News or Propaganda?

If the Government has a duty to get its viewpoint before the world, is it enough merely to send abroad the texts of state papers, speeches by and against the Administration? Particularly in the world’s twilight areas…, where private news agencies would lose money operating–should the State Department send full news broadcasts of its own? …

Last week the A.P. shut off the State Department’s principal free supply of news. U.P. announced that it would follow suit. …

Said the A.P.’s board: “. . . Government cannot engage in newscasting without creating the fear of propaganda, which necessarily would reflect upon the objectivity of the news services. . . .” …

Shrewdly, Benton reminded A.P. that Britain, Russia and other nations get and pass on U.S. news from the A.P.’s report. If the use of A.P. news by BBC and Tass does not hurt the A.P. reputation for objectivity, how could U.S. broadcasts reflect on A.P.? …

Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution: “The attitude of the A.P. might make a silent giant of this country when every other giant and pigmy in the world is broadcasting its own interpretation of American news events and policies.” …

From “The Press: News or Propaganda?” published in Time, January 28, 1946.

2 Replies to “News or Propaganda?”

  1. This quote is a fascinating glimpse of the attidutes of the past which still hold back the BBG. AP’s fear had nothing to do with preserving their objectivity and Benton knew it. They merely feared that their clients would cease to pay for their services if they could get the same news for free over Voice of America. Restraining the domestic distributon of foreign language news feeds at a time when it is so obviously in the national interest to reach out to the diasporas within the country is some kind of craziness and as for the English language work overseas, well, I’m sure Xinhua will be glad to take up the slack.

  2. @Nick:Voice of America was not a news service. It did not sell news to other media outlets like AP did. VOA was a broadcaster similarly to CBS or ABC are today. Could you imagine the New York Times using an ABC broadcast as an article in their paper? It would never happen. Likewise, newspapers in 1946 did not use Voice of America’s broadcasts as articles. They used AP’s article…

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