BBC: "Hindi audiences are crucial."

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
In India: "BBC offers differentiation in content in both the SW and FM space. 'By doing the FM specific programmes, we are focusing on youth who are not used to listening to AM and for them FM is synonyms for radio. AM radio is traditional radio so the style is different and does a lot of speech radio. FM is mainly music, so we have to do what the market demands. For FM, we package small programmes where the style of programming and content differs from AM.' BBC is planning to explore options in all existing platforms of communication available, including FM, broadband, DTH channel distribution system, mobile phone and satellite radio. 'We have been thinking of launching mobile services, the plan has been to launch news services in audio format where people can dial and listen to BBC programmes.' ... 'BBC sees India as an important market. Hindi audiences are crucial because there are loyal listeners for our Hindi programmes.'" Radio and Music, 29 september 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Evidence of effectiveness: when security people scuffle with your crew.

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The security team accompanying Sudan 2nd Vice President Ali Osman Taha in New York scuffled with television crew from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Arabic TV last week, a UN diplomat told Sudan Tribune today. The incident happened following an interview by BBC presenter Luqman Ahmed with Taha as he was leaving. An aide to Taha got into an argument with the BBC staff raising objections about his conduct during the interview." Sudan Tribune, 30 September 2008.

BBC World News MD departing, will "recharge batteries."

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The managing director of BBC World News, Anne Barnard, is standing down after nine years with channel. Barnard told staff this morning of her decision to resign from the post she has held for nearly 18 months with the commercially funded channel so she could 'refresh, take a bit more personal time, travel a bit and recharge some batteries' before looking for a new challenge. The channel's editorial director, Sian Kevill, will assume responsibility for day-to-day running in her absence. ... A spokesman for BBC World News told that when Barnard joined, it was losing £20m a year, adding that last year that figure had dropped to less than £8m and losses were expected to be even lower this year." The Guardian, 29 September 2008.

Temporary management change for French international broadcasting.

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Alain de Pouzilhac, the President of holding company L’Audiovisuel extérieur de la France (AEF) is temporarily leaving the France 24 managing director post. The reason given is that he will need to concentrate on the coming negotiations linked to TF1’s exit from the French international news channel’s capital and wants to avoid conflicts of interest. AEF is the future holding company that will gather France's TV and radio activities abroad including France 24, RFI and TV5." Rapid TV News, 29 September 2008.

Radio Luxembourg in reverse.

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Subject of a new film documentary: "The wartime broadcasts of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg were beacons of hope to her beleaguered people during the dark days of World War II... As families feared every knock on the door, and men went into hiding rather than fight for the enemy, one calm voice borne over the airwaves kept hope alive. Broadcasting via the BBC's World Service the Grand Duchess Charlotte became a 'propagandist in pearls', telling the population the whole world knew of their suffering and there was no doubt of the final outcome.", 30 September 2008.

Zambia counters the tropical shortwave denöuement.

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) will soon commission new short wave antennas for both radio one and two. The installation of the new transmitters by a South African contractor at shorthorn in Lusaka started in July at a cost of K2-billion. ... ZNBC will be more consistent in reaching out to the general public, particularly in outlying parts of the country once the antennas are operational." ZNBC, 30 september 2008.
     "We are approaching the end of the Era of Domestic broadcasting on the Tropical Bands for two main reasons: The technical standard of a large part of the transmitters in the tropical countries is poor and they cannot be repaired for economical reasons. In more developed countries the domestic shortwave transmitters are being replaced by FM- and Internet-networks. The trend above is clear: The falling trend continues and has become more steep during the past year." Anker Petersen, Danish Short Wave Clubs International, via Shortwave Central, 5 August 2008.

Shortwave for newsgathering, 30 years ago.

Posted: 30 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"When Gulf News started 30 years ago, the UAE was a very different place. ... The role of a newspaper was much simpler in those days. Gulf News recorded events and government announcements, and brought news from the outside world. There was no satellite TV, no internet, and the only way people could find out what was happening around the world was on the occasional shortwave radio or the printed news tickers which were hung up in hotel lobbies, or through newspapers." Gulf News (Dubai), 30 September 2008.Usi

Proposed new agency "would manage U.S. international broadcasts directly."

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today introduced legislation that would establish the National Center for Strategic Communications, an agency similar to the now defunct U.S. Information Agency. ... In addition to establishing a new public diplomacy agency, Brownback's proposal would abolish the existing Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy at the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Their functions would be transferred to the new National Center for Strategic Communications where they would be managed by single director. The Director of the Center would oversee an interagency panel of representatives from other federal entities whose missions inherently involve strategic communications with foreign publics. ... Under Brownback's legislation, the new Center would separate public diplomacy - speaking to foreign publics - from official diplomacy - speaking to foreign governments. Second, the Center would manage U.S. international broadcasts directly. Third, the Center would enlist the support of private, non-profit and non-governmental organizations and would enable the new Center to make grants to representatives of the Center in key countries to implement U.S. national strategy on a local level." Senator Brownback press release, 23 September 2008.
     Senator Brownback discussed his bill, S.3546 (text not yet available) at the Brookings Institution, 23 September (transcript not available, at least not yet). Tom Dyne, former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, disagreed with Brownback. He "noted that the past success of entities such as Radio Free Europe and Voice of America was due to their emphasis on independent journalism and professional integrity, not government propaganda. He said that international broadcasting too connected
to the U.S. government will not be seen as legitimate by local populations. Dyne did agree that there is a need to reevaluate the current system and cull ineffective and redundant programs." Notes by Project on Middle East Democracy, 24 September 2008.
     Senator Brownback, whose bill would create a successor to USIA, was, as U.S. representative in the 1990s, "a prime sponsor of the Congressional effort to abolish" USIA. New York Times via Gerald Loftus, Avuncular American, 27 September 2008.
     For other blog reaction to the bill, see MountainRunner, 25 September 2008 and FreeMediaOnline, 25 September 2008.
     People tune to international broadcasts to get news that is more comprehensive and reliable than the news they get from their domestic state-controlled media. Credibility is therefore the be-all and end-all of successful international broadcasting. To achieve credibility, international broadcasting must be independent. To be independent, it must be controlled not by a government, but by a board -- a bipartisan board whose members have fixed and staggered terms.
     That was the reasoning behind the creation of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in 1994. As much as some of us have been aggravated by some of the BBG's decisions, U.S. international broadcasting cannot succeed if it does not have a board providing the firewall between it and the U.S. government.
     The United States government benefits from an international broadcasting over which it does not have direct control because 1) the broadcasts will have an audience, and 2) those audiences will be well informed and bolstered against the disinformation on which dictators and terrorists thrive.
     If Brownback's new entity "would manage U.S. international broadcasts directly," then it would probably call for news that accentuates the positive, underplays the negative, and adds lots of pro-U.S. commentary. The audience for U.S. international broadcasting, which, collectively, is much, much smarter than, collectively, the decision makers and experts of Washington, would immediately recognize such a broadcasting effort for what it is: propaganda. And they would tune elsewhere.
     Public diplomacy, on the other hand, is not supposed to be independent. It is the explanation and advocacy of U.S. policies to foreign publics. It is the job of the State department to project U.S. policies abroad. State is the logical location for public diplomacy.
     I used to work for USIA. USIA officials were constantly going over to State for meetings. Information officers, who took the State Department's Foreign Service exam, worked out of or in conjunction with U.S. embassies. They did not travel or embark on projects without ambassadorial approval. USIA was basically a bureau of State, with the addition of a large front office.
     Brownback's press release states that "the new Center would separate public diplomacy - speaking to foreign publics - from official diplomacy - speaking to foreign governments." Why? Would there be two different messages? Would we have one policy for foreign governments, another for foreign publics? Those foreign publics (remember, they are much, much smarter... ) would soon detect the duplicity. Isn't the international credibility of the United States bad enough already?
     On the bright side, S.3546 does have entertainment value. Here is Senator Brownback, the small-government, fiscal conservative, trying to solve a problem by creating a new bureaucracy.
     Many people think the global unpopularity of the United States can be solved by "strategic communications." But, as many other people have pointed out, the popularity of the United States is actually determined by the policies and actions of the United States. The best public diplomacy and international broadcasting can do is to keep the United States from being even more unpopular by countering disinformation about the United States.

VOA election news.

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Of course FOX News, CNN and the rest will be all over the debates like big dogs. But so will one network that will translate Mr. Biden and Mrs. Palin into Urdu and Hindi, among other things. 'The 2008 presidential election is generating intense interest around the world,' said Danforth W. Austin, director of Voice of America, which will carry the debates live to a potentially humongous global audience. 'VOA — reaching about 134 million people in 45 languages — is uniquely poised to explain to its audiences the differences and similarities in the candidates' foreign policy positions,' Mr. Austin said." Washington Times, 28 September 2008. But with VOA Hindi radio ending on 30 September, how will the debate translated into Hindi reach India? Actually, I think there will be coverage on the VOA Hindi website, rather than simultaneous translation.
     Sergei S. in Illinois and Glenn Hauser in Oklahoma heard VOA live coverage of the 26 September (UTC 27 September) presidential debate with good reception on unpublicized shortwave frequencies, presumably via Greenville NC. The frequencies went off abruptly at 0200, even though the debate continued. DX Listening Digest, 27 September 2008.
     Blogger complains that one of his posts brought a response publicizing VOA election coverage. He says that it was not only spam, but spam "offshored" to India. Steve Miller's Blog, 25 September 2008.

Canadian symposium includes papers on BBC Cold War role.

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Cold Culture: A symposium on New Approaches to Cold War Research, Education and Expression, 7-9 November 2008, at Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, Carp Ontario, includes "The BBC, Communism and the Cold War," Dr Gordon Johnston, Leeds Metropolitan University, and "Aural History: the BBC External Services, international broadcasting and the Cold War Challenge," by Alban Webb, Open University, UK. Diefenbunker website.

USA at the short end of another BBC World service poll.

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"US-led efforts to tackle the al-Qaeda group are not regarded as successful, an opinion poll carried out for the BBC World Service suggests. Some 29% of people said the 'war on terror' launched by President George W Bush in 2001 had had no effect on the Islamist militant network. ... Some 23,937 adults across 23 countries were polled for the BBC World Service between 8 July and 12 September." BBC News, 26 September 2008.

BBC in Yamoussoukro, Bouaké, East Stroudsburg, and Pyongyang.

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
BBC opens its new 24/7 FM outlets in Ivory Coast -- Yamoussoukro 97.7 MHz and Bouaké 93.9 MHz -- with special programming. BBC World Service press release, 26 September 2008.
     "Remember to support college (the real FM) radio and especially 90.3 WESS [East Stroudsburg, PA], where a diversified approach to broadcasting is heard and the BBC World Service is broadcast when a show is not." Tom Crowley, letter to Pocono Record, 27 September 2008.
     "Only cell phones have to be left in care of customs till you leave, but even hardened Blackberry addicts didn't miss them after a day or so. (As one guest observed, there may not even be a signal to pick up, anyway). You can make or receive international calls from your room [at the Yanggakdo Internation Hotel in Pyongyang], send faxes and check emails in the lobby -- and watch BBC World News round the clock on TV." Derek Elley, Variey, 26 Septemner 2008.

The internet radio, on the table where the shortwave radio used to be (updated).

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Have you heard of internet radio? Radio stations all around the world make their content available on the internet and the usual way to access it is through a computer with a broadband connection. You simply choose the radio station you want, be it in Tasmania or Tajikistan, and listen in while you're doing whatever it is you do on your computer. That's the trouble - you have to be at the computer. Or it was the trouble until Tivoli's new NetWorks radio came along. Take this out of the box and turn it on and it immediately pairs with your wi-fi network." Sydney Morning Herald, 25 September 2008.
     "California's C. Crane ... notes on its site: 'Well, we couldn't let the Europeans and Brits have all the glory, so we've built a WiFi radio of our own.' Priced at $214.95, the CC WiFi Internet Radio follows the increasingly popular trend of creating a speaker cabinet enclosure first, then fitting the radio's electronics, LCD display and control surfaces into it." James Careless, Radio World, 24 September 2008.
     Update: "The new Internet Radio from Aluratek ... looks and operates like a stylish digital table radio. ... I found channels that offered the pop music from Nepal, Japan and Kyrgyzstan; the BBC World Service; a dozen different bluegrass channels; Native Radio and Paranormal Radio; and channels called Deutschlandfunk, Roots Reggae and Polka Heaven." Ric Manning, Louisville Courier-Journal, 27 September 2008.

RNZI celebrates sixty years (updated).

Posted: 28 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"State broadcaster Radio New Zealand will celebrate 60 years of international shortwave broadcasting on September 27. On Dominion Day in 1948, New Zealand's first international short-wave service was launched by Prime Minister Peter Fraser. Today the service broadcasts as Radio New Zealand International, providing a link between New Zealand and its Pacific neighbours." NZPA, 25 September 2008. The Mailbox programs covering the anniversary can be heard at the RNZI website.
     Update: "The network has had a chequered history but, sixty years on, is stronger than ever, broadcasting today as Radio New Zealand International, an award winning, internationally recognised service, providing an essential link between New Zealand and its Pacific neighbours." RNZI press release, 25 September 2008. See also the RNZI anniversary page at the Radio New Zealand website.

VOA's medium wave frequency in Moscow is now English-only.

Posted: 27 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"A U.S. broadcaster is denied access to a radio frequency in the Russian capital. The censor in this case is not the Kremlin, as one might expect, but the U.S. government agency which manages U.S. taxpayer-funded international broadcasts. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is preventing the Voice of America (VOA) from using an AM frequency in Moscow for its Russian-language radio programs, even though the Russian authorities still allow the frequency to be occupied by VOA. The same bipartisan Board ignored directives from Congress and terminated all on air VOA Russian radio broadcasts on July 26, just 12 days before the Russian army attacked Georgia. ... The 810khZ AM frequency in Moscow, which is leased by the BBG, is now used to rebroadcast VOA English programs." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 24 September 2008. RFE/RL Russian continues on it Moscow medium wave frequency, 1044 kHz.

Czech Republic wants to restore relations with Iran complicated by presence of RFE/RL in Prague.

Posted: 27 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Czech Republic wants to promote its diplomatic relations with Iran to the ambassadorial level this year or in the first half of next year when it will hold the EU rotating presidency... Last November Iran lifted all restrictions for Czech exports that it had implemented since 2003 due to Prague-based Radio Free Europe Iranian Broadcasting. Iran also recalled its ambassador from Prague in 1998 due to the broadcasting." CTK, 24 September 2008.

Public diplomacy career track: no longer separate, not yet equal.

Posted: 27 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The stated goal of the 1999 merger of the USIA into the State Department was to integrate PD considerations, and PD personnel, more fully into the 'mainstream' of State Department planning and policymaking. The Commission has found that this integration remains largely elusive, and, concomitantly, that PD officers continue to be significantly under-represented in the ranks of the Department’s senior management. As we put it in the report, 'The PD career track is no longer "separate," but it certainly is not yet "equal."' If the Department is to attract and retain first-rate PD officers, then it needs to demonstrate that these officers will be regarded as capable of holding senior Department positions." Amb. Elizabeth Bagley, vice chairman, U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, testimony to Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management. State Department, 23 September 2008. See alo FAQs.

Community organizers, denigrated by some, might be good public diplomats.

Posted: 27 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Community organizers know that public trust is generated in reaction to the empowerment people feel when their ideas for projects are implemented and the benefits are tangible; this may inform, at least in part, the approaches of community organizers to public diplomacy, the 'war of ideas', and addressing root causes of terrorism. Community organizers would herald the incredible contributions of the Peace Corps to nations of the world." Yossef Ben-Meir, American Chronicle, 23 September 2008.

Respondents rate countries, including some they may have never heard of.

Posted: 27 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"GfK Roper ... announced results from the 2008 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index report. Germany is viewed as the best overall "brand", receiving the highest ranking of the 50 nations measured. The United States ranks seventh overall behind Germany, France, U.K., Canada, Japan and Italy, respectively. The index is based on a survey in which respondents from across 20 major developed and developing countries are asked to rate their agreement with statements about each nation." GfK Roper, 24 September 2008.

BBC World News to complement U.S. commercial television news.

Posted: 27 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"'BBC World News,' the nightly newscast airing on public TV stations around the country, is 'relaunching' its newscast Oct. 1 and changing its focus to different stories, including U.S. news and the economy from a global perspective. It’s part of a PBS initiative to focus on news coverage that’s not being offered on commercial television." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 September 2008. "BBC World News will now be seen for the first time on six major public television stations: WTTW/Chicago; WQED/Pittsburgh; KUED/Salt Lake City; KRMA/Denver; WCET/Cincinnati; and GPTV/Georgia Public Broadcasting. The station line-up will include improved time periods in such Top 30 markets as: WHYY/Philadelphia; KQED/San Francisco; NJN/New Jersey Network; KCTS/Seattle; WPBT/Miami; WVIZ/Cleveland; WGBH 44/Boston and KERA/Dallas. Specifically tailored for PBS stations, the retooled newscast will feature a new team, new format and new set. Additionally BBC News l content will be accessible through PBS station websites for the first time." KCET press release, 24 September 2008.

Two comments about "pasty-faced" Russia Today.

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"For true escapism, though, we switch to Russia Today, the Russian rolling news service, where pasty-faced presenters whose accents veer between the Queen's English and Bond villain gravely assure us that Vladimir Putin is the most munificent global figure since Mother Teresa -- before cutting to footage of recently razed Georgian villages. We're not quite sure if we are missing out on the satirical overtones." Ed Power, Independent (Dublin), 26 September 2008.
     "Imagine CNN’s entire news operation being run by a 25-year-old woman fresh from college. Margarita Simonyan was such a person when she was appointed Editor-in-Chief of Russia Today, a state-run English-language news and entertainment TV channel founded in 2005 to present the Russian point of view on events in and outside of Russia. The Kremlin wanted to show the world a prettier face for Russia than the one generally painted by the Western media, so it chose the head for its news channel accordingly. Never mind that Simonyan had little work and travel experience. In her own words, 'Russia needs a visual voice.' And it worked — so far the audience likes what it sees." Florence Gallez, The Tech (MIT), 26 September 2008. How do we know the audience likes what it sees?

Worldspace stock gains altitude.

