The Voice of America and Public Diplomacy.

Author:Tuch, Hans N.
Position:Essay

Currently there is no institutional functional or operational relationship between the Department of State and the Voice of America, a relationship that served the successful conduct of U.S. public diplomacy for many years--from the early 1950s to the late 1990s when the U.S. Information Agency (the then host of the Voice of America) was abolished and most of its functions integrated in the Department of State. The Voice of America became a part of the independent Corporation of International Broadcasting.

Reestablishment of this relationship, I am convinced, is an imperative in the successful pursuit of our immediate and long-term foreign policy interests throughout the world.

In the late 1950s the Voice of America (VOA) was the only effective public diplomacy instrument available to the U.S. government to penetrate the Soviet iron curtain with news and information from the free world. As the American embassy's information and cultural affairs officer in Moscow I had practically no other tool with which to conduct public diplomacy. VOA did not only provide international uncensored credible news to a captive audience, it broadcast social, economic, cultural information and American music to a deprived Soviet public.

In more immediate terms, VOA turned out to be the only available medium to provide information to the Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev publics about the first visit of the New York Philharmonic in August 1957. We in the Moscow embassy depended on VOA to broadcast where and when the orchestra was performing; how to get tickets; what were their programs; who were their conductors and soloists. No Soviet publication, radio, television or other source of Information had publicized the presence of the NY Philharmonic in their midst.

The Moscow PAO was in practically daily touch with VOA Washington (only via cable in those days) to consult about broadcast programs, policy guidance, technical problems, jamming--I.e. an indispensable relationship.

In an even broader perspective the Voice of America was an indispensable element in the world-wide conduct of U.S. public diplomacy. When, for instance, the Soviet Union violated the nuclear test ban treaty in 1962, Ed Murrow, the then-director of the U.S. Information Agency, ordered the massing of all VOA transmitters to blast the Soviet Union for endangering the world.

Today VOA continues to be one of the world's premiere radio/TV broadcasters--and Internet providers--with an audience of some 250...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP