Voice of America

Voice of America
Type International public broadcaster
Country United States (for external consumption only)
Founded 1942
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Owner United States government
Official website
www.voanews.com
Voice of America headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Yankee Doodle, the interval signal of the Voice of America

The Voice of America (VOA) is the official external broadcast institution of the United States federal government. The VOA provides programming for broadcast on radio, TV, and the Internet outside of the U.S., in English and some foreign languages. A 1976 law signed by President Gerald Ford requires the VOA to "serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news."[1] The VOA Charter states: "VOA news will be accurate, objective and comprehensive."[1] The Voice of America headquarters is located at 330 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC, 20237, U.S. The Voice of America is fully funded by the U.S. government. The United States Congress appropriates funds for it annually.

VOA radio and television broadcasts are distributed by satellite, cable and on FM, AM, and shortwave radio frequencies. They are streamed on individual language service websites, social media sites and mobile platforms. The VOA has affiliate and contract agreements with radio and television stations and cable networks worldwide.

The interval signal of VOA radio broadcast is the Yankee Doodle played by a brass band.

Contents

  • Current languages 1
  • History 2
    • American private shortwave broadcasting before World War II 2.1
    • World War II: The VOA begins as the VOA 2.2
    • The Cold War 2.3
    • Post Cold War 2.4
    • New Millennium: Cuts in services 2.5
  • Agencies 3
  • Laws 4
    • Smith–Mundt Act 4.1
    • Internal policies 4.2
      • The VOA Charter 4.2.1
      • "Two-Source Rule" 4.2.2
  • Newsroom 5
  • Shortwave frequencies 6
  • VOA Radiogram 7
  • Transmission facilities 8
  • Comparing VOA-RFE-RL-RM to other broadcasters 9
  • Controversy 10
    • VOA as a propaganda tool 10.1
    • National sovereignty 10.2
    • Mullah Omar interview 10.3
    • Abdul Malik Rigi interview 10.4
  • See also 11
  • References 12

Current languages

VOA News in Russian 2013-01-11: mental illness

The Voice of America website has five versions in English language (Worldwide, Special English, Cambodia, Zimbabwe and Tibet). Additionally, the VOA website has versions in 41 foreign languages (Radio programs marked with an asterisk; TV programs with a plus symbol):

The number of languages vary according to the priorities of the United States Government and the world situation.[2]

History

American private shortwave broadcasting before World War II

Before World War II, all American shortwave stations were in private hands.[3] Known privately controlled shortwave networks included the National Broadcasting Company's International, or White Network, which broadcast in six languages,[4] the Columbia Broadcasting System's Latin American international network, which consisted of 64 stations located in 18 different countries,[5] and the Crosley Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, all of which had shortwave transmitters. Experimental programming began in the 1930s, but there were then fewer than 12 transmitters in operation.[6]

In 1939, the Federal Communications Commission set the following policy:
A licensee of an international broadcast station shall render only an international broadcast service which will reflect the culture of this country and which will promote international goodwill, understanding and cooperation. Any program solely intended for, and directed to an audience in the continental United States does not meet the requirements for this service.[7]

Washington observers felt this policy was to enforce the State Department's Good Neighbor Policy, but many broadcasters felt that this was an attempt to direct censorship.[8]

In 1940, the Office of the Coordinator of Interamerican Affairs, a semi-independent agency of the U.S. State Department headed by Nelson Rockefeller, began operations. Shortwave signals to Latin America were regarded as vital to counter Nazi propaganda.[9] Initially, the Office of Coordination of Information sent releases to each station, but this was seen as an inefficient means of transmitting news.[3]

World War II: The VOA begins as the VOA

Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government's Office of the Coordinator of Information had already begun providing war news and commentary to the commercial American shortwave radio stations for use on a voluntary basis.[10] Direct programming began approximately seven weeks after the United States's entry into World War II, with the first live broadcast to Germany, which was called Stimmen aus Amerika ("Voices from America") and was transmitted on February 1, 1942. It was introduced by "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and included the pledge: "Today, and every day from now on, we will be with you from America to talk about the war. . . . The news may be good or bad for us – We will always tell you the truth."[11] Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, approved this broadcast, which then-Colonel William J. Donovan and playwright Robert Sherwood, the playwright who served as Roosevelt’s speech writer and information advisor, had recommended to him. It was Sherwood who actually coined the term “The Voice of America” to describe the shortwave network that began its transmissions on February 1, from 270 Madison Avenue in New York City.

The Office of War Information, when organized in the middle of 1942, officially took over the VOA's operations. The VOA reached an agreement with the British Broadcasting Corporation to share medium-wave transmitters in Britain, and expanded into Tunis in North Africa and Palermo and Bari, Italy as the Allies captured these territories. The OWI also set up the American Broadcasting Station in Europe.[12]

Asian transmissions started with one transmitter in California in 1941; services were expanded by adding transmitters in Hawaii and, after recapture, the Philippines.[13]

By the end of the war, the VOA had 39 transmitters and provided service in 40 languages.[14] Programming was broadcast from production centers in New York and San Francisco, with more than 1,000 programs originating from New York. Programming consisted of music, news, commentary, and relays of U.S. domestic programming, in addition to specialized VOA programming.[15]

About half of the VOA's services, including the Arabic service, were discontinued in 1945.[16] In late 1945, the VOA was transferred to the Department of State.

The Cold War

In 1947, the VOA started broadcasting to the Soviet citizens in Russian under the pretext of countering "more harmful instances of Soviet propaganda directed against American leaders and policies" on the part of the internal Soviet Russian-language media, according to John B. Whitton's treatise, Cold War Propaganda.[17] The Soviet Union responded by initiating electronic jamming of VOA broadcasts on April 24, 1949.[17]

Charles W. Thayer headed the VOA in 1948–49.

