United States Agency for Global Media

History

The history of U.S. civilian international broadcasting

The history of U.S. international media spans more than 75 years, starting with the creation of the Voice of America (VOA) during World War II. U.S. civilian broadcasting was born in February 1942 when American writer and journalist William Harlan Hale initiated VOA’s first radio show in German with these now immortal words:

We bring you voices from America. Today, and daily from now on, we shall speak to you about America and the war. The news may be good for us. The news may be bad. But we shall tell you the truth.”

Today, VOA is one of five U.S. civilian broadcast networks that fall under the purview of the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM). The others are Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which went on the air on July 4, 1950 with a broadcast to communist Czechoslovakia from a studio in New York City; the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) with its Radio and TV Martí, which started broadcasting in 1985 and 1990, respectively; Radio Free Asia (RFA), which was founded on March 12, 1996; and the Arabic-language stations Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), which were launched in 2004.

Working Together

The U.S. government’s international broadcasting services began to work closer together in 1990 when the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), then VOA’s parent agency, established the Bureau of Broadcasting to consolidate its three broadcasting services – VOA, the WORLDNET Television and Film Service, and Radio and TV Martí – under one umbrella organization that was supported by an Office of Engineering and Technical Operations.

In 1991, the Bureau of Broadcasting created the Office of Affiliate Relations and Audience Analysis (later renamed the Office of Business Development) to establish and maintain a network of “affiliated” radio and TV stations around the globe that would broadcast VOA- and WORLDNET-produced programs. Today, more than 3,000 radio and TV stations receive our programming.

Further Consolidation

International broadcasting by the U.S government was consolidated even more when President Bill Clinton signed the International Broadcasting Act (Public Law 103-236) on April 30, 1994. The legislation established the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) and created a Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with oversight authority over all international non-military government broadcasting.

With the enactment of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, the Broadcasting Board of Governors assumed authority for VOA and the Martís, as well as its three grantee organizations: RFE/RL, RFA and MBN.

VOA’s original charter, signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1976 to lay out the objectives of VOA, was subsequently included in the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, as amended. The charter serves as the basis for the “standards and principles” of all BBG broadcasting as written in the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994.

The first Broadcasting Board of Governors was sworn in on August 11, 1995. More than four years later on October 1, 1999, the BBG became an independent, autonomous entity as a result of the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998. It would henceforth be responsible for all U.S. government and government-sponsored non-military international broadcasting.

The Agency’s role is to supervise all broadcasting activities and provide strategic management for the agency. It serves as a firewall between U.S. government policymakers and journalists.

Modernization

On August 22, 2018, as part of a larger modernization effort, the Broadcasting Board of Governors changed its name to the United States Agency for Global Media.

The change was made to help constituents better understand the work that the Agency and its networks do. USAGM remains rigorously committed to objective journalism and the firewall protecting journalists and content from political influence remains in place.

““Continued broadcasting will change the awareness of the people. The DPRK (North Korea) is a country that cannot exist long. Broadcasting is like shooting a gun at the general public. You should broadcast even if you think there is only one person in the audience. You should not spare money for broadcasting."”

North Korean defector & former journalist

2000

““I really admire your daily programs and listen to them on a regular basis. I believe that what you are producing is the best programming among all Persian radio broadcasts originating from abroad.””

Listener in Iran

2000

““Through jamming, through all the technical problems, across seas and oceans for many years, we’ve been listening to VOA.… We are especially interested to hear about people who are able to laugh at themselves and their circumstances.””

Listener from Russia

2000

““Radio Free Asia’s Uyghur program is the only source in the Uyghur region that provides timely news and truthful information. Our government and media broadcast only propaganda and untruthful information.””

Listener from the Uyghur region

2000

““ RFA is an objective, fair, and accurate radio station. What you report is exactly what we ordinary people need so we can learn what is happening around us. Often, the Chinese government blocks the news and also tries to fool us. We don’t even know what is happening in our own environment.””

