Croatia calling Croatian-Americans.

Posted: 29 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"With its AMC-4 satellite the top choice for the reliable distribution of international news and entertainment programming to growing ethnic audiences throughout North America, SES AMERICOM, an SES GLOBAL company ... and Home2US today announced Euro-World Network has signed agreements to have hit Croatian radio and TV shows delivered to thousands of Croat viewers and families living throughout the United States." SES Americam press release, 26 July 2006. See also Home2US, 7 June 2006.

Zimbabwe jamming continues.

Posted: 29 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"The Zimbabwe regime appears to have some success in continuing to jam the medium wave broadcasts of independent radio stations SW Radio Africa and Voice of America's Studio 7." The Zimbabwean, 27 July 2006. SW Radio Africa may want to revert to its namesake and use shortwave, which is more jam-proof given that shortwave signals propagate better over long distances than short distances. VOA's Studio 7 has always used shortwave from various sites in addition to medium wave via Botswana.

More, not less, U.S. broadcasting to Russia.

Posted: 29 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Freedom House deputy director Thomas O. Melia tells Helsinki Commission: "International broadcasting needs to be expanded not contracted. Perhaps most urgently, Congress needs to re-examine the budget proposal from the Broadcasting Board of Governors for FY 2007 which proposes elimination of Voice of America's Russian-language radio and significant funding reductions for RFE/RL as well which will be forced to cut daily programming. There are Russians who want to listen to American radio. Let's not cut them off." Freedom House press release, 27 July 2006.

Important U.S. public diplomacy point -- evenhandedness in the Israel Lebanon conflict -- apparently not reported by any U.S. funded source.

Posted: 29 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
State Department's Adam Ereli dismisses as "outrageous" a suggestion by Israel that it has been authorized by the world to continue bombing Lebanon. This is reported by BBC News, 28 July 2006 and AP, 29 July 2006, but none of my searches can find the statement at voanews.com, www.state.gov, or info.state.gov. However, at USINFO, Ereli is quoted as saying effective public diplomacy requires "reaching out, deciding what audiences are you know (appropriate): we need to hit the messages; work with them." [sic] usinfo.state.gov, 23 July 2006.

Voice of American Persian television now up to three hours per day with the addition of "Late Edition."

Posted: 26 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"'The United States is fortunate that at this critical point - especially since the start of hostilities between Israel and the Tehran-supported Hezbollah terrorist organization - we have a way to communicate directly with the people of Iran every night,' said (Broadcasting Board of Governors) Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson. 'Thanks to the support of the Bush administration and Congress,' he added, 'we will continue to increase our original television programming to four hours plus repeats by September and six hours plus repeats early next year.'" BBG press release, 24 July 2006. International broadcasters succeed insofar as they are able to establish their credibility. Credibility is established if the international broadcaster is able to demonstrate its autonomy from its funding government.

Head of Australia's SBS Radio departs.

Posted: 25 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Mr Luu, who was appointed Head of SBS Radio in 1989, oversaw the growth of SBS Radio from a two-station service, in Sydney and Melbourne, into a five-signal national network that is heard in all Australian capital cities and several key regional centres. With broadcasts in 68 languages, including English, SBS Radio is the most linguistically diverse radio network in the world." SBS press release, 17 July 2006.

Human rights organizations endorse Global Online Freedom Act (updated).

Posted: 25 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Internet companies argue that people in closed societies such as China are better off if U.S. companies are there to influence the development of this medium. We agree - so long as U.S. companies set a higher standard with respect to privacy and free expression than do local providers in these societies." Reporters sans frontières, 18 July 2006. "And we hope to keep this issue alive with the help of bloggers. This will attract left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans." McClatchey Washington Bureau, 22 July 2006. Update: "While Google, Yahoo and MSN have entered China's market, even though there is censorship here, their presence is more than we had in the past and has opened up vast opportunities for thousands of Chinese Internet users we've never had before." Randy Chen, AXcess News, 23 July 2006.

Worldspace in the news, again.

Posted: 25 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Nostalgic expats are to get a new 'voice from home' through the medium of satellite radio. Worldspace Middle East, is the first radio satellite company to actively market itself at a Middle Eastern audience, and it has warned it is specifically targeting fans of obscure musical genres and residents whose community is too small to keep homesickness at bay." 7DAYS (UAE), 25 July 2006. This article also says "satellite radio has been around for donkey’s years." Actually, dedicated satellite radio (not audio via television broadcast satellites) began with the first Worldspace launch in 1999. There are probably a few donkeys more than seven years old. Also: "Worldspace has ten million subscribers in North America." Unlikely, given that Worldspace has no satellite over the western hemisphere. "Casbah After Dark" is new program on Worldspace UPop channel featuring "an exciting fusion of Middle Eastern and Western music." Worldspace press release, 12 July 2006. "Global satellite-radio provider WorldSpace (Nasdaq: WRSP) ... went public at $21 last summer and now trades for about the price of a Big Mac without the fries." The Motley Fool, 24 July 2006.

Cha-ching! International broadcasters award contracts.

Posted: 24 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"The International Broadcasting Bureau ... recently implemented CommonSpot for its Voice of America (VOA) site. VOA (www.voa.gov) [sic] is one of the largest ColdFusion-based Web sites ever constructed, consisting of 45 sites in 44 different languages." PaperThin Inc. press release, 24 July 2006. One would think that the supplier of content management software to the VOA website would get the URL right. The old URL www.voa.gov points to www.voanews.com, by which the VOA site is now known to the world. Thompson's Grass Valley business will design and install a digital studio and master control room and provide cameras, encoders, and switchers for France 24, the French international television channel slated to begin in December. broadcastbuyer.tv, 19 July 2006. The www.france24.fr URL seems to be holding the place for France 24, if it is authentic. BBC selects contractor to develop templates for its new Arabic e-mail newsletter. "Challenges overcome by Broadsystem in the development of the BBC Arabic e-newsletter have included coding html with a bi-directional font as html works left to right - Arabic text runs from right to left - and ensuring Arabic character sets display correctly across all media and web browsers." CRM Today, 20 July 2006.

