Voice of America
) is the
official external radio
service of the United States federal
. Its oversight entity is the Broadcasting Board of
(BBG). VOA provides a wide range of programming for
broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet around the world in
forty-six languages, promoting a positive view of the United
States. Its day-to-day operations are supported by the International Broadcasting
VOA broadcasts by satellite and on FM, AM, and shortwave radio
frequencies. It is also available through the Internet in both
streaming media and downloadable formats at VOANews.com. VOA has
affiliate and contract agreements with many radio and television
stations and cable networks worldwide.
VOA's radio transmitter facilities was originally based on a site
in Union Township (now West Chester Township) in Butler County,
Ohio, near Cincinnati. The Bethany Relay
Station operated from 1944 to 1994. Other former sites
include California (Dixon, Delano), Hawaii, Okinawa, Liberia, Costa Rica, and Belize.
the VOA and the IBB continue to operate shortwave radio
transmitters and antenna farms at one site in the United States,
located near Greenville, North
do not use FCC issued callsigns. Other radio stations on US soil
are required by FCC rules to have and use callsigns.
The Voice of America is fully funded by the U.S. taxpayer. Congress
appropriates funds annually. VOA's FY 2007 budget was $172.4
The Voice of America currently broadcasts in 45 languages (TV
marked with an asterisk):
The number of languages broadcast and the number of hours broadcast
in each language vary according to the priorities of the United
States Government and the world situation. In 2001, according to an
International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) fact sheet, VOA broadcast
in 53 languages, with 12 televised. For example, in July 2007, VOA
added 30 minutes to its daily Somali radio broadcast, providing a
full hour of live, up-to-the-minute news and information to
The Voice of America has been a part of several agencies:
From 1942 to 1945, it was part of the Office of War Information
then from 1945 to 1953 as a function of the State Department. The
VOA was placed under the U.S. Information Agency
in 1953. When the
USIA was abolished in 1999, the VOA was placed under the
Broadcasting Board of Directors, which is an autonomous U.S.
government agency, with bipartisan membership. The Secretary of
State has a seat on the BBG. .
VOA's parent organization is the presidentially-appointed Broadcasting Board of
(BBG). The BBG was established as a buffer to protect
VOA and other U.S.-sponsored, non-military, international
broadcasters from political interference.
American private shortwave broadcasting before World War
Before the Second World War, all American shortwave stations were
in private hands. The National Broadcasting
's International, or White Network, which broadcast in
six languages, The Columbia
, whose Latin American international network
consisted of sixty-four stations located in eighteen different
countries,as well as the Crosley Company in Cincinnati,
Ohio, had shortwave transmitters.
programming began in the 1930s. There were less than 12
In 1939, the Federal Communications Commission set the following
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.
Washington observers felt this policy was to enforce the State
Department's Good Neighbor
but many broadcasters felt that this was an attempt to
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
. Initially, the Office of
Coordination of Information sent releases to each station, but this
was seen as an inefficient means of transmitting news. .
World War II: VOA Begins
In January 1942, the U.S. government leased 15-minute blocks of
time on each station, calling the program "The Voice of America,"
which included the Yankee Doodle
organized in 1942 under the Office of War Information with
news programs aimed at areas in Japan and the
and in Europe and North Africa under the occupation of Nazi Germany and Japan.
broadcasting on February 24, 1942. The initial announcement of the
VOA stated, “Daily at this time, we shall speak to you about
America and the war. The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you
the truth.” The Office of War Information took over VOA's
operations when it was formed in mid 1942. The VOA reached an
agreement with the British Broadcasting
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 .
Asian transmissions started with one transmitter in California in
1941; services were expanded by adding transmitters in Hawaii and,
after recapture, the Philippines. .
By the end of the war, VOA had 39 transmitters and provided service
in 40 languages. .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.
About half of VOA’s services, including the Arabic service, were
discontinued in 1945. . Also in 1945, VOA was transferred to the
Department of State.
The Cold War
In 1946, Voice of America was transferred to the jurisdiction of
the Department of State.
