U.S. Information Agency

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The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) was established in August 1953 and operated under that name until April 1978, when its functions were consolidated with those of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State. Following a brief period during the Carter administration when it was called the International Communications Agency (USICA), the agency's name was restored to USIA in August 1982. The agency was known as United States Information Service (USIS) overseas but could not use that abbreviation to avoid confusion with the United States Immigration Service.

Current Form

The former USIA currently exists as the Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP).

Former Mission

USIA's mission was to understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions and their counterparts abroad.

The Foreign Affairs and Restructuring Act abolished the U.S. Information Agency effective October 1, 1999.

Goals

  • Increased understanding and acceptance of U.S. policies and U.S. society by foreign audiences.
  • Broadened dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions and their counterparts overseas.
  • Increased U.S. Government knowledge and understanding of foreign attitudes and their implications for U.S. foreign policy.

Related project

Marvin Stone, former deputy director of the USIA (and former editor of U.S. News & World Report) created the International Media Fund in 1990, as a means of getting US journalists involved in media restructuring in "emerging democracies." [1] [2]

Revival prospects (2004)

"After a tough political battle, the US government is going to restructure its intelligence-gathering capabilities. What should come next is a tough battle to reorganize its information-disseminating capabilities to the rest of the world. The present system is dysfunctional at the very time when the US is engaged in a war with international terrorism for the hearts and minds of undecided millions.
For years, telling America's story abroad was the mission of the US Information Agency (USIA). It was at its zenith during the cold war, when the US and the Soviet Union confronted each other. As the Soviets poured out disinformation and clamped censorship upon its satellites, the US used a wide range of media instruments, including powerful shortwave radio transmitters, to rebut Soviet propaganda and convey factual information behind the Iron Curtain and throughout the world.
As the cold war wound down, funding evaporated and by 1999, the USIA was dismantled; its slender remnants shuffled off to the State Department. Now, USIA needs to be reconstituted or replicated. Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders broadcast their distorted messages of hostility toward the US over Al Jazeera and other media outlets throughout the Arab world. "Insurgents" in Iraq - the murderers who are campaigning against freedom - are masters of both the suicide bomb and the Internet."
John Hughes, Needed: USIA's people-to-people message, CS Monitor, December 15, 2004.

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