Does Israeli psyops now include tinkering with satellites?

Posted: 24 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"According to an unconfirmed report by Egypt's Middle East News Agency (MENA), Israel managed on 23 July 'to intercept the satellite transmissions of Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV channel for the third successive day, replacing it with Israeli transmissions that reportedly showed Hezbollah command sites and rocket launching pads which Israel claimed it has raided.'" Analysis by Peter Feuilherade, BBC Monitoring, 24 July 2006. See previous post on the same subject.

Analysis: Israel steps up "psyops" in Lebanon.

Posted: 24 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Editorial analysis by Peter Feuilherade of BBC Monitoring on 24 July 2006.

From mass targeting of mobile phones with voice and text messages to old-fashioned radio broadcasts warning of imminent attacks, Israel is deploying a range of old and new technologies in Lebanon as part of the psychological operations ("psyops") campaign supplementing its military attacks.

According to US and UK media outlets - including The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine - Israel has reactivated a radio station to broadcast messages urging residents of southern Lebanon to evacuate the region.

Some reports have named the station as the Voice of the South. The Army of South Lebanon, a Christian militia backed by Israel, operated a radio station called Voice of the South from Kfar Killa in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s. The station closed down in May 2000 when Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon.

Website offers cash for tip-offs

The Israeli paper Ma'ariv on 23 July reported the appearance of a website called All 4 Lebanon (http://all4lebanon.org) which offered payment for tip-offs from Lebanese citizens "that could help Israel in the fight against Hezbollah".

According to Ma'ariv the site, with content in Arabic, English and French, had been set up by "Israeli intelligence units".

"We appeal to everyone who has the ability and the desire to uproot the sore called Hezbollah from your heart and from the heart of Lebanon..." the paper quoted the website as saying in Arabic.

On its English-language page, the site says: "Whoever is able and willing to help Lebanon eradicate Hezbollah's evil and get back its independence, freedom and prosperity is hereby invited to contact us at one of the addresses listed below: Telephone 00-88-16-214-65627. Email: info@all4lebanon.org"

It adds: "For your own safety, please contact us from places where no one knows you."

The Arabic wording is identical to that on leaflets which Israeli aircraft have been dropping over Beirut and the south of Lebanon. The leaflets called on people to "remove the sore known as Hezbollah from the heart of Lebanon".

According to Reuters news agency, an Israel Defence Forces spokeswoman said the rewards "could be a range of things, such as cash or a house". It was not clear how such items would be delivered or exactly what information Israel wanted, Reuters noted.

Mobile aggression

On Friday 21 July, residents of southern Lebanon reported receiving recorded messages on their mobile phones from an unknown caller. The speaker identified himself as an Israeli and warned people in the area to leave their homes and head north.

Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya TV reported that the recorded messages also "held the Lebanese government responsible for the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers, and called on Lebanon to set them free."

Inquiries by Lebanon's Communications Ministry revealed that the calls had come exchanges in Italy and Canada, but had originated in Israel.

According to the US magazine Time, Israel has been targeting SMS text messages at local officials in southern Lebanon, urging them to move north of the Litani river before Israeli military operations intensified.

The London Guardian newspaper said mobile phone users in Lebanon were regularly receiving messages to their phones which purported to be news updates, attempting to discredit Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or his party.

Satellite warfare next?

As Israel broadens its psyops activities, it also continues to attack media targets using conventional military means.

Air raids on Saturday 22 July hit transmission stations used by Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, Future TV and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). A technician working for LBC was reported killed.

On 23 July, a convoy of journalists from Lebanese and pan-Arab TV channels was attacked by Israeli planes while on a tour of southern Lebanon; no injuries were reported.

According to an unconfirmed report by Egypt's Middle East News Agency (MENA), Israel managed on 23 July "to intercept the satellite transmissions of Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV channel for the third successive day, replacing it with Israeli transmissions that reportedly showed Hezbollah command sites and rocket launching pads which Israel claimed it has raided".

Replacing a TV station's picture with output you want the audience to see is more difficult to achieve than jamming.

Al-Manar TV has three satellite signals, one on Arabsat 2B at 30.5 degrees east, one on Badr 3 at 26 degrees east and one on Nilesat 102 at 7 degrees west. On Badr 3 and NileSat, Al-Manar is broadcast alongside other TV stations in a multiplexed or combined digital signal.

While it would be technically feasible to replace one station's output, all the other stations in the multiplex would be taken off the air too. The technical parameters of the original station would need to be exactly duplicated by the interloper.

Source: BBC Monitoring research 24 Jul 06

Celebrating old shortwave transmitting sites (updated).

Posted: 23 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Supporters seek historical designation for VOA Bethany facility. Transmitting station in southwestern Ohio operated from 1944 to 1994. "The Voice of America has had such high standards in supporting the truth and helping bring freedom to so many countries. It's an important American icon." Cincinnati Enquirer, 17 July 2006. Update: Dublin photography exhibit showing architecture of Ireland's Office of Public Works includes "Athlone’s high-power wireless station (1933), intended (but never used) for short-wave broadcasts to America." Times Online, 23 July 2006.

BBC World Service advises Britons in Lebanon.

Posted: 23 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service radio broadcast warnings through the night to all remaining Britons in Lebanon who wanted to leave to gather at an assembly area in the capital yesterday for the last ship out being planned by the British government." AFP, 23 July 2006. The BBC announcements were probably heard via its medium wave facility in Cyprus. VOA could have provided similar announcements to Americans in Lebanon via its medium wave relay at Rhodes, but that facility was recently closed. And with VOA's worldwide English service slated for elimination in October, the Broadcasting Board of Governors is ceding VOA's role in providing emergency messages to Americans abroad.