Student from China

2000

““For me, Radio Liberty—just as for millions of its listeners in the boundless stretches of [Russia]—was and is the real embodiment of its name, ‘Svoboda’ (freedom). It is freedom from lies, it is the freedom to receive and distribute information as it is formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. During the quiet days of our lives, one can think that ‘Svoboda’ is one radio station among many. But, oh, such days are few! And in all the others—those showery and stormy days and times of fog and blood—you understand that ‘Svoboda’ will still be needed by Russia on its long path to Freedom!"”

Elena Bonner, Russian human rights activist

2000

“"You are ordinary Chinese, but the work you do is extraordinary. Your work is to wake up millions of Chinese who have been cheated, numbed, fooled and persecuted and learn their situation. Thanks to you, RFA. You have opened a window for China and introduced space for democracy and freedom. You are a real promising sunshine. I wish all of the RFA staff good health and ask you to work hard so Chinese people can break away from the hardship of life sooner and live happily and freely. This will be RFA ’s achievement that will be remembered forever."”

Listener from China

1999

“"Although I could not understand why some callers support the CCP, we have at least one thing in common we all love to listen to RFA. I think the CCP is afraid of people listening to RFA because they do not want people to know more about freedom and democracy."”

Caller from China

1999

“RFA broadcasts, like an educator, has brightened our hearts …They have opened our eyes. China always wants to keep the Uyghurs ignorant of the world. But now we understand democracy, human rights, and freedom. RFA broadcast means more than food, drink, and air to us because it give s us hope and inspiration. We hope RFA increases the broadcast time in the Uyghur language.””

RFA Uyghur Listener

1999

“I want to thank you because of the great service you provide, especially the Persian radio. In all the days of the p r o t e s t s, the only news agency I could trust was you….I hope someday all the work we do will lead Iran to freedom."”

Listener from Iran

1999

““As one of the constant listeners of Radio Liberty, I want to thank you, the American Congress and the American people for the enormous contribution you have made to the dissemination of the ideas of democracy, justice and freedom through the entire world. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Radio Liberty is one of the few tribunes for those struggling for the establishment of democracy and a just society in those countries where even up to now rule dictatorship and authoritarianism."”

Khazratkul Khudoiberdi, former Uzbek political prisoner

1999

“I am a Uyghur listener. I think RFA is the only station where we Uyghurs can express our political views freely. So, on behalf of 25 million Uyghurs, I am very thankful for you. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”

RFA Uyghur listener

1999

““Let me call you Voice of a Miracle because your voice enters directly to the heart and interconnects the entire world.””

VOA Learning English Listener

1999

““It is not possible to get the truth from domestic Chinese sources. In order to get the truth in China, one has no choice but to become a faithful listener to the Voice of America.””

Wei Jingsheng, Chinese dissident

1998

““I am in anguish. There is a spiritual hunger in me. I thirst for certain information, but given the way things are in China, my thirst cannot be quenched. I can only tune into your program often. I like your program a lot. Your program moves me so much that I have become an insomniac.””

RFA Listener, Guangxi Province, China

1998

““The Tibetan language program...has become the listening post and window to the outside world for the Tibetans under the occupation by China. I know for a fact that the Tibetans inside Tibet listen to your program every day at the great risk of being prosecuted and imprisoned by the Chinese authorities.””

Excerpt of a letter to Radio Free Asia f rom a listener, Wangchuk Tsering, in Nepal

1998

“Your voices are our voices. After I've listened to you once, I can't stop listening. Not only do I listen to programs carefully I also love to talk about them, think about them, and tape them.””

Letter to RFA from Shanxi Province, China

1998

““You can say that your program speaks to our hearts and in the middle of the long lingering night, it lets us see the hope of a free China. History will never forget you— Radio Free Asia—and the Chinese people who live under the dictatorial rule and long for freedom and democracy will thank you.””

Middle school history teacher, Yunnan Province, China

1997

““The fact that mainland China has jammed Radio Free Asia in this way really proves that your station ’s broadcasts have hit the Communist Party where it hurts."”

Listener from China

1997

““Dari [VOA] air shows are received in Kabul loud and clear. Your scientific, cultural, and informative programs certainly help us gain scientific knowledge. Your call-in show covers a range of interesting subjects and your broadcast policy is appropriate as it contains material fit for the needs of our society."”

Listener in Kabul, Afghanistan

1997

““...[Y]our program is ameliorating the lives of Rwandans and Burundians who seemed abandoned by the whole world. Now is the time that America is really showing its democratic leadership by trying to build a country that was divided by conflict.””

Rwandan listener (VOA)

1997

““I listen to your program [VOA] every evening....I’d like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to you on your effort to enforce some light in the dark media skies over Yugoslavia. ””

VOA Serbian Listener

1997

““I arrived from Cuba on May 26, 1996, and I can tell you that thanks to Radio Martí, the Cuban people keep themselves informed, from all points of view, about news, art, culture, and music.””

Radio Martí Listener

1997

Greta Van Susteren, VOA Contributor image

“I am intellectually challenged by my weekly VOA show which broadcasts all over the world and is translated into many languages..."”

Greta Van Susteren, VOA Contributor

Former MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News host

Radmila Sekerinska Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Macedonia  image

“Macedonia has experienced what it means when you lose free media. It means that you become hostage to fake news, malign information and very, very difficult warfare. So, in our experience, VOA has always been the source of freely information, the appropriate context, analyses, and explanation, that actually every citizen of this world needs today.”

Radmila Sekerinska Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Macedonia

Vitaly Mansky, Russian documentary filmmaker image

“Television is not the only source of information. but it is the source in which many people have the greatest trust. Current Time is the only television in the world that tells these people, in Russian, the truth about the current state of affairs. And it is television that is the most effective way of gaining their trust.”

Vitaly Mansky, Russian documentary filmmaker

“Many media programs have dealt with ISIS using various methods. However, the new documentary series, “Delusional Paradise” adopts a unique, extremely sensitive line by focusing on the “living victims” who have lost loved ones and family members to ISIS’s violence.”

Waleed Barkasyieh for Almodon.com

“I trust RFA Khmer because RFA Khmer is working for the Cambodian people in order to know the truth.”

Listener from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

“Now, we high school students are starting to get to know your station. Your program is very educational. You give us information that our teachers and government won't give to us.”

Listener from Guangzhou, China

On Radio Free Asia

“I first learned about Hong Kong's Occupy Central Movement through shortwave broadcasting by Radio Free Asia. I am thrilled for the people of Hong Kong to bravely fight for democracy and freedom.”

Caller from Huizhou, China

Berta Soler, leader of the

“I feel like I am home. I wake up (in Cuba) with (Con Voz Propia) every morning, and I can’t believe I am here!”

Berta Soler, leader of the "Ladies in White" protest group

Appearance on Radio Martí’s daily live show, Con Voz Propia (In Their Own Voice)

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez image

“People know me not for my blog, or my Twitter account, but by my presence and voice on Radio Martí.”

Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez

Venezuela opposition leader María Corina Machado image

“The Voice of America has become the voice of Venezuelans.”

Venezuela opposition leader María Corina Machado

Interview with VOA's Spanish Service

“Voice of America, by all standards, has been a media outlet with the highest listenership and most reliable source of information of all international media outlets. No question about it.”

Eritrean diaspora website Meskerem.net

“It is the first time here in Cuba that the youth and people in general have seen the differences between the two (major political) parties. To us Cubans, it was all the same because of what they taught us here. Today, we are seeing the differences.”

Felix Llerena, University of Havana student

On the Martís' coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage image

“I truly attribute the inspiration and sustained confidence to do my part through your quality and consistent programs.”

