Pentagon wants to give Iranians an earful.

Posted: 27 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Defense Department draft report "accuses the Voice of America's Persian TV service and Radio Farda, a U.S. government Farsi-language broadcast, of taking a soft line toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime and not giving adequate time to government critics." Broadcasting Board of Governors chairman Kennth Tomlinson responds: "The author of this report is as qualified to write a report on programming to Iran as I would be to write a report covering the operations of the 101st Airborne Division." McClatchy Newspapers, 27 September 2006. Are both Radio Farda and VOA Persian really too generous in their treatment of the Iranian regime? Perhaps the managers of these stations believe that hammering away at President Ahmadinejad might not work as well with Iranian audiences as with Fox News viewers in the United States. Iranians are looking for the credible news and entertainment lacking in their state-controlled domestic media. As wonderful as democracy is, programs "promoting democracy" can sound like propaganda, and Iranians probably have had enough of propaganda. Better to demonstrate democracy through an independent news organization covering the day-to-day workings of government and opposition. See previous post about U.S. international broadcasting to Iran.


Posted: 26 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Unlike Al Hurra, the American propaganda channel widely regarded as a laughingstock in the Middle East, a good relationship with Al Jazeera could burnish the United States' image abroad." Abigail Lavin, Weekly Standard, 20 September 2006. Iranians "don't typically restrict their skepticism to the Iranian media, though. Most Iranians that tune-in to American-funded Voice of America and lower-budget LA talk shows are well aware that those broadcasts are aiming for regime change. 'None of these channels are credible. They exaggerate and stretch the truth. No one would start a revolution on the basis of what they say.'" Spiegel, 26 September 2006.

The media are, or, were, American.

Posted: 26 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"The US is in headlong decline, and has been for nearly 50 years. Discount around 100 annual hours of bigbudget movies and the residue is a pitiful, shrivelled thing. India, China, Brazil and Japan (to name but four) have media exports of their own that equal or outstrip any imports. China, with 1.3 billion people, relies overwhelmingly on home production in local languages. So, with a bow to Bollywood, does India. Egypt looks after the Middle East. The bigger Latin American countries make most of their own popular media now - and export lurid soaps to Spanish-speaking channels everywhere, including the US." The Guardian, 24 September 2006. Refers to Jeremy Tunstall, The Media Were American: U.S. Mass Media in Decline, Oxford University Press, to be published November 2006.

First Lady mentions Willis Conover.

Posted: 26 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"We saw art diplomacy during the Cold War, when even as the Soviet Union and the United States were on the brink of conflict, the people of these two countries found a common interest in jazz. Behind the Iron Curtain, Willis Conover, the Voice of America disk jockey, who announced 'Music USA Jazz Hour' each week, was a hero to Soviet citizens. His broadcasts are said to have done more to improve U.S.-Soviet relations than any official negotiations could." Laura Bush, speaking at the launch of President Bush's Global Cultural Initiative, 25 September 2006.

Watching the international television news.

Posted: 26 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
BBC World voted "world’s leading TV channel for travellers" by travel agents, announced at 13th World Travel Awards in Turks and Caicos. "This correspondent's Shanghai hotel television screen went black during a CNN coverage (well, attempted coverage) of Amnesty International's recently published report on human and political rights (or the absence of both) in China. A 'technical problem', government officials explained to Asia Times Online. The BBC World Service website was blocked for 24 hours the following day, just in case." Asia Times, 26 September 2006. Bloomberg has largest European audience of pan-European business and finance channels, per IPSOS European Business Readership Survey. Bloomberg press release, 25 September 2006. Bloomberg and BBC World are among the foreign channels viewable on new generation mobile phones in Indonesia. Jakarta Post, 25 September 2006.

Zimbabwe court drops charges against Voice of the People people.

Posted: 26 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Magistrate says trial for broadcasting without a license "becoming a circus" because of the State's repeated postponements. Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, 25 September 2006. See also AFP, 25 September 2006. Welcoming the development were Committee to Protect Journalists, 25 September 2006 and Reporters sans frontières, 25 September 2006. Voice of the People transmits into Zimbabwe via a Radio Netherlands shortwave relay transmitter in Madagascar.

Radio Barbados International?

Posted: 26 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"The Barbados Community College offers language training courses in Chinese, Japanese, German, Italian, French and Spanish. So when are we going to broadcast to China, in Mandarin or Cantonese? When will listeners in Japan learn about Bajan and Caribbean cuisine? When will Germany hear of our research and development in solar technology?" Carl Moore, The Daily Nation (Bridgetown), 24 September 2006.

Jamming as a tool of public diplomacy.

Posted: 23 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
U.S. public diplomacy website article covers presentation by Congressional Research Service specialist Raphael Perl. He says the effectiveness of public diplomacy can be measured by the number of radio and television stations “which broadcast our message of freedom and tolerance, or which jam the broadcasts of extremist stations." He adds, “To be successful at public diplomacy, we need to offer a ‘competitive product.’” Washington File, 21 September 2006. By resorting to jamming, the United States would admit that it is incapable of providing a "competitive product." The act of jamming itself would send a message about the United States and its stance on "freedom and tolerance," and would bestow martyr status on the "extremist station." What federal office will determine whether a station is "extremist"? What criteria will they use? In any case, audiences do not tune to foreign broadcasts for messages of freedom and tolerance. They tune in to get the news and entertainment they want but cannot get from their state-controlled domestic media. This is why market based international broadcasting succeeds, and centrally planned international broadcasting does not.

