The 1994 International Broadcasting Act (Public Law 103-236) consolidated all non-military, U.S. Government international broadcast services under a Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and also created the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB). The Broadcasting Board of Governors includes the United States Information Agency Director (ex officio) and eight presidentially-appointed members.
The IBB is composed of the Voice of America (VOA), WORLDNET Television and Film Service, and Radio and TV Marti, and an Engineering Directorate that maintains transmitting facilities and provides support for all of IBB's broadcasting elements. Two non-profit, grantee corporations--Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and Radio Free Asia (RFA)--operate under the oversight of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The Board provides yearly funding grants specifically approved by Congress to maintain RFE/RL and RFA.
The International Broadcasting Bureau external affairs office, for public and media inquiries about VOA, WORLDNET, and other overseas broadcasting operations, may be reached at: (202) 619-2538.
The Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts almost 700 hours of programming on shortwave and medium wave to an estimated audience of 86 million each week. Broadcasting in 52 languages, including English, VOA reaches a large cross-section of the world's populations who tune to the international airwaves for news and information. In addition, VOA provides programming in 46 languages to more than 1,100 AM, FM, and cable "affiliated" stations around the world. These "affiliated" stations greatly expand VOA's audience beyond the 86 million tuning in on shortwave and medium wave direct broadcast frequencies.
From the first broadcast on February 24, 1942, VOA has always prided itself on providing its audience with accurate and objective programming. The VOA Charter, which became law in 1976, is the single-most important piece of legislation against which all VOA programming is measured. It reads:
The long-range interests of the United States are served by communicating with the peoples of the world by radio. To be effective, the Voice of America (the broadcasting service of the United States Information Agency) must win the attention and respect of listeners. These principles will therefore govern Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts.
VOA Programming: From News to Features
News and news-related programs account for a large percentage of VOA's broadcast schedule. Each day, writers and editors in VOA's Washington, D.C., newsroom; VOA correspondents at twenty-three news bureaus worldwide; and a network of 100 "stringers," or part-time reporters, write and update approximately 180 news stories. VOA also draws information from a variety of independent sources, including international wire services, international monitoring services, and U.S. print and electronic media. Every news story is checked by at least one editor, and in accordance with VOA's "two-source" rule, all independent sources are cross-checked against a second source to confirm the facts.
Although news ranks high in VOA's programming line-up, listeners also enjoy call-ins, features, Americana programs, English- teaching segments, and music shows. VOA's language services produce and broadcast regionalized programs that specifically address the interests of their respective listening audiences.
Aside from its news and other programming, all VOA language services broadcast a daily editorial that states the U.S. Government's position on various issues. The editorial also fulfills VOA's obligation under its Charter to "present the policies of the United States....."
On October 25, 1996, VOA broadcast its first simulcast radio and TV program--a one-hour Farsi broadcast--from a new TV studio at VOA's Washington, D.C., headquarters. Programs in Arabic, English, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, and Thai followed.
WORLDNET, the U.S. Information Agency's global public affairs, information, and cultural television network, was launched in 1983 to present a balanced picture of American society. This daily, 24-hour service is downlinked via satellite to U.S. embassies and cultural centers and to hundreds of television stations and cable systems around the world. Its programs originate from state-of-the-art studios in Washington, D.C.
WORLDNET's programs promote American cultural, business, scientific and technological developments, and report on the institutions and principles that are the key to democracy- building around the world. WORLDNET also televises feature magazines, documentaries, and live call-in and public affairs programs in Arabic, English, French, Mandarin, Russian, Polish, Serbian, Spanish, and Ukrainian.
"Dialogue," a live, interactive video conference, is the cornerstone of WORLDNET programming. Through interviews and round-table discussions, the program gives U.S. and international business leaders, government officials, journalists, and opinion makers in academia the opportunity to discuss issues of global concern. Guests have included Vice President Al Gore, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President George Bush, playwright Arthur Miller, management expert Peter Drucker, and members of Congress. Other WORLDNET programs include, "Newsfile," a weekday news "feed" of important national and international stories; "Window on America," a weekly magazine program; "Doing Business," which presents U.S. products to consumers overseas; and "Esta Noche en WORLDNET," is a six-hour block of Spanish and English programming for audiences in Latin America.
