Trump's New U.S. Media Chief Raises Concerns Of Politicization On Wednesday, President Trump's new appointee as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media dismissed the directors of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and other government outlets.
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Trump's New Foreign Broadcasting CEO Fires News Chiefs, Raising Fears Of Meddling

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Trump's New Foreign Broadcasting CEO Fires News Chiefs, Raising Fears Of Meddling

Trump's New Foreign Broadcasting CEO Fires News Chiefs, Raising Fears Of Meddling

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The newly installed head of an agency that oversees U.S. government broadcasts overseas has fired a stream of top executives. His name is Michael Pack. He's a conservative filmmaker appointed by President Trump. He now oversees the Voice of America, whose leader resigned when Pack was confirmed by the Senate. And then Wednesday night, Pack dismissed the heads of Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the Open Technology Fund. Our media correspondent David Folkenflik has been working this story through the night and joins us now. Hi there, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Who is Michael Park? Tell me a little more about him.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, as you mentioned, he's a conservative documentary-maker. He's well-regarded as a documentary-maker. He's said to have made about 15 that have aired on PBS. But the conservative part of the element is a big part of his resume. He's - one of his notable documentaries was of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. It was praised for getting access to the notably reticent justice, also a sympathetic portrait.

He's also held roles, more than once, at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And he, in fact, held a role as the - almost 30 years ago - as the top executive over the television agency that became, really, the voice of America's television outlet. So he's held a number of jobs that commend him for this role. But he's also got a strong ideological tilt. One thing we should mention, close professional ally at times, Steve Bannon, the notable former presidential political strategist for Mr. Trump and also the former head of the conservative news site Breitbart.

INSKEEP: Now he is overseeing this constellation of U.S. government broadcasters. They're supposed to be independent but provide an American point of view on the news. It's considered a key part of America's image in the world and foreign policy. The job that he has, we should disclose, is a job once held by John Lansing, who's now the CEO of NPR. His departure opened up that job. Michael Pack moved in. And is it understood what his agenda is in getting rid of so much top leadership?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you really saw him sort of, after two weeks of not showing up on the job, show up yesterday and willed, effectively, a side, taking out all the folks that you mentioned. A few of them will stay on in slightly different roles, perhaps, but certainly defenestrated as the chiefs there - also essentially sidelining and stripping of authority the top executives and top officials at the agency, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, that he now heads. And it was all done at once. He has not said why even to the people that he pushed out - why he's doing, what he's doing - other that he is able to do so.

But it's worth noting that Steve Bannon, for example, has previously said to the Los Angeles Times that Voice of America, one of the most prominent agencies - news agencies there, stinks like a fish. And he said he believed that it was part of the deep state arrayed against President Trump, as so many federal agencies have accused often without substance of being by the president.

INSKEEP: Didn't the president, himself, complain about some story on Voice of America? It was just a Associated Press wire copy, basic facts, but the president didn't like them?

FOLKENFLIK: That's right. In April, he accused - the White House accused the Voice of America of running, essentially, Chinese propaganda by having that Associated Press piece right there.

INSKEEP: OK. NPR's David Folkenflik will continue reporting this story as we learn more. David, thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE GREG FOAT GROUP'S "THE DANCERS WALTZ")

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

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