Voice of America Highlights
- VOA’s TV Ashna, a respected hour-long program that broadcasts in Dari and Pashto, is now appointment viewing for many in Afghanistan. Under a new five year contract, Radio-Television Afghanistan will continue to broadcast the news program six nights a week. VOA Dari and Pashto websites have grown in popularity, and subscribers get programs via mobile browsers and email.
- VOA ’s satirical program to Iran, Parazit, rode a wave of popularity in 2011. Viewers sent in pictures of their families, both young and old, watching at so-called “Parazit Parties.” It even spawned a new term in Iran: “Paraziti,” a fan who dresses up like the irreverent co-creator of the program Saman Arbabi, who is well known for his wild and colorful outfits. The show was viewed millions of times on social media sites, despite Iranian efforts to block access. In November, Secretary of State Clinton made a guest appearance on the program, which has been called an Iranian version of “The Daily Show.” Along with ongoing news programming in Persian, VOA marked the Iranian New Year with a special televised performance of the play, An Iranian in Heaven, starring Oscar-nominated actress and Emmy award winner, Shohreh Aghdashloo.
- Traffic to VOA ’s Russian website nearly doubled in 2011 and saw record growth in Twitter followers and YouTube video views. With its web-only strategy in Russia, VOA has attracted a growing audience with new blogs and social media features that invite an active online conversation. The new Russian iPhone app rolled out in April lets citizen journalists upload and share short reports, photos, or video about key events.
- VOA ’s Croatian Service signed off for the last time on November 23, 2011, after 19 years of broadcast history that began during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia and ended with Croatia’s emergence as a democratic member of the European community.
- VOA made increasing use of mobile as a delivery platform in Africa, where in most areas the technology is outpacing the growth of home Internet use. In addition, a daily video headline segment called VOA 60 for Africa has also been added to many VOA mobile sites. The Hausa Service saw over 200,000 visits to its mobile site in December alone. The Zimbabwe Service’s radio show, Studio 7, which broadcasts in English, Shona and Ndebele, joined the Intelsat-10 “direct to home” satellite lineup along with other VOA programs reaching Southern Africa. A new French language show, Your Health–Your Future, is part of an increased emphasis on health-related news programs to the continent.
- VOA responded to the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa with comprehensive coverage from the region. Somali and Amharic drought programs were added to deliver life-saving information to refugees and victims of the crisis. VOA launched a pioneering online data visualization project that outlined the scope of the disaster.
- VOA -trained citizen journalists fanned out across the Democratic Republic of Congo gathering video, pictures and information to create a dynamic online conversation about the 2011 election and life in Congo. Congo Story: War, Women and Rape, a joint project between VOA and Citizen-Global is a multimedia crowdsourcing platform which allows victims of the country’s rape crisis to tell their haunting personal stories.
- South Sudan’s independence celebrations were broadcast live in July on VOA ’s radio program South Sudan in Focus, which is funded by a State Department grant. It is co-hosted from Washington and Juba and broadcast on FM, AM and shortwave.
- The Somali Service saw listening rates soar to 73 percent in 2011 – one of VOA ’s highest.
- OMG! Meiyu, a trendy, online English teaching feature, was seen by more than 5.5 million people in its first four months. The quirky videos produced by Jessica Beinecke are posted on social media sites and teach popularEnglish expressions used by young Americans. A new Chinese language iPhone app was launched in June, giving users the news on their mobile devices, and enabling citizen journalists to upload tips and photos from their phones. Chinese language TV and radio programs continue to be popular in China despite efforts to block them.
- VOA Tibet hosted a live televised debate from Washington in March featuring three candidates vying to become Prime Minister of the exiled Tibetan government and broadcast live coverage of the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday celebration in Washington in July. Surveys of exiles and people leaving Tibet suggest a sizeable audience for VOA TV programs.
- VOA ’s Burmese Service provided extensive coverage of the country’s changing political climate in 2011, and hosted a series of programs with Pro-Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. VOA reporters were on hand as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her historic visit to Burmain December.
- VOA journalist Sungwon Baik completed a rare reporting assignment to North Korea in September to cover the 17th International Taekwon-Do World Championships in Pyongyang. VOA programs reach North Korea on shortwave, medium wave and mobile sites.
