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Armenian Service 65th Anniversary

By Ismail Dahiyat

At the very outset, let me congratulate VOA and the broadcasters of VOA Armenian on the 65th anniversary of Armenian broadcasts. The period of this relatively long history that I am closely familiar with spans the last fifteen years. At that time and until 2013, I was the division director. I am honored to have worked with the professionals of VOA Armenian, some of the best I have known during my nearly 40 years at VOA.

It is inspirational that the Armenian Service has survived the ill-considered decision, fifteen years ago, to end all VOA broadcasts in Armenian and virtually shut the service down. And I should hasten to say that it hasn't just survived but also succeeded in carrying its mission, despite incredible odds including severely limited resources. And despite an initial period of adjusting, learning and transitioning skills from radio to TV.

But how did VOA Armenian manage to garner a 40% audience share within three years after that fateful decision to virtually close it down? Granted, audience surveys need sometimes to be taken with a big spoon of salt, but not 40%!

Put very briefly, there are three factors contributing to this Armenian story of survival and success. First, adapting to a rapidly changing media environment. At the time, fifteen years ago, digital media was still not as dominant as it is today. TV was king, according to all credible surveys. It was an obvious choice at the time, and VOA Armenian took that route, with America, including the US Armenian diaspora, as the focus of its content. It was a perfect niche for the resource-strapped service. The problem of distribution was solved when a local Armenian TV network agreed to carry VOA Armenian weekly TV magazine and later its daily news rundown. That was the three-part winning combination behind the survival and success of VOA Armenian. And if there was an element of luck in all this, then so be it.

But, luck or no luck, none of this would have worked, if you didn't have the most important ingredient, namely, the people who are willing and committed to give it all they can. And here, I want to salute Araxie, Aram, Inessa and their colleagues for their uncommon commitment and dedication. I know, having closely worked with them, it was and still is a labor of love. I congratulate them on living up to values that are very American and truly Armenian: dogged determination, resilience and the will to survive and succeed despite incredible odds.

HAPPY 65TH ANNIVERSARY!

Ismail Dahiyat

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