RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal: duplication puts the "torch" to the taxpayers' dollars (updated).

Posted: 16 Jan 2010   Print   Send a link
"On January 15, RFE/RL will begin broadcasting in the local Pashto dialects to Pakistan and the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The new station - called Radio Mashaal ('Torch' in Pashto) - will offer an alternative to the growing number of Islamic extremist radio stations in the region. ... One surprise in store for listeners will be the reappearance of Haroon Bacha, a popular Pashtun singer who fled the region last year amid death threats from the Taliban. The 36-year-old recording artist - whose dozens of albums, music videos and television appearances made him one of the most famous entertainers in the region - will be hosting a cultural affairs show for Radio Mashaal." RFE/RL press release, 14 January 2010. See also AP, 14 January 2010. The schedule is 1100-1300 UTC on 9395, 11605, and 13700 kHz shortwave. The RFE/RL website says 15:30-17:30 "local broadcast time", so they are using Afghanistan (UTC + 4 1/2) rather than Pakistan (UTC + 5) time.
     I'm sure Radio Mashaal will do a good job. But it will do much the same job that VOA's Deewa Radio is already doing, in the same language, to the same target area. Put together the talent from these two stations, and US international broadcasting would be in danger of achieving excellence.
     This was not the idea of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Some senator put some language in some appropriations bill, and Radio Mashaal was created. Such shards of bad legislation have made US international broadcasting an archetype of organizational inefficiency.

     Update: "Radio Mashaal's first broadcast yesterday featured male and female presenters reading a newscast. There was an analysis of the impact of Mr. Holbrooke's visit to the region, a discussion of an article from The Wall Street Journal and messages from tribal leaders from the region. 'It went perfectly,' said Akbar Ayazi, who oversaw the establishment of the new service, which is broadcast by Radio Free Europe out of Prague. 'During the first hour, we received over a hundred voice messages. It was a terrific response,' he said. A team of 25 journalists is based in a bureau in Islamabad, reporting from 'the mountains and villages where the extremists are active,' explained Mr. Ayazi." Sonia Verma, Globe and Mail, 16 January 2010.