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VOA's Mission in the 1960s and 1970s

VOA's Mission in the 1960s and 1970s

In 1960, USIA Director George Allen endorsed the VOA Charter, drafted by VOA staff members, to put in writing a formal statement of broadcast principles. It reads: The long-range interests of the United States are served by communicating directly with the peoples of the world by radio. To be effective, the Voice of America must win the attention and respect of listeners. These principles will therefore govern Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts.

The VOA Charter

President Gerald Ford signed the VOA Charter into law in 1976. It protects the independence and integrity of VOA programming.

  1. VOA will serve as a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news. VOA news will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive.
  2. VOA will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and institutions.
  3. VOA will present the policies of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also present responsible discussions and opinion on these policies.

VOA Director Henry Loomis, under whose guidance the Charter was drafted, once said: “It is my hope, it is my belief that the Charter, like the Constitution, is so fundamental and so represents the realities of the world and the moral principles that undergird this nation, that the Charter will endure for the life of the Voice.”

The final version of the Charter, initially known as a directive, was approved by President Eisenhower shortly before he left office.

In July 1976, Senator Charles Percy and Representative Bella Abzug sponsored legislation making the VOA Charter Public Law 94-350. President Gerald Ford signed the Charter into law on July 12, 1976.

Getting Down to Business

In the 1960s and 1970s, VOA proved itself capable of covering effectively the most pressing issues of the time. For example, during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the Voice of America broadcast around the clock in Spanish and greatly expanded its worldwide programming in English. In August 1963, VOA broadcast live coverage of the celebrated “I Have a Dream” address by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights demonstrators' March on Washington.

An estimated 450 million people heard VOA's broadcast of Neil Armstrong.

When NBC anchor John Chancellor became VOA's 11th director in 1965, he promised that VOA broadcasts "would swing a little." VOA began to produce livelier and more creative programs in both its English and language broadcasts. News-gathering resources were increased, making possible more live, on-the-scene reporting. In 1969, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, 450 million people were tuned to the Voice or to the hundreds of stations around the world that were relaying VOA's live coverage, the largest audience in radio history.

During Kenneth Giddens' tenure as director from 1969 to 1977, the longest of any VOA director, VOA dramatically enhanced its credibility through its straightforward reporting of two events that traumatized the nation — t he war in Vietnam and the constitutional crisis posed by Watergate. VOA's reporting not only drew praise from the American press, but also from listeners in every part of the world, as tens of thousands wrote to express their admiration for VOA's comprehensive and objective coverage.

Bernard H. Kamenske, then senior editor in the Newsroom, on the pressure VOA faced reporting on the Vietnam war. He retired as News Director in 1981.

However, VOA's potential to reach an ever-increasing number of the world's citizens was handicapped by insufficient resources. As the 1970s came to an end, the gap between VOA's extensive programming requirements and the level of funding had led to staff shortages and a lack of adequate production and transmission facilities.