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VOA HISTORY 

Historical Highlights

Mid-1941: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes the U.S. Foreign Information Service (FIS) in order to begin international radio broadcasts. Under the leadership of Robert Sherwood, the FIS is headquartered in New York City and begins to produce material for broadcast to Europe by the privately owned American shortwave stations.

December 1941: The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany's declaration of war against the United States accelerate the growth of U.S. international broadcast efforts. Sherwood hires John Houseman, the theatrical producer, author, and director, to take charge of the FIS radio operations in New York City. FIS made its first direct broadcasts to Asia from a studio in San Francisco.

February 24, 1942: FIS makes its first broadcast to Europe via BBC medium- and long-wave transmitters. Speaking from New York City in VOA’s inaugural broadcast, announcer William Harlan Hale signs on in German saying, "Here speaks a voice from America. Everyday at this time we will bring you the news of the war. The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth."

March 1942: VOA is broadcasting a six-and-a-quarter hour block of programming, and by April VOA is on the air twenty-four hours a day and adding more languages to its broadcast schedule.

June 1942: VOA grows rapidly and has a new organizational home – the Office of War Information (OWI). Twenty-three transmitters and 27 language services are on the air when the Allied summit takes place in Casablanca.

1945: As World War II draws to a close, many VOA language services are reduced or eliminated. A State Department-appointed committee of private citizens chaired by Columbia University professor Arthur McMahon advises the U.S. Government that it can not be "indifferent to the ways in which our society is portrayed to other countries." Consequently, on December 31, 1945, the VOA’s and Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs broadcast services to Latin America are transferred to the Department of State, and Congress reluctantly appropriates funds for their continued operation in 1946 and 1947.

1948: The Smith-Mundt Act is enacted by Congress to establish America’s international informational and cultural exchange programs, a function that VOA has already been carrying out for the past six years on its own.

January 27, 1948: The U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, also known as the Smith-Mundt Act, is passed by Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Harry Truman, placing international overseas information activities, including VOA, under an Office of International Information at the Department of State.

1950: With the outbreak of the Korean War, VOA adds new language services and develops plans to construct transmitter complexes on both the east and west coasts of the United States.

February 16, 1953: The Permanent Committee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy, begins several weeks of televised hearings on VOA. The hearings are based on false charges of communist influence in VOA, and nearly destroy VOA, reducing its annual budget from $21 to $16 million.

August 1, 1953: The United States Information Agency (USIA) is formed, and VOA becomes its single largest element.

September 23, 1954: VOA commences broadcasting after its relocation from New York City to its present Washington headquarters near the U.S. Capitol on Independence Avenue.

Late 1958: VOA Director Henry Loomis and Program Manager Barry Zorthian commissions a task force to draft a VOA Charter to enforce VOA’s mission of an accurate news source for the world.

1959: VOA inaugurates Special English, which are slow-paced, simplified English broadcasts designed to facilitate comprehension for millions of listeners.

1960: USIA Director George Allen endorses the VOA Charter, which has been drafted into a formal statement of principles that will govern VOA broadcasts.

February 24, 1962: U.S. President John F. Kennedy addresses VOA at its 20th anniversary reception saying, "We welcome the views of others, we seek a free flow of information across national boundaries and oceans, across iron curtains and stonewalls."

1958 to 1965: VOA technical facilities and programming for every part of the world are expanded.

1969: Nearly 800 million people tune to VOA’s live coverage of U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

July 12, 1976: U.S. President Gerald Ford signs the VOA Charter into federal law (P.L. 94-350), mandating that VOA will serve as an accurate, objective, and comprehensive source of news, that it will broadcast about all of America, and that it will present U.S. policies and responsible discussions of those policies.

1969 to 1977: During VOA Director Kenneth Giddens’ tenure, the longest of any VOA director, VOA dramatically enhances its credibility through its straightforward reporting of two events that traumatized the U.S. – the war in Vietnam and the constitutional crises posed by Watergate.

1983: VOA launches a $1.3 billion program to rebuild and modernize programming and technical capabilities. In Washington, 19 studios are constructed, a new Master Control complex is installed, and a Network Control Center is built to coordinate and direct VOA's domestic and overseas transmitting stations.

1989: VOA Mandarin and Cantonese broadcasts are increased to bring millions of Chinese listeners accurate reports of the pro-democracy movement that filled Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and the streets of dozens of Chinese cities. Chinese government begins to jam VOA Mandarin broadcasts, a practice that still continues today.

June 8, 1989: As a response to the Tiananmen massacre, television cameras are brought to a VOA news studio to transmit via satellite, for the first time ever, live video of Mandarin-language newscasts to the People’s Republic of China. VOA Mandarin scripts are scrolled beneath news readers in synchronized fashion as newscasts are read. The telecasts cease in August 1989.

1991: VOA's Russian Service covers the attempted August 1991 coup against then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

March 21, 1991: WORLDNET launches Africa Journal, an hour-long program linking experts in the United States with viewers in sub-Saharan Africa to discuss a variety of topics, including current events, politics, economics, media, the environment, human rights and women.

March 25, 1991: VOA launches a 15-minute Tibetan-language program, which the Chinese government promptly starts to jam and continues to do so today.

1992: Nepalese-language broadcasts start, but are discontinued shortly after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from that country.

April 25, 1992: Kurdish-language broadcasts to listeners in Iraq and Iran go on the air.

December 27, 1992: Somali-language broadcasts start, but are discontinued shortly after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from that country.

January 10, 1993: VOA and WORLDNET TV collaborate to launch Window on America, a weekly TV program in Ukrainian which eventually wins a viewership of approximately one-fourth of the population of Ukraine.

February 21, 1993: VOA’s Yugoslav Service is divided into the Serbian and Croatian services to reflect the creation of several republics in the former Yugoslavia. Both services expand their broadcast hours to the region and, along with VOA’s Slovene Service, maintain a constant flow of news and information to listeners in the Balkans.

April 30, 1994: U.S. President Bill Clinton signs the International Broadcasting Act (P.L. 103-236) establishing the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) within the USIA and creating a presidentially-appointed Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) with jurisdiction over all civilian U.S. Government international broadcasting.

June 1994: VOA and WORLDNET launch the co-production of Conversemos en Esta Noche, a weekly Spanish-language TV call-in show with U.S. officials and specialists, covering such topics as foreign relations, environmental issues, trade, health care, education, sports and the performing arts.

September 18, 1994: VOA Chinese Branch launches its new radio and TV simulcast China Forum, which is beamed into the People's Republic of China by satellite and short wave and medium wave radio.

1994: VOA becomes the first international broadcaster to offer its material through the Internet, initially providing information through two simple text-based formats. The site now includes VOA program listings and schedules, audio files from the 53 VOA language services, live RealAudio of "VOA News Now," and VOA correspondent reports.

September 6, 1995: The nine-member bipartisan U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors holds its first organizational meeting, and for the first time, all non-military publicly-funded U. S. Government international broadcasting entities are brought under a single organization.

October 1, 1996: Radio 101 FM in Zagreb begins to carry VOA Croatian, making it the first station to include programming from an international broadcaster in its schedule.

1996: VOA Serbian increases its daily broadcasts to two and a half hours when it adds a 30-minute, medium-wave broadcast.

July 15, 1996: VOA adds broadcasts in Afan Oromo and Tigrigna for listeners in Ethiopia and Eritrea. VOA also introduces Kirundi and Kinyarwanda language programming for listeners in conflict-ridden Central Africa.

August 1996: VOA Serbian and Croatian services launch refugee hotlines to help reunite displaced persons.

October 1996: VOA Dari and Pashto services provide intensive coverage leading up to and following the Taliban militia’s capture of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

October 1996: VOA Chinese Branch launches a new radio and TV simulcast, Economic Forum. The program focuses on curent trends in business and economics.

