Take cover: incoming Heritage bullet points.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Heritage Foundation paper supports the Smith–Thornberry amendment to the 2009 Defense Authorization Bill. "Since Congress and the Clinton Administration disbanded the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1999, the burden of strategic communications has fallen on a host of different organizations: the White House Office of Global Communications, the National Security Council, the Departments of State and Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Each of these boasts significant capabilities. Unfortunately, they are not being utilized fully because there is not a national communications strategy to delineate each organization's role and purpose." Tony Blankley and Oliver Horn, Heritage Foundation, 29 May 2008. Notice how this Heritage document omits mention of former Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) as the prime mover in the folding of USIA into the State Department. And it is the State Department that carries out almost all of the former USIA functions, despite the mention of all those other agencies. The exception is international broadcasting, now under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. International broadcasting is not mentioned in this Heritage paper, which is good, because news cannot be credible if "coordinated" as part of a "national communications strategy." See previous post about same subject.

Imagine George W. Bush saying "Global Struggle for Security and Progress" 37 times during a speech.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The west needs a more comprehensive strategy to counter al-Qaeda propaganda and the US should stop using the term 'war on terror', according to a top intelligence official. Charles Allen, the senior intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, says the phrase is counter-productive because it creates 'animus' in Islamic countries. '[It] has nothing to do with political correctness,' Mr Allen said in an interview. 'It is interpreted in the Muslim world as a war on Islam and we don’t need this.' ... [He] says the west needs to orchestrate a 'very structured', almost cold war-style communications strategy." Financial Times, 28 May 2008. "Vague, accommodating, flattering, and ameliorative words tell our enemies that we are ignorant and weak." Stephen Schwartz, Weekly Standard, 30 May 2008. "The report urged a shift away from the 'war on terror,' even though the officials also ran into a familiar hurdle. In what has become a parlor game of sorts, it failed to come up with a convincing replacement phrase: 'The experts we consulted suggested defining the challenge of our times as 'A Global Struggle for Security and Progress.' It is unlikely that this phrase will replace existing monikers such as 'the war on terror' or 'the long war,' which are more widely used both within and outside the government." NYT The Lede, 29 May 2008. "Even those in America who call for a more humble American foreign policy and recognize the need to listen to foreign populations and global public opinion persist in deploying at every possible moment the most patronizing of monikers in describing their preferred allies: 'moderate.'" Parag Khanna, World Politics Review, 30 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Bloomberg's week of Africa.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Starting Monday, Bloomberg Television viewers across Europe, the U.K., Africa and the Middle East will get a week-long in depth look at Africa with the special 'Emerging Africa.' During the special week, Bloomberg Television will broadcast Africa-focused segments on its daily 'Emerging Markets' program, plus live hits from the World Economic Forum in Capetown on Thursday, June 5th and a special edition of 'Emerging Markets' dedicated to South Africa on Friday, June 6th." Bloomberg press release, 30 May 2008. So American viewers of Bloomberg Television don't get to learn about Africa? This reminds me of when the U.S. network ABC, coming into its own in the latter 1960s, devoted an entire evening of prime time to Africa (and I watched all of it). No U.S. commercial network would do that now.

From RFE something to president of Estonia.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"While lecturing in Canada, [Toomas Hendrik Ilves] became involved in Estonian politics and was offered a job at Radio Free Europe, where he became head of the Estonian desk and regularly broadcast calls for Estonian independence behind the Iron Curtain. When the Soviet Union finally collapsed, Mr. Ilves took a 12-fold paycut and went to work in a homeland he had never lived in. 'I'd spent all those years on Radio Free Europe talking about the need for Estonia to be an independent country, I didn't think I had the moral right to talk about that, if I didn't go back and do it myself,' he says. In rapid succession he became Estonia's ambassador to Canada, the United States and Mexico; chairman of Estonia's North Atlantic Institute, then Estonia's Foreign Minister. In 2006, he was elected president by Estonia's electoral assembly." National Post, 28 May 2008. "Estonian desk" implies a newsroom job. Was he reporting the news or advocating Estonian independence?

How international broadcasting improves domestic broadcasting.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"When the Solidarity movement was mobilising the people on the streets of Gdansk and other cities of Poland the whole world waited to see what would happen. Greater anxiety was shown by the powers that were in Eastern Europe. The deputy head of the Hungarian TV news recounted to me the dilemma they were facing in his newsroom. He was speaking to me during one of the sessions of the Salzburg Seminar, Austria, I had attended several years ago. Should they report these protests or should they ignore them? They decided to report them not out of the passion for the truth that should fill the heart of all journalists but out of a Machiavellian sense of strategy. 'Had we not reported,' the deputy head told me, 'the people would have turned to BBC and Voice of America. That would have been worse for the party.' The Communists did not have the purity of the Evangelical dove but at least they had the craftiness of the snake." Fr Joe Borg, Times of Malta blog, 29 May 2008.

RFE/BBC/DW-friendly station in Moldova denied additional frequencies.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Vocea Basarabiei, a radio station that has been trying with little success for years to obtain new frequencies in order to expand its coverage, said the Broadcasting Coordinating Council was 'distributing frequencies according to political criteria.' The station has obtained only eight of the 120 frequencies it has requested in the past eight years. An independent station affiliated to Radio Free Europe, the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Radio Romania Actualitati, Vocea Basarabiei broadcasts news programmes covering regional, national and international developments as well as entertainment, current affairs and discussion programmes." Reporters sans frontières, 29 May 2008.

This might not help get BBC World News on cable in Iowa.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Matt Frei is "the face of the corporation's new US channel BBC World News America, and he's got a book out called Only in America: Inside the Mind and Under the Skin of the Nation Everybody Loves to Hate. If that title is not exactly formulated to endear him the American public, his recent comments about Iowa seem calculated to enrage the state's residents. 'I'm sorry if anyone is out there from Iowa,' he told the Independent, 'but Iowa is at the bottom of my list, it's flat, it's dull, it's [expletive] freezing in the winter and it's bloody hot in the summer, with flies the size of birds and it stinks of cow manure.'" Tim Dowling, The Guardian comment is free, 28 May 2008.

South Korean documentary about North Korea on BBC.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"'On The Border', a documentary on North Korean refugees produced by the [South Korean newspaper] Chosun Ilbo, will run on the BBC. Both BBC World, the international cable news channel, and domestic channels BBC2 and BBC News24 will air five to six parts of 'Korea: out of the North', the corporation’s version of the Chosun Ilbo documentary, starting May 30." english.chosun.com, 29 May 2008.

EuroNews in VietNam.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"VTC Digital Television will start broadcasting EuroNews on the 1st of June. This new distribution agreement brings Europe’s most watched news channel to more than 2 million homes in Vietnam. EuroNews will be available in English and French 24 hours a day and broadcast on channel 13 on VTC." EuroNews press release (apparently) via Association for International Broadcasting, 28 May 2008.

RCI shortwave site subject of a painted poem.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Sackville [New Brunswick] artist Angelica deBenedetti and Dorchester native Margaret Eaton will hold the official launch of their book Painted Poems on Sunday, June 1, at 3 p.m. at the Owens Art Gallery on the Mount Allison University campus in Sackville. -- 'I’ve known Angelica for more than 20 years; our daughters were best friends when they both went to Tantramar Regional High School,' Margaret said. 'So, when I read about her exhibit, naturally I went to it and I was looking at her paintings and thinking how beautiful they were . . . then I came upon this one of the Radio Canada International towers out on the marsh and I stopped and thought to myself, 'I wrote a poem about those (towers) too.' She said the poem did not concentrate on the towers themselves, but on how the stillness of the marshes contrasted with the radio waves going through the air and the many voices being transmitted around the world." Sackville Tribune Post, 28 May 2008.

Radio Australia gets scoop on 51st state story.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"According to a report from Radio Australia, former US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, David Cohen stated that 'Guam should consider reuniting with the Northern Marianas, and together apply to become America's 51st state.'" Pacific News Center, 30 May 2008. See also Radio Australia on 27 May 2008 and 30 May 2008. -- "Bill: I’m a big listener of radio Australia, the short wave service. Paul: (somewhat sarcastic) Are you really? Bill: Yes Dave: (Definitely sarcastic) Oh boy. Paul: Well, how bout that, what do they play on radio Australia? Bill: Uh, just all kinds of neat programs, like news, sports, and music." CMSpin, 29 May 2008.

No help for RFI reporter detained in Niger.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The French authorities will not interfere in securing the freedom of a Radio France Internationale (RFI) correspondent who has been in custody in Niger for the last eight months, France's Secretary of State for Human Rights Rama Yade has said. The French junior minister was reacting to mounting appeals that are urging France to do something for Moussa Kaka, a Niamey-based RFI correspondent, who was recently handed down a prison term for alleged connections with a simmering Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country." Xinhua, 29 May 2008. Canadian journalist remembers RFI reporter killed in Afghanistan in 2001. Rosie Dimanno, Toronto Star, 30 May 2008.

Oh, to be a high potential again.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Deutsche Welle and the portal young-germany.de are entering an online-partnership. Multimedia-based information and language-learning content will be integrated into the Website for high potentials. These include the Deutsche Welle’s language courses 'Radio D' and 'Mission Berlin'." DW press release, 29 May 2008. In another version (pdf) of the press release, "international young elites" is used instead of "high potentials." However, the About Us page of young-germany.de says: "Meet high potentials from all over the world and be a part of our platform that provides career services, information and insider tips for your life in Germany."
     In Abuja, Deutsche Welle director Erik Bettermann informs Nigeria's minister of information and communications John Odey "of a new radio programme which was about to debut in Hausa, English and French and also to nurture the existing relationship with Nigeria, through the Voice of Nigeria (VON). The new radio programme, according to him, is designed specifically for the young generation, i.e. children between 10 and 17 years old." This Day (Lagos), 28 May 2008.

Vulnerability of a new medium.

Posted: 30 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Cellular phone lines in southern Lebanon were disrupted on Wednesday, apparently due to interference by Israeli forces and United Nations peacekeepers, the Lebanese Ministry of Communications said. ... '"The source of the disruption is divided between Israeli land and the UNIFIL patrols, which operate in the south and use secure defense equipment,' it said. Cellular companies were investing large amounts of funds to control the disruption, the ministry said." Ha'aretz, 28 May 2008.

Smith-Mundt with a vengeance.

Posted: 29 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"By a voice vote last week, an amendment by Representative Paul Hodes (D-NH) was attached to the" National Defense Authorization Act of 2009. ... The amendment's first and last paragraphs: 'No part of any funds authorized to be appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by the Department of Defense for propaganda purposes within the United States not otherwise specifically authorized by law. ... For purposes of this section, the term "propaganda" means any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of the people of the United States in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly.'" MountainRunner, 26 May 2008.
     This amendment would be a thoroughgoing prohibition on Defense Department communications activities inside the United States. It could reasonably be construed to cover speeches by Secretary Gates. If he travels, using the Defense Department travel budget, to give a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs, certainly such a speech would be intended to "influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of the people" in the audience.
     And what about all those the Defense Department websites? (See previous post.) Most of them are intended mainly for U.S. audiences. We have heard about the differentiation between informing and influencing, but these websites are definitely up to the latter. Yes, the main Defense site has a section labeled "News." And there you can find items that are not news, but "news" i.e. news-like items chosen for PR purposes, and written for PR purposes.
     All U.S. government agencies have websites and public affairs activities that brag on themselves and support their campaigns. Domestic dissemination is a huge, thriving enterprise. Nothing wrong with it.
     You are too young to remember the program, but when I was kid, I watched "the Big Picture" on television. Now that was domestic dissemination. It was a weekly program distributed to U.S. television stations, produced by the Army about the global exploits of the Army. It ran from 1950 to 1975.
     Actually, I wouldn't mind seeing a program somewhat similar to "The Big Picture." One of my favorite features on C-Span is when a camera follows the U.S. military around Iraq and Afghanistan. Military personnel, mostly enlisted rather than silver-tongued spokes-officers, explain what they are doing over there. This would be an excellent weekly program on PBS.
     Getting back to pesky issue of domestic dissemination: Perhaps a future rewrite of Smith-Mundt should eliminate any consideration of content. Content intended for foreign audiences will find its way to the domestic sphere, and Americans have a right to know what that content is. Instead it should deal exclusively with budget: funds for international communications activities shall not be spent on domestic outreach, except for a very small percentage for providing the content to Americans who request access to the content. In some cases, budget shall be provided for communication activities that are intended for both domestic and international audiences, e.g NASA TV and most of those Defense Department websites.

VOA "propaganda" helps immigrant adjust to the United States.

Posted: 28 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Indiana high school teacher Yan Wolfman, before he emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1978, "bought a short-wave radio on the black market and began listening to U.S.-run broadcasts. To get the signal, he made a 150-foot antennae out of thin wire, which he ran up the side of his apartment building, so as to go unnoticed. When he listened, he used headphones so his neighbors didn't know. 'I was listening for eight years to American propaganda on Voice of America,' he said. 'I learned a lot about the country before I immigrated. It helped me to adjust faster.'" The Times (Munster IN), 28 May 2008.

BBC's Lyse Doucet panned in Canada.

Posted: 28 May 2008   Print   Send a link
In Toronto, as four American pundits debated whether the "world is a safer place with a Republican in the White House" "The only thing the four seemed to agree on was their annoyance with moderator Lyse Doucet, a BBC World correspondent who was chastened more than once for interrupting the debaters. 'Is it possible to finish a sentence around here?' [Samantha] Power asked at one point. After Ms. Doucet also interrupted [Niall] Ferguson, a male audience member yelled 'let him finish,' prompting the Scottish-born scholar to assure the man 'I can handle her myself.'" Globe and Mail, 27 May 2008. "BBC's World Service is asking listeners to have a go at writing a chapter of a [James] Bond novel which will be read out over the airwaves." Webuser, 27 May 2008.

On 18 June, RFI will be your station for musique.

Posted: 28 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"For the second time in four months, unions representing the staff of France’s public broadcasting services are planning a one-day work stoppage. The strike, called for June 18, will involve workers at the France Televisions networks, as well as at Radio France Internationale and the National Audiovisual Institute, the state audiovisual archive service. ... One proposal under consideration would involve a substantial transfer of state fees allocated to Radio France Internationale and the National Audiovisual Institute, currently totaling $219 million." Variety, 27 May 2008.

Burlington debates carriage of Aljazeera English.

Posted: 28 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The question of whether Burlington [Vermont] Telecom, the city-owned telecommunications company, should continue to air Al Jazeera English news service drew a large and passionate crowd Tuesday afternoon to City Hall. ... The great majority of the 28 people who spoke Tuesday to the committees urged Burlington Telecom to continue to air the English-language news service from the Qatar-based network. Burlington Free Press, 28 May 2008. "More than 75 residents of this progressive college town on a hill overlooking Lake Champlain gathered Tuesday to debate whether Burlington Telecom should continue to carry the English-language service of the Qatar-based network. ... 'One of the things that a soldier does is to fight for our freedoms,' said Army veteran and Burlington resident Greg Jenkins. 'And one of those freedoms is the right to have different opinions.' ... Marc Abrahams of the Burlington suburb of Essex Junction argued that Al-Jazeera was taking advantage of the freedoms offered in this country. 'They laugh at us, knowing that our blind, sheepish bleatings about "freedom" will "freedom" us right into totalitarianism.'" AP, 28 May 2008. Listen to report on Vermont Public Radio, 28 May 2008.

In Iran, this page is still loading.

Posted: 28 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Internet experts and media-rights defenders accuse [Iranian] authorities of deliberately keeping the Internet speed low in order to frustrate people from downloading photos and video and reducing the amount of information they can access. While the Internet has become an essential part of the lives of millions of young, tech-savvy Iranians, the authorities 'try to restrict people's access to the free flow of information through the Internet.'" Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty News, 26 May 2008.

The good news is that some Arab blogs have a non-violent outlook.

Posted: 28 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Blogs, especially, are not just a tool to voice Western-media friendly or pro-liberal democracy positions. In Egypt, they are being used with increasing force and impact in the domestic political struggle, which is gaining steam as the possible end of Mubarak's reign approaches. Of course, Jihadists also widely use the internet as a political tool - and do so in Egypt. They entice hatred, are violent and often are the first to publish al-Qaeda videos, generally calling for the killing of non-Muslims. However, this should not obscure the fact that there is a notable increase in the number of blogs with an Islamist outlook that are non-violent." Nicholas Noe & Maha Taki, PostGlobal, 28 May 2008.

The non-military ways of the U.S. military.

Posted: 27 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"American soldiers are no longer an uncommon sight in West Africa. They’re vaccinating thousands of people and animals against diseases. They’re renovating dilapidated schools. They’re even playing soccer with local kids. 'This is part of the U.S. Defense Department’s escalating use of the concept of "soft power", by means of which the U.S. is trying to win favor in non-military ways.'" VOA News, 26 May 2008. Fourth in a five-part series about AFRICOM.

New CNN show will discuss international issues.

Posted: 27 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"CNN is starting a weekly talk show on international issues led by Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria that will debut next Sunday... . 'Fareed Zakaria — GPS,' which stands for 'global public square,' will air Sundays at 1 p.m. EDT and be rebroadcast at a yet-to-be determined time on CNN International." AP, 26 May 2008.

China versus BBC.

Posted: 27 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"At the end of March - and just before an inspection visit by the IOC - the BBC News site in English suddenly and without explanation was unblocked for the first time in 10 years. But the BBC's Chinese-language site has stayed off limits. The internet now mirrors what happens with the World Service's radio broadcasts where the Chinese broadcasts are jammed while the English programmes are not." Phil Harding, the Guardian, 26 May 2008.

New DRM chair wants simultaneous chicken and egg.

Posted: 27 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Interview with new DRM Consortium chair Ruxandra Obreja. "The success of DRM is dependent on chip availability and quality. There are several [sic] receivers on the market already. The question is to ensure enough content to make acquiring a receiver at reasonable price of real interest to listeners. So, chip availability, while crucial, is only part of a much more finely balanced business proposition." ADDX Radio-Kurier via 26MHz.us, 27 May 2008. Interview with Donald Messer, former chair of the DRM Consortium technical committee, WWCR, 24 May 2008.

Egypt: where uplinking is a crime (updated).

Posted: 27 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Egypt's "state-run Radio and Television Union brought a complaint against the Cairo News Company (CNC) on April 8, 2008, the day after Al Jazeera broadcast coverage of large anti-government street protests in the Nile Delta. CNC provides satellite transmission services and equipment to television networks operating in Egypt, including Al Jazeera, BBC, and CNN. On April 17, 35 plainclothes police officers raided CNC's Cairo offices, confiscating its five sets of satellite transmission equipment and thereby shutting it down. Nader Gohar, CNC's owner, has been charged with importing and owning television equipment and transmitting television broadcasts without permission. He is due to stand trial on May 26 and if convicted would face fines and at least one year in prison. ... The closure of CNC has had direct and indirect chilling effects, Gohar said. 'I was supposed to transmit for [US government-funded Arabic-language network] al-Hurra, they were going to do a daily morning show. But now al-Hurra is blocked because they don't have any uplink."
Human Rights Watch, 24 May 2008. See also The National (Abu Dhabi), 25 May 2008. Update: "Egyptian Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud has charged Cairo News Co. with violation of the 1960 Transmission Law, which gives the state-run Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) the sole right to transmit television signals out of the country. Experts say the law has yet to be changed despite the advent of satellites and the Internet. Gohar says that leaves him and other satellite providers vulnerable to prosecution for operating without a license." San Francisco Chronicle, 27 May 2008.

"VOA is for the birds"

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
is the headline of a story about a "workshop for bird lovers on June 14 will feature expert presentations and glimpses of rare grassland birds at Voice of America Park in West Chester Twp." Hamilton (OH) Journal-News, 23 May 2008. Yet another of the many things happening at the former VOA Bethany shortwave transmitting station.

A brief history of forbidden music in the USSR.

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"True, 1975 was not 1955, when Soviet music lovers made bootleg boogie-woogie recordings on X-ray plates and listened doggedly for every un-jammed note of the Voice of America's jazz hour. By the mid-1970s, the Soviet state had grudgingly reached a tacit cultural compromise with its rising generation: If you don't rattle the cage too loudly, we will tolerate long hair, some indigenous pop groups and even throw you a bone once a week -- which they did. On Saturday nights at 11:30 -- when young people were likely to be out and about or out cold -- Leningrad radio aired a show called 'Your Tape Recorder,' offering Western music for young fans to copy however they could. It wasn't much, but it sure beat nothing and was aurally devoured like forbidden fruit." Mark H. Teeter, The Moscow Times, 26 May 2008.

Latest commentary on the public diplomacy turf war.

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Although the State Department has a trained cadre of public diplomacy specialists, it is virtually impossible for them to operate in war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq. But that shouldn't be an excuse for State to turn over its public diplomacy responsibilities to Defense. Most American diplomats understand that it's counter-productive to buy journalists and to operate phony 'good news' Web sites." Guy W. Farmer, Nevada Appeal, 25 May 2008.

Foreign radio stations cover Cameroonian forests.

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The President of the Cameroon Forestry Union, Roger Nkodo Ndang has frowned at allegations that the management of Cameroons forest is marred with illegal exploitation, corruption and bad governance; allegations made public recently by some foreign radio stations notably Radio France International." Cameroon Radio television, 24 May 2008. Music instead of news, 22 May, as RFI broadcasters join other French workers on one-day strike. AFP, 22 May 2008.

CNBC Africa and its competitors.

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
CNBC Africa "set up bureaus in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Abuja, Lagos and Nairobi, and in this country is one of a suite of news channels offered by DStv including CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC World, SABC and Sky News. CNBC Africa is also broadcast to the rest of Africa, where there are about 8-million decoders capable of receiving it. ... CNBC Africa is already breaking even, no mean feat for any TV station." MyBroadband.co.za, 25 May 2008.

If FARC is in the news, TeleSUR gets the scoop.

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC "confirmed the death of its leader, Manuel Marulanda, El Tiempo newspaper reported today, citing a video released by a Marulanda lieutenant on Venezuelan television station Telesur." Bloomberg, 25 May 2008. The video from (as they prefer to capitalize it) TeleSUR is cited by many news agencies' reports of Marulanda's death. See also TeleSUR, 25 May 2008.

Arab journalists are potential allies, if a bit fuzzy about the concept of journalism.

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"In the last year we surveyed 601 journalists in 13 Arab countries in North Africa, the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula. The results, to be published in The International Journal of Press/Politics in July, shatter many of the myths upon which American public diplomacy strategy has been based. Rather than being the enemy, most Arab journalists are potential allies whose agenda broadly tracks the stated goals of United States Middle East policy and who can be a valuable conduit for explaining American policy to their audiences. Many see themselves as agents of political and social change who believe it is their mission to reform the antidemocratic regimes they live under. When asked to name the top 10 missions of Arab journalism, they cited political reform, human rights, poverty and education as the most important issues facing the region, trumping Palestinian statehood and the war in Iraq." Lawrence Pintak, Jeremy Ginges and Nicholas Felton, New York Times, 25 May 2008. What about reporting the news accurately and factually? Only a middling 40% agreed that "it is the job of a journalist to investigate government."

Will BBC Arabic television enjoy the success of BBC Arabic radio?

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"It was in this highly controlled [Arab pre-1990s] media environment that international radio broadcasters such as BBC Arabic made significant breakthroughs in the region. Almost the whole generation of Arabs born in the 1930s and 1940s would tune in to the BBC to get news about their own communities. Unlike the defunct Voice of America radio service, BBC Arabic radio followed a programming strategy that showed a stronger affinity to Arabian culture while maintaining a degree of independence from Britain’s policies in the region. ... I think BBC Arabic television has also to grapple with a far more serious challenge: credibility. Abiding by internationally recognised broadcast journalism standards provides the professional foundation for that credibility. Yet highly politicised Arab viewers still need to be convinced that the broadcaster’s professional performance and the British Foreign Office’s policies would never converge. This could take quite a while." Muhammad Ayish, The National (Abu Dhabi), 25 May 2008. Another critique of BBC Arabic Television in previous post.

Press TV: Over the top and beyond the pale (updated).

Posted: 26 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"An international Iranian English-language television station has published an online article casting doubt on the existence of the Nazi gas chambers by a recently exposed Holocaust denier. Last month, University College London withdrew the honorary research fellowship of Nicholas Kollerstrom after his Holocaust views came to light. ... The TV station, which promises “unbiased reporting of controversial global news”, introduces his article: 'The West punishes people for their scientific research on Holocaust but the same Western countries allow insults to prophets and religious beliefs.'" The Jewish Chronicle, 23 May 2008. The Press TV report, 18 May 2008, as well as reader comments on 18 May and 20 May. Update: "Despite repeated requests, Press TV declined to comment." Jerusalem Post, 25 May 2008.

Fidel Castro mentions Radio/TV Martí. And he doesn't seem to be a fan.

Posted: 25 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The United States "is being driven crazy by the unyielding resistance of our people and their modest advance toward a more just world, despite the disappearance of the Socialist camp and the USSR. Radio Martí, TV Mart and other sophisticated forms of media aggression with which it is trying to humiliate the Cuban people and destroy their resistance, are insults to the name of the national independence hero. A deluge of speeches and lies are being lined up against Cuba. McCain, Bush’s candidate to the presidency of the empire, is speaking; Bush himself is speaking. Against whom? Against Martí. In the name of whom? Of Martí." Granma Internacional, 23 May 2008.

Religious broadcaster will train nurses at its Madagascar station.

Posted: 25 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Six shortwave towers in Madagascar launched a partnership that will bring students from the Third World to Nashville. Madagascar's government allowed Franklin [Tennessee]-based World Christian Broadcasting to lease 85 acres for a radio station, the network's president said. The lease cost was minimal, but because of the island republic's location and unusual topography, the station's signal will reach into Africa, China, India, the Middle East and South America when it launches late next year. To show appreciation, WCB wanted to do something for the struggling country off the African coast, where the gross domestic product is $800 per capita. 'We thought what would help Madagascar the most would be training some folks in pharmacy and nursing,' said Charles Caudill, WCB president." The Tennessean (Nashville), 24 May 2008. See WCB website and previous post about same subject.

Afghans disapprove of Indian soap operas -- and never miss a single episode.

Posted: 25 May 2008   Print   Send a link
In April, Afghanistan's Ministry of Information and Culture banned Indian produced soap operas "and government prosecutors have now charged one resisting TV station with offending public morals and endangering national security. 'These are serious charges that carry prison terms," said Saad Mohseni, co-owner of Tolo TV, which still airs the two most popular Indian soaps. ...'The things they object to in the serials are happening every day in our own society, but we bury our heads in the sand.' ... Many Afghans who admit to enjoying the shows also say they disapprove of them." Washington Post, 25 May 2008. Presumably those few who own satellite dishes can still receive the soap operas. But if those dishes are confiscated, international broadcasters seeking large audiences in Afghanistan might consider radio soap operas via shortwave.

Why do they hate us? Because we lack a comprehensive interagency strategy for strategic communication guided by a not-for-profit organization responsible for providing independent assessment.

Posted: 24 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The push to make the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Bill of 2009 a vehicle to fix America's communication with the world continues. Today, Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash) was to introduce an amendment instructing the President to 'develop and submit to Congress a comprehensive interagency strategy for strategic communication and public diplomacy by December 31, 2009 [and] requires the President to submit a report describing the current roles and activities of the Departments of Defense and State in those areas, as well as to assess and report on a key recommendation by the Defense Science Board, by June 30, 2009.'" MountainRunner, 22 May 2008. See Kim's commentary.

Praise from VOA's captive audience.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"In an exclusive interview, Luis Eladio Pérez, former Colombian Senator and hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group, praised the Voice of America (VOA) for helping him and his fellow hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, feel connected to current events and the outside world. 'During the day when we didn’t have access to the local AM and FM Colombian radio stations, we listened to the Voice of America,' Pérez said. 'It was one of the radio stations that kept us in contact with the world, with reality.'" VOA press release, 16 May 2008.
     "Relatives of Cuban political prisoners told the Voice of America (VOA) they strongly support the idea of providing mobile telephones to dissidents on the island. Their remarks came after a Cuban Solidarity Day at the White House, addressed by President George W. Bush. The President announced changes in U.S. regulations that will allow Americans to send mobile phones to Cuba." VOA press release, 21 May 2008.

Laura Bush interviewed by what?

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"First Lady Laura Bush is appealing to the military government of Burma to allow U.S. relief planes and ships to bring aid to that nation, ravaged by a cyclone May 2. ... In an interview Wednesday [May 21] with the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau, Mrs. Bush also refuted claims by the Burmese government that the U.S. has attached conditions to its offer of aid." VOA News, 21 May 2008. This is the first time I've seen an interview attributed to the International Broadcasting Bureau. The IBB is not really a broadcasting organization, but provides engineering and administrative support to the other elements of U.S. international broadcasting. Was it called an IBB interview to indicate that it was also available to Radio Free Asia (not organizationally subordinate to IBB, but a recipient of IBB services)? If so, I don't see any mention of the interview at the RFA website. An AFP story says it was a VOA interview: "'No, there would be absolutely no strings attached with this aid,' Laura Bush said in an interview with the Voice of America, a US Congress-funded broadcaster that has a Burmese language service which can be heard in Myanmar." AFP, 22 may 2008. So does the transcript of the interview domestically disseminated by the White House, 21 May 2008. -- Laura Bush also interviewed by Alarabiya. Transcript, the White House, 21 May 2008.

National Public Radio becomes International Public Television for China earthquake coverage.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"For more than a week, some of the most compelling news coverage on TV has been radio news coverage. ... By a twist of fate, [nine National Public Radio] staffers were on the scene last week when the quake struck. The NPR crew was in the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, about 50 miles southeast of the quake's epicenter, to prepare a series of stories for this week's program on China's culture and emergence as an economic superpower. Instead, NPR's reporters wound up offering the Western world some of the first words, sounds and pictures from a catastrophe that has killed more than 41,000 and left millions homeless. ... The piece ran on NPR and later was played several times on CNN and CNN International, illustrated with NPR producer Andrea Hsu's still pictures." Washington Post, 22 May 2008.

One effect of foreign broadcasts in the Soviert period: not getting arrested.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
A new memoir by jazz journalist and promoter Alexander Kan, who now works as a producer for the BBC Russian Service, covers the Soviet Union mainly between 1978 and 1986. "In 1979, Leo Records, a New Music label was founded by London-based Russian emigre Leo Feigin, also known as Alexei Leonidov, the host of the BBC Russian Service’s jazz programs. Kan was in charge of its activities in Leningrad and got involved in a tape-smuggling scheme for the label. ... According to the book, the U.S. Congress launched a well-funded cultural program in the mid-1980s which allowed jazz musicians such as Chick Corea to come to Leningrad and perform on diplomatic premises, with the guests chosen by none other than Kan. ... [The KGB] knew, at the time, that Radio Liberty or the Voice of America would use every opportunity to publicise every single arrest of every single dissident in the Soviet Union and they had to weigh up the pros and cons of arresting someone like Alexander Kan for a minor offense, knowing that Alexander Kan was at least a little known in the West." St. Petersburg Times, 23 May 2008.

The head of BBC Radio Scotland has shortwave roots.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Jeff Zycinski recounts: “As a youngster, I loved listening to the radio, and by the time I was a teenager I was absorbed by shortwave radio. I’d tune into the BBC World Service, Voice of America and English-language services coming from the Eastern Bloc. I remember one day winning a prize on Radio Prague and, a few days later, a parcel arrived from Czechoslovakia with a record of Czech music which I played on the radiogram." The Press and Journal (Aberdeen), 23 May 2008.

BBC adds Burmese "emergency" broadcasts, underwritten by Vodaphone.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The BBC World Service is to launch a series of Burmese-language emergency broadcasts in the wake of the destruction of cyclone Nargis. The broadcasts will be funded by a £50,000 donation from Vodafone. The 'lifeline' broadcasts, which will be made by the BBC Burmese Service from June 2, will provide information on disease prevention and health with advice on issues such as sanitation and food supplies." The Guardian, 23 May 2008. Times of the new broadcasts are not mentioned in the article, but I am told the morning transmission has expanded by 30 minutes to 2330-0030 UTC and the evening broadcast has expanded by 15 minutes to 1330-1430 UTC. As for frequencies, I have no idea.

Radio forum in Iran hears appeal for "more peace journalism."

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"More objective reporting of conflict situations could be achieved if countries welcomed journalists from other parts of the world, the International Radio Forum being held in Isfahan, Iran, was told this morning. Deborah Steele, Chief Editor of Radio Australia, said that there was a need to broaden views, humanise coverage, and move beyond political or military jargon. ... Ms Steele called for more peace journalism as opposed to war journalism, which she defined as having opposing parties, winners and losers, and relies on official sources." Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, 21 May 2008. See previous post about the Iranian radio forum.

Latest comparison of Arab news channels posits a comeback for Arab News Network.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Dr. Zahera Harb, Nottingham University (UK)" "'Now it happened recently, in the last few years, is that you have the Arab satellite channels and mainly the 24 hours news channels, which actually sort of revolutionised, if you can say that, the scene in the media in the Arab world. So the state-run TV stations inside the Arab countries are not anymore able to censor information from their audiences, because their audiences can get these informations from the Arab satellite channels, and vice-versa, and on the 24 hours news channel we used to have only al-Jazeera, which used to represent, if some people say, one point of view, now you have two news 24 channels which basically represent two different political points of view in the Arab world. So it’s more diverse than what we used to hear and what we used to see, in the Arab world.' The Arab satellite TV revolution began some 11 years ago with the almost simultaneous launch of Al Jazeera from Qatar, and the Arab News Network, broadcasting from London. Financed by private investors based in Syria, ANN has experienced some turbulent times since it began, shrinking from its initial world-wide base to a more modest level of output, but it’s now poised to re-join the major league, under its original Executive Editor, Doctor Qassim al-Mazraani." British Satellite New, 23 May 2008. This peculiar item is actually a script prepared by British Satellite News, "produced in London by World Television on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office." One of the "two news 24 channels" mentioned by Dr. Harb is, presumably, Alarabiya, although it is nowhere mentioned in the script. Neither is there any mention of the new BBC Arabic Television, funded by the FCO.
     "Iran ... buys Hamas weapons and popularity in Gaza. In a recent children's TV broadcast by Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV, a boy from Hamas is shown assassinating President George W. Bush in the Oval Office and declaring that the White House will be turned into a mosque. Money may not buy you love, but it sure pays for propaganda. Al-Jazeera, the Qatari Arabic and English language TV is a propaganda arm with global reach. At times viciously anti-American, it talks to tens of millions of Arabic speaking Muslims worldwide, as well as audiences in Pakistan, India, London and Detroit. Yet Qataris are behind their big neighbor [presumably Iran] in funding the 'War of the Word'." Ariel Cohen, Middle East Times, 23 May 2008.

WorldSpace loses bid for UK L-band spectrum. And $36.8 million. (updated again).