In 1947, VOA started broadcasting in Russian
with the intent to counter more
harmful instances of Soviet propaganda directed against American
leaders and policies. The Soviet Union responded by initiating
aggressive, electronic jamming
broadcasts on 24 April 1949
Over the next few years, 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 6 hours a day by 1958. .
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.
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
Greece with permission of the Greek government to avoid being branded
as a pirate radio broadcasting
This VOA offshore station stayed on the air until the
1960s when facilities were eventually provided on land. The
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. to transmit worldwide, including to the
countries behind the Iron Curtain and to the People's Republic of
China (PRC). In the 1980s, the USIA established the WORLDNET
satellite television service, and in 2004 WORLDNET was merged into
During the 1950s and 1960s, VOA broadcast American jazz, which was
highly popular, world wide. For example, a program aimed at South
Africa in 1956 broadcast 2 hours nightly, along with special
programs such as “The Newport Jazz
”. This was done in association of tours by U.S.
musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie
, and Duke Ellington
, sponsored by the State
Throughout the Cold War
, many of the
targeted countries' governments sponsored jamming
of VOA broadcasts, which sometimes led
critics to question the broadcasts' actual impact. For example, in
1956, Poland stopped jamming 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. 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. The People's Republic of China diligently jams
VOA broadcasts. Cuba has also been reported to interfere
with VOA satellite transmissions to Iran from its Russian-built
transmission site at Bejucal.
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."
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, VOA deftly 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, VOA broadcast around-the-clock in
In the early 1980s, VOA began a $1.3 billion rebuilding program to
improve broadcast with better technical capabilities. Also in the 1980s,
VOA also added a television service, as well as special regional
programs to Cuba, Radio Martí and TV
Cuba has consistently attempted to jam such
broadcasts and has vociferously protested U.S. broadcasts directed
In September 1980, VOA started broadcasting to Afghanistan in Dari
and in Pashto in 1982. At the same time, 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 (even to
its own audience) in January, 1997, as a cost-cutting measure.
Today, stations are offered the VOA Music Mix service.
In 1989, Voice of America expanded 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
Post Cold War (1991 – present): Changes in services
With the break up of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, VOA added
many additional language services to reach those areas. During the
1990s, VOA reached out to oppressed peoples around the world. This
decade was marked by the additions of Tibetan, Kurdish (to Iran and
Iraq), Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Kirundi and
Kinyarwanda (to Central Africa/Rwanda) language services.
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 broadcast-news
organization to offer continuously updated programs on the
Internet. Content in English and 44 other languages is currently
available online through a distributed network of commercial
providers, using more than 20,000 servers across 71 countries.
Since many listeners in Africa and other areas still receive much
of their information via radio and have only limited access to
computers, VOA continues to maintain regular shortwave-radio
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 American popular
music with periodic brief news bulletins.
Laws governing VOA-IBB's activities
Under United States law
(Section 501 of the
of 1948), the Voice
of America is forbidden to broadcast directly to American citizens.
The intent of the legislation
protect the American public from propaganda actions by its own
Although VOA does not broadcast domestically, Americans can access
the programs through shortwave
over the Internet.
The VOA Charter
Under the Eisenhower administration in 1959, VOA Director Harry
Loomis commissioned a formal statement of principles to protect the
integrity of VOA programming and define the organization's mission,
This principle was issued by Director George V. Allen
as a directive in 1960 and was
endorsed in 1962 by USIA director Edward R. Murrow
. On July 12, 1976, the principles
were signed into law on July 12, 1976, by President Gerald Ford
. It reads:
The long-range interests of the United States are
served by communicating directly with the peoples of the world by
To be effective, the Voice of America must win the
attention and respect of listeners.
These principles will therefore govern Voice of America
VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and
authoritative source of news.
VOA news will be accurate, objective, and
VOA will represent America, not any single segment of
American society, and will therefore present a balanced and
comprehensive projection of significant American thought and
VOA will present the policies of the United States
clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible
discussions and opinion on these policies.