October 1996: New television Studio 47 is inaugurated to carry radio/TV simulcasts, and was later dedicated to John Chancellor, former NBC newsman and VOA director from August 1965 to June 1967.

October 18, 1996: VOA launches a weekly, call-in radio and TV simulcast to Iran in Persian, the first regularly recurring program to be produced in full by a VOA-WORLDNET TV team from the VOA headquarters building. Simulcasts of weekly VOA-TV productions in Serbian and Bosnian follow, along with VOA Mandarin TV expansions through 1999.

November 30, 1996: VOA Kirundi and Kinyarwanda launch refugee hotlines to reunite separated families in Central Africa.

December 3, 1996: When the Milosevic government in Belgrade bans broadcasts of Radio B-92 and other independent local radio stations, VOA begins including reports from stringers in Belgrade in its newscasts. As a result, the Milosevic government is forced to allow Radio B-92 to resume broadcasts two days later on December 5. On the same day, VOA begins pilot news simulcasts on radio and TV.

October 1997: VOA Chinese Branch launches the radio and TV simulcast American Issues, a program that covers a variety of social and cultural issues of interest to ordinary Americans.

November 1997: During a VOA interview with Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, he comments that "VOA tells the truth," and then adds he hopes VOA "would have more opportunities to broadcast accurate information and news to its audience in China." He goes on to say that the official Chinese media does not report on democracy and human rights, and also provides false information to guide people’s thinking and make them more amenable to Communist Party ideas.

January 1998: Three VOA reporters arrive in Cuba to provide on-the-scene coverage of Pope John Paul II's visit. This is the first time that the Cuban government had granted VOA visas to report from that country since 1990.

January 1998: During a visit to VOA, Slovak President Michal Kovac presents five VOA broadcasters with the Republic of Slovakia Presidential Award for Freedom and Democracy.

May 29, 1998: The first program of VOA’s new English-language service VOA News Now goes on the air. The program airs 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and features world, regional, and U.S. news, along with features about sports, science, business, and entertainment.

October 21, 1998: U.S. President Bill Clinton signs into law the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-277), the single most important legislation affecting U. S. government international broadcasters since the early 1950s. This law placed all U.S. publicly-funded, non-military overseas broadcasting into a new entity called the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

October 1998: WORLDNET Television and Film Service launches Washington Window, a program designed for television broadcasters in Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. (Program ceases production in July 2002.)

November 1998: In his first television interview conducted in the Tibetan language, the Dalai Lama tells VOA reporters that it is his responsibility to negotiate now with the Chinese government, but "in the future, I will play no part politically." Speaking in an exclusive interview at VOA’s television studios, the Dalai Lama says, "when I say I won't have a political role, I mean that in a democratic system, the people should come forward and govern themselves. It is the people inside Tibet that have the final say about the future of Tibet."

January 4, 1999: VOA begins broadcasting to Central Europe in the Macedonian language. The addition of Macedonian brings the total of VOA broadcast languages to 53, a historic high in the station’s 57-year history. The new 15-minute program concentrates on regional, international, and U.S. news and will be broadcast Monday through Friday.

March 1999: VOA expands its daily Albanian- and Serbian-language broadcast hours to get vital information to the region. The shutdown of Belgrade's Radio B-92 and other independent media has underscored the critical need for timely, accurate, and reliable information, which VOA broadcasts in Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, English, and Serbian.

March 1999: VOA Chinese Branch launches the radio and TV simulcast Perspectives on China, a program on which experts evaluate U.S.-Sino relations from a broad historical perspective and from their own individual experiences with China.

April 2, 1999: VOA’s Albanian Service and the International Red Cross work together to reunite families that have been separated as a result of the forced expulsion from Kosovo. The International Red Cross provides names of refugees to VOA’s Albanian Service, whose broadcasters read the names on short-wave broadcasts along with the phone number of the International Red Cross in Albania. The program goes on the air for fifteen minutes, but the response is so great that it is expanded first to a half-hour and later to a full hour.