The Office of Cuba Broadcasting directs the operations of Radio Marti and TV Marti-two broadcast operations that provide Spanish- language news, features, and entertainment programs to listeners and viewers in Cuba.
Both stations are named for nineteenth century Cuban political activist, journalist, and author, Jose Marti, who is best known for his pursuit of freedom for his homeland. In character with Marti's principles and beliefs, Radio and TV Marti programs promote freedom and democracy in Cuba by providing accurate and unbiased information that is unavailable to the Cuban people in their own media.
President Ronald Reagan laid the groundwork for the radio service on October 4, 1983, when he placed his signature on the Broadcasting to Cuba Act (Public Law 98-111). Two years later on May 20, 1985, Radio Marti broadcast its first program. According to the legislation, the station must follow all Voice of America standards by presenting a variety of news and information in an accurate and objective manner. News and news-related programming make up half of Radio Marti's schedule.
Radio Marti broadcasts seven-says-a-week, 24-hours-a-day on medium wave (AM) and shortwave. Audience reports indicate that the station is the most popular radio station in Cuba, despite the Cuban government's efforts to jam its broadcasts.
TV Marti telecast its first program on March 27, 1990. The service, broadcasting four-and-a-half hours daily, consists of half-hour nightly newscasts during the week; a weekend newscast summarizing the most important events of the week; and special programs about public affairs, culture, music, sports, and entertainment. TV Marti also broadcasts commentary and information about events in Cuba and elsewhere that promote freedom in that country.
The antenna and transmitter for TV Marti are mounted aboard a balloon that is tethered 10,000 feet above Cudjoe Key, Florida.
The International Broadcasting Bureau's Office of Engineering and Technical Operations maintains a complex network of satellites, relay stations, and leased facilities to carry the radio and TV broadcasts of the Voice of America, WORLDNET Television and Film Service, Radio and TV Marti, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia. Working with such organizations as Intelsat, Eutelsat, and Russian Intersputnik, the Office of Engineering has developed a complex satellite network to carry VOA- and RFE/Rl- produced programming to AM, FM, and cable broadcasters worldwide and to carry WORLDNET TV programming to U.S. Information Service posts where it is distributed to local broadcasters and cable outlets. IBB Engineering maintains satellite links for Radio Marti's AM broadcast signal to its transmitter in Marathon, Florida, and for TV Marti's signal to its transmitter at Cudjoe Key, Florida.
The Office of Engineering operates IBB relay stations and leases transmitter facilities from other broadcasters to broadcast VOA and RFE/RL programs over shortwave and medium wave. Satellite circuits carry programming to relay stations where it is then rebroadcast to the Bureau's listening audiences. Shortwave remains an important broadcast medium, especially in areas of the world where local media is limited or restricted. Medium wave, or AM, broadcasts enjoy wide popularity in Europe, the Middle East, the Orient, and Africa. In addition, leased transmitter facilities supplement the coverage provided by IBB's own relay sites. The Greenville, North Carolina, and Delano, California, relay stations, which regularly broadcast VOA programming, also carry Radio Marti's shortwave broadcasts to Cuba.
The U.S. Information Agency established the International Media Training Center in 1985 to develop and coordinate workshops and to arrange academic study at U.S. universities for foreign journalists. Topics covered include station management, radio engineering, journalistic ethics, and reporting and writing. Since the Center began operation, it has trained more than 5,000 media personnel, including broadcasters, print journalists, technicians, and executives, from more than 130 countries. Many of the Center's programs are a cooperative effort with colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Since January, 1994, information about the Voice of America has been available to users of the Internet, the computer network composed of universities, industrial research organizations, commercial enterprises, and government ministries around the world.
VOA's public Internet server offers up-to-date VOA program schedules, frequency lists, digitized audio from many VOA language programs, Chinese Service program scripts, and other information about VOA, Radio and TV Marti, and WORLDNET Television and Film Service. The server also includes the VOA News and English Broadcasts newswire, which carries the texts, in English, of correspondent reports, news backgrounders, features, and documentaries prepared by VOA's newsroom and broadcast by VOA's language services. In 1996, VOA began offering World Wide Web services, including audio streams encoded in Progressive Networks' RealAudio format. The VOA World Wide Web site includes most of the information found on the FTP and Gopher servers along with a photo tour of VOA.
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