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Satellite pay-radio operator Worldspace, at least as this story is written, is saying nothing. But a 24% rise of 36c (to $1.85) on Wednesday, plus another spectacular 38.9% rise in early trading Thursday (to $2.57) suggests that something is happening behind the scenes. We trust the regulator will be looking closely at the trades, which represent a huge volume (148,000 in the first hour) for the company compared to a more usual 86,000 in a day." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 25 September 2008. "Shares of WorldSpace rose in steps throughout most of the session on Wednesday, although it pared its gain slightly in the final 30 minutes of the day. The stock ended the session up 36 cents at $1.85 ... its best level since late-July." RTT News, 25 September 2008. On 26 February, opened at $2.08, closed at $1.92. Worldspace website. See previous post about same subject. See previous post about same subject.

How to recruit an analyst.

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Story about Sami al-Haj, Al Jazeera cameraman who spent six years at Guantánamo. "In more than 200 interrogations, al-Haj was asked about his employers the Al Jazeera television channel in Qatar. In one session, he says another American said to him: 'After you get out of here, al-Qa'ida will recruit you and we want to know who you meet. You could become an analyst, we can train you to store information, to sketch people. There is a link between Al Jazeera and al-Qa'ida. How much does al-Qa'ida pay Al Jazeera?' ... Many beatings followed." Robert Fisk, The Independent, 25 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

AJE's "Witness" to USA via Link TV.

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera English’s International Emmy-nominated program Witness will appear weekly in the United States on Link TV, officials said Wednesday. ... Link TV currently reaches 36 million households in the United States on cable and satellite. Al Jazeera English, in contrast, has been struggling to gain U.S. carriage, with only a few launches, including Buckeye CableSystem in Toledo, Ohio, and a municipal cable system in Vermont, Burlington Telecom." Multichannel News, 24 September 2008. "Al Jazeera English, part of the international Al Jazeera Arabic-language news network, hasn’t had it too easy in the United States, where it has encountered suspicion for being — in a word — Arabic." Robert MacMillan, Reuters MediaFile blog, 24 September 2008. See also Link TV website and PBS Wide Angle, 25 September 2008.
     "I remain puzzled that Americans are not so interested in learning more about the rest of the world? The world is big, but it is getting smaller and Al Jazeera English offers both a regional voice and global perspective to world events, emphasizing news from the developing world. I could tell you why I watch it, how much I learn from watching it, how compelling their programming is, the length and depth of their reports on Africa, Latin America and The Middle East. I could tell you that it fills a glaring gap in the mainstream media's lack of coverage of these regions." Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, Arabisto, 17 September 2008.

New international channels for Verizon FiOS TV customers.

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Verizon FiOS TV is now providing viewers in Maryland and northern Virgina "15 new multicultural channels, including leading channels for Arabic, Portuguese and Russian audiences, among others. These new channels continue to make FiOS TV an outlet for emerging and independent networks to showcase their diverse programming. Much of the multicultural content comes from World TV, a division of content management and delivery company GlobeCast, which previously signed a distribution deal with Verizon for top-tier international channels. The new GlobeCast World TV international television channels include MBT (Arabic), RTPI (Portuguese) and RTR Planeta (Russian). In addition to the World TV content, Verizon will offer Filipino channel GMA Pinoy TV." Verizon press release, 23 September 2008. I could not find MBT in a Google search. Same as MBC?

"Snagging a bewitching shortwave signal from the midnight ether."

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Nathan Carter's "'Radio Transmission Contraptions' channel a dazzlingly retro vibe through spidery steel armatures reminiscent of Calder's mobiles and brightly colored biomorphic forms that recall Picasso's beach frolickers. A checkerboard zeppelin sprouting flowery appendages juts from one wall; elsewhere, a huge glass-and-steel bird hangs from the ceiling. Although such concoctions could be redolent of some bland 'We are all one' U.N. sculpture circa 1963, Carter's work instead provides the pleasure of snagging a bewitching shortwave signal from the midnight ether." R.C. Baker, Village Voice, 24 September 2008.
     Interview with percussionist Mickey Hart: "Q: And then you use some other unusual electronic instruments onstage, such as the transistor radio. A: Yeah, I use shortwave or AM/FM and I just tune into wherever I am and I process that signal. I use a Kaoss generator and I create sounds that are yet to be born. So that's done in real time, as opposed to prerecorded effects. Q: It's like a form of improvisation with the constant stream of radio information. A: It's found material. It's found art. I'm scanning the radio on stage. I'll pull up a Chinese radio station or maybe something from Siberia or some beautiful political commentator railing against the right or left. Or I'll get the Chipmunks. And all that keeps me in the moment." Ross Simonini, Seattle Weekly, 24 September 2008. If the stage is indoors, shortwave reception could be problematic, unless an outdoor antenna is installed, which, for some reason, I doubt.

Shortwave radios "common" in North Korea?

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Now that short-wave radios are common in the North, broadcasts from outside should be stepped up." Leader, The Economist, 25 September 2008.
     Part of my day job is to study the media environment in North Korea. We know that some Chinese-built radios with shortwave bands are finding their way into North Korea. And many senior officials have shortwave radios. (See previous post.) But "common" is probably an overstatement. Radio with medium wave (AM) bands are much more plentiful in North Korea. A medium wave relay is key to successful international broadcasting into the country. So far, South Korea has not allowed VOA or RFA relays on medium wave or any other waveband. Other medium wave relay opportunities are farther from North Korea.
     With VOA and RFA both broadcasting five hours per day in Korean, never concurrently, "stepped up" broadcasts would add hours during fringe listening hours, producing diminished marginal returns. A more significant "step up" would be a BBC Korean Service, a language that World Service has so far avoided

The HCJB Global Technology Center builds its last high-powered shortwave transmitter.

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Shortwave transmitters are built at the tech center on an 'as needed' basis, [manager Charlie] Jacobson said. Demand for high-power transmitters — up to 500,000 watts — has dropped dramatically as Christian broadcasters have discovered satellite and Internet distribution channels. 'We just completed a 100,000 watt high-power shortwave transmitter for Transworld Radio in Swaziland, Africa. Over the years we have built nine of the 100,000 watt models, but we do not have any plans to build any more of them. We continue to build a 1,000-watt shortwave transmitter." Radio World, 24 September 2008.

BBC South Asia broadcaster says shortwave is "dying."

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Interview with BBC journalist Nayema Mehjoor: "Q:How much of a threat do you think is the visual media to radio broadcasting? NM: If you are talking about short wave radio I will say that it is dying. But if you talk about the FM radio I feel, at present, it is a tool for social and community change and is making progress in every society. ... I thought we have a lot of freedom at BBC but when I see the local media channels of Kashmir, everything is so open and honest; there is no limit to what they say. ... So in this scenario why would someone switch to short wave to listen to BBC? In fact because of these changing trends we are planning to shift to FM radio and television as well to get back our listeners.", 24 September 2008.

Zimbabwe: relays of internationl stations would bring "accolades."

Posted: 26 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Jamming machines that scramble broadcasts from SWRA and VOA Studio-7 must be turned off. The licensing of at least one independent radio station, or local transmission of an international station such as BBC World Service on spare frequencies controlled by ZBC, would bring accolades. Countries as diverse as Uganda, Somaliland, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa relay BBC radio free-to-air on FM or medium wave." Geoff Hill, SW Radio Africa, 24 Africa 2007.

One year in Niger prison for RFI correspondent (updated again).

Posted: 24 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The London-based Human Rights Group, Amnesty International, Thursday denounced the persecution of a journalist, Moussa Kaka, by Niger authorities, calling again for his 'immediate and unconditional release.' ... Kaka, a correspondent of Radio France international (RFI) in Niger, has been jailed since September 2007 for 'complicity to undermine State authority,' a crime which can carry life imprisonment." Africa en ligne, 18 September 2008.
     "Staff and management at Radio France International on Friday held a demonstration in solidarity with RFI's Niger correspondent Moussa Kaka to demand his release after nearly a year in jail. Kaka was arrested on 20 September 2007 for contacting Tuareg rebels for his reporting work. ... A demonstration outside RFI's studios was attended by RFI journalists and other staff, as well as managing director Alain de Pouzilhac." RFI, 19 September 2008. See also RFI, 18 September 2008.
     "Kaka will no longer face life in prison, but could risk a sentence of one to five years in prison and a fine of 1 to 5 million CFA francs." France 24, 20 September 2008. International Federation of Journalists demands the unconditional release of Moussa Kaka., 20 September 2008.
     Update: "The head of Radio France Internationale, Alain de Pouzilhac, paid a visit to Niger's President Mamadou Tandja in Niamey on Wednesday to appeal for clemency in the case of Moussa Kaka, RFI correspondent, who has been in detention for over a year." RFI, 24 September 2008.

Burmese still depend on foreign broadcasts.

Posted: 24 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Aung Aye Win ... like many of Myanmar’s 55 million people, relies on international news channels for information. Satellite hookups to Al Jazeera, the BBC and foreign radio stations feed a country starved of access to the outside world. The junta, or State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), sporadically tries to block the channels, which works for a couple of months before the connections quiver back into life. The regime’s English-language newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar ... singles out the BBC as a 'skilful liar attempting to destroy the nation'." The National (Abu Dhabi), 23 September 2008.

Indonesian news agency in strangely described agreement with CRI (updated).

Posted: 24 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Indonesian national news agency ANTARA is welcome to offer its news services to China Radio International (CRI), CRI Deputy Director for English Services Guan Juanjuan said here Friday. ... 'We suggest that you contact or meet CRI`s Indonesia Department, if you want to offer your news services,' she said." Antara News Agency, 19 September 2008. Update: "CRI is in need of news stories on Indonesia from the national news agency because the Chinese radio station has no reporter in Indonesia, CRI`s Indonesia Department Director, Jin Feng, said here Tuesday." Antara, 23 September 2008.

Defending Biden re RFE/RL.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Michael Rubin asserted that Mr. Biden told the foreign minister of the Czech Republic a decade ago that 'cutting radio broadcasts into Iran might better encourage dialogue.' Mr. Rubin is wrong. At the time, the Czech government was resisting a U.S. government initiative to use Prague-based Radio Free Europe to broadcast to Iran and Iraq. Mr. Biden told the foreign minister that the Czech government had the right to resist, but if it did, the senator would initiate an effort to move RFE's headquarters to another country." Antony J. Blinken, senior adviser to Obama-Biden campaign, letter to Washington Post, 22 September 2008. See previous post.

World Service: five new partner stations in Kenya.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service celebrates the launch of BBC programming on five new FM radio stations in Kenya with a roadshow called Focus On Kenya - Your World, Your Issues. ... The new partner stations rebroadcasting BBC programmes are MMUST 103.9 FM in Kakamega, Sauti Ya Mwananchi 100.9 FM in Nakuru, and Pamoja 99.9 FM, Star 105.9 FM and KU 99.9 FM in Nairobi." BBC World Service press release, 23 September 2008.

BBCWS director in Bucharest to close the Romanian Service.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Nigel Chapman, director of BBC World Service, interviewed about the closure of the BBC Romanian Service: "It’s always very difficult to close down a service that has been broadcasting almost 17 years. But the reason in the end is that you have to make a judgment about how far Romania needs the BBC to carry on broadcasting in Romania. ... I have to look at all the other demands on the world service on the BBC to broadcast round the world and make a judgment. I have a fixed amount of money, I have things I need to do on television, radio, new media, projects waiting for Middle East, for the Islamic World, Africa, these areas where the need is greater than in an European Union country like Romania." Adevarul (Bucharest), 22 September 2008. BBC Romanian was actually on the air for 68 years. Perhaps Mr. Chapman was referring to 17 years on FM in Bucharest. See previous post about same subject.

Neon art claims Canada censors Al Jazeera.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"A neon sign that reads 'Shame on you' in Arabic now greets students approaching Carleton University's journalism building. The artwork, intended to stir debate about censorship, is designed to resemble the logo of the Arabic television news network Al-Jazeera, said Jamelie Hassan, the artist who crafted it. Hassan will be holding a public dialogue Monday evening at the university about her pieceAl Jazeera and the controversial Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission decision that inspired it. In 2004 the national broadcast regulator ruled that Al-Jazeera could broadcast in Canada, but required companies carrying the channel to monitor it 24 hours a day for offensive content. The apparent unwillingness of any cable company to do so has been blamed for the fact that none carry the network, which has both Arabic and English-language services." CBC News, 22 September 2008.

Venezuela putting together the Radio of the South network.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"After the success of Telesur, Venezuela is working today on the Radio of the South project, conceived as a network of interconnected radio stations, unlike the television experience. ... 'It will work as a network, where the radio stations of Venezuela will be connected with their partners in Colombia and these at the same time with Ecuador, Nicaragua and other countries of the continent, just to put an example, to give a cohesive message.'" Prensa Latina, 22 September 2008.

Hausa in international radio.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Today Hausa services are provided in foreign broadcast stations like British Broadcasting Corporation, Deuchwelle [Deutsche Welle] of Germany, Voice of America, China Radio International, RFA of France, Egypt Radio amongst others. That is the reason why an illiterate Hausa listener addicted to those foreign broadcast stations can easily disappoint students of international relations in a debate/quiz on global politics." Daily Triumph (Kano), 23 Seoptember 2008.

New clearinghouse for African news video.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Salim "Amin is the founder of A24, a new media company that features video from producers around the African continent. When Amin spoke at last year’s TED Africa conference, he was describing the project as a continent-wide news network. His recently-launched website reveals slightly different ambitions - A24, as currently concieved, is a distributor of African-produced video news content for African and global audiences." WorldChanging, 22 September 2008.

Ad-supported France 24 via RealNetworks.

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Online streaming company RealNetworks has begun delivering ad-supported programming through its entertainment portal, with French international news service France24 being the first broadcaster to sign up. The inclusion of the ad-supported version of France24, which is available in English, French and Arabic, builds on RealNetworks' SuperPass subscription service, which includes live news streams from broadcasters such as Al Jazeera English, the BBC, CNN International and EuroNews.", 23 September 2008. I can't find France 24 at

Two mentions of shortwave in wartime (updated: one more mention).

Posted: 23 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
December 1941: "A curfew was imposed for Japanese-Americans. Traveling more than five miles from their home was prohibited. Their cameras, kitchen knives and short-wave radios were confiscated." Cedar Rapids Gazette, 20 September 2008.
     Wife of Air Force Col. Richard Dutton, whose F-105 was shot over North Vietnam down in November 1967: "I saw him in a photo when a Japanese news photographer took his picture. Then he was on a short wave radio broadcast that other people heard. It was really heartwarming to know he was alive." Northwest Florida Daily News, 19 September 2008.
     Update: Pierre Berg "who grew up in France, was arrested by the Nazis in a horrifying case of 'wrong place, wrong time.' While still a teenager, Berg visited a classmate only to find Gestapo officers there, searching the friend's house. When the officers found a shortwave radio, which they considered a weapon, they arrested Berg and his friend on the spot." Daily Herald (Arlington Heights IL), 22 September 2008.

Zimbabwe: charges against VOA stringer dropped.

Posted: 22 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The state on Tuesday withdrew charges against a civic society activist Peter Muchengeti, who has been facing charges of communicating falsehoods before plea, when he appeared before Gweru magistrate Irvine Mhlanga on Tuesday. Appearing for the state prosecutor Katharine Chisvo told Mhlanga that the state was withdrawing the case against Muchengeti ... due to lack of evidence. The charge against Muchengeti arose from comments that he allegedly made to the Voice of America Radio (Studio 7) through its reporter Patience Rusere. The state had alleged the statement was 'wholly false' in stating that there was a discovery of six bodies at Matshekandumba Village at the 30-kilometre peg along the Gweru-Kwekwe Road." The Standard (Harare), 21 September 2008.

CNN International: less spin than CNN?

Posted: 22 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"They should cancel CNN, switch it to CNN International, which is neutral, it's not progressive, nor conservative, it tends to give the news based on facts, without all the spin from either side." Callisto, The Young Turks, 21 September 2008. Or at least make CNN International in addition to CNN, as it is on FiOS and the many-channeled satellite systems.

Psyop leaflets drop on Minneapolis.

Posted: 22 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
At Minneapolis College of Art and Design's faculty exhibit: "A word of caution: the first piece in the exhibit drops things on you. "If/Then" is a series of six leaflets modeled on those air-dropped by the U.S. military over Iraqi defensive positions and neighborhoods in the early days leading up to the 2003 bombardment. Those flyers presented a how-not-to-die scenario with a child's picture-book simplicity. On an illustration of an anti-aircraft gun firing a round was the printed, in English and Arabic: 'If.' In the next frame a U.S. warplane is firing on the gun's operator next to the text "Then." On the flip side, a ball of flames with the text: 'You decide.' The U.S. 'Psyops,' or Psychological Operations division, started making and dropping leaflets like this all the way back in the '70s. Piotr Szyhalski's 'If/Then' leaflets drop from a machine he invented, mounted high to simulate the U.S. military's air drops.", 19 September 2008.

New book discusses black clandestine broadcasting of World War II.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"A new book, Churchill’s Wizards, by broadcaster Nicholas Rankin ... tells how writers, journalists and artists created elaborate camouflages and fiendish propaganda to deceive the Germans in two world wars. In the Second World War the British became masters of these dark arts. ... Among the most brilliant operations were the phoney German radio stations designed to cause chaos and, in particular, greatly lower the morale of both the ordinary German soldier and the population. ... If this 'black' broadcasting was to deceive efficiently then the principal speaker had to be totally convincing – and Der Chef was ideal. He had to sound like a Right-wing, patriotic German who was outraged at the incompetence of many in the Nazi hierarchy who were profiting at home from the massive sacrifices of the decent German ­soldier fighting abroad. ... The idea was that a bored German radio operator – more likely to be military than civilian because only soldiers had short-wave receivers – would pick up a German voice speaking the saucy language of the barracks when he searched the dial one night." Daily Express, 20 September 2008. Red also Black Boomerang, by Sefton Delmer.

Sit your kid in front of the television to watch Al Jazeera.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"French company Thema TV, specialising in the distribution of theme and ethnic channels to multi-platform operators, has been selected to become the exclusive agent worldwide of Al Jazeera’s Childrens’ Channel. Carried on Arabsat, Nilesat and Eutelsat Hot Bird, JCC is broadcasting 18 hours a day during the week and 19 hours over the weekend and airs six hours of original programming each day, 40% of them produced inhouse or with international partners. Included in the agreement, is future channel Al Baraem that will target the three-to-seven-year-old demographic." Rapid TV News, 21 September 2008.

EuroparlTV will try to counter Eurodisenchantment.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The European Parliament yesterday (17 September) launched its own online TV channel, EuroparlTV, in an attempt to reverse widespread political disenchantment among citizens ahead of the European elections. ... Translation in particular will absorb more than half the total budget, mainly to pay for 44 full-time translators bringing EuroparlTV to life in 22 languages. Euronews, by comparison, broadcasts in eight languages.", 18 September 2008.

Satellite-to-mobile in the future of international broadcasting?

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"A new generation of satellites, and spectrum assigned to mobile satellite services, will play a prominent role in the next major development in television and radio broadcasting. New satellite to mobile services will enable relatively rapid roll-outs across major regions of the world. ... The technology has already been proven in Asia and plans for new satellite services are well underway in the United States. ... A combination of satellite and terrestrial transmission will deliver the next generation of television, radio and associated multimedia services to mobile and in-vehicle receivers." informitv, 21 September 2008. The informitv report on this is available for two thousand quid.

Future uncertain for Worldspace and its CEO (updated again).

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"1worldspaceTM announced today that it has reached an agreement in principle with each of the four holders of the Company's amended and restated secured notes and second amended and restated convertible notes to defer until Sept. 25, 2008, the Company's obligation to pay $19.97 million in principal amount of the Bridge Loan Notes, plus accrued but unpaid interest due on the Bridge Loan Notes, which was payable on Sept. 15, 2008. ... Under the agreement in principle, the Company has agreed to use its reasonable best efforts to appoint a Chief Restructuring Officer acceptable to the Holders no later than Sept. 30, 2008. In addition, in connection with the agreement, Mr. Noah Samara has agreed that, in the event all amounts due under the Bridge Loan Notes are not paid by Sept. 25, 2008, he will, if requested by the Holders, step down from his positions as CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Company while remaining as a director of the Company." 1worldspace (formerly WorldSpace) press release, 19 September 2008.
     "Shares of Washington D.C.-based Worldspace Inc. soared [sic] more than 101% to $1.71 Friday after the satellite radio provider announced that it has reached an agreement in principle to defer its debt payment." Stockhouse, 19 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.
     Update: "Worldspace has already mortgaged just about all of its assets, is not paying staff, and has missed key debt payment obligations." Rapid TV News, 21 September 2008.

International channels to Sri Lanka via IPTV.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) is to launch its much-talked of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) for the first time in Sri Lanka tomorrow (Monday) with the assistance of UTStarcom headquartered in California, USA, officials said. The official launching of the new service was scheduled for August but it was slightly delayed due to some infrastructure issues. The channels presently available on the SLT IPTV test transmissions are Rupavahini, Channel Eye, ITN, Max, HBO, HBO Signature, HBO Hits, HBO Family, CNN, BBC World, NDTV 24X7, Al Jazeera, Ujala, Peace TV, Spacetoons, Colors, DD Sports, VH1, MTV, Nickolodean, STC, B4U Music, NDTV Good Times, Ceebies [sic] BBC, Zee Music and a few other Hindi channels." Sunday Times (Colombo), 21 September 2008.

The VOA cafeteria is no longer the "Zhivkov."

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The family that operated a cafeteria in the Ford House Office Building for the last 14 years is criticizing House Democrats for its eviction from the space. Members of the Skenteris family argue they never got a chance to put in a bid that would have allowed them to stay in the Ford building. ... [Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.)]: 'It makes no sense. This is a family-owned business that had been in business here for years. We have got to be out of our minds closing them down and putting a food service in that isn’t even a tenth as good.' The Skenterises moved their food service down the street to the basement of the Voice of America building over the weekend." The Hill, 17 September 2008.
     For decades, we occupants of the VOA headquarters building endured a basement cafeteria that featured indifferent service and even more indifferent food. I dubbed it the "Zhivkov," because it was my idea of what the cafeteria at Radio Sofia must have been like during the depths of the Cold War years. For relief, many of us would walk a block to the Skenteris's cafeteria in the Ford Building, one block away. Now we have the Skenteris food service, while the House staffers have been Zhivkov'ed.

The ladies of the club still think RFE was funded by donations.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"For half a century, the Woman’s Club of Madison County has supported a variety of local, national and international causes. ... Over the years, the group has donated proceeds from its fund-raisers toward local organizations – such as the rescue squad, fire company and library – as well as to national and international efforts, including Radio Free Europe and the Christian Children’s Fund." Madison County Eagle, 18 September 2008.

Conference of the public diplomacy bloggers.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
James Glassman, under secretary of State for public diplomacy, convened a teleconference of bloggers to discuss U.S. public diplomacy and especially the State Department competition inviting people around the world to create three-minute videos completing the phrase "Democracy is... ." Participating were Behruz Nikzat of, Patricia Kushlis from Whirledview, John Brown of his revived Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, Alex Belida of the VOA News Blog, Sharon Weinberger and Noah Shachtman of Wired Danger Room, Matt Armstrong of MountainRunner, Steve Corman of COMOPS Journal, and Melinda Brouwer of World Public "Weinberger: You know, what happens if after the video -- the democratic video, someone submits a video supporting, you know, an end of a Jewish state and you know, secular free rights, voting rights for all. I mean, you know, what happens when you get to the advocates of democracy or forms of democracy that fly in the face of U.S. policy, and how does that fit into public diplomacy? ... Glassman: We are doing something that is somewhat risky for a government agency because we’re not picking the winner. We absolutely are not involved in that process. And you know, you could end up with a winner who’s – that is promoting a specific policy that may be antithetical to what the United States Government is promoting, you know, let’s say, in Iraq or in – or as it relates to Palestinians and Israelis. I believe there is a – I think there’s a strict prohibition on terrorist – terrorist videos or violent extremist videos." State Department, 17 September 2008.
     All the important bloggers covering public diplomacy were there. I, of course, was not invited. Didn't even know about it until it popped up in a Google search. Probably just as well, as I don't really think of myself as a "blogger." And I'm planning to remove "public diplomacy" from the title of this website. Other bloggers (such as the aforementioned) do a better and more thorough job of covering the subject. Furthermore, it is my position that if a nation's international broadcasting is to be successful, it must be credible. And to be credible it must be separate from a nation's public diplomacy. And maybe that's why I am not invited to public diplomacy events.

Shortwave radios for an emergency (if there are any shortwave broadcasts to hear).

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"What if, just what if you wake up one day and discover that the U.S. dollar has imploded to half its valuation, then the day after half again, etc.?! ... A battery operated AM/FM/Shortwave radio with a hand crank Faraday type of electromagnetic power supply is in order for your link to what's happening in the outside world." Carl Nemo, Capitol Hill Blue, 19 September 2008.
     South Floridians are providing aid to storm ravaged Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos. "Among the items needed: nonperishable foods; baby formula; household items, such as cooking utensils; and short-wave radios." Miami Herald, 19 September 2008.

Out: transatlantic shortwave. In: transatlantic 3D HD.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Arqiva has successfully delivered the world’s first transatlantic 3D High Definition broadcast, at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam. ... Over 1000 delegates watched a live interview with Dream Works Animation SKG CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg on Sunday 14 September. The satellite transmission was uplinked from Los Angeles, USA and transmitted in a single hop via the IS9 satellite owned and operated by Intelsat - Arqiva’s chosen Digital Cinema satellite partner. An Arqiva SNG truck downlinked the signal in Amsterdam, Holland, enabling the IBC audience to experience this world first. ... 'Live 3D High Definition broadcasts add an exciting new dimension to the audience experience and present significant opportunities for live event organisers and exhibitors.'" broadcastbuyer, 17 September 2008.

Remember when your grandparents talked back to the television? This is something like that.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"NEC Corporation, one of the world's leading IT and network technology companies, is sponsoring an innovative CNN initiative called 'Impact Your World,' a pioneering news format where viewers are empowered with the ability to help resolve issues that effect individuals and countries spanning the globe. 'Impact Your World' begins broadcasting this month on CNN International's global network, reaching more than 230 million households and hotel rooms, in addition to the initiative's web site at The program represents CNN's audience empowerment initiative, which allows CNN viewers and users to take action on and respond to the news they consume. With 'Impact Your World,' news is no longer passive, 'Impact' buttons on selected stories link people directly to resource pages showing how they can help charitable organizations in categories including 'Refugees & Homelessness,' 'Poverty,' 'Health,' 'Children,' 'Animals' and 'Natural Disasters.'" NEC press release, 19 September 2008.

Report: Turkey's TRT becomes EuroNews partner.

Posted: 21 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) has [become] a shareholder in the pan-European news station Euronews, he announced. With the new partnership, Turkey will have the opportunity to explain its viewpoint on issues throughout the European Union, [Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil] Çiçek said, but gave no further details on the partnership." Today's Zaman via, 20 September 2008.

Two new BBC channels to Australia via Foxtel.

Posted: 20 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide – a key FOXTEL subscription television partner – introduces two new channels in Australia. ... CBeebies, the UK's number one children's channel, presents a brightly coloured world targeting pre-school children aged six and under. ... BBC Knowledge ... brings audiences entertainment for the brain with charismatic experts and quality programming." Foxtel press release, 19 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

BBC World News live on Indian handsets (updated).

Posted: 20 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Reliance Communications today announced that it has entered into strategic alliance with BBC World News for mobile content. RCom has brought out the BBC World News in India through the mobile streaming (unicast) service to the Reliance Mobile users across the country. Through this agreement, Reliance Mobile users can access BBC's trademark, live breaking news and landmark-programming initiatives as they happen directly on their handsets, said a press release." CyberMedia New, 16 September 2008. Update: "Reliance Communications is up 3.09% after the company said it has inked a deal with BBC World News to provide round-the-clock news content for the first time as a mobile streaming service to its subscribers across the country." RTTNews, 19 September 2008.

BBC World Service website, difficult to navigate, provides clearest picture of U.S. election.

Posted: 20 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"It is not a criticism to observe that the BBC World Service’s home page is difficult to navigate. Go to any other site and everything is where it should be – programmes here, presenters there, schedules a click away. But theirs is a small world, after all. The World Service website is a souk: you know what you’re after is there, but you might have to go down some unfamiliar alleys to find it. The programmes, too, are a different breed. For one thing, the World Service makes a little go a long way. While most documentaries are pared to the second, the World Service takes a topic and spreads it over days. The presentation is simple and a bit repetitive. When the world is your audience, putting things in context matters, and that takes time. It says a lot for the quality of the station, though, that series frequently wind up on Radio 4. What you can’t get away from is the air of mission, the idea that everyone who works for the service would do it even if they weren’t paid. For the next few weeks, some of the service’s correspondents are travelling 4,000 miles across 15 of the United States in the grandly named 2008 US Election bus, and reporting on voter issues along the way. Bulletins range from the brief and quirky – the clash between Democrats and Republicans at the Gunfight at the OK Corral, for example – to heavyweight debates. They’re available as podcasts on The multimedia bus – which uses radio, the web and television – will also broadcast in 12 foreign languages (Persian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Arabic, Central Asian, Hindi, Urdu, Pashto, Albanian, Russian, French and Swahili), as the World Service links up with US radio stations, universities and community groups. It could provide the clearest picture the world will get of the run for the White House." Chris Campling, The Times, 20 September 2008.

BBC World News reaction to U.S. presidential debates will be cooked to order.

Posted: 20 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"For the first time ever, BBC America will air all four U.S. presidential and vice presidential debates this fall, network officials said Friday. ... 'BBC World News America will take viewers out of the spin room and into the real world,' executive producer Rome Hartman said in a statement. 'While our competitors spend time listening to campaign surrogates spouting pre-cooked claims of "victory" for their candidate, we'll travel around the world to get real reaction from real people who've just watched the debate and made judgments for themselves.'" Multichannel News, 19 September 2008.

Internet "most efficient" source of news.

Posted: 20 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"At lunchtime, or after work if I don't go home for lunch, I read The Adirondack Enterprise, BBC World News, CNN, Groklaw, The Christian Science Monitor, and a couple of tech websites. ... After having access to all the information on the Internet, I couldn't imagine living without it. For me, it's like going to a smorgasbord of news every day. If you crave knowing what's going on, the Internet is certainly the most efficient and comprehensive way to find out. Believe me, I know." Bruce Endries, The Daily Star (Oneonta, NY), 20 September 2008.

"France 24 heads [ahem] roll."

Posted: 20 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"France 24 has announced that chief editor Grégoire Deniau and editor-in-chief Bertrand Coq have been dismissed, with immediate effect. Chief Operating Officer and head of programmes Gérard Saint-Paul has replaced Grégoire Deniau. Not convinced by the reasons given for those two dismissals, professional faults officially, France 24 teams fear a takeover of the direction over the editorial staff after the recent arrival of Christine Ockrent as General Director of holding company France Monde. Ockrent is also the wife of French Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner." Rapid TV News, 18 September 2008. Rapid TV News, 18 September 2008. See also AFP, 20 September 2008. -- Le Point, 17 September 2008. --
Marianne2, 19 September 2008.

You mean they don't teach "bullying, abrupt, top-down" culture in business school?

Posted: 19 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The new managing director of Al-Jazeera English has told his employees that he believes the TV news channel suffers from a 'bullying, abrupt, top-down culture' that 'frequently smothers open debate and discussion.' In an email, seen by, to all staff and contributors working for the English-language channel of the al-Jazeera network, Canadian broadcasting executive Tony Burman claimed the channel needed to create a more 'positive and reaffirming' working culture." The Guardian, 19 September 2008. Presumably unbullied Sir David Frost begins a new season on Al Jazeera English. The Peninsula, 19 September 2008.

Al Jazeera on campus.

Posted: 19 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Earlier this month, Whitman College became the first undergraduate institution in the United States to begin streaming live video of the English version of the Arabic news station, Al Jazeera. The idea for the stream, which airs in Café 66 in the Penrose library, was initiated in part by Dr. Shampa Biswas and Dr. Bruce Magnusson, associate professors of politics, who wanted it as a resource for their 'Politics of the Iraq War' class." Whitman College Pioneer, 18 September 2008. Whitmn College is located in Walla Walla, Washington. See previous post.

CNN launches mobile news site for Asia.

Posted: 19 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"CNN International has launched, its comprehensive mobile news site across 49 countries and territories in Asia Pacific. It rounds out CNN's 360 degree mobile solution offering, integrating live streaming mobile TV, video on demand content, and SMS breaking news alert services. Available direct to consumers free of charge, it is custom designed to guarantee user-friendly navigation and interaction ensuring that the network's award-winning content can be assessed in a matter of seconds.", 18 September 2008. " will include a searchabale 14-day news archive with over 2000 stories.
Besides the platform also automatically detects weather of the country the user is registered in, personalising the delivery of 5-day forecasts, details on air travel delays, and ski reports. ... Users can also access CNN’s ‘In the Field’ blogs to share thoughts and observations of CNN’s journalists on assignment.", 18 September 2008. See also CNN press release, 18 September 2008.

Cyberattacks against Burmese exile websites.

Posted: 19 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Myanmar's military junta has launched a series of crippling cyberspace attacks on dissident websites on the first anniversary of major protest marches by Buddhist monks, the sites said on Friday. The Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based weekly journal and website ( covering the former Burma, described the online assault as persistent and 'very sophisticated'. ... There were similar outages at the Burmese-language New Era Journal and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) ( [whose Thailand bureau chief] said the agency's website was only a small part of its reporting operations, and its radio and satellite television stations, both major sources of news inside Myanmar, remained up and running. 'They can't block our short-wave radio and satellite signals.'" Reuters, 19 February 2008. If they can transmit a signal on the uplink frequency, they can block the DVB satellite signal. Shortwave is more difficult to jam, although Burma has previously tried to jam foreign shortwave broadcasts. See also Irrawaddy founder Aung Zaw, Wall Street Journal, 19 September 2008. And DVB and Irrawaddy websites.

New website opposes anti-Americanism at no cost to the American taxpayers.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"I am tired of the prejudice and ignorance of Europeans about America. And I am sad, though not surprised, that the U.S. government's public diplomacy has been so feeble, not to say non-existent. Instead, it has been left to a few lone voices to defend America against the calumnies of its enemies. Notable among these is a new Web site,, which is already up but will be officially launched next month in London. It is the brainchild of Tim Montgomerie, the founder of the most successful political Web site in Britain,, and the polling entrepreneur Stephan Shakespeare. Both are British citizens and receive neither funding nor other support from America." Daniel Johnson, New York Sun, 18 September 2008.

Workshop on corporate diplomacy.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The nation's top business-led public diplomacy advocate and the No. 1 school of global management education are joining forces to help multinational corporations better understand foreign cultures in order to operate more successfully and diplomatically across borders. Keith Reinhard, president of Business for Diplomatic Action, and Dr. Angel Cabrera, president of Thunderbird School of Global Management, today announced the global launch of CultureSpan: A Workshop in Global Corporate Diplomacy. ... The one-day program provides participants with a framework for understanding and working across cultures and building and managing global teams, as well as providing the requisite tools to develop a global mindset. The seminar also emphasizes the important role business plays in U.S. public diplomacy, which is one of BDA's highest priorities." BDA press release, 18 September 2008. The term "corporate diplomacy" is much preferable to "business-led public diplomacy," as public diplomacy is a government activity. A savvy corporation would want to keep its international activities independent of those of its national government. See previous post.

Wins hearts and minds and makes them burp.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Dr. Jami Fullerton at Oklahoma State University spoke 18 September about her "Coca-Cola Hypothesis,” which "suggests there is a connection between attitude toward America and American popular culture. Our data over a number of studies continues to show that young people who tend to like advertising, who are positive about specific ads, who are heavy users of American entertainment media like movies and television, also have a more positive attitude toward America in general. So our hypothesis, and that’s exactly what it is, is can we use the marketing and media savvy of America and leverage that to win hearts and minds overseas? The idea of advertising and public diplomacy, if you will." Stillwater News Press, 17 September 2008. But which causes which?

International television streaming news.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The New Media Group’s next generation IPTV service, World On-Demand, is stepping up its customer communications activity with the launch of a new monthly email magazine. ... The first issue of the World On-Demand e-magazine features an introduction to BBC World News, MTV India, E! and The Style Network; all major content launching on the World On-Demand service this month." openPR, 17 September 2008.
     Video player Livestation, which offers "BBC World, Deutsche Well, France 24, Bloomberg, etc," is the fifth most popular software download from the Apple website. Connected TV, 17 September 2008.

He will manage the bringing together of the BBC's under one roof.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Andy Griffee, currently Controller, BBC English Regions, [is] appointed as Editorial Director, Project W1 with immediate effect. In his new senior role, Andy will lead the co-siting of BBC News, BBC Global News (which includes the BBC World Service and BBC World News) and BBC London, as they join together to form the world's largest live news broadcasting hub, working alongside BBC Audio & Music. He will lead the development of new ways of working and the introduction of new production technology as the different divisions move to the BBC's new Broadcasting House development in Central London by 2012." Media Newsline, 17 September 2008. This is when World Service will move out of the historic Bush House.

International broadcasters cover the U.S. election.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The United States holds an election and the world holds its breath. Except on world band [shortwave] radio, that is. The leading international broadcasting powerhouses are reporting back to the globe, typically in conjunction with someone actually here in the States. For example, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (Holland), has Europe Goes to the White House weekly podcast; Deutsche Welle (Germany) has its Across the Pond blog, a German-American joint effort." Clara Listensprechen, Huffington Post, 17 September 2008. And don't forget VOA's

Shortwave pioneer Radio Netherlands quits shortwave to North America.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Radio Netherlands Worldwide's English broadcasts are available in North America in an increasing variety of different ways. More and more partner stations are taking our programming (a growing number of NPR stations in the US and CBC in Canada) and there are now a variety of satellite options (including Sirius satellite radio). The programmes are also available live, on-demand and via podcast. Shortwave broadcasts to North AmericaRadio Netherlands now feels that the number of alternatives for listeners in North America is such that we have decided to end our shortwave broadcasts to the region. This will take effect from the start of our winter season on 26 October 2008. The decision has been backed up by a recent survey which showed a decline in the number of listeners using shortwave in North America." Radio Netherlands, 18 September 2008. The main negative here is that small battery-powered shortwave radios remain the most portable way to listen to international radio. Radio Netherlands' shortwave signal is almost always good via its Bonaire relay. A shift from shortwave to internet delivery will probably require a shift from audio to text, as the text (with a few still images) of web pages is a much more efficient way to consume information that radio content. However, Radio Netherlands' skills in radio delivery and production will make it worthwhile to listen to some of their programs via the internet.

VOA's audience in Pakistan grows.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America's (VOA) weekly radio and television audience in Pakistan, scene of recent tumultuous political events, nearly doubled over the past year to more than 11 million, or almost 12% of the surveyed population, a new survey shows. ... In a June 2008 survey by InterMedia, researchers found a huge jump – to 6.3% of the adult population from 2.8% – in VOA's Urdu-language radio listenership. The weekly VOA television audience also reached 6% percent, even though the program was shut down for nearly six months after then-Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution in November 2007." VOA press release, 15 September 2008.

Radio Farda promotes democracy and reports half the news.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president Jeffrey Gedmin interviewed about Radio Farda: "Our Iranian colleagues believe in our mission to promote democratic values and institutions. ... We seek to provide the news and information that Iranians would have if their government permitted them free, independent media. We do cover some international topics, too. Recently, though, two of our senior colleagues from Farda conducted an exclusive interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on American policy toward Iran. It's generally Voice of America, however, that covers news about the United States and U.S. foreign policy." Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2008. So is Radio Farda in the business of promoting or reporting? Also note the reaffirmation of the U.S. concept of international broadcasting, in which target audiences must tune to two U.S. stations to get all the news. This is in contrast to British international broadcasting, in which target audiences need tune only to BBC to get all the news, and where there is no talk of "promoting" this or that.

Remedies for objectionable television. USA: parental controls. Saudi Arabia: death. (updated again)

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The most senior judge in Saudi Arabia has said it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV channels which broadcast immoral programmes. Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan said some 'evil' entertainment programmes aired by the channels promoted debauchery. Dozens of satellite television channels broadcast across the Middle East, where they are watched by millions of Arabs every day. ... Given his position as the country's most senior judge, the sheikh's views can not be easily dismissed, says BBC Arab affairs analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi." BBC News, 12 September 2008. See also Arab News, 14 September 2008.
      "In an apparent response to the criticism, Sheikh Lihedan, who is widely known for his conservative views and publicly encouraged Saudis to join Iraqis in fighting US troops in Iraq, issued a 'clarification' yesterday. He insisted that he had not meant to refer to all 'immodest' television programmes, merely to those that broadcast black magic and sorcery." The National (Abu Dhabi), 15 September 2008.
     Update: "This new fatwa could easily hit the Saudi royal family on the back of the neck, given that it is Saudi cash that’s behind Rotana, which broadcasts music films and videos and is owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 16 September 2008.
     Reporters sans frontières "today voiced its deep concern about an upsurge in fatwas (religious decrees) calling for the murder of journalists in the Arab and Muslim world." RSF, 16 September 2008.

Worldspace also finds India to be a difficult target country.

Posted: 18 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The WorldSpace satellite radio service has one of the most conscientious back-office staff I know. Various members from this outfit have called me no less than six times to remind me — in early September — that my subscription will expire in November. At first, I was touched at this early reminder, until it became clear that this concern was bundled with an offer — I would get two months free if I subscribed right now. I turned down the offer several times, explaining that I have an old-fashioned reservation about revealing a credit card number to an unseen service provider on the phone... Despite these conversations, WorldSpace continues to bombard me with SMSs about the offer. Finally, after the sixth call, the penny dropped. Could they then send someone to physically collect the cheque, asked the persistent lady at the other end. WorldSpace’s inability to take no for an answer is easy to understand. The company is in financial trouble. It made losses of $36 million in the second quarter of 2008 on revenues of $3.3 million and is heavily leveraged. Although I hugely enjoy its ad-free 24-hour music service and would like it to survive, WorldSpace’s business model obviously needs critical mass to make it work, especially when it has to compete with free downloads from a whole host of music sites with rich choices." Kanika Datta, Business Standard, 18 September 2008.
     Worldspace (now 1worldspace) CEO Noah Samara interviewed by Radio France Interntional. RFI English, 17 September 2008. Partly transcribed at Jimma Times, 17 September 2008.
     The outcome of an 11 September Worldspace stockholders meeting has not yet been reported, as noted by Rapid TV News, 11 September 2008.
     "Faith Satellite Radio™ is the only faith-based satellite radio service covering both Africa, and Europe. Using the WorldSpace Satellite Radio Network’s AfriStar™ satellite to broadcast digital-quality audio channels to the faith communities in Africa and around the world, programming from Vatican Radio is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in areas formerly untouched with Catholic communications." Catholic Online, 17 September 2008.
     See also

Lamenting the loss of VOA Hindi radio.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors has decided that VOA's seven-hour Hindi-language radio service will end this month, after 53 years." But VOA Hindi will continue via television feeds and a website. Washington Post, 12 September 2008.
     "The impending closure of Voice of America's Hindi service on 30 September appears to upset loyal listeners, particularly from the country's Hindi belt, who have been tuned into the service for years now.", 11 September 2008.
     "VoA Hindi will broadcast its final programme on September 30, following which its six-member team - at the centre of over 1,200 fan clubs and catering to nearly 8 million listeners - will fall silent. ... The focus is increasingly on languages like Pashto and Urdu now even though VoA Hindi has a good listenership across South Asia." ANI, 13 September 2008.
     "The Voice of America, more the voice of American government than its people of course has in a review of its priories in the post 9/11 era decided to wind up the fairly popular Hindi service. I suppose that it has in ways outlived its strategic utility. During the Cold War, with the Indian government firmly tilted towards the Soviet Union, the VOA was a helpful tool for the American media to connect with the Indian public. I suppose that with no Soviet Union left today ... the VOA is no longer needed to whisper Uncle Sam’s sweet nothings to Indian ears." Shantanu Dutta, merinews, 16 September 2008.
     "As an epidemiologist, I was an occasional guest on the VOA youth call-in show 'Hello India' when the topic was HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment. I was impressed by the show's reach: Most callers were from rural areas, and their questions and comments were engaging." Sudha Sivaram, letter to Washington Post, 18 September 2008.
     "The two Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), stressed in their letter to the BBG that over 70% of the Indian population lives in rural villages, many with no access to TV or the Internet. They expressed surprise that the BBG wants to terminate VOA Hindi radio at the time when the United States is expanding its strategic partnership with India. They asked the BBG to allow VOA Hindi radio broadcasts to continue." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 16 September 2008.
     "The administration's relentless disassembling of one of the most effective and cost-efficient US tools of cultural diplomacy seems to have gone unnoticed by either presidential campaign. The candidates should be asked what they would do to revive the VOA." Doug Ramswey, Rifftides, 13 September 2008.
     India has always been a difficult target country for VOA. BBC has traditionally had a much larger audience. This is because of BBC's superior ability to gather news from South Asia. And because BBC delivered a better signal from its transmitters in Oman (including some medium wave coverage) and Singapore. VOA had to reach India from farther-off Greece and the Philippines, plus three comparatively low powered (35 kilowatt) transmitters in Sri Lanka. It was not until the 1990s that VOA acquired higher powered shortwave transmitters in Sri Lanka. By then, the popularity of shortwave was waning.
     Typically, international broadcasters have responded to the decline of shortwave by placing their programs on FM stations in the target country. In India, news is not allowed on privately owned shortwave stations. Because of this, BBC Hindi programs heard on Indian FM stations include the likes of Ek Mulaqat, "a weekend talk show where famous people chat about the other side of their lives--from childhood stories, teenage trivia, hobbies, passions to little known facts about themselves." The idea is that BBC will have a foot in the door of the Indian FM market if and when news finally is allowed.
     VOA has generally been uncomfortable with programs that do not include news and current affairs "freight," so it is not following the BBC in placing lighter fare on Indian FM stations. There might be an opportunity here for an Indian-American private broadcast entrepreneur.
     BBC has, for regulatory reasons, been slow to develop international television in languages other than English. VOA, on the other hand, has been an early adopter of international television in several languages. Despite vigorous marketing efforts, VOA Hindi's television placement consists only of a weekly report on India's Aaj Tak channel.
     Still, that weekly placement yields a weekly audience rate of 0.6% (according to a 2007 survey in India), compared to 0.7% for a daily hour of shortwave radio in Hindi. BBC has a weekly audience of 5.4% in India, down from 11.9% in 2006.
     Television seems to be the route to success for international broadcasting to India. However, free access to Indian television will be increasingly elusive. Money to pay for that time will be required.

Al Jazeera still trying to enter India.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Tony Burman, managing director of Al Jazeera English, during recent visit to New Delhi: "If you look at our coverage with respect to BBC or CNN, a lot of people would argue that there is actually less bias. What is amazing about Al Jazeera English up to this point is that it is distributed in more than 120 million homes worldwide already. It isn’t, sadly, distributed in India yet. But we are determined to obtain the licences as soon as possible and make that happen because of the importance of India and also because that would allow us to increase the coverage of India.", 14 September 2008.

BBC promotes its radio programs in India (updated).

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"In another first from the BBC in the India market, BBC World Service is kicking off a campaign for three of its radio programmes. ... ‘BBC Ek Mulaqat’, ‘BBC Ek Minute’ and ‘BBC Take One’ air in the 13 cities where BBC World Service has partnered with FM stations. BBC would use print, radio and on-ground activities for the campaign. ... 'Our aim is also to reach out to new listeners and show what BBC is up to in the FM market.'", 10 September 2008. The tag line could (but won't) be: "everything but the news." News is still not allowed on non-AIR FM stations in India.
     Update and to wit: "Director-turned-actor Farhan Akhtar is to feature on BBC Radio's BBC Ek Mulakat. BBC Ek Mulaqat is a weekend talk show where famous people chat about the other side of their lives--from childhood stories, teenage trivia, hobbies, passions to little known facts about themselves.", 15 September 2008.

The BBG's politics re VOA Russian.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Last week, a Republican BBG member, radio journalist Blanquita Cullum, had requested a vote on resuming VOA broadcasts in Russian and suspending plans to stop broadcasts to other countries, including Georgia and Ukraine. Ted Kaufman was one of the BBG members who refused to put the proposal to a vote, rejecting arguments that the earlier decision to terminate the broadcasts was wrong and that their resumption would send a strong message to Mr. Putin." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 15 September 2008. See previous posts on 12 September and 6 September 2008. Would be interesting to hear the debate on this issue, but the supersecret Broadcasting Board of Governors has never had an open meeting.

New Belarusian program for Television Free Europe/Television Liberty.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) has launched a new half-hour television program aimed at Belarusians who have come to rely on RFE/RL for uncensored news and information about their country. The new program, called 'This Week with Svaboda (Liberty),' airs on the Warsaw-based BelSat satellite channel. Hosted by RFE/RL's Belarusian Service Director, Alexander Lukashuk, and produced at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, the show features a roundtable, debate-style format focusing on a wide range of social, political, and cultural issues in Belarus." RFE/RL press release, 15 September 2008.
     "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarus Service remains a leading international broadcaster, providing programming in the Belarusian language. The Service's new television program has recently been placed on a Polish-led, satellite television channel. In addition, Voice of America broadcasts are available in Russian to audiences in Belarus." David J. Kramer, assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, statement before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, State Department, 16 September 2008. Actually, VOA Russian radio broadcasts have already been taken off the air, leaving only an internet service. No longer a prisoner of its name, RFE/RL is becoming more active television. Television was one of VOA's competitive advantages in its rivalry with RFE/RL, but apparently no longer.

Moving U.S. outreach to a higher brow.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Arab tradition has a tremendous respect for serious culture, for classicism and philosophy, a tradition that antedates the Koran by millennia. It may seem elitist to us--democracy, after all, is about numbers not elites--but we are dealing with a tradition that values elders, erudition and the hierarchy of wisdom. Imagine if we were to distribute boxes full of Mark Twain in translation and show Tom Stoppard on television. The mullahs would get a diet of William James' religious experiences, and the young women Virginia Woolf. In the fight against barbarism, why not awe them with ideas? As it stands, if we don’t show the best of what we are, we’re building a democracy that might freely vote against us." Melik Kaylan,, 15 September 2008.

On the strategic shift in U.S. public diplomacy.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"While winning hearts and minds would be an admirable feat, the war of ideas adopts the more immediate and realistic goal of diverting impressionable segments of the population from the recruitment process. Ideological engagement comes down to a contest of visions." Under secretary of State for public diplomacy James Glassman, The Independent, 16 September 2008.
     "It is a rather convenient shift in focus given alarming signs that negative views of the US persist. ... When public opinion views the US as a bigger threat than Iran, attempts by governments in the region to join Washington in deepening Tehran’s isolation are undermined." Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, 15 September 2008.
     See also Countering Terrorism forum at the George Washington University, with James Glassman et al, C-Span, 15 September 2008. And previous post about the same subject, including the video of the BBC HARDtalk program while it is still available.

Trying to fit together the BBC world services.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Feature story about Richard Sambrook, director of BBC Global News: "It was once simple - on one hand the World Service on radio and, since 1995, a (loss-making) commercial TV arm on the other - but the lines have blurred. Both have launched a string of online and mobile companions - funded by ads in the case of and not in the case of the World Service spin-off language websites. 'Part of my job is to work out how the jigsaw fits together,' says Sambrook." The Guardian, 15 December 2008.

BBC US08 Election bus traveling the route of the old VOA Voyager.

Posted: 17 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
The BBC World New US08 Election bus tour has embarked because "the world has a high level of interest in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Having the bus tour interview segments of Americans across the country gives listeners and viewers a glimpse of how voters think.", 15 September 2008. See also BBC World News press release, 22 July 2008. Reminiscent of the VOA Voyager, built in 1985. "But the Voyager was costly to operate, and after nearly a decade its traveling days came to an end."

This year's Doha Debates debate Arab democracy.

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The fifth series of the Doha Debates is set to commence this evening with a debate on the issue of democracy in the Middle East, chairman Tim Sebastian announced yesterday. The Qatar Foundation-sponsored programme, which is based upon the model of the world-famous Oxford Union Debates, continues to grow in popularity, and this year the team has promised to tackle more controversial issues with a tougher stance. After becoming the top-rated weekend programme on BBC World News, Doha Debates has been rebranded with a focus on the 'power of words,' declaring them to be the 'only weapon' able to change minds and bring about change." Gulf Times, 16 September 2008. "Doha Debates will launch its fifth series today debating the motion 'This House Believes progress towards democracy has halted in the Arab world.'" The Peninsula, 16 September 2008. See also BBC World News Doha Debates web page.

MBC programs available on-demand, worldwide.

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Regional [Arab] broadcaster MBC has teamed up with UAE telecom operator Etisalat to provide a free-of-charge video-on-demand service which will allow busy viewers to catch up on their favourite TV shows via the internet. The service, which is enabled by Etisalat technology, features MBC’s top nine programmes - all of which are only available in Arabic - on the portal. ... MBC, which claims to be the number one broadcaster in terms of TV viewership during Ramadan, has reported strong interest in the platform since it was launched last Wednesday. It says it has recorded around 80,000 views per day, 'mainly from Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries', though the service is available worldwide to anyone with a good connection." 7Days (Dubai), 15 September 2008.

Al Jazeera in the news.

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"After a plight largely ignored by the international media, Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera cameraman held in Guantanamo Bay ... was invited to Toronto in October to receive the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) International Press Freedom Award.", 16 September 2008.
     "There's a decoupling in the wind, America is essentially finished as a global economic power. The US dollar is now finished as the world's reserve currency and we are going to see now some other country rise up and take its place, most probably China." Financial analyst Max Keiser, interviewed by Al Jazeera English, 15 September 2008.
     Al Jazeera "covered both major political conventions, but it must clear an additional hurdle with the party that established the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and warrantless wire-tapping. In a secret meeting in 2004, President Bush discussed the possibility of bombing Al Jazeera’s broadcast headquarters in Qatar to halt its coverage of the Iraq War. ... Except for the confiscation of some Al Jazeera coffee mugs by [Republican] convention security, the news organization’s stay in St. Paul was largely uneventful." Twin Cities Daily Planet, 15 September 2008.
     "Personally, I believe that Al Jazeera English delivers higher quality than CNN; the coverage may also be biased, but I generally find it to be less biased than CNN International and, not unimportant, they cover issues CNN does not; those issues are important nonetheless." Michael van der Galien, PoliGazette, 16 September 2008.

Al Qaeda 9/11 message hacked?

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"One important event this past September 11 went unnoticed. Al Qaeda had earlier promised an important video release on September 11. But the video, thought to be a rant from some senior al Qaeda official (maybe even bin Laden), never showed up. There are two possible reasons for this. First, there is the recent dismantling of the al Qaeda Internet media operation (mostly in Iraq, but in other countries as well.) ... Second, there's the growing war by anti-terrorist hackers (individuals and groups) to shut down pro-terrorist web sites." Strategy Page, 15 September 2008. In recent history, and still to some extent, groups such as Al Qaeda would have used clandestine shortwave stations to disseminate their messages. Such broadcasts could be jammed, but with more difficulty than the hacking of websites today.