April 8, 1999: Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Marc Nathanson announces that the combined broadcasts of the VOA and RFE/RL will beam 24 hours a day of FM programming into Serbia from transmitters in nearby countries.

April 1999: VOA launches a new music service called VOA Music Mix, which offers not only music but also information about the artists and music news.

April 28, 1999: VOA reporter Josefa Lamberga was assaulted by a member of the Angolan army as she left a military installation in the Angolan capital of Luanda while attempting to report on draft evasion by Angolan citizens.

June 1999: VOA Chinese Branch launches radio and TV simulcast To Your Health.

October 13, 1999: The Broadcasting Board of Governors inaugurates the new independence of U.S. government civilian international broadcasting. The nine-member, bipartisan BBG supervises VOA, Radio and TV Martí, and the Office of Engineering and Technical Services, along with RFE/RL and RFA, two grantee organizations. Eight board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and the ninth ex officio member is the Secretary of State.

November 9, 1999: VOA Albanian Service launches radio and TV simulcast Ditari, a 30-minute program providing international news, regional and local government news, news-oriented interviews, and roundtables for viewers in Albania and Kosovo.

December 1, 1999: VOA’s Special English Division celebrates 40 years of broadcasting.

December 12, 1999: Former VOA Director Sanford Ungar congratulates the VOA Ukrainian Branch broadcasters, both past and present, for their "professional and dedicated service," during their 50th anniversary broadcast.

December 31, 1999: VOA rang in the Millennium by broadcasting segments of "Around the World Millennium Celebration," a live, 24-hour musical extravaganza from The Grand Palace in Branson, Missouri.

January 6, 2000: VOA’s Tibetan Service broke the news that the leader of one of Tibetan Buddhism's most prominent sects, the14-year old "Karmapa," had secretly left China and arrived in northern India.

February 2, 2000: VOA’s Talk to America launched its first live chat on the Internet between 1830 and 1900 UTC, as a new and innovative way for VOA to expand and connect with its audience.

March 2000: In a message to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Burma’s human rights leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended the right to listen to VOA.

June 9, 2000: VOA’s Russian TV program, Window on the World, airs its first broadcast on Moscow-based Daryal TV at 7 p.m. Moscow time.

June 21, 2000: Four armed men attempted to enter forcibly VOA’s Angola Project office in Luanda.

July 3, 2000: For the first time in more than 40 years, Tibetans were able to see their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, officiate at a Monlam Chenmo, or Great Prayer Festival, via a VOA satellite from the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

August 2, 2000: VOA launches Straight Talk Africa, a program broadcast on radio, TV, and the Internet. The weekly program covers topics such as politics, health, social issues, and conflict resolution that are of interest to VOA's African audience

August 9, 2000: VOA Indonesian Service launches Halo VOA, a weekly program that covers critical issues and events shaping Indonesia's political, economic and social landscape.

September 18, 2000: VOA launches Hello America, a live Arabic-language radio and TV call-in program for the Middle East.

October 19, 2000: VOA launches an Internet version of its Pronunciation Guide, a database of correct pronunciations of people and place names often in the news.

November 1, 2000: VOA launches www.voanews.com, a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week Internet news service.

November 3, 2000: VOA News Review, a live 30-minute radio/TV/Internet simulcast examining the past week’s news events, debuts on VOA.

December 1, 2000: VOA produces World AIDS Day concerts in partnership with private broadcasters, non-governmental organizations and local communities to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa.

December 31, 2000: VOA Indonesian Service launches TV program Dunia Kita, a series of reports from VOA's video journalists around the world for exclusive broadcast on the all-news channel Metro TV, a VOA affiliate in Indonesia.

May 6, 2001: VOA Chinese Branch launches radio and TV simulcast Strait Talk, the first live radio and TV call-in program taking calls from both sides of the Taiwan Strait and simulcast by Taiwan's largest radio network, the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC).