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, African Union Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage

On VOA's reporting about trafficked Zimbabwean women

Domitien Ndayizeye, former President of Burundi image

“Burundians are so fortunate to have VOA in their own language. They can hear the truth. Thank you VOA, because without you, Burundians would not have been able to know what is happening in their own country or in other places around the world.”

Domitien Ndayizeye, former President of Burundi

Interview after attending the first round of Burundi peace talks in Uganda

Independent journalist Tania Quintero image

“I do not forget that thanks to Radio Martí, I could talk my countrymen, despite the technical attempts of the regime to stop it.”

Independent journalist Tania Quintero

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2007-2016) image

“Listening to (Voice of America) was a very, very good way to learn English and to learn world news.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (2007-2016)

Interview with VOA UN correspondent Margaret Besheer

“Voice of America was the one source that reported to Cubans what was really going on Cuba. Incredible! Thank you, VOA.”

Arcelio Rafael Molina Leyva, a Cuban activist

During President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba image

“Very many Cubans are grateful to the Voice of America (“la VOA”), because during so many years, it was one of the few sources of information we had to find out what was happening in the world, even sometimes in parts of Cuba where our people were unaware of what was happening.”

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba

During President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba

“You are the true Iraqis who care about Iraq and its citizens.”

Alhurra-Iraq viewer

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen image

“I think that programming such as VOA´s is very important because you reach out to all corners of the world where you can find a child or young girl, a woman or housewife, that are asking themselves, ‘how am I going to provide a better future for my daughter.' They listen to these programs and think: ‘Oh! This woman is a congresswoman, and this other one is an economist and that one is an astronaut.' Thanks to VOA, oppressed women all around the world can hear these voices.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

An interview with VOA Spanish Radio reporter Gioconda Reynolds for International Women’s Day.

“RFA is my favorite radio since it is the main source of national news. Obviously, it covers deforestation, corruption, and land violation news. These issues, which domestic radio stations are frightened to broadcast, are vital to both me and my country.”

Male, 35, Phnom Penh

“I have your number with me. Radio Sawa is the only station that allows me to talk to people. It makes people listen to me.”

Radio Sawa Iraq's "What's Your Opinion?" caller

Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari image

“The Boko Haram documentary produced by VOA is a great and commendable endeavor which shows the bankrupt ideology of the group.”

Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Washington, D.C.

“We thank Alhurra channel for being with the people who are practicing their constitutional right.”

"Raise Your Voice" viewer

Comment during a Facebook Live discussion

Thae Yong-ho, former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom image

“When I was immersed in the regime of North Korea, I was encouraged by RFA’s articles written by a defector and read every single one … These, I can say confidently, inspired me in making the decision to come to South Korea with my family.”

Thae Yong-ho, former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom

At his first press conference after defecting, December 27, 2016

“I was surprised how Alhurra TV addressed this issue in a daring way … Alhurra TV shows the truth as seen by the people.”

Alhurra-Iraq viewer

Following the airing of an episode of Raise Your Voice’s Your Question about corruption, extremism and terrorism

“In contrast to what happens on the island during official special broadcasts, [Radio Martí] first caught our attention because of the impartiality of the journalists that participated in this broadcast. …the entire broadcasting process was highly professional with the kind of impartiality of true journalism.”

Moises Leonardo from Havana

Commenting on Radio Martí’s coverage of 2016 U.S. election

“Keep informing the Cuban people as you have done all these years. Thanks to all, from a Cuban eager to know the truth.”

Martí Noticias Facebook follower

Comment posted during coverage of President Obama’s visit to Havana

“I am a long-time listener of VOA. In the 1970s, I listened to VOA secretly as it was labeled ‘the enemy station.’ In the 1980s, I was able to record VOA radio programs on cassette tapes. Today I download your video programs.”