Time again for the DW BOBs.

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Over the next four weeks, Internet users can nominate exceptional Weblogs at Deutsche Welle is also proud to announce that the Indonesian language has been added to the BOBs [Best of Blogs], bringing the total number of languages to 11 and the total categories to 16 (Arabic, Chinese, German, English, Farsi, French, Indonesian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish). The BOBs are the largest international Weblog awards and offer a thorough overview of the rapidly growing online scene of Weblogs, videoblogs and podcasts. Last year alone, 7,000 blogs, podcast and videoblogs were nominated and over 100,000 people voted for their favorites online. Awards are decided both by an international jury of media experts and bloggers and through online voting." DW press release, 9 September 2008. See also the BOBs website.

BBC and DW to Europe via DRM digital shortwave.

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Two of the world's major international broadcasters, BBC World Service and Deutsche Welle, have announced plans to launch a joint radio service to Europe on DRM Shortwave. The new stream, which will be entirely in English, is expected to go live in early 2009. Broadcast in clear digital quality, it will be available from early morning till late at night targetting Western and Central Europe... The service will provide a multimedia offer of audio and text, the latter coming automatically from the BBC News website." BBC World Service press release, 16 September 2008. Same as Deutsche Welle pres release, 12 September 2008.
     With BBC recently removed from the FM dial in Sofia (see previous post, including my comments), and reportedly soon to be off FM in Saxony (see previous post), Digital Radio Mondiale shortwave as a means to cover all of Europe may be an increasingly attractive option for World Service. Pity that few people have DRM receivers, or that few DRM receivers are even available for sale. But if there are to be early adopters for DRM, they would be in Europe. Furthermore, while DRM has not been especially successful in being received over long distances and when interference is present, intra-European circuits will probably work, most days.

BBC, RFI leaving the Saxony FM dial?

Posted: 16 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Kai Ludwig saw a report in Sächsische Zeitung, 15 September, (not available online) that BBC World Service and Radio France International will sell their licenses for the FM frequencies that they share in Saxony. The frequencies will be sold to Berlin-based Radioropa. The frequency in Dresden in 91.1 MHz. Programming on the frequency includes BBC World Service English and RFI German and French.

Recalling Soviet jamming and efforts to overcome it.

Posted: 15 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Article about the Echo of Moscow radio station mentions that beginning in the 1950s "the Soviet regime took great care to jam the Russian-language broadcasts of the BBC, the Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and Deutsche Welle. Jamming was an ongoing battle between state and subject. Especially in the sixties and seventies, urban intellectuals typically committed their first anti-Soviet act by purchasing a decent radio—either a Soviet Latvian-made Spidola or, if possible, a German-made Grundig—and attempting to listen to the 'foreign voices.' They would try anything to catch an aural glimpse of the world beyond, turning the radio sideways or upside down to get a signal or sticking the antennas out the window; better yet, they escaped from the big cities to the surrounding dacha communities, where the jamming was less effective. The fortunate listener caught some foreign news on Deutsche Welle, the Beatles on the BBC, Willis Conover’s famous jazz broadcasts on VOA." David Remnick, New Yorker, 22 September 2008 issue.

Putting lipstick on a bear (updated).

Posted: 15 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Anatoly Adamishin served as the last deputy to the Soviet foreign minister during the time of Eduard Shevardnadze. ... In Adamishin's opinion, for most Russians, the issue of image is non-existent. 'They think all the people in the West are Russophobes, and there's no point to investing in information,' he says. But, he adds that 'the intelligentsia and the decision-makers have a different point of view. They understand, and more, the importance of Russia's international image. That is why they set up state-run TV channels in English and Arabic, and also why they set up the Valdai Forum' (a series of meetings organized by the Kremlin to woo Western pundits). Indeed, the fact is that ultimately the Russian leaders were sent to carry out a media blitz that included not only CNN but also Al Jazeera, the BBC, the French TFI channel and the state English-language channel, Russia Today." Ha'aretz, 11 September 2008.
     Update: "In the Georgia-Russia war, public-relations and public-diplomacy experts marvel at the preparation and effectiveness of Georgia’s media 'blitzkrieg.' As soon as Russia counterattacked with tanks and troops, Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili went on the media offensive, logging five hours of airtime on global news stations in just a few days. ... There are lessons in Russia’s experience for U.S. policymakers and citizens, lessons involving the limits of pure military power and the importance of what might be called a nation’s 'brand.'" Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 15 September 2008.

Who would have thought? International broadcasting as a profit center.

Posted: 14 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"As some of the established UK media companies look at double-digit advertising falls, and move to cut costs and jobs, CNBC revenues for Europe, the Middle East and Africa are 39 per cent ahead year-on-year so far in 2008. ... CNBC, which this month celebrates its 10th anniversary, can apparently buck the dismal trends in the media because it is international – and because its target audience is largely the upmarket men whom advertisers still want to reach, even in recessionary times. For advertising purposes, the company says it only measures viewers who are in the top 20 per cent income bracket. ... CNN International is also enjoying some of the benefits of being an international broadcaster targeting decision-makers in many countries. Jonathan Davies, executive vice- president of CNN International News Advertising Sales, says he is 'cautiously optimistic' that the company's double-digit revenue growth achieved over the past five years will continue this year. There is optimism but still with a note of caution because one never knows how things will turn out. We are not tied into the fortunes of any one market. There are opportunities for us which there probably aren't for the ITVs of this world. The Middle East, China and India are all booming markets.'" The Independent, 14 September 2008.

Afghanistan: UK tries radio to quell violence.

Posted: 14 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"On August 21, Gordon Brown signalled that the British government is taking one new initiative seriously - establishing dialogue with local people through radio funded by the UK's Department for International Development. The objective is ultimately to convince Afghans that the future lies not with violence but with negotiated settlements to the myriad of problems which are fuelling the current conflict. ... Will this approach win heart and minds? The precedents are encouraging: Voice of America, broadcasting to the lawless North West Frontier of Pakistan, has transformed its listening figures with a daily phone-in programme. After centuries of being marginalised through oppressive social and political structures, the Pakistani Pashtuns can at last speak their minds on a range of topics in the safety of anonymity - and they have seized it with enthusiasm. ... And in Afghanistan, the evaluation of the BBC soap opera New Home New Life's long-running story on the landmine dangers showed that non-listeners were twice as likely to be injured or killed by landmines than listeners." Gordon Adam, Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 14 September 2008.

Barack Obama looks older on shortwave.

Posted: 14 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Interview with Ingrid Betancourt, recently freed captive of FARC in Colombia: "Q: A lot has happened in the world in the last seven years. I imagine, there’s a lot of catching up to do. Betancourt: Yes, of course: there are some gaps to be filled here and there. I needed help getting accustomed to the new computer programs, for instance. But thanks to the shortwave radio I was able to follow developments around the world. I just wasn’t able to put any pictures together with the news. For example, Barack Obama looks much younger than I imagined." Die Weltwoche, 12 September 2008.

BBC's highly placed audiences.

Posted: 14 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Robert Mugabe's "former press secretary – speaking to the UK press for the first time – has revealed that Wimbledon, cricket and the BBC World Service are among the few indulgences Mugabe permits himself. ... He also spoke of how the one-time liberation hero was hooked on the BBC World Service. 'Mugabe admired Britain and the BBC very much, but that changed when the British journalists started reporting what was actually happening in Zimbabwe.'" The Scotsman, 14 September 2008.
     "A big upgrade is under way for the cable-TV system to which those who toil in [the U.S.] Congress are privy. Soon, the number of cable channels available to the 535 offices will reach 54 -- about 19 more than they have now. Many of the channels, new and old, have at least a nominal connection to the job of legislating -- C-SPAN 1, 2, 3; CNN and its rival cable news networks; the NASA channel; Pentagon TV; the Weather Channel; even BBC World." Scripps Howard, 12 September 2008.

Radio Martí, the hurricane bad-news station.

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"With expanded newscasts and extensive coverage, Radio Martí reports on the damage of Hurricane Ike are filling the information gap left by Cuban government media. 'Thanks to the staff of Radio Marti. The station has been the source of information on Hurricane Ike since Cuban media is not reporting about the damages,' said Jose Triero, independent journalist from Holgium, one of the most affected cities in Cuba." Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 10 September 2008. VOA reports on Ike's impact in Texas. VOA News, 13 September 2008.

Major League Baseball: international broadcaster.

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Intelsat ... has announced that Major League Baseball International (MLBI) signed a contract for international distribution to its rightsholders in Asia, Europe and Latin America, providing local viewing access to games and highlights of the upcoming season. Standard and high definition feeds of the League’s games will be transmitted into Asia, Europe and Latin America using five Intelsat satellites.", 11 September 2008.

Reviving Letter from America. But how to replace Alistair Cooke?

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
BBC "Radio 4 is planning a replacement for Letter From America, the late Alistair Cooke's weekly dispatch from across the Atlantic. Cooke presented the much-loved show for more than half a century, until his death, aged 95, in 2004. Station executives believe the time is right for another regular series offering opinions and insights on life in the United States." The Telegraph, 11 September 2008. LFA was also a staple of BBC World Service, although not always included in transmissions directed to North America, on the assumption that the talks were more of interest to those outside the United States. Incorrect assumption: American shortwave listeners counted LFA among their favorite programs.

New twist in China/DW contretemps.

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Germany's Focus magazine threatened China's official Xinhua News Agency with legal action Friday if it does not retract a story saying a Focus reporter had a 'Falun Gong background' and another calling the magazine's methods akin to those of the Nazis. Focus spokesman Uwe Barfknecht said if Xinhua does not retract the articles and agree not to repeat the allegations the Munich-based magazine would pursue a court order forcing them to do so. The Xinhua articles in question were written in reaction to a report in Focus before the Olympics. The Focus story described a radio report by a Chinese-born journalist for Germany's government-funded Deutsche Welle that praised China's Communist Party." AP, 12 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Ethiopian jamming specialist among "most influential."

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Among "25 most influential" Ethiopians: "Bereket Simon, propagandist. He is chief of propaganda for the Woyanne tribal junta. ... Bereket is responsible for controlling the flow of information in Ethiopia. He is behind the blockade of Ethiopian news web sites such as, the jamming of Voice of America, DW and other radio broadcasts to Ethiopia, the shutting down of most of the private newspapers in the country, and the jailing of journalists and editors. Bereket has paid a huge amount of money to the Chinese government to jam the VOA daily broadcasts to Ethiopia. VOA countered by launching more powerful frequencies. VOA continues to be heard through out Ethiopia clearly, despite desperate efforts by Chinese engineers to jam it. VOA also exposes the paradox of U.S foreign policy toward Ethiopia. On the one hand, the U.S. Government allows the VOA, which is under the supervision of the State Department [sic], to expose Woyanne's injustices. On the other hand, it continues to give political, diplomatic and financial support to the Woyanne regime." Ethiopian Review, 12 September 2008.

Uzbek stringer for RFE/RL, VOA on trial.

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Uzbek authorities should drop all charges against an independent journalist facing politically motivated prosecution and release him, Human Rights Watch said today. Salijon Abdurakhmanov, a journalist known for his critical reporting of the authorities, goes on trial on September 12, 2008, in Nukus, the capital city of Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan. ... He worked closely with UzNews, an independent online news agency, and also freelanced for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting." Human Rights Watch, 12 September 2008.

Egypt may impose more broadcasting restrictions.

Posted: 13 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Egypt's parliament is due to examine a new broadcasting bill in November that ... calls for new prison penalties of between one month and three years and would make it possible for reporters to be prosecuted for 'attacking social peace, national unity, public order and society's values.' ... In Egypt, TV stations that want to transmit via the Nilesat beacon -- the most widespread satellite network in the country -- must obtain Cairo's approval. Already, programs are being banned, the most notable of which was a series by American government-funded Al Hurra network on youth and democracy in Egypt. The program 'Youth and Politics' was to be shown as part of the region-wide 'Eye on Democracy' series." Middle East Times, 12 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

English-language website provides Russia's take on South Ossetia.

Posted: 12 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Public Investigation Commission in South Ossetia has launched an English-language version, the head of the committee said Friday. The new site, at [sic: should be], is supported by the Russia Today international news channel and provides information on the process and results of the investigation into Georgia's attack on South Ossetia on August 8." RIA Novosti, 12 September 2008. See also For the Georgian perspective, see the President of Georgia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, and Georgia Public Broadcasting websites.

CNN International taps into cross-platform audience research.

Posted: 12 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"CNN International is hoping to steal a march on its advertising rivals after becoming the first European media owner to subscribe to a continent-wide survey on cross-platform audience behaviour. The Digital Life survey gathers audience behavioural habits across TV, online and mobile devices from nearly 5,000 people across 19 European countries. Combined data from the digital European Media Survey and Pax reveals that nearly a fifth of CNN viewers, 17.9% of the audience, regularly listen to podcasts and 33.4% listen to radio online." The Guardian, 12 September 2008.

Imagine a radio purchased in France that works in Germany.

Posted: 12 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"WorldDMB and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) have announced a major step in achieving a unified digital radio market for Europe with the publication of a set of minimum features and functions for all digital radio receivers, known as the WorldDMB Digital Radio Receiver Profiles. ... The announcement will ensure that digital radios bought in France, for example, also work in Germany, Italy or Norway and vice versa, and will apply to any country in Europe or beyond using the WorldDMB Eureka147 Family of Standards." broadcastbuyer, 12 September 2008. For decades, analog radios purchased in one country have been able to work (at least on medium wave) anywhere in the world. With competing digital standards (Digital Radio Mondiale is not mentioned in any of these recent announcements), such universality of digital radios is not assured.

VT offer would allow small radio stations to become international radio stations.

Posted: 12 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
VT Communications, orginally the BBC World Service transmission department, "is offering what is described as a 'Taste of Digital' and allowing small to medium sized radio broadcasters the chance to test their programmes on digital platforms over a three-month period." Includes: "Scheduled 'live' streaming of the show from the broadcaster’s website to its audience around the world, cost effectively capturing a new and geographically diverse audience." Rapid TV News, 11 September 2008.

Internet to the "other 3 billion," via satellite.

Posted: 12 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Google has thrown its weight behind ambitious plans to bring internet access to 3bn people in Africa and other emerging markets by launching at least 16 satellites to bring its services to the unconnected half of the globe. The search engine has joined forces with John Malone, the cable television magnate, and HSBC to set up O3b Networks, named after the 'other 3bn' people for whom fast fibre internet access networks are not likely to be commercially viable. ... O3b, headquartered in Jersey, the Channel Islands tax haven, will focus on signing up communications operators, including clients of HSBC, in emerging markets across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. It could also supply satellite dishes in more developed markets such as Mexico, where bandwidth remains expensive in rural areas" Financial Times, 9 September 2008.
     "Everything I've ever read or heard on the subject predicted that cellular service would be the technology to bring Internet to poor people in poor nations. The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal both ran stories about 03B today, but neither of them really addressed whether the company expects poor people to be able to afford its service and why it is using satellites rather than conventional wireless technology. Anyone have an explanation?" Andrew Smith, Dallas Morning News blog, 9 September 2008.
     "Most of today's developed countries are linked by thousands of kilometers of submarine fiber optic cables to carry core Internet traffic. This is a very cost-effective solution, once the fiber is in place; but in many developing and remote areas, fiber isn't available due to economic and sometimes political roadblocks. Though existing geo-synchronous satellites are able to reach theses areas, they provide slow Internet connectivity because of their distance from the Earth - and they're expensive and often fully subscribed. O3b plans to deliver fiber-like Internet backhaul service using a constellation of medium-orbit satellites." Larry Alder, Google Public Policy Blog, 11 September 2008. Will internet users in Africa and elsewhere connect directly to these MEO satellites? Or through a local wireless or wired network?

Sticking pins in the BBG voodoo doll.

Posted: 12 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The [Broadcasting Board of Governors], which manages U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcasts to countries without free media, has just launched its new website, which shows on its 'Home' page a picture of Buddhist monks, a flashy promotional video, and the slogan: 'Bringing News and Information to People Around the World in 60 Languages.' For those who are familiar with the BBG’s record of foreign policy blunders and are concerned about media freedom, the Buddhist monks picture tells a tale that is greatly at odds with the advertising look of the new government website. The same bipartisan body of two women and four men -- three Democrats and three Republicans, including the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- had tried earlier to reduce the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) news radio programs to Tibet and China." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 10 September 2008.
     "Instead of continually trying to destroy VOA, the BBG should be reconstituted as the pillar of American public diplomacy, with a new U.S. Information Agency-style umbrella." Vello Ederma, letter to the Washington Times, 8 September 2008.
     The Broadcasting Board of Governors is, lately, even more unpopular than usual. But it is the BBG's job to make unpopular decisions about the reduction or elimination of old, revered international broadcasting services and media technologies.
     Furthermore, U.S. international broadcasting cannot succeed without credibility. It cannot achieve credibility without autonomy. It cannot be autonomous unless it is under a bipartisan board, whose members have fixed and staggered terms. The board, rather than the government, hires and fires top executives and makes other key decisions. Dissolving the BBG might provide job security for some in the short term, but it will lead to failure in the long term.
     As for Tibetan, I think the BBG has been trying to bring the number of hours back down to the capabilities of the VOA and RFA Tibetan services. Adding hours to a language service has diminishing returns when those hours are during mid-day or overnight hours, when few people listen to foreign broadcasts.
     Having two U.S. Tibetan services with overlapping content, competing with each other for scarce resources, goes beyond diminishing returns: it's downright counterproductive.
     Having to find money for the flavor-of-the-month languages of the Muslim countries, BBG is eliminating costly duplication of VOA and RFE/RL to the Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union by reducing VOA to internet-only rump services in the affected languages (or in the case of Georgian, eliminating the VOA service altogether).
     This leaves RFE/RL, which is very good at covering target country news, but not as good as VOA in covering world news and Washington reaction. VOA could provide these services to RFE/RL (precedent: VOA's old German Service was essentially the Washington bureau of RIAS, the U.S. broadcasting service in West Berlin directed to East Germany). But this probably won't happen because VOA and RFE/RL, though funded by the same government, are archrivals. They would never admit it, but each is wholeheartedly and enthusiastically devoted to the compete and utter elimination of the other.
     The rationalization of U.S. international broadcasting cannot be brought through the back door by reducing VOA services to websites. The BBG must stand up and speak out for a real consolidation into a single organization, capable of producing the correct mix of content and media to suit each target country, and of adjusting that mix as conditions in the target country change. The BBG should promote this to the next administration, to Congress, and to all interested publics.
     This might be difficult for the BBG, as one of its first acts was to support, though the creation of Radio Free Asia, the de-consolidation of U.S. international broadcasting. To be sure, RFA is a very good international broadcasting service. But it duplicates the very good East Asian services of VOA. East Asia is a vast, mostly closed region. It is very difficult to get news out of, and to get broadcast signals into, East Asia. The division of scarce international broadcasting resources between two competing stations has had a devastating impact on U.S. international broadcasting.
     For international broadcasting Russia, Georgia, and the rest of the former Soviet Union, audiences there are no longer huddled around their shortwave radios. They are watching television. Television, as in many times more expensive and complicated than radio. With resources divided between VOA and RFE/RL, success for U.S. international radio broadcasting has been problematic. Without organizational reform, success in international television broadcasting is out of the question.
     As for the resumption of a U.S. Information Agency-style "umbrella," this is an idea heard often these days. Back during the decades that VOA was under USIA, USIA pulled VOA in the direction of policy advocacy, while VOA's audience and its own newsroom wanted an objective, balanced news service. This left VOA as the platypus duckbill of international broadcasting, its mammal part doing the news, its bird part doing propaganda. A VOA subservient to a reconstituted USIA would really lay an egg.

RFE/RL versus Radio Moscow.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
The Modern History of Russia, 1945-2006: A Teacher's Handbook "explains, the United States 'unleashed an ideological war' whose 'main tool' was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (And yet Radio Moscow had broadcast in every language under the sun for decades before and after the war, not to mention the thousands of pro-Soviet--and often Soviet-funded--newspapers and magazines around the world, and the incessant 'peace' 'congresses,' 'conferences,' 'movements,' and 'appeals' of the 1940s and early 1950s.)." Leon Aron, The New Republic via American Enterprise Institute, 9 September 2008.

Georgi Markov murder investigation will continue.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Bulgaria is to keep open its probe of the 'umbrella killing' in London of dissident Georgy Markov in 1978, the head of the country's investigation service, Boiko Naydenov, told AFP Wednesday. Initially, the investigation was to have been closed this week when a 30-year statute of limitations expired. ... Markov, a prominent journalist and playwright, fled communist Bulgaria in 1969 for Britain, where he regularly hit out at Bulgaria's communist regime in reports for the BBC and Radio Free Europe." AFP, 11 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

New BBC appointment has many target countries.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The BBC has appointed Razvan Scortea as the Head of its BBC French and BBC Great Lakes language services. ... BBC in French for Africa – BBC Afrique – broadcasts daily programmes to millions of people in 23 countries across four time zones. BBC Great Lakes broadcasts programmes in Kinyarwanda and Kirundi to audiences in Rwanda, Burundi and neighbouring countries." BBC World Service press release, 10 September 2008.

BBC Arabic broadcasters vote to strike (updated).

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
National Union of Journalists "members at the BBC’s Arabic Service have voted resoundingly in favour of strike action. The ballot was called because management is failing to adequately address staff concerns about resources, workloads and staffing levels. ... An industrial action ballot was called after the management failed to guarantee sufficient staffing levels across the TV, radio and online services. The BBC has invested significantly in its Arabic Service and is planning to extend its TV operations from 12 to 24 hours a day. However, this increase in work has been proposed without an appropriate increase in staffing." NUJ, 4 September 2008.
     BBC: "BBC Arabic staff already have working conditions and rotas which are comparable with staff working on other news outlets in the BBC and our proposals, if they had been accepted, would have further enhanced their position." The Guardian, 3 September 2008.
     The large number of Arabic news channels creates a seller's market, i.e. favoring labor, so it is not surprising that the BBC Arabic staff is willing to take a chance with this strike. Competing channels include the deep-pocketed Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, as well as Al Manar, Alhurra, and the Arabic services of DW-TV, France 24, Russia Today, EuroNews, and others. All these stations must compete for a finite pool of Arabic-speaking broadcast journalists.
     Update: "Journalists with BBC Arabic Television believe that the demands made of them exceed those made of their colleagues in other sections of the BBC World Service, especially as the planning and news- gathering section is almost dysfunctional, a fact admitted by BBC management, which has set up a committee to investigate the reasons, headed by the deputy head of the Africa and Middle East section of the BBC World Service." Al Hayat (London), 7 September, via BBC Monitoring, via redOrbit, 10 September 2008.

BBC poll gives Obama big lead among those who can't vote for him.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"All 22 countries in a BBC World Service poll would prefer Democratic nominee Barack Obama to be elected US president instead of his Republican rival John McCain. Obama is preferred by a four to one margin on average across the 22,000 people polled." BBC World Service press release, 10 September 2008. See also BBC News, 10 September 2008.
     "The BBC has come under fire for wasting thousands of pounds in taxpayers money on a 'meaningless' global survey about who people want to be the next US president. ... Conservative MP Philip Davies, who sits on the culture, media and sport select committee, said: 'I think this is an appalling waste of taxpayers' money, which has no bearing on anything. There are dozens of polls coming out from the US all the time. This is completely meaningless whatever the result. It also comes at a time when the BBC are laying off people.'" Daily Mail, 10 September 2008.
     "Republicans will probably figure out a way to spin the results against him." Don Frederick, Los Angeles Times blog, 11 September 2008.
     "BBC World News Radio will broadcast from Quail Run Golf Course in Sun City [California] on Sunday as part of its U.S. election bus tour.", 9 September 2008.

Watching Indonesian television, 12 September 2001.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"There was nothing. Nothing. My host had neither cable nor satellite -- much less CNN International or the BBC -- thus we were reliant on Indonesian news channels. And all we got was silence: an impartial, stony silence -- simply game shows, political news about Indonesia, and local celebrity gossip. That more than 3,000 Americans just lost their lives was somehow starkly irrelevant." Joseph Kirschke,, 11 September 2008.

Al Jazeera MD on Canada's televised debates.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Tony Burman, managing director of Al Jazeera English, formerly CBC editor-in-chief, writes: "Prime Minister Harper's refusal to allow the Green Party leader to participate in the Federal Election Debates is cynical and self-serving, but at least it exposes the sham that Canada's election debate process has become. After 40 years of relying on Canada's television networks to organize this important event, I believe it is time for Canadians -- through the CRTC -- to pull the plug on the networks and entrust this vital mission to an independent, non-partisan 'commission' similar to how it is done in the U.S." Globe and Mail, 10 September 2008.

UK discrimination suit against Al Jazeera carries on.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"A former executive at al-Jazeera English seeking more than £1m compensation for alleged discrimination today branded the Qatar-based news channel's management 'inconsistent, inefficient and malicious' at an employment tribunal in London. Jo Burgin, the former head of planning at the channel, which launched in November 2006 as a spin-off of the al-Jazeera Arabic language news service, is seeking compensation from the company for alleged discrimination on the grounds of sex, race and religion following the non-renewal of her contract in April 2007." The Guardian, 9 September 2008. "Ingrid Simler QC, representing al-Jazeera English at the London tribunal hearing, countered claims made by Burgin that the station shunned woman, highlighting the appointment of women to two senior roles at the network." The Guardian, 9 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

DW-TV via Livestation.

Posted: 11 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Livestation, the company that streams live TV over broadband, has teamed up with the German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, to carry its TV and radio offerings. Germany's international broadcaster becomes the ninth partner channel to join Livestation and is now a channel choice alongside BBC World, EuroNews (English, French, German and Italian), France 24 (French and English), Bloomberg, Al Jazeera and Russia Today." broadcastbuyer, 10 September 2008. Interview with Matteo Berlucchi, CEO of Livestation, NewTeeVee, 10 September 2008.

Two international radio stations have stayed on the air long enough to celebrate anniversaries.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Radio Sweden celebrated its 70th anniversary with a English-language live program before a studio audience. The discussion including its coverage of major Swedish news stories over the decades. Listen to the 3 September 2008 broadcast on this web page or download the mp3 file from this page.
     Radio New Zealand International marked its 60th anniversary on its Mailbag program. Download the program dated 31 August 2008 from this web page. The next one or two Mailbag programs will have additional information on the history of New Zealand's shortwave broadcasts. See also David Ricquish,, via DX Listening Digest, 2 September 2008.

Blog report: Paula Zahn declined offer to be BBG spokesperson.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Perhaps Paula Zahn, formerly of CNN and ABC, could have explained to the White House, the U.S. Congress and the American people why the Voice of America (VOA) Russian-language radio programs were not being heard in the war zone in Georgia, or in Russia itself, when the Russian troops invaded their small neighbor on August 8. Twelve days earlier, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which tried to hire Paula Zahn as their public relations guru, had shut down all VOA radio broadcasts to Russia, and was about to shut down VOA radio to Georgia. ... The BBG failed to hire Paula Zahn because in the end she turned them down." Ted Lipine, Blogger News Network, 8 September 2008.

New DTH service brings international channels to Nigeria.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The quality, content and pricing of satellite and pay TV services in Nigeria are set to witness a revolution as Daar Communications, promoters of Africa Independent Television and Ray Power Radio Station get set to lauch DAARSAT, a new satellite Direct-To-Home (DTH) Pay TV next month (October 7). ... Channels which will be available on DAARSAT include Eurosports News, MTV Base, Fox Sports, Fox News, Fox Baby TV, Science TV, National Geographic, Fashion TV, African Business Channel, BBC World and Al Jazerra, Also included CNBC Africa, Sound City, AIT Movie Star, Arewa Channel, Yoruba Channel, NTA, AIT and Euro News among others." Business Day (Nigeria), 8 September 2008.

NRJ: international radio success story.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Outside France NRJ Group subsidiary NRJ International operates radio stations in 14 countries, almost all with local partners. Modern Times Group (MTG) is the primary partner in Scandinavia. In addition, the NRJ name has been licensed in Russia, Bulgaria, Lebanon and Ukraine. Prof-Media is the Russian partner. ... Developing the NRJ brand outside France, where the company has had no incumbency advantage, poses a clear challenge. ... 'We are not just a radio station. We are a consumer brand connected through many platforms.'" Michael Hedges,, 8 September 2008. See also NRJ Group website.

BBC America will follow a shipping container for a year.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC America’s flagship news program is sending a bright red shipping container around the world, tracking its progress and reporting from the ports it visits as a way to explore globalized business. ... The 40-foot container leaves Southampton in southern England today, carrying real goods. It’s initially headed to Scotland to be loaded with whisky and then put on a container ship bound for China. It will carry consumer goods from Shanghai to Philadelphia and general cargo from the U.S. to Germany. 'The Box' is likely to travel to countries like Japan, Russia, Singapore and Vietnam carrying cargoes as varied as car parts and sporting goods." Multichannel News, 8 September 2008. See also BBC America press release, 8 September 2008.

BBC World News promotes its ability to make world leaders squirm.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"BBC World News has launched a television [promotion] drive - 'Power of Questions' to champion its news teams. ... The first spot, 'No comment', highlights how the persistence of BBC reporters helps them get stories while 'Killer questions', the second spot, features world leaders stumped by questions being posed to them on in-depth new programmes such as HARDtalk and Newsnight." Media (Hong Kong), 9 September 2008. See also BBC World News press release, 8 September 2008. Are UK leaders among the stumped?

Listening to BBC on 9/11. On an airplane. On the ground.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"We were just two of the 6,500 airline passengers who disembarked at Gander International Airport in Newfoundland on that dreadful day. Thirty eight planes were stacked up on that runway (a very bizarre sight!). And not one of us knew about events unfolding on the American mainland. After 20 hours being left on the plane, we were anxious, hungry and desperate for information. People were starting to complain and tensions were starting to rise. Then they hooked us up to the BBC World Service and we finally heard of the horror unfolding. An eerie quiet swept through the plane like a thick woollen blanket being pulled across every head, as everyone tried to take in the enormity of what had happened." Tara Cain, Coventry Telegraph, 7 September 2008. Presumably reception was via shortwave, as passenger aircraft are equipped with shortwave (HF) equipment. Would shortwave reception of BBC be possible today on a Newfoundland taxiway?

Al Jazeera shows segment of Al Qaeda 9/11 video.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Today, Al-Jazeera aired a segment of a documentary by Al-Qaeda's media unit Al-Sahab titled 'The Harvest of Seven Years Since 9/11.' The video, which was partially subtitled in English by Al-Sahab, was aired together with a statement by the network that it had 'managed to get' hold of the film and that the film had not yet been posted on any Al-Qaeda website." Middle East Media Research Institute, 8 September 2008.

New Australia Network program takes on a vast subject.

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Before the year ends, the relatively silent P in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s television service for the Asia-Pacific region should pick up a lot more noise. That is the promise of ABC International director Murray Green... 'By October or November this year, we will launch a weekly magazine show on the Pacific which we are calling Pacific Pulse. It will look at the region’s pop culture, music, arts, fashion and people who are making a difference in Pacific society.' Pacific Pulse will be aired on ABC’s international service, Australian [sic] Network, beamed via satellite to 40 countries across Asia and the Pacific. ... It will be in many ways run along the same line as its successful and widely listened Pacific Beat programme currently heard on the ABC’s international radio service, Radio Australia." Islands Business (Suva), 7 September 2008. The actual name of the channel is Australia Network, i.e. no "n" at the end -- see

Telesur: South America through South Americans' eyes, soon to South Africa?

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
In Nikolas Kozloff, Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left: "A chapter entitled "South American Media Wars" starts off with a close look at Telesur, Venezuela’s new hemispheric TV station. The network has an audience of 5 million viewers and is broadcasted in 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries with 24-hour programming. As its proponents explain, Telesur is a way to show South America through South Americans’ eyes. ... 'We always saw ourselves through the lens of Madrid, London, New York. We begin with the idea that first we must get to know ourselves.'" Upside Down World, 8 September 2008.
     "The 'Five Stars and One Song' concert dedicated to five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the US, will be broadcast live throughout Latin America by Telesur" ACN Cuban News Agency, 8 September 2008.
     During Hugo Chavez's visit to South Africa" "South Africa’s involvement in the Bank of the South, Telesur, and Petrosur were discussed.", 7 September 2008.

Georgi Markov case may never be solved (updated again).

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"In one of the most infamous unsolved crimes of the Cold War, Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was attacked in London on Sept. 7, 1978, and died four days later. With the 30-year statute of limitations coming up, Bulgaria plans to close its investigation of the case, a move that may stymie the U.K.'s probe and leave unanswered speculation that Bulgaria's spy service ordered the hit. ... The assassination silenced Georgi Markov, who used the London-based BBC World Service and U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe to denounce Bulgaria as one of the world's most repressive communist regimes." Bloomberg, 29 August 2008. See previous post about same subject.
     New documents ... confirm that agent Piccadilly, the only suspect in the Markov’s murder investigation, was specially trained in 1978, sent on a mission and subsequently invited to holiday in Bulgaria, where he was presented with medals by the country’s then-secret police State Security." Sofia Echo, 5 September 2008.
     Update: "An enterprising Bulgarian journalist, Hristo Hristov, who spent six years piecing together clues and has just published a book in Bulgaria on the case, believes that ... an Italian-born Dane who was believed to be a renowned assassin. The Scotsman, 9 September 2008.

Russia Today correspondent accuses CNN of Georgian video "forgery."

Posted: 09 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Russia Today TV channel journalists, who worked in the city of Tskhinvali, accuse CNN of forgery in the coverage of the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia, RIA Novosti reports. The statement was made Monday by a correspondent of Russia Today, Nikolai Baranov, during a round table discussion devoted to the recent events in the Caucasus. 'Our crew was making a report about Tskhinvali ruined by the Georgian army. We particularly were filming the University of South Ossetia. We were very surprised and indignant to see this footage on CNN presented as the Georgian town of Gori, which the Russian army supposedly attacked.' ... An official representing the Moscow department of CNN said that the TV company had not taken any efforts to fabricate its reports. 'There might have been a mistake in the preparation of the reports in question,' he said.", 9 September 2008.

Report: DW Chinese reporter suspended for "friendliness toward China" (updated again).

Posted: 08 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Thursday urged the news media to report with objectivity and fairness, after being asked to comment on the suspension of a Chinese journalist by a major German broadcaster. Spokesman Qin Gang was speaking in response to a journalist's question concerning a Zhang Danhong's suspension from her post at international broadcaster Deutsche Welle due to her remarks showing friendliness toward China." Xinhua, 28 August 2008. See also Berliner Zeitung, 22 August 2008. "Zensur ist für die Deutsche Welle (DW) kein unbekanntes Phänomen." ("Censorship is not for Deutsche Welle an unknown phenomenon.") Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 26 August 2008.
     "Her suspension exemplifies the hypocritical nature of some Western media that chant human rights and freedom of speech every day. For a long time, it is politically correct for the Western media to attack China. So when they report on issues about China, they tend to question, challenge and doubt, while turning a blind eye to the improvements and achievements China has made. Freedom of speech is one of the core values the Western media uphold. Then in Zhang's case, why did DW Radio violate the very value it claimed to cherish?" Joshua Shi, Shanghai Daily, 4 September 2008. See also DW press release, 1 August 2008.
     Update: "Ms. Zhang still retains her position in the editor's office, and she has merely been positioned away from the microphone, until this matter is cleared up." Epoch Times, 6 September 2008. See also Beijing Review, 8 September 2008.

Iranian exile internet radio station is "bloggish."

Posted: 07 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Radio Zamaneh is an Amsterdam-based Persian language radio. ... It launched about two years ago and calls itself a ‘radio for bloggers'. ... Q: There are several news sites, outside of Iran, such as Deutsche Welle (DW) Perisan site, covering Iranian blogs. Is there a difference between RZ's approach toward blogging and theirs? A: We don't just cover bloggers, we are bloggers and our style is bloggish: friendly, informal, different, personalized, and diverse. ... Q: How does RZ deal with filtering? ... A: We have to continually find new holes to hide in. We have changed our domain name 5 times! We send our newsletters every day to many people who want to read RZ and have no direct access. But we cannot say that we can evade filtering. Many pages are blocked. Despite that, more than 60% of our readers are from Iran." Global Voices, 6 September 2008. See also

In the Republican Party platform, the only mention of television is TV Martí.

