcasts to Americans!

    1. Thomas Post author

      Hi, Bob–

      This is true in that the VOA will not start its own domestic broadcasting initiative, but other outlets and news sources could use their content in domestic broadcasts (after 7/1 if the newly drafted BBG regulations allow). Frankly, this is not much of a change, in that US citizens have had access to VOA material since they’ve been online. I could be wrong, but I believe that once in play, the likes of NPR, PBS, NBC, ABC, various commercial networks, etc. could use or rebroadcast their content domestically. I imagine public broadcasters would be the first to do this–perhaps at night, NPR stations could start playing VOA news instead of the BBC WS? WRN could include the VOA in their North American stream.



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