Over the next few years, the U.S. government debated the best role of the Voice of America. The decision was made to use VOA broadcasts as a part of its foreign policy to fight the propaganda of the Soviet Union and other countries.

The Arabic service resumed on January 1, 1950, with a half-hour program. This program grew to 14.5 hours daily during the Suez Crisis of 1956, and was six hours a day by 1958.[16]

In 1952, the Voice of America installed a studio and relay facility aboard a converted U.S. Coast Guard cutter renamed Courier whose target audience was Russia and its allies. The Courier was originally intended to become the first in a fleet of mobile, radio broadcasting ships (see offshore radio) that built upon U.S. Navy experience during WWII in using warships as floating broadcasting stations. However, the Courier eventually dropped anchor off the island of Rhodes, Greece with permission of the Greek government to avoid being branded as a pirate radio broadcasting ship. This VOA offshore station stayed on the air until the 1960s when facilities were eventually provided on land. The Courier supplied training to engineers who later worked on several of the European commercial offshore broadcasting stations of the 1950s and 1960s.

Control of the VOA passed from the State Department to the U.S. Information Agency when the latter was established in 1953.[16] to transmit worldwide, including to the countries behind the Iron Curtain and to the People's Republic of China (PRC).

During the 1950s and 1960s, VOA broadcast American jazz, which was highly popular worldwide. For example, a program aimed at South Africa in 1956 broadcast two hours nightly, along with special programs such as The Newport Jazz Festival. This was done in association with tours by U.S. musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington, sponsored by the State Department.[18]

Throughout the Cold War, many of the targeted countries's governments sponsored jamming of VOA broadcasts, which sometimes led critics to question the broadcasts' actual impact. For example, in 1956, Poland stopped jamming the VOA, but Bulgaria continued to jam the signal through the 1970s. and Chinese language VOA broadcasts were jammed beginning in 1956 and extending through 1976.[19] However, after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, interviews with participants in anti-Soviet movements verified the effectiveness of VOA broadcasts in transmitting information to socialist societies.[20] The People's Republic of China diligently jams VOA broadcasts.[21] Cuba has also been reported to interfere with VOA satellite transmissions to Iran from its Russian-built transmission site at Bejucal.[22] David Jackson, former director of the Voice of America, noted: "The North Korean government doesn't jam us, but they try to keep people from listening through intimidation or worse. But people figure out ways to listen despite the odds. They're very resourceful."[23]

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the VOA covered some of the era's most important news, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and Neil Armstrong's first walk on the moon. During the Cuban missile crisis, the VOA broadcast around-the-clock in Spanish.

In the early 1980s, the VOA began a $1.3 billion rebuilding program to improve broadcast with better technical capabilities. Also in the 1980s, the VOA also added a television service, as well as special regional programs to Cuba, Radio Martí and TV Martí. Cuba has consistently attempted to jam such broadcasts and has vociferously protested U.S. broadcasts directed at Cuba.

In September 1980, the VOA started broadcasting to Afghanistan in Dari and in Pashto in 1982. At the same time, the VOA started to broadcast U.S. government editorials, clearly separated from the programming by audio cues.

In 1985, VOA Europe was created as a special service in English that was relayed via satellite to AM, FM, and cable affiliates throughout Europe. With a contemporary format including live disc jockeys, the network presented top musical hits as well as VOA news and features of local interest (such as "EuroFax") 24 hours a day. VOA Europe was closed down without advance public notice in January, 1997 as a cost-cutting measure. Today, stations are offered the VOA1 - The Hits service (until October 2014 known as VOA Music Mix).

In 1989, the Voice of America expanded its Mandarin and Cantonese programming to reach the millions of Chinese and inform the country, accurately about the pro-democracy movement within the country, including the demonstration in Tiananmen Square.

Starting in 1990, the U.S. consolidated its international broadcasting efforts, with the establishment of the Bureau of Broadcasting.

Post Cold War

With the breakup of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, the VOA added many additional language services to reach those areas. This decade was marked by the additions of Tibetan, Kurdish (to Iran and Iraq), Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Rwanda-Rundi language services.

In 1993, the Clinton administration advised cutting funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as it was felt post-Cold War information and influence was not needed in Europe. This plan was not well received, and he then proposed the compromise of the International Broadcasting Act. The Broadcasting Board of Governors was established and took control from the Board for International Broadcasters which previously oversaw funding for RFE/RL.[24]

In 1994, President Clinton signed the International Broadcasting Act into law. This law established the International Broadcasting Bureau as a part of the U.S. Information Agency and created the Broadcasting Board of Governors with oversight authority. In 1998, the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act was signed into law and mandated that BBG become an independent federal agency as of October 1, 1999. This act also abolished the U.S.I.A. and merged most of its functions with those of the State Department.

In 1994, the Voice of America became the first[25] broadcast-news organization to offer continuously updated programs on the Internet.

New Millennium: Cuts in services

The Arabic Service was abolished in 2002 and replaced by a new radio service, called the Middle East Radio Network or Radio Sawa, with an initial budget of $22 million. Radio Sawa offered mostly Western and Middle Eastern popular songs with periodic brief news bulletins.

In 2004, Worldnet, a satellite television service, was merged into the VOA.

On September 2008, The VOA eliminated the Hindi language service after 53 years.[26] Previously, radio programs in Russsian were gone off the air in July.[26] The same fate happened to broadcasts in Ukrainian, Serbian, Macedonian and Bosnian.[27] These reductions were part of American efforts to concentrate more resources to broadcast to the Muslim world.[26][27]

In September 2010, the VOA launched its radio broadcasts in Sudan. As U.S. interests in South Sudan have grown, there is a desire to provide people with free information.[28]

In February 2013, a documentary released by