Memorandum by the Director of Congressional and Public Information of the United States International Information Administration (Crosby) to Francis B. Stevens, Staff Member of the President’s Committee on International Information Activities 1

  • Subject:
  • Public and Congressional Criticisms of IIA

You asked me several days ago to give you a list of the major criticisms directed at this program by the Congress and the public. Many of these have been aired recently in the McCarthy investigations2 and others probably will be heard at future hearings. These criticisms have been aimed primarily at the broadcasting service (Voice of America) of the International Information Administration.

Waste and Inefficiency: The construction program of the Voice of America’s radio transmitting facilities has been under fire for some years. It began late in 1951 when the Department asked for $98 million and was granted $9 million. This budget was prepared on short notice and not adequately studied. Consequently the House Appropriations Committee directed that the Department review the entire proposal. Last year the Administrator of the information program had two major surveys made of the Voice of America operation. One was on management and administration of the New York operations and the other on domestic transmitting facilities. These investigations uncovered many failings and errors, which to a considerable degree have been corrected at the present [Page 1676] time. Attached is an interim progress report on the management and administration document.3
Communists and Left Wingers: The Voice of America has been severely criticized for having questionable persons in its employ. I do not think it is necessary to expand on this.
Blunderbuss Approach: The program is still being criticized for not having designed its overseas operations to conform to the needs of the different countries. Great progress has been made in this direction during the last year, and I think that the criticisms are no longer valid.
Content: For some years the information program attempted to give a picture of America’s material wealth and power. This approach did not accomplish the desired objective. In fact it only served to create general envy and jealousy overseas. Criticism is still directed at the program for following this line.
On the other hand, the program has been criticized for not presenting a full and fair picture of America’s material wealth to our audiences abroad.
The Red Tape of the State Department: Many people have said that this program will never be effective until it is separated from the diplomatic bureaucracy of the Department of State. At the same time, there is an articulate segment of opinion that emphasizes the need of more closely integrating the program within the framework of the Department.
Location of the Voice of America: Several influential members of Congress keenly feel that the Voice of America should be more carefully controlled policy-wise and that this cannot be accomplished as long as it remains in New York. Consideration has been under way for some time concerning this question of moving the Voice to Washington or some other location.
Quality of Personnel: Criticism has been directed at the calibre of the personnel engaged in the information program. At the present time it is true that there is no major reservoir of trained propagandists. The Department has maintained a brief course of training, but has not been satisfied and has not been able to devise an adequate training course.
There is also the view that the program should make use of professional advertising, public relations, and newspapermen. Many people who hold this view regard the information program as a gigantic selling proposition which must utilize salesmanship techniques.
Overstaffing: Members of Congress have contended that the Voice of America could run with 100 people rather than the approximately 2000 presently employed.
Not Sufficiently Anticommunist: The information program has not, according to many people, carried sufficient anticommunist material in its various media. Much of this criticism stems from the fact that few Americans have placed themselves in the position of the foreign nationals whom we are trying to reach. Unquestionably, however, there have been instances where program content was not sufficiently directed or purposeful.
The Voice of America is Not Objective: This criticism is to the effect that the Voice of America carries too much propaganda and does not have the results of the BBC. This criticism usually comes from people who have a general understanding of some of the problems of this world-wide program.

The last two items mentioned are cases in point of the fact that the International Information Administration has on occasion been “damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t” follow a particular approach.

Psychological operations have become much more important during recent years. However, Congress, which was extremely busy, has not been able to establish a means of being kept informed of the problems and of the program. Strong recommendations have been made to the effect that there should be either a joint committee on propaganda and psychological operations or two selected committees. I think this would be of tremendous help to the program.

In closing I urge that you study the attached reports, particularly the recent report of the Advisory Commission on Information.

Ben G. Crosby
  1. The final report of this Committee, issued June 30, is printed on p. 1795.
  2. See the editorial note, p. 1671.
  3. Not found.