Recommendations from the first semi-annual report of the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

Sixty years ago, the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy was actually called the Advisory Commission on Information. A year after it was officially established by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, and not too longer after its first members were confirmed, the Commission issued its first semi-annual (as in twice a year compared to today’s annual) reports. Below is an excerpt from The New York Times reporting on that first report. Note the membership of the Commission and the mention of private media.

An immediate and broad expansion of the world-wide information program being conducted by the State Department, including the activities of the Voice of America. was urged today by the United States Advisory Commission on Information in its first semi-annual report to Congress.

The group, which was created by Congress, is headed by Mark Ethridge, publisher of The Louisville Courier-journal. It includes Erwin D. Canham, editor of The Christian Science Monitor; Philip D. Reed, chairman of the General Electric Company; Mark A. May, director of the Institute of Human Relations at Yale, and Justin Miller, president of the National Association of Broadcasters.

“A realistic approach,” the commission said, “requires that we provide a budget better balanced between the three-pronged program of military, economic and information policy. A budget which contemplates $15,000,000,000 for military, $5,000,000,000 for economic and only $36,000,000 for information and educational services, does not provide an effective tool for cleaning out the Augean Stables of international confusion and misunderstanding.” …

The commission presented the following conclusions: … “The dissemination of American private media abroad is primarily and essentially an informational activity and the responsibility and funds for this activity should be placed with the Department of State, and the activities should not be limited to the countries receiving aid under the European Recovery Act.”

This was published March 31, 1949.

2 Replies to “Recommendations from the first semi-annual report of the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy”

  1. No question that information and educational programs are dreadfully underfunded. However, before we bump up the budget for these endeavors, we had better grasp that the Augean Stables are not filled with international confusion and misunderstanding as much as disagreement and conflict of interests.We need to accept that there are concrete differences between us and our international interlocutors over many aspects of US policy. Otherwise, we will be wasting even more resources and not assisting with actual diplomacy and peaceful resolution of conflict. War is usually a failure to reach peaceful agreement over such substantive differences. President Obama’s Cairo speech went a long way toward this more realistic and honest approach by spelling out the specifics of the conflict of interests between us and many in the Muslim world; where we might work together and where we simply disagree.
    The final para is confusing: the State Department disemminating private media? What do they mean?

  2. Peri,You’re right, the final paragraph is confusing to the modern reader. The point they were making was that the US Government was helping US private media to reach audiences abroad. The European Recovery Plan, the legislation also known as the Marshall Plan, expanded Smith-Mundt with something called the Informational Media Guarantee, or IMG. The IMG offset the distribution cost of US media companies distributing overseas. This included more than news organizations but also entertainment organizations (e.g., distributing Disney films).

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