- Japan’s deadly earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster were covered extensively by VOA ’s correspondent Steve Herman, who became one of the most quoted international journalists to report on the story. Herman, a prolific and well known Twitter user, was one of the first reporters to reach the crippled Fukushima-1 reactor, capturing photographs and providing an eyewitness description of the depopulated zone.
- This year El Tiempo, one of the region’s oldest and most respected news organizations, began using VOA reports on its growing 24-hour cable TV service in Colombia.
- VOA ’s Creole Service updated its lineup of programs with new segments focused on engaging its increasingly youthful audience and examining critical issues including the economy, health, public safety and education. Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States, marking the service’s 25th anniversary, called the program, “a model and example for many radio stations and for journalists in Haiti.”
- VOA reporter and videographer June Soh won a Bronze Medal at the New York Festivals® World’s Best Television and Films Awards in New York. The TV feature profiled renowned acoustic guitar maker and musician Wayne Henderson. Correspondent Michael O’Sullivan won a LA Press Club National Entertainment Award for his feature about a group of “famous jazz old timers coming together for a recording session like it was done in the old days.”
- A report by Jerome Socolovsky about the pro-democracy protests in Egypt was honored by the Association for International Broadcasting with a “Highly Commended” award in the category of “clearest coverage of a single news event – radio.”
- Reporter Carolyn Presutti and Videographer Michael Kornely won a Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Award for Outstanding Specialty Reporting for a five-part series from the Mississippi Delta region, including a story about a school that teaches young musicians how to play the blues.
- Young-Ran Jeon won the 2010 New York Festivals Gold World Trophy for National/International Affairs for her three-part radio series on North Korean migrant workers in Vladivostok, Russia. Jeon’s reports provided rare insight into the hardships that the workers endure in order to earn a higher income than is possible in North Korea.
- Reporter Jessica Beinecke was “highly commended” by the Association of International Broadcasters in the category of Best Creative TV feature for her Mandarin program Bai Jie Speaks English.
- VOA’s Thai Service received an honorary award from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, a top institution of higher learning in Thailand, in recognition of 15 years of teaching classes.
- Myroslava Gangadze, the host of Chas-Time, was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Ukraine by Focus Magazine, a popular newsweekly, for the second year in a row.
- The Bedirxan Cultural Foundation, based in northern Iraq, held its 7th annual festival in Washington, DC, under the theme of “Cultural Bridges between Kurds and Americans.” The foundation gave VOA’s Kurdish Service an award for its exceptional contribution to the local media.
- Haitians, cut off from the world by a devastating earthquake in January 2010, tuned in to special shortwave and satellite radio broadcasts from the Voice of America’s Creole Service to learn the latest news and information. “In times of crises, VOA is a lifeline of information,” said VOA Director Danforth Austin. “Because of our technologies, we are able to reach people in their own languages when disasters strike.” ”
- VOA’s Russian service continues to keep consumers up-to-date using the latest technology. In March 2010, the service launched a new website for cell phone users in the Russian Federation’s rapidly expanding web market. The new URL automatically adapts to a user’s mobile phone – allowing easy and convenient access to the VOA Russian-language Internet site. “With Russia’s quickly evolving new media landscape, we are constantly adapting to new realities,” said Elez Biberaj, VOA Eurasia Division Director.
- VOA’s Persian News Network continues to cover events inside Iran, following the controversial election in June 2009 of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In June of 2010, VOA was granted rights to air the HBO documentary For Neda, the tragic story of the young Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot and killed during the turmoil that followed the election. The program tells Neda’s personal story, and features previously unseen footage. VOA’s PNN has the largest combined television and radio audience in Iran of all international broadcasters, with nearly 20% of adult Iranians watching a VOA program at least once a week.
- VOA was on the scene in South Africa, boosting its multimedia coverage of the World Cup with daily reports, special features, videos, and photos. Among the broadcasters covering the tournament- hosts from the Persian News Network, Spanish-language VOANoticias, and popular English host Sonny Young. VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch said: “People all over the globe are passionate about football, and VOA is determined to provide our worldwide audience with as much coverage, analysis and color as possible.”