WASHINGTON, D.C. —Voice of America’s weekly global audience hit a record high 171.6 million in 2014, due to significant increases in its television and digital audiences. The figure represents an increase of 37.4 million people, or 28% more than two years ago. The audience increase in the last year was seven million.
The new figures are drawn from research conducted for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the five non-military international broadcasters (VOA, RFE/RL, RFA, MBN and OCB). The data collected by Gallup and other firms, shows VOA delivers 80% of the BBG total audience of 215 million people, 74% of it exclusively.
VOA Director David Ensor says “VOA’s strategic emphasis on TV and digital platforms drove the overall growth in 2014.”
The largest increases for VOA were recorded in Indonesia, Ukraine, Iran, Russia, Cambodia and Bangladesh. VOA also reaches significant populations in Nigeria, Liberia, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Armenia, Albania, Kosovo, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. VOA reaches more than a hundred countries in 45 languages on television, radio and digital media.
In Ukraine and Russia, the invasion of Crimea and ensuing unrest in Eastern Ukraine, led VOA to increase programming and affiliate relationships in the region. VOA almost doubled its measured audience in Ukraine, and now is viewed by 17.7% of adults weekly. VOA also attracts more than 10% of those in Ukraine who predominantly speak Russian at home. In Russia itself, VOA TV audiences grew significantly, largely due to audiences watching its business and news reports now available on domestic channels RBC TV and Dozhd TV.
A similar affiliate strategy, placing VOA reports on high-quality affiliates, contributed to a major increase of 10 million weekly TV viewers in Indonesia – bringing the total VOA audience in Indonesia to 31.4 million.
VOA broadcasts about six hours a day of original television news and information in Farsi. The weekly audience for VOA’s Persian satellite television broadcasts rose to 14.1 million, or 24% of the adult population of Iran.
In Nigeria, where shortwave radio audience declined, Mr. Ensor says, “VOA has moved rapidly to ramp up its mobile products and is experiencing strong growth in use of its Hausa language mobile stream.” VOA has also increased its impact through an important partnership with Channels television of Nigeria, but audience figures were not available for inclusion in the BBG audience data.
Radio continues to figure prominently in many markets, with audience growth on FM channels in Africa and in South and East Asia. Of the total BBG audience, VOA accounts exclusively for 67% of all radio listeners, 80% of television viewers and 70% of Internet users.
The survey also showed that VOA has a strong impact in many markets. In ten countries surveyed, VOA achieved a 95% or higher “trustworthy” rating; VOA’s Radio Deewa recorded a 100% “trustworthy” rating in the FATA region of Pakistan. When asked if VOA helped them to have a better understanding of current events, more than 94% of respondents in the ten countries said it does so somewhat, or by a great deal.
VOA continues to be cited widely in the international media for its global reporting efforts. It also is cited in other circumstances, such as when the Chinese government sentenced a prominent Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti to life in prison. The evidence used against him included clips from an interview he gave to VOA Mandarin television.