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VOA Ukrainian Marks 60 Years on the Air

event video and short VOA Ukrainian history

On December 11, 2009, US and Ukrainian officials praised the Voice of America’s (VOA) Ukrainian Service on its 60th anniversary, with a key member of Congress saying, “Today, its mission remains as critical as ever.”

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the longest-serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives and co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, told an audience at VOA that, “In the darkest hours of the Cold War, Ukrainians behind the Iron Curtain have received VOA broadcasts of accurate, balanced and comprehensive news and information.”

Today, VOA continues to reach millions of Ukrainians with daily television shows and its website www.voanews.com/ukrainian. “Ukrainians still look to VOA not only to hear about the Washington perspective on what is happening in Ukraine, but also to comprehend the American story … Today, its (VOA’s) mission remains as critical as ever.”

Ukrainian Ambassador Oleh Shamshur, recalling his childhood behind the Iron Curtain, said no one understood better than him “how important” VOA’s broadcasts were to Ukrainians before the Soviet Union dissolved and the country became independent in 1991.

Today, the service plays a crucial role in fostering bilateral relations and inter-cultural dialogue, and promoting democratic values, he said. Shamshur also read a note of congratulations from Ukrainian President President Viktor Yushchenko, who hailed VOA Ukrainian for providing "objective and truthful information about events in Ukraine and the world over." He also hailed the Service for its "contribution to the victory over the totalitarian Soviet regime and to the revival of Ukrainian statehood."

William Green Miller, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, said that VOA has a clear “present purpose,” reaching Ukrainians with truthful information that has helped nurture a US-Ukrainian dialogue.

Blanquita Cullum, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency that oversees the VOA, said the news organization will continue to play a leading role as a model of free and unbiased press during the upcoming presidential campaign.

And VOA Director Dan Austin said the Ukrainian Service has embraced “new technologies, new ways of getting out news and information” to Ukrainians. To mark the anniversary, VOA organized panel discussions with leading experts on, “The Economic and Political Situation in Ukraine,” and, “Ukraine’s Foreign Relations.”

During the event VOA Ukrainian’s accomplishments were recognized with a Congressional Record statement presented to VOA Ukrainian chief Adrian Karmazyn by Congresswoman and co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). Separate Congressional Record statements in recognition VOA Ukrainian were issued by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Congressmen Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Sander Levin (D-MI) and Robert Wexler (D-FL). A letter of recognition was also received from the Vice-Chairman Ukraine's Parliamentary Press Freedom and Information Committee Andriy Shevchenko. Greetings were also extended by Michael Sawkiw of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, an umbrella organization representing the interests of the Ukrainian diaspora. (Please see below for video of all the remarks)

A Short History of VOA Ukrainian

December 12, 1949, was the first time Ukrainian voices penetrated an Iron Curtain that for nearly half a century divided much of the world into two diametrically opposed and competing political ideologies. It was the day the Voice of America began shortwave radio transmissions to tens of millions of suppressed Ukrainians in what was then the Soviet Union.

Over the ensuing four decades the voices of dozens of VOA Ukrainian broadcasters, along with hundreds of others targeting the former Soviet bloc, made it their goal to protect and further what just a year earlier had been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. In defending this most basic principle, VOA broadcasters would chip away relentlessly – at times around the clock – at an ideological divide that, in effect, was separating the world into a part where information was flowing freely and another where it was harshly suppressed through official censorship.

Nearly forty years after the first Voice of America Ukrainian radio program reached the Soviet Union, the divide separating East and West began to crumble. Two years later the whole Soviet system came crashing down and VOA Ukrainian soon found itself broadcasting to an independent Ukraine. In 1992, it reached an agreement with Ukraine’s government to start broadcasting on local airwaves, and set up a rotating correspondents post in Kyiv. In 1993 - it started “Window on America” – a still running weekly magazine show that became VOA’s first non-English-language regular television program. In 1999, it established a network of correspondents in major cities in Ukraine. And, in 2004, during the cold weeks of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution it provided, in collaboration with Ukraine’s nationwide Channel Five TV network, millions of Ukrainians nearly real-time Western reactions to the pivotal events unfolding in their country – reactions that no other media outlet in Ukraine would dare to offer at the time.

In 2005, ties between Ukraine’s Channel Five and VOA Ukrainian grew stronger culminating in the launch of Chas-Time – a daily television news show from Washington carried by the network, providing Ukrainians with a window on US foreign policy, the workings of the American model of democracy, official and independent expert commentary on US-Ukrainian relations, American life and trends, happenings in the Ukrainian-American community, as well as on Ukrainians visiting the US – be it heads of state, other ranking officials or ordinary Ukrainians coming to the US to take home experiences that would better their lives and those of their fellow citizens. At the same time, VOA Ukrainian stringers in Ukraine cover visits by US officials and report on US government-sponsored as well as private sector projects and initiatives between the two countries.

According to independent research data collected in 2008, through its magazine show Window on America, its news show Chas-Time, its regular prime-time interactives and special reports for a number of leading TV networks in Ukraine and its webpage, VOA Ukrainian has a weekly audience share in Ukraine of 11.9% or 4.7 million people.

Remarks Delivered at VOA Ukrainian's 60th Anniversary Observance

Dan Austin

Blanquita Cullum

Rep. Marcy Kaptur

Amb. William Miller

Amb. Oleh Shamshur

Michael Sawkiw


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