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VOA’s News and Information Critical to U.S. Interests, Director Tells Congress

VOA Director Austin also praised VOA’s employees and contractors worldwide

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Washington, D.C., July 23, 2009 – The Voice of America (VOA) remains critical to U.S. interests because it allows audiences to “cut through the din of shrill propaganda and the fog of misinformation and disinformation,” Director Danforth W. Austin told Congress today.

Testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations’ subcommittee on Europe, Austin also praised VOA’s employees and contractors worldwide. “It takes people – often very brave people working in dangerous places – to produce reports that form the basis of 1,500 hours of broadcasting each week,” he said.

Austin joined Jeffrey Gedmin, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) at a hearing entitled, “RFE/RL and VOA: Soft Power and the Free Flow of Information.”

Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., subcommittee chairman, said the hearing “comes at a critical time as the world’s most repressive regimes, in places such as Iran, crack down, suppress and stifle freedom of the media and expression.”

“President Obama has made international broadcasting a top priority for American foreign policy makers, and it is imperative that Congress provide additional funding and resources to give U.S. international broadcasters the tools they need to ensure the free flow of information,” Wexler said.

Austin told the subcommittee that VOA, the largest U.S. international broadcaster reaching about 134 million people weekly in 45 languages, is a good investment for U.S. taxpayers.

“We know our programs enhance … understanding of the United States, our policies, our culture and our people,” he said in his testimony posted at (

By giving audiences “accurate, objective and comprehensive” news, VOA achieves a credibility with its audience that “lets them cut through the din of shrill propaganda and the fog of misinformation and disinformation that make up so much of the world’s media these days.” VOA’s broadcasts are “critical to the long-range strategic interests of the United States,” he added.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages

For more information, please call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail