WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said on Friday it had issued a subpoena to compel the head of U.S. government broadcasting operations to testify next week, amid concern about editorial independence under President Donald Trump’s appointee.
Democratic U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, the committee’s chairman, said Michael Pack backed out after agreeing to testify at a hearing on Sept. 24.
“His office failed to provide any reasonable alternative dates and his excuse for breaking his commitment is not acceptable,” Engel said in a statement announcing that the committee had issued a subpoena for testimony on Sept. 24.
Pack, a conservative filmmaker, has removed the heads of four of the organizations under the Agency for Global Media (AGM) umbrella - Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Network and the Open Technology Fund - and replaced the bipartisan boards that govern and advise the services mostly with political appointees from Trump’s administration.
The public relations office at AGM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. law requires the government-funded broadcasters to operate independently and remain free from interference by any presidential administration.
Democrats had objected to Trump’s appointment of Pack, saying they feared he would see his role as forcing favorable coverage of the Republican president’s administration. Pack is an ally of conservative political activists, including Steve Bannon, once a top aide to Trump.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis
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