An internal policy of VOA News to build reliability is that any
story broadcast must have two independently corroborating sources
or have a staff correspondent actually witnessing an event,
according to former VOA correspondent Alan Heil. This rule was
confirmed by Ted Iliff, Associate Director for Central Programming
Broadcasting Board of Governors services
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a bipartisan panel of
eight private citizens appointed by the President of the United
and confirmed by the U.S. Senate (the U.S. Secretary of State
member of the Board), is the oversight body for official U.S.
by both federal agencies and government-funded corporations.
addition to VOA, these include the Office of Cuba Broadcasting
(OCB, which includes Radio and TV Marti) and grantee corporations:
the Middle East Broadcasting Network (MBN, which includes Radio Sawa and Al Hurra
television in Arabic); Radio Farda (in Persian) for Iran; Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and
Radio Free Asia, which are aimed at
the ex-communist states and
countries under oppressive regimes in Asia.
In recent years, VOA has expanded its
television coverage to many areas of the world.
Many Voice of America announcers, such as Willis Conover
, host of Jazz USA
, host of the Breakfast
in the 1980s, and Judy Massa
became worldwide celebrities
, although not
in the United States.
of America headquarters is located at 330 Independence Avenue
DC, 20237, USA.
of America program Khabron Se Aage (Beyond the
Headlines) is telecast in Pakistan by GEO TV, VOA's affiliate
and one of the country's most popular stations.
America pays an undisclosed amount of money to GEO TV to telecast
its broadcast but in spite of this arrangement has been forced to
take off many of its programmes on numerous occasions due to
conflicts with GEO TV management. This half-hour program features
reports on politics, social issues, science, sports, culture,
entertainment, and other issues of interest to Pakistanis as seen
by the US government.
Comparing VOA-RFE-RL-RM to other broadcasters
In 1996, the USA's international radio output consisted of 992
hours per week by VOA, 667 hpw by RFE/RL, and 162 hpw by Radio
Voice of America's central newsroom has hundreds of journalists and
dozens of full-time domestic and overseas correspondents, who are
employees of the U.S. government or paid contractors. They are
augmented by hundreds of contract correspondents and part-time
"stringers" throughout the world, who
file in English or in one of the VOA's 44 other radio broadcast
languages, 25 of which are also broadcast on television.
In late 2005, VOA shifted some of its central-news operation to
Hong Kong where contracted writers worked from a "virtual" office
with counterparts on the overnight shift in Washington, D.C., but
this operation was shut down in early 2008.
Many of the radio and television broadcasts are available through
VOA's website at www.VOANews.com.
Voice of America on relays & simulcasts on Radio Australia
on digital radio.
VOA as a propaganda tool
Various sources consider Voice of America an instrument of the
United States' propaganda
The Cuban government and allied critics have suggested that the
U.S. government violates national sovereignty
by broadcasting and operating in
their countries, despite Cuba's own
to the US and elsewhere. This argument has been used
to justify open attempts by the Cuban government to jam VOA
broadcasts, as well as respond with equally powerful shortwave
transmissions of English-language political broadcasts and
communiques directed at the United States. Time interval signals
identical to those used by Radio
have also been detected in coded numbers station
broadcasts that are
allegedly linked to espionage activity in the U.S.
