07 October 2010

Correcting An Error About VOA's First Broadcast

We’ve always believed, as our website states, that VOA’s first broadcast took place on February 24th, 1942.

But now we have to ask, where did that date come from? Because detective work by two men with past ties to VOA, Walter Roberts and Chris Kern, suggests the first broadcast was actually on February 1st, 1942.

Mr. Roberts lays out his evidence in a web article on “Origins and Recollections” of his time at VOA.

To sum it up briefly, he says the February 1st broadcast “was sent via radiotelephone to London early in the morning New York time from whence it was broadcast by the BBC over seven medium wave transmitters at 14:15 GMT.”

Chris Kern followed up on Mr. Robert’s research and recently posted his own report.

His search at the National Archives turned up a script from February 3, 1942, “but it is clear that wasn’t the first Voice of America program because at one point the script calls on one of the announcers to refer to something he said “yesterday.” The reference to the previous day’s program obviously means there had been a broadcast on Monday, February 2.”

The key evidence turned up by Roberts and Kern was a script like the one shown here with a Roman numeral typed under the title. As Mr. Kern writes, “at the top of the February 3 script, just under the title Stimmen Aus Amerika and the date, was a Roman numeral III.” Under the script for February 11 was the Roman number XI. Based on this, they concluded the script with the numeral III was the third, placing the first on February 1st.

VOA is preparing a statement on the anniversary issue. Stay tuned. But I wouldn’t be surprised if, in accordance with standard correction policy, VOA decides to say something like this:

The Voice of the America first went on the air on February 1, 1942, not February 24. We regret the error.

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