Weston R. Sager

Publication Date

Winter 2015


For over sixty years, the Smith–Mundt Act prohibited the U.S. Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) from disseminating government-produced programming within the United States over fears that these agencies would “propagandize” the American people. However, in 2013, Congress abolished the domestic dissemination ban, which has led to a heated debate about the role of the federal government in free public discourse. Although the 2013 repeal of the domestic dissemination ban promotes greater government transparency and may help counter anti-American sentiment at home, it also gives the federal government great power to covertly influence public opinion. To curb the potential harm of surreptitious government propaganda, while also preserving the benefits of repeal, this Note advocates for requiring the State Department and the BBG to clearly attribute any government-produced programming these agencies disseminate within the United States. This Note contends that attribution can be best accomplished in one of two ways: by passing new attribution legislation similar to that of the failed Truth in Broadcasting Act of 2005 or by expanding the judicially created government speech doctrine to require these agencies to properly attribute any materials they distribute to the American public.