Paying for appearances
Recently, news media have reported that VOA has for years been
paying mainstream media
appear on VOA shows. According to El
and the Miami Herald
these include: David Lightman, the Hartford Courant's Washington
bureau chief; Tom DeFrank, head of the New York Daily News'
Washington office; Helle Dale, a former director of the opinion
pages of the Washington Times
and Georgie Anne Geyer
In response, spokesmen for the Broadcasting Board of Governors told
the newspaper El Nuevo Herald
that such payments do not
pose a conflict of interest
"For decades, for many years, some of the most respectable
journalists in the country have received payments to participate in
programs of the Voice of America," one of the spokesmen, Larry
Hart, told El Nuevo Herald
Mullah Omar interview
In late September 2001, VOA aired a report that contained brief
excerpts of an interview with then Taliban
leader Mullah Omar Mohammad
with segments from President Bush's post-9/11 speech to Congress,
an expert in Islam from Georgetown University, and comments by the
foreign minister of Afghanistan's anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
State Department officials including Richard Armitage
argued that the report amounted to giving terrorists a platform to
express their views. In response, reporters and editors argued for
VOA's editorial independence
from its governors. The VOA received praise from press
organizations for its protests, and the following year in 2002, it
won the University of Oregon's Payne Award for Ethics in
Abdul Malik Rigi interview
On April 2
Abdul Malik Rigi
, the leader of
, appeared on Voice of America
Persian service. The network introduced him as "the leader of
popular Iranian resistance movement". The interview and the
introduction caused condemnation among some Iranian media that are
funded by the Iranian government
is a Sunni Islamic insurgent organization
based in Balochistan that claims to be fighting for the rights of the
minority Sunni Muslims in Iran
Ethiopia VOA Crisis
In the 1980s VOA Ethiopian service was mostly used as a rare
opposition voice against the Marxist leader Mengistu
's government. Due to Mengistu's alliance
with the Soviet Union, VOA was often accused of becoming a
propaganda voice supporting the militant opposition EPRP
, which carried out a guerrilla insurgency against
Mengistu's pro-Soviet regime. After Ethiopian rebels overthrew
Mengistu's regime in 1991, since EPRP and similar groups still were
not able to gain power, VOA mostly became a voice against the newly
formed Ethiopian government. The extremeness of the bias went as
far as anti-government VOA reporters wanting to fabricate a death
of the Ethiopian Prime Minister. However, according to the critics
of the Ethiopian government, since the service has an audience of
millions in Ethiopia, it can play an important role. They argue
that due to the stifling of press freedom in Ethiopia, the VOA
remains one of the very few media outlets the Ethiopian public
relies on for balanced information. On the other hand, supporters
of the government accused VOA of allowing armed groups to spread
propaganda that often helps recruit dissidents to take arms against
the authorities. As a result, some pro government Ethiopians living
in America also started to hold demonstrations against VOA.
Accordingly many of them wrote petitions, as well as holding more
rallies against what they call the biased and often provocative
reporting of VOA's Amharic language section.
Currently, there are still noticeable issues being reported, and a
former VOA manager once condemned the Amharic
language version of VOA, calling it a
"virtual takeover of the service by Ethiopia opponents." Even the
Tigrayan language VOA service (the language of most pro-government
Ethiopians) is often controlled by pro-Eritrean government Tigrayan
speakers who often spread propaganda against the Ethiopian
government. Ethiopian government officials continue to accuse VOA
Ethiopian reporters, who are often exiled politicians, of utilizing
"Dirty Tricks in Broadcasting", which appear objective in general
but contain anti-government messages as well as interviews with
anti-government militant leaders.
Most recently, the Horn of Africa service of the Voice of America
was condemned for censorship of news.
In January 2008, Ethiopia was accused of jamming the VOA Amharic
and Oromifa programs. The government denied the accusations
claiming technical difficulties as the cause of radio disruptions.
As jamming in Ethiopia continued, VOA was also accused of censoring
news about death of civilians at the hand of the opposition.
According to critics of VOA, the Amharic language VOA program
"systematically excluded" news about the armed group ONLF
's killing of numerous Ethiopian civilians near the
end of 2007.Pro-Ethiopian government critics of VOA will honor and
remember "the bravery" of Annette Sheckler - the former head of the
Horn of Africa VOA service who was fired after complaining against
her bosses at the VOA executive management.
- "Propaganda Reference. RED FILES: Propaganda Deep
Background. 1999. PBS.org. BPS
- International Broadcasting Board (IBB) Fact Sheet, Voice of America , 1942-2002 ; The World's Source for
- VOA Press Release, VOA Expands Broadcasts to Somalia
- Rugh 2006, 14
- Berg, Jerome S. On the Short Waves, 1923-1945: Broadcast
Listening in the Pioneer Days of Radio. 1999, McFarland. ISBN
0786405066, page 105
- Library of Congress. "NBC Resources Held by the Recorded Sound
Section". Library of Congress
- Chamberlain, A.B. "CBS International Broadcast Facilities".
