Sweeping cuts to VOA, RFE and RFA shortwave services


Unfortunate news from the Voice of America: Congress has approved major cuts to US international broadcasting over shortwave. Thanks to Dan Robinson for sharing this significant news.

Dan writes:

This news emerging from VOA late Friday:

VOA to end shortwave broadcasts in English and several language services Monday.

Received this late Friday afternoon:


We were informed late Friday that BBG’s proposed shortwave cuts for FY2014 have been approved by Congress.

As of the end of the day on Monday, June 30th, all shortwave frequencies for English News programs to Asia will be eliminated. We will no longer be heard via shortwave in the morning (12-16 utc), and the evening (22-02utc)…mostly in Asia.

Shortwave frequencies for the following services will also be eliminated: Azerbaijani, Bangla, English (Learning), Khmer, Kurdish, Lao and Uzbek. Shortwave being used by services at RFE/RL and RFA are also being cut.

Because shortwave has been a cheap and effective way to receive communications in countries with poor infrastructure or repressive regimes, it was a good way to deliver information. But broadcasting via shortwave is expensive, and its use by listeners has been on the decline for years. At the BBG, the cost vs. impact equation no longer favors broadcasts via this medium to most of the world.

Important for us is that we will continue to be heard on shortwave frequencies during those hours we broadcast to Africa. Also, we know through our listener surveys that about half of our audience in Asia and the rest of the world listens to us via the web and podcast – so all is not lost.

Let’s break the news about this change to our audiences starting Sunday night. I doubt specific frequencies are critical to announce. The important point to make for our listeners is that we encourage their continued listening through local affiliates, and on the web at voanews.com.”

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18 thoughts on “Sweeping cuts to VOA, RFE and RFA shortwave services

  1. Walt K

    Having spent many years as a VOA Foreign Service Officer and radio engineer, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of shortwave broadcasting and it’s ability to reach oppressed people around the world. The “new” technologies like the internet are so easily filtered and controlled, all the proxy servers in the world can’t get around all the blocking software that these oppressive countries’ can put in place.
    If shortwave broadcasting was invented today it would be regarded as a modern wonder of technology. To bad that the IBB board of governors are so out of touch with conditions outside of the USA. Not everyone in these oppressed countries has internet access. They all have radio’s!

    1. Keith Perron


      This s something I have been saying for the past few years now. If shortwave has just been invented people would be going gaga. Wow you mean we can target people without using the internet.

      I also have been saying that shortwave as a technology needed to be made sexy.

      I remember when I was at the VOA in 2012 meeting a few people from the BBG. Well let me just say…. Humm! If I can’t say anything nice I won’t say anything at all. Only that the ones I met who were making decisions on VOA’s future had never lived or traveled outside the US. Going to Mexico or Europe on holiday does not count.


  2. Bill Mead

    VOA spent many years ignoring Americans IN the US. In fact, as I remember it, by law they were not allowed to have any role at all in domestic broadcasting. That sort of thing certainly doesn’t help people in this country understand what the VOA does. I’m sure most Americans have no idea it even exists.

  3. Keith Perron

    You know Dan what I find funny is people in the US like in most countries have no idea what the external service does. Not only does it bring news and information to people who don’t have it. But also more importantly it’s a vital tool for soft diplomacy. But the problem dan is most people have no idea what it is and the benefits it brings to a country in terms for foreign investment and the promotion of products for export.

  4. Dan Robinson

    Keith is quite correct to point out the difference between what are true state broadcasters, and VOA and other stations. What has to be noted here, however, is the quite shocking number of people in the United States who feel that the expense for VOA and other BBG channels, is no longer justified, based not only on misinformation they have had about what the stations do, but also simply on grounds of mismanagement and inefficiency in government.

  5. Keith Perron

    TP Reitzel you have no idea what your talking about. Please find me one piece of propaganda in any of the VOA feature programs? The only part of VOA’s broadcasts that can be considered propaganda is the last 2 to 3 minutes where they say “And now an editorial expression the views of the United States Government. I seriously doubt you ever have or almost never listen to the VOA and don’t even know there programs. Myself I listen to the VOA daily for Daybreak Asia and Crossroads Asia, Border Crossings and Jazz America. And also recently started listening to China Focus on Saturday mornings.

    Also Radio New Zealand International is not a state broadcaster. The definition between public and state broadcaster is worlds apart.

    Examples of state broadcasters:
    Radio Havana Cuba
    China Radio International
    Voice of Korea
    Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp.

