VOA Somali Service Launches TV Program

Abdi H. Mahamud and Sahra Nur host Variety, the VOA Somali Service's first ever TV program

Abdi H. Mahamud and Sahra Nur host Variety, the VOA Somali Service’s first ever TV program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Viewers of VOA’s first ever Somali-language TV program are calling the show “remarkable.”

“VOA is already very strong on radio in Somalia, with over half the population listening to VOA Somali at least once a week,” said VOA Africa Division Director Gwen Dillard. “Expanding into television allows our audience members to turn to VOA for objective and balanced coverage in a medium that is becoming more popular in Somalia.”

The weekly 15-minute show, called Variety (in Somali, Qubanaha), can now be watched online and will be available to TV affiliate stations. It includes a mix of U.S., international, and regional news, as well as reports from local journalists in Somalia.

The program’s debut brought immediate feedback from longtime radio listeners who said they were excited to see some of the faces of Somali Service reporters who had been familiar voices on the radio.  “Now you are remarkable. This is what we need,” wrote one fan. “When it comes to source[s], you are number one.

Somalia’s most famous editorial cartoonist, Amin Amir, weighed in on his first impressions of the highly anticipated program, with a cartoon remarking on the surprisingly youthful appearance of the two hosts of Variety, Abdi H. Mahamud and Sahra Nur.

Cartoon by Amin Amir

Cartoon by Amin Amir

The first episode of Variety, launched on July 12, included coverage of the U.S. trial of three Somalis found guilty of piracy, and Barclay Bank’s closure of accounts held by remittance companies, which Somali diaspora members use to send money back home.

A new episode will be available every Friday on a range of web and social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, as well as on the service’s website, VOASomali.com, and its mobile site.

In addition to audiences in Somalia, diaspora communities around the world also tune in to VOA, and have welcomed the new TV program.

“[We] have been waiting to finally watch this outstanding show,” said Hashi Shafi, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Somali Action Alliance. “Judging on the amount of interest within our community, I’m expecting this [program] will continue for a very long time and become very popular.”

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