Voice of America turned 70 on Wednesday, and VOA Director David Ensor says the international broadcast agency is aggressively moving forward with new programs that ensure it remains an “information lifeline to people in closed societies like Iran.”
Addressing VOA journalists at the agency’s Washington headquarters, Ensor pointed to a television news show for Burma that began airing in January, a popular video blog that has been viewed more than 7 million times in China, expanded TV broadcasts to Iran, and new health programs on radio in Africa. He also described plans for a Russian language TV program that will harness popular social media programs to make citizen journalists and the audience a key part of the show. Ensor said the one-time cold war broadcaster is “as relevant today as it was February 1st, 1942,” the date of the first shortwave radio broadcast to Germany.”
Created by the U.S. government in the opening days of World War Two, the Voice of America has evolved into a global multi-media organization, broadcasting balanced and comprehensive news in 43 languages to an estimated weekly audience of 141 million.
The first shortwave radio transmission, spoken in German just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, began with the words “Here speaks a voice from America.” The broadcast went on to promise, “The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth.” Ensor, the 28th Voice of America director, says the agency continues to be guided by those words.
VOA radio remains highly popular in many markets, including Somalia, parts of Pakistan and Haiti. Ensor says the agency is moving forward with new television and Internet programs that target countries like Iran, where the government restricts the free flow of information.
VOA programs are delivered on satellite, cable TV, mobile, shortwave, FM, medium wave, the Internet, and on a network of about 1,200 affiliate stations around the world. In addition to more than 1,100 employees in Washington, VOA works with contract journalists in trouble spots around the world. Last month the Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder of a reporter working for VOA in Pakistan.