Throughout Europe, an urge to move the shopping cart towards the imported food aisle.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"China's official news agency will begin providing English-language television broadcasts on supermarket screens in Europe this week in Beijing's latest move to expose Western audiences to its view of world events, a company official said Monday. The official Xinhua News Agency, in partnership with about a dozen European broadcast partners, on Wednesday will show 90 minutes of news daily on supermarket screens and on screens outside Chinese embassies across Europe, said Chen Yue, a spokesman for Xinhua's English news department. ... It was also not known what benefit the stores would gain from showing broadcasts from a company that is seen as the propaganda arm of the Chinese government. ... The moves are believed to be part of a 45 billion yuan ($6.6 billion) government plan to fund a major international expansion of CCTV, People's Daily and Xinhua, as reported earlier this year by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper. The Xinhua broadcasts in Europe will consist mostly of 10- to 15-minute news briefs plus a 30-minute feature and lifestyles segment... ." AP, 29 June 2009.
     "Even though European shoppers may be able to find China’s soft power next to soft tissues in aisle six, China’s state media organizations remain challenged by the widespread perception overseas that they are promoting Beijing’s agenda. That’s remained the case even when they push the envelope by reporting in English on topics that would be too sensitive for coverage in their Chinese-language editions, such as the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown." Sky Canaves, China Journal, Wall Street Journal, 30 June 2009.
     "The secrecy of the project and the unwillingness of officials to give details of which supermarkets — or countries — will offer the broadcasts hint at the style that the state-run programmes will offer. ... Chen Yue, a spokesman for Xinhua’s English news department, said: 'China has recognised the importance of soft power, and through the medium of television and the internet the Chinese Government aims to strengthen its influence internationally.'" Jane Maccartney, The Times, 30 June 2009.
     "'It's still unclear exactly how many countries and outlets will carry our English news, but we hope to expand these channels greatly with more broadcast partners by the end of the year.'" The Telegraph, 29 June 2009.
     With Xinhua's foreign language broadcasting now competing with CCTV's foreign language broadcasting, China is emulating the US system of dividing talent and resources among competing stations. Thus, in spite of its hefty budget increase, the impact of China's international broadcasting in the world media market will probably be limited.
     "I was recently surprised to discover my local cable-TV carrier had added a station. According to the station’s Web site, CCTV International is the English-language, 24-hour news channel of China Central Television. ... Some of CCTV’s propaganda is amateurish by Western standards. They should hire a Madison Avenue company that designs marketing campaigns for beer. Those folks know how to persuade!" Zachary Hubbard, Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown PA), 23 June 2009.
     "The ruling Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, is expanding its coverage as part of a reported multibillion-dollar drive to expand China's international media influence. ... The newspaper's 72 foreign and domestic bureaus will be upgraded, it said, without giving details." AP, 16 June 2009.

Osaka governor speaks to abductees via Shiokaze.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto made some comments on 'Shiokaze,' a Japanese short wave radio program broadcast aimed at the North Korean people, 'I hope you (Japanese abductees) come back to us as soon as possible,' he said, 'We cannot forget about you and we will never forget you.' He finished, 'Please, do not give up on returning to our country. I will do everything I can as a governor.' It was the second time that a Japanese governor has tried to give strength to surviving abductees in this way, following the lead of the Governor of Tokyo." The Daily NK, 30 June 2009.

BBC in 19 languages to ... Belgrade.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service is bringing radio services in 19 languages to Belgrade for the 25th Universiade [World University Games], thanks to a short-term radio broadcast partnership agreement. The arrangement between BBC World Service and the bi-annual international sporting competition for university students means listeners in Belgrade can access the BBC's multi-lingual programming during the games, 24 hours a day, by tuning in to BBC 90.2 FM." BBC World Service press release, 30 June 2009.

Key international channels no longer available in Switzerland via Zattoo.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Zattoo is a Swiss company that has successfully offered cross border and national TV stations via the Internet for free in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK. ... Suddenly this week in Switzerland at least Zattoo users lost BBC1, ITV1, BBC World and CNN. Messages to Zattoo technical support staff have gone unanswered. Messages to the press office have gone unanswered, but the web site still advertises all those TV stations are still available and there’s no news release to say what has happened. Zattoo, where art thou? Have rights issues skuppered your technical breakthrough based on research by Sugih Jamin and Wenjie Wang at the University of Michigan that optimizes live streaming? Another case of the lawyers catching up with technology?" followthemedia.com, 28 June 2009.

BBC to Iran update for 30 June 2009.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Although foreign-language radio and television broadcasts from the BBC’s World Service are financed by Britain’s Foreign Office, a practice that developed in the country’s days of empire, they are subject, like all BBC operations, to the corporation’s charter and its stipulation of political independence and impartiality. The Persian channel, which is also beamed to Persian speakers in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, has an annual budget of $25 million. ... Experts on Iran who have monitored the channel’s programming on the Internet say it has succeeded in a difficult task, giving a tempered account of developments that have been deeply divisive among Iranians. In that respect, they say, the new TV channel has made a better start than the BBC’s Persian-language shortwave radio broadcasts, started in 1941, which the BBC has conceded were used to promote British strategic interests in Iran during World War II." John F. Burns, New York Times, 28 June 2009.
     In detaining local employees of the British embassy in Tehran, the Iranian authorities appear to have mined a deep vein of hostility toward Britain which has lasted, off and on, since the latter's imperialist grandeur in the 19th century. ... There are several current grievances. One is the new BBC Persian TV channel, which despite or rather perhaps because of, its determination to maintain journalistic objectivity, has angered hardliners in the Iranian authorities." Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 29 June 2009.
     "The recently expanded BBC Persian Service, which is funded by the Foreign Office and has now added a television channel to supplement its radio broadcasts, has contributed to suspicions in Tehran that the British Government is plotting to undermine the Islamic republic. The BBC insists it is doing nothing more than offering public service broadcasts to its international audiences, but the fact that the BBC was recently accused of broadcasting coded messages that indirectly led to the Shah's overthrow 30 years ago has done little to allay suspicions." Con Coughlin, The Telegraph, 29 June 2009.
     "The theocrats are genuinely alarmed by the BBC’s Persian TV service, which came on air this year and offers millions of Iranians a sober view of the issues and events that divide them. The revolutionaries will remember how the BBC helped their cause in 1978-79 with its reliable and timely chronicle of the turmoil." Editorial, Financial Times, 29 June 2009.
     "The steps taken against local employees of the British Embassy are probably a warning to the United Kingdom. Khamenei probably wants Britain to silence or 'moderate' the BBC Persian service." Dariush Mirzai, AsiaNews.it, 29 June 2009.
     "On its end, the BBC has upped its coverage from 8 hours a day up to about 15 and erected two new satellites so that the government could no longer interfere with its signal." Marisa Taylor, Digits blog, Wall Street Journal, 29 June 2009. BBC did not erect but leased time on two additional satellites. See previous post about same subject.