Fan of VOA Chinese

translated from Mandarin

Inna Dolzhenkova, columnist image

“Ukrainians who want to learn more about real life in Russia can draw information from [Current Time]. In programs like Unknown Russia, Signs of Life, and Russia & Me, it’s possible to see the real, and not fabricated, country.”

Inna Dolzhenkova, columnist

In an article for Detector Media, one of Ukraine’s most popular media watchdogs, translated from Ukrainian

Prominent Russian art dealer Marat Gelman image

“Current Time is becoming the leader in broadcasting breaking, high-quality news broadcasts.”

Prominent Russian art dealer Marat Gelman

Comment on Facebook

“VOA Afaan Oromoo is the indispensable program for Oromoo people that could serve as both a vital source of trusted news and the way to connect to the international community.”

Dulo Nedhi, Facebook fan

Commenting on VOA’s coverage of Ethiopia’s state of emergency

“VOA Afrique is the site that provides the right information from around the world. I listen to radio VOA Afrique each day to follow the good works that God blesses or curses us.”

VOA Afrique Facebook follower in Mali

“I liked best the program on Kosovo youth who are faced with ISIL and a lack of job prospects because I thought such issues were only faced by Somali youth.”

Somali businessman, 29

VOA Somali Qubanaha viewer for two years

“Wow, the program opened my eyes and ears about the girls’ rights to make choices when they grow and venture this huge world which is full of challenges.”

Suhaila

VOA Swahili listener from Oman, who listens via the web

“[Raise Your Voice call-in radio show] focuses on the problems, but gives many solutions because it gives a voice to the voiceless and reflects the pulse of the Iraqi street.”

“Raise Your Voice” radio listener

“Alhurra’s coverage of Daesh has changed my thinking…I thought Daesh was good…but I’ve seen now the execution and murder. So that changed my thinking about Daesh.”

Syrian refugee

“We fight Daesh by standing together against it. I live under the control of Daesh here in Hawijah; I go to the upper floor to listen and participate in (Raise Your Voice call-in radio show). If Daesh catches me they would kill me.”

Caller from Kirkuk, Iraq

“I want you to know we are not part of Daesh…You ask us to share our stories, I have thousands of stories, but I have been waiting for someone that will listen.”

Woman in Mosul, Iraq

Posted on “Raise Your Voice” Facebook page

“Although I don’t always agree with you, I believe you respect different opinions and provide a platform to discuss important issues with no bias”

Facebook follower

Written on “Raise Your Voice” Facebook page

“You are wonderful in reporting our agony, we the religious minorities in Iraq. I wish we would always communicate to raise our voice and make it heard around the world through you.”

Hussam Abdullaha

Written on the “Raise Your Voice” Facebook page

Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” image

“In the 17 years that I spent behind bars, Radio Martí was, at times, my everything. It was my lifeline.”

Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”

Opposition leader, Frente Nacional de Resistencia Civica

“Where I live I have no electricity. I listen using a small solar-powered radio. I really like the program. It has lots of positive energy and love. With your joyful illumination, you are able to enlighten our afternoons.”

Mercedes

Housewife from Santa Clara, Cuba, about the 1800 Online radio program

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry image

“Alhurra’s talented team of journalists has provided a great service to the region by delivering accurate, unbiased news reporting, and giving a voice to the voiceless.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari image

“My daily life starts at 6 a.m. by dedicating 30 minutes to listening to VOA. 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.”

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari

His Holiness the 14<sup>th</sup> Dalai Lama image

“I listen to Radio Free Asia programs every day along with my breakfast.”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) image

“Historians now acknowledge that the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe were major contributors to the bringing down the then Soviet Union. There’s no doubt about it.”

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

“All Iraqi politicians, including the president, watch Alhurra-Iraq’s daily newscast Iraq Today, because they believe the coverage is independent and objective.”

Farhan Aladin

Political advisor to the Iraqi president

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