When it comes to independent agencies of the U.S. federal government, most people think of the FTC, NASA or the SEC. Despite the fact that it provides news in 59 languages to over “345 million listeners, viewers and Internet users around the world” each week, the U.S. Agency for Global Media is probably one of the least talked about federal agencies around.
What is the U.S. Agency for Global Media?
Formerly known as the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. Agency for Global Media is a self-described “independent federal agency that seeks to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
While this may sound new to some, the agency actually traces its roots all the way back to World War II when American writer and journalist William Harlan Hale gave the first radio show broadcast in German, stating:
“We bring you voices from America. Today, and daily from now on, we shall speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good for us. The news may be bad. But we shall tell you the truth.”
Since then, five different broadcast networks have been born under the umbrella that is now known as the United States Agency for Global Media, a.k.a. USAGM, including:
- Voice of America, a.k.a. VOA provides “trusted and objective” news and information about the U.S. and various regions in 45 languages to a measured weekly audience of more than 275.2 million people around the world.
- Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty “serves as a surrogate media source in 25 languages and in 23 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Ukraine.”
- The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which runs Radio and Television Martí from its Miami, Florida headquarters, offers “unbiased, objective information to all Cubans.”
- Radio Free Asia brings “domestic journalism and uncensored content to people in six Asian countries that restrict free speech, freedom of the press, and access to reliable information beyond their borders.”
- Middle East Broadcasting Networks, a.k.a. MBN “is an Arabic-language news organization with a weekly audience of more than 24.7 million people in 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa” comprised of platforms like Alhurra, Radio Sawa and more.
Despite worries that Donald Trump would change VOA into Trump TV, it has managed to stay “largely untouched.” In fact, Voice of America recently published a 2+ minute video segment on Thailand’s legalization of marijuana.
Voice of America Covering Cannabis News
While a quick read over its description above may make it sound like propaganda, Voice of America, a.k.a. VOA’s recent video coverage of Thailand’s decision to legalize marijuana for research and medicinal purposes was actually balanced and fair.
The interesting part is, this wasn’t the first time that the U.S. government-funded news organization provided unbiased and fact-based coverage of the cannabis industry’s international developments.
When South Africa decriminalized cannabis, VOA was sure to note the fact that thousands of products can be made from cannabis, and that the potential formation of a real cannabis industry there could fix South Africa’s “severe unemployment rates.”
While the same article also mentioned the fact that some people are worried about the impact on South Africa’s culture, it is nice to see that the feds’ non-military media arm isn’t using its reach to further tarnish the plant’s reputation.
The Feds Turning a New Leaf?
Seeing the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s Voice of America network provide unbiased coverage of the cannabis industry marks a major turning point for the cannabis industry. After all, the prohibition of cannabis in the U.S. was seeded by the feds, and fueled by biased and sensationalized media.
William Hearst, a paper-producing media mogul who feared competition from hemp, caused panic for parents across the country when he released the ’30s film, “Reefer Madness,” which “suggested that evil marijuana dealers lurked in public schools, waiting to entice their children into a life of crime and degeneracy.”
The movie hammered home the anti-cannabis campaign of Harry Anslinger, the racist head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which set in motion the long-lasting war on marijuana that we are still fighting today. Years later, and we are finally starting to progress towards ending prohibition.
As we go into 2019, the U.S. cannabis industry has a lot to look forward to.
The recently passed Farm Bill “codifies the distinction between hemp and marijuana and removes hemp from the ambit of the Controlled Substances Act.” As if that wasn’t enough, a handful of states stand a good chance of passing legalization initiatives this year.
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