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Historical Highlights - 1990s

  • Shayan Rashid

Our Historical Highlights present a listing of significant dates and developments in VOA’s history.

Our Historical Highlights present a listing of significant dates and developments in VOA’s history. For a more detailed discussion of VOA’s overall development over the decades, visit our in-depth illustrated history chapters, which include historic audio clips and photographs. Click on the decade below to find more detailed information about that time in VOA's history.



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.


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.


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.


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.