September 16, 2008

Voice of America Audience Increases in Pakistan

Text of press release by Voice of America on 15 September

Washington, D.C, September 15, 2008 The Voice of America's (VOA) weekly radio and television audience in Pakistan, scene of recent tumultuous political events, nearly doubled over the past year to more than 11 million, or almost 12 per cent of the surveyed population, a new survey shows.

"There's been a lot of news, including a temporary crackdown on independent media, coming out of Pakistan in the past 12 months," said Danforth Austin, VOA Director. "VOA has done a good job of covering events thoroughly, and listeners in Pakistan have obviously taken note," he said. Additionally, VOA has improved cross-border distribution of its popular radio programme on medium-wave frequencies, he said.

In a June 2008 survey by InterMedia, researchers found a huge jump - to 6.3 per cent of the adult population from 2.8 per cent - in VOA's Urdu-language radio listenership.

The weekly VOA television audience also reached 6 per cent percent, even though the programme was shut down for nearly six months after then-Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution in November 2007. Musharraf, who resigned last month, blocked television including foreign cable broadcasts and imposed restrictions on local reporters.

Researchers said political events, which included the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 and "periodic crackdowns on key local media outlets may have driven more Pakistanis towards external information sources."

VOA's Aap Ki Dunyaa program in Urdu - Your World in English - broadcasts 12 hours a day on medium-wave (AM) and shortwave. The program, aimed at young people, includes news, information, music, call-in shows and features. VOA's Urdu service also produces a daily, 30-minute television programme - Beyond the Headlines - carried on two national TV networks, Aaj and Geo. Urdu is the country's predominant language.

VOA also has a Pashto-language programme focusing on the Pakistan- Afghanistan border region. Deewa Radio, a 24/7 stream, produces six hours of news, features, current affairs and other programmes. Pakistanis also listen to VOA English.

Originally published by Voice of America press release, Washington, in English 15 Sep 08.

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