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"US technology company Qualcomm has scooped all 17 chunks of UK-L-Band spectrum, auctioned over the last week, for a total of £8,334,000... - WorldSpace will be very disappointed to have lost the larger chunk - it holds licences for its use in Switzerland, Germany and Italy, and was convinced no one else would be interested. That frequency is reserved in parts of Europe for satellite radio, but not in the UK, so anyone who uses it will have to avoid interference from WorldSpace's Europe-wide transmissions." The Register, 16 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.
     WorldSpace "reported net loss for the first quarter that widened from last year, due to a drop in interest income, while interest expenses increased. The Silver Spring, Maryland-based company reported a net loss for the first quarter of $36.8 million or $0.87 per share compared to $35.5 million $0.91 per share in the year-ago quarter." RTTNews, 15 May 2008. "The Company ended the quarter with 171,470 subscribers worldwide, a loss of 2,696 from the close of the prior quarter, reflecting the planned cessation of marketing efforts in India and other parts of the world ahead of the company's efforts to commence mobile service in Europe in 2009. ... WorldSpace Chairman and CEO Noah Samara stated, "I am pleased with the accelerated progress we are making in Europe and believe these achievements are adding substantial value for our shareholders. But, I am concerned about the Company's cash position and its pending and near term payment obligations, including those to our debt holders. We are working very hard to solve this liquidity issue and will announce something as soon as we have a commitment." WorldSpace press release, 15 May 2008.
     Update: "As WorldSpace just found out, it's hard to buy the same chunk of spectrum everywhere within your satellite's footprint. The Register, 22 May 2008. "Noah Samara, CEO of Silver Spring radio company WorldSpace Satellite Radio, did not receive a raise this year from $650,000 after the company posted a $169.5 million loss last year. WorldSpace executives said in the company’s recent proxy statement that base salary increases were not made to any executives 'in light of the 2007 company performance.'" Gazette.Net (Maryland), 23 May 2008.

Internet radio is radio.

Posted: 23 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Review of the Phoenix WiFi Internet Radio. "There are more than a few parallels between listening to web streams and listening to shortwave. With the latter, for example, one has to contend with vagaries like poor propagation and adjacent channel interference. With Internet audio streams, your Internet and WiFi service, as well as the stream quality and format used by the "station" (or at the server) are variables that can affect the player's ability to provide seamless and worthy audio. Shortwave signals experience fading; Internet streams can be subject to rhythmic rebuffering. Nothing's perfect. ... But is it radio? Oh, but it is, my friend! It is!" John Figliozzi, Radio Netherlands, 21 May 2008.

Internet radio station plays the Zimbabwean protest music other stations won't.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"UK-based Zimbabwean protest singer Viomak has found a way of evading censorship in her home country. On Zimbabwe's Independence Day, 18 April 2008, she and her team launched 'Voto Radio Station – Zimbabwe Protest Art' on the internet with the aim 'to focus on the importance of freedom of musical expression in a country where opposing voices are severely oppressed.' ... It has been very difficult for Viomak to have her own music played on other Zimbabwean internet radio stations because they prefer to play and promote other music genres than protest music. ... Viomak was quick to mention that someone at Voice of America (Studio 7, Zimbabwe) said her music was too political and negative of Mugabe so they cannot play it on their station. ... In the 1970s, during Zimbabwe’s chimurenga war, the 'Voice of Zimbabwe' radio was beamed from Maputo, Mozambique, and used by Zanu to educate, mobilize, and recruit supporters. During the same period Zapu’s People’s Voice radio was broadcasted from Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Cairo and on Radio Moscow." Freemuse, 21 May 2007. See also Voto Radio Station website.

From our new-uses-for-old-VOA-shortwave-sites file (updated).

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Villages of Maili, the state's largest homeless shelter project to date, is markedly different. With a cluster of five buildings centered around a circle of trees, it is designed to be more of a residential community than a transitional homeless shelter. ... The shelter is under construction on six acres at the former Voice of America site off of St. John's Road in Maili, and slated for completion in the fall." Star Bulletin (Honolulu), 18 May 2008. The VOA shortwave relay on Oahu operated from 1944 to 1969. -- An Ohio House of Representatives vote later this week could bring $500,000 for the Voice of America Museum at the old VOA Bethany transmitting site. The Western Star (Lebanon, OH), 20 May 2008. Update: "The Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to return to Voice of America Park on July 13 for the second annual Concert on the Lake." Hamilton Journal-News, 20 May 2008. And, of course, let us not forget: "More than 5,000 dogs and their human companions are expected at this year's Dog Fest 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 15, at the Voice of America Park" Community Press & Recorder, 20 May 2008.

Skeptical about US/Egypt book exchange.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The U.S. State Department's Big Read Egypt/US will result in "significant numbers of books will now be heading in both directions across the Atlantic to promote greater mutual understanding. Egyptians are being encouraged to read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath and Fahrenheit 451 and Americans are supposed to take a look at Nobel winner Naguib Mahfouz's The Thief and the Dogs. ... When I spoke to the National Endowment for the Arts yesterday, their PR person was keen to assure me that the involvement of the US state department should not lead me to believe that any particular political message was being sent to Egypt along with Bradbury, Lee and Steinbeck. I struggled to believe her." Lindesay Irvine, The Guardian books blog, 21 May 2008. See also National Endowment for the Arts press release, 21 April 2008.

Wife appeals for release of RFI reporter in Niger.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The wife of Moussa Kaka, the Niger correspondent of Reporters Without Borders and Radio France Internationale (RFI), today urged the French government to support demands for his release. Kaka, who also has his own Niamey-based radio station, Radio Saraounia, has been detained in Niamey for the past 243 days for talking to a rebel leader by phone. ... RFI journalist Juliette Rengeval, the president of the Moussa Kaka Support Committee, said Kaka’s arbitrary detention was sending a very bad signal to journalists throughout Africa, who are all afraid." Reporters sans frontières, 20 May 2008.

DW reporter in Kosovo will face UN war crimes tribunal.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The United Nations war crimes tribunal Tuesday charged a top Kosovo journalist with contempt of court, alleging that he has revealed the identity of a protected witness, the UN said. The journalist, Baton Haxhiu, reportedly revealed the name of a witness testifying against Kosovo’s former guerrilla commander, later prime minister Ramush Haradinaj. Haxhiu, a former journalist and editor at Koha Ditore and the daily Express and a long-time contributor to Deutsche Welle, was arrested in Kosovo and was due to be transferred to The Hague-based tribunal." DPA, 20 May 2008.

International channels and "Islamophobic discrimination" in Europe.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Founder of Arab think tank in London "points out that [Aljazeera and other Arab] satellite channels have enabled the Muslim communities in Europe to have a 'Muslim opinion,' an alternative view of what is happening in the world. He argues that the radicalization of Muslim groups some refer to is a subjective term and is not so much about radicalization as about an awakening. At present, the Arab public can view events as they happen instead of relying on official versions or biased reports from stations like CNN or Fox News. 'The problem is not forming opinions — everyone has a right to do that. The problem is how news reports are broadcast; if they are subjective and biased following a political agenda, then incorrect opinions are formed which can lead to discrimination, and, as we have seen in the West, "Islamophobic discrimination."'" Arab News, 21 May 2008.

Fear of Aljazeera.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
A Syrian-born American who teaches at Brno’s Masaryk University was detained for 20 minutes by Czech police after a passenger on his bus noticed him revising, in his laptop computer, a paper titled "Al Jazeera and the Decline of Secular Ideology." The Prague Post, 21 May 2008.

CRI listeners offer earthquake condolences.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Ten foreign listeners of China Radio International who went on a CRI-organized trip to quake-stricken Sichuan Province in southwest China last July called to express condolence to the victims and their families. A middle school teacher in Vietnam, Le Thi Kim Giang choked with sobs when called and said, 'I still can't believe the disaster has taken so many lives of school children.' ... The ten listeners were top-prize winners of CRI's program "Sichuan-the Hometown of Panda" last July." CRI, 21 May 2008.

RFE/RL website blocked again, this time in Kazakhstan.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"For more than five weeks, Internet users in Kazakhstan have been unable to access the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Kazakh-language website despite repeated requests to the Kazakh government and KazTelecom to restore service. 'This is very disturbing,' says RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. 'We initially thought we had a technical problem on our hands, but the Kazakh government's refusal to respond to us, after many requests, suggests that it's a case of deliberate interference. If they were interested in restoring our service, they would have and could have done so by now.'" RFE/RL press release, 20 May 2008. But RFE/RL says it is still rebroadcast on medium wave 1341 kHz by the Kazakhstan state-owned broadcasting company. Also on shortwave from abroad. See also RFE/RL News, 20 May 2008. And Reuters, 21 May 2008. -- Sergei translates this report from Ferghana.ru, 20 May 2008: "According to Ferghana.ru experts, this [RFE/RL] report contains an inaccuracy. KazTelecom is not the only Internet provider in Kazakhstan. Same applies to other Central Asian countries. It’s true that some providers in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are using KazTelecom’s channels. However, the vast majority of Internet users in those countries access the web through the channels of other providers."

McCain adviser, whose firm was paid by Georgia, praises Georgia on RFE/RL.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"John McCain's top foreign policy adviser lobbied the Arizona senator's staff on behalf of the republic of Georgia while he was working for the campaign, public records show. Randy Scheunemann, founder of Orion Strategies, represented the governments of Macedonia, Georgia and Taiwan between 2003 and March 1, according to the firm's filings with the Justice Department. ... Scheunemann, who was McCain's foreign policy adviser during the 2000 presidential campaign, serves as McCain's spokesman on international issues, including those involving his former clients. For example, Scheunemann gave an interview in April to U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about Georgia. 'The Georgian example has inspired Americans and American leaders in their dedication to democracy. ... It's really about shared values, and it's something that Sen. McCain feels particularly deeply,' Scheunemann said. Georgia paid Orion Strategies $240,000 in the year ending Dec. 1, reports show." USA Today, 21 May 2008. The RFE/RL interview does not mention Scheunemann's lobbying work for Georgia. See RFE/RL News, 29 April 2008.
     "Mark McKinnon, the lead media consultant for John McCain's Republican presidential bid, said Tuesday that he will honor a pledge he made last year not to work against Democrat Barack Obama in the fall campaign." Washington Post, 21 May 2008. McKinnon was briefly a recess-appointed member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. President Bush first tried to nominate him for a Democratic seat on the BBG, then nominated him as a Republican. See previous post.

Bush, McCain voice support for Radio and TV Martí.

Posted: 21 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Marking Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People, President Bush says: "Since 2001, the United States has dramatically stepped up our efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Cuba. This includes our increased efforts to get uncensored information to the Cuban people, primarily through Radio y TV Marti." White House, 21 May 2008. "The United States has substantially increased efforts to get uncensored information to the Cuban people, primarily through Radio and TV Martí, which now broadcast from aircraft and via satellite television as well as on a variety of AM and shortwave frequencies." White House fact sheet. From John McCain remarks in Miami on Cuban Independence Day: "I would provide more material assistance and moral support to the courageous human rights activists who bravely defy the regime every day, and increase Radio and TV Marti and other means to communicate directly with the Cuban people." JohnMcCain.com, 20 May 2008.

Bringing democracy to Cuba without "all this diversity of thought."

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican and Marti supporter, says the broadcasts should back the president's positions. 'It is not a 'Let's have all this diversity of thought,' said Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American. 'If we were to have a change in Cuba policy come November, you will see that reflected in the transmissions. The mission is clear: It's to advance our U.S.-Cuba policy.' ... A political contest is underway between two Cuban emigres in the congressional district where the Martis are headquartered, yet the broadcasts barely mention Democratic challenger Raul Martinez, who has criticized U.S.-Cuba policy. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, is a Marti champion. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., a longtime critic of the Martis and of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, recently called for an investigation into management of the broadcasts. He believes the Martis fail to show the diverse viewpoints within the United States." Laura Wides-Munoz, AP, 20 May 2008.
     Rep. Ros-Lehtinen's views about the role of U.S. international broadcasting are similar to those of Senator Tom Coburn (see previous post). The AP story should have, but did not, mention the Heritage Foundation speech by Broadcasting Board of Governors chairman James Glassman, who explained the need to "tell the truth, even if the truth might appear harmful to U.S. interests in the short run." (See previous post.)
     The AP story also buys into the false dichotomy of VOA versus "surrogate" broadcasters. The perennially misdescribed VOA is relegated to "explaining U.S. government policies and culture." The reality, which eludes most decision makers, experts, and reporters, is that VOA is an important source of news about the countries to which its broadcasts.

The war on terror involves a battle between phraseologies.

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The US National Counterterrorism Center urges US officials to drop language and terminology that may offend Arab and Muslim communities, to use terms such as 'violent extremist' or 'terrorist' instead of 'jihadi', and to shift the discussion away from the dualistic 'clash of civilizations' or battle between 'Islam and the West', a paradigm that casts Islam as inherently violent. 'A mujahid, a holy warrior, is a positive characterization in the context of a just war. In Arabic, jihad means "striving in the path of God" and is used in many contexts beyond warfare. Calling our enemies jihadis and their movement a global jihad unintentionally legitimizes their actions.'" Khody Akhavi, Asia Times, 21 May 2008.

UK television news channels compare their disaster coverage.

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
ITV memo: "The brilliant and rapid reactions of the foreign desk coupled by the extraordinary endeavour and bravery of the team in Burma left not only the BBC and Sky floundering; it produced the only first-hand television account of events in that closed country. Once again we comprehensively beat the BBC [on the Chinese earthquake], despite their huge resources and the numbers they have in Beijing. Sky too were unable to match us for both speed of response and quality of work." BBC blog: "While the BBC and most other UK broadcasters are reporting from Rangoon or the Irrawaddy delta, this weekend one news channel [Sky News] set foot across the Thai border, many hundreds of miles away from the areas worst hit by the cyclone, and claimed to be reporting from 'inside Burma'." The Guardian, 20 May 2008. See also BBC News The Editors blog on 12 May 2008 and 16 May 2008.

Sambrook: global concerns and worries will save international broadcasting.

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Globalisation has made international broadcasting more relevant than ever before, a conference in Iran was told today. Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News, said this in a keynote address at the opening of the first International Radio Forum being held in Isfahan. ... 'There was an argument that being international meant being out of touch. It was believed that local and national identities had the upper hand and therefore local and national media would kill off the international broadcaster. Then came the major forces which underpin globalisation: international security, migration, the concerns over climate change and the worries about the interconnectedness of the global economy.'" Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, 20 May 2008.

Lieberman and YouTube differ on terrorist videos.

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Monday called on Google to remove Internet video content produced by terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The videos – readily available on YouTube –show assassinations, deaths of U.S. soldiers and civilians, weapons training, incendiary speeches by al-Qaeda leadership, and other material intended to encourage violence against the West." Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs press release, 19 May 2008. YouTube responds: "While we respect and understand his views, YouTube encourages free speech and defends everyone's right to express unpopular points of view. We believe that YouTube is a richer and more relevant platform for users precisely because it hosts a diverse range of views, and rather than stifle debate, we allow our users to view all acceptable content and make up their own minds." FCW.com, 19 May 2008. See also YouTube blog, 19 May 2008.

Cisco denies helping China filter web content.

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Cisco on Tuesday again denied that it is customizing its equipment to help the Chinese government block certain online content, while Yahoo defended its investment in a Chinese company that complies with government requests for user identifications. 'Cisco does not customize, or develop specialized or unique filtering capabilities, in order to enable different regimes to block access to information,' Mark Chandler, senior vice president of legal services and general counsel at Cisco, told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law. Cisco joined Yahoo and Google to discuss Internet freedom, and while a number of countries were mentioned for their restrictive Internet policies, much of the debate centered around China." PC Magazine, 20 May 2008. "Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who led the morning hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee's human rights panel, said he is actively considering whether to draft new legislation that, similar to a pending House of Representatives proposal, would place a host of new restrictions on American companies doing business in Internet-restricting countries." CNET News, 20 May 2008. See also AP, 20 May 2008. And Senate Judiciary Committee hearing announcement with testimony texts.

Can a "coup de blogs" bring Burma out of isolation?

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
At Google-organized conference, Prime Minister Gordon Brown "said that in the internet age a reclusive country like Burma, also known as Myanmar, can no longer remain hidden away from the world. ... Mr Brown suggested that the genocide in Rwanda might not have been met with 'such silence' if it had occurred in the internet age. Anger at crises reported online could sometimes create a 'coup de blogs' he said, forcing governments to take action. The Burmese junta ... is notoriously unresponsive to pressure, whether from bloggers, foreign governments or its own people — the vast majority of whom have no access to the internet. Inside Burma the older technology of short wave radio, which carries the BBC’s Burmese service, is the principal medium of impartial news." The Telegraph, 19 May 2008. See also transcript of PM's speech and Q&As. 10 Downing Street, 19 May 2008. -- For video coverage of the storm's aftermath: "Ordinary citizens have turned to their usual underground sources of information: overseas shortwave radio stations and satellite broadcasts with news from opposition journalists in exile, along with Web sites blocked by the government but available with some minor technical tricks." AP, 19 May 2008.

BBC World Service as an "offshore" broadcaster (updated).

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Journalists from south Asia working in the Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and Sinhala sections of the BBC World Service in London have launched a campaign to protest against offshoring of programming to the Indian sub-continent. ... The offshoring involves new contracts for the London-based journalists who have been told to accept redundancy or relocate to their countries of origin in south Asia, and accept downgraded pay conditions. Defending the move, the BBC said it had plans to have around 50 per cent of overall language service staff located closer to their audiences." Expressindia, 15 May 2008. Update: "Journalists from the Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali, Nepali and Sinhala sections symbolically laid flowers outside Bush House and placed a large banner across its iron gates, with the words: 'BBC World Service 1932-2008?' The journalists, backed by the National Union of Journalists, have launched a campaign to protest against off-shoring of programming to the Indian sub-continent in what is described as a 'money-saving adventure' of the BBC management." Times of India, 20 May 2008. National Union of Journalists general secretary, Jeremy Dear: "You can dress up the changes any way you like - when stripped bare it means more work from fewer staff, more work for less money and an apparent willingness to undermine editorial integrity." NUJ, 19 May 2008.