Like shortwave, but via the internet.

Posted: 22 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Reciva Limited, which designs and builds Internet radio modules for use with broadband applications, launches the Reciva Radio Portal at to "give listeners access to an ever growing list of over five thousand Internet radio broadcasts from around the world, including nearly all of the major broadcasters, such as the BBC." Reciva press release, 21 September 2006. The portal includes many, but not all, of the international radio stations, among thousands of domestic radio stations.

The VOA/Martí "government pays journalists" flap now has more than one view.

Posted: 22 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"The radio and television programs broadcast by Marti are beamed into Cuba with the aim of subverting the Castro regime. They are run by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal office that runs the U.S. government's overseas television and radio stations. The BBG in turn is headed by none other than Kenneth Tomlinson, the right-wing Bush appointee who tried to recast the editorial content of the Public Broadcasting Service and Voice of America in the Bush administration’s own conservative image." Eric Alterman, 21 September 2006. "These taxpayer-financed entities, whose programs are received by few Cubans, are a long-running patronage piñata for Miami. Like the Voice of America, they are overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, whose chief, Kenneth Tomlinson, retained his job in a September 13 party-line vote after it was revealed by the State Department's inspector general that he'd been running a horse-racing operation out of his office in Washington." Ned Sublette, The Nation, 9 October 2006 issue. "Office of Cuba Broadcasting Director Pedro Roig, who oversees TV and Radio Martí, said Thursday that he runs his operation ethically and wants to start a national debate on whether journalists who work for news companies and also freelance for the government have a conflict of interest." Miami Herald, 21 September 2006. "Radio Martí is required to follow the same standards as Voice of America; and like VOA, it has a professional staff of journalists and augments their reports and commentary with work from credible independent journalists employed in the private sector." Frank Calzon, Miami Herald, 19 September 2006. BBG spokesman says, "if you're going to say a few Cuban-American journalists are corrupted by coming on (Radio/TV Martí) then every major journalist who has been on VOA for the past 35 years has also been corrupted." New York Sun, 20 September 2006. "The Cuban-American community on Tuesday launched an Internet campaign and held a press conference to protest the Sept. 7 firing of three El Nuevo Herald reporters who worked as paid freelancers for TV Martí." McClatchy Newpapers, 19 September 2006. "As with any major radio or TV broadcaster, Radio and TV Marti need the insights and commentary of print journalists to fulfill their mission. Anyone who watches any of the major networks sees George Will, Fareed Zakaria, Tom Friedman and many more print journalists fill that role. Every journalist who appears on Radio and TV Marti's shows knows they will be required by law not to promote any federal program." Letter from Edward Kaufman, BBG member, The News Journal (Delaware), 21 September 2006. See previous post on this subject.

Will media restrictions make Thailand a prime target for international broadcasting?

Posted: 22 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Junta orders website shut down and tells journalists "please write positively." Bloomberg, 22 September 2006. "Thai media situation deteriorating." Southeast Asian Press Alliance, 22 September 2006. "Broadcasts on foreign satellite television were jammed repeatedly whenever Mr Thaksin appeared in news reports, apparently through manipulation by the military government. US diplomats in Bangkok interviewed staff of the BBC and CNN yesterday in preparation for a formal complaint about the interference." Times Online, 22 September 2006. "The broadcasting of SMS messages on television programmes and the airing of opinions on radio programmes have been banned." The Nation (Bangkok), 22 September 2006. More than 300 community radio stations suspend operations. The Nation, 22 September 2006. VOA expands transmissions for audiences in Thailand. VOA press release, 20 September 2006. The press release does not list all the English frequencies audible in Thailand. They are here. Also, from my confederate in Thailand, these observations: "Just now as (CNN) discussed how much Thaksin is loved by the poor rural folks ... BLAP! suddenly some nondescript music and the face of a model ... or something. Censorship is still going on. And an hour later, I tolerated a lot of BBC, including a long segment about the coup. No censorship was evident. See previous post about the Thailand coup and international broadcasting.

International broadcasting and the Thailand coup.

Posted: 20 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
On the morning after the coup (20 September), the Voice of America Thai Service FM affiliates refrained from rebroadcasting the VOA Thai program. VOA added shortwave frequencies (not normally used for VOA Thai) at 2300-2400 UTC 7215 and 9685 kHz. Because English-language international television channels were taken off Thai cable television, VOA also added shortwave frequencies for VOA News Now English: 2200-2400 UTC on 9780 and 11705 kHz, and 1200-1500 UTC on 17580 kHz. The coup caught VOA without a Bangkok bureau chief, that position still vacant. However, VOA is getting reports from its Bangkok stringer Ron Corben.

The timing was also bad for BBC World Service, which dropped its Thai service early in 2006. In March 2006, Thailand's National Union of Journalists appealed, unsuccessfully, for BBC Thai to be revived because of political developments in the country. BBC World, the English television channel, was among the channels missing from Thailand's cable television system, later restored, but with certain reports apparently censored. "Tonight’s (20 September) BBC World transmissions are being interrupted whenever anything critical of the coup is reported. Such crude censorship might only be temporary but is certainly a step back," wrote a Thai viewer to BBC. BBC News "Have Your Say," 20 September 2006. See also BBC Monitoring, 20 September 2006.

Other international channels blocked from Thai cable television include CNN International, CNBC, and Bloomberg. CNN, 20 September 2006. "Thai news media reported that the security forces seized broadcasting equipment. The military apparently fear that the deposed prime minister, who is currently in New York, could launch an appeal to his supporters." Reporters sans frontières, 20 September 2006.