June 14, 2001: In its first such venture in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Voice of America launches round-the-clock broadcasts via FM station 107.5 in Nairobi, Kenya.

August 8, 2001: VOA launches Special Report Africa, a weekly half-hour-long roundtable featuring panelists who are well-versed in the problems and policies of importance to sub-Saharan Africa.

September 5, 2001: In an exclusive interview with VOA's Tibetan Service, following taking the oath of office on September 5, the first elected Chief Minister of the Dalai Lama's "government-in-exile" Samdhong Rinpoche says that he will look for new means to pursue the Dalai Lama's "middle way" approach to China on the issue of Tibet. That approach has been to seek what the Dalai Lama has called "genuine autonomy" for Tibet rather than independence from China.

September 10, 2001: The Voice of America’s Chinese Branch officially launches its new web site for China at www.voachinese.com. Test-launched in July, the site offers U.S., regional, and international news in Mandarin, and features an advanced search engine and improved layout and graphics. It replaces the branch’s former site, available since 1995 but blocked by Chinese authorities since 1997.

September 11, 2001: VOA moves to an all-news format and immediately expands broadcasting in Arabic and Persian to cover the terrorist attacks on the United States.

September 17, 2001: VOA's Afghan languages, Dari and Pashto, begin a series of broadcast expansions to cover ongoing events in the United States, Afghanistan and the region. Special daily television programming on the war on terrorism is also broadcast.

September 21, 2001: In her first interview after taking office, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri talks exclusively with the Voice of America's Indonesian Service at Blair House, for radio and television. The exclusive video is broadcast by all major television and radio stations in Indonesia.

September 28, 2001: VOA Chinese Branch launches radio and TV simulcast Pro and Con, a quick-fire political talk show with experts debating topics from the overseas Chinese democracy movement to India-Pakistan relations; and Cultural Odyssey, an original American arts and entertainment program, is now distributed in China and Taiwan.

October 4, 2001: VOA French to Africa Service launches the radio and TV simulcast Washington Forum, a live journalists’ roundtable featuring topics of interest to audiences in Francophone Africa.

November 1, 2001: The Voice of America's online international news service, VOANEWS.COM, marks one year of providing reliable, balanced, and comprehensive multimedia news to a global audience. VOA provides its Internet audience with current news and features in 53 languages paired with more than 200 hours of audio and video programs streamed daily.

November 16, 2001: For the second time in two years, Voice of America's Greek Service Chief George Bistis and Turkish Service Chief Taclan Suerdem receive the Ipekci Peace and Friendship Prize for Communication. Bistis and Suerdem were chosen "for their multifaceted and sincere cooperation in support of the Greek-Turkish rapprochement on an international level."

January 25, 2002: VOA Kurdish inaugurates its first-ever call-in show Hello Washington, engaging listeners in discussions of human rights, cultural rights and democratic representation for the Kurds.

February 25, 2002: President George W. Bush speaks at VOA in honor VOA's 60 years of broadcasting to the world.

March 4, 2002: Chosun Ilbo now links its Internet site, Digital Chosun, to VOA to take Korean Internet surfers to VOA's new Korean-language Internet site (www.voakorea.com). Chosun Ilbo is one of the oldest and largest daily newspapers in South Korea. VOA and Chosun Ilbo’s Digital Chosun, signed a memorandum of understanding establishing the new affiliate relationship on the Internet.

March 11, 2002: The Broadcasting Board of Governors signs agreements in Bahrain and Qatar for FM radio transmission of the Middle East Radio Network, paving the way for broad distribution of the new service.

March 22, 2002: The Middle East Radio Network, a unique, U.S. government-sponsored Arabic-language broadcasting service, goes on the air across the region in the initial phase of a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service."Now, listeners across the Middle East will have an opportunity to get their news, information and entertainment in a whole new format,