Voice of America’s Croatian Service signs off for the last time Wednesday, after 19 years of broadcast history that began during the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and ends with Croatia’s emergence as a democratic member of the European community.
VOA Director David Ensor called the service “a model of journalistic integrity that provided the people of Croatia with fair and impartial news during the dark days of civil war in the Balkans.” Ensor commended the service, which he said, “served as a vital source of independent reporting and insight into American policy.”
Voice of America established its Croatian Language Service on February 20, 1992, a time when the most brutal war since World War II was raging in the Balkans.
Spun off from the former Yugoslav Service which had been broadcasting to the area since 1943, VOA Croatian broadcasts began on radio, but were quickly expanded into television. The service was one of VOA’s first to establish an online presence.
VOA Croatian’s five-minute TV NewsFlash was broadcast daily on eight affiliate stations and focused on American news of relevance to Croatian audiences, including business, science, American culture, and politics. The popular Breakfast Show, a roundup of US, Croatian and world news, aired on radio for 19 years, without a single day of interruption. An evening radio show aired on shortwave and ten affiliate FM stations in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In addition to news coverage, VOA Croatian served as a source of entertainment and cultural programming for more than a decade. Nearly 700 episodes of Saturday’s American Cultural Magazine were aired, with stories on leading entertainers, from blues guitar legend B.B. King, to Los Lobos, the Grammy-winning Los Angeles band that performed in Zagreb in 2010.
VOA Croatian Service Chief Zorz Crmaric called going off the air a “bittersweet moment” that comes as the country begins a new chapter in European integration. He noted Croatia is now a NATO member and is scheduled to join the European Union in 2013.