Proceedings of the IRE, Volume 30, Issue 3, March 1942 Page(s): 118
- 129, abstract at IEEE
- Dizard, Wilson P. Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of
the U.S. Information Agency 2004, Lynne Rienner Publishers,
ISBN 158826288X, p. 24
- Rose, Cornelia Bruère. National Policy for Radio
Broadcasting. 1971, Ayer Publishing. ISBN 0405035802. Page
- Time magazine. "NABusiness". Monday, July 24, 1939.
- Dizard, ibid, p. 24
- Sterling, Christopher H., and John M. Kittross. Stay Tuned:
A History of American Broadcasting.2002, Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates. ISBN 0805826246. Page 263
- Berg, op. cit, p. 105
- Rugh, William A. American Encounters with Arabs: The "Soft
Power" of U.S. Public Diplomacy in the Middle East. 2006, Greenwood
Publishing Group. ISBN 0275988171, page 13.
- Dizard, ibid, p. 24-25
- Dizard, ibid, p. 25
- Dizard, ibid, p. 25
- Sterling and Kittross, op. cit., p. 263
- Rugh 2006, op. cit., 13
- Cold War Propaganda by John B. Whitton, The American Journal
of International Law, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Jan., 1951), pp.
- Rugh 2006, op. cit., 13
- Rugh 2006, op. cit., 13
- Appy, Christian G. Cold War Constructions: The Political
Culture of United States Imperialism. 2000, University of Massachusetts
Press; ISBN 1558492186, page 126.
- Broadcasting Yearbook, 1976 and 1979 editions
- Conference Report, Cold War Impact of VOA Broadcasts,
Hoover Institution and the Cold War International History Project
of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Oct.
- Jackson, David. "The Future of Radio II". World Radio TV
Handbook, 2007 edition. 2007, Billboard Books. ISBN 0823059979. p
- Broderick, James F., and Darren W. Miller. Consider the
Source: A Critical Guide to . Medford, NJ: Information Today,
2007. ISBN 0910965773, 9780910965774. p. 388
- Rugh 2006, 13 - 14
- Columbia University Press. Interview with Alan Heil, author of Voice of
- George Washington University Center for the Study of
Globalization. Whose News? Implications of the Global
Media Panel discussion, held April 5, 2005.
- Shulman, Holly Cowan. The Voice of America: Propaganda and
Democracy, 1941-1945. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press,
- Scott, Julia. "America's Propaganda War". 2 March 2005.
Salon.com. Salon.com archive
- Joyce, Christopher, and David Nordell. "Migrating Birds Fall
Foul of America's Propaganda War". New Scientist. Issue
1708. March 1990. New Scientist
- Miami New Times, Espionage Is In The Air, February 8,
- Preparing the Battlefield
- EPRP and VOA journalism issues &
- # Sheckler, Annette C, Evidence of Things Unseen: Secrets
Revealed at the Voice of America Horn of Africa Journal, Vol.
XVI, December 1998, pp. 31-51.
- EPRP vs. EPRDF
- VOA issues and bias reportings
- problems in reporting on Ethiopia by VOA
- VOA accused of assisting a terrorist organization
by giving air time for covert recruiting
- VOA faces impartiality issues
- Supporters of EPRDF (the ruling party in Ethiopia)
in US criticize VOA Amharic service of stirring conflict
- Petition on VOA's Amharic Program
- Protesters in US rally against VOA Amharic
- former VOA management team says VOA took over by
- # Sheckler, Annette C, Evidence of Things Unseen: Secrets
Revealed at the Voice of America Horn of Africa Journal, Vol.
XVI, December 1998, pp. 31-51.
- VOA and censorship issues on its coverage of
- Ethiopia accused of jamming VOA and DW
- VOA Amharic accused of "systematically" censoring negative
news about Ethiopian opposition
- Ethiopians honor Annette Sheckler