John F. Kennedy Appoints Edward R. Murrow Head of The United States Information Agency

Murrow's appointment as head of the United States Information Agency was seen as a vote of confidence in the agency, which provided the official views of the government to the public in other nations.

The USIA had been under fire during the McCarthy era, and Murrow brought back at least one of McCarthy's targets, Reed Harris. Murrow insisted on a high level of presidential access, telling Kennedy, "If you want me in on the landings, I'd better be there for the takeoffs." However, the early effects of cancer kept him from taking an active role in the Bay of Pigs Invasion planning. He did advise the president during the Cuban Missile Crisis but was ill at the time the president was assassinated. Asked to stay on by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Murrow did so but resigned in early 1964, citing illness.

Murrow's celebrity gave the agency a higher profile which may have helped it earn more funds from Congress. His transfer to a governmental position did lead to an embarrassing incident shortly after taking the job, when he was compelled to ask the BBC not to show "Harvest of Shame," which had been included in a collection of U.S. network television documentaries made available to other countries by the USIA.

According to some biographers, near the end of Murrow's life, when health problems forced him to resign from the USIA, Paley reportedly invited Murrow to return to CBS. Murrow, possibly knowing he could not work, declined Paley's offer.

The USIA's mission was "to understand, inform and influence foreign publics in promotion of the national interest, and to broaden the dialogue between Americans and U.S. institutions, and their counterparts abroad".

Its stated goals were:

To explain and advocate U.S. policies in terms that are credible and meaningful in foreign cultures;

To provide information about the official policies of the United States, and about the people, values and institutions which influence those policies;

To bring the benefits of international engagement to American citizens and institutions by helping them build strong long-term relationships with their counterparts overseas;

To advise the President and U.S. government policy-makers on the ways in which foreign attitudes will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of U.S. policies.

The USIA was established in August 1953, although cultural and educational exchange functions remained in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State until 1978, when they were shifted to USIA. Following a brief period during the Carter administration, when it was called the International Communications Agency (ICA), to avoid confusion with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the agency's name was restored to USIA in August 1982. The agency was known as United States Information Service (USIS) overseas but could not use that abbreviation domestically to avoid confusion with the United States Immigration Service.