India calling Pakistan, via CDs.

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"When External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his officers board the flight to Pakistan this Tuesday, their luggage will include four-CD audio sets titled 'Bollywood: 60 years of Romance'. ... The CD, which will have 1940s' film songs, will remind Pakistanis of undivided India and the undivided talent in the Bombay film industry. ... While gifting indigenous products of fame to foreign dignitaries has always been part of diplomatic courtesy, the history of gifting Hindi film music to Pakistan is interesting. Bollywood films and its byproducts were banned in Pakistan for many years, depriving Hindi films of a good market." Business Standard (New Delhi), 20 May 2008.

VOA has an impact in Pakistan (updated).

Posted: 20 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Murtaza Solangi, a journalist currently attached with the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, will be the new Director General (DG) of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), sources in the Establishment Division told The News." The News (Karachi), 18 May 2008. Update: "Murtaza Solangi, a known journalist and broadcaster working with Voice of America is the latest [Pakistan People Party co-chairperson Asif Ali] Zardari friend to get a high profile job of Director General Radio Pakistan. He is, however, one of the few appointees who deserve the appointment because of his qualifications and experience." Ansar Abbasi, The News, 20 May 2008. "The expanding US influence in Islamabad – the quiet 'cleansing' of Pakistani nationalist elements from the foreign and information ministries, the latest being ... the appointment of an employee of Voice of America, a US government agency, to head Radio Pakistan – is causing consternation in many circles." The News, 20 May 2008.

Iranian exile station plans to switch satellites.

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
President of Virginia based Iranian exile television station Rang-A-Rang says his station "currently broadcasts from a TelStar satellite, estimating 5 million people in Iran and throughout Europe have access to the channel. He said the angle of the TelStar satellite can give away the location of viewers to the Iranian regime, creating danger for the viewer. He said he plans to switch to the HotBird satellite, which is comprised of eight satellites relatively close to each other. He said that will give viewers greater anonymity." A recent immigrant from Iran says: “I can tell you no-one in Iran watches Rang-A-Rang. They watch BBC or Voice of America." New American Media, 20 May 2008. They would have to watch BBC in English, as its planned Persian television service is not yet on the air. The "angle of the TelStar satellite" refers to satellites dishes conspicuously pointed to the western horizon, as the satellite over the Atlantic is more difficult for Iran to jam.

CNN International is monetizing eyeballs.

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
International with CNN International executive VP ad sales Jonathan Davies: "In the last five years, we have recorded double digit growth. There aren't many channels operating in mature markets that have seen this kind of growth level. There are three key drivers for us. Our digital businesses have grown rapidly. The website has been able to monetise eyeballs; we are also seeing growth in developing markets like in Asia, Africa and Middle East. ... The IBN deal [in India] was not designed to be a huge revenue earner but to establish brand saliency. ... Fragmentation works in our favour. With the marketplace getting more confusing, clients tend to go to those places that they know and trust - like CNN. Our levels of churn have gone down. ... If you go back to a little over a decade, people felt that CNN offered an American view of the world. Research shows that perception about CNN has changed. It is now seen as a channel that offers a global perspective. We offer programming from around the world. While our CNN US network is a strong resource, we use it only when relevant like the US Elections." Indiantelevision.com, 19 May 2008. Recommended reading: an interesting look into the business of a self-funding, for-profit international television/web combo.

WorldSpace to India will require 26% Indian ownership.

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), whose ambit also covers the broadcasting business, has prepared guidelines on satellite radio operations that will limit foreign direct investment (FDI) to 74 per cent and introduce licence requirements for transmission and content. Currently, WorldSpace is the sole satellite radio service provider in the country but it has been operating without a licence in the absence of guidelines for the sector. ... Service providers will also need to register every channel they air. News content will be permitted only from state-owned Doordarshan and All India Radio." Business Standard (New Delhi), 19 May 2008. Unclear if the 26% Indian ownership applies only to the WorldSpace marketing arm in India, or WorldSpace overall. -- WorldSpace founder and CEO Noah Samara is awarded a Berkman Award for "outstanding contributions to the Internet's impact on society." Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University press release, 19 May 2008.

The BBG weekly audience is now 175 million.

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"U.S. international broadcasting now reaches over 175 million people weekly, up from 155 million in 2007 and a 75 percent increase since 2001. ... The BBG global audience estimate is based on measured audiences from independent surveys conducted worldwide in accordance with industry-standard research methods. Audience gains in Indonesia, Nigeria, and Syria, in particular, helped drive the increase." Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 16 May 2008. Compared to 233 million for the BBC world services, although the methods of counting are not exactly the same.

Russia Today's "very fine line."

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"'You are understandably walking a very fine line of being full and frank and biting the hand that feeds,' said Carson Scott, a former business news presenter who is now with Sky News Business Channel in Australia. 'I had countless heated editorial debates with my editor, frankly speaking. I was very vocal. "We have to give the other side of the argument. We have to be balanced." And oftentimes eyes just glazed over.' 'But several of Russia Today’s journalists said they were earnestly trying to tell Russia’s story. 'No one is telling me what to say,' said Peter Lavelle, the effusive host of 'In Context.' Nevertheless, he said, the channel does take certain views. 'Part of our mission is public relations,' he added." New York Times, 18 May 2008. So, not quite detached and objective, but, as I've written before, much more interesting than the old Radio Moscow during the Brezhnev years.

Aljazeera's "opposite direction."

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera English is not actually banned, of course, but the reputation of its Arabic sibling as the preferred outlet for videos from Osama bin Laden has made the English-language version too hot to handle for some U.S. cable operators. ... In an effort to make Al Jazeera English more appealing to American operators and audiences, [new AJE managing director Tony] Burman said he planned to increase coverage of U.S. news, particularly as the presidential election approaches in the autumn. Burman said Al Jazeera also planned to invest in new bureaus; it already shares more than 60 bureaus with its Arabic sister organization. ... 'Our goal is to go in the opposite direction to so many other news organizations which are, sadly, cutting back on their coverage of the world.'" International Herald Tribune, 18 May 2008.

"Saving Public Diplomacy" at the expense of international broadcasting.

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The operational agency (call it the Public Diplomacy Agency) would pull together the tools that served the USIA so well for nearly five decades but would also utilize the latest tools available to today's public diplomacy. Thus educational and cultural exchanges, international civilian broadcasting, print publications, and the all-important person to person contact work by public diplomacy officers in the field would be augmented by state of the art new technologies including the internet, podcasts, virtual reality, desktop video conferencing, texting, and others only now in the imagination of our creative technologists." William P. Kiehl, Public Diplomacy Alumni Association, 17 May 2008. The single most powerful argument for not creating a successor to USIA is that its proponents, like old British colonialists yearning to restore the Raj, want to return international broadcasting to the public diplomacy empire. Much of VOA's difficulty in competing with the BBC is due to credibility, complicated by the the decades-long tug of war being USIA management trying to impose policy oriented content on VOA, and the VOA newsroom, trying to provide the balanced and objective news that the audience wants. Finally out from under USIA in 1999, U.S. international broadcasting now has the independence to begin the decades-long process of establishing the credibility necessary for success in international broadcasting.

Is Smith-Mundt responsible for the underperformance of counterinsurgent propaganda?

Posted: 19 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"In the fall of 2003, I was an officer in the U.S. Army, leading a special operations unit in Iraq. When I inquired as to what psychological operations resources I had at my disposal, I was given two well-meaning soldiers armed with bullhorns. They spoke, they admitted, no Arabic, but they had an Arabic-language recording they could play on their Cold War-era speaker system. The enemy, meanwhile, had a keen understanding of how to use the internet and the pan-Arab satellite stations to shape the narrative of the war. It took years before U.S. and coalition officers began to understand the propaganda war and what is at stake. The U.S. military, however, remains hampered by four internal restrictions on its information operations and responses to insurgent propaganda. One, the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 prohibits the U.S. military from engaging in propaganda aimed at American citizens. The problem with Smith-Mundt is that it understandably failed to anticipate the information revolution that has taken place since the birth of the internet. Because you cannot 'aim' a message broadcast on the internet toward any one group of people, Smith-Mundt hinders the U.S. military from conducting its own information operations via the internet for fear that such messages might reach American internet users as often as populations in the Arab world." Andrew Exum, Arab Media & Society, May 2008. Actually, the Pentagon has a plethora of websites, all accessible to U.S. internet users. See previous post and this defenselink.mil web page. (By the way, in checking this out, I learned that the old www.DefendAmerica.mil, very much intended for U.S. audiences, "is now being included in the Defense Departments homepage," i.e. defenselink.mil.) Anyway, is the problem here that "information operations" are occasionally disinformation operations that, when they find their way to the United States, are exposed by the U.S. press? Smith-Mundt or no Smith-Mundt, disinformation will eventually come back to bite you on the butt. You can get away with it only about once per war. See also MountainRunner, 17 May 2008.

Rumor as a medum of domestic and international communication.

Posted: 18 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"A major conduit for rumors are the many tent communities in post-quake Sichuan or the teahouses in Lhasa. In Tibet, however, many customers in recent weeks have shunned those establishments, fearing spies. Government intimidation also appears to be working elsewhere. Voice of America and exile groups say they're receiving fewer reports from Tibet. 'Rumor is now defined so broadly, it basically involves anything that isn't the party line,' the VOA's [Tseten] Wangchuk said.'" Los Angeles Times, 18 May 2008.

BBC expat listener unearthed.

Posted: 18 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Richard Hodges is the Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. ... Web site I visit regularly: BBC. If you turned on my car radio right now, it would be tuned to: WHYY-FM (90.9), particularly for BBC World Service." Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 May 2008. He came to Penn from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

An effect of shortwave broadcasting?

Posted: 18 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Bob "Bayliss, facing numerous charges, including attempted homicide, after a motorized assault and shoot-out [with sheriff's deputies] at his 18-acre property ... said his growing disenchantment with county government [was] fueled in part by commentary he heard on short-wave radio broadcasts and reflected in slogans he frequently refers to." LaCrosse (WI) Tribune, 18 May 2008. Possibly referring to libertarian (with a small "l") programs that purchase time on various private shortwave stations in the United States, which are heard mainly within the United States, despite their nominal status as international broadcasters.

New South African news channel inspired by (some) international news channels.

Posted: 18 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The editor-in-chief of South Africa's new 24-hour news channel says "e.News undertook a number of study trips during its research for the 24-hour news channel, visiting news giants such as Sky, BBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and al Jazeera. 'Those trips were useful because they helped us to establish what works and what doesn't.'" Mail & Guardian (Cape Town), 18 May 2008. Alas, the article does not reveal what channels did and did not work, in the opinion of e.News management.

Seeing that the unsung heroes of IB are sung.

Posted: 18 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The Association for International Broadcasting "has just launched its fourth annual search for the best in international broadcasting. I thought I'd explain why. ... In my travels as AIB CEO, I have been inspired by people who have that talent to communicate cross border and cross culturally. They are often the unsung heroes in organisations, partly because what they do is not consumed locally." Simon Spanswick, AIB CEO blog, 15 May 2008.

Via BBC World Service, Gordon Brown criticizes Burmese regime.

Posted: 17 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"'We have an intolerable situation, created by a natural disaster," he said. 'It is being made into a man-made catastrophe by the negligence, the neglect and the inhuman treatment of the Burmese people by a regime that is failing to act and to allow the international community to do what it wants to do. The responsibility lies with the Burmese regime and they must be held accountable.' Asked if he believed it was time for dropping aid by air, Mr Brown said nothing was being ruled out." BBC News, 17 May 2008. Also reported widely by UK newspapers and international news agencies. -- "Many residents of Myanmar get their daily news from the Burmese-language radio services run by broadcasters like the BBC and Voice of America. They listen to shortwave radios at home, away from neighborhood snitches. If they are discovered listening to the foreign stations, several Yangon residents said, they could be detained or beaten, or they could lose their jobs." New York Times, 18 May 2008.

Inquest reports on death of BBCWS official.

Posted: 17 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"A senior BBC executive killed herself after she was left 'isolated' and 'undersupported' in an impossible job, an inquest heard yesterday. The body of Kari Boto, 53, of Ipswich, Suffolk, was plucked from the sea at Felixstowe in June last year, three days before her BBC contract had been due to expire. The mother of three had previously had a 30-year career at the BBC, rising to become executive editor of the BBC World Service’s Africa, Middle East and Arabic section. But her mental health disintegrated after she suffered extreme stress in her role as a director with the BBC World Service Trust." The Times, 17 May 2008. This story is reported widely in the UK press. See also BBC News, 16 May 2008.

Bush criticizes Arab television "propaganda machine."

Posted: 16 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"President Bush today said he needs to do a better job of countering the notion that he dislikes Muslims and America is at war with all Muslims, but blamed what he called 'poisonous' state-run TV stations in the Middle East for spreading false information. ... 'There is a propaganda machine on state-owned TV that is poisonous and we just have got to do a better job of reaching out,' the president said. 'One way to do it by the way is to invite people to America and let them see what America is all about.' The Bush administration has had a prickly relationship with TV stations such as Al Jazeera, the most popular outlet in the Middle East, which is the biggest megaphone used by Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders. Bin laden videotapes often show up for the first time on Arab-run stations such as Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar. Al Jazeera and other Arab TV stations have also been accused of inciting anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiment. The U.S. government in 2004 launched their own Middle East TV station, Al Hurrah, in an effort to counter Arab-run TV stations. Al Jazeera, meanwhile, has started an English-language channel in the U.S." Washington Times, 16 May 2008.

"We have nothing if we have no credibility."

Posted: 16 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Breaking months of silence, James Glassman responded to VOA's critics by vigorously defending its practices, though he did not directly address the delay on his nomination by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican. 'We tell the truth, even if the truth might appear harmful to U.S. interests in the short run,' Mr. Glassman, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which is in charge of U.S. government broadcasts, said at the Heritage Foundation. 'Often we hear from critics, 'Why are U.S. taxpayers paying for reports of bad news about America?' he said. 'First, Congress and the president have required us to work as an objective, balanced news organization. Second, our audiences are sophisticated, and we have nothing if we have no credibility.'" Washington Times, 16 May 2008. Good coverage by Nicholas Kralev at the Washington Times, who provides the context for this speech. See also VOA News, 15 May 2008 (does not mention Senator Coburn). Video and audio of the speech available at the Heritage Foundation website. Text of Mr. Glassman's speech available from BBG, 15 May 2008.
     While Mr. Glassman did say "we are clearly an instrument of U.S. foreign policy" and such things, he was definitely less ambiguous than in previous statements about protecting the journalistic independence of U.S. international broadcasting. At what may be the end of his tenure as BBG chairman, Mr. Glassman is fulfilling his most important role: that of Junkyard Dog.
     Mr. Glassman did not mention Senator Coburn during his Heritage speech, but clearly his statements about "bad news" and credibility are directed at recent criticisms by the Oklahoma senator and others who would prefer that VOA present only one side, the U.S. administration side, in its broadcasts to Iran. (See previous post.)
     By the way, there was supposed to be a demonstration today in front of the VOA headquarters against the VOA Persian Service. Apparently it did not materialize, as I didn't see any such demonstration from my window.

North Korean black market enables outside information, entertainment.

Posted: 16 May 2008   Print   Send a link
South Korean "films are watched on cheap China-made television sets and video players, which are available mainly along the Chinese border, where North Koreans can also find radio transmitters [sic, probably meant receivers]. Although televisions and radios produced in North Korea are pre-tuned so that they only air state-run broadcasts, those manufactured in China are not. Chinese goods have been appearing in North Korea with increasing regularity, thanks in part to a porous border and corrupt security officials, which allows North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts." Christina L. Madden, World Politics Review, 15 May 2008.

Aljazeera English will seek North American cable outlets at The Cable Show 2008.

Posted: 16 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Fearlessly reversing the conventional information flow by reporting objectively and impartially from South to North, the channel challenges established perceptions, bridges cultures and gives voice to the voiceless. Our investment in a global web of bureaux and the latest satellite technology enables our 350 journalists to update viewers the moment a story breaks. Our worldwide team comprises 45 ethnicities and 30 nationalities, giving us the edge on the world stage to present every angle and every side of global events." BusinessWire, 15 May 2008.
     New Aljazeera English managing director Tony Burman: "'Part of the ignorance of a lot of the American people towards international events is because their media -- broadcast media -- have just abandoned coverage of the world. 'I think that is sad and the end result is that you have a population that is really clued-out in a serious way and I believe AJE can help fill that vacuum.' When asked whether the network’s Arabic channel -- that was initially described as ‘reckless’ and apparently later toned down -- would have an impact on the content of its sister channel, Burman said: 'I am not certain if the Arabic channel has toned down. I do know that the importance of the Arabic channel is very much linked to the fact that it has presented bold, controversial and provocative programming and I embrace that. I think that AJE must do more of that too. We should be bold and provocative, which does inevitably mean that we’ll be controversial, but that is something that we should welcome.'" Gulf Times, 16 May 2008. See previous post about Burman.

RCI joins CBC's coverage of Quebec City's 400th anniversary.

Posted: 16 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Radio Canada International "teams will each present specials devoted to Quebec City, live from Espace 400e. The Chinese section will kick off RCI's summer lineup with its special on June 24 at 9 a.m. The French and Brazilian sections are next, on June 27 at 1 and 3 p.m., followed by: the Arab section on July 7 at 3 p.m.; the Ukrainian section on July 11 at 11 a.m.; the Russian section on July 25 at 10 a.m.; the English section on August 1 at 11 a.m.; and finally, the Latin American section on August 8 at 6 p.m. Listen in on the Web at RCIviva.ca." CBC press release, 15 May 2008. Shouldn't RCI times be given in UTC?

Legal setback for RFI reporter in Niger.