India joins club of internet-blocking countries (updated).

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"The country's 153 internet service providers (ISP) have blocked 17 websites since last week on federal government orders." BBC News, 19 July 2006. "For a nation that's supposed to be IT savvy, this ham-handed attempt at censorship betrays little understanding of either technology or security." Times of India, 20 July 2006. "The government, trying to shut down blogs from various political and religious extremes, ended up blocking all access to a number of blogging websites, including the popular www.blogspot.com." South China Morning Post, 19 July 2006. Update: "An official at the Consulate General of India in New York said that the order to block a handful of Web sites, including the popular blogspot.com, which hosts thousands of personal Web logs, had been prompted by the discovery of a Web site that contained 'two impertinent pages' rife with material containing 'extremely derogatory references to Islam.'" International Herald Tribune, 20 July 2006.

European international broadcasting commentators do not hold back.

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"With hundreds of civilian casualties, hundreds of thousands of refugees and billions in damage to the Lebanese infrastructure, one commentator for the German broadcast network Deutsche Welle said 'it is absurd and inhuman to constitute a new order in Lebanon based on this suffering and misery of innocent people.' 'It's mainly civilians who are suffering from the continuing conflict in Lebanon between Israel and the Islamic Hizbollah movement,' says Radio Netherlands." Washington Post, 21 July 2006. "An unusual commentary on the Voice of Russia English-language web site, which has since been removed, claims that President Bush's presumed 'narrow intellectual horizons' and 'disastrous judgment' have had 'cataclysmic' policy consequences. Bloggers News Network, 22 July 2006. And they do not indicate that their comments do not necessarily reflect the views of their broadcasting organizations or their sponsoring governments.

Shortwave as art.

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Track from Mark Rushton and Jon Harnish’s latest music podcast "is based on shortwave loops." NewsWire Today, 19 July 2006. Download the mp3 from markrushton.com. In DVD sampling work of British filmmaker Chris Welsby, "the soundtrack becomes filled with shortwave radio sounds." Film Threat, 19 July 2006. From interview with hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco: "What’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done? A: I was a big fan of shortwave radio. It’s when you listen to all the radio stations around the world like The Voice Of Cuba. Wow, that’s weird." RWD, 19 July 2006.

Is al-Qaida's public diplomacy running amok?

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Bruce Hoffman of Rand Corp "believes the United States has ceded the Internet and its propaganda to the terrorists -- there is very little effort to counter the information promulgated by al-Qaida and its affiliates. While it might do nothing to affect those already committed to violence, extremists might yet be swayed if they have contrary, verifiable information." United Press International, 19 July 2006.

Even more advice about U.S. broadcasting to Iran.

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Testimony of Ilan Berman, Vice President for Policy, American Foreign Policy Council, to the Senate Federal Financial Management subcommittee: "Despite widespread popularity, the U.S. government's principal vehicles for public broadcasting into Iran, Radio Farda and the Voice of America's Persian Service, continue to suffer from serious systemic dysfunctions. These include sub-optimal programming, a lack of defined goals and no metrics by which to measure success. As a result, American outreach is overwhelmingly reactive, often irrelevant, and at times downright damaging to U.S. objectives. If it hopes to persevere in the battle for Iranian 'hearts and minds,' the United States must craft a clear message of hope and transformation that is continuously calibrated to the Iranian 'marketplace,' and that message must be capable of penetrating the regime's increasingly sophisticated barriers. And, if official public diplomacy channels are not up to the task, the U.S. government should empower U.S.-based NGOs capable of effectively carrying such a message." Via Newsblaze, 21 July 2006. See Kim's comments.

Mr. Berman's interesting comments need to be parsed:

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Despite widespread popularity, the U.S. government's principal vehicles for public broadcasting into Iran, Radio Farda and the Voice of America's Persian Service, continue to suffer from serious systemic dysfunctions." Any radio station that enjoys "widespread popularity" would want to emulate such dysfunctions.

"These include sub-optimal programming, a lack of defined goals and no metrics by which to measure success." So how does "sub-optimal programming" enjoy "widespread popularity"? The refreshing "lack of defined goals" might be contributing to that popularity. As for metrics, door-to-door surveys are not possible in Iran, but telephone surveys have been conducted, and they indicate that Radio Farda, VOA Persian radio, and VOA Persian television are successful.

"The United States must craft a clear message of hope and transformation that is continuously calibrated to the Iranian 'marketplace.'" By providing the uncensored news and popular music that are not available from Iranian domestic media, U.S. broadcasts are calibrated to the Iranian marketplace. Messages of hope and transformation, noble as those sentiments may be, result in broadcasts that are, after a couple of days, predictable and tuned out.

"...that message must be capable of penetrating the regime's increasingly sophisticated barriers." Websites are still relatively easy to block because they are received via landline circuits inside Iran. Satellite dishes are conspicuous and confiscated. Shortwave, on the other hand, can overcome jamming because the laws of physics dictate that signals from afar are often heard more clearly than those from nearby transmitters. Unfortunately, the United States is dismantling its global shortwave plant.

"And, if official public diplomacy channels are not up to the task, the U.S. government should empower U.S.-based NGOs capable of effectively carrying such a message." Loose cannons to the battlefront! Actually, he is on the right track in that U.S. international broadcasting would be more likely to succeed as an autonomous corporation than as a government agency.

Kim

A good problem to have:

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
BBC World Service coverage of Israel-Lebanon conflict criticized from both sides. "On Thursday, the BBC World Service’s embarrassing daily rant, Newshour, had a ’Bollah-fest, opening with an interview with a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament and continuing with Roger Hearing’s nervous report (audio file) from what was claimed to be the scene of an Israeli attack on a Hez-bunker." Denis Boyles, National Review, 21 July 2006. "The BBC might try and persuade the U.S. of its integrity, but hopefully it shouldn't take too long for most Americans to rumble its institutional leftism." Jonathan Boyd Hunt, Accuracy in Media, 20 July 2006. BBC's "Lyse Doucet told viewers that in response to the attack in which an Israeli soldier had been 'kidnapped,' the Israeli army 'have been detaining Palestinian cabinet ministers.'" Jonathan Cook, globalresearch.ca, 20 July 2006. "The BBC apparently considers their Beirut reporter’s first duty to find out what meals HMS Gloucester’s chef will be preparing for the evacuees. Lebanese and Palestinian civilians die unnoticed by the Western media (though not by the Arab channels)." Jonathan Cook, Media Monitors International, 19 July 2006.

Is it the official Voice of America?

Posted: 22 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
From a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news report: "The official Voice of America broadcasting service said no details of Rice's itinerary had been released but the trip could begin as early as next week." CBC News, 21 July 2006. This was later replaced by another CBC story that did not cite VOA, perhaps because Rice's itinerary had been established later in the day. CBC News, 21 July 2006. This prompts the question: VOA is often cited by news organizations and in search engines. Is this because VOA is seen as a prominent news organization? Or because copyright issues are less likely to arise than if citing news from private, commercial news organizations? Or is it because news writers think that items from VOA provide a way to mention the official U.S. government viewpoint? A graduate student of journalism or communication could develop a paper about this by conducting a survey of news writers who use VOA material.

Rubber bullets for Alhurra.

Posted: 21 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Committee to Protect Journalists "deeply concerned" that correspondents for Alhurra and Aljazeera were struck by rubber bullets in West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli military spokeswoman says no formal complaints have been filed. CPJ, 20 July 2006. No protest yet among other such protests at Broadcasting Board of Governors website.

If it's war, there must be leaflets.

Posted: 21 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
IDF leaflets dropped on Lebanon warn Lebanese civilians "to stay clear of areas from which rockets are launched against Israel" and "that any pickup truck or truck traveling south of the Litani river will be considered suspect of transporting weapons and rockets." Israel Today, 19 July 2006. Leaflets dropped on Gaza state: "You are forbidden from moving or gathering in the areas that the Israeli army is working in." International Middle East Media Center, 29 June 2006. More recent Gaza leaflets: "Anyone who has, or is keeping an arsenal, ammunitions or weapons in their house must destroy it or they will face dangerous consequences." AP, 20 July 2006. "Aerial leaflet propaganda goes back at least as far as 1806, when a British admiral used kites to drop messages on the French." Slate, 18 July 2006. IDF minders steer correspondents to its artillery batteries. "Whatever Hezbollah supporters are still in a position to flip through television channels are seeing artillery units incessantly shelling their fighters -- for days on end. It is psychologically devastating." Strafor, 19 July 2006. Psyops via telemarketing: "Homes in southern Lebanon received taped phone calls in Arabic warning that they needed to evacuate because strikes would hit house by house. The recording ended by saying it came from the Israeli Army. The Israelis also used a radio station near the border to broadcast warnings into southern Lebanon for residents to leave." New York Times, 19 July 2006.

Kim's comments about the el-Nawawy study.

Posted: 19 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Because of the study's small number of subjects (394) and the use of a convenience sample, I was expecting to see the paper conclude with the usual "these preliminary findings call for further research using larger and more representative samples." Instead, I found three pages of broad conclusions, including "The US administration may need to face this reality and realize that launching channels such as Sawa and Alhurra must go hand-in-hand with changing and/or modifying its policies on the ground."

The most controversial finding, that the Arab students' attitudes towards U.S. foreign policy had worsened since they started listening to Radio Sawa and watching Alhurra, cannot convincingly be made based on one correlational analysis involving this small, non-representative group of subjects. Nevertheless, it precipitated the U.S. News headline ("The more you hear, the less you like"). Other media outlets can be expected to provide similar coverage.

This study is illustrative of the perception by most scholars and decision makers in the United States that exposure to international broadcasts can and should change attitudes. But people generally tune to foreign broadcasts in to get news that is more comprehensive and more credible than the news they get domestically. Through their exposure to international broadcasts, audiences are, for better or worse, more completely and accurately informed. During a period including the Iraq War and its complicated aftermath, as well as continued strife in and around Israel, it is to be expected that Arab views towards U.S. policy might deteriorate.

A reasonable goal for U.S. international broadcasting is to ensure that any such deterioration of attitudes is not exacerbated by misinformation and disinformation, from other sources, about U.S. policies and actions.

In the el-Nawawy paper, I am badly misquoted by a secondary source as saying: "Arab people will always look at Alhurra as a propaganda station that publicized the ideas of the US government." I don't remember saying that, and I certainly never thought that. I have always stressed that U.S. international broadcasting must retain its autonomy.

About Alhurra, it may never match Aljazeera or Alarabiya in audience size, but it can serve a significant role in reaching Arabs who would like to receive news from a U.S. source and to know more about American life and institutions. This is being accomplished to some extent, given Alhurra's fairly respectable daily audience figures, ranging from two percent to fifteen percent of households in various Arab countries (27 percent in Iraq, where it has terrestrial transmitters).

Kim

The more you hear Radio Sawa, the less you like U.S. policy?

Posted: 18 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Study, published in Global Media and Communication, involving 394 Arab students, concludes that there is no relationship between the frequency of listening to Radio Sawa and views towards US policy. The paper also finds that the subjects' views towards U.S. policy worsened during the period they listened to Radio Sawa or watched Alhurra. U.S. News & World Report, 17 July 2006. See Kim's comments about the study. More coverage of this study on NPR's On the Media, 21 July 2006.

Retired VOA managers sound off.

Posted: 17 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Given the 'perfect storm' of international crises confronting the United States these days, it seems foolhardy to cut any U.S.-funded overseas broadcast to any region of the world in any language and on any delivery system (radio, TV, Internet). The only good news is that either Congress or the administration can still reverse course." Alan Heil, letter to the Washington Post, 11 July 2006. "The great radios that helped bring victory in the Cold War must again be in the forefront, not the teeny-bopper music that listeners can buy in a corner store. ... What kind of a policy is it that cuts Russian and English broadcasting and gives up shortwave while Mr. Putin forces broadcasters to drop VOA and RL and increases his English?" Vello Ederma, letter to the Washington Times, 15 July 2006.

A shortwave station with big ambitions.

Posted: 17 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Robert Mawire, CEO of private shortwave station WRNO [via a 50-kilowatt transmitter near New Orleans] is focusing his efforts on the Middle East, "to give the people an understanding of America, what we stand for, that we are not against Muslims or the Muslim world." KTVT (Fort Worth), 16 July 2006. New Orleans to the Middle East is a long path for shortwave, and shortwave is not now a popular medium in most of that target region. Furthermore, all WRNO programs are in English. See also WRNO Worldwide website.

Does Iraq point to a U.S. public diplomacy strategy for the Muslim world?

Posted: 17 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"[Quoting Michael Novak:]'Iraqis are beginning to distinguish between terrorism and rightful acts of resistance not only in Iraq but also on a global level and are showing decreasing tolerance for extremism and this in my opinion is what builds peace in the region or any given region of this world.' ... Here's a task for 'public diplomacy': help the rest of the Arabs, and Muslims in Europe too, feel the same way as the Iraqis do." Josh Manchester, TCS Daily, 17 July 2006.

BBC funding controversy has international components.

Posted: 17 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Now the BBC wants to add advertising to a new Web site for users outside Britain, who represent about a third of the traffic to the existing global Web site. Although British Web users would continue to be routed to an ad-free site, some rivals say the proposal to sell online advertising would give the BBC an unfair advantage in the race to stake out new-media ground, given that the BBC’s online operations are, in effect, subsidized by license fees." International Herald Tribune, 16 July 2006.

Too many websites to block?

Posted: 17 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Amnesty International project, irrepressible.info, responds to: "Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information." The site urges readers to "undermine censorship by publishing irrepressible fragments of censored material on your own site. The more people take part, the more we can defeat unwarranted censorship and create an unstoppable network of protest." (via Mike Barraclough.) Those fragments of uncensored material would have to be in the language of the oppressed country, and users there will somehow have to know what sites have those fragments. Amnesty International official: "We think (internet content) companies should be welcoming (the Global Online Freedom Act). They say `There's nothing we can do -- if we're in China, we have to do what the Chinese government tells us to do.' This act would give them the legal strength to say, `We can't hand over information which will see someone thrown in jail for 10 years because it's out of our hands.'" The Observer, 17 July 2006. On this subject, see previous post.

Music on the battlefront.

Posted: 16 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"I saw the Afghan fighters coming down from the Tora Bora mountains after a long day battling the remnants of al-Qaeda, I was not surprised to see them tune in the few scratchy short-wave radios they shared to listen, with disappointment if all they could find were the drums and flutes of local traditional music; with joy if they found Bollywood film soundtracks." The Observer, 16 July 2006.

Promoting democracy from the porkbarrel.

Posted: 16 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Private non-profit groups receive millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars each year to promote 'democratic' values in some of the most repressive places in the world. ... But a growing number of foreign governments complain that these democracy-building groups maneuver behind the scenes to help destabilize and topple their governments, including in countries where the official U.S. policy has been to work through diplomatic channels with those same governments." Arizona Republic, 16 July 2006.

Both Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush want VOA Russian radio broadcasts off the air (updated).

Posted: 16 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"FreeMediaOnline.org makes available a selection of letters and emails from Russian NGOs, human rights activists, political parties, Voice of America (VOA) affiliates, and VOA listeners in Russia and Central Asia protesting the Bush Administration's decision to eliminate VOA Russian radio programs." FreeMediaOnline.org, 13 July 2006. "President Vladimir Putin's government forced Russian radio stations to stop broadcasting news reports from the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Ironically, according to the VOA, President Bush praised his Russian counterpart Putin for his 'helpful role' in international diplomacy." Jim Couri, The Conservative Voice, 14 July 2006. "The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty still have that edge to which audiences in Russia are attracted. Why else would dozens of Russian radio stations have partnered with those American-funded stations to carry their news broadcasts? It is because audiences in Russia still like to hear what they have to say." Al Snyder, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 13 July 2006. For more background on the media environment in Russia, see Washington Post, 13 July 2006. Update: American radio broadcasts fill the vacuum by reporting news that is often ignored by the media. VOA and Radio Liberty officials insist the reports are filed by local community journalists and they are unbiased whereas Russian regulators cite agreement violations and programme format changes for stopping the news bulletins. Whatever the truth, listeners are deprived of multiple channels of information that is reminiscent of the communist era when American broadcasts were perceived as US propaganda to spread misinformation and encourage dissent in the East Bloc. Khaleej Times (Dubai), 15 July 2006.

War of the airwaves in the Levant.

Posted: 14 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Report that Israel is jamming Hamas FM station in Gaza strip, with Israeli "messages of incitement" on same wavelength. Ma'an News Agency (Bethlehem), 13 July 2006. "The bombing of Al-Manar [Hezbollah station in Lebanon] is a clear demonstration that Israel has a policy of using violence to silence media it does not agree with This action means media can become routine targets in every conflict. It is a strategy that spells catastrophe for press freedom and should never be endorsed by a government that calls itself democratic." International Federation of Journalists, 14 July 2006. Committee to Protect Journalists protests, too. CPJ, 13 July 2006. Israel foreign ministry: "The al-Manar station has for many years served as the main tool for propaganda and incitement by Hizballah, and has also helped the organization recruit people into its ranks." CNSNews.com, 14 July 2006.

