From its Washington headquarters, VOA produces more than 70 television shows, and more than 200 radio programs. VOA’s digital TV master control sends signals to multiple direct-to-home satellite networks simultaneously, and shortwave, FM and AM transmitters beam VOA to hot spots around the world. Individual language services each maintain their own websites, mobile platforms and social media sites.
VOA reaches a significant part of its audience on affiliate stations that rebroadcast its programs or receive live updates from VOA reporters. This affiliate network now includes more than 2,350 individual stations, which air a wide variety programs. In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, more than 300 affiliates carry VOA programs. And VOA now reaches more than 26 million adults in Latin America, thanks to an ever-expanding affiliate network that stretches from Mexico to Chile.
- Budget: $211.4 million (FY 2015)
- Employees: 1,111
- Languages: 45
- Mobile Apps: available in 43 versions on Apple iOS, Android and Symbian
The following highlights are a sampling from 2015 of VOA’s engagement with audiences in countries of strategic importance.
“From Burundi’s painful past, we know where this kind of violence can lead,” President Obama told the people of Burundi in a White House message heard first on VOA 95.2 FM Bujumbura. “I speak to you now as your partner and friend,” the president said in broadcasts in English, Kirundi, French, and Swahili. “To Burundi’s leaders, now is the time to put aside the language of hate and division.” Since all private radio stations were closed in the violence and attempted coup that followed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term, VOA is the only locally-available source of independent news in Kirundi, which is the only language well-understood by a majority of Burundians. In the aftermath of the crisis, VOA’s Central Africa Service added a one-hour daily call-in show in Kirundi. Over a hundred listeners call in every week to talk to the show’s guests about issues such as the current political situation, the humanitarian crisis and reconciliation in Burundi.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari chose VOA for his first international television interview after defeating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. “My daily life starts at 6 am by dedicating 30 minutes to listening to VOA,” President Buhari said in the English and Hausa interview. “I am an avid listener of VOA because you are fair, professional, and balanced, which all add up to the fact that you are the station I love to fear.”
VOA Indonesian over the past fifteen years has built an affiliate network of more than 400 FM radio stations across the entire archipelago. These broadcasts are carried on some of the most influential radio networks including Sindo-Trijaya, Sonora and Smart FM, CPP Network and KBR. The national TV networks broadcast VOA Indonesian programs about Muslims living in the U.S., U.S. culture, politics and society. VOA Indonesian’s Facebook page reached more than 3.5 million followers with high engagement of 100,000-150,000 actions per week.
VOA Burmese coverage of the Myanmar election drew a social media reach surge of 7.4 million across all social platforms and an engagement rate of 1.4 million, November 4th-10th. Television broadcasts were doubled for two months to report on the election campaign and results and VOA conducted exclusive interviews with the major candidates, military leaders and government officials. VOA conducted first-hand coverage of the Rohingya boat people crises, interviewing refugees, government and military officials and local residents in remote areas of Rakhine State. VOA also provided first-hand coverage of clashes between Burmese and rebel forces along the Chinese border and government peace negotiations with ethnic groups.
VOA Mandarin broadcast extensive news and interviews about terrorist activities in Xinjiang Autonomous Region and the suppression of Muslim Uighurs that in one case, resulted in a professor being convicted in court because he had used VOA produced materials about Uighurs in China. The indictment said, the VOA report of his interview “became highly-viewed content among netizens who watched, commented on, and shared it, causing a serious confusion in public order.” In the case of the Uighur professor Illham Tohi, VOA Mandarin reports were specifically cited as evidence against the professor in the final verdict and relevant reports by CCTV, Xinhua and other official media.
VOA and its partner, First National TV in Ukraine, launched Prime Time with Myroslava Gongadze, a 26-minute weekly TV program featuring hard-hitting interviews with Ukrainian and American newsmakers. The opening show featuring a wide-ranging interview with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and topped national TV ratings in Ukraine, while generating significant media buzz and driving the news agenda in both Ukrainian and Russian-language media markets. At one point, President Poroshenko told Gongadze that he regularly follows and is impacted by her Facebook updates.
VOA Russian Service’s innovative live Twitter coverage of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in Boston exemplified VOA’s ability to harness social media to drive the news agenda and influence media organizations in the target area. Ekho Moskvy’s coverage of the trial relied solely on original reporting by VOA’s Fatima Tlisova, which was also highlighted and cited in a number of major American media outlets. Ms. Tlisova was one of three journalists invited to the White House to speak about free press with President Obama on World Press Freedom Day in 2015.
