"The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors has decided that VOA's seven-hour Hindi-language radio service will end this month, after 53 years." But VOA Hindi will continue via television feeds and a website. Washington Post, 12 September 2008
"The impending closure of Voice of America's Hindi service on 30 September appears to upset loyal listeners, particularly from the country's Hindi belt, who have been tuned into the service for years now." RadioandMusic.com, 11 September 2008
"VoA Hindi will broadcast its final programme on September 30, following which its six-member team - at the centre of over 1,200 fan clubs and catering to nearly 8 million listeners - will fall silent. ... The focus is increasingly on languages like Pashto and Urdu now even though VoA Hindi has a good listenership across South Asia." ANI, 13 September 2008
"The Voice of America, more the voice of American government than its people of course has in a review of its priories in the post 9/11 era decided to wind up the fairly popular Hindi service. I suppose that it has in ways outlived its strategic utility. During the Cold War, with the Indian government firmly tilted towards the Soviet Union, the VOA was a helpful tool for the American media to connect with the Indian public. I suppose that with no Soviet Union left today ... the VOA is no longer needed to whisper Uncle Sam’s sweet nothings to Indian ears." Shantanu Dutta, merinews, 16 September 2008
"As an epidemiologist, I was an occasional guest on the VOA youth call-in show 'Hello India' when the topic was HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment. I was impressed by the show's reach: Most callers were from rural areas, and their questions and comments were engaging." Sudha Sivaram, letter to Washington Post, 18 September 2008
"The two Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), stressed in their letter to the BBG that over 70% of the Indian population lives in rural villages, many with no access to TV or the Internet. They expressed surprise that the BBG wants to terminate VOA Hindi radio at the time when the United States is expanding its strategic partnership with India. They asked the BBG to allow VOA Hindi radio broadcasts to continue." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 16 September 2008
"The administration's relentless disassembling of one of the most effective and cost-efficient US tools of cultural diplomacy seems to have gone unnoticed by either presidential campaign. The candidates should be asked what they would do to revive the VOA." Doug Ramswey, Rifftides, 13 September 2008
India has always been a difficult target country for VOA. BBC has traditionally had a much larger audience. This is because of BBC's superior ability to gather news from South Asia. And because BBC delivered a better signal from its transmitters in Oman (including some medium wave coverage) and Singapore. VOA had to reach India from farther-off Greece and the Philippines, plus three comparatively low powered (35 kilowatt) transmitters in Sri Lanka. It was not until the 1990s that VOA acquired higher powered shortwave transmitters in Sri Lanka. By then, the popularity of shortwave was waning.
Typically, international broadcasters have responded to the decline of shortwave by placing their programs on FM stations in the target country. In India, news is not allowed on privately owned shortwave stations. Because of this, BBC Hindi programs heard on Indian FM stations include the likes of Ek Mulaqat, "a weekend talk show where famous people chat about the other side of their lives--from childhood stories, teenage trivia, hobbies, passions to little known facts about themselves." The idea is that BBC will have a foot in the door of the Indian FM market if and when news finally is allowed.
VOA has generally been uncomfortable with programs that do not include news and current affairs "freight," so it is not following the BBC in placing lighter fare on Indian FM stations. There might be an opportunity here for an Indian-American private broadcast entrepreneur.
BBC has, for regulatory reasons, been slow to develop international television in languages other than English. VOA, on the other hand, has been an early adopter of international television in several languages. Despite vigorous marketing efforts, VOA Hindi's television placement consists only of a weekly report on India's Aaj Tak channel.
Still, that weekly placement yields a weekly audience rate of 0.6% (according to a 2007 survey in India), compared to 0.7% for a daily hour of shortwave radio in Hindi. BBC has a weekly audience of 5.4% in India, down from 11.9% in 2006.
Television seems to be the route to success for international broadcasting to India. However, free access to Indian television will be increasingly elusive. Money to pay for that time will be required.