The Voice of the Mediterranean, defunct but in the news.

Posted: 13 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Malta's ambassador to Ireland investigated for his spending while director of the international radio station Voice of the Mediterranean. Malta Today, 9 July 2006. "The shortwave radio station ceased to broadcast on December 31, 2003 after a spell of 20 years when the Libyan government - which was a shareholder in the company - informed its Maltese counterpart it no longer saw a function for the station." Times of Malta, 13 July 2006.

BBC World Service issues new annual report.

Posted: 13 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"The strategy includes plans to launch an Arabic television service in 2007, a crucial step to enable us to remain successful in a market where television is becoming the preferred medium for news and information. In addition, we shall be increasing investment in our interactive services, radio distribution via FM, in overseas news bureaux and more effective marketing." BBC World Service 2005/06 annual review.

CNN International steps up coverage of Africa, but how many people in Africa can watch it?

Posted: 13 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"A select group of South Africans who own DSTV (satellite television receivers) will be able to see a documentary by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, which focuses on the plight of Kenya's Aids orphans. SABC discontinued the CNN service some years ago, and the BBC World Service a few months ago." Independent Online (South Africa), 13 July 2006. See also CNN "Eye on Africa" schedule.

What is going on with shortwave radio?

Posted: 12 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Reader asks newspaper radio-TV columnist: "What is going on with shortwave radio? Is it eventually going to be phased out by the federal government? Do you have any info on helpful websites for programming? A: Tim Cuprisin - I don't know anything about the federal government phasing out shortwave radio. But it's being replaced by the Internet by broadcasters from around the world, most recently Radio Slovakia International, which moved entirely to the Internet and satellite radio." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12 July 2006.

DW-TV online video ist nicht für Amerika.

Posted: 11 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Pop-up message at Deutsche Welle website explains that the DW-TV online video is not available in the United States, nor to internet users outside the United State who use U.S. internet service providers. The U.S. exclusion seems to have something to do with DW's partnership with the DISH Network direct-to-home satellite service. DW-TV is available via DISH for $187 per year.

Guantánamo as relay station?

Posted: 11 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Guantánamo is an ideal place to erect powerful antennas to retransmit the broadcasts of Voice of America and Radio-TV Martí aimed at the Cuban people, as well as all available programming in the huge repertoire of U.S. radio and television." Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami Herald, 11 July 2006.

Choice words for Radio TV Martí.

Posted: 11 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
From the Cuban government's Granma: "The impossible dream of transmitting TV Martí 'by the most effective means possible' will have to be resolved via a study within a 90-day period. Owned by the Voice of America, TV and Radio Martí have also provided -- since their creation -- the softest and most scandalous jobs from which hundreds of professional parasites of the so-called anti-Castro movement have made a living for years." Granma International, 11 July 2006.

ABC Asia Pacific will become "Australia Network."

Posted: 10 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Serving footprint from "French Polynesia in the Pacific, northwards to Japan and west to Pakistan" "will continue to be managed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for the five year period 2006-2011." Press release of foreign minister Alexander Downer, 10 July 2006. Will launch under new name on 7 August. "Australia Network will offer audiences a different view. Our news and current affairs programs provide more than the headlines - it's quality world class journalism offering a different view from the London and US-centric networks. While we still look at and cover news from around the globe, we focus on the region we live in so our perspective is from this part of the world." Australian Broadcasting Corporation press release, 10 July 2006. "We now cover a far larger geographical area than we originally envisaged. So, we feel that we need a name which better represents our origins, our programming and our purpose. We need to be recognised as coming from Australia - thus the name Australia Network has been chosen." ABC Asia Pacific website. New website will be www.autralianetwork.com. The channel began as Australia TV, or ATV, in 1993, under the ABC. Management of ATV was shifted to the private Seven Network in a bid to make it self-funding. In 2001, Seven suspended ATV when it determined it could not be profitable. The channel reverted to the ABC as ABC Asia Pacific.

New tune for Worldspace (updated).

Posted: 10 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Its new signature tune for India "draws inspiration from the sounds of nature and the rhythms of our everyday lives." Worldspace India press release, 3 July 2006. Hear the tune as an mp3. "Of the 11.6 million dollars revenue we had globally in 2005, as much as 3.4 million dollars was from India." PTI, 5 July 2006. Updates: Chief executive of Worldspace Africa: "One of the biggest challenges we’ve obviously had is that of the regulatory uncertainty, especially in South Africa." Moneyweb (South Africa), 7 July 2006. The Washington Post reports that Worldspace CEO Noah Samara was paid $12.1 million in 2005. That's $500,000 more than the total Worldspace revenues in 2005, or $105 for each of the 115,000 Worldspace subscribers. However, the Post adds that the Worldspace stock Samara received in 2005, valued then at $11.5 million, is now worth $2.2 million. Washington Post, 10 July 2006.

What is Arabic for "telenovela"?

Posted: 10 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Joaquín Blaya, pioneer of Univisión, is chairman of the Committee for the Middle East of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. "There's something I do know how to do: to create television programs that attract audiences. That's why this project is so interesting to me." Miami Herald, 10 July 2006.

Another article about Western television channels to the Arab world.

Posted: 09 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Anything that smacked of propaganda would fall flat among Arabs tired of being treated as if they were stupid." Washington Post, 9 July 2006. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ... more than two dozen Iraqi stations have competed for viewers. They include stations aimed at Shiites, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds, Turkomen, along with one owned by the government. Many Iraqis with satellite dishes can also watch the big pan-Arab television stations such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. Alhurra, the station funded by the U.S. State Department, has a special local channel for Iraq that offers wide coverages of the country. AP, 7 July 2006.

Update: reduction of RFE/RL and VOA rebroadcasting outlets in Russia.

Posted: 09 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Thus far the operations of the (RFE/RL) Web site and (its Moscow) AM radio station have not been impeded, officials said, although some officials expressed worry that the radio station could face problems when its broadcasting license comes up for extension in 2008." International Herald Tribune, 7 July 2006. Spokesman for Broadcasting Board of Governors calls reduction of rebroadcasting outlets a "disturbing trend" and "particularly unfortunate because of the loss of information flow to the Russian people." VOA News, 7 July 2006. "The classic Soviet viewer is not used to alternatives. It's tiring to have a choice because you have to think." U.S. News & World Report, 9 July 2006.

Zee to China.

Posted: 08 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
India's Zee Telefilms Ltd plans to enter China's television market but has "not yet applied for the landing rights" and "has not yet finalised on what content and channel it should set up to lure viewers." Zee also has plans for Indonesia, Cambodia, and Afghanistan. Indiantelevision.com, 8 July 2006.

Sasha! Where is old shortwave radio machine?

Posted: 07 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Of the 30 affiliate stations Radio Liberty had in Russia in 2005, it now has only four, according to Trimble. Of the 42 stations that rebroadcast material from Voice of America in 2005, only five are still working with the organization." Local radio outlets for RFE/RL and VOA remain on air in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Washington Post, 7 July 2006. Russian media official calls Post article "politically motivated." RIA Novosti, 7 July 2006. "Russian radio station owners have informed Radio Liberty officials that they were under strong pressure to drop the programming." AP, 7 July 2006. I am told that VOA programs are still rebroadcast on Russian television stations. But this development recalls what I wrote for Radio Netherlands Media Network on 16 February: "If VOA services such as Indonesian, Russian, or Swahili should find themselves evicted from their local rebroadcasting outlets, or their satellite links down, or their Internet access blocked, the (shortwave) transmitters and frequencies used for the VOA global English service would be available for VOA language services suddenly needing to get back in touch with their audiences." One of the best relay sites to reach Russia would have been Kavala, Greece, but that was closed earlier this year by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The most important task for international broadcasting is to deliver information to places where that information is denied. As the least interdictable medium of international broadcasting, shortwave is an essential tool for this purpose. Unless decision makers of U.S. international broadcasting grasp this fact, there will be dour consequences.

BBC in Bahrain.

Posted: 06 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Per new agreement, both BBC World Service Arabic and English are relayed on FM in Bahrain. Information minister says this "recognises the BBC's strong reputation for balanced coverage." Private FM stations are not yet allowed. Gulf Daily News, 4 July 2006. Article does not mention Radio Sawa, also on FM in Bahrain, according to the Radio Sawa website.

International Press Institute protests Zimbabwe's jamming of SW Radio Africa medium wave signal.

Posted: 06 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"Because of the growing relationship between the Zimbabwean government and China it is hard not to see these actions as part of a concerted effort to silence all alternative radio voices in the country. If successful, this will allow the state radio and television to use Chinese funding to broadcast its own deeply prejudiced views to the Zimbabwean people unchallenged." IPI, 5 July 2006. SW Radio Africa is on 1197 kHz via Lesotho. See also Association of Zimbabwe Jounalists, 6 July 2006.

Al Snyder's mid-year report card for public diplomacy.

Posted: 06 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
An F to Aljazeera International for its delayed start, and an F for the idea of reviving USIA, but B's to Radio Sawa and Alhurra. USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 5 July 2006. And as long as U.S. politicians, decision makers, experts, and academics insist on putting public diplomacy and international broadcasting in the same conceptual basket, U.S. government international communication activities will probably not rate better than a gentleman's C.

Radio amateurs protest shortwave broadcast "intruder."

Posted: 06 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
A Chinese broadcast station that has appeared on 18160 kHz, inside the 17-meter amateur radio band. American Radio Relay League, 5 July 2006. Curious that it would broadcast on a frequency where shortwave listeners would not typical listen for broadcast stations. And the frequency may be outside the broadcast bands tunable by many Chinese-built shortwave radios. It might be a spurious signal from a defective transmitter.

Software power versus China's internet firewall.

Posted: 03 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"We launched DynaWeb in March 2002, and within six months, our domain was 'hijacked.' Users who tried to get to our 'middleman' servers were diverted to bogus servers that led them nowhere. Some users, however, provided us with detailed information collected from their computers, and thanks to this help, we were able to thwart the hijacking and resume operations after three painful weeks." Bill Xia, Los Angeles Times, 3 July 2006. "In February, a journalist in southwestern China was arrested for using circumvention software, including UltraReach. He was charged with 'subversion of state power' for using the software and sending essays critical of the government to foreign Web sites that are blocked to Chinese users." Mercury News, 2 July 2006.

A small victory against the onslaught of hour-long news programs on BBC World Service.

Posted: 03 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
The 40-year-old magazine program Outlook is reprieved. "'We changed our minds,' says Phil Harding, head of the English output of the World Service. 'We listened. People contacted us by e-mail and by letter. It was not a large protest, but clearly the programme has a devoted following, quite apart from its many high-profile listeners.'" Times Online, 2 July 2006. I heard the first Outlook program just after I began shortwave listening in 1966.

An African Aljazeera.

Posted: 03 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"A24, which could be broadcasting in French and English by December 2007 if all goes to plan, is expected to have 44 two-person bureaux in countries across Africa. The idea is to have African journalists producing news and features, and discussion forums using the latest in low-cost digital technology." Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2 July 2006. Article does not mention the African Union, which is also planning a pan-African television channel.

Now Zimbabwe is jamming VOA's Studio 7 program.