Posted: 07 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Republican Party platform talks little about media issues, despite the oft-expressed media-policy concerns of its presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). ... In the 67-page Republican platform, the only mention of television is a reference to the government-run broadcasting service to Cuba, TV Marti." Broadcasting & Cable, 6 September 2008.
     "Throughout the Cold War, our international broadcasting of free and impartial information promoted American values to combat tyranny. It still does, through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio/TV Marti, and it remains an important instrument in promoting a modernizing alternative to the culture of radical terror. Getting America’s message out to the world is a critical element in the struggle against extremism, and our government must wage a much more effective battle in the war of ideas." -- So the paragraph on public diplomacy deals only with international broadcasting, and makes no mention of VOA, Alhurra, or Radio Sawa.

VOA Music Mix is heard, in Malta, if you have a DAB receiver.

Posted: 07 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Digital Audio Broadcasting [DAB], which has become extremely popular overseas [sic], is to be launched in Malta shortly. ... More than a few stations are also being rebroadcast on the new platform - BBC World Service, Voa Music Mix, Rai Stereo 1/2/3, Retesport, Radio Deejay, World Radio Network, Classic Choice, The Groove and Radio Padre Pio." The Malta Independent, 6 September 2008. Indeed, VOA Music Mix is VOA's only 24-hour English-language service, still with news dutifully provided on the hour. The VOA Music Mix website is here. There, the LISTEN LIVE link will give you a Windows Media Player stream. If you prefer a live Real stream, go to this page (you would probably never find it on your own), then look for Music Mix Live, which has top billing over News Now.

The international channels overlook the 'Stans.

Posted: 07 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"This is my first stop on a visit to the heart of Central Asia's historic Silk Road: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, known collectively as the 'Stans. ... If Western satellite television is some measure of a country's existence, the region remains something of a void. Global weather reports on CNN, BBC World and Sky News skirt the edges of the 'Stans, covering China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey. It seems there's no weather in Central Asia." Kevin Jacob, Brisbane Times, 7 September 2008. The 'Stans would be the stomping ground of RFE/RL, which transmits in Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Turkmen. But does RFE/RL provide weather reports for the region?

A commercial international broadcasting success story.

Posted: 07 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
BBC's "Top Gear is already screened in more than 100 countries and a spin-off magazine, the country's best-selling motoring title, publishes 23 editions around the world. ... American channel NBC has commissioned a pilot that will be made by BBC Worldwide's new Los Angeles production office; and Australians, who already receive the British version of Top Gear, will soon get a domestic equivalent produced by a home-grown company part-owned by BBC Worldwide." The Observer, 7 September 2008.

Soviet-era solutions for broadcasting to the former Soviet Union.

Posted: 06 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The BBG plans to end all Voice of America on-air radio broadcasts to Ukraine by October 1, 2008 and keep only its Internet and television services. Ted Lipien, president of media freedom nonprofit, said that television and Internet are far less effective than radio in an emergency and could not easily reach areas under conflict or occupation, as was demonstrated during the war in Georgia. ... The BBG claims that radio broadcasting to Russia can be better done from Moscow and Prague by the semi-private Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Ted Lipien – who was earlier acting associate director of VOA and helped BBG place programs on stations in Russia, Ukraine, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq – said, however, that RFE/RL journalists and resources in Russia are now dangerously exposed to intimidation and control by the Russian secret police." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 5 September 2008.
     "Before the BBG took over, journalists at the Voice of America would have immediately expanded broadcasts to Russia and Georgia in response to the news emergency and then ask the White House for more money. The BBG took these types of decisions away from the VOA director, who otherwise could have acted quickly and in sync with the Administration and the Congress. In fact, this is what VOA journalists wanted to do this time, but they were told by the VOA management that the BBG considers such requests 'a non-starter.' ... All U.S. radio broadcasts to Russia would be done from now on by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)... The problem is that RFE/RL has a large news bureau in Moscow, which makes its journalists, who are Russian citizens living with their families in Russia, vulnerable to pressure and intimidation by Mr. Putin’s secret police." Ted Lipien, Blogger News Network, 4 September 2008.
     The Broadcasting Board of Governors "ceased VOA's Russian-language programs. In its stead, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a semi-private entity operating in the former Soviet Union, has been tasked with continuing radio broadcasts in Russian. While RFE/RL has a much better track record than Radio Sawa or al-Hurra, the organization has proved uniquely vulnerable to the Kremlin's crackdown on independent media." Helle Dale, Austin (MN) Post-Bulletin, 4 September 2008.
     This is an op-ed version of Helle Dale's Heritage Foundation paper on the same subject. RFE/RL is not "uniquely" vulnerable, because any VOA rebroadcasting affiliates in Russia are also subject to closure. And, as Ted Lipien argues, if RFE/RL journalists and bureaus in the former Soviet Union are subject to intimidation and closure, then RFE/RL would become like VOA, reporting mostly extra-territorially.
     The media environment in Russia and the other former Soviet republics has become complex and competitive. Shortwave may no longer be the best way to reach these countries. And a U.S. international broadcasting strategy that consists of two stations that compete with each other, largely overlapping, one mandated to be deficient in its coverage of target country news, the other mandated to be deficient in its coverage of world news, is not adequate to the task.
See previous post about same subject.

More stories about interns working for VOA.

Posted: 06 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Daniel Strauss, a senior at Whittier College, in California, is covering the [Republican National Convention], for the Voice of America, as a Richard M. Nixon Fellow. For his fellowship, Mr. Strauss, who says he’s a political independent, wants to examine media coverage of the convention, and of the election in general, looking at what the mainstream press reports on and what it omits. He says he is getting an interesting perspective working at VOA, with its international audience. 'They don’t have to play into the partisan politics of the United States,' he says." Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 Septemver 2008.
     "Since [Eli] Harrington had been taking Chinese classes at Brandeis for a year and a half at the time, working in China was another option for Harrington, but one that was kept somewhat in the back of his mind. Puzzled, Harrington sought former Voice of America (VOA) journalist and Brandeis professor Maura Jane Farrelly’s (JOUR) advice on where he might work. Farrelly told Harrington about VOA, a self-identified multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government. Each week, VOA broadcasts its more than 1,250 hours of news, educational, and cultural programming in more than 45 languages to worldwide audiences surpassing 134 million viewers. Farrelly also told Harrington about one of her colleagues who had just started work at Beijing’s VOA bureau." The Brandeis Hoot, 5 September 2008.

"Why Is Russia Losing the Media War?"

Posted: 06 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Comments from eight experts, including Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow: "The answer to the question of 'why Russia is losing the media war' is very simple: the number of professionals in Russia who simultaneously possess the foreign policy, journalism, and debating skills in perfect English is very limited." Russia, 5 September 2008.

Al Jazeera covers the U.S. election (updated).

Posted: 06 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"On Aug. 29 at 6 p.m., as I was about to leave my office, I scanned CNN, MSNBC and Fox only to find out that they were preoccupied with a new election hype. This time, it was John McCain’s game-changing selection of his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin. Al Jazeera English, however, was reporting about the dire conditions of the health care system in America and how uninsured Americans feel towards the two candidates. The story was part of the series 'We the People,' which focuses on how people across America are affected by issues gripping the U.S. elections." Jalal Ghazi, New America Media, 4 September 2008.
     "'I talked to my brother, Khalid, before I left [Iraq]. Everyone there is watching on CNN, Al Jazeera. Both conventions mean a lot to them." LA Weekly, 4 September 2008.
     "Dr. [Ron] Paul continues his packed media schedule today! ... Tonight, he will also be on Glenn Beck (check local listings) and will be interviewed on Al Jazeera English by Riz Khan (check local listings)." Campaign for Liberty, 3 September 2008. Check your local listings and, unless you live in Burlington or Toledo, you will descover that Al Jazeera is not on your local cable. However, see YouTube.
     "Despite the protester with the air horn trying to drown out a bar owner's comments about free speech ... the visit to Golden by Al Jazeera English television network seemed to come off fairly smoothly during the Democratic National Convention last week." Ernie Tucker, Denver People Examiner, 3 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.
     "Middle East broadcaster Al Jazeera has many viewers following Palin's story, 'but we emphasize for our audience her talk about oil drilling. That is the subject our viewers are most interested in about her,' said Arar A. AlSharie, news producer for AJ." Variety, 4 September 2008.
     Update: "Al Jazeera (Arabic) has two goals for its convention coverage: to convey what the conventions are like -- the atmosphere, flavor and logistics -- to people unfamiliar with it and to report on the content. ...its coverage Monday, for instance, was pretty similar to other networks, but Al Jazeera made explicit the connections between Gustav and Katrina. The station brought four Arab-American commentators, two Republicans and two Democrats." Poynter Online, 5 September 2008.

China, the content-blockingest country.

Posted: 06 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Yuan Weijing, wife of blind Chinese human rights lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng told Radio Free Asia: “My mobile phone has had no signal for the past 30 days. At first I tried turning it off and on again, but none of my calls got through. I tried to reach Guangcheng in prison on 2 September, but that call did not get through either. Now it is the same for the people living in the village. Their phone lines are not working.” Reporters sans frontières, 5 September 2008.
     "Up in my room, the Website that pops up on my laptop looks like every other Net portal at a hotel — only it won't let me access human-rights and labor Websites that I know are working fine. The TV gets CNN International — only with strange edits and obviously censored blackouts. My cellphone picks up a strong signal for the China Mobile network. A few months earlier, in Davos, Switzerland, the CEO of China Mobile bragged to a crowd of communications executives that 'we not only know who you are, we also know where you are.'" Naomi Klein,, 5 September 2008.

Iran court overturns death sentence against stringer for VOA and Radio Farda.

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans frontières "today welcomed with great relief the ruling by the Tehran Supreme Court overturning a death sentence against Kurdish journalist Adnan Hassanpour because of a procedural error. ... Hassanpour, 26, was arrested outside his home on 25 January 2007 and was imprisoned in Mahabad jail (Kurdistan). He worked for the weekly Asou covering Kurdish issues, a highly sensitive subject in Iran, until it was banned by the Culture and Islamic Orientation Ministry in August 2005. He also contributed to foreign media such as Voice of America and Radio Farda, broadcasting to Iran in Persian." RSF, 4 September 2008. "'We are relieved that Adnan Hassanpour is no longer under the threat of execution,' said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. 'But we are shocked that he continues to face legal charges as a result of his critical journalism.'" Committee to Protect Journalists, 5 September 2008. See previous post about same subject.

Where a shortwave radio may be evidence against you.

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Kim Dong-sun (63) was arrested for spying after South Korean investigators "found in Kim’s house a membership card of the North Korean Workers’ Party, a shortwave radio, a family picture of the North’s no. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam" etc. Chosun Ilbo, 5 September 2008. The pictured radio is a low-end Sony with shortwave bands, probably selling for less than $50. In any case, any medium wave (AM) radio in South Korea could receive broadcasts from North Korea. Any self-respecting spy would have a general coverage receiver, capable of tuning between the shortwave broadcast bands and of receiving single sideband and CW (Morse code) transmissions.

RFI editor gets scoop, gets fired (updated).

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"On July 8, 2008, Richard Labeviere, an editor-in-chief at Radio France Internationale (RFI) ... carried out an exclusive interview with Syrian President Hafez [sic, should be Bashar] al-Assad in Damascus. The interview was made for RFI and TV5-Monde – two of the media outlets of the French holding company Audiovisuel extérieur de la France (AEF). ... In any other media institution, such an exclusive interview would be welcomed by management. However at RFI, what happened was the contrary: Richard Labeviere was promptly fired and accused of 'serious misconduct.' ... Richard Labeviere is accused of having failed to inform his superiors on time – but the truth is that he actually informed them, in writing, five days before the interview." iPetitions, 26 August 2008. See also l’Humanité, 26 August 2008.
     Update: "A l’heure du rapprochement entre France 24, TV5-Monde et RFI, dans le cadre de la holding Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (AEF) dirigée par Alain de Pouzilhac et Christine Ockrent, il est surprenant que la fabrication de l’information proposée par le modèle France 24 ne provoque pas plus de débats." Marc Endeweld, Le Monde diplomatique, 4 September 2008.

"A whole new world of bias," i.e. the present crop of international news channels.

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Much of the boom in television news stations is commercially funded, especially in south and east Asia. ... But more remarkable has been the proliferation of state-funded channels – many of them with a global reach – in an era generally inimical to large-scale investment in public companies. Many are 'counter-hegemonic', set up with the explicit intention of challenging the 'BBC/CNN approach' to world news. For some of these the challenge is relatively muted: though the stress may at times be significantly different, there isn’t really a different paradigm. The aspiration is still balance and objectivity. France-24 and Al-Jazeera English (AJE, newsroom and anchor Ghida Fakhry pictured left) would fall into this group. On other channels, the aim is more to confront. Some of these newcomers see claims to editorial impartiality as a cover for western hegemonic power and seek to redress the balance. Telesur would be in this category, as would Russia Today, China’s CCTV-9 and Press TV in Iran. Their agenda may be to a lesser or greater degree a conscious one, but the outcome on screen is self-evident: it is hard to find criticism of host governments but easy to find opposition to George W. Bush." James Painter, Financial Times, 4 September 2008. "This article is part of a series on TV around the world. For earlier pieces, visit"

Australia adds Hindi website; other Indian languages may follow.

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Australian High Commission, New Delhi has launched a Hindi version of its website featuring wide ranging information including visas and migration, development cooperation and media. ... 'The Hindi section of the website provides information on visas and immigration, Australian development cooperation in India, Australian business, the broader Australia-India relationship and media information such as major speeches and press releases by the High Commission and Australian Ministers. We also hope to translate the website into other Indian languages in the near future and hope this initiative will help Indian users gain easier accessibility to relevant information'." Australian High Commision India, 1 September 2008.

BBC covers the U.S. election.

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"'There's unprecedented global interest in this election,' said Rome Hartman, former exec producer of CBS "Evening News" and now head of BBC World News America, which operates closely with BBC World News UK. The Blighty broadcasting giant will release a survey next week of 22 countries showing that 'people everywhere are really paying attention to this,' Hartman said." Variety, 4 September 2008.
     BBC World Service coverage of the Republican National Convention, including audio. BBCWS, 4 September 2008.
     "In the run up to the 2008 US presidential election the BBC will broadcast a wealth of election news and programming across its international TV, radio and online news services. At the centre of the election coverage will be the BBC US08 Election bus. On the bus will be a multimedia news team travelling across the US looking to find out what Americans want from their next president, and also what the rest of the world wants from America." BBC World News press release, 1 September 2008.
     "When I was working at BBC World Service in London, a British colleague once said the only thing you needed to know about covering American politics was that the coasts were blue (Democrat) and the interior was red (Republican). True, sort of, on an electoral map, but a ridiculous way to sum up the complexities of the country." Michael Petrou, Macleans blog, 4 September 2008.

Taping of Alhurra's "Eye on Democracy" canceled in Egypt (updated).

Posted: 05 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Egyptian authorities ordered the cancellation of the videotaping of two Programs for the American Satellite channel 'Al-Hura' just few hours before their shooting without justification, and inspite of their 4 weeks agreement with the company. Some of the young Egyptian activists, from the opposition parties as well as from the National Democratic Party, had received a phone call yesterday at noon informing them of the cancellation of the program (Eye on Democracy), which was destined for shooting the day before in the afternoon, inspite of the agreement for made for this purpose, and also inspite of the time and place confirmation they had received the day before." Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, 28 August 2008. Update: Reporters sans frontières "condemns growing Egyptian government control over the media, especially the broadcast media." RSF, 4 September 2008.

U.S. international broadcasting covers the U.S. election.

Posted: 04 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Nafees Takar has the unique task of explaining the Republican National Convention to audiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Like hundreds of other foreign journalists in St. Paul, he is struggling to explain the controversy over vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. For starters, explaining a 'vetting' process to people living in countries with young democracies is a challenge, said Takar, a Pakistani reporter for the Voice of America, a U.S. government news service that broadcasts around the globe. 'In countries like Pakistan, any corrupt person can become a politician and nobody bothers to write anything,' Takar said." Minneapolis Star Tribune, 3 September 2008.
     "A quick look around the convention center shows there is media from all over the world right here in St. Paul for the RNC. There are big networks from Al Jazeera, Telemundo, and the BBC. But there are also a few names you might not recognize like the TV crew from Alhurra TV which broadcasts to 26 million viewers each week in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Rana Abtar covers the U.S. Congress for Alhurra and she says her Arabic-speaking audience has a huge interest in this election." KARE-TV (Minneapolis), 3 September 2008. This item does not mention that Alhurra is funded by the U.S. government.

Ghanaian lauds BBC.

Posted: 04 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"For me personally, I have been hooked on to the BBC since I was born and this addiction is not for nothing. Simply put, whether on the global or local scene, I have not found a suitable alternative for my very wide appetite for information. The other competitors are too blatantly lopsided to their countries of origin to be as appealing; the VOA is all about America, Deutsche Welle is all about Germany as much as CFI is all about France. No one can blame them for that as it is their mandate to project their countries and cultures through that technology. As much as we are the targets and focus of their programming we cannot be a part of the management and development of their operational strategies. ... My addiction to the BBC is predicated on the fact that its Director-General could look his Prime Minister in the face and tell her to go hell because the BBC was not the State agency for promoting patriotism. This was in 1982 during the Falklands War when Margaret Thatcher, then Prime Minister, had accused the BBC of giving too much away to the Argentine war machine by its reporting from the war front." Oblitey Commey,, 3 September 2008.

Two cheers for international channels on local television.

Posted: 04 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Back in June, Vegas PBS challenged our global awareness by putting PBS Worldview on Cox Cable Channel 114. Unhindered by ideological constraints, with news, sports and entertainment in English or English subtitles, it offers everything from everywhere: 'Russia Today,' 'My India,' 'This is Beijing,' 'Dateline Punjab,' 'Asian Variety Show,' 'France 24 News' and 'Muslim Girl Magazine,' among numerous programs. ... But as viewers of PBS' big-tent cultural choices are steadily siphoned off by niche cable (and this country continues its buzz-off attitude toward other nations, at least until we elect a new president), is Worldview a welcome view here? Well, try it. If Russian news doesn't rock you, those Bollywood flicks are rather entertaining." Steve Bornfeld, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4 September 2008. Actually, Worldview is not a PBS operation, but is a national channel distributed by MHz Networks Vegas PBS is the public television channel in Las Vegas.
     "I wouldn't want to deprive myself of TV full-time... . There are some gems, although often they lie buried amid the dross. ... But I'd find it hard to do with just the free-to-air channels now; cable or satellite TV offers more. ... BBC World News and DWTV (Deutsche Welle) uncover stories you just don't see on local TV; National Geographic, Discovery and History channels traverse time and space." David Killick, The Press (Christchurch), 3 September 2008.