Posted: 16 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans frontières "strongly condemns today’s decision by Niger’s highest appeal court to reject a request to rule that the records of journalist Moussa Kaka’s intercepted telephone calls cannot be used to prosecute him on charges of 'complicity in a conspiracy against the authority of the state.' The court’s decision effectively returns the case against Kaka to its starting point. The manager of privately-owned Radio Saraounia and the Niger correspondent of Radio France Internationale and Reporters Without Borders, Kaka has been detained since 20 September." RSF, 15 May 2008.

Surprised that VOA was behaving like a news organization.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"It turned out to be very surprising to me that the reporter from Voice of America Korea asked me some very serious and interesting questions. I would have expected maybe left-wing journalist to ask these questions but not a mainstream or State Department journalist. Why was the Voice of America reporter asking me these questions? Perhaps some people at the State Department realized there was serious discussion going on online reflected by my articles but not on Voice of America or in the mainstream media." Ronda Hauben, interviewed in Taz.de Netizen Journalism blog, 15 May 2008. Part of VOA's ongoing identity problem is the common assumption that VOA is part of the State Department. It was, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Then, until 1999, it was under the US Information Agency, an "independent" agency that actually had close ties to the State Department. And VOA still broadcasts daily editorials vetted by the State Department.

Radio Sawa reporter roughed up in southern Iraq.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans frontières "today condemned a growing number of physical attacks on Iraqi journalists while trying to do their job. It has recorded more than 20 such cases since the start of 2008. ...a journalist working for Radio Sawa, Safa al-Issa, was beaten up by a minister’s guard when he tried to cover the closing ceremony of a poetry festival in Basra. 'They wouldn’t let me in, saying there was no room. I showed them my press card but in vain. They pushed me into another room and brutally beat me. They also threatened to put a plastic bag over my head', the journalist said." RSF, 14 May 2008. See previous post about similar subject.

Lamenting the loss of RFE/RL's Newsline.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"For outsiders interested in the ex-communist world, the English-language material produced by the research department of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is invaluable. But it will not be available much longer. The department is closing. Its analysts are job hunting. Some bulletins have stopped already. The reason is simple: budget cuts caused by the weak dollar. It is a sad end to an era." The Economist, 15 May 2008. See also this note to Newsline subscribers from RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin. See previous post about same subject. Newsline and other newsletters were essentially an English service of RFE/RL, which is not really authorized for output in English. Elimination of duplication in U.S. international broadcasting might have freed up funds for subsidiary products such as Newsline. See also MountainRunner, 14 May 2008. -- "The USA pledged to work towards the removal of a possible future terrorist threat in the Czech Republic, either against the radar or against another target, such as the Prague seat of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty." CTK, 14 May 2008.

Not sucking enough bandwidth? Try LiveNewsCameras.com.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"LiveNewsCameras, currently in beta version, a site that attempts to collect, organize and feature a maximum of live video streams from news sites in the US and abroad. 'LiveNewsCameras.com brings together the resources of journalists around the world and makes live streaming video easy to find and use on your computer,' says the site in its 'About' section. The site's sources are mostly US-based so far, but it aims to gain international reach, already including feeds from broadcasters such as BBC World and Al Jazeera." The Editors Weblog, 14 May 2008.
     At www.LiveNewsCameras.com, the home page links to several U.S. television stations. As befits the URL, some are the stations' live webcams, but others are newscasts and new reports from the stations. For persons outside the United States who have English, this is a good way to get a sense of life in America.
     Go to the World link, and you might think you have transported to international television heaven. The links to CCTV9, France 24 (in English, French, and Arabic), BBC World, Pakistan's Dawn TV, the Pentagon Channel, Iran's Press TV, RAInews 24 (in Italian), Ireland's RTÉ.ie, Sky Italy, and Sky UK all produced video. Most seem to be live feeds, but the BBC World link always started at the beginning of a newscast.
     The links to Aljazeera (unsure whether English or Arabic), NHK-TV, Russia Today, and Sky Australia did not work when I tried at 1800 UTC. There is no link to EuroNews.
     A live feed from the bustling LiveNewsCamercas.com control room starts automatically in the upper right corner, with an employee offering advice on use of the site. It's annoying, but easily clicked off.

BBC Arabic Television faces "vibrant rivals."

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"With Gulf states pouring cash into media, outsiders believe that they have something to contribute. That thinking underlies the decision by the BBC World Service to launch an Arabic channel, because the BBC believes that it is able to offer an independent voice. But, whereas it might have had to battle before with censorship, now it has to battle with vibrant rivals for audience - a sign that a market for media is developing." Dan Sabbagh, The Times, 15 May 2008. The censorship refers to the first BBC Arabic television service, an ill-fated partnership with the Saudi-based Orbit Communications. See Columbia Journalim Review, November/December 1996.

New Aljazeera English MD hopes to crack North American nuts.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Al Jazeera Network has signed agreements with cable and satellite television operators that will bring its English and Arabic channels to more than 160 million homes worldwide, the TV news network plans to announce on Thursday. Al Jazeera, arguably the dominant news service for the Arabic-speaking world, also is negotiating with a number of U.S. cable companies to try to expand its reach inside United States. 'It isn't distributed widely in the United States,' Tony Burman, who was named managing director of Al Jazeera's English-language service on Wednesday, said in an interview. 'But there are a lot of efforts under way now to change that ... I'm told that there's real optimism that nuts will be cracked soon. ... One of his chief aims is to increase the networks' North American reach, he said. Some of that will mean beefing up the network's coverage in the United States, he added. 'There's a curiosity about what's going on within the democratic process in the United States that really needs to be satisfied,'" Reuters, 14 May 2008.
     Burman: "Without sounding like a typically self-righteous Canadian, we tend to view things with a detachment that in journalism is a very valued asset. Canadians are viewed in a very favourable way that I must say I find flattering. Canadians, for all of our flaws, don't have the political and historical baggage that a lot of other countries have. We don't have, for example, the political legacy of either the United States or Britain as it relates to the Middle East. Both countries have been both the problem and the solution for much of the Middle East." Toronto Star, 15 May 2008.
     Burman: "There's no reason for anyone at Al Jazeera to be defensive, in spite of the baggage that it carries with some of its American stereotypes." Globe and Mail, 15 May 2008.
     "My dad had a great bumper sticker on his old car — I think he made it himself (he does that sort of thing) — that said 'Who needs Al-Jazeera when we've got the CBC?' ... Yes, the CBC can slant pretty far left, especially when it comes to the Middle East. ... My impression was that {Burman] generally shared the anti-Israeli, anti-American slant of the journalists who worked under him, and it bugged him that anyone — especially the National Post — would dare hold the network to account. No doubt, he'll fit right in well at al-Jazeera." Jonathan Kay, National Post, 14 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Aljazeera English added "with minimum publicity" to HK IPTV.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"NOW TV, one of Asia's leading IPTV operations, began broadcast of Middle Eastern news channel Al Jazeera English on Wednesday, the company, a unit of leading Hong Kong telco Pacific Century Cyberworks, said. Al Jazeera English became a part of NOW TV's basic IPTV package, reaching 882,000 subscribers. Transmission began at 7pm local time with no additional charge and minimum publicity." Hollywood Reporter, 14 May 2008.

On BBC World Service: dramatic reduction in the number of radio plays.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Cuts to BBC World Service’s drama output have cost writers more than 100 hours of commissions and deprived actors of 600 days’ work since 2005, it was claimed this week. The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain ... accuses the broadcaster - which used to offer a weekly drama slot in addition to a popular soap called Westway, totalling more than 50 hours of content a year - of now scheduling less than 20 plays annually. ... A spokeswoman for BBC World Service ... said the World Service would transmit around 17 plays from April 2008 to March 2009." The Stage, 14 May 2008.

Shortwave on a yacht to stay informed. Or not.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Yachtsman in the Pacific headed for the Northwest Passage writes: "Absolutely no news of the outside world except barest details of tragedy in Burma and Chinese earthquake. Nothing, but nothing else - no US primaries, no olympic torch, no wars, no climate change....which reminds me, I have a short wave radio - must try to get it operating while things are relatively calm." SpaceRef.com, 14 May 2008. A small shortwave portable receiver would do. You just turn it on rather than "try to get it operating."

Nigeria cites foreign competition in improving its domestic radio.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria will receive a 200 kW medium wave transmitter from Japan and "temporarily fixed its old Short Wave channel on the 49 Metre Band. Karama FM, the call sign of the new FM station, and the SW station would both continue to carry the quality programmes of Radio Nigeria's famous Hausa Service. ... 'The collaboration with Japan through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), would enable Radio Nigeria boost its Hausa and Educational Services in the face of competition from foreign broadcasters such as the BBC, VOA and China Hausa Services'" Leadership (Abuja), 15 May 2008. Interesting that China Radio International Hausa is mentioned alongside BBC and VOA. Perhaps the CRI Hausa broadcasts via a shortwave relay in Mali (and maybe other relay sites) are beginning to develop an audience in Nigeria.

Vatican Radio officials again in jeopardy.

Posted: 15 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Italy’s top appeals court reversed the acquittal of two Vatican Radio officials implicated in alleged electromagnetic pollution emanating from the station’s transmitters." AFP via Radio Netherlands Media Network, 14 May 2008. This story goes back a few years, and it's uncertain whether Vatican Radio shortwave transmitters are allegedly or actually the cause of health problems near the transmitting site near Rome. In 2001, Vatican Radio reduced operation from a medium wave transmitter there. See BBC News, 9 April 2001. Also this website, May 2005. Did Italian legal views about health effects of shortwave transmissions have something to do with RAI's abrupt elimination of shortwave in October 2007?

What to do with an old shortwave site.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"New designs for the Voice of America Park include a mix of natural areas plus recreational fields, a skate park, pedestrian trail, playgrounds and expanded places for winter sports, according to a plan unveiled today." Cincinnati Enquirer, 13 May 2008. "'I don't want to see this park become an amusement park,' said West Chester Twp. resident Dieter Lubert. 'I would like to see it stay quiet.'" Hamilton (OH) Journal News, 13 May 2008. This is the old VOA Bethany, Ohio, transmitting site, now operated by Butler County Metroparks. See park website.

American in Burma watches CNN during cyclone aftermath.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
5 May: "I watched CNN all morning and the Myanmar storm had now been elevated from a mere scrawl across the bottom ('Four killed in Myanmar's capital as cyclone sweeps through') to a 3 minute blurb. They still didn't have any real information... 350 dead, little electricity, and flooding. ... {Later] By the time I was home CNN finally awakened to the fact that this was a serious storm. It was amazing watching anchors realize the truth of something I had known and lived for days. I saw them stutter and show obvious shock, emotion, and confusion." 6 May: "I'm watching CNN now, which surprisingly is covering the events better than BBC, and is going into such depth, finally, that it is making me realize the scale of this disaster." Danwei, 14 May 2008.

Religious broadcasters note disasters in two of their target countries.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"As the beleaguered nation of Myanmar continues to suffer from the mass devastation caused recently by Tropical Cyclone Nargis, international Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) plans to produce special radio programs offering critically needed health and social care information, emotional support and spiritual care for the hurting and hopeless." TWR press release, 13 May 2008. "FEBC is issuing a special appeal for prayer for the people of Myanmar and China who have recently experienced great tragedies due to natural disasters." Far East Broadcasting Company website, 12 May 2008.

Bill would extend funding for broadcasts to Belarus.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"A bill extending the Belarus Democracy Act for 2009 and 2010 has been submitted to the US House of Representatives for debate. ... Apart from support for human rights defenders, independent media, trade unions, youth groups, pro-democratic political parties, the draft also specifically calls for support for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, and Polish-based Belsat channel and European Radio for Belarus. ... The Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 authorized ... $15 million for radio and television broadcasting to the country." naviny.by, 13 May 2008. "A group of Belarusian opposition politicians has told the Polish foreign minister that Polish-funded radio stations broadcasting to Belarus have failed to make an impact. ...[One] noted that Radio Racyja and European Radio for Belarus, both stations based in Poland, have failed to draw a big audience in Belarus. 'When one is headed for Warsaw, the audibility of these stations is above praise, but when one is traveling to Belarus, they cannot be heard.'" charter97.org, 13 May 2008.

Websites blocked in Turkmenistan.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Reports of tighter restrictions emerged late last month, and by April 28 local users found they were unable to access any of the popular Central Asian or foreign websites. The sites that were blocked were Centrasia.ru, Deutsche Welle, RFE/RL, the oppositional sites Gundogar, Vatan and Turkmenskaya Iskra, and Chrono-tm, run by the Turkmen Human Rights Initiative. 'We are now in an information vacuum,' said an observer in Ashgabat." Gündogar, 12 May 2008. "For strategic reasons, the RFE/RL Turkmen site [Azatradio.org] has been removed from the Internet." RFE/RL website.

Alarabiya reports on report that praises Alarabiya.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya's arch rival, started slow and unsure and only broadcast for a couple of hours a day, unlike Al Arabiya which was virtually the only channel to broadcast breaking news and special interviews around the clock. The BBC has not managed since its inception to attract any sizable audience and has had no real impact in the current crisis. The real surprise was Al Hurra, which despite changing its Hezbollah-biased administration last year, did not cover the situation in Beirut. Its editorial staff attributed the problem to the fact that the current news director, Daniel Naasif, is biased towards the Free Patriotic Movement, an opposition Christian party allied to Hezbollah. ... Al Arabiya's coverage was the most comprehensive as far as hours and news are concerned." AlArabiya.net, 13 May 2008. The headline is "Al Arabiya's Lebanon coverage unrivaled: study," but the story provides no information at all about the study other than its conclusions. -- "Over the past three years, I have been informed, educated and entertained by Lebanon's terrestrial television channels, with features that include: the widest news agenda in the region, and probably in the world; panel discussions and phone-in programs with participants from all political persuasions - and from across the world - who rarely exceed the bounds of respectful conversation." Hossein Shahidi, The Daily Star (Beirut), 14 May 2008.

New MD of Aljazeera English.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Al-Jazeera has appointed senior Canadian broadcasting executive Tony Burman to be the managing director of its English-language channel, signalling a drive to increase its profile in north America. Burman, until recently the editor-in-chief of CBC News, Canada's national public broadcaster, will replace Nigel Parsons, who is moving to be managing director of business acquisition and development for the news channel." The Guardian, 14 May 2008.
      Nigel Parsons says of his new job: "This is an exciting opportunity for me and I am very pleased that I will be able to expand Al Jazeera’s unique vision into new international markets. In particular, I hope to use the experience gained launching the first Middle East-based English language news channel to expand the brand across a number of world languages. In time, even more people around the world will have access to Al Jazeera’s distinctive brand of independent, impartial news." asianmediajounal.com, 13 May 2008.
      "Al Jazeera aims for global domination" is headline of story that mentions "Al Jazeera has established a museum at its center to hang on to the memories of key moments in its brief 12-year history. At the museum, one can see items such as remaining equipment of reporters who died in Iraq, or a sooty computer case coming from Al Jazeera's Kabul office, which was bombed in 2001." Turkish Daily News, 13 May 2008.
      "Al Jazeera Network today announced that during recent weeks it has closed a string of five distribution agreements in the Republic of the Philippines - where Al Jazeera English’s reach now tops 500,000 households." Media Research Asia, 12 May 2008.

"Shortwave May In Fact Be Dead."

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Review of the Sangean WFR-20 wifi internet radio. "In more than 30 years as a shortwave buff, I have never had access to international radio like I do now. Yes, I have been listening to streaming radio for years. I can hardly be in my office without Radio New Zealand, BBC, Radio Australia, or a dozen other favorites coming over my computer speaker. But the Sangean – it’s, well, a radio. Now, streaming audio and web radio is untethered from my PC. ... Keep one of your old portable shortwave radios, for power outages, earthquakes or whatever end-of-the world scenario you are preparing for. But for the 99.999% of the days when alien spacecraft are not landing or nuclear bombs are not going off, find out what international radio is really supposed to be like." Jim Tedford, Radio Enthusiast, 12 May 2008. Available at CCrane and Universal Radio.

"Long Live Shortwave."

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Audio from a 1979 LP record album is available for download. "Side two is a twenty-five minute time capsule sampling the sound of shortwave radio at the dawn of the 1980’s. A bit of a nostalgia trip for old DXers. It’s a cavalcade of more than thirty ID’s and identifying (or interval) signals from shortwave broadcasters around the world. Thrill to the sound of the Radio Moscow once again and listen to plenty of baritone announcers and hokey period production music." The Radio Kitchen, 12 April 2008.

Analyze international broadcasting, and get paid.

Posted: 14 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The Open University in Milton Keynes is seeking a Research Assistant/Associate: International Broadcasting and Public Diplomacy. "You will contribute to a multi-disciplinary project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Tuning In: Diasporic Contact Zones at BBC World Service. Using your skills and initiative you will analyse recent developments in either BBC Arabic Television or BBC Persian Television channels. You will examine how the BBC develops a new televisual channel as part of the World Service’s remit, and situate current development activities in a comparative and historical context. The role of diasporic broadcasters, writers, intellectuals and artists in mediating identities and conflicts will also be examined. You will map new configurations of diasporic audiences, and assess the implications of new media and communication practices for cosmopolitan culture and citizenship." The Open University announcement via jobs.ac.uk. I don't quite get it. The "diasporic" refers to the British diaspora, according to the project description, but BBC Arabic and Persian wouldn't serve the British diaspora. Anyway, I fled academe 23 years ago to get away from the type of language used in this announcement.

But thanks, anyway, for the mention.

Posted: 13 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter Regina Belle "is currently scheduled to appear live on 'Board Crossings' on Voice of America Television for our troops in the Armed Forces on May 15th." EURweb, 12 May 2008. Actually, that's "Border Crossings," on VOA radio rather than television, for foreign audiences rather than our troops, although some US forces abroad might tune in.

Getting the news back into Burma.