So how are Thais and expats in Thailand getting uncensored news? Shortwave is one option. The World Wide Web is another. Roby Alampay, executive director of the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance, heard but denied reports that internet access was cut off in Bangkok. "I never felt that it was cut off. I heard reports that some websites were blocked last night, but now they seem to be accessible again," he said. INQ7, 21 September 2006. It may be that the internet in Thailand was momentarily overwhelmed by so many people seeking news.

Senator Brownback prepares assault on the Firewall (updated).

Posted: 18 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
His Iran Human Rights Act of 2006 (S.3870) would require Radio Farda and VOA Persian to "develop programming in consultation with" various State Department office, private democarcy organizations, and a new envoy for human rights in Iran also proposed in the legislation. It would "ensure that a significant percentage of the broadcast time on Radio Farda and the Voice of America Persian Service is devoted to discussing peaceful democratic change in Iran" and that Radio Farda not devote more than half of its broadcast time to music and entertainment. See also Brownback press release, 7 September 2006. Meanwhile the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, and International Security plans a 20 September hearing: "US International Broadcasts into Iran: Can We Do Better?" BBG chairman Kenneth Tomlinson will be a witness. Update: Hearing postponed indefinitely. And so U.S. international broadcasting to Iran may lose its autonomy just as the Iranian domestic media lose the last vestiges of their autonomy. See Iran Press Service, 12 September 2006. This will put a great responsibility on the shoulders of the BBC Persian Service.

New York Times unleashes second editorial against Kenneth Tomlinson.

Posted: 18 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"As proprietor of Sandy Bayou Stables, Mr. Tomlinson shows a staying power more worthy of Dracula than Seabiscuit. The Senate already is racing from a Tomlinson renomination, but the Bush administration continues to tout his value." New York Times, 17 September 2006. "The anti-Tomlinson moves were orchestrated by liberal board member D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, a major fundraiser for President Clinton who has given nearly $100,000 to Democratic candidates and organizations since 1999." Human Events, 15 September 2006. See previous post about Tomlinson.

Bailing out.

Posted: 18 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
The Hartford Courant's Washington Bureau Chief David Lightman will no longer be heard on VOA's "Issues In the News" and will no longer earn $100 per show. Hartford Courant, 16 September 2006. "It is considered unethical for journalists to ever receive payment, gifts or favors from news sources." Diamondback Online, 18 September 2006. "Now we find out that the U.S. government-run stations are actually running a charity for needy journalists, at least 10 of whom have been paid to appear on their programs." Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald, 17 September 2006. "Radio and TV Marti's use of journalists to push their messages seems to be viewed by the Bush administration in much the same way that it views the legal rights of people who end up in our criminal justice system. They have two sets of rules: foreign and domestic." DeWayne Wickham, Gannett News Service, 17 September 2006. The idea that journalists shouldn't also dabble in government propaganda may be a subtle one for lay people still unclear on the demands of a free press. It should be absolutely obvious to a working journalist. Ana Menendez, Miami Herald, 17 September 2006. "We do not know why the Cuban TV program Mesa Redonda commented on the essence of our story before it ran. We are confident this information did not come from anyone at The Miami Herald, and we believe that Mesa Redonda may have gained this information from a review of our public-records requests, since these requests are available to the public." Jesus Diaz Jr, publisher, Miami Herald, 17 September 2006. See previous post on Radio/TV Martí payments to journalists and on VOA payments to journalists. The producers of "Issues in the News" and other VOA programs, who pride themselves as journalists, use these payments to attract print reporters who will make these programs more compelling. Indeed, "Issues" is a popular VOA program because of the caliber of the discussion. No one from any U.S. administration ever told VOA to hire this or that journalist to make this or that point in support of U.S. policy. So this story is more complex than just government paying reporters.

VOA et. al. get sucked into the Radio/TV Martí government-pays-journalists flap (updated).

Posted: 15 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Sums paid to those on VOA are smaller. Journalists who take part in a weekly roundtable discussion, 'Issues in the News,' are paid between $100 and $150 a program." Journalism ethics professor says: "What you're working for is a part of the government. ... There's a conflict when you receive government dollars, however that money is filtered." New York Sun, 12 September 2006. This report may have been precipitated when the BBG spokesman volunteered that journalists get paid by VOA as well as by Radio/TV Martí. AP, 8 September 2006. What if non-staff journalists are paid by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, BBC World Service, Radio Netherlands, etc., which all are funded by "filtered" government money? To be sure, VOA's status as a government agency, rather than a corporation like RFE/RL or BBC, complicates this issue. See original post on the ten journalists who took payment from Radio/TV Martí. Update: VOA has paid David Lightman of the Hartford Courant, Tom M. DeFrank of the New York Daily News, Helle Dale of the Washington Times; and columnist Georgie Anne Geyer. Miami Herald, 14 September 2006. See also El Nuevo Herald, 14 September 2006. People who work at Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Sawa, Alhurra, and Radio-TV Martí "may call themselves journalists. They're not. They're primarily propagandists, susceptible to the propagandist's trap: Objective truth is subservient to government's agenda." Daytona Beach News-Journal, 15 September 2006.

Old VOA Bethany transmitter building will get heat this winter.

