The new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Michael Pack, drew heavy criticism from congressional Democrats, former USAGM employees, and notable Trump allies over his recent personnel shakeup, which included the firings of Bay Fang, the head of Radio Free Asia; Jamie Fly, the head of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe; and Alberto Fernandez, the head of the Middle East Broadcasting Network.
Pack wields considerable influence over the way America is perceived abroad. The USAGM oversees multiple international broadcast networks that report to a foreign audience of 345 million people in 61 different languages. Voice of America is the largest broadcaster, delivering approximately 1,800 hours of radio and TV programming each week to an audience of 236 million.
Who is this executive with an unparalleled ability to shape opinion? Pack is the former president of the Claremont Institute, a California-based conservative think tank. He is also the founder and president of Manifold Productions, and has produced numerous documentaries centered on conservative issues. His credits include The Fall of Newt Gingrich (2000), Hollywood vs. Religion (1995), and Campus Culture Wars: Five Stores about Political Correctness (1993). From 2002 until 2005, Pack served on the National Council on the Humanities under the Bush Administration.
But most notably, Pack enjoys a close professional relationship with Steven K. Bannon: the former chief strategist for President Trump, fierce China hawk, and host of The War Room podcast. This has prompted speculation about Pack’s ideological bent and overarching mission, and whether it will extend into his tenure at the USGAM.
In 2017, Pack wrote an essay for the Federalist in which he described Bannon as the vanguard for a wave of conservative documentarians eager to break the Left’s creative and cultural monopoly on filmmaking. Bannon, who served as an executive producer on two of Pack’s films, has written and directed more than ten documentaries spanning a wide range of subjects, from Sarah Palin to the global financial crisis of 2008.
“I have some bad news for this documentary establishment. Trump, with Bannon’s help, campaigned against political correctness and self-dealing elites. And they won,” Pack wrote.
“Even worse for them, Bannon understands this problem from the inside of the film industry. I hope he will find a way to break their politically correct stranglehold and open a path for young, talented conservative filmmakers. Documentaries provide an important way of understanding our politics, history, and culture. Viewers, and the nation, are better served by a diversity of views.”
Never mind a lone wolf documentarian on the outskirts of politics. Now that Pack sits at the head of the USAGM with oversight of Voice of America, it seems Bannon’s mission has been largely successful. Bannon, who claimed that the 2020 election is solely about China, has a key ally in power to influence foreign opinion of the U.S., especially in Southeast Asia. And it’s telling, too, that Pack’s first bold move as CEO closely resembled his collaborator’s scorched-earth tactics.