Iran media update for 30 June 2009.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Since Iran's disputed election on June 12, the BBC and a handful of other Farsi-language broadcasters around the world, from Amsterdam to Jerusalem, have supplied millions of Iranians with independent reports in their own language about the country's most serious turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A 24-year-old student in Tehran said channels like BBC Persian and Voice of America 'are the only true sources for the news for us inside Iran.'" Jill Lawless, AP, 29 June 2009. This article also mentions Netherlands-based Radio Zameneh, Los Angeles based Farsi-language radio station KIRN, Kol Israel's Farsi broadcast, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty -- but not Radio Farda by name, except in links.
     "This Iranian has been struck by the severity and tone of those calling into Persian-language satellite TV broadcasts such as Voice of America – especially against Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. 'Watching VOA every night, people call in from far-off provinces – Baluchestan, Ahvaz, Ilaam, etc. – to curse Khamenei openly and vehemently, and say that 70 percent voted Mousavi in their hometowns, large and small alike,' says the witness. 'It would appear, based on public feedback, that the election was indeed stolen ... and that this assertion is not mere speculation.'" Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, 29 June 2009.
     "Educated Iranians seeking news and analysis on local politics and economics will continue to turn to domestic newspapers and news sites rather than blogs and other new media. Though the traditional media are all biased in their affiliations with different political personalities or groups, and much of their news content is government controlled, they nonetheless contribute to a varying level of political dynamism. ... Television and radio are by far the most important news sources for Iranians, but there are no private broadcasting stations. The Islamic Republic's constitution places all broadcasting under the control of the office of the supreme leader, resulting in heavily propagandized content. ... Responsible foreign-based media such as the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Radio Farda, Voice of America's Persian TV, and the BBC's Persian TV and radio will remain important in the Iranian media landscape for the foreseeable future, as will numerous foreign news websites in Persian and English." Stephen C. Fairbanks, Council on Foreign Relations, 29 June 2009.
     "While the Obama administration did not request the renewal of the Bush administration's controversial democracy funding for Iran in its 2010 budget request, recent reports suggest that this may change in the wake of the current crisis. Funding could also be increased for Radio Farda, Voice of America's Farsi service, and people-to-people exchanges, which received $34 million in the 2008 U.S. federal budget. Such steps are likely to be the subject of heated debate, given that their past effectiveness has been widely questioned, and they could convey the impression of interference that Washington is so determined to avoid." Michael Singh, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 29 June 2009. "A lot of the State Department money for civil society went to the Voice of America and Radio Farda. What's more, a portion of the money for programs in Iran remains unspent." Eli Lake, The New Republic, 15 July 2009 issue.
     "I've journeyed from Twitter to Facebook to YouTube to news sites and back again, as if embarked upon a wearying route march that never ends. Seventy years ago people tracked the progress of the German armies across Europe via the crackling signal of their short-wave radio sets, and gauged the fate of nations from flickering newsreel in the artificial darkness of their local picture palace. Today, with the conventional news media departed the Iranian scene, we do much the same. Except that in place of short-wave radio we have Twitter (with its Morse-code signals of 140 characters) and instead of grainy newsreels we have pixellated fragments of flash video. Yet in recent days the Morse signals out of Tehran have grown ever fewer, fainter and more fraught, as the list of involuntary guests in Tehran's Evin prison grows apace. And those wobbling fragments of mobile phone footage have become ever more fleeting, enigmatic and hard to place." David Burchell, The Australian, 29 June 2009.
     "On Monday, only a few new videos that appeared to be days-old protests trickled onto the Web, along with clips of Sunday's protest outside a mosque in north Tehran. Other postings _ including many set to music on sites such as YouTube _ showed older photos of violence in Iran's streets. It's an apparent sign that Iranian authorities are increasingly choking off the ability of protesters to post messages and images. Many Iranians who post messages on Twitter, or upload videos on YouTube, didn't want to be identified or speak with the media. One told The Associated Press in an e-mail he was afraid to e-mail further or talk on the phone, saying he was in a 'very dangerous situation.'" Anna Johnson, AP, 30 June 2009.
     "Since the bloody Saturday demonstrations in Tehran, the Saudi-funded Al Arabiya has been dominating the news scene while the Qatari-funded al-Jazeera offered modest coverage in comparison to the magnitude of the event, which has been of crucial importance on both Arab and international levels. ... For the past four years, the Arab World has been divided between two news channels, Al Arabiya from Dubai and al-Jazeera from Doha. Very few watch the American government-funded al-Hurra or BBC Arabic. ... Al-Jazeera was struck with a mysterious curse that turned it from a fiery, controversial channel that 'stirs stagnant waters,' according to its famous slogan, to a passive, timid one. Al Arabiya exchanged roles with al-Jazeera and is now the fiery, exciting channel. Al-Jazeera used to side with the people whereas Al Arabiya sided with the regimes. Now it's the other way round." Eftekhar al-Farhani, Al Arabiya, 30 June 2009.
     [In past years:] "By and large, university students were interested in watching foreign television programs, finding the national channels unimaginative and propagandistic. A poorly enforced ban on satellite dishes meant they could easily get access to the BBC, CNN, and the Voice of America. In the post-1999 decade, the arrival of the Internet, e-mail, blogging, YouTube, Facebook, and most recently Twitter opened up opportunities previously not available to their older peers." Dilip Hiro and Tom Engelhardt, Antiwar.com, 29 June 2009.

President Bush was a "not infrequent broadcaster."

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Words do mean something, but they are often insufficient. In December 2002, Radio Farda was launched. This was a U.S. funded Persian language radio station that directly targeted Iranians. In his first Radio Farda greeting to the people of Iran Bush explained that the U.S. would attempt to fill news and information gaps caused by the repressive regime in Tehran, and restated his premise from months earlier: 'If Iran respects its international obligations and embraces freedom and tolerance, it will have no better friend than the United States of America.' Bush proved to be a not infrequent broadcaster." Abe Greenwald, Commentary, 28 June 2009.

Telesur and CNN cut off in Honduras following coup.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Shortly after the Honduran military seized President Manuel Zelaya and flew him to Costa Rica on Sunday, soldiers stormed a popular radio station and cut off local broadcasts of international television networks CNN en Espanol and Venezuelan-based Telesur, which is sponsored by leftist governments in South America. A pro-Zelaya channel also was shut down." Reuters, 29 June 2009.
     "The supporters of the military coup staged Sunday against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya forced the Latin American news channel Telesur to stop broadcasting from the Centro American country following a information deadlock. Telesur´s signal is no longer on the air, reported Venezuelan journalist Freddy Fernadez, general director of the Bolivarian News Agency (ABN), who is currently in Tegulcigalpa where he would cover the opinion poll scheduled for last Sunday." Invasor.cu, 29 June 2009.
     "Officers armed with rifles briefly detained four journalists from the AP and three from Venezuela-based Telesur, arresting them at their hotel, loading them in a military vehicle and taking them to an immigration office, where two officials demanded to see their visas. The group was released a short time later." AP, 30 June 2009.
     "The Telesur TV network showed soldiers advancing on some streets in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and police clashing with noisy demonstrators, a day after military troops sent Zelaya into exile. Other images showed troops, tanks and additional military assets deployed around the presidential grounds. The TV station, formed by several Latin American governments and partly funded by the pro-Zelaya Venezuelan government, also aired images of demonstrators setting fires on streets and black smoke rising. iReport.com: Are you there? Share your photos, videos." CNN International, 30 June 2009.
     "The military coup has also launched an all-out attack on freedom of expression in the country. Venezuela's Telesur reports that its team was detained and military personnel threatened to confiscate its video equipment if it continued to broadcast." Laura Carlsen, Huffington Post, 30 June 2009.
See also Telesur, 29 June 2009.
     "A TV reporter from TeleSur was attacked by soldiers and held at gun point, according to La Prensa Grafica of El Salvador." News Junkie Post, 29 June 2009.
     "Telesur, which has been the ONLY media outlet to provide non-stop coverage on the coup in Honduras since yesterday, has just been the victim of violent repression in Honduras. During the beginning of the meetings taking place this afternoon in Nicaragua with all heads of state from Latin America, Telesur abruptly interrupted coverage to broadcast the words and cries of Adriana Sivori, Telesur correspondent in Tegucigalpa, denouncing she was being detained, along with her cameraman, by military forces in Honduras under orders by the coup dictatorship." VHeadline.com, 29 June 2009.
     With television news cut off in Honduras, are Hondurans returning to their shortwave radios? VOA Spanish still transmits on shortwave. Nominally, these shortwave transmissions are to the Andean countries, although they should also be audible in Central America. However, the shortwave transmission schedule cannot be found at the recently redesigned website of VOA Spanish.

Press TV's Neda revisionism.

Posted: 30 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The woman whose death has come to symbolize Iranian resistance to the government's official election results did not die the way the opposition claims, government-backed Press TV said Sunday. Two people told Press TV there were no security forces in the area when Neda Agha-Soltan, 26, was killed on June 20. ... Press TV said the type of bullet that killed her is not used by Iranian security forces." CNN, 28 June 2009.
     "Press TV is to broadcast the second season of War; American Style, which investigates US involvement in the wars following World War II. Directed by Hossein Sharif, the documentary highlights the US involvement in the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Desert Storm, the wars in Bosnia, Haiti, Sudan, and Kosovo as well as its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq." Press TV, 28 June 2009.

