Next February 1, the nation’s largest publicly-funded international broadcasting network will celebrate its 80th anniversary.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media (the USAGM), which oversees America’s Voice and four other government-funded international multimedia broadcast networks, announced the latest total on Nov. 16.
As a USAGM press release put it: “While the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the globe and people in many nations experienced substantial barriers to press freedom, threats to security from extremism, as well as sophisticated information operations by state and non-state actors, audiences flocked to VOA for reliable unbiased news and other information.”
The other United States-funded networks are Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Network in Arabic, and Radio-TV Marti in Spanish to Cuba.
Combined with VOA, they likely reach nearly half a billion people weekly — with the 2021 totals of other viewers, listeners, video, and online users in addition to VOA’s yet to be announced.
Other facets of VOA’s 2021 reach
According to Acting VOA Director Yolanda Lopez, “Information-deprived audiences around the world are turning to the Voice with increasing frequency for accurate, fair, and balanced news about the United States, the worlds, and their local communities.
“Regardless of the challenges, our reporters will continue to produce exceptional journalism and serve as a clear example of a free press in action, globally.”
Notable increases this past year of VOA multimedia users were found in India, Turkey, Vietnam, and Burma. In Iran, where the use of media is moving from TV to social media platforms — according to Ms. Lopez — VOA experienced significant growth in digital audiences despite efforts by Tehran, including jamming, to make access difficult.
“VOA,” she added, “has maintained a weekly reach of 15.9 % of Iran’s more than 80 million people.”
Total users of all five United States taxpayer-funded overseas broadcasters’ news and information
By my rough estimate, it would appear that all the United States-funded overseas broadcasters reach close to, or possibly exceed, half a billion people worldwide (online, TV, and radio) each week.
When I retired in 1998, VOA’s audience was just shy of a hundred million a week, less than a third of today’s. The Middle East Broadcast Network (MBN) joined VOA, RFE/RL, and RFA in 2004.
It’s a growth industry for sure. And a more accurately informed global audience — now approaching a half billion for all USAGM networks — continues to be one of the best national security investments America can make.
Marci has been living in the Washington, DC, area since about 2004. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and a double minor in Mandarin and Psychology. She returned to the DC area to pursue a Master’s in Teaching and earned her degree in 2020. During this time period, Marci worked as a teacher specializing in Early Childhood Education and Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (ESOL). She is currently a Graduate Student at American University where she is earning a Master’s degree in International and Intercultural Communication. She is also the PDC Fellow for the 2021-2022 school year, renamed Hans “Tom” Tuch PDC Fellow. Her interests lie in understanding the connection between international education, exchange, and public diplomacy which she believes is important to develop to be able to create peace and understanding in our world.