Posted: 13 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Despite the hazards, many local journalists have braved the cyclone story. Some rushed to the delta immediately after the disaster and ferried back video footage to international news agencies who couldn't access the area for days. Many asked for nothing in return except an outlet to tell the world what the junta was hiding. Irrawaddy magazine has five reporters covering the cyclone, three of whom lost their houses in the storm... . Their reports are picked up by U.S.-government funded radio stations Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, which relay them back to listeners in Myanmar." AP, 13 May 2008.

BBC World Service wins Sony radio awards.

Posted: 13 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC Radio 4 took the big prize at last night's Sony Radio Academy Awards, but it was also a good night for the BBC World Service [which won the] coveted news and current affairs programme award for Newshour; the listener participation award (for World Have Your Say); and the multiplatform radio award for the Bangladesh Boat Project. 'It is very good for the World Service to come out of the shadows,' said Owen Bennett-Jones, the station's fourth prize winner of the night picking up the News Journalist of the Year award. 'We live in obscurity and we are delighted to have a slightly higher profile.'" The Guardian organ grinder, 13 May 2008. See also BBC News, 3 May 2008. I'm surprised that Sony still does radio awards in the UK, as they make fewer and fewer radios.

Telesur in the news.

Posted: 13 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"On July 25, 2005, Chavez inaugurated TeleSUR, a proposed pan-American homologue of Al Jazeera that seeks to challenge the present domination of Latin American television news by Univision and the United States-based CNN en Español. Chavez's media policies have contributed to elevated tensions between the United States and Venezuela." Pravda.ru, 13 May 2008. "Chavez is ... trying hard to enable Latin American countries to co-operate and stand together to make them strong enough to free themselves from US economic and political control. ... That is why Chavez led the creation of Telesur, a Latin American TV station based in various South American countries." Keith Flett, letter to The Independent, 11 May 2008.

Aljazeera covers the US election.

Posted: 13 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Many Americans incorrectly think of Al-Jazeera's Arabic-language network as al-Qaida Central because it occasionally broadcasts excerpts from videotapes of the terror organization's leaders. Nowadays, however, viewers are far more likely to see images of the American presidential candidates on the channel's screens. As the United States, always an interested party, has become a dominant on-the-ground player in the Middle East, residents of the region increasingly feel that their own fate depends on the outcome of this election." Juan Cole, Salon.com, 12 May 2008.

BBC Arabic TV: not subcontracted public diplomacy.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Given the UK’s close identification with U.S. policy in the Middle East and the acknowledged failure of Washington’s attempt to penetrate the world of Arab satellite TV, it inevitably looked to many in the Arab world that BBC Arabic TV was conceived as a substitute for Al Hurra: a subcontracting of the public diplomacy side of the War on Terror to the more sophisticated Brits. ... Suspicious viewers listening out for a consistent political slant on the news or expecting a British government agenda to filter through the coverage will have been hard-pressed to detect either. ... On the Arab–Israeli conflict, for example, one of its reports on U.S. diplomatic moves to revive the peace process was laden with scepticism – without which, it could be argued, Arab viewers might have seen the item as a plug of the U.S. government line. But a later piece on Israeli military exercises was played so straight that the same viewers could well have perceived it as a rehash of the Israeli government line. ... The BBC has been making much of the way it has integrated the TV channel, both technically and editorially, into its other Arabic outlets: the radio station and newly-revamped website. But it is debatable how much of a selling point this really is. Most viewers probably care little if at all whether the news they are watching is part of a 'multi-media platform' or not." Najm Jarrah, Arab Media & Society, May 2008. Recommended reading. Notice how Mr. Jarrah considers public diplomacy as negatively associated with international broadcasting, whereas many U.S. decision makers and experts see international broadcasting as a component of public diplomacy.
     Meanwhile, for even larger audiences:
"Essentially, MTV Arabia has not only translated a western medium to suit an Arab audience; it has also translated the western definition of what is and isn’t cool and made it pertinent to the region. That is, by all accounts, a laudable feat, especially given the cultural, social and political divides between the west and the Arab world." Dana El Baltaji, Arab Media & Society, May 2008.

Aljazeera English: too much like BBC and CNN?

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The English channel from Al Jazeera was expected to be the main media outlet providing news service in English from an Arab perspective and satisfying non-Arabic speaking customers in different parts of the world who used to watch only pictures on the main Arabic channel during Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Unfortunately, this did not happen quite as expected and in some instances the new outlet is not much different from the BBC World satellite channel and even less than CNN and similar international news stations." Ahmad Mustafa, Gulf News, 11 May 2008. "'From my perspective, the Arab world will have to accept we're a neutral channel. Our job is to sell both sides, not to favor one or the other,' according to Riz Khan, one of the most famous anchors on the Al-Jazeera English television channel. ... 'I used to defend CNN when people accused it of being pro-American. True, we were based in Atlanta, but we were an international channel. Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar, but it has major broadcast center in Kuala Lumpur, Washington and London. National channels may have agendas, but international channels such as CNN and Al-Jazeera have a different perspective.'" Jerusalem Post, 12 May 2008.

"What cyclone?"

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
On 30 April, Tun Lin Moe, a Burmese student at Penn State University listened to RFA via the internet: "An interviewer asked the head of Myanmar's weather service about an approaching cyclone, Moe recalled. The official -- a representative of the military dictatorship that runs the country -- said, according to Moe, 'What cyclone?' ... Moe monitored Radio Free Asia as Cyclone Nargis approached Myanmar. He learned that Myanmar's leaders were warned of the storm's severity by three different international sources. And yet, he said, he heard the leader of Myanmar's weather service say during an interview that residents could prepare by fixing their roofs to keep out the rain." Patriot-News (Harrisburg), 10 May 2008. "No warning was given to the people in the hit areas. In a country where the media is controlled and telecommunications infrastructure is under-developed, the people usually get whatever information there is from independent short-wave radio services like the Voice of America and BBC World Service. 'Most people are too poor to have radios though, so they would have been totally unprepared for the cyclone.'" The Star (Kuala Lumpur), 12 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Senators ask administration "to adequately fund" RFA, VOA Tibetan.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Letter to President Bush from Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joseph Biden (D-DE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and John Kerry (D-MA) "calling for the administration to take specific actions to help resolve the crisis in Tibet" includes this: "Finally, we ask that you take steps to adequately fund Tibetan language broadcasting by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. As you know, RFA and VOA are two of the limited number of uncensored information sources available to many Tibetans." Senator Boxer press release, 9 May 2008. Or, eliminate the duplication between RFA and VOA, and present funding would be adequate.

U.S. embassy websites standardized but still a bit out of date.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The embassy of the United States of America in The Gambia recently launched a new website geared towards standardizing US embassies around the world. The new site, http.banjul.usembassy.gov [sic], is designed to increase customer services and standardize the United States embassy websites around the world." The Point (Banjul), 12 May 2008. The actual URL is banjul.embassy.gov (do not begin with www). Replace "banjul" with any other capital name for other U.S. embassies. The Banjul site does not have a link to America.gov. Other embassy sites do, with some searching required, e.g. this page at nairobi.usembassy.gov. But it's an outdated link that requires a redirect.

Is the best television news in LA in Spanish?

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"On most nights here [in Los Angeles], the most timely, serious and civic-minded local news is not available on the Internet, the radio or any of the half-dozen English-language stations that broadcast nightly shows that purport to be newscasts. At 11 p.m. each night here, the best newscasts in the market appear on two Spanish-language channels, Univision's flagship KMEX and Telemundo affiliate KVEA." Joe Mathews, Washington Post, 11 May 2008.

First impressions of America.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
At Dulles International Airport: "Those who had been selected for security checks endured a level of disdain that is impossible to describe: men and women, some of them in their 80s, and several children, humiliated. The Saudi students who had arrived at 2 p.m. were still there; the last of them left about eight hours later in what was a shameful and saddening scene." Tariq Alhomayed, editor in chief of the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in London, Washington Post, 11 May 2008.

Perplexed that Chinese youth are pro-Chinese.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"In April, Chinese students at the University of Southern California blasted a visiting Tibetan monk with angry questions about Tibet's alleged history of slavery and other controversial topics. When the monk tried to respond, the students chanted, 'Stop lying! Stop lying!' ... In fact, Beijing's leadership, for all its problems, might be less hard-line than China's youth, the country's future" Joshua Kurlantzick, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2008.

Russia Today: reporting or promoting?

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The booth announcer at Russia Today is "George Watts, a Canadian-born announcer who emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1952 with his parents. Before the fall of communism, Mr. Watts worked for Radio Moscow’s Foreign Broadcasting Service... Any doubts that Russia Today easily crosses the line into promoting rather than simply reporting on Russia’s leaders ought to be resolved by an item now featured on Russia Today’s YouTube channel, just below the full video of this morning’s inauguration ceremony. In a look at Mr. Medvedev’s hobbies, the reporter informs us that the new president is 'a veritable Renaissance man,' based solely on his love of Deep Purple, weight-lifting, yoga and his cat." Robert Mackey, New York Times The Lede, 7 May 2008.

Try finding a wi-fi node.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Q When I tune my radio to medium wave or long wave I can get French, German and Spanish radio stations. But when I go to Spain I can't get any English stations. Why? A ...try tuning into short wave. The BBC World Service is broadcast on several short wave frequencies - 12095, 9760, 9410, 7325, 6195, 5975 and 3955 Khz." The Mirror, 12 May 2008. Actually, BBC has dropped all shortwave to Europe. Some BBC shortwave transmissions to Africa might still be audible in Spain.

International podcast/vodcast recommendations from Australia.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Top US news vodcasts include ABC World News, Larry King's insightful interviews and NPR's wide-reaching radio program All Songs Considered (www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast-directory.php). For a world view from Britain, The Guardian Weekly (www.guardian weekly.co.uk/podcast) and BBC World Service (www.bbc.co.uk/radio/podcasts/globalnews) serve up top audio reports." Daniel Fallon, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 May 2008.

International radio listener as protagonist.

Posted: 12 May 2008   Print   Send a link
In Susan Campbell Bartoletti's The Boy Who Dared: A Novel Based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth (Scholastic, 202 pages, $19.99, ages 10+): "Helmuth Guddat Hübener was a 'good' member of the Hitler Youth Movement. But as Hitler's actions and propaganda became increasingly outrageous, Helmuth felt compelled to do something to show that not all Germans agreed with his actions or policies. After listening illegally to BBC broadcasts on shortwave radio, 16-year-old Helmuth began to write and distribute pamphlets that reported the British news and pointed out the lies of the Hitler regime." Toronto Star, 11 May 2008. Medium wave and/or longwave were probably sufficient for hearing BBC in Germany during World War II.

James Glassman will speak

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
at the Heritage Foundation, 15 May, noon. "As freedom and democratic progress are being challenged around the globe, how is U.S. International Broadcasting responding? James K. Glassman, President Bush's nominee as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, gives his first public speech since becoming the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors last June. His remarks will have special emphasis on Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, Syria, Russia, and Tibet." Heritage Foundation announcement. And because Glassman's appointment to the public diplomacy post is being delayed by Senator Tom Coburn (see previous post and viz. the global challenges to "freedom and democratic progress" mentioned above), this could be interesting, despite the unfortunately hyperbolic title of the event: U.S. International Broadcasting on the Frontlines of Freedom.

Death of Richard M. McCarthy, who worked for USIA, VOA.

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Mr. McCarthy, 87, served in several Foreign Service, USIA, and VOA posts dating back to 1947. He was chief of VOA's Vietnamese and Thai services when he retired in 2003. "His scripts on American idioms were published in China and are still used in Voice of America broadcasts in Asia." Washington Post, 10 May 2008. As IBB audience research analyst for East Asia, I worked with Richard. In his final years at VOA (I think he worked beyond 2003, perhaps as a contractor), he was frail, but sharp as the proverbial tack, knew everybody's name. A very nice person.

Evidence that Alhurra is reporting real news?

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The Iraq-based Journalist Freedoms Observatory "reported that elected officials in a southern Iraqi governorate of Diwaniya are discussing banning an Iraqi journalist working for U.S.-funded satcaster al-Hurra. It said the members of the Diwaniya provincial council met Tuesday to discuss options for banning Maytham al-Shaybani from performing his work after he filed a critical report about public services in the province. The officials drafted a letter to the channel, which broadcasts in Arabic throughout Iraq, demanding that the correspondent be replaced." Variety, 9 May 2008.

International broadcasting and the aftermath of Burma's cyclone.

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Only yesterday, though, when we started to hear from friends and acquaintances, and to listen to the BBC World Service, did we realize how widespread the destruction was." MSNBC, 9 May 2008. "At a temple in Mandalay, a group of three Burmese men gathered to listen to the BBC World Service as an alternative source of information to state-run media." Jeerawat Na Thalang, The Nation (Banglok), 10 May 2008. "With many here able to listen to foreign news bulletins on short-wave radio, stories of the junta's refusal to allow foreign aid experts into the country have infuriated the population." AFP, 11 May 2008. "The people in villages and towns of the Irrawaddy delta are looking up at the sky waiting for relief supplies, local sources told The Irrawaddy. It started after shortwave radio broadcasts said the US navy was ready to help supply aid." The Irrawaddy, 9 May 2008." Tobias Grote-Beverborg, managing editor of Asia programs, Deutsche Welle, Bonn, Germany: "The cyclone has upset the dictatorship's plans. The planned referendum … was supposed to be passed in the manner typical of a dictatorship, tacitly and closed off from the rest of the world. But now the eyes of the world are on Burma and foreign aid workers may end up as unwelcome election observers." USA Today Opinionline, 9 May 2008. "CNN correspondent Dan Rivers has returned from Myanmar where he was one of the very few international journalists reporting on the devastation from Cyclone Nargis. He talked with CNN International about evading the military government so he could continue filing reports." mediabistro.com, 9 May 2008. "Witnesses in Burma have been contacting RFA Burmese service staff with heartbreaking accounts of devastation, death, and a major humanitarian crisis." Radio Free Asia, 8 May 2008. See also RFA Unplugged blog. -- "Access to satellite television was limited and getting worse. On Jan.1, without warning, the government had raised the tax on satellite dishes from $6 a year to $780 — three times the average annual income. There were computers available, but access to the Internet was slow and users had to ply proxy servers to subvert the government’s firewall and reach e-mail providers. Even the telephones were finicky and said to be bugged. Those with televisions, computers and telephones were never guaranteed electrical power." Stephen Morison Jr, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 11 May 2008. Burma's domestic shortwave transmissions, interrupted by the storm, have returned to the air. Victor Goonetilleke, DXAsia, via Radio Netherlands Media Network, 9 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

BBC Arabic philosophy reads like philosophy.

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Hosam El Sokkari, Head of BBC Arabic, stresses "the importance of giving the political, social and cultural context behind news stories, saying that 'searching every stone' is important. He believes that by doing this journalists will know how to start, where to start, and how to reach their audience: 'Let the news guide your story and tell you who to reach.'" The Peninsua (Qatar), 10 May 2008. Rocket hits BBC headquarters in Baghdad; no one injured. Monsters & Critics, 9 May 2008.

Lebanon fighting silences regional broadcaster.

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Militants allied with the opposition on Friday forced the shutdown of all media operations belonging to the family of majority leader and billionaire tycoon Saad Hariri." This includes Future Television, "one of the leading Arab satellite stations gathering the highest audience ratings in the Gulf, Egypt and the Levant." Also Radio Orient, based in Paris, which "focuses on news from and about the Arab world, and Lebanon in particular, broadcasting in English and French as well as Arabic." The Daily Star (Beirut), 10 May 2008. Checking 11 May at 1500 UTC, the Future TV website is not opening. At the Radio Orient website, www.radioorient.com, this message: "Radio Orient informe ses auditeurs qu'un risque de perturbations et de coupure de l'écoute des émissions sur internet peut avoir lieu ces quelques jours. Vous pourrez continuer à nous écouter et visiter notre site web sur www.radio-orient.org. Nous vous demandons de nous en excuser." So, add a hyphen to the URL to receive Radio Orient.

Calling all Middle Eastern kids.

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"A flurry of global TV kids networks, including US giant Nickelodeon, are descending on the Middle East to be the first to take advantage of a lucrative young market, where over a third of potential viewers are under 12." Also: Jimjam, Kidsco, Boomerang, Disney, Cartoon Network, MBC3, Al Jazeera Children's Channel. Soon: Nickelodian Arabia. Emirates Business 24-7, 10 May 2008.

Getting to know a country through its local radio.

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"You can tell a lot about countries from their radio stations. Actually, you probably can't - would anyone claim that Britain is represented by its main commercial radio stations? But you can have a cheap laugh at their expense. Heading east through Europe is like a trip back in time. Get past Strasbourg and you find yourself in a land where 1980s synth-pop is king." Nick White, The Observer, 11 May 2008. Yes. If you drive though the United States, scan through the AM dial for the stations still orginating their own programming. Some of these stations can now be received remotely via internet radio. Example: WGTO, 910 kHz AM, Cassopolis, Michigan

Will the redesigned DRM website help bring us DRM receivers?

Posted: 11 May 2008   Print   Send a link
The Digital Radio Mondiale consortium, seeking to replace analog on shortwave, medium wave, and longwave, has redesigned its website. "While it remains, as ever, the most comprehensive and accurate source of information about the DRM standard and global digital radio, the site now has a more user-friendly feel with exciting improvements in design, content and navigation." www.drm.org Does anyone else notice that the home page loads slowly? -- "It's especially pleasing to see Analog Devices, a U.S. company, as one of the new DRM members listed. The company is developing DRM receivers for various world markets." www.26mhz.us

Smith-Mundt: obviated by the internet?