US military's Baghdad Now: "Nobody reads this."

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Many Iraqis have come to ridicule a high-priced US media campaign aimed at improving the military's image and promoting democracy, reports UPI. The Arabic-language newspaper Baghdad Now is one of the products dismissed in Iraq as US propaganda, which attempts to show a harmonious portrayal of Iraqis and US soldiers working together. 'The millions spent on this is wasted money,' Ziyad Al-Aajeely, director of Iraq's nonprofit Journalistic Freedom Observatory said. 'Nobody reads this.' During the last six years, the US government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on billboards, printed material, and television and radio airtime aimed at marginalizing extremists and fostering reconciliation in Iraq. ... Baghdad Now is not labeled as a US military publication, although the military acknowledges it is produced by an Army psychological operations unit and distributed for free by soldiers. Piles of it are left at entrances to the Green Zone for passersby to pick up." The Layalina Review, 18 June 2009, with links to stories.

Psyop: situational awareness is, apparently, desirable.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Partnership for Defense Innovation (PDI), has been authorized $3.5M for the completion, testing and validation of a Tactical PSYOP Situational Awareness System that will provide psychological affairs forces capability to maintain situational awareness and immediately share critical imagery, intelligence and information during tactical operations. ... The United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) are headquartered at Fort Bragg. The funding for the communications system will provide testing of technology assets for the enhancement of current and future missions, while creating a need for highly skilled technicians and engineers, who will work in PDI’s local R & D Laboratory." Carolina Newswire, 18 June 2009.
     "The Partnership for Defense Innovation opened an office at Western Carolina University on Thursday, May 28, as part of a growing collaboration between PDI and WCU on research, development and testing for projects that have applications in the defense and security industries." The Reporter (WCU), 1 June 2009.

Recurring theme: music and shortwave.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Os Mutantes were formed in Sao Paolo Brazil in 1966 by Sergio Dias and his brother Arnaldo, who blended British rock 'n' roll, culled from shortwave radio broadcasts, with American psychedelic jams in the spirit of Jimi Hendrix with traditional Brazilian music." Hear This!, New York Post, 18 June 2009.
     Buxton's Louis Gordon "has a sideline partnership with Matt Gunn, and together they have played two festivals and released an album 'The Shortwave Sessions'." Buxton Advertiser, 18 June 2009.
     At Lee's Palace in Toronto on 23 June: "Cracker, Shortwave." Toronto Star, 18 June 2009. "Cracker ... plays Lee's Palace tonight with Shortwave. $20.50." Eyeweekly.com, 29 June 2009.
     "Recitations of meaningless words can also be found on short-wave radio in the form of the creepy and mysterious 'number stations' that can be found at varying frequencies. These are stations that broadcast a voice, either synthesized or real, dispassionately reading strings of numbers. They are thought to be operated by government intelligent agencies to communicate in code with spies. Usually it's a female voice, sometimes a child's (which is extra creepy to hear). A short-wave radio enthusiast named Akin Fernandez recorded and collected samples of these, and British record label Irdial released them in 1997 on a four-CD set called The Conet Project . These eerie sounds appealed to musicians in the era of the sample, and so grainy recordings of number readings have been incorporated into the music of Wilco, Boards of Canada and others, showing just how evocative random words can be when put to a rhythm." Ruissell Smith, Globe and Mail, 27 June 2009.
     "From The Basement is a music show that features live sessions from super cool bands. In the past, FTB has featured The Stooges, Super Furry Animals, Radiohead, Sparks, Shortwave Set and loads, loads more." TV Scoop, 22 June 2009.
     "I turned them onto Stockhausen and all this experimental avant-garde music, shortwave radios on different stations, John Zorn cut-up records…" Sean O'Neal, Austin Decider, 25 June 2009.

Sat-7's difficult mission.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Started in 1996 with just two hours of programming, Sat Seven is now three distinct 24 hour channels, one in Arabic, one for children, and the other in Farsi...the language of Iran. They broadcast Christian programming to a part of the world where Christianity isn't that welcome. 'We never speak about Islam we don't speak against it we don’t' say anything we just primarily present what the bible has to say they can make their own comparisons.' Sat 7 Vice President of Development Debbie Brink told ABC 2 News." WMAR-TV (Baltimore), 25 June 2009. See also www.sat7.org.
     "Words of Hope is preparing to expand its radio broadcasts in Sudan. Its Spirit FM station has been broadcasting from Yei since September 2008, covering an area near the Uganda border. It wants to do more FM broadcasting in place of shortwave." Mission Network News, 19 June 2009.

Perhaps not the best history lesson about international broadcasting.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Reagan understood the corrosive effect that honesty can have on the clumsy facades by which dictatorial governments retain power. In 1982, he initiated a massive overhaul of the antiquated Voice of America (VOA)radio network, expanding its programming, boosting its range and improving its immunity to Soviet jamming. VOA quickly regained its role as an inspiration for dissidents behind the Iron Curtain." Editorial, Calgary Herald, 16 June 2009. That overhaul was so delayed by studies that concluded what everyone had already known, for decades, about shortwave that many of the transmitters didn't came on the air until the Cold War was just about over. While VOA constructed its huge shortwave transmitting site in Briech, Morocco, RFE/RL built a huge shortwave transmitting site at Maxoqueira, Portugal, a scant 450 kilometers away, to transmit in the same languages to the same countries at the same time.

For some reason, "Radio Yugoslavia" thinks time has passed it by.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Acting director of the Radio Yugoslavia (the International Radio Serbia) Milena Jokic has resigned to that post, due to the unresolved status of this media. In a written explanation sent to Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Jokic has stated that the Ministry of Culture, and primarily the minister and his media relations assistant, have not shown any readiness whatsoever to do anything about resolving the status of this media house, strategically important for the informing of the foreign public and our Diaspora." International Radio Serbia, 16 June 2009.
     "The announcement of the Ministry of Culture commenting on my resignation to the position of the director of Radio Yugoslavia shows the arrogance which I talked about and the impossibility of establishing communication with the heads of that ministry. ... The allegation in the announcement that Radio Yugoslavia emits only short-wave programme is untrue – it broadcasts 24 hours of programme, both on the Internet and via satellite. It is impossible to establish the number of short wave listeners anywhere in the world, as the most famous radio stations have not done that – this will be possible only upon the introduction of digital radio." Milena Jokic, International Radio Serbia, 16 June 2009. BBC World Service and VOA annually state their numbers of listeners, including shortwave listener. The director's reference to measurement of the "digital radio" audience must refer to internet radio, where server-side measures indicate, with brutal honesty, how many people are accessing an audio stream. Terrestrial digital radio audiences are no easier to measure than terrestrial analog radio audiences.
     "'In al lEuropean countries, and many others around the world, there are world services as part of the public service', [Milena Jokic] explained, while citing the examples of BBC, Radio France International, Deutsche Welle, Radio Bucharest, Tirana and others, which are all financed from the state budget. Therefore, the management of this house, whose official title is still Radio Yugoslavia, has suggested to the Serbian Government three years ago to integrate our radio with the public service of the RTV Serbia, since it represents the world service of Serbia towards the Diaspora and rest of the world, and to make it a separate issue in the budgetary financing." International Radio Serbia, 24 June 2009.
     "The International Radio Serbia and China Radio International have signed in Belgrade the agreement of cooperation. It envisages the exchange of program packages between the two national stations that have similar conceptual programs, and they both broadcast on the short waves, satellite and Internet." International Radio Serbia, 24 June 2009.

How could the youth of Europe resist such a strategy?

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Philip H. Gordon, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, statement before the House Subcommittee on Europe: "One of the most important components of global cooperation in the 21st century is our Public Diplomacy strategy. That involves being able to effectively communicate with European governments and publics in a way that creates an understanding of our policy objectives, lays the groundwork for concerted action with European partners beyond Europe’s borders, and engages Europe’s young generation of 'first time voters' to create a sense of common values and purpose with the United States. To do this, the Department is engaged in rapid and targeted delivery of policy messages to meet ever-shorter news cycles; developing innovative uses of new media to engage youth audiences; expanding programs that invite dialogue – listening as well as talking; and creating new exchange programs that allow us to engage Europe’s future leaders, and in expanding our use of our soft power tools, like culture and sports, to open doors and begin dialogue." via Georgian Daily, 16 June 2009.

Greek Americans, Greek caucus try to save VOA Greek.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), a leading association for the nation's three million American citizens of Greek ancestry, and countless Philhellenes, commends the initiative of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues to generate the support of their colleagues to restore $500,000 in federal funding for the Voice of America Greek Service for Fiscal Year 2010." Hellenic News of America, 17 June 2009.
     "Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) last week called on House appropriators to restore funding to the Voice of America’s Greek Desk Service, calling it 'essential' to an 'accurate and balanced message' to audiences abroad." Greek News, 22 June 2009.

New UN refugee channel via Livestation.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A new broadband channel highlighting the plight of more than 42 million uprooted people worldwide is now being streamed globally on Livestation, the online destination for live broadcasting. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is broadcasting appeals in a constantly updated flow of stories from some of the most urgent refugee flash points around the globe." Mediacaster, 19 June 2009.

State Department: videos out, videos in.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
The State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) "produces the American Documentary Showcase in partnership with the University Film and Video Association (UFVA) and in cooperation with the International Documentary Association (IDA). UFVA and IDA have curated a thematic showcase of 29 award-winning contemporary American documentaries, including 2008 Academy Award® nominees 'The Betrayal' and 'The Garden.' The documentaries offer a diversified look at American life and the values of a democratic society and demonstrating the role of documentaries as catalysts for dialogue and change. As part of the program, American filmmakers and film specialists are traveling abroad to introduce Showcase films and conduct workshops and other public diplomacy outreach at documentary festivals and at U.S. Embassy-organized events. The Showcase debuted in the Czech Republic and Poland in April, 2009, and has since traveled to Ecuador, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, Turkey and Indonesia." State Department, 19 June 2009.
     "The Democracy Video Challenge, a global online video competition launched by the U.S. State Department in conjunction with entertainment companies and youth groups, announced on [16 June] the six winners of its inaugural competition, which attracted more than 900 submissions. The winners are Rodin Hamidi, an Iranian national from United Arab Emirates; Chansa Tembo from Zambia; Aissa Penafiel from the Philippines; Lukasz Szozda from Poland; Tsering Choden from Nepal; and Anna Israel from Brazil." Hollywood Reporter, 16 June 2009. See also www.videochallenge.america.gov.

How Michael Jackson almost took the internet with him.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"When news of his death hit the wires yesterday, millions of people immediately began searching Google News for more details. According to CNet, the sheer volume of requests overloaded the site, and millions of people found it unresponsive and inert for 35 minutes. ... All of which prompted the best headline of the day, courtesy of CNN International: 'Jackson dies, almost takes Internet with him.'" The Big Money, Reuters, 26 June 2009.
     "Radio Free Europe, in a truly weird piece of reporting, gives us these tantalizing morsels: 'We'd like to send you on a mission. From God.It has been reported that even though Russian President Dmitry Medvedev favorite rock act is Deep Purple, he's had a weak spot for Michael Jackson ever since his early student years. [...] For reasons that were never fully understood, Jackson received an unofficial blessing from communist censors, who allowed "Thriller" to be licensed and issued as a vinyl record by the Soviet recording company Melodia in 1985.'" Matt Welch, Hit & Run, Reason, 26 June 2009.
     "Radio Free Europe writes that 'his live concert in Moscow in 1993 sparked near-hysteria among scores of Russians hungry for a taste of Western culture.'" Russia Blog, 26 June 2009.
     "My American journey began when my father’s radio beamed Voice of America (VOA) stories into my room. I was picturing life in America based on the stories I was hearing. And then, I heard Thriller. And I got introduced to Michael Jackson. It was magic. There was no other place else on earth to be than America." Rudolf Okonkwo, Examiner.com, 25 June 2009.
     Sky News was "showing pictures from the hospital to which he had been taken. I turned the channel to CNN. They were showing ‘World Sport’. Then I went to BBC World. They were showing a documentary on potatoes. I quickly switched back to Sky News." Ato Kwamena Dadzie, Joy Online (Accra), 28 June 2009.

With RFI on strike, African listeners migrate to BBC French.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A l'occasion de cette grève marathon, les auditeurs africains découvrent ou redécouvrent «radio Londres». La BBC qui s'est dotée ces dernières années d'un puissant réseau d'émetteurs FM en Afrique. ... Depuis un mois et demi, nombre d'Africains se prennent d'affection pour la «Beeb». «C'est une excellente radio. Les programmes d'info en français sont de bonne facture»." Slate.fr, 26 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     Committee to Protect Journalists to Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo: "We are alarmed by the government's decision to indefinitely ban FM broadcasts of Radio France Internationale (RFI) in the eastern cities of Bunia and Bukavu. We call on you to use your influence to reverse these rulings, which we believe deprive residents of eastern Congo of access to diverse sources of information about the conflict in their region." CPJ, 19 June 2009.
     "A correspondent for Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale has been detained in Equatorial Guinea since Wednesday after accusations of libel, his family and authorities told AFP. Rodrigo Angue Nguema 'has been imprisoned at Black Beach prison', said his lawyer Fabian Nsue on Friday." AFP, 19 June 2009.

CENTCOM watches Al Jazeera English.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a windowless room at the sprawling MacDill Air Force Base, home to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), several dozen officers monitor developments across the Middle East, the Gulf and Central Asia 24 hours a day. ... A huge flat screen monitor on the left broadcasts live images caught by cameras aboard unmanned aerial vehicles, both spy planes and drones. Reconnaissance video streams and attacks are also tracked in real time. On the right, another screen broadcasts Al-Jazeera English, the sister channel of the controversial Arabic-language news network that often angered the George W. Bush administration for its reporting of the Afghan and Iraq wars and airing tapes of Al-Qaeda leaders." AFP, 19 June 2009.

Al Jazeera English in Taiwan for 15 cents a month.

Posted: 29 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera is still available from Chunghwa Telecom. It can be subscribed to for NT$5 [about US 15 cents] a month... . Americans in Taiwan should especially appreciate this fine offer, as Al Jazeera is reportedly only available from two cable companies in the US. That’s a shame, as it gives fairer and more insightful news coverage than any other English-language network. I seldom even watch the BBC anymore." Peter Dearman, letter to Taipei Times, 24 June 2009.

Honduran opponent of Chavez's ally interviewed on Telesur (updated).

Posted: 28 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Honduran armed forces commander General Romeo Vasquez said he’ll remain at his post after the Supreme Court overturned President Manuel Zelaya’s decision to fire him. Zelaya responded that he’ll ignore the court ruling, escalating a conflict between the president and the military and Supreme Court ahead of a government-backed poll to gauge public support for the president’s plan to modify the constitution. Zelaya’s allies across Latin America, led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, called the opposition to this weekend’s poll an attempted coup. ... 'We are looking to resolve this problem legally,' Vasquez said in an interview broadcast on Venezuela’s state-owned, international satellite channel, Telesur." Bloomberg, 26 June 2009.
     "Comparing breaking news broadcasts of Telesur and CNN, Chavez says there is a cultural battle going on with the CNN concentrating on Michael Jackson's death, and Telesur constantly interviewing President Zelaya and following events in the country." VHeadline.com, 26 June 2009.
     "I made a stop in the drafting of a material about a historical episode on which I have been working for two weeks now to express my solidarity with the constitutional president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya. I was impressed when I saw him on Telesur, haranguing the Honduran people. He was energetically denouncing a gross reactionary refusal aimed at preventing an important popular consultation." Fidel Castro, Mindinao Examiner (Philippines), 27 June 2009.
     Much attention to the Honduran controversy at www.telesurtv.net.
     Update: "Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was seized by soldiers and flown to Costa Rica after he tried unsuccessfully to fire the head of the central American nation’s armed forces. 'The only reason that I wasn’t assassinated was that the soldiers are from the people,' Zelaya said in comments on regional broadcaster Telesur from San Jose, the Costa Rican capital. 'It was a moment of great tension.'" Bloomberg, 28 June 2009.
     "In statements to television channel Telesur, Chavez stated that he rejected the coup 'right from its bone marrow' and asked the Honduran military troops not to face the people that went out to the streets to request the return of President Manuel Zelaya. 'The United States has a lot to do with this, Obama should be pronounced to reject the coup right from the marrow,' the Venezuelan leader stated." Prensa Latina, 28 June 2009.

Iran cyber update for 28 June 2009.

Posted: 28 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Millions of sympathizers around the world looked forward to seeing Iran's protest movement using the Internet for the first online coup in history. Instead, the Iranian Islamic regime turned the tables: Its Internet police [suppressed] the movement... . By Sunday, June 28, when the Guardian Council was to hand down its final verdict on their complaints, the street rallies had petered out. Part of the reason, DEBKAfile's intelligence sources report, was their organizers' heavy reliance on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social sites to orchestrate their protest movement. They did not at first appreciate that Iranian intelligence Internet experts, operating from secret headquarters established months ago, were using their communications to shoot them down. ... The high-end apparatus, installed in late 2008 by the German Siemens AG and Finnish Nokia Corp. cell phone giant, gave Iranian intelligence the most advanced tools anywhere for controlling, inspecting, censoring and altering Internet and cell phone messaging." DEBKAfile, 28 June 2009.
     "Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will soon introduce legislation to sanction any company that sells sensitive technology aiding the Iranian regime in monitoring or blocking the Internet connections or cellular phone conversations of protesters. ... The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the systems used by Iran to spy on its citizens and stifle communications were installed by Nokia and Siemens. According to a federal spending Web site, Siemens has almost 2,000 contracts with the U.S. government, including 300 contracts with the Pentagon as well as other deals with the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, and the Department of Energy." Tech Daily Dose, National Journal, 26 June 2009.
     "Tehran has a decided advantage in that it runs the country’s leading internet service provider. Called DCI, it throttled back the amount of bandwidth available to its citizens so that web video traffic dropped by as much as 90 percent and e-mail leaving the country fell by nearly as much. Data assembled by Arbor Networks, a US internet security company, show the Iranian government was picking and choosing what types of traffic to let through and which parts of the net to leave unimpeded. Just as the security forces adjusted their response to counter the changing nature of the protests on the ground, Iran’s internet police changed which sites could be reached." Kathrin Hille, Joseph Menn and Richard Waters, Financial Times, 27 June 2009.
     "In a country like Iran, the secret police can quickly get the IP address of users, and pay them an unwelcome visit. Thus while it is possible to always get the word in, and out, of a country with a functioning Internet, it's also easier for the police to track down who is using the Internet. Of course, that small percentage of Internet experts can show everyone else ways to avoid the police. The bottom line is, once the Internet is part of the economy, you cannot block people from using it." Strategy Page, 26 June 2009.
     "Why would you want to know, in real-time, that I’m very much enjoying the scorching summer in Aswan? Put more bluntly, who cares? When 'who cares' keeps popping up in the heads of newcomer Twitterers, they call it quits. By contrast, for street protesters on the receiving end of the state’s heavy hand, to quit tweeting does not appear to be an option at all." Waleed Al-Shobakky, IslamOnline.net, 28 June 2009.
     "In the last 10 days, many in Iran have set their profiles to private, changed their user names, altered their bios, or created pseudonyms to protect their identity. The silence of these three accounts is the latest of a string of issues getting reliable information from Iran. There are now only a handful of accounts that Breaking Tweets is monitoring and corresponding with that it trusts for information from Iran. These accounts shared no significant news on Saturday or so far Sunday." Breaking Tweets, 27 June 2009.
     "A furniture chain apologised Wednesday after keywords relating to the current unrest in Iran appeared in Twitter messages promoting offers in its shops." AFP, 24 June 2009.
     "In response to increased attempts from Iranian web surfers to use its anti-censorship services, Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIF) has resumed them to Iran. This step has been greeted by an extraordinary traffic spike." GIF press release, 17 June 2009.
     "Software developed by a Canadian lab to circumvent online censorship has been downloaded by more than 18,000 Iranians in the last 10 days, says its developer Rafal Rohozinski. ... Psiphon overcomes this by punching thousands of tiny holes in computer firewalls and opening new pathways in order to access blocked content. If a user wishes to view a blocked BBC News website, for example, Psiphon enables them to link to a proxy to view the content. If censors shut down this access, a new access window opens up, and so on." AFP, 27 June 2009.
     "Between CNN's iReport correspondents program that started in 2006 and Khosravi's international desk in Atlanta, CNN has constructed a model that, while far from perfect, has offered TV's most promising hybrid of new media newsgathering and traditional forms of journalistic news verification. Despite a brief Twitter campaign of suspect origin criticizing CNN's coverage during the weekend of June 13 and 14, the Atlanta-based cable news channel has clearly been seen as American TV's most reliable provider of news from Iran. While more than 5,200 Iran-related iReports have been received by CNN since the June 12 election, only 180 have been approved for use on various CNN platforms, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Martin." David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun, 28 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Iran media update for 28 June 2009.

Posted: 28 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In Iran, the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty uses several different radio frequencies and the Internet, while Voice of America’s Persian television service claims to reach more than 15 million viewers. Accurate audience measures are hard to come by in places like Iran. But the fact that Tehran spends a huge amount of money jamming these channels and blocking their websites tells us something. These broadcast services are not well known to Americans, because of a 1948 law that forbids the domestic dissemination of all material created for foreign audiences. But this law is now moot, because like everyone else, Americans can access these services online. Do so, and you will see that, contrary to what many assume, these channels do not merely broadcast US government propaganda. Nor do they follow CNN and other 'global' media in hopscotching between hot spots. On the contrary, these channels maintain a consistent, steady presence, outwitting the censors and keeping brave reporters on the ground, so that the people living in those countries can know what is going on, even when the whole world is not watching." Martha Bayles, Boston Globe, 28 June 2009.
     "Ironically, the Iranian government’s heavy-handed media crackdown — the Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that more than 40 journos have been arrested in Iran since the election — has spurred Iranians to get even more of their news from foreign sources than usual. U.S.-based Iranian satcasters — many of which beam from Hollywood — have long flooded Iranians with everything from anti-regime political diatribes to non-stop musicvids and sports, but the clampdown on the media operations of Iran’s opposition movement left Iranians little choice but to turn to the likes of the BBC for news of events." Ali Jaafar, Variety, 26 June 2009.
     "Al-Jazeera, the still-popular Qatari pan-Arab satellite television channel, is concentrating mostly on the official Iranian version of events, while trying to have it both ways. Its English-language edition includes occasional close-ups of Iranian demonstrators and victims of the regime, along with some reprinted columns critical of Tehran. But the Arabic programs and website -- the ones that matter in the region -- almost never contain such material, instead giving pride of place to Iranian government allegations of foreign-media or other nefarious interference in Iran's internal affairs." David Pollock and Mohammad Yaghi, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 26 June 2009.
     "The TV 'experts' on the bbc, cnn and al jazeera are for the most part, completely out of touch, with the facts: this is way beyond ahmadi, the supreme leader and rafsanjani. Many of the Western press are just as out of touch: I recommend the Guardian from the UK if you must read something." Iranian alum of an American university, Leesean.net, 23 June 2009.
     "The Iranian authorities and their lackeys in the state-controlled media are trying to launch a counter-offensive on the Neda phenomenon, writes Robert Tait. ... 'Javan, another pro-regime paper, blamed ... my friend and recently expelled BBC correspondent Jon Leyne. It claims that Leyne hired 'thugs' to shoot her so he could then make a documentary film.'" News blog, The Guardian, 24 June 2009.
     "The doctor who tried to save an Iranian protester as she bled to death on a street in Tehran has told the BBC of her final moments." BBC News, 25 June 2009.
     "Out of fear that history might repeat itself, the authoritarian governments of China, Cuba and Burma have been selectively censoring the news this month of Iranian crowds braving government militias on the streets of Tehran to demand democratic reforms." Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, 27 June 2009.
     "I'm curious to see how the left responds to this from the realist realist in American today (and also unofficial adviser to Barack Obama) Brent Scowcroft: 'The US has intelligence agents in Iran but it is not clear if they are providing help to the protest movement there, a former US national security adviser has told Al Jazeera. ... ' Of all places to say something so foolish, Scowcroft choose Al Jazeera for maximum effect." Michael Goldfarb, The Blog, The Weekly Standard, 25 June 2009.
     "During the [1979] revolution, news of protests, strikes and deaths was telephoned abroad by resistance networks, and broadcast back into the country by the BBC World Service and other short-wave radio stations." Paul Taylor, Reuters, 23 June 2009. See also Iran satellite update and Iran cyber update for 28 June.

