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Radio Sawa: The Creation of a New U.S. Government Arabic Service
Unformatted Document Text:  During the Second World War, the main international broadcasters to the Arab world were Germany and the United Kingdom. It was these two countries that encouraged rather strong and distinctive on-air radio personalities to develop. The Nazi Arabic Service employed Iraqi- born Yunus al-Bahri, who may have been the most gifted Arabic-language broadcaster ever to speak from Europe. However, the BBC also had popular announcers during the war. Isa Sabbagh, a Palestinian who later became an American citizen and worked as a foreign service officer for the United States Information Agency, was a broadcaster with a considerable Arab-world following. After World War II, most European countries, and many in Asia and Africa, added Arabic broadcasts. Arabic remains the world’s most broadcast international radio language after English (Boyd, 1999). VOA’s Arabic Service History The major Arabic international broadcaster from North America is the Voice of America (VOA). Prior to the formation of the VOA at the outset of World War II, shortwave international broadcasting was done by privately owned commercial stations and networks in the United States. Although directed primarily toward Latin America, one station--WRUL in New York--did experiment with limited Arabic programming in the late1930s. VOA had some Arabic programming during World War II, such as during the period when President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill held talks aboard a ship off Casablanca, but it was in January 1950 that the VOA first broadcast a half-hour transmission in Arabic from its studios in New York City (VOA Arabic broadcasts--yesterday and today, n.d.). The 3.5-hour weekly schedule continued until September 1954, when VOA studios moved to Washington, D.C., enabling several services, including Arabic, to increase transmission hours. After the 1956 Suez crisis and 1958 Lebanese Civil War, which brought U.S. troops to Lebanon, it became clear to policy-makers in Washington that the Arab countries were to be increasingly important to U.S. security interests. The 1952 Egyptian revolution that brought Gamal Abdul Nasser to power, and shortly thereafter his powerful and popular radio services Radio Cairo and The Voice of the Arabs, was a wake-up call for the U.S., France, and the

Authors: Boyd, Douglas.
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background image
During the Second World War, the main international broadcasters to the Arab world were
Germany and the United Kingdom. It was these two countries that encouraged rather strong
and distinctive on-air radio personalities to develop. The Nazi Arabic Service employed Iraqi-
born Yunus al-Bahri, who may have been the most gifted Arabic-language broadcaster ever
to speak from Europe. However, the BBC also had popular announcers during the war. Isa
Sabbagh, a Palestinian who later became an American citizen and worked as a foreign
service officer for the United States Information Agency, was a broadcaster with a
considerable Arab-world following. After World War II, most European countries, and many
in Asia and Africa, added Arabic broadcasts. Arabic remains the world’s most broadcast
international radio language after English (Boyd, 1999).
VOA’s Arabic Service History
The major Arabic international broadcaster from North America is the Voice of America
(VOA). Prior to the formation of the VOA at the outset of World War II, shortwave
international broadcasting was done by privately owned commercial stations and networks in
the United States. Although directed primarily toward Latin America, one station--WRUL in
New York--did experiment with limited Arabic programming in the late1930s. VOA had some
Arabic programming during World War II, such as during the period when President
Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill held talks aboard a ship off Casablanca, but it was in
January 1950 that the VOA first broadcast a half-hour transmission in Arabic from its studios
in New York City (VOA Arabic broadcasts--yesterday and today, n.d.). The 3.5-hour weekly
schedule continued until September 1954, when VOA studios moved to Washington, D.C.,
enabling several services, including Arabic, to increase transmission hours.
After the 1956 Suez crisis and 1958 Lebanese Civil War, which brought U.S. troops to
Lebanon, it became clear to policy-makers in Washington that the Arab countries were to be
increasingly important to U.S. security interests. The 1952 Egyptian revolution that brought
Gamal Abdul Nasser to power, and shortly thereafter his powerful and popular radio services
Radio Cairo and The Voice of the Arabs, was a wake-up call for the U.S., France, and the


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