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Why is it that the U.S. government still operates its overseas information activities as if the Internet had never been invented? Or actually, it operates them with increasing impunity as if Smith-Mundt, the law that came into being in 1948 and was strengthened during the Vietnam War that separates information aimed at foreigners from information designed for American consumption, had been repealed years ago. Except it wasn’t. This artificial and meaningless firewall – supposedly to keep the executive branch of the U.S. government from 'propagandizing' the American people – should have been repealed once the Internet took hold." Patricia H. Kushlis, WhirledView blog, 7 May 2008. Decades before the internet, shortwave routinely sidestepped Smith-Mundt. Shortwave listeners in the United States could tune in VOA from transmitters in the United States and overseas. In the 1960s, one of my main sources of world news (sparsely reported by U.S. domestic news sources) was VOA's "World Report" at 2100 GMT.

RFE/RL closes its "Newsline."

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"RFE/RL announces with regret that due to financial constraints, this will be the last issue of 'RFE/RL Newsline.' In late June, RFE/RL will launch a redesigned English-language website (http://www.rferl.org) that will continue to cover developments in our broadcast region." RFE/RL Newsline, 9 May 2008. "Yesterday, the president of RFE/RL informed the analysts there that because of budgetary shortfalls, he had no choice but to fire them and thus end what has been the journal of record for developments in a part of the world that remains vitally important however much some may believe we can safely ignore it." Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia, 8 May 2008. "I've linked several times to the outstanding work done by RFE/RL analyst Daniel Kimmage on al-Qaeda's internet operations, including his definitive study of Iraqi insurgent media (with Kathleen Ridolfo) and his more recent report on al-Qaeda's internet media production network. There are very few people inside or outside the government who have worked harder or thought more deeply about how jihadists use online media, drawing on the original Arabic sources rather than from second and third-hand conjecture. ... So imagine my surprise to learn yesterday that ... Kimmage [has] been given notice.' Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark, 9 May 2008. The latest edition of the very good RFE/RL Media Matters newsletter, 7 May 2008, does not have a similar closure announcement, so apparently it will continue.

RFE obit.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Andrzej Pomian, 97, a correspondent with Radio Free Europe who served in the Polish underground during World War II... In 1955, he emigrated to the United States, and the following year became the Washington correspondent for the Polish section of Radio Free Europe. In 1974, he went to Munich [then RFE/RL headquarters] on a three-year assignment." Washington Post, 8 May 2008.

Detained Chinese writer has a VOA past.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Zhou Yuanzhi, a writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, has been detained in connection with his writings and could face trial for inciting subversion, a development PEN called 'another troublesome indication that a crackdown on freedom of expression is underway in China ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.' ... In 1992, after an article he contributed to Voice of America was censored by the National Security police, he was dismissed from his post as deputy chief of the Downtown Branch of Taxation Bureau of Zhongxiang City and expelled from the Communist Party of China." PEN American Center, 6 May 2008.
     "In a new interview with Radio Free Asia, Ching Cheong (程翔), chief China correspondent of the Singapore-based Straits Times, who was imprisoned for over 1,000 days on espionage charges and released earlier this year, gave his thoughts on the recent talks between Beijing and Dalai Lama envoys, Taiwan's relations with the mainland and nationalistic fervour among Hong Kongers." shanghaiist, 9 May 2008.

VOA, RFA "simply provide a source of news and ideas" to Tibet.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"This is not to say that those inside Tibet are unaware of exile or foreign views and activities. One initiative taken by the U.S. that has had a major impact in Tibet and amongst the Tibetans was the decision to establish Tibetan language broadcasting services within Voice of America in 1991 and within Radio Free Asia in 1996. Here again, it is not a question of clandestine activities or of the secret coordination of unrest; these services simply provide a source of news and ideas in a society where people are starved of alternative sources." Phayul.com, 8 May 2008.

Compiling America's expertise in communicating with Islam.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
New book, Communicating with the World of Islam, includes a chapter by former secretary of state George P. Schultz that "summarizes the lessons learned from the broadcasting experiences of Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, the BBC, and the Voice of America during the cold war. The second section outlines current broadcasting efforts into the world of Islam and, in particular, countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Egypt, and the Muslim communities of Europe." The editor of the book is A. Ross Johnson, former director of Radio Free Europe. One of the chapters is written by R. Eugene Parta, former director of audience research at RFE/RL. Hoover Institution press release, 8 May 2008.

Internet terrorist propaganda across national borders.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: "'Our committee investigation found that terrorists are skillfully using the Internet to spread their propaganda across national borders and cultural barriers, permitting anyone with the inclination and in Internet connection to immerse themselves in the hate-filled messages of radical Islam, to receive training, and weapons and tactics and to build in cyberspace the kind of group support that once required travel to overseas training camps,' ... Lieberman said the report's findings mean that America is vulnerable not just to attacks plotted by terrorists living oceans away, but also to terrorism conceived within U.S. borders from disaffected Americans who may have no operational ties to international organized terrorist groups." VOA News, 8 May 2008. See also the Committee report (pdf format), "Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorist Threat."

Shortwave to Zimbabwe "jammed out of existence"?

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
A Zimbabwean writes: "We no longer have SW [short wave] radio (which told us everything that was happening) because the government jammed it out of existence ..if we had reporters here, they would have an absolute field day." Famagusta Gazette (Nocosia), 10 May 2008. If foreign stations transmit on several frequencies from several sites, the jamming can usually be overcome on at least one frequency. The opposition stations, which tend to transmit on only one frequency, are easy pickings for jammers. BBC and VOA are becoming easier to jam as they cut back on shortwave frequencies and transmitting sites.

DW deal with Pakistan university.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Islamabad-based International Islamic University has signed an agreement yesterday with a German radio for assistance to the university's radio service. A representative of Radio Deutsche Welle and a senior university official signed the accord under which the German radio would provide educational and informative programmes for re-broadcasting." Gulf News, 7 May 2008.

Morocco bans Aljazeera news reporting.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Moroccan authorities have banned Al Jazeera television from broadcasting a news programme focusing on north Africa from its studios in Morocco, the Qatar-based Arabic network said on Tuesday." Reuters, 6 May 2008. "Moroccan authorities should immediately reverse this week’s decision to prevent Al-Jazeera from broadcasting its evening roundup of regional news and views from Rabat, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On Tuesday, the Moroccan National Agency for Telecom Technical Regulation notified Al-Jazeera that the frequency it had used for the Rabat-based program was being withdrawn because of 'technical and legal problems.' Al-Jazeera quoted the letter as saying that 'all terrestrial and satellite broadcasting authorizations have been cancelled' until further notice." CPJ, 7 May 2008.

BBC Arabic TV looking to revive the glory days of BBC Arabic radio.

Posted: 10 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC Arabic TV channel will make use of the BBC Arabic Radio experience that has been offering Arabic Programs service for more than half a century and became an important news source for Arabs. The number of BBC Arabic Radio Yemeni listeners increased since the station was launched and came to be known in Yemen as 'London Radio.' In the 1960s and 70s, the BBC Arabic Radio was the most important news source and still is in areas of Yemen where modern media means such as satellite channels don’t exist." Yemen Times, 7 May 2008.

Senator Coburn versus VOA: the story that will not go away.

Posted: 09 May 2008   Print   Send a link
A five page letter from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to national security advisor Stephen Hadley is posted at the MountainRunner blog, 2 May 2008. It details his complaints, reported in this previous post, about VOA broadcasts to Iran and about the Broadcasting Board of Governors. -- "Let me get this straight: We sponsor VOA because Iran doesn't have a free media that can criticize its own government; Congress is mad because VOA is criticizing the U.S. government, and VOA is mad that its employees are criticizing management." Sharon Weinberger, Wired Danger Room blog, 5 May 2008.
     Senator Coburn writes that members of the BBG lack accountability because they "report to no one, not even to each other." He recommends three people "qualified in strategic communication" for appointment to the Board. They are Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy; Scott Carpenter of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Enders Wimbush, senior vice president of the Hudson Institute.
     The International Broadcasting Act of 1994 created the bipartisan BBG, giving its members fixed and staggered terms, precisely to prevent to the type of interference in the content of U.S. international broadcasting now being attempted by Senator Coburn.
     Senator Coburn calls for U.S. international broadcasting to be used for "democracy promotion" in Iran. Democracy involves the people making choices about their nations. Those choices are informed by a free press. Yet Senator Coburn mocks the concept of international broadcasting citing multiple points of view to "let the Iranians decide for themselves."
     Instead, Senator Coburn writes: "The U.S. taxpayers should not subsidize content presenting a balance between the truth and the regime's malicious propaganda. U.S. broadcasts should be the balance to the propaganda being broadcast by the regime and others." In other words, U.S. international broadcasting should be all pro-U.S., all anti-Tehran regime, sort of like Radio Moscow in reverse.
     But audience research shows that people tune to foreign broadcasts to get the objective, comprehensive, balanced news that they do not get from their state-controlled domestic media. Propaganda cannot be fought with propaganda.
     Actually, U.S. international broadcasting could thrive under the Senator Coburn's vision. It would transmit the messages that would make the administration and many members of Congress beam with approval. They would respond by maintaining the funds for international broadcasting. The only problem is that almost no one would listen to, or view, such a broadcasting effort.
     And so Senator Coburn's sustained tirade against U.S. international broadcasting has entertainment value. Here is the champion of fiscal responsibility advocating an international broadcasting strategy that would be an absolute, utter, complete waste of the taxpayers' money.

First Lady mentions RFA, VOA weather warnings to Burma.

Posted: 08 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Laura Bush on Cyclone Nargis: "It's troubling that many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets -- such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America -- sounded the alarm. Although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path." White House transcript, 5 May 2008.
     "A full 48 hours before the storm crashed ashore, Burmese officials were provided with computer-generated plots of the storm's likely route that accurately predicted its landfall, trajectory and strength. Yet nothing was done to warn or to evacuate people from the path of a cyclone packing winds of 200 kilo-metres an hour with a three-metre-high storm surge. Even as traumatized Burmese began counting thousands of dead Sunday morning, the state-controlled television aired its regular lineup of soap operas. ... Burmese radio and television carried vague warnings, with little information about the approaching storm, and offered no instructions on how people should cope when it struck." National Post, 8 May 2008.
     Burma's government-owned broadcasting monopoly has no incentive to be competitive. Private broadcasters in the United States must be competitive, and they know that good weather reporting contributes to their appeal. This is because people are interested in weather, especially impending severe weather.
     It would be interesting to know to what extent the major Burmese-language international radio services provided the warnings about Cyclone Nargis missing from Burma's domestic broadcasting. (In Burma, 27% of adults listen to BBC weekly, 22% to VOA, 12% to RFA.)

     "Satellite images of the Bay of Bengal show a cyclone on track for Burma." VOA News, 1 May 2008. This story was probably used by VOA Burmese, which devours any VOA Central Newsroom stories about Burma.
     See also "Will international broadcasting sound the warning -- next time?," Radio Netherlands Media Network, 6 January 2005.

RFE/RL cyberattack postmortems.

Posted: 08 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"RFE has taken steps to protect against similar attacks in the future, but [RFE/RL spokesman Martins] Zvaners would not get specific. 'Our network [administrators] are looking at ways to better protect our sites from future attacks,' he said." Computerworld, 6 May 2008. "One of America's biggest broadcasting networks was knocked out for two days last month by a cyber-attack from a hostile nation. But the biggest U.S. newspapers and TV news channels never reported it. This silence of the lambs of the American media in neglecting to cover the cyber-attack on eight of Radio Free Europe Europe/Radio Liberty's broadcasting web-sites is an even bigger story than the attack itself." Martin Sieff, Human Events, 6 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

No more 15-minute delay for BBC in Pakistan (updated).

Posted: 08 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The BBC World Service will today announce it has been cleared to resume news broadcasts in Pakistan on an unrestricted basis, ending a long-running dispute that saw it accused of compromising its editorial independence. The BBC Trust is considering complaints from staff and union officials after it emerged the World Service agreed to the former Pakistani government vetting its news broadcasts. Under an agreement with a local FM service, BBC World Service executives agreed to allow the state regulator to listen to its BBC Urdu news bulletins 15 minutes before they were broadcast, prompting fears of censorship. ... A World Service spokesman said the BBC had 'always maintained its commitment to its editorial guidelines and impartiality. Pakistan is no different.' He stressed the bulletins could not have been altered. 'The bulletins are broadcast from the London control room straight to audiences in Pakistan,' he said." The Guardian, 5 May 2008. If there were a 15-minute delay, unwanted news stories could easily have been snipped by a digital audio editor. No BBC press release on this yet.
     Update: "BBC Urdu is relaunching its live five-minute news bulletins on local Pakistan FM partner stations on Tuesday 6 May 2008. ... Following the imposition of the state of emergency on 3 November last year ... the bulletins were taken off air." BBC World Service press release, 5 May 2008. No mention of any implementation of a delay, but according to this BBC news story: "The broadcasts were banned by Pakistan's television and radio regulator, Pemra, in 2005. The BBC World Service then agreed that the five-minute bulletins would be pre-recorded and uploaded to a website Pemra had access to before broadcast. BBC staff and unions say that might have led to censorship. The management say there was no interference." BBC News, 6 May 2008. So was this delay procedure actually implemented? This is a story to which we have not yet gotten to the bottom.

"Tri-media" BBC World News on mobiles in India.

Posted: 08 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC World News has inked content deal with six mobile service providers in India. The list includes BPL, MTNL, Airtel, Vodafone, Spice Telecom and Idea Cellular. ... 'It is part of BBC World News’ positioning as a tri-media news service, delivering international news and information across multiple platforms - TV, online and mobile.' ... The news content for mobile will not be updated as frequently as the TV channel." Indiantelevision.com, 6 May 2008. The fourth medium, radio, is a separate entity: BBC World Service.

How RFE, VOA, and BBC "defended the honor" of Polish Radio.

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Interview with Krzysztof Czabanski, Board Chairman of Polish Radio: "80 years ago it was obvious in Poland that work for the good of the state, i.e. the common good, was something very noble. Polish Radio was not founded to bring money but to open souls and minds. However, that tradition of service and mission was disturbed and today one cannot speak about a single tradition of Poland’s public service broadcasting and one cannot compare the pre-war radio with the post-war one. I always stress that the Polish Radio sections abroad in Free Europe Radio, in the service of the Voice of America and in the BBC defended the honour of Polish Radio. And the post-war Polish Radio was first of all a propaganda tube of one party." Sunday Catholic Weekly, 8 May 2008. Apparently meaning that the RFE, VOA, and BBC Polish services maintained the "common good" purpose fulfilled by Polish Radio itself before the German occupation and after the fall of communism.

iPhone as shortwave replacement?

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"I am a huge fan of Internet radio. Well, let me put it this way ... I used to have this hobby when I was younger -- trying to tune in distant AM stations on a regular old AM radio. I used to also have a shortwave radio. Now, as always, I just love hearing local radio from outside of where I live. ... And now, iTunes has even better radio streaming than ever. ... And that got me wondering ... with a 3G iPhone and a faster Internet connection, is iTunes radio streaming something we might end up seeing or having access to on the next iPhone?" Scott Kleinberg, RedEye (Chicago), 4 May 2008. His menu shows Deutsche Welle radio, maybe more.

New UK, US services offer limited international content, for now.

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Freesat, the BBC and ITV free digital satellite joint venture, is finally launching today with the service promising to feature up to 200 channels by the end of the year." Media Guardian, 6 May 2008. The www.freesat.co.uk website shows that international channels are, for now, limited to Aljazeera (apparently the English version) and EuroNews. Also, BBC World Service radio. -- In the USA, the new AT&T Mobile TV service has no international content, except for some CNN International video. See AT&T Mobile press release, 4 May 2008 and the AT&T Mobile TV website.

Arab Satellite Charter discussed at Arab Broadcasting Forum.

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Salah Negm, the BBC's Arabic service news editor, said he feared the charter's potential censorship measures and that its recommended punitive measures of confiscating TV stations' equipment and closing down facilities were a bad omen. 'All news organizations have their editorial principles,' he said. Negm added that if the Egyptian-controlled birds that carry countless Arab stations decided to disconnect channels deemed offensive, the stations could probably turn to European satellites whose footprints cover the Arab world." Magda Abu-Fadil, Huffington Post, 5 May 2008. "How could entities such as the Brookings Institute and its Saban Centre - known for holding and promoting policies that hardly deviate from that of the US administration, if not its most rigid qualities - become themselves mediators for [Arab media] freedoms, which if genuinely granted would prove most harmful to the US administration and its interests in the Arab world?" Ramzy Baroud, OhmyNews, 7 May 2008. See previous post about the Charter. -- At the Forum, Agnès Levallois, head of Arabic programming at France 24, discussed "the France 24 charter that our Arabic channel employees sign and that guarantees these values of honesty, independence, analysis, respect, listening, team spirit, humility and a modern outlook as well as demanding approach." AMEInfo, 7 May 2008. Team spirit?

I'd love to see the skeptical scowls of the dyspeptic old bureaucrats at these government briefings.

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"With support from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is partnering with Dancing Ink Productions LLC to launch a project called 'Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds.' The project will culminate in a series of activities in virtual worlds tailored to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also produce a range of audio, video, and transcript products, along with a policy recommendation paper which will include a list of specific recommendations for the U.S. government on how to use virtual worlds to promote international understanding. The paper will be distributed through government briefings." Carnegie Council announcement, 6 May 2008. You know, I was hoping to make it through life without having to learn what a "virtual world" is, but, per this item, journalistic obligations require me to look it up. Wikipedia says: "A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars." Avatars? On second thought, screw journalistic obligations. I'd rather not know what a virtual world is.

Aljazeera English reports from, but is not seen in, Baltimore.