VOA Albanian reporter Ardita Dunellari’s interview with the speaker of Albania’s parliament, Ilir Meta, who has faced corruption charges, dominated the public debate in Albania for days and went viral on social media. The live broadcast was carried by more than 70 media outlets, electronic and print, including four national TV stations and at least 13 newspapers.
In July, VOA Persian provided around-the-clock coverage across various platforms on the nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States, Great Britain, France, China, Russia, plus Germany and the European Union. VOA Persian was the only news organization to broadcast Secretary of State John Kerry’s press conference in Farsi to Iran. The service’s live coverage included reaction from world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and insights from analysts in Washington, London, Paris and Vienna.
As the U.S. Congress considered the nuclear accord, VOA Persian continued its comprehensive coverage, broadcasting ten Congressional hearings on the agreement live and with simultaneous translation. VOA was the only international broadcaster to cover the debate to this extent in Farsi.
In an interview with VOA Spanish´s stringer in Venezuela Alvaro Algarra, Maria Corina Machado – a leader of the opposition in Venezuela and very critical of president´s Nicolas Maduro government – praised VOA and in general all foreign media with the following statement:
“The Voice of America has become the voice of Venezuelans. We all know how those who defend the truth are persecuted: including the journalist who reports the news or the media outlet that fulfills its sacred duty of casting a critical eye on events in order to report on the facts and policies of any government around the world. Today in Venezuela, journalism is an act of heroism, and the government has been silencing voices, even claiming lives of Venezuelan journalists. That´s why it is so important to have the presence of international media who take the risk, who resist the threats to get our voice out to the world. It is an invaluable and indispensable contribution to the cause of democracy and freedom, and the people of Venezuela will always be grateful.”
VOA Creole conducted a journalism training workshop in November for 10 Haitian journalists on “Journalism and Social Media in the Context of Elections.” During the workshop, Haiti’s Ambassador to the U.S., Paul Altidor, said, “My mother in Haiti says, when she hears news stories from local radio stations that’s not news for her until she hears it from the Voice of America.”
Malala Yousafzai, the well-known activist for the empowerment of women and the youngest Nobel Prize winner, was in Washington August 31st to take part in an event hosted by the Voice of America’s Deewa Radio and Television Service in cooperation with the Newseum. She spoke in detail on girls’ education and said women’s empowerment would not be possible without education. Deewa chief Nafees Takar joined Yousafzai on stage along with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, and Deewa broadcaster Behroz Khan. During an interview after the program Malala told VOA, “If we deprive half of the population of the world and do not let them come forward then it will be really hard for us to go forward and achieve success in development—for every country’s development the full participation of both male and female is important.”
Voice of America and the Newseum Institute in Washington co-produced a television special on a panel discussion at the Newseum on the Islamic State’s adept use of social media and propaganda to recruit members worldwide. ISIS and the Digital War was moderated by VOA reporter Mil Arcega and featured analyst Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at The George Washington University who said that unlike the “verbose statements by leader Osama bin Laden,” the Islamic State group has been able to “capitalize” on social media. Other panelists included U.S. journalist Michael Weiss, who focuses on Syria and the Middle East and is senior editor for The Daily Beast; Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute; Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne, president and chairwoman of the AMAR International Charitable Foundation; and Harun Maruf, senior editor for VOA Somali.
VOA’s documentary A Single Step: Journeys of Women Leaders debuted at a special screening at the Asia Society in New York on September 24. Produced in partnership with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union and narrated by Academy Award winner Sally Field, the 30-minute film explores the barriers women face in the developed and developing world on issues such as human rights, health, climate change and civil society. The discussion following the screening included several subjects from the documentary, Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of the Asia Society; and Tom Nagorski, Executive Vice President of the Asia Society, who moderated the panel.
Innovative uses of online media garnered recognition for several Voice of America journalists. VOA’s Jessica Beinecke, host and creator of the online English-Chinese teaching program, OMG! Meiyu received the 2012 AIB Founders Award. Arash Sigarchi of VOA’s Persian Service received the Deutsche Welle International Blog Award, which highlights online writing that champions the open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression, for his personal blog, Window of Anguish. And VOA’s Middle East Voices, which combines traditional reporting, commentary, and the stories of people living through the Arab Spring, was honored with the Online Journalism Award for topical reporting.
The 2012 Clarion Award for a television feature story/segment went to VOA reporter Carolyn Presutti, photographer/editor Michael Burke, and photographer Mike Kornely, for their report, The Falling Man, based on one of the most controversial images from the 9/11 terror attack in New York.
And Elez Biberaj, the Director of VOA’s Eurasia Division and former head of the VOA Albanian Service, received a Presidential Medal of Gratitude from Albanian President Bamir Topi.
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