Posted: 15 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"West Chester Township trustees voted late Tuesday to spend about $32,000 for temporary heating this winter at the dilapidated Voice of America building off Tylersville Road. The heaters are needed to prevent walls at the 62-year-old facility from freezing and deteriorating further. The township is trying to get the building listed on the National Registry of Historic Places so it can qualify for federal money and be converted into a national museum." Cincinnati Enquirer, 14 September 2006.

Retired Voice of Israel Farsi broadcaster follows media developments in Iran.

Posted: 15 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"People from the regime have been climbing the rooftops and throwing the dishes to the ground. The next step will be entering people's homes to remove the dishes from their balconies. But there are simply too many. Which is why on our broadcast, we keep telling our listeners that maybe the regime can do away with 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 dishes. But they can't do anything about 70 million Iranians." Jerusalem Post, 14 September 2006.

The Radio/TV Martí government-pays-journalists contratemps: muchas más palabras.

Posted: 15 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Jesús Díaz Jr., president of The Miami Herald Media Co. "should immediately be fired for his membership on the Advisory Board of the Cuban Transition Project of the University of Miami. It is financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development." Juan Cuellar, Miami Herald, 14 September 2006. "A freelance journalist dismissed by (El Nuevo Herald) said Tuesday it was widely known inside the paper that she was paid by the U.S. government for work she did for an anti-Castro broadcaster." AP, 13 September 2006. "Incredibly, though the reporters had been on the shows for years and everyone knew it ... Herald managers said they had no idea the reporters got money. Presumably, they thought their people had worked years for free for other media." Miami Today, 14 September 2006. Charlie Crist, Republican candidate for governor of Florida, considers as running mate Aguirre Ferré, who "was among 10 journalists who recently came under fire for being paid to host programs on TV Martí or Radio Martí." Miami Herald, 14 September 2006. "Was paid $4,325 as a guest panelist on TV Marti shows from 2001 to 2005." St. Petersburg Times, 13 September 2006. "This is not PBS or NPR; this is programming designed to influence opinion in ways deemed unacceptable for domestic consumption. Propaganda is propaganda, even when a large portion of the population regards its mission as noble. It is not journalism." Ana Menendez, Miami Herald, 13 September 2006. "To think that such as Miami radio star Ninoska Perez-Castellon (whose husband is among the longest-serving political prisoners of the century after almost 30 years in Castro's Gulag) and Pablo Alfonso and Carlos Alberto Montaner (both former political prisoners themselves and authors of multiple anti-Castro books) require bribes to submit anti-Castro broadcasts is beyond funny, beyond pathetic, beyond stupid." Humberto Fontova,, 15 September 2006. See original post on this subject.

Bipartisan BBG votes on partisan lines on Tomlinson.

Posted: 15 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Broadcasting Board of Governors resolutions calling for Kenneth Tomlinson to resign, and for the curtailment of his authority, fail by 3-3. Democratic members voted for the resolutions, Republicans, including Karen Hughes, voted against. New York Times, 14 September 2006. Republican Board member Blanquita Cullum says "The move was planned to usurp the authority of President Bush and the Senate." Washington Times, 14 September 2006. "As BBG chairman, Tomlinson ought to respect the fact that the federal broadcasting entities that depend on a wise BBG board are effective at explaining America precisely because they are free and credible compared with the state-restrained media in many of the countries they reach. Those entities like Voice of America, which has been broadcasting since 1942, are not babbling mouthpieces, and they are not and never should be parrots for manipulative Republicans, Democrats or any other small-minded group that isn't freedom-loving and people-focused." Editorial, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 14 September 2006. See previous post about Tomlinson.

Rebrand Israel?

Posted: 13 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"The purpose of the plan is to rid Israel’s image around the world as an aggressor and a warmonger, and to expose the international media and the public to Israel’s more attractive sides such as the contributions to medicine and science, great achievements in high-tech, conquering of the desert, contribution to world culture, the extraordinary number of Nobel Prize Laureates, and Israel as a great place for foreign investments such as the selling of Iscar to Warren Buffett." Israel Today, 12 September 2006.

Karen Hughes calls for more outrage.

Posted: 13 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Our challenge is to launch a new grassroots movement across all faiths and continents, a movement that clearly states that no grievance, no complaint, no matter how legitimate, can ever justify the targeting and killing of innocent civilians.", 12 November 2006. "Our diplomats will need to think about more than political leaders and fervently court religious ones. This will require Karen Hughes' public diplomacy shop to get ambassadors thinking differently, which she's tried to do." William McKenzie, Dallas Morning News, 12 September 2006. "Most of the counterterrorism effort has gone into 'hard power' tasks. Public diplomacy and activities aimed at communicating a more positive message to Muslim populations and social policies for countering the marginalization of Muslim communities have been comparatively neglected." Oxford Analytica,, 12 September 2006.

Is it the program that tells Hungarians help is on the way? (updated)

Posted: 13 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Hoover Institution exhibit on the 1956 Hungarian Uprising includes "broadcasts by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (in Hungarian with English transcripts)." Hoover Institution press release, 7 September 2006. Update: "Radio Free Europe went on the attack, supplying its eager listeners with advice about partisan warfare, and dropping heavy hints about the inevitability of American intervention. One infamous radio broadcast, filed in early November during the second, decisive Soviet invasion of Budapest, appeared to encourage Hungarians to keep fighting, since 'the pressure upon the government of the US to send military help to the freedom fighters will become irresistible.'" Anne Applebaum, Der Tagesspiegel, 13 September 2006.

A new definition of public diplomacy?

Posted: 13 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"After USIS was shut down by an act of Congress in 1999, and its activities integrated into the State Department, the phrase "public diplomacy" underwent a subtle shift in meaning. No longer referring to broadly based educational and cultural activities, public diplomacy instead became a euphemism for targeted political communication -- or convincing the rest of the world of the correctness of American policies." Janet Steele, Jakarta Post, 11 September 2006.

New BBC World channels in Hindi and other languages?

Posted: 13 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"BBC World has identified six languages for launching 24-hour news channels by 2012. After launching an Arabic channel in 2007, Hindi and Urdu channels will go on air by 2008, (a) source said. The Urdu channel is likely to be beamed into both Pakistan and India. BBC World's Persian, Russian, and Spanish channels would be launched between 2009 and 2012, the sources added." India Monitor, 11 September 2006.

Ten South Florida journalists took payments from U.S. government, i.e. from Radio/TV Martí (updated).

Posted: 12 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
El Nuevo Herald fires two of them for conflict of interest. Miami Herald, 8 September 2006. "Larry Hart, spokesman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors ... said most (Radio-TV Martí) guests receive payment, adding, 'for decades, some of the most prominent journalists in America have been paid to be on Voice of America.' He acknowledged that in recent years the practice has become far less common." AP, 8 September 2006. See also New York Times, 9 September 2006. "WLTV-Univision 23 is considering what action to take after The Miami Herald reported Friday that the Miami station's weekend sports anchor, Omar Claro, is one of several South Florida journalists getting paid by the U.S. government for side work at Radio and TV Martí." Miami Herald, 9 September 2006. Cuban handlers of accused Cuban spy in Florida "showed an obsessive interest in information related to Radio Martí." South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7 September 2006. See Kim's comments. Update: One implicated journalists asks: why me? Another says he will give his honorarium from Radio/TV Martí to la Liga Contra el Cáncer. Miami Herald, 12 September 2006. "A journalist whose freelance contract with El Nuevo Herald was severed last week says the newspaper's managers have known for years that she got paid by the U.S. government for Cuban cultural shows she hosted for Radio Martí." Miami Herald, 12 September 2006. "The separation of government and the press is bedrock. If the government feels it needs to issue propaganda, it must leave the press out of it." Editorial, Minneapolis Tribune, 12 September 2006.

Cracking North Korea's shell via VCR.

Posted: 10 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"If the Soviet Union was brought down by the short-wave radio, in North Korea the corresponding role is likely to be played by videotape. ... Local Chinese households began to purchase DVD players, and this made their old VCRs obsolete. The Chinese market was instantly flooded with very cheap used VCRs that could be had for $10 or $20. Many of these machines were bought by smugglers who transported the goods across the porous border between North Korea and China." The Korea Times, 10 September 2006.

Any product whose name begins with a lower case letter is doomed.

Posted: 09 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Apple iPod sales are declining. New mobile phones with improved mp3 players are a possible cause. The Observer, 10 September 2006. The iPod has been seen as a promising player for international radio broadcasts. But, as Wikipedia points out, "podcasting doesn't require an iPod." In any case, for news from abroad -- if people have access to the internet, and if it is not blocked -- most prefer to read it from a web page than listen to it by way of an audio file.

U.S. public diplomacy: the feeble mission impossible.

Posted: 09 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Bush's efforts at public diplomacy have been every bit as feeble in the Arab world as they have been with regard to its European allies. The embarrassment caused by the CIA's policies of 'extraordinary rendition', the use of 'black sites' where al-Qaeda members such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were tortured, and the prison at Guantanamo Bay, exacerbated America's loss of face and respect in the rest of the world, providing an easy way for critics to reject every aspect of US foreign policy." Alex Massie, The Scotsman, 10 September 2006. "The aim, officials say, isn't to persuade the world's Muslims to like the U.S. — the focus of the administration's unsuccessful early 'public diplomacy' efforts. 'That turned out to be Mission: Impossible,' one official said. Instead, the main goal is to delegitimize terrorism — to convince Muslims that Bin Laden and his followers threaten Muslim communities as much as they threaten New York or Washington." Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, 10 September 2006. "The Bush administration's approach to foreign policy, especially in its first term, has angered and alienated the international community and America's traditional allies, and this has cost the U.S. severely in the war on terror." Ian Boyne, Jamaica Gleaner, 10 September 2006.

National Public Radio reports on its old acquaintance Kenneth Tomlinson.

Posted: 09 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Tomlinson made more than 400 calls from government phones and sent or received more than 1200 e-mails on his official account related to horseracing." NPR News, 8 September 2006. "Dodd, Berman and Lantos have all called upon President Bush to sack conservative stalwart Tomlinson. All before the accused has even seen the report on which the media hysterics are allegedly based." Human Events, dated 11 September 2006. "Wouldn't it be interesting if the New York Times would call upon Mr. Dodd, Mr. Berman and Mr. Lantos to 'honor the public's right to know' by agreeing to have done unto themselves as they have done to Mr. Tomlinson?" Fred J. Eckert, Washington Times, 10 September 2006. See previous posts about this subject on 3 September, 1 September, 31 August, and the first in this series, also on 31 August.

Aljazeera journalist dismisses BBC and CNN as "midbrow."

Posted: 09 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Dave Marash, Washington co-anchor for the new English-language Aljazeera International: "I think that CNN and BBC World are very competitive and do a very good job as a kind of midbrow news operation, and the tabloid end is all too well covered by the many Murdoch channels. But for the high-end news consumer--the person who reads the New York Times or the Washington Post cover to cover every day--there really isn't a satellite news channel that's offering a similar kind of sophistication. I saw an underserved market." U.S. News & World Report, 8 September 2006.

Remembering 9/11 and an episode some at VOA would prefer to forget.

Posted: 09 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Three months after 9/11, the U.S.-funded worldwide broadcaster, Voice of America, issued new guidelines barring interviews from 'nations that sponsor terrorism.' The change came in response to State Department pressure after an enterprising VOA journalist for the Pashto-language service managed to get an exclusive interview with Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Afghan Taliban leader. The VOA journalist was also forced out of her job." Frank Smyth, Committee to Protect Journalists, 8 September 2006. This should not negate VOA's extraordinary efforts to report on the terrorist attacks in September 2001. See also VOA's special coverage of the 9/11 five-year anniversary. "To mark (the 9/11 anniversary), BBC World Service (WS) radio is airing a 25-minute special called, A Very American Witch Hunt. The programme looks at people in the United States whose fundamental rights were trampled when they were caught up in the hysteria and rage following 9/11." The Star (Kuala Lumpur), 10 September 2006.

Like cutting down the last virgin forest to build a Wal-Mart.

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"On the one hand, Internet users are generally pleased with the service. However, as the band of frequencies used for BPL [broadband over power line] spans 1.7 to 80 MHz, some of the stakeholders in that spectrum have been displeased. Licensed radio frequency services operating in the affected area begin at the top of the AM broadcast band, and include international shortwave broadcasters, public service radio, low-band VHF TV broadcasters, CB radio, HF aeronautical services and the amateur radio community." TV Technology, 6 September 2006.

Americans not getting a sufficient earful?

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Public Radio International's "The World," co-produced by WGBH Boston and BBC World Service, on 5 September, sampled overseas views -- mostly negative -- about the U.S. war on terror. "Such views are routinely expressed in news media almost everywhere in the world. But in the United States, our media insulation about the 'war on terror' is extreme -- and dangerously self-deluding." Normon Solomon, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, 7 September 2006.

GAO reports calls for changes in management procedures at Alhurra and Radio Sawa (updated).

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Specifies strategic planning and audience research procedures. AP, 5 September 2006. See also GAO abstract with link to the complete report. Fortunately, the report does not call for more "coordination" with U.S. public diplomacy, or for the "moving of the needle" towards U.S. policy objectives. The Iraqi stream of Radio Sawa "is generally much more substantive and professional than the" Radio Sawa broadcast to the rest of the Arab world, according to Juan Cole,, 4 September 2006. Alhurra will participate in a relief telethon for Lebanon, according to press release of United For Peace Lebanon Relief Campaign, 6 September 2006. Update: Radio Sawa and Alhurra will fail as long as "US foreign policy remains hostile towards the Arabs and Muslims" according to editorial in Egypt's Al Gumhuriya cited by UPI, 7 September 2006. According to new security legislation introduced by Senate Democrats, "the Broadcasting Board of Governors is required to submit a review of the progress, impact and funding needs of Radio Sawa and Radio [sic] Al-Hurra." Senator Harry Reid press release, 7 September 2006.

Radio Free Europe and New Jersey politics.

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), running for re-election, sponsors amendment to block "contract for monitoring the tone of news stories about the Iraq war filed by U.S. and foreign media." A spokesman for his opponent, Tom Kean Jr., says he "supports efforts like Radio Free Europe, used to expand messages of hope and economic opportunity around the globe - not a program simply designed to spin the war to the American people." AP, 7 September 2006.

SW Radio Africa returns to SW.

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Recently our medium wave transmissions were jammed and we returned to shortwave - but after a few weeks this has also been jammed. It would appear that our news bulletin is being specifically targeted." Association of Zimbabwean Journalists, 7 September 2006. I can't find the shortwave frequency at the SW Radio Africa website. This might make it difficult for Zimbabwean jammers to find the frequency of this London-based exile station. But it also makes its difficult for listeners to find the frequency. Shortwave has better immunity from jamming than medium wave, because of the tendency of distant shortwave broadcast transmitters to be heard with a stronger signal than closer jamming transmitters.

If they are "propaganda," why are they "listened to"?

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"The Persian programs broadcast into Iran by the U.S.-owned and funded Radio Farda, Voice of America, and Radio Free Europe, while listened to, are widely considered as mainly propaganda, simply because Iranians do not believe that foreign-funded radios are independent and objective. ... Even the popular British Broadcasting Corporation that has extensive Persian programs, and compared to which the programs of the U.S.-funded radios are amateurish, is not considered as being objective." Muhammad Sahimi, Peyvand, 7 September 2006. Israel's consulate in Los Angeles has special press conference for Persian-language satellite television stations. The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 8 September 2006.

Promoting the war on terror by promoting "war on terror."

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin objects to the term: "Against terrorism, what's needed is not a war. It is, as France has done for many years, a determined fight based on vigilance at all times and effective cooperation with our partners." Reuters, 7 September 2006. Perhaps because "guerre contre le terrorisme" takes too long to say? "It's time to stop calling the post 9/11 struggle against terrorism a 'war.'" Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation blog, 8 September 2006.

DRM receiver news (updated).

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"STMicroelectronics, in cooperation with Kenwood Corp. and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, has debuted a fully working prototype of a digital radio mondiale (DRM) receiver.has debuted a fully working prototype of a digital radio mondiale (DRM) receiver." ElectronicNews, 4 September 2006. Digital Radio Mondiale is a digital system to replace analog on longwave, medium wave, and shortwave. Update: "On display at the DRM booth at IBC [Amsterdam] are a Morphy Richards DRM Radio, two prototype portable receivers by Himalaya (Power) Electronics Co., a W37 receiver by Starwaves GmbH and RadioScape's RS500TM DAB/DRM module. Also, BBC plans a live off-air demo of an electronic program guide." Radio World, 5 September 2006. See also Digital Radio Mondiale press releases.

Putting the fight in public diplomacy.

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"The United States needs a counter-mobilization. So-called information warfare and public diplomacy do not capture the extent of this shift. Putting today's developments within their historical context, the United States should get beyond its cultural myopia and turn more attention to analyzing and influencing the means and ends of popular mobilization. We must stop operating as if this dimension of warfare did not exist, because we are bearing the brunt of our unwillingness to confront it. Mobilization is a crucial element, not just in producing numbers of soldiers but, more important, in inspiring violence and crafting the account of the struggle. The information revolution is not just changing the way people fight, it is altering the way people think and what they decide to fight for." Audrey Kurth Croninn, U.S. Army Profession Writing Collection, Summer 2006.

News, analysis, or commentary?

Posted: 08 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Last Thursday, in a Washington-datelined commentary, US-government owned Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty advised Karzai: 'The Bugti affair once again brings attention to the need for Kabul not to exacerbate its already troubled relationship with Islamabad. While Pakistan needs to accept Afghanistan as an independent country -- one not subservient to its demands -- Kabul has to be careful not to play the Pashtun and Baloch card or get involved in the Indian-Pakistani games so much that Islamabad goes on high alert.'" M K Bhadrakumar, Rediff News, 6 September 2006. See also the the original story at RFE/RL, 4 September 2006.

Worldspace launches Urdu channel.

Posted: 06 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"WORLDSPACE created Falak in response to subscriber interest in programming that conveys the mystery and beauty of Urdu culture and its place in the India of today. Its launch not only reinforces our commitment to delivering a truly personal listening experience, but also to delivering programming that simply cannot be found on India's traditional radio stations." Worldspace press release, 5 September 2006. Worldspace receives deficiency letter from NASDAQ when its market value drops below $50 million. Worldspace press release, 30 August 2006.

You can direct public diplomacy to all of the people some of the time...

Posted: 06 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"(Condoleezza) Rice clearly realizes that when it comes to US foreign policy in the Middle East, it is possible to fool a lot of Americans a lot of the time. It is harder, however, to fool anybody in the Arab world any of the time, rendering stillborn US efforts at public diplomacy. In the Arab world, US actions across the Middle East are seen as part of an integrated strategy to promote US interests regardless of Arab ambitions - much the same way they're seen by policymakers in Washington." Ashraf Fahim, Asia Times, 6 September 3006.

Aljazeera not yet al-Kiwi.

Posted: 06 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Even though a former Television New Zealand news executive heads the new Alajzeera Asia-Pacific bureau in Kuala Lumpur, Aljazeera International still has not arranged a carriage deal in New Zealand. Stuff, 6 September 2006. But "the popular BBC World Service programmes will continue to be broadcast at night" on Beach FM in Kapiti-Horowhenua, New Zealand. Scoop, 5 September 2006.

Azerbaijan no longer giving it away for free.

Posted: 06 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Chairman of National TV-Radio Broadcasting Council will require foreign television channels to pay license fee higher than that for domestic channels. "Five foreign TV companies (2 Russian and three Turkish) and 6 radio channels (Azadlig, Voice of America, BBC, Radio-France, Mayak and Voice of Russia) are presently broadcasting in Azerbaijan." Trend news agency, 6 September 2006. Report: Deutsche Welle broadcast a report about the "so called Nagorno Karabakh republic." Its producer "visited Nagorno Garabagh illegally." Today.Az, 1 September 2006.

Aljazeera: Use it, or eliminate it?

Posted: 04 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Review of Steve Tatham, Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al-Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion. "His book is highly critical of how the United States handled the information war, leading to Arab media becoming 'demonised by the United States, cited as being anti-US and anti-Coalition'." Peter Feuilherade, BBC Monitoring, 4 September 2006. "We have asked Karen Hughes, who carries the title of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department, to contact the Emir of Qatar and ask him to pull the plug on this pro-terrorist, anti-American channel. Such a move would greatly improve America's image on the global stage and save many lives as well." Cliff Kincaid, Accuracy in Media, 30 August 2006. "Strangely, however, while Congress erupted in anger over an Arab-owned firm taking over some American ports, the prospect of an Arab-financed 'news' channel directly broadcasting al-Qaeda propaganda into American homes has failed to make it on the list of top congressional priorities." Cliff Kincaid, Accuracy in Media, 6 September 2006.

An internet guide to Uzbekistan.

Posted: 04 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"When the Internet emerged in 1990, it brought with it hopes that it would sweep away obstacles to the free flow of information. The reality has proved more ambiguous, with a glut of information sowing confusion, a digital divide underscoring the persistence of economic inequality, and government-imposed filters limiting access. But the medium is still young and, as it moves into its adolescence, Uzbekistan looks set to be one of its key testing grounds." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1 September 2006.

Two takes on private diplomacy.

Posted: 04 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"Critics of public diplomacy have been quick to disparage the American belief that international tensions can be eased by dispatching an official to proclaim that deep down we are all united by our love for, say, children — a Hughes staple — when the animus, in fact, arises from real policy differences with the U.S. government. The pursuit of private diplomacy rests on the opposite innocent illusion: just tone down crass Americans’ noisy cultural differences from others, and political and economic harmony can follow. But what if Americans have no monopoly on brashness and don’t really rate any longer as the overweening cultural trendsetters our demonizers, and we, reflexively assume?" Ann Hulbert, New York Times, 3 September 2006. "But what, specifically, can or should the average American do? For one, we should try to make an active effort to reflect online what is most good and just about life in the United States. But more importantly, we should avoid providing information that can be easily co-opted by online mujahideen and used in their online propaganda." James Forest, Family Security Matters, 1 September 2006.

The public diplomacy gimmick game.

Posted: 04 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
C. David Welch, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, in BBC interview: "We're going to get in a public diplomacy game of, you know, who can put forward the better public gimmick. (Chuckles.) We are serious about our suggestions, and we hope that they are serious about answering them. BBC: That is what you think this is -- it's a gimmick, is it? Welch: Well, I mean, you can draw your own conclusion." Scoop, 29 August 2006.

VOA's "Inquiry" for Africa.

Posted: 04 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"A lively interactive show designed to provide a forum to discuss the many day-to-day interests of VOA’s African audience," will be heard Mondays at 1730 UTC beginning 4 September. Voice of America press release, 1 September 2006. If you go to and click on Programs, "Inquiry" is not yet listed in the A-to-Z program listings. At the English-to-Africa page, "Inquiry" is included in the alphabetical list of programs, but not yet in the program grid. The program grid lists 6080 and 15580 kHz for reception at 1730-1800 UTC, but 15410 kHz is also available. "Inquiry" competes with VOA's English broadcast for Zimbabwe, also at 1730-1800 UTC, on 909, 4930, 13755, and 17730 kHz.

The Voice of America's continuing publicity problem.

Posted: 03 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
In interview with retired VOA program director Alan Heil, the first question is "Does the Voice of America still exist?" Heil responds "certainly!" but must go on to explain that VOA Turkish and worldwide English may be dropped, and that VOA Arabic was already eliminated in favor of Radio Sawa. Asharq Alawsat, 1 September 2006. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation again refers to VOA as "official": "The official Voice of America broadcasting service said the UN survey marks a significant setback for international efforts to combat Afghanistan's drug trade, despite hundreds of millions of dollars contributed by the United States and other countries to train police and provide alternative livelihoods for farmers growing poppies." CBC News, 2 September 2006. Is CBC implying that the U.S. government believes this because VOA reported it? "While we are no fans of seditious and anti-revolutionary fear mongering news outlets such as BBC and Voice of America, we are not quite sure what exactly Fidelity and Engadget have done to incur the wrath of the Public Safety Bureau." Jay Shang, Shanghaiist, 2 September 2006. And on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on 1 September, about Iran, several calls came from viewers in Iran. Brian Lamb asked one viewer if he was watching via "Worldnet." Actually, the "Worldnet" brand disappeared about two years ago in favor of "VOA-TV," which missed out on this opportunity for publicity. Listen to this mp3 excerpt.

Tomlinson media coverage at the first stretch.

Posted: 03 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
Tomlinson says he will remain as chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors until a his successor is confirmed [though no successor has yet been nominated] and that he will answer questions from Congress. He also says the consultant he hired "knows more about how the VOA works than most senior executives." AP, 1 September 2006. "Tomlinson says he will continue to seek reconfirmation." Newsweek, 11 September 2006 issue. "Hyenas drooling over a carcass are more restrained than the liberals - political and media - lining up to assassinate the character of Kenneth Y. Tomlinson." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3 September 2006. "The Justice Department is planning a civil inquiry, and while Tomlinson deserves a hearing, the allegations are so unsettling that the White House should take a long, hard look at his renomination, which is in trouble in the Senate. In an age of uncertainty, the nation cannot afford to place important diplomatic missions in the hands of incompetent hacks intent on serving their own agendas." San Antonio Express-News, 3 September 2006. Tomlinson, a former editor of Reader's Digest and a pal of Karl Rove's, must think a federal post is an entitlement program. John W. Mashek, U.S. News & World Report, 5 September 2006. "Keeping Mr. Tomlinson on will discourage more principled people from coming forward to serve." Providence Journal, 8 September 2006.

Kenneth Tomlinson acquires a new horse, and his name is Fury.

Posted: 01 Sep 2006   Print   Send a link
"It’s inexplicable why the White House maintains confidence in Mr. Tomlinson. The Senate should immediately show him the barn door as he comes up for reappointment at the State Department." New York Times, 31 August 2006. "Some allies say everyone does it (yet, does everyone hire a $250,000 consultant that no one sees?) and that the government should get out of the broadcasting business anyway. On the latter point, Tomlinson's pals may have a point. But he didn't move to shut down either the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He milked them." Margaret Carlson, Bloomberg News, 31 August 2006. "Tomlinson is not going to become a coast-to-coast punch line, but he offers a tempting election-year target for Democrats eager to portray this Republican administration as esteeming political loyalty over good government. If Tomlinson has violated the trust of the president, to say nothing of the public, he should withdraw - or be withdrawn." Editorial, Dallas Morning News, 31 August 2006. "Today's revelations are just the latest example of Mr. Tomlinson's pattern of abuse and misgovernment while in public service." Rep. Louise Slaughter press release, 30 August 2006. Comment regarding the fact that Tomlinson's horse Karzai is a gelding. Timothy Noah, Slate Hot Document, 30 August 2006.