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IWP faculty’s writings, lectures paved way for new reforms to Smith-Mundt Act

“As part of a defense authorization bill signed this week by the President, a World War II era ban on domestic dissemination of BBG content was lifted,” the U.S. Board of Broadcasting Governors (BBG) reports.

The BBG’s statement continued: “Generally known as the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act, after its original sponsors, a portion of the law had prevented content intended for global audiences from being broadcast or distributed in the United States.  It was intended, in part, to prevent what were then wartime overseas propaganda efforts from being directed toward U.S. citizens.”  But, as Dr. Juliana Geran Pilon, the director of IWP’s Center for Culture and Security explains, “The law had actually hampered the exercise of effective public diplomacy, making it harder to monitor such agencies as Voice of America.”

The first legislative attempt to reform was the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2010. It was revived in 2011, and again in 2012, when the ban was added as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill and finally signed into law this month.

Faculty members at IWP have played a critical role for several years by exposing the need to repeal this obsolete ban. IWP’s Center for Culture and Security, first launched in 2011, has served as co-chair, along with the Heritage Foundation and the Brookings Institution, of a task force dedicated to strategic communication and public diplomacy, where the Smith-Mundt provision was featured as a major topic of discussion.

In addition to the working group, the Center for Culture and Security website’s project on Strategic Communication, and class discussions, professors at IWP have made significant scholarly contributions related to the need to reform this provision, including: