Government restructures PR arm for impartial voice

WASHINGTON, DC: Hoping to change the country's portrayal in the international media, the Clinton administration has shaken up the structure of the United States Information Agency.

WASHINGTON, DC: Hoping to change the country's portrayal in the international media, the Clinton administration has shaken up the structure of the United States Information Agency.

The USIA is being absorbed by the State Department, and a new unit, the International Public Information Group (IPIG), will assume much of its communications responsibility.

Evelyn Lieberman, a former White House deputy chief of staff, will oversee what is now the current State Department Bureau of Public Affairs (BPA) and has been nominated to direct the IPIG.

The BPA unit will be expanded to include the USIA's domestic public liaison office as well as some public affairs functions of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Agency for International Development. The BPA will continue to operate the USIA's three existing foreign press centers that serve foreign journalists in Washington, New York and Los Angeles.

The Voice of America, now part of the USIA, becomes an independent agency called the International Bureau of Broadcasting.

The moves make ?tremendous sense? to Dan Goure, the deputy director for political and military studies at the DC-based Center for Strategic & International Studies.

?It allows the Voice of America to concentrate on providing straightforward news without creating concern about inclusion of the US slant,? he said.

?The USIA can now do PR on behalf of US government policy without casting doubts upon the impartiality of government-sponsored news broadcasts or creating conflict with US embassies.?

The motive behind the complex restructuring is to make the administration of foreign affairs more efficient and economical. Promotion of US foreign policy and military initiatives have not always been consistent because the Pentagon, White House and State Department have handled their own information efforts.

But advocates of the move say it also registers the importance of public affairs and public diplomacy by moving them closer to the cabinet department charged with handling foreign affairs.

The 46-year-old USIA has a 1999 budget of $1.1 billion and more than 6,000 employees. Congress has not officially determined appropriations for the year 2000.

While the USIA was officially formed in 1953, its genesis dates back to World War I and the Committee on Public Information headed by George Creel.

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