    Examples of public broadcasters:

    There is a clear difference and both are not the same. State broadcasters are just that. State. Their editorial policy depends on who the president is. Public broadcasters operate at arms length from the government.

    1. TP Reitzel


      You very well know that public broadcasters are a corporation funded in part by the state. Regardless of the alleged “independence” of the boards controlling them, these public broadcasters are still partly beholden to the state for their existence. The critical listener can easily discern the state propaganda spewing forth from the BBC, RNZI, VOA, etc. just by listening. I suspect indoctrinated listeners would have difficulty discerning such propaganda, though, due to their …. indoctrination. As a critical listener, I can easily cite the drum of propaganda since the content constantly falls along predictable lines, e.g. global warming, homosexuality, woman’s rights, etc. If you can’t spot the propaganda from these state broadcasters, well, you’re indoctrinated. The content from these state broadcasters (including the partly funded “public” broadcasters) is totally predictable just like the content from NPR.

      “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism, because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” – Mussolini

      1. Keith Perron

        I’m sorry TP you really have no idea what your talking about. Your just coming across as a conspiracy nut. What your saying has more holes than Swiss cheese.
        I would really like to know how often you listen to public and state broadcasters to come to that conclusion.
        Again I suspect your just some conspiracy loon who like all of them lke talking out of their hats.

        1. TP Reitzel

          Keith, you really should try to stick with the facts instead of jumping to irrational conclusions about the remarks of others. Maybe, some readers might enjoy your baseless ad hominem attacks instead of coherent replies, though.

          My previous remarks are accurate and still stand. Any critical listener can easily identify the propaganda spewing forth from state, yes STATE, broadcasters like the VOA regardless of their employment of a corporation. LoL

  6. TP Reitzel

    Clapping … Personally, I thank God that these public broadcasters are leaving shortwave along with their state propaganda. Objectivity from state broadcasters? LoL …

    In Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) and the xHE-AAC codec, shortwave now has the means to be a viable medium of mass communication so we’ll all set. When good content is available from global commercial sources via DRM, shortwave will prosper. Just last night amidst the Rocky Mountains, I was listening to a very nice musical program from New Zealand’s state broadcaster, RNZI,via DRM. Thankfully, music is hard to propagandize so hopefully commercial broadcasters will assume the role of RNZI and other state broadcasters as the latter die. Ahhhh, music under the stars, a class act indeed!

    Bye, bye VOA!

  7. Elias G

    What else can you expect in Obama’s America, billions were wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. so now the USA can barely afford a few million a year to keep the VOA running. Can he at least put the money they will save to veterans hospitals.

    1. Peter W.

      “Obama’s America”? Did you forget who got the US into that mess in Afghanistan and (with blatant lies) in Iraq?

    1. Mike Fakcone


      I realize that, but if you are a DXer trying to get country verification, try getting Radio Kuwait to reply compared to RFA broadcasting out of Kuwait who will verify reception. I was just looking at it from a hobby aspect not programming and targeted audience.

  8. Mike Fakcone

    Here we go, another one of the big guns fading away. The end begins. I wonder when we will turn on our radios and hear nothing but static on the SW bands. Such a shame. Get your Reception reports in soon as you might not have many more chances.

  9. Tom

    How the heck did they go through that money so dang fast that my local representative mentioned they were getting when I wrote him on Radio Day with my story.

    My representative sent me this email dated March 19th, 2014 saying they would get 2 million and they already blew through that already or was it moved elsewhere while no one was looking?

    Thank you for your letter regarding shortwave radio, and more importantly for sharing your personal story. I appreciate this opportunity to correspond with you.

    As you know, our nation has a long history with shortwave radio, dating back to the years before World War II. During the war, the Voice of America (VOA) was founded as a broadcasting institution to disperse accurate information about the war using short and medium wave radio, which established the importance of this medium. Since that time, the VOA has undergone some changes and is now overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but still sends news worldwide using shortwave radio.

    As you may know, H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, provides discretionary spending for the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. It abides by the limits set forth by the budget resolution that was agreed upon by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. H.R. 3547 would appropriate just over $2 million for the Voice of America.
    On January 15, 2014, this bill was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 359-67 with my support. It was passed by the Senate on January 16, 2014 and signed into law on January 17, 2014.

    Thank you again for taking the time to share your views on this matter. Please rest assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should any further legislation regarding shortwave radio be introduced in the House of Representatives. As your representative, constituent input is a vital element in best serving the 12th Congressional District of Ohio. If I may be of assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Patrick J. Tiberi
    Representative to Congress



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