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5/21/03 - BANGLA SERVICE ANNIVERSARY - 2003-05-23

The Voice of America produces programs in English and more than fifty other languages. One of them is Bangla, spoken by about two-hundred-forty million people in Bangladesh and the West Bengal region of India.

“The following program is in Bangla. Voice of America, Washington.

This year, V-O-A’s Bangla service is celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary. Since going on the air in 1958, Bangla has become one of V-O-A’s most popular language services.

A unique feature of the service is the more than one-thousand V-O-A Bangla fan clubs throughout Bangladesh and West Bengal. Members of the fan clubs listen to V-O-A programs and discuss them in seminars and write about them in newsletters. The fan clubs are also engaged in a variety of public service activities in Bangladesh and West Bengal. They include planting trees, donating blood, and campaigns to inoculate children against polio.

As V-O-A Director David Jackson said, the activities of the Bangla fan clubs are a tribute to the service’s dedicated staff members. “Thanks to their hard work,” he said, “the Bangla service has some of V-O-A’s most loyal and devoted listeners.”

In many countries, people listen to V-O-A because they are denied the right of a free press by repressive governments. But this is far from the case in Bangladesh and India. Both countries are democratic, and their governments have moved to open up the flow of information to citizens. In Bangladesh and India, there are thousands of private newspapers as well as increasing numbers of private radio and television stations.

Nevertheless, for millions of listeners in Bangladesh and India, V-O-A provides news and information that they find useful, interesting, and, above all, trustworthy.