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VOA is Nobody’s Mouthpiece

Nicholas Kralev and David Ensor

Nicholas Kralev and David Ensor

One of the things that strikes me when I talk to people about my job as Director of Voice of America is how little most of our fellow Americans know about what we do and the powerful impact we have around the world.

Recently, I sat down with Nicholas Kralev, who hosts an online TV program about diplomacy. He actually started his interview by noting there are “quite a few misperceptions about Voice of America.” He called it a “strange beast,” a government funded journalistic organization. [Full transcript here]

The headline in the Huffington Post was: “VOA is ‘Not a Mouthpiece of the White House,’ Director Says.” Inside the Voice of America, that is not news. The truth is, VOA is a proud journalistic organization created more than 70 years ago to provide fair and balanced information to audiences in places where it is often difficult or impossible to get. Clearly we need to do a better job of explaining what we do, and how we do it, to our fellow citizens.

Helping to explain VOA’s mission is especially important because of recent changes in the law that now allow us to share our programs with audiences in the United States.

VOA is not in any way going to be competing with domestic broadcasters, but we do now have the option of working with domestic stations that can help us to reach our overseas audience. Our mission is overseas, in places like Iran and Somalia, but if, for example, a local station has a big Iranian audience in the United States, the new law gives us the option of providing our programs to them.

VOA programs have been available on the Internet for many years, but this change in the law opens up new opportunities for people to see our programs.

This is an exciting time for U.S. international broadcasting and public diplomacy, and I hope you will find some of what Nicholas and I discussed interesting. You can watch the entire interview at To read the entire interview go to