Genaro LirianoThere are many professions in our society that require you to be licensed, including teaching in the school system, practicing law, medicine, and even a license to drive a motor vehicle.

But what about a license to do voice overs?
Unheard of, right?
Get this: In many Latin American and South American countries, you have to be licensed to speak on the radio, to do live announcing, and voice over!

Voice over artist Genaro Liriano, formerly of the Dominican Republic, now resides in Canada and is a member of Genaro shared some very interesting information with me that will amaze and perhaps surprise you about the process one goes through to become a licensed voice for hire in Central and South America.

Becoming a Spanish Voice Over Talent in Central and South America

Last weekend at our mixer in Toronto I connected with Genaro Liriano and got to hear his story. I’m excited that Genaro is also translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish speaking readers because it is a tale that needs to be heard in both languages.
Genaro Liriano has a license to speak!

Everyone who has their voice aired publicly, whether via broadcast, public address, live announcing, or voice over needs to be an approved speaker of neutral Spanish. What’s even more interesting is that each country has their own requirements for licensing to keep the Latin Spanish being heard by the populous distinctly neutral in accent with a standard dialect.

The journey to become a licensed VO in the Dominican Republic is as follows:

1. An individual must complete a 3-year degree in broadcasting. For your reference, there are usually about 2,200 people in a graduating class.
2. These people must then complete a written exam of which 80-90% of them will fail.
3. Those who pass the exam are then given an oral exam with a panel of well known broadcasters, each with different areas of expertise, testing the candidate’s ability to read in various styles live.

Imagine having Barbara Walters, Larry King, and the late Peter Jennings all in one room testing you, holding your destiny in their hands!
4. If you pass the oral exam, you receive your certificate and a license to work on-air and off-air. This license is granted by the Radio and telecommunication commission of the Dominican Republic.
Suffice to say, becoming a licensed speaker is not easy, and those who do have a license are fortunate to say the least.

Interesting Fact:

If you were to produce an ad campaign that were to air in multiple countries that required the recording to be voiced by a licensed individual, you may need to hire more than one talent for the job. For instance, if you had someone from the Dominican Republic voicing for an ad in the DR, but you were going to air your advertisement in another country, or several countries that also required a licensed speaker, you may need to hire one licensed speaker per country you are airing your commercial in! That could get expensive quickly depending on the reach of the campaign, however, this is how business is done to preserve the language and how it is being heard by the public.

What If People Needed to be Licensed To Do Voice Over in Other Places?

Imagine if you had to be licensed in the US to do voice over, or in Canada, or in other European countries? Perhaps that is already the case in some nations but we just haven’t heard about it.
How do you feel about the concept of licensing with regard to announcing on-air and off?
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,
Photo courtesy Genaro Liriano


  1. Honestly, I think that is kind of a good idea. I do like to think of my career choice as a profession, not a hobby that anyone can just pick up and run with. Licensing and certification would also ensure that your voice guy is committed to doing his job to the best of his ability, giving just a little bit more assurance to the customer or GM that hires him/her that what they are paying for is a professional service that someone has trained for and gained experience in. I know that will never happen here in the states, but I find it extremely interesting! Great article here!

  2. Dear Stephanie,
    I am glad for today´s post about Spanish VO artist licensing and our case in the Dominican Republic. It´s good you met Genaro and he was able to explain what it is like for us, the Dominicans and most Latin American voice artists, to start being seen or heard in the broadcast industry in our culture.
    Like Genaro, I am a Dominican Voice Over artist and I did had to pass all these exams that you mention below, back in 1995, to get my license. I still live in the Dominican Republic and have been able to work on Radio, TV and as a voice artist for numerous ad campaigns locally. I am a full time voice over now but still work on TV as well, and no one asks me for my licensing ID any more since I am well established now but new generations on radio and TV are yet asked for a license.
    Here´s some history about it: Back in 1949, it was released Law no. 1951 to rule everything related to Public Events and Broadcasting and creates a Commission to follow up on this. Later, in 1971 a new rule is created, the 824 Rule is set to establish the scope of the Commission´s work and focus, and also to provide guidelines on the examination process for candidates who wants to work on radio and/or television. This exam is only once a year, so as Genaro mentioned earlier, lots of candidates show up for this every year. The exam includes: Castillian Grammar, Universal Literature, Classic Literature, National History and Geography and General Culture knowledges, in both written and oral tests. The oral exam also measure your voice tone, diction, pronunciation of exotic words or names, etc….and then, after all these, if you pass, you get a license ID for broadcast jobs on radio and television, but the ID is no longer requested if you are just doing voiceovers. Personally, I like the idea of a license, it takes our profession seriously.
    There has been some local attempts to eliminate this Law and process, but this is the way it works still nowadays. For the Commission it is a way to keep up with standards and filter who gets to be in front of a mic and/or camera.
    Sounds funny?
    All the best,

  3. Stephanie…
    I’m sure you’re going to get a ton of comments like this, given that so many VO people worked in radio.
    We veterans are going to tell you that as recently as the 1970’s…maybe later…to work on-air, on a US radio station, the management would almost always require you to have an “FCC 3rd Class license/Broadcast Endorsed” as a minimum. They’d prefer a “First Class” license…but that was way beyond the range of a wannabe deejay!
    You got that license by passing a rigorous government test requiring a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo that you had to know.
    Most of us “creative-types” had no interest in all the electrical specifications…so we just memorized it all, but had no idea what the devil most of it meant. The idea was they wanted you to know what to do if the chief engineer had a heart attack! What most of us would do would be to pickup the phone and call the station manager/owner!
    Today no license is needed to be a broadcast dj. And, given that all VO work is recorded, there would never be a license for that either. But Liriano’s story about the Dominican Republic was fascinating! Thanks for sharing.
    Jay Lloyd
    Benicia, CA

  4. As a US citizen, I had to get my license when I was in college in the early ’90s in order to operate the student radio station. The FCC did away with this requirement not long after I graduated. I may even still have my license somewhere.
    Michael Montgomery
    Louisville, KY

  5. Hello my dear VO friends,
    I definitely agree that the idea of having a license to be a VO professional is interesting. However, I can’t agree with it at all. It’s maybe because I grew up in Puerto Rico (a U.S. territory) where you don’t need a license to work as a voice talent. In fact, I really like the way people is able to become a VO talent today: To take several classes with a professional VO coach, may be some vocal technique classes and when you have enough money….ACTING CLASSES (especially film acting, as I’ve heard). I know, that becoming a VO artist takes more than just classes, but I don’t see a good reason for it to take 3 or 4 years to let you be a VO professional. Again, I don’t see VO work as something easy to do, I rather see it as it is: A SERIOUS JOB, A SERIOUS INDUSTRY! General culture knowledge is something that you can get on the road, reading books in the local library, on the internet. At least in the United States of America, I don’t see a valid reason (and there should never be one) to have a license to work in voice-over industry. I hope none of our dear politicians have someday, the idea of establishing such a license. I’m not against the idea, but think of this: Will a license make me a good or even great voice-over artist? Will a client care about you having a license? Or will they just care about how good you are, paying attention exclusively to your demos as they currently do? Please my dear friends, comment on this, since I want to continue learning from you.
    Take care,
    Pablo Hernandez

  6. It is all a political thing that some 3rd. world governments use to keep a kind of control on what people say on the media. They own the media and they want to decide who speak and who doesn’t. Eventually, they could even deny the licence to anyone they consider a political enemy.
    It is nice to study and have a VO diploma/certificate in your CV. For sure it looks very professional when applying for a job, but I don’t agree with the idea of state issued VO licences.


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