• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Voice of America Reaches Out to Haiti

    While television and new technologies like Internet and cell phones are the focus of strategy at the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees the U.S. government’s international broadcasting assets, shortwave radio remains by far the most effective means of reaching audiences around the world, particularly in the developing countries. It is far from an outdated technology, as is sometimes allleged. A highly relevant case in point is earthquake-stricken Haiti, the poorest and most underdeveloped country in the Americas.

    Since the earthquake on January 12, Voice of America has expanded its broadcasts in creole to 10.5 hour a day during the week and 9.5 hour during weekends. The international broadcaster reaches 45 different countries and has a worldwide audience of more then 125 million with 1,500 hours of news and programming weekly. The effort to reach out to Haiti is an example of a desperate need for information being filled that is not related to the Middle East or the war on terror, which has been the focus of efforts of U.S. international broadcasting in recent years. To achieve this focus, the BBG has been cutting important services (like Ukrainian, Georgian and Russian) and broadcast hours in English to increase programming to the Middle East. Yet as the case of Haiti shows, surge capacity remains critical when catastrophic events elsewhere in the world demands it.

    What listeners in Haiti will be able to hear on VOA, among other things, is an interview with former President George W. Bush, assuring Haitians that the world will not forget about them. As will be recalled, and as proposed by the Heritage Foundation, Bush was tapped along with former President Bill Clinton by President Obama to spearhead the earthquake relief efforts on behalf of the administration. The Haiti Fund started by the two presidents has so far raised $10 million.

    “I fully understand the anguish that the people of Haiti feel,” Bush told VOA “I hope the people of Haiti know that our government is doing everything it can with our military and USAID to get food, medicine and water to you as quickly as possible.”

    “The first lesson, of course, is that aid never gets to the people fast enough,” Bush said. “I fully understand the frustrations and the anger. The people of Haiti have just got to know we hear their cries of anguish.” He added, “The people of Haiti are not alone.”

    President Bush also stated that the commitment of the United States will last beyond the earthquake relief. It will take a monumental efforts and international coordination and cooperation to create a functioning society in Haiti, a tough job to begin with and overwhelming at a time when some 200,000 people are believed to have perished. Including short wave radios among the items that are distributed as aid in Haiti could be saving lives now, and help rebuild Haitian society later.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Voice of America Reaches Out to Haiti

    1. Bruce Sherman, Broad says:

      Helle,

      We appreciate the mention of the VOA crisis broadcasting effort for Haiti. But one clarification: We're not using shortwave for Haiti; we're using FM and some AM. Very few Haitians, less than 1%, use shortwave, and only 8% use AM, per the BBG's June 2009 national survey in Haiti. Haiti's an FM market. Fortunately, the DoD airborne transmitter carrying VOA Creole programming has four FM frequencies as well as AM. In addition, a few VOA FM affiliates are still on the air locally. Haiti is also a cell phone market, with (surprisingly) 90% of Haitians saying in our research that they own a phone, and half of them reporting they use their phones for SMS text messaging. The earthquake knocked out much of the cell service, but as it comes back, cell phones will also be an important information delivery vehicle. Thanks.

    2. Helle Dale Helle dale says:

      Bruce,

      Thank you for your clarification. I believe we all appreciate the efforts of VOA in reaching out to the Haitians with information that is otherwise very hard to access. The earthquake does indeed demonstrate the vulnerability of both cell phones and FM transmission from local stations, so it is fortunate that the DoD airborne transmitter is at hand. My point was in part that radio transmission remains absolutely critical in many parts of the world, and should receive the proper focus and appreciation. Best, HD

    3. Marie Kensington MD says:

      Joan Mower who heads VOA Public Relations, in comments on her blog (see below) seems be in disagreement with the above comments re: shortwave of Bruce Sherman from the BBG:

      Voice of America Reaches Out to Haiti

      Posted January 20th, 2010 at 3:12pm in Ongoing Priorities

      While television and new technologies like Internet and cell phones are the focus of strategy at the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees the U.S. government’s international broadcasting assets, shortwave radio remains by far the most effective means of reaching audiences around the world, particularly in the developing countries. It is far from an outdated technology, as is sometimes allleged. A highly relevant case in point is earthquake-stricken Haiti, the poorest and most underdeveloped country in the Americas.

      Since the earthquake on January 12, Voice of America has expanded its broadcasts in creole to 10.5 hour a day during the week and 9.5 hour during weekends. The international broadcaster reaches 45 different countries and has a worldwide audience of more then 125 million with 1,500 hours of news and programming weekly. The effort to reach out to Haiti is an example of a desperate need for information being filled that is not related to the Middle East or the war on terror, which has been the focus of efforts of U.S. international broadcasting in recent years. To achieve this focus, the BBG has been cutting important services (like Ukrainian, Georgian and Russian) and broadcast hours in English to increase programming to the Middle East. Yet as the case of Haiti shows, surge capacity remains critical when catastrophic events elsewhere in the world demands it.

      What listeners in Haiti will be able to hear on VOA, among other things, is an interview with former President George W. Bush, assuring Haitians that the world will not forget about them. As will be recalled, and as proposed by the Heritage Foundation, Bush was tapped along with former President Bill Clinton by President Obama to spearhead the earthquake relief efforts on behalf of the administration. The Haiti Fund started by the two presidents has so far raised $10 million.

    4. Marie Kensington MD says:

      Looks as if there's quite a lot of shortwave transmissions going into Haiti as we speak in addition to the DOD transmitter.

      "Voice of America [shortwave transmitting] Site B in Greenville [North Carolina] has been broadcasting information in French-Creole for more than a week now. They are certainly not using the latest technology. In fact, the majority of the radio equipment was first used nearly 50 years ago. But when communication breaks down after a natural disaster, what’s old is new again. Since January 12th this former Cold War radio station has been broadcasting Creole to the Haitian people. Macon Dail, chief engineer at VOA Site B, explained, 'With the shortwave spectrum the signals actually bounce off the ionosphere after it leaves the transmitter site and goes directly to the listener.' On a normal day, VOA Site B transmits around 2 hours of Creole to the Caribbean. Since the quake, that air time has increased to more than 15 hours. Dail said, 'If the infrastructure goes down, and nothing else can be heard, shortwave it always available to be picked up by anyone, anywhere in the world.'" Andrew Doud, WNCT-TV (Greenville NC), 22 January 2010, with video.

    5. Gary, Alexandria, VA says:

      Seemingly, everyone knows that VOA Creole programs to Haiti are being broadcast via shortwave, with an assist from DOD assets in, around or above it…everyone except some people working for the BBG or the IBB. So…what happens when the radio stations in Haiti are knocked off the air because their transmission sites are demolished…including their satellite downlink facilities? If they have them, they pull out and turn on their shortwave radios.

      One should not have a whole lot of confidence in the BBG when they can't even acknowledge the obvious. There is too much about the BBG world view that is blue sky, best case scenario that ignores the implications of real world conditions.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×