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"People living in such far-flung places as Malaysia, North Africa, Qatar, and Latin America got a taste of what Baltimore was about--from the crime and grime to the hope and prayer of a powerful Bethel AME service. The interview and footage was part of a two-part, 23-minute story on Baltimore ... aired by Al Jazeera English, the Doha, Qatar-based 24-hour global news network that's trying to change the way the English-speaking world consumes its news. ... Unfortunately, it's not likely that most Baltimoreans--most Americans, for that matter--will ever see the Al Jazeera English story about Baltimore. It's possible that most won't ever watch the network at all. Because, even though it has a large and active bureau in Washington, and it's available in most other English-speaking nations in the world outside of North America, no major cable or satellite carriers in the United States includes Al Jazeera English's programming." Baltimore City Paper, 7 May 2008.

Aljazeera cameraman released from Guantánamo (updated).

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"An Al Jazeera cameraman held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay for six years without charge has been released." Reuters, 2 May 2008. Sami al-Hajj profile, Aljazeera.net, 1 May 2008. "The Al Jazeera cameraman released from Guantanamo Bay after six years detention will work for the broadcaster again." Press Gazette, 2 May 2008. Update: "Why now? Perhaps his guards feared he would die, giving his case the kind of publicity in the west that it has been given only by his employer, the Arabic satellite television station, al-Jazeera." Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, 5 May 2008.

Jalipo, platform for international channels, sold.

Posted: 07 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Over the Top TV provider Jalipo has been sold to the ROK Entertainment Group for 600,000 ordinary shares – a valuation of $16.8 million (€10.82) based on ROK’s current share price. ... London-based Jalipo launched its online marketplace a year ago with a mix of live and on demand content. ... Channel partners include BBC Worldwide, Euronews, Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg, France 24 (in French, English and Arabic), Rotana Europe, Deutsche Welle, Luxe, Mezzo and TeleSur." Broadband TV News, 6 May 2008.

Internet: threat to other media?

Posted: 05 May 2008   Print   Send a link
At the Arab Broadcasting Forum in Abu Dhabi: "'I have never supported the argument that the internet is a threat to any media,' said Hosam Al Sokkari, head of the BBC Arabic. 'The public will continue to read and watch. Broadcasters will continue to broadcast. The challenge is how the media can use the internet as a platform for the dissemination of news.'" Gulf News, 5 May 2008. The internet is already a formidable platform of news. We already have some evidence of young people spending time on the web rather than watching television. On the other hand, web surfing and listening to radio can be done simultaneously and may be very compatible. -- Also at the Forum: Jean-Francois Dumas, president of Influence: "We know that 81 per cent of all Africa-related news comes from the Arab media." Gulf News, 5 May 2008.

Zimbabwe: where people still crowd around shortwave radios.

Posted: 05 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"In the five weeks while [the Zimbabwe Election Commission] were 'verifying' those two and a half million Presidential votes, the country has come to a virtual standstill: lives and businesses have been on hold and we have waited and waited and waited. ... We have scrambled for precious newspapers and crowded around short wave radios for any information." Cathy Buckle, Moneyweb, 4 May 2008.

Breakaway republic claims jamming by the republic from which it broke.

Posted: 05 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Throughout the length of the Dniester river, Moldova has placed a series of jamming devices which interfere with the radio- and TV signals that broadcasters in Pridnestrovie distribute to their customers. The new jamming equipment was installed and turned on in the last week of April. ... It is believed that the new Moldovan jamming serves a double purpose: On one hand, it prevents Moldova's citizens from finding out what is going on in Pridnestrovie straight from the source, and from hearing Pridnestrovie's viewpoint in the long running conflict between the two sides. On the other hand, and as an extra bonus, it also interferes with the broadcasting capability in Pridnestrovie domestically, and prevents a number of PMR households from picking up Pridnestrovie-based free-to-air TV and radio channels easily." Tiraspol Times, 5 May 2008.

The Americans are "so good" at radio drama -- if you can find any.

Posted: 04 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Re Othello on BBC Radio 3: "Why is British radio so lazy about this and American radio so good, not just with drama, but with opera, too? Anyone unconvinced that it can help the listener should tune in to the Los Angeles production of David Mamet’s play The Shawl, about a strange seance, this coming Saturday on the BBC World Service. Susan Lowenberg’s five- minute introduction to the author, his work, his distinctive dialogue and the cast is a model of its type. Radio 3 should hire her at once." Paul Donovan, The Sunday Times, 4 May 2008.

You can still build a shortwave radio kit,

Posted: 04 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"One of my first boyhood projects was building a radio. I did it from scratch, but there are easier ways today. A Tennessee company called Ten-Tec offers a $39 kit that lets you make a shortwave radio. You get everything you need, along with instructions. This project is suitable for kids, but soldering is required so supervision is a good idea. Check it out at the top of this page: http://radio.tentec.com/kits . That radio won't be fancy. But the same Web page offers increasingly difficult radio kits." Bill Huisted, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4 May 2008.

One-person shortwave relays (updated).

Posted: 04 May 2008   Print   Send a link
While serving in Borneo with the air force during World War II, from 1944 to 1945, Australian Frank Rourke "would quickly dictate information received through Radio Australia, then use the local broadcasting system. 'I liked to give to the boys a bit of news from back home.'" Sun Coast Daily (Maroochydore), 25 April 2008. "In the 1990s New York Transfer [News Collective] began to break the longtime U.S. embargo on Cuba. [Kathleen] Kelly began transcribing and translating into English the shortwave broadcasts of news from Cuba and distributing them through New York Transfer. This caused a stir at the time... " Workers World, 24 April 2008. That was just before the advent of cut and paste, and the availability of several English-language websites in Cuba. Update: In the 1970s, PBS senior correspondent Elizabeth Farnsworth "worked for a radio news service in Berkeley, gathering short-wave reports from all over the world. She is grateful for the experience. "I was sitting in that room editing the work of reporters at different battlefronts." San Francisco Chronicle, 3 May 2008.

An example of the hypodermic theory of communication.

Posted: 03 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The hardest job facing Africom is image-making. In the words of a senior American official, 'It's open season on U.S. foreign policy. We have to convince people that this is not some diabolical George Bush plot.' At a remote camp, General Ward watches U.S. soldiers vaccinating cattle -- a month-long project to help farmers displaced by a vicious civil war rebuild their lives. 'When our uniformed folks are working with the uniformed folks of these nations, the people can also see that their militaries are here trying to help them, as opposed to not,' General Ward says. 'And those are all very good messages.' 'That's soft power at work.'" CBS News, 1 May 2008.

iGoogle: new medium of international broadcasting? (updated)

Posted: 03 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"CNN International has launched a video player which can be added to customisable Google homepages. The CNN Google Gadget is the first video-centric gadget to be offered by an international news organisation. ... Casey Harwood, senior vice president in Europe for CNN owner Turner Broadcasting said it would increase the reach of the broadcaster's news content. ... The Gadget links to CNN's YouTube site which carries more video news." Digital Spy, 2 May 2008.
     Update: I couldn't find it at the CNN International website, even on their Tools & Widgets page. I also didn't find it when searching among the iGoogle gadgets, but Andy Sennitt did find it here.
     It's selected videos from CNN International, but not a live stream. A live stream online would be great, because most Americans don't get CNN International on their cable systems, and most Americans need more exposure to world news. If a video stream is too expensive, an audio stream would be almost as good,
     Meanwhile, Stephen found this Google CNN TV Gadget. It works with Google Desktop 5 or above, rather than iGoogle.
     I think I'll skip the various Google desktop gewgaws, and just bookmark www.cnn.com/world.

IFJ questions India's policy re foreign television channels.

Posted: 03 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is pleased to note that a dispute arising from a putative ban on Pakistani television channels broadcasting into Jammu and Kashmir in India has been resolved for now. “We nevertheless urge India’s Government to explain the circumstances under which it decreed what seemed a ban to much of the world,' said IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park. The restrictions snowballed into a political controversy as cable television operators retaliated by blocking all Indian and international channels in the Kashmir valley on April 25. ... India’s Government has said that all channels that broadcast into Indian territory need to be registered in accordance with cable TV regulatory law. The Pakistani channels in question have reportedly disregarded requests to register accordingly. ... The IFJ is also informed that the registration of broadcast channels in India is a far from transparent process. The Al Jazeera English service, for instance, has been waiting since January 2007 for registration under India’s cable TV law." International Federation of Journalists, 2 May 2008.

Seeking asylum in Canada was probably not foreseen in "Washington's public diplomacy strategy."

Posted: 03 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Three weeks ago, the Afghan exchange students on a U.S. State Department program started to go missing. Since the second week of April, six have fled to Canada to make asylum bids just weeks before they were to have been returned to their Afghan villages. ... The Youth Exchange and Study Program is a tool of Washington's public diplomacy strategy after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks." Toronto Star, 3 May 2008.

Counter extremist propaganda with what?

Posted: 03 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The State Department ['Country Reports on Terrorism'] report offers little in terms of strategic thinking or assessment of progress in the ideological war against ... terrorist groups. For example, one of its few metrics for measuring the progress of U.S. public diplomacy in the Muslim world is the number of websites that link to the State Department’s 'Identifying Misinformation' website. The United States has had only marginal success countering these ideological messages thus far, and the report acknowledges the United States and international community’s failure to counter Al Qaeda’s messaging machine. It asserts, 'The international community has yet to muster a coordinated and effectively resourced program to counter extremist propaganda.'" Caroline Wadhams and Colin Cookman, Center for American Progress, 2 April 2008. Well, BBC World Service counters extremist propaganda by being the global fact-checker of record when information from dubious sources is encountered. U.S. international broadcasting could serve in a similar role if its resources could be combined, and its independence assured.

He thinks Armenia needs a public diplomacy strategy.

Posted: 03 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Public diplomacy is an active effort by many countries. It offers relevant information, historic documentation, and news reportage to international decision makers. It enlists scholars, legal and foreign affairs experts in advocacy efforts. It targets legislatures, government agencies, universities, mainstream and specialized media. And in the Armenia effort, it can urge citizens of Armenian heritage to actively promote host government support and assistance to Armenia and the Karabakh independence cause." Jirair Haratunian, ArmeniaNow.com, 2 May 2008. This would be public diplomacy's idea of "news reportage," i.e. "relevant" to the needs of the sender rather than the audience.

WLIW provides details about its BBC world news replacement (but not its final title).

Posted: 02 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"New York public television station WLIW New York will launch a new international news program this fall, YOUR WORLD TONIGHT (working title), pairing expert commentary from leading analysts with news reports from around the globe. ... The half-hour newscast is expected to launch this October on WLIW and Thirteen/WNET, and will be offered to all public television stations nationwide. ... 'After collegial discussions with the BBC about our differing views on content and distribution, we mutually decided to end distribution of the BBC World News when our contract expires in October.' ... YOUR WORLD TONIGHT (w.t.) will feature news reports and contributions from around the globe, and will be anchored by an American journalist who will help place world developments in context for an American audience. ... Working with these news services, YOUR WORLD TONIGHT (w.t.) will deliver reports that approach international news in its 21st-century paradigm, going past the borders of the First World to consider the trends and impulses behind rising powers like Brazil and India as well as the accelerating merger of economic, political and non-governmental power in nations and regions across the globe." WLIW press release, 30 April 2008. "The BBC has been accused of a retreat from public service broadcasting in the US, after losing a distribution deal for its nightly half-hour news bulletin with the public service network PBS in New York. ... Discussions between WNET and the BBC broke down partly because the US channel wanted to combine BBC content with US content to produce a tailored programme for US viewers. ... Another sticking point was the BBC's desire ... to prevent the half-hour bulletin from airing at the same time as BBC World News America, the new hour-long news programme shown on BBC America at 7pm east coast time each day." The Guardian, 2 May 2008. "There's no doubt the Beeb wants to make money in the US - and anywhere else it can. The question is whether it can do that without undermining its public service tradition outside Britain." Caitlin Fitzsimmons, The Guardian organgrinder, 2 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Critics critique the BBC Somail Service.

Posted: 02 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Incompetence continues to undermine the BBC Somali Service despite assurances from Jerry Timmins, BBC World Service head of Africa and Middle East region, who promised that standards at the BBC Somali Service would be improved. ... Prominent Somali broadcasters have left the BBC Somali Service citing partiality and gate-keeping on the part of the Somali Service editor." Ahmed Ali Jegan, Somali Press Review, 2 May 2008.

Iran: radio conference and DW co-production.

Posted: 02 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The inaugural International Conference on Radio will be held in Tehran for five days as of May 18, the secretary of the International Radio Festival said on Wednesday. Referring to the exchange of programs between the Islamic Republic and the other foreign countries, Sanaz Hajizadeh observed that Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is developing cooperation with radio stations from Russia, Armenia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. 'IRIB Radio and Deutsche Welle are going to produce a joint program in near future,' she said." Islamic Republic News Agency via Radio Netherlands Media Network, 1 May 2008.

Not as easy a selling Toyotas.

Posted: 02 May 2008   Print   Send a link
Poster ads for NHK World television are now seen in Metro stations and on buses throughout the Washington area (and probably in other U.S. cities). Each shows a sumo wrestler squatting, with the caption: "Anything big going on? All, day, every day, direct from Japan." And the channels on which NHK World is seen on area digital cable systems, as well as on MHz Networks (WNVT digital terrestrial, channel 56).

Global expansion of the Pentagon's news-like websites.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Pentagon is setting up a global network of foreign-language news websites, including an Arabic site for Iraqis, and hiring local journalists to write current events stories and other content that promote U.S. interests and counter insurgent messages. The news sites are part of a Pentagon initiative to expand 'Information Operations' on the Internet. Neither the initiative nor the Iraqi site, www.Mawtani.com, has been disclosed publicly. At first glance, Mawtani.com looks like a conventional news website. Only the 'about' link at the bottom of the site takes readers to a page that discloses the Pentagon sponsorship. ... Pentagon officials say the sites are a legitimate and necessary way to promote U.S. policy goals and counter the messages of political and religious extremists. ... The Mawtani site is named for the Iraqi national anthem and means 'my homeland.' It is available in Arabic, Farsi and Urdu — but not in English — and is supervised by the Pentagon's Iraq command. The U.S. Southern Command is building a similar site for Latin American audiences. The Pacific Command, which covers Asia, is interested in setting up a news site." USA Today, 1 May 2008. It's a great huge war of words -- among the U.S. bureaucracies: Mawtani.com will compete with RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, which competes with Radio Sawa, which competes with Alhurra, which competes with the Arabic page of America.gov. The Iraqis will be bemused, if not persuaded. Mowtani.com is a site that both pretends to be news and pretends to be Iraqi. Iraqi web users, who also have access to bbcarabic.com and arabic.cnn.com, won't be taken in by this. As I have written before, put the news here and the public diplomacy there, and make sure each is clearly labeled and straighforward about what it is. See previous post about same subject.

BBG chairman takes the blinkers off Applebaum op-ed.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Anne Applebaum's fine April 22 op-ed, 'Radio to Stay Tuned To,' recognized the work of the diligent and courageous journalists at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). As chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), let me provide additional context. RFE/RL is one of five international broadcasting networks funded by U.S. taxpayers and supervised by the BBG, a bipartisan board..." James Glassman, letter to Washington Post, 1 May 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Forty-seven years of Radio Havana.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"In 1961, Cuba inaugurated the international short-wave radio station Radio Havana Cuba, in an effort to counter the information blockade against the Revolution. The radio station has broadcast in seven languages all these years in an effort to take the Cuban message and solidarity with different peoples of the world." ahora.cu, 30 April 2008.

New chairman for TV5 Monde.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Alain de Pouzilhac has been named chairman of French-speaking channel TV5Monde, the worldwide network's board of directors said after a meeting late Tuesday. Current CEO Francois Bonnemain stepped down from his duties, leaving France 24's de Pouzilhac to head a new organization banding together TV5Monde, RFI (Radio France International) and France 24 as part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's 'exterier audiovisual' strategy." Hollywood Reporter, 30 April 2008.

Three-way discrimination case against Aljazeera.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"A potential £1m discrimination case brought by a former al-Jazeera English executive has been adjourned until September after a day of legal wrangling. Jo Burgin, the head of planning at the channel until April last year, is suing for sex, race and religious discrimination. ... The tribunal chair apologised to the al-Jazeera executives present at the hearing, including al-Jazeera English's managing director, Nigel Parsons, and al-Jazeera English bureau chief, Sue Phillips, who was today promoted to the post of director of foreign bureaux and development." The Guardian, 1 May 2008. See previous post.

Quite an assignment.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Al-Jazeera has moved to bolster its global strategy with the promotion of its top London journalist Sue Phillips to the position of director of foreign bureaux and development. Phillips, who has been London bureau chief since the launch of Al Jazeera English 18 months ago, will move to Doha, Qatar, to take up the new role at the troubled digital news channel from the beginning of June. Her brief is to integrate the al-Jazeera Arabic and al-Jazeera English bureaux across the world." The Guardian, 30 April 2008.

BBC World Service has a UK public diplomacy monkey on its back.

Posted: 01 May 2008   Print   Send a link
"Ian Hargreaves has been appointed as the new Strategic Communications Director for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. ... As the FCO's Strategic Communications Director, Ian will have responsibility for communications and public advocacy issues, organising the FCO's public diplomacy network both at home and overseas. He will also coordinate the FCO's wider public advocacy tools, working closely with the British Council and the BBC World Service." FCO press release, 30 April 2008.
     BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman said just a few days ago, at the Arab Media Forum, that World Service is different from Alhurra and France 24 because "BBC has maintained an independent and fearless news coverage over decades."
     And, so, statements about senior FCO officials "working closely" with World Service must make World Service officials turn pale. This behooves World Service to issue a statement clarifying its relationship with the FCO, similar to its response to the Carter Review on 15 December 2005.
     BBCWS might also ask FCO to modify its phraseology. Better to say: "Ian will consult with BBC World Service, funded by the FCO, on its selection of language services, while content remains the exclusive responsibility of the BBC."