Microsoft and 12 other companies will invest in the new Japan International Broadcasting Inc.

Posted: 04 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Microsoft Corp, NTT Communications Corp and Itochu Corp, together with 10 other companies will take stakes in Japan's first 24-hour English-language broadcasting service, which will be established by Japan Broadcasting Corp, or NHK, in February, the Nikkei reported on Thursday, without citing sources. Japan International Broadcasting Inc, the unit of NHK which currently has capital of 200 million yen ($1.8 million), will boost its capital by 190 million yen in October, the business daily said. The NHK unit will issue new shares in private placements to the 13 firms, which also include Nippon Television Network Corp, Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc, two other commercial TV networks and Mizuho Corporate Bank. Once the new shares are issued, NHK's interest in the unit will drop to around 60 percent, the report said. The 13 firms will own the remainder, with each putting up 10-20 million yen and taking stakes of no more than about 5 percent each." Thomson Financial, 3 September 2008. Isn't NHK World TV already a 24-hour English broadcasting service? See this schedule. Is the 10-20 million yen that the partners will put up the same as the mentioned 190 million yen capital boost? The 200 million plus 190 million yen is about US$3.6 million, still a modest investment for an international television operation. If I were still the host of a weekly media program on VOA, I would call Japan and ask some questions. See previous post about same subject.

Russian (and Ukrainian) leaders work the international channels.

Posted: 04 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Hours after announcing Russia's recognition of the two rebel Georgian republics, Medvedev gave interviews to CNN, BBC, the French network TF-1 and Al-Jazeera. Putin followed suit with an Aug. 28 interview with CNN and Germany's ARD network the following day. Euronews broadcast an interview with Medvedev on Monday, and Medvedev said in an interview broadcast Tuesday by Italian RAI television that Moscow would not negotiate with Saakashvili, whom he called a 'political corpse.'" Moscow Times, 4 September 2008. Transcript of Medvedev interview on EuroNews. ISRIA, 4 September 2008.
     Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko gives exclusive interview to CNN International. UNIAN news agancy, 3 September 2008.

CNN now has a VP of international digital services.

Posted: 04 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Nick Wrenn, CNN’s managing editor for Europe, Middle East & Africa, has been appointed to the new position of vice president, CNN International Digital Services. Based in Atlanta, Wrenn will report to Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International. Together with the international edition of and sites in Arabic, Spanish, Korean and Japanese, CNN International syndicates video, live streaming and video-on-demand to a growing number of sites including Vingo, YouTube, Daily Motion and Jalipo while also operating CNN Mobile in more than 100 countries." CNN press release, 4 September 2008.
     "Most major South African newspapers offer a mobile alerts or news headlines service, but most of these are so peripheral, non-readers never become aware of them. In contrast, CNN International's mobile news alerts service is heavily punted on its TV broadcasts, and is emerging as a virtual default news service for those who cannot remain glued to their TV screens. Ironically, the service is powered by a South African company." Arthur Goldstuck, Marketingweb (Johannesburg), 3 September 2008.

China's spot public diplomacy.

Posted: 03 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Seen occasionally on CNN since the Beijing Olympics, commercials showing upbeat scenes and people in China. At the end, the caption: "China. All you can imagine." The ad makes no specific mention of tourism, so seems more to promote the general image if China.

Boycott? What boycott?

Posted: 03 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak broke Israel's boycott of Al-Jazeera when they each granted interviews to the Qatar-based network this week. Foreign Ministry officials said there was an understanding in the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry not to speak to Al-Jazeera due to its coverage that the officials called 'anti-Israel.' ... Officials in Peres's office responded that they were unaware of a decision to boycott Al-Jazeera." Jerusalem Post, 2 September 2008.

Iran orders Al-Arabiya bureau chief to leave.

Posted: 03 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"The Tehran bureau chief for the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel has been banned Tuesday by Iranian authorities from working in the Islamic Republic and told to leave the country as soon as possible, the network told The Associated Press. ... Iranian officials have long complained that Al-Arabiya's coverage of Iran is biased. The network has rejected the criticism, saying that it had always given Iranian officials the chance to take part in its programs." AP, 2 September 2008. Al-Arabiya is owned by the MBC group.

Battle of the Middle Eastern movie channels.

Posted: 03 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"More than a month after the official launch of the Persian MBC television network, which broadcasts American movies with Persian subtitles on a 24-hour basis and free of charge, officials at the Iranian Voice and Vision [Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting] are taking steps to launch an independent 24/7 network in response to MBC's Persian channel. The new Iranian network would broadcast films and serials in Arabic for audiences in the Middle East. ... MBC Persian ... belongs to a Saudi prince and has been active since the early 1990s. ... MBC Persian programmes are broadcast from Dubai and the managers of this network have spoken very little about its objectives and programmes since the channel was launched." E'temad (Iran), 28 August 2008, via BBC Monitoring, via redOrbit, 2 September 2008. See also

With no more Bulgarian broadcasts, BBC evicted from Sofia's FM dial.

Posted: 03 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"As of September 2 2008, BBC World Service has stopped broadcasting in Bulgaria. The radio station, accessible at 91.0 FM in Sofia, started operations in the country in 1940. ... According to an August 24 article on, the decision for early termination of the radio’s broadcasting contract was taken by the Bulgarian Council of Electronic Media (CEM) on June 6 2008, following a three-year effort of Bulgarian administration through CEM to deprive the BBC of its Sofia frequency. ... This is the only time that the World Service has, be it voluntarily, be it under force from local governance, closed down operations in a European capital city. Claims on the BBC’s Sofia radio frequency started immediately after the Bulgarian editorial office of the World Service TV [sic] shut doors in October 2005." Sofia Echo, 2 September 2008. It was BBC Bulgarian-language radio, not television, that ended in 2005. There was never a BBC Bulgarian television service. The article mentions that BBC World Service broadcasts in English are still available in Bulgaria via the internet and Hotbird 2. Not mentioned is that BBCWS shortwave broadcasts to Europe are no longer available. If DRM digital shortwave works, this could bring "near FM" reception of BBCWS English to places in Europe where BBC is not available -- or will no longer be available -- on a local FM channel. By the way, a key performance measure for BBCWS is the number of capital cities in which it has an FM outlet.

Ideas for public diplomacy: separate agencies for take-offs and crash landings?

Posted: 03 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Nancy Snow, associate professor of public diplomacy at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in New York, told that her employment with USIA in the 1990s made her a 'fan of having an independent agency of the U.S. government responsible for telling America's stories to the world.' Snow, whose books include Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America's Culture to the World, said USIA and the State Department 'have different objectives.' USIA, she said, was a 'bit of a water carrier' by delivering, rather than creating messages; the State Department makes policy. 'The intermixing of the two doesn't seem to be working.'", 28 August 2008.
     "Nicholas Cull ... director of the public diplomacy program at the University of Southern California ... said a return to re-creating the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), an independent agency that coordinated public diplomacy efforts in the second half of the 20th century, would not necessarily be the best idea for improving American public diplomacy. USIA was merged into the State Department in 1999. The United States 'should look at what works in other democracies,' such as in the United Kingdom and Germany. Such countries, he said, 'do very well by keeping the advocacy part of public diplomacy -- the policy promotion element -- in their foreign ministry, but making the cultural work independent in its own body' and 'keeping their international broadcasters behind a firewall [separated] too.'", 26 August 2008.
     "We have botched [public diplomacy] in the Middle East over the past six years. We have been worried about our image, but the problem is the failure of most Muslim societies to audibly condemn terrorism—a practice that is abhorrent to any reasonable reading of Islam. We should have been quietly networking traditional Muslim intellectuals and clerics to help them articulate that terrorism is morally wrong. We have done some of this, mainly at the Defense Department, but the State Department has wasted years perseverating on the wrong question. In an absentminded fit of post-Cold War economizing, Congress destroyed the institution arguably best suited for the purpose - the United States Information Agency - and tried unsuccessfully to stuff its remains into the Department of State. One solution would be to re-establish USIA, but a new public-private partnership of some kind is probably the better way to go. Adam Garfinkle, Foreign Policy Research Institute, 11 September 2008 issue.
     "Our public diplomacy has lacked strategic direction since the end of the Cold War. The task now is to reinvent this role in an effective manner within the government." From Edward Djerejian's new book, Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador's Journey Through the Middle East. Threshold Editions press release, 2 September 2008.

Musings about U.S. international broadcasting.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Phil Stone and I were grousing about - among other media things - the proposed and long debated closure of VOA's English language service. The idea stinks. Can you imagine Radio France International NOT broadcasting in French? Oh, well ... When presumptive US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barak Obama named his vice president running mate, Joseph Biden, some might not be unfamiliar with the center-right senator from the small state of Delaware. But US international broadcasters know him well. Senator Biden led legislation – the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 – creating the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), intended to be a non-partisan agency directing all United States government international broadcasting." Michael Hedges,, 25 August 2008.

What's with this video camera?

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
At the Republican National Convention, David Klock of Macalester College "is interning for al-Hurra, the United States' radio [sic] program in the Middle East, during the convention will be reporting direct from the floor for the radio [sic] station." Pottstown (PA) Mercury, 1 September 2008. Feras Amir of Augsburg College will "spend next week working with Al Hurra, an Arabic-language network that broadcasts in the Middle East." Minneapolis Star Tribune, 31 August 2008.

Higher education at the former VOA Bethany shortwave transmitting site.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Classes are set to begin in January 2009 at Miami University's Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester Township (Ohio). The 23,000-square-foot School of Education, Health, and Society is located on Cox Road off of Interstate 75 and adjoining to Voice of America Park. Graduate and undergraduate degree programs and courses will be offered in more than 80 classes scheduled during days, evenings and weekends. The facility will also provide space for community meetings, forums and other events." Middletown (OH) Journal, 31 August 2008. See also VOALC web page.

The bloggers who type for America.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"From nondescript cubicles in a Washington office block, native speakers of Arabic, Farsi and Urdu are aiding the US battle against extremism in cyberspace. The team’s chatter and messages with blog writers across the Middle East and Asia are a far cry from the stiff and formal statements given by US government spokesmen, but they share the same purpose – to explain and clarify deeply unpopular US policies. ... 'Our analysts openly identify themselves as coming from the state department,' said Brent Blaschke, a career foreign officer who is director of the Digital Outreach Team. ... The team engages on websites with high traffic considered closer to the mainstream, such as BBC Arabic, al Jazeera and, not extremist or al Qa’eda supporter sites." The National (Abu Dhabi), 28 August 2008.

Cultural diplomacy the "most acceptable" public diplomacy?

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
At a symposium on cultural diplomacy at the Caribbean Festival of Arts in Guyana: "It was highlighted that cultural diplomacy was the most acceptable form of public diplomacy and should be seen as a channel utilised by countries for developing long term foreign policy towards achieving mutually beneficial goals. 'Cultural diplomacy works best when it’s very strategic. There has to be government taking part in the process and doing so strategically.'" South Florida Caribbean News, 30 August 2008.
     I disagree. Genuine expressions of culture are not imposed by governments. Cultural exchange is a good thing, as are the import and export of cultural products. But "cultural diplomacy" is probably an oxymoron, and doing it "strategically" is a frightening notion.
     The United States was probably attempting strategic cultural diplomacy when it sent its jazz "ambassadors" abroad in the 1950s. But, overseas, these musicians said what they wanted to say, regardless of whether it meshed with U.S. policies. It turned out that this reflected better on the United States than any orchestrated cultural campaign

Invading a neighboring country? Better have a great PR firm.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Russia easily won its brief war with Georgia, but despite a media blitz to project its side of the story, it concedes it still has a way to go to win the propaganda battle. ... Observers say the Kremlin, which is being advised by New York-based public relations giant Omnicom Group, launched the unprecedented media access in an attempt to stem the tide of negative coverage of the conflict. ... Putin told CNN that the United States had been much better at managing media coverage of the conflict than Russia. 'We have got a lot to learn,' he said. On the evidence of the past few days however Russia has still failed to win the hearts and minds of even its close allies in the old Soviet Union." Reuters, 29 August 2008.

Japan begins a new chapter in international broadcasting.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
Japan International Broadcasting "was established in April 2008 with a capital investment of ¥50 million from NHK. Today the company will begin full-scale operations (including preparation for programme production and construction of a distribution network using broadband and other media) under new President and CEO Hatsuhisa Takashima, ready for the launch of its broadcasting service in February 2009. NHK invested a further ¥150 million in Japan International Broadcasting Inc. at the end of August to strengthen the company’s financial basis, bringing the total capital to ¥200 million [US $1.8 million]. By March next year says it will be offering its international programming to more than 110m households across the US, Europe and the Mid-East as well as the Asia-Pacific region. ... 'As well as delivering original information on Japan, we aim to establish international recognition for NHK as a source of Asian news by stationing English speaking NHK World TV reporters at NHK bureaus around Asia and taking other steps to strengthen our Asian news-gathering network.'" Rapid TV News, 31 August 2008. NHK press release indicates that there will also be private participation. NHK press release, 27 August 2008. See also AFP, 27 August 2008. So does this replace NHK World? If so, why does the CEO refer to NHK World TV reporters in the future tense? And what can they do with $1.8 million in funding -- unless more private investment is expected? Japanese international broadcasting began as Radio Japan in the 1950s. In the 1990s, the NHK World brand was adopted, to encompass radio, television, and internet international broadcasting. And what will happen to NHK Radio Japan shortwave broadcasts, the elimination of which has been discussed?

Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation relaunches its English radio, with less BBC rebroadcasting.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"SLBC English Service will be re-launched with a new vision from tomorrow. The oldest English radio channel will offer more local material for its fast growing listenership with more credibility, program content established character, accuracy, and credible dependency for news include wide spectrum in entertainment. Effective September 1, the SLBC English Services would attain new image in Radio listening, yet maintain its rich tradition built over the years. The current nine-hour daily airtime allocated to the BBC will now be reduced to three and a half hours, living listeners an opportunity to enjoy more local programs and music. ... The SLBC also beams its English programs to All Asia, on short wave, in the 19 meter band, and also 31, and 49 meters. Listener audience in those countries could be matched to most other regional broadcasters and more so standards are maintained at competitive levels." Sunday Observer (Colombo), 1 September 2008. "'It will once again resume its pristine glory'" Asian Tribune, 1 September 2008.

Communications breakdown in Kashmir, and soon VOA Hindi will no longer be part of the solution (updated).

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Communications are becoming increasingly limited for the people of the disputed region of Indian Kashmir. ... More newspapers there shut down Monday, as staff could not reach their offices and publications are unable to circulate in the Kashmir Valley. Unlicensed local cable television channels have been ordered to stop news broadcasts. They are accused of inflaming the public. Text messaging on mobile phones has not worked since the beginning of the month. ... 'People will rely more on Pakistan radio and BBC and Voice of America,' [Professor Shahid] Rasool said. 'In fact, myself, yesterday heard Voice of America's Urdu service to get what's happening in Kashmir.' The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors has announced that VOA's Hindi language radio one-hour daily broadcast will cease at the end of next month." VOA News, 25 August 2008.
     Update: "Average Kashmiri these days, as was the case in early 1990s-heyday of insurgency-tunes to the language services mainly Urdu of the BBC, Voice of America and [Deutsche] Welle for what they believe is impartial and candid coverage of the happenings in the region. 'Both PTV and Radio Pakistan have only disappointed us. They give only modest coverage to Kashmir situation which could be either because of the political situation prevailing on the home turf or as a matter of policy,' said Abdur Rashid Lone, a radiologist at a Srinagar hospital. Geo is not any good when it comes to reporting on Kashmir happenings, he added. National and international news and entertainment TV channels are, however, available through DTH." Yusuf Jameel, The Asian Age, 1 September 2008.
     "It could well be curtains down for the Voice of America Hindi Service (Radio), after having been on air since 1955. ... Incidentally, the Urdu Service of VOA for Pakistan, Dari and Pashto Services for Afghanistan, have been extended by several hours a day while the Hindi Radio Broadcast to India is only an hour a day and that too is likely to be eliminated." India Post, 31 August 2008.

CNA relays AFP citing RFA.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
"Two policemen were killed and five others injured in China's restive Xinjiang region, authorities said Friday, bringing the reported death toll from a wave of unrest there this month to 33. ... Xinhua gave few other details but US-funded Radio Free Asia reported the police were ambushed while searching the cornfield following a tip that a woman suspected of helping assailants in an earlier attack was hiding there. 'We didn't expect to come under attack in that cornfield,' Radio Free Asia quoted a local policeman named Omerjan as saying." AFP via Channel NewsAsia, 29 August 2008.

China: license for shortwave listening?

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
In China, the Chinese Radio Sport Association issues amateur radio licenses, but the minimum age is 18. "Any child under 18 interested in the hobby can apply for a short wave listener (SWL) license and also participate under the direction of a control operator." American Radio Relay League, 29 August 2008. This probably does not apply to typical listeners to shortwave broadcasts, but rather to those who want to listen to amateur radio communications for the purpose of eventually becoming a licensed radio amateur.

Less BBC, CNN, France 24: more deviance.

Posted: 01 Sep 2008   Print   Send a link
In Cameroon: "The proliferation of serials on international and national TV channels has been blamed by many as the prime factor contributing to deviant behaviour in youths nowadays. Unlike older parents who give more attention to informative and educative programmes on foreign and national TV channels like, BBC, CNN, France 24, CRTV just to name a few, it has been observed that youths spend over 90 percent of their time watching entertaining films." The Post (Buea), 29 August 2008.

Africa: online via mobile phone.

Posted: 31 Aug 2008   Print   Send a link
"The lack of infrastructure in Africa is keeping the information superhighway from much of the continent. But by embracing new, mobile technologies, many Africans are using their mobile phones as a personal PC. ... A lot of experts are predicting that African bloggers will leapfrog over the PC platform right to the mobile platform, using tools like the micro-blogging platform Twitter.", 1 September 2008.

International broadcasting via mobile? Watch the speed limit.

Posted: 31 Aug 2008   Print   Send a link
"Following a petition signed by thousands of French users, complaining that iPhone 3G has a limited speed, Orange officials admitted to have limited the speed for the stability of the network, BetaNews informs. ... According to France Info, the online internet portal of Radio France, Orange officials limited the speed of iPhone 3G to 200-300 Kbps even though the 3G+ technology can offer users a four times speed ability.", 29 August 2008.