VOA

Cold War, Featured, OWI, VOA

Voice of America? – Why The Question Mark?

In 1948, Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate charged that Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts contained “baloney,” “lies,” “insults,” “drivel,” “nonsense and falsehoods,” amounting to “useless expenditures” and “a downright tragedy.”

In 1948, U.S. senators called VOA programs “ridiculous,” “unjustified” and “deplorable.” Liberal, moderate, and conservative lawmakers, some of whom even accused the Voice of America of “slander” and “libel” in how several U.S. states were described in radio programs acquired from NBC under a government contract, did not seek to de-fund and close down VOA but wanted to make it more effective in presenting America to the world and in countering propaganda from Soviet Russia. Their criticism eventually led to partial personnel and programming reforms in the early 1950s. In 2019, history seems to be repeating itself, with similar problems being reported at the Voice of America as the United States tries to respond to propaganda from Putin’s Russia, communist China, theocratic Iran and other nations under authoritarian rule. Today, there is little interest in the U.S. Congress and no obvious signs of management reforms, while some of the problems seem now more difficult to solve than those besetting the broadcaster in 1948.

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VOA

VOA 1978 Verification Card

During the Cold War, Voice of America (VOA) broadcast mostly radio programs. Most of the radio transmissions were delivered through shortwave. VOA would send out QSL cards as a written confirmation of reception to those listeners who requested them by letter. The 1978 QSL card from VOA was a post card with pictures of San Francisco, the White House and the Statue of…

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VOA

Rep. Howard H. Buffett, Warren Buffett’s father, feared domestic VOA propaganda

Cold War Radio Museum

Rep. Howard H. Buffett, father of American investor Warren Buffett, was concerned in 1947 about domestic propaganda activities by the Voice of America.

As the U.S. Congress was debating in June 1947 the eventual passage of the Smith-Mundt Act, which implicitly placed restrictions on domestic dissemination of government news through the Voice of America (VOA) while funding expansion of State Department’s cultural and academic exchange programs, Congressman Howard Buffett (R-NE) expressed concerns that officials in charge of VOA may have been secretly planning domestic propaganda activities. As it turned out, State Department officials had no plans to distribute U.S. government radio broadcasts domestically because such a move would kill the funding not only for VOA but also for the public diplomacy programs the State Department cared about most of all. Congressman Buffett was right, however, that U.S. diplomats were using VOA to influence U.S. public opinion to drum up support for their information outreach budget.

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Featured, History, VOA

Stalin Prize-Winning Chief Writer of Voice of America News

Cold War Radio Museum

The News Bureau room of the Office of War Information (OWI), November 1942, at about the same time Howard Fast started writing Voice of America newscasts. The photograph’s official caption said: “It is arranged much the same way as the city room of a daily newspaper. Here, war news of the world is disseminated. In the foreground, are editors’ desks handling such special services as trade press, women’s activities, and campaigns. The news desk is in the background.” Smith, Roger, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.

VOA logo, 2019.
Yankee Doodle Voice of America (VOA) signature tune reportedly proposed by VOA chief news writer (1942-1943) Howard Fast who later received the 1953 Stalin International Peace Prize.

 “I established contact at the Soviet embassy with people who spoke English and were willing to feed me important bits and pieces from their side of the wire. I had long ago, somewhat facetiously, suggested ‘Yankee Doodle’ as our musical signal, and now that silly little jingle was a power cue, a note of hope everywhere on earth…” 1

Howard Fast, 1953 Stalin Peace Prize winner, best-selling author, journalist, former Communist Party member and reporter for its newspaper The Daily Worker, decribing his role as the chief writer of Voice of America (VOA) radio news translated into multiple languages and rebroadcast for four hours daily to Europe through medium wave transmitters leased from the BBC in 1942-1943. Howard Fast, Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), pp. 18-19.

Notes:

  1. Howard Fast, Being Red (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990), 18-19.
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OWI, VOA

Broker for the first Western hotel in Moscow was a former U.S. propaganda agency employee

In July 1979 an American businessman and former journalist David Harold Karr who had arranged the building of the first Western hotel in Moscow was found dead under reportedly suspicious circumstances in Paris, France. Karr’s new biography, The Millionaire Was a Soviet Mole: The Twisted Life of David Karr, by Harvey Klehr, expected to be published in July 2019, will…

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VOA

‘Music Time in Africa’ on VOA in 1982 with Leo Sarkisian and Rita Rochelle

Cold War Radio Museum The Voice of America (VOA) May-October 1982 English-to-Africa Service Program Schedule flyer included descriptions of “African Sounds” English-to-Africa program, hosted by VOA French-to-Africa Cameroonian-born broadcaster Georges Collinet, and “Music Time in Africa” program hosted by Leo Sarkisian and Rita Rochelle. MUSIC TIME IN AFRICA The Voice of America Program Schedule May-October 1982 English to Africa This…

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RFE, VOA

1953 CIA Source: People Died in Czechoslovakia Because of Pro-Communist Propaganda from Voice of America

OPINION AND ANALYSIS Cold War Radio Museum By Ted Lipien Note: The article has been updated to include information that Heda Margolius Kovály had worked in the 1970s as a freelance reporter for the Voice of America Czechoslovak Service under a radio name Kaca Kralova. A declassified CIA report from 1953 featured a claim by a still unidentified Slovak source…

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VOA

Polish Diplomat Who Exposed Pro-Stalin U.S. Propagandists

Cold War Radio Museum   Jan Ciechanowski, Polish Ambassador in Washington during World War II, helped to expose Soviet propaganda and U.S. government propagandists who in domestic media and in “Voice of America” shortwave radio broadcasts for foreign audiences spread disinformation originating in Soviet Russia. Photo: Jan Ciechanowski, Polish Minister, 11/30/25, LC-DIG-npcc-15231 (digital file from original), Library of Congress Prints…

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