Iran satellite update for 28 June 2009.

Posted: 28 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran's paramilitary Basij are carrying out brutal nighttime raids, destroying property in private homes and beating civilians in an attempt to stop nightly protest chants, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also said the Iranian authorities are confiscating satellite dishes from private homes to prevent citizens from seeing foreign news. ... Security agents are also forcing residents in Tehran to take down their satellite dishes, which allow them to view foreign media, one of the few sources of uncensored information in the face of the severe government restrictions on domestic media in Iran. According to a reliable source in Tehran, on June 24, uniformed police officers forced residents in the Niavaran and Dorous neighborhoods of Tehran to take down their satellite receiving dishes, and returned later to confiscate many of the satellite dishes. In addition to placing severe restrictions on access to internet-based news providers, Iran is also trying to jam the signals of foreign news media that broadcast into Iran." HRW, 26 June 2009.
     "A next step could be chipping away at the tacit pact with the Islamic baby boom generation: those born after the revolution and who account for nearly half of Iran's 70 million people. The regime has permitted them a limited buffet of freedoms. These include Western music, dating, Internet cafes and generally turning a blind eye to satellite dishes and women constantly testing the boundaries of Islamic dress codes with head scarves pushed far back and coats ever shorter and tighter. The unwritten deal, however, was that it was a reward for staying clear of politics that could rattle the system. That has broken down." Brian Murphy, AP, 25 June 2009.
     E-mail from Tehran on 18 June: "One thing is sure: people are no longer going to accept the self-censorship or fear that has been imposed upon them. It is already easier to speak to people on the street and in shops without wondering if they work for the secret service, or if they will tell the police. Like many others in the city, our house had become a sort of unofficial ‘newsroom’ with people coming in and out, working, making phone calls, emailing, and sleeping in different spots around the house. Last night Basijis [fundamentalist paramilitaries] were roaming the neighbourhood, going into some homes to gather satellite dishes." Green Left Online, 29 June 2009.
     "Election fraud protests in Iran have been quashed, for now. A Los Angeles satellite channel will televise the next wave of resistance--as soon as it organizes it. ... Nine-year-old Channel One has a $3 million budget drawn from donations by a little over 20,000 contributors... . How many are watching? Hard to gauge. ...its 60-person staff broadcasts Channel One around the clock to as many as 10 million Iranians. Audience size depends in part on how aggressively the Iranian regime jams its signal, which comes from the transponder of a French-owned satellite." Forbes, 26 June 2009.
     "The BBC Farsi service has begun to use the Eutelsat W2M satellite (3.1 degrees East) to better reach its audience in Iran. It will soon also start to use Nilesat. The move follows severe jamming of regular BBC broadcasts on the Eutelsat Hot Bird 6 satellite (13 degrees East). Distribution on Telstar 12 (15 degrees West) has continued without interuption." Broadband TV News, 22 June 2009. -- Telstar 12, at 15 degrees west, is the favored satellite of VOA Persian TV and Iranian exile stations in Los Angeles. Because it is so low to the horizon, it cannot be jammed from an uplink in Iran. This is why, in 2003, it was jammed by an uplink from an apparent Iranian facility in Cuba. Cuba, though willing to jam US broadcasts on all wavebands, quickly put a stop to the Iranian jamming. Iranians who receive television from Telstar 12 must have their dishes pointed conspicuously to the western horizon.
     At White House press briefing on 22 June "one reporter asked if the White House was considering beaming broad [broadband?] capability into Iran via satellite so the opposition forces would be able to communicate with themselves and the outside world. Gibbs said he didn't know such a thing was possible. (Is it?) But he said he would check on the technological feasibility and get back with an answer. That caused some head-scratching in the press room. If the United States could do that and was planning on doing so, wouldn't this be one of those intelligence matters that Gibbs won't discuss? But maybe some telecom entrepreneur or Silicon Valley whiz-kids can make this happen. The Google guys? The Twitter people? XM Radio? This is the sort of covert action that could be worth outsourcing—with the project manager actually taking full credit. Think of the endorsement possibilities: the Iranian Revolution...Brought to You by DIRECTV." David Corns, Mother Jones, 22 June 2009.
     "O&G's own Sasha Meyer answered this [above] question in a post last month. There does not appear to be a currently available, off-the-shelf technology. But Meyer describes a satellite system being put in orbit by Google-backed o3b whose target is to beam high-speed Internet service from space starting the end of next year. Alcatel-Lucent is developing a similar system with SkyTerra. Meyer suggested such systems as a way to bring tamper-free Internet to Central Asia. It's not fail-safe. As Charles Recknagel over at RFE-RL suggests, the Iranians and Central Asians can jam the signal; they also could simply prevent possibly necessary base stations from being installed. But it is technologically possible." Steve LeVine, The Oil and the Glory, 26 June 2009. See also Sasha Meyer, O&G, 2 May 2009.
     Kai Ludwig in Germany adds recent satellite reception observations. See previous post about same subject.

Union of Cuban Journalists compares the US media re the Cuban Five.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
A note from the Union of Cuban Journalists comments on the US Supreme Court's decision not to review the case of the "Cuban Five – who were arrested more than a decade ago in Miami, Florida, where they were monitoring anti-Cuba terrorist groups that operate with Washington’s complicity and have a history of terrorist attacks against the Caribbean nation. ... It adds that, on one side, there is a powerful system of radio and television aggression against Cuba led by federal and commercial stations as well as counterrevolutionary short wave stations broadcasting from Florida almost 1,955 hours per week through MW, SW, FM, and television with specialized planes and satellites at their disposal as part of a 34-million-dollar budget approved by the US Government for these broadcasts in 2009. ... 'On the other side, on the side of human decency, is the so-called alternative media, comprised of thousands of popular networks, community stations, media outlets of social movements, trade unions, progressive governments and in solidarity with Cuba, who have assumed the cause of the release of the Five as a priority topic,' the call affirms." ACN Cuban News Agency, 23 June 2009. See also Miami Herald, 16 June 2009.

"Shortwave's actual-threat forest for the high-tech trees."

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"State Department intelligence researcher Walter Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, allegedly had been spying for 30 years but weren't arrested until this month. Why? Because they communicated with Cuba via shortwave radio, which U.S. intelligence pretty much ignores, according to The Washington Times. The problem isn't shortwave, through which licensed U.S. 'hams' provide what's often the only instant long-distance communication in disaster areas. The problem is U.S. intelligence equating high tech with high security, forgetting World War II's 'code talkers,' whose Navajo language, not bits and bytes, befuddled the Japanese. The ultrasecret National Security Agency and its brethren apparently don't see shortwave's actual-threat forest for their beloved high-tech trees. And past cases of American spies for foreign powers using coded shortwave messages that are easy to crack -- if they're monitored -- make this lapse inexcusable." Editorial, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 22 June 2009. Unless I missed something, the indictment (pdf via CNN, 9 June 2009) mentions the Myers's receiving, but not transmitting, shortwave. Furthermore, some agency in the US government was monitoring, certainly not ignoring, many shortwave messages from Cuba allegedly to the Myers's and other operatives. See previous post about same subject.

