In the modern world, nations don't just assert their power through conventional means. Controlling the flow of information and getting your message across is as valuable as the more overt methods of assertion.
The Americans, as the world's leading superpower, possess enough firepower militarily and economically. Hence, their adversaries try and outgun them on another front – dissemination of news. This is where the key role of United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) comes in.
Now, more than ever, the Americans need to counter the narrative of its opponents as they are using their own media outlets to get their message across. The Trump administration has finally been able to secure the appointment of it's chosen person to head USAGM. That person is Michael Pack, a right-leaning documentary and filmmaker.
As the man in charge of this public-owned agency, Pack will now have to use its arms like Voice of America to let people around the world know the American side of story. It will also have to counter the narrative that countries like China and Russia have tried to make popular through their state-owned news channels.
Who is Michael Pack?
Pack has been in the business of making documentaries since 1977. His resume includes 13 documentaries. These have covered various subjects, from history to race-relations in the country. Most of these productions of Pack have been aired on PBS.
His latest work was 'Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in his Own Words' – a close look at the African-American Supreme Court judge who has been a favourite of conservatives. He has also worked with President Trump's former key advisor Steve Bannon on the latter's right-wing news platform Breitbart News.
Pack had previously served in the Bush administration also. He was appointed by the junior Bush as a member of National Council on the Humanities. He was also Senior Vice President in Corporation for Public Broadcasting and oversaw television programming.
Countries such as Russia and China have launched international news channels in various languages to try and make the worldwide news consumers appreciate their point of view on various issues. Russia Today, or RT, a government-owned news broadcasting agency of Russian government, has been able to make a big mark not just around the world but even in USA itself.
Pack would have to revive platforms like Voice of America and make them able to compete with the new contenders for the eyes and ears of global audience. He will also have the challenge of fighting government-imposed restrictions in places like China so that people get to hear an alternative perspective than what the authorities want.
The problem that he will face is the reluctance in funding. Unlike BBC which continues to be looked after well by the British government, the ingrained opposition to government expenditure on non-essential services in American society will restrict the monetary resources of USAGM. So, for Pack, it will be a case of getting a greater bang for every buck.
It took two years for Pack to be confirmed by the Senate as Democrats tried to stall his appointment. Now that he is in charge, he cannot afford to waste any time.