OPEN TECHNOLOGY FUND, et al., Plaintiffs, v. MICHAEL PACK, in his official capacity as Chief Executive Officer and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Defendant
For nearly 80 years, international broadcasting sponsored by the United States has served as a trusted and authoritative global news source, a forum for the expression of diverse viewpoints on the most pressing topics of the day, a model of journalistic excellence and independence, and a beacon of hope for those trapped within authoritarian regimes. Despite being funded by American taxpayers, U.S. international broadcasting has typically remained free of governmental interference. Indeed, its autonomy and its commitment to providing objective news coverage has often been viewed as key to its ability to advance the interests of the United States abroad. Our country’s commitment to this model of cultural export has largely been viewed as a rousing success, helping to undermine and topple some of history’s most oppressive regimes—including Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union—by spreading freedom and democracy around the globe. The current Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) of the United States Agency for Global Media (“USAGM”)—the defendant, Michael Pack—is accused of putting this legacy at serious risk. Since taking office less than a month ago, Pack has upended U.S.-sponsored international broadcasting. Most relevant to the current dispute, on June 17, 2020, Pack unilaterally removed the operational heads and directors of four USAGM-funded organizations—Open Technology Fund (“OTF”), Radio Free Europe (“RFE”), Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (collectively, “Networks”)1—and replaced the directors with five members of the current Trump Administration as well as an employee of Liberty Counsel Action, a conservative advocacy organization.
Pack’s actions have global ramifications, and plaintiffs in this case have expressed deep concerns that his tenure as USAGM CEO will damage the independence and integrity of U.S.- sponsored international broadcasting efforts. If they are correct, the result will be to diminish America’s presence on the international stage, impede the distribution around the world of accurate information on important affairs, and strengthen totalitarian governments everywhere. Yet, Congress has decided to concentrate unilateral power in the USAGM CEO, and the Court cannot override that determination. If Pack’s actions turn out to be misguided, his appointment by the President and confirmation by the Senate points to where the accountability rests: at the ballot box. Based on an evaluation of plaintiffs’ likelihood of success on the merits, the solution is likely not in this Court.
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