DRM digital shortwave in the news.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Look for the first consumer receiver that Digital Radio Mondiale proponents hope will be a commercial success to be available in July. ... DRM is a digital radio system for short-, medium- and long-wave. The system is designed for digital transmission of voice and associated data services at frequencies below 30 MHz. Though DRM has had a software receiver and professional-grade units, Michel Penneroux, head of AM Broadcast for the TDF Group and chairman of the DRM Commercial Committee, said it has not had success in introducing a tabletop, though several companies have tried. The Di-Wave 100 receiver from UniWave Development SAS in France will enter mass production in July, he said." Radio World, 22 June 2009. See the UniWave Di_wave 100 at Universal Radio.
     "Dr. Donald Messer, longtime shortwave broadcasting and Digital Radio Mondiale proponent, updated attendees about his plans to test DRM for an ambitious 'local' shortwave service covering the state of Alaska. With more than half of Alaska’s population concentrated around Anchorage and a few other urbanized areas, and the remainder widely distributed over a half-million square mile land mass, the state is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world. This creates a challenging environment for the economics of FM and AM broadcasting, even before the harsh weather and limited accessibility of transmitter sites are considered." Radio World, 19 June 2009.

Director of Doha Centre for Media Freedom departs, citing lack of press freedom in Qatar.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Robert Menard, the director-general of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, on Tuesday quit the organisation, launching a tirade against the Qatar in which he accused the government of 'suffocating' the centre. Menard, a prominent press freedom advocate who was previously secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, said the government muzzled the Doha Centre from speaking out about media repression in Qatar, restricted its employees’ movement and withheld funding. 'How can we have any credibility if we keep quiet about problems in the country that is our host? Now the centre has been suffocated. We no longer have either the freedom or the resources to do our work. This cannot go on,' Menard said in a statement." Maktoob Business, 24 June 2009. See also Doha Centre for Press Freedom press release, 23 June 2009. And The National, 19 June 2009.

Expanded US distribution for Al Jazeera on 1 July.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"'On July 1 we are going to launch the first operation in cable distribution in the United States,' Al Jazeera's director general, Wadah Khanfar, said in an interview. 'I can tell you that on July 1 we are going to launch an agreement with a Washington DC based company that has around 2.3 million subscribers.'" ArabianBusiness.com, 25 June 2009. This is via MHZ Networks, available via cable and terrestrial digital in the Washington area, and via cable in other markets.

Mobile TV, with international news channels, in Africa.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Premier television station KTN has struck another first. You can now enjoy your favourite programmes on your mobile phone after KTN joined the popular DStv Mobile TV bouquet. ... Digital mobile television is an initiative of Digital Mobile Television (DMTV), which also offers world news channels including CNN and BBC World." The Standard (Nairobi), 26 June 2009. DStv Mobile is available in Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, and Nigeria. It includes BBC World News and CNN International. www.dstvmobile.com

RFI/France 24 multimedia documentary contest.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Radio France Internationale, along with France 24 (French international TV), are launching the first Web Documentary Award. The best Web Documentary will receive the FRANCE 24-RFI trophy and 8,000 euros. ... The award will go to the most original web documentary subject that makes the most innovative use of multimedia tools. Entries should use a combination of photos, texts, sound and videos and have an interactive dimension." RFI, 24 June 2009. Entry must be in French or English. France 24.

Arrested in Vietnam for sending "documents" to BBC and RFA (updated).

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Investigation Security Agency under the Ministry of Public Security on June 13 arrested lawyer Le Cong Dinh for allegedly conducting propaganda against the State. ... The department said that since 2006, he has drawn up many documents and sent them to various foreign press agencies, including the BBC and Radio Free Asia, and to the websites of various overseas dissident groups, including Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), Chan Troi Moi (New Horizon) and Tap San Tu Do Dan Chu (Freedom and Democracy Journal). In those documents, the department claimed he had publicly distorted the Government’s social and economic policies, slandered some of the country’s top officials, sowed division and undermined the trust among the public." Organ of the Party Committee of the Communist Party of Viet Nam Sai Gon Giai Phong, 14 June 2009.
     Update: "Le Cong Dinh should be immediately released and the charges against him dropped." Amnesty International, 16 June 2009.
     "The Vietnamese government should immediately free respected human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh and repeal national security laws that criminalize peaceful expression and association, Human Rights Watch said today. ... In interviews with the BBC and Radio Free Asia, Dinh has called for political pluralism to accompany economic pluralism in Vietnam, currently a one-party state controlled by the Vietnamese Communist Party." HRW, 23 June 2009.
     Vietnam foreign ministry statement: "Le Cong Dinh was able to express his individual opinions orally and in writing. For many years now, Le Cong Dinh has written many articles sent to the newspapers Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre, Saigon Tiep thi, Thoi Bao Kinh te Saigon, Tia Sang magazine and the Vietnamese service of the BBC. He has often been interviewed by the BBC, Radio France International, Radio Free Asia, etc. However, recently, Le Cong Dinh had activities violating Vietnamese law, communicating and colluding directly with a number of organizations and groups of Vietnamese exiles in foreign countries." VietNamNet, 26 June 2009.
     "A clip promoting Viet Nam tourism has been broadcast twice a day on BBC television. It features a panorama of Viet Nam and its people. ... The clip has been broadcast on BBC World News channel at 6.45 and 21.20 since June 11. It is being shown for eight weeks in the Asia-Pacific region, six weeks in Europe and six weeks in North America. ... Besides attracting more tourists, the project is aimed at firming up Viet Nam’s integration with the rest of the world." Viet Nam News, 26 June 2009.

Burma and international broadcasting in the news.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Burma’s military-controlled censorship board has banned all journals and magazines from publishing news about a North Korean ship which will soon dock near Rangoon and is believed to be carrying arms for Burma. ... Burmese citizens are relying on foreign-based radio stations for news of the cargo ship, sources said. A 40-year-old Rangoon resident said, 'The BBC, VOA and other international broadcasting agencies air news about the ship. Most Burmese people are very interested in it because a US military vessel is involved.'" The Irrawaddy, 24 June 2009.
     Win Tin, a veteran journalist and central executive committee member of the National League for Democracy may not be able to testify at the Burmese trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi because, according to the judges, "Win Tin has given several interviews to the exile-based Democratic Voice of Burma, BBC and Radio Free Asia, in which he demonstrated a distinct difference of opinion to that of the authorities." Mizzima, 24 June 2009.

What is Cantonese for "oops"?

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Five staff members from Guangzhou Cable TV (GCTV) have been suspended for a 'political mistake.' They apparently failed on several occasions to censor scenes related to the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Falun Gong spiritual practice. Programs from Hong Kong relayed to Guangdong Province normally have between 5-15 seconds delay for monitoring purposes. When Hong Kong TV broadcasts sensitive political information, local stations need to censor it immediately and replace it with other footage. A Radio Free Asia report on Asia TV (ATV), broadcast a trailer announcing a 'Special Series: The 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre' at 7:00 p.m. on May 22, which included the iconic scene of the student blocking the tank. The GCTV failed to censor the scenes at once, and an estimated one million TV viewers in Guangzhou City viewed it. On June 4, when ATV broadcast a special program on religion, including content relating to Falun Gong, GCTV again failed to censor it in time." Epoch Times, 25 June 2009. The VOA Cantonese Service has a weekly feature on ATV. Is it blocked or passed by GCTV?

International music ensemble connected by the internet.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"An ensemble of musicians separated by oceans and thousands of miles will perform together later this month for the first time, having composed music layer-by-layer with sound files exchanged over the Internet. Their goal: Show how the arts can bridge diverse cultures -- even among people who have never met in person before coming together on stage. A singer and instrumentalist from Afghanistan, a guitarist from Iran, a bass player from Ethiopia and drummers from Morocco are all part of the ensemble. They will accompany American Jewish tenor Alberto Mizrahi, Moroccan singer Haj Youness, a Muslim who is dean of the Casablanca Conservatory of Music, and renowned American keyboard and harmonica legend Howard Levy. Performances are scheduled for Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 in Chicago's Lincoln Park, Aug. 27 at the Kennedy Center in Washington and this fall in Casablanca. ... The Casablanca performance will be broadcast internationally by public radio, XM Satellite Radio and by Arab television outlet Al-Jazeera." "AP" via MoroccoBoard.com, 25 June 2009.

iPhone app is to shortwave what a Twitterer is to a journalist.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"WorldVoice Radio [iTunes link] is a cool little iPhone app that may help do for podcasting what Twitter did for web publishing -- make it easy to send out short, frequent messages. Of course, there's a difference, since WorldVoice Radio does this by letting you publish short podcasts from your iPhone. ... The app page in iTunes calls it 'shortwave radio for the 21st century,' and the app is complete with radio tuning sounds as you flip through the 'frequencies' to visit stations that have been set up by other WorldVoice Radio users." Steven Sande, TUAW, 22 June 2009.