Posted: 03 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
"There has been marked improvement on trying to block the US propaganda (Studio 7 broadcasts) from reaching us since the beginning of this month. The team is now aiming to look for ways to completely block the signal coming via a transmitter in Botswana." Zim Online, 26 June 2006. Until, only exile opposition stations Voice of the People and SW Radio Africa have been jammed. VOA transmits to Zimbabwe via a medium wave relay in Botswana and via shortwave from various sites. Shortwave is more difficult to jam than medium wave. VOA director David Jackson: "There has been some jamming of our broadcasts of Studio 7, but so far the interference appears to be limited to medium wave broadcasts to Harare, so many of our loyal listeners throughout Zimbabwe have been able to hear our shows on shortwave and in other locations of the country without any problem." VOA press release, 29 June 2006. Actually, the medium wave via Botswana goes to all parts of Zimbabwe where it can be heard, in particular the western part of the country, nearer the transmitter. "Mugabe hauled his late information minister Tichaona Jokonya over the coals after a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago, following an interview Jokonya gave to the Voice of America in which he says Mugabe will have dialogue with Annan over the escalating political crisis. Jokonya died last weekend." Mail & Guardian (South Africa), 30 June 2006. See also commentary by Andy Sennitt, Radio Netherlands Media Network, 29 June 2006. Update: VOA spokesman: "We’ve determined and believe that it’s intentional." Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, 1 July 2006.

VOA News Now and and VOA Greek, Turkish, Thai, Georgian, Croatian saved from their slated elimination?

Posted: 02 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
From the Broadcasting Board of Governors section of House Report 109-520 - Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, Fiscal Year 2007: "The (Appropriations) Committee recommendation provides $172,897,000 for VOA. The Committee recommendation restores proposed reductions to VOA broadcasts and radio, as well as Worldwide English. The Committee recommendation includes $6,071,000 for the Worldwide English Division, an increase of $1,048,000 above the request." Still awaits full House, Senate, and Conference action. Meanwhile: Greek-Americans and Turkish-Americans unite to try to save VOA Greek and Turkish. "As the only BBG-funded projects in the Eastern Mediterranean region, the programs of the VOA Greek and Turkish Services offer America’s perspective in this marketplace of ideas, correct misperceptions created by other media, and enhance understanding by broadcasting accurate, objective and balanced news and information about the United States and the world." Greek News, 26 June 2006. Update: Rep. Carolyn Maloney says, "I would like to add my support to what has already been said about the importance of developing a joint program initiative by the Greek and Turkish language services at the Voice of America to promote an end to the division of Cyprus and to help engage the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities in a revived process aimed at their reunification." Hellenic News of America, 30 June 2006.

Disquiet among BBC Monitoring staff.

Posted: 02 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
And, so, a blog: bbcmonitoringwatch.blogspot.com. "We have set up this blog because we are deeply concerned that, if BBCM's current top managers remain in place, the organisation's prospects after 2010 ... will be at serious risk." Update: The aforementioned blog was short-lived, but this has taken its place: pro-veritas.blogspot.com. Interesting, the blog's self-description does not mention BBC Monitoring, but every post is about BBC Monitoring.

Huna WRN.

Posted: 02 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
London-based World Radio Network creates channel on Arabsat aggregating, for now, Arabic-language programs of Radio Canada International, KBS World Radio (South Korea), Voice of Russia, Radio Romania International, and Vatican Radio. WRN press release, 30 June 2006.

Worldspace in the shadows.

Posted: 02 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Worldspace hires French company Sodielec to build terrestrial repeater prototype to be used for its service to western Europe. Worldspace press release, 30 June 2006. Worldspace issues statement stressing that it was its CEO Noah Samara who made a loan to beleaguered Rep. William Jefferson, not Worldspace the company. Worldspace press release, 15 June 2006. The loan, between $50,001 and $100,00, was made in 2001, had a three-year term, was extended one year, and remains unpaid. New Orleans Times-Picayune, 22 June 2006.

The politics of selecting the president of RFE/RL.

Posted: 02 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
Columnist says Karen Hughes sided with Democrats on the Broadcasting Board of Governors in not approving Enders Wimbush to be president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc. "Some believe that the U.S. should appeal to Muslim youth with popular music, only occasionally slipping in news and information. But others, like the Republican members of the board, would like to return to the principles that proved so effective during the Cold War, namely targeting key decision makers with serious programming laced with the values and ideals inherent to free societies." Joel Mowbray, Washington Times, 30 June 2006.

Perhaps the next step is to classify the public diplomacy itself.

Posted: 01 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
The Bush administration has drawn up a classified list of about a dozen high-priority countries on which to focus public diplomacy." Reuters, 28 June 2006. "The decline in esteem for the United States can be reversed, but not through campaign-style rapid response teams or re-branding techniques. Only a different approach to the policy-making process--taking world opinion into account when formulating policy options--can begin to recoup lost prestige." Oxford Analytica via Forbes.com, 28 June 2006.

Moralist versus neutralist propaganda.

Posted: 01 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
The moralist school "argues that propaganda is intrinsically misleading and therefore morally reprehensible" whereas the neutralist school sees propaganda "as no more moral or immoral than a pump handle." John Brown, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 29 June 2006. And then there is the majority of the international radio audience, who tune in broadcasts that provide the straight news that provides the antidote to the propaganda they receive from their state-controlled domestic media. So far, no theory has addressed this phenomenon, perhaps because there is no way to obfuscate such an elemental communication process.

BBC Worldwide confirms it will launch BBC.com.

Posted: 01 Jul 2006   Print   Send a link
An advertiser-supported international website. Brand Republic, 29 June 2006. "BBC had already 'crossed the Rubicon' over adverts, by deciding to sell airtime on its global entertainment channels and on BBC World, its global news service. The BBC.co.uk site attracts about 1bn page impressions a month from outside Britain, of which about a third are from the US. ... 'If you can position adverts around the site in a low-key way, it's a sensible idea.' The Guardian, 29 June 2006. BBC also looking to establish up to five commercial television channels (entertainment, pre-school children, lifestyle, knowledge, HDTV) in various countries, and in languages other than English. The Times (of London), 29 June 2006.