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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service During the decades of the Cold War, it was assumed that transnational radio broadcasting was an important part of public diplomacy, or at least important enough for both sides to continue doing it. A great deal has been written about international radio broadcasting, but documented specific effects on mass audiences remain elusive. The most notable exception, even though evidence is mostly from travelers’ surveys, is the effectiveness of the U.S.’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and Germany’s Deutsche Welle in providing information to the former Soviet Union and East European Soviet-influenced states. Several events since the early 1990s have motivated international broadcasters to re-think their commitment to these services. There is, of course, the end of the Cold War itself, and the realization that communication consumption patterns in the developed and developing world have changed, in some cases rather dramatically. Not only has the quality of local radio and television services improved, but also information heretofore available only via short- and mediumwave now comes from local FM rebroadcasting and streaming via the Internet. For example, in connection with the BBC World Service’s program of reducing short-wave transmission to the Pacific and North America, a BBC official noted, “In Australia, BBC World Service listenership on shortwave has declined severely over the past decade, from 1.7 million to just over 100,000 listeners. Our primary access today is through our syndication partnerships on FM stations” (Byford, 2002). Modern international broadcasters now see themselves as information providers, not just radio broadcasters. The purpose of this study is to review the transformation, and ultimately the elimination, of the Arabic Service of the Voice of America in 2001 and 2002 from its traditional mixed bag of news, commentary, features, and music into the Middle East Radio Network: Radio Sawa 1 (together in Arabic). It is important to explore both the broadcaster and the service itself

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government
Arabic Service
During the decades of the Cold War, it was assumed that transnational radio broadcasting
was an important part of public diplomacy, or at least important enough for both sides to
continue doing it. A great deal has been written about international radio broadcasting, but
documented specific effects on mass audiences remain elusive. The most notable
exception, even though evidence is mostly from travelers’ surveys, is the effectiveness of the
U.S.’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC), and Germany’s Deutsche Welle in providing information to the former
Soviet Union and East European Soviet-influenced states.
Several events since the early 1990s have motivated international broadcasters to re-think
their commitment to these services. There is, of course, the end of the Cold War itself, and
the realization that communication consumption patterns in the developed and developing
world have changed, in some cases rather dramatically. Not only has the quality of local
radio and television services improved, but also information heretofore available only via
short- and mediumwave now comes from local FM rebroadcasting and streaming via the
Internet. For example, in connection with the BBC World Service’s program of reducing
short-wave transmission to the Pacific and North America, a BBC official noted, “In Australia,
BBC World Service listenership on shortwave has declined severely over the past decade,
from 1.7 million to just over 100,000 listeners. Our primary access today is through our
syndication partnerships on FM stations” (Byford, 2002). Modern international broadcasters
now see themselves as information providers, not just radio broadcasters.
The purpose of this study is to review the transformation, and ultimately the elimination, of
the Arabic Service of the Voice of America in 2001 and 2002 from its traditional mixed bag of
news, commentary, features, and music into the Middle East Radio Network: Radio Sawa
1
(together in Arabic). It is important to explore both the broadcaster and the service itself


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