Al Jazeera on shortwave? (updated)

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Al Jazeera "is today a vast empire comprising an English news channel, a sports channel, a documentary channel, and a children's channel. Its broadcasts can be accessed through cellular phones and it has a website updated constantly with the latest news from all over the world. Its latest endeavor is a short-wave radio station broadcasting to the Arab world." Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 14 May 2009. This is the first I've heard of an Al Jazeera shortwave service.
     Update: Reprinted in Jerusalem Post, 25 June 2009. Al Jazeera was noted on medium wave during the Gaza conflict. Radio Netherlands Media Network, 11 January 2009.

Radio Sweden drops Belarusian; Russian "considered sufficient."

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Radio Sweden plans to stop broadcasting in Belarusian as of September 1, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports. According to a statement by Swedish National Radio's international channel, the decision to drop broadcasting in Belarusian was made because Russian remains the major language in Belarus and, therefore, broadcasting in Russian to that country is considered sufficient. Also, company representatives told RFE/RL that shortwave broadcasting is not effective." RFE/RL, 26 June 2009.

"Single computer" and FM transmitter bring BBCWS to Lubbock.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"After six months of silence, Texas Tech's campus radio station is back on the air. However, KTXT-FM has undergone a few changes since January, including new management and a new format. 'The programming right now is primarily BBC world service through the day and jazz programming through the evenings, overnights and weekends. We'll probably add programs to it in sooner months as resources become available,' said Derrick Ginter, general manager of KOHM-FM and KTXT-FM. Back in December of 2008, 88.1 went off the air over concerns about high operating costs. Now, the station is fully automated with one single computer running the whole show." KCBD-TV (Lubbock TX), 16 June 2009.

BBCWS Digital Planet looks at blogging in Iran, Vietnam, Cuba, China.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a special edition, World Service programme Digital Planet looked at the role of blogging, censorship and citizen journalism. In particular it considered bloggers in Vietnam, Cuba and China." BBC News, 22 June 2009. Audio available here.
     "A report, titled Mapping the Arab blogosphere: 'Politics, culture, and dissent,' published on June 16, incorporates the perspectives of thousands of Arab blogs in the Middle East on a wide range of topics and emerging trends on the web. ... When it comes to news and information, the Arab blogsphere links to web 2.0 sites like You Tube and Wikipedia from their blogs more frequently than any other news source. Researchers with the project say Al-Jazeera is the top media source in the Arab blogosphere, followed by the BBC and Al-Arabiya." Menassat, 26 June 2009.

On its iPlayer: BBC World Service and BBC domestic radio internationally.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC has introduced Flash-based streams for its iPlayer service as well as live and on demand radio on all their national stations, doubling the bitrates for most streams. The results are enhanced audio quality and a wider dynamic level. The BBC are also introducing Flash-based streaming outside of the UK. ... Live streams for BBC Radio 1,2,3 and 4 are also now available in Windows Media format for an overseas audience - a first. And finally, the BBC World Service will be coming to the BBC iPlayer in the upgraded quality in the next few weeks, with national and local radio streams to be upgraded by the end of the summer." Radio Today, 19 June 2009.

New BBC World News program will have vast remit.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Ogilvy Entertainment, the brand content arm of Ogilvy Advertising, in association with independent production company, Devize, has entered into a collaboration with BBC World News to develop a new topical magazine series about space. The series has a working title of Frontiers and will look into all aspects of space and space exploration, focusing on how developments in space have a direct effect on our lives here on Earth." domain-b.com, 20 June 2009.

BBC's overseas bureaux/bureaus and how they are spelt/spelled.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Journalism.co.uk had been surprised to learn at last month’s Journalism in Crisis event that the BBC used only stringers to cover South America, according to director of news Helen Boaden. The location of global bureaux ‘is something to do with your colonial past’ she said, adding to comments by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, when he was questioned by an irate audience member on the corporation’s lack of coverage in that part of the world (specifically Latin America). Does the BBC really have no bureaux in Central and South America? Well, the BBC press office later told Journalism.co.uk, it depends how you define stringers and bureaux." Judith Townend, journalism.co.uk, 22 June 2009.

He will "protect and grow" BBC English, Hausa, Portuguese to Africa.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service on-air Editor Steve Martin is joining the Africa and Middle East Business Development team as Business Development Manager - West and Southern Africa. Steve will take on responsibility for protecting and growing English, Hausa and Portuguese audiences in some of the BBC World Service's biggest markets, including Africa's biggest English market Nigeria." Radio Today, 25 June 2009.

Potatoes broadcast internationally.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"As food security has moved rapidly up the news agenda in the last year, the global television channel BBC World commissioned a documentary on potatoes and food security, and requested collaboration from the DFID-funded International Potato Centre based in Lima, Peru (CIP) in the development of the program. The film is now finished and is about to be broadcast in the Nature Inc. series of BBC World, with the provocative title 'One Sexy Tuber'. The program focuses on the role of the potato in its home in the High Andes, and in Africa and Asia." Research for Development, 26 June 2009.
     "The BBC World Service is tracking food prices in seven major cities to create a World Food Price Index. Each week reporters head to the shops to record the prices for five of that country's staple foods." BBC News, 25 June 2009.

Rwanda information minister could permanently block BBC on FM.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The government in Kigali could consider indefinitely suspending the BBC Kinyarwanda programmes if the broadcaster’s editorial managers do not change their attitude, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Minister of Information Minister, has said. Ms Mushikiwabo who is also the government’s spokesperson, told Daily Nation, on Thursday that BBC made a strong commitment to make sure the programmes’ editorial lines respect the sensitivities that divide Rwandans and those that were used to instigate the horrors of the 1994 genocide. However, she added that if the British broadcaster doesn’t stick to commitments made recently, Rwanda would suspend its programmes indefinitely. ... The Information Minister said that he also met with Robert Daguillard of VOA on Wednesday and Mr Daguillard reaffirmed his commitment to have the VOA editorial toned down." Saturday Nation (Kampala), 26 June 2009.

BBC World Service via mobile phones in India.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Reliance Mobile and BBC World Service have announced a strategic alliance to offer Live Audio service through Reliance’s R-World VAS platform. This is the first such international offering to be launched by an Indian telecom company. The new partnership, aggregated by Worldwide Records, will see BBC World Service content available Live across India through the medium of mobile phones. Reliance subscribers will now be able to listen to BBC World Service news in a choice of five different languages, seven days a week. BBC World Service will offer news in English, which will switch to Hindi at 6.30am, 8.00am, 7.30pm and 10.30 pm; Tamil, at 09.15pm; Urdu, at 7.00am, 8.30 pm and 11.00pm, and Bangla, at 5.00 am, 6.00 am and 6.00pm." Reliance Communications press release, 26 June 2009. This is interesting: BBC World Service news is not allowed to be rebroadcast via Indian FM radio stations, but it can be broadcast by a mobile phone network in India.

Letters to Radio Azadi, including one six meters long.

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Fans of Radio Free Afghanistan will write ornate letters and send them to the Kabul station, which in turn sends them over by the rice bag to Prague. According to Akbar Ayazi, director of Radio Free Afghanistan (known in-country as Radio Azadi), some 300 to 400 letters are sent their way each week. In his office he has me lift the bags and rifle through the correspondence, mostly on loose-leaf paper. I can't make sense of any of it but Ayazi tells me the listeners tell the station they are fans of the show, their likes and dislikes, and pretty much whatever else is on their minds. And then he shows me one of the longest letters ever sent. Glued together and unscrolled, it came to about 6 meters. It was written by a 14-year-old Afghan boy and broken into sections about himself, his country, the drug problem, girls, and poetry. Radio Free Afghanistan is the most listened to of all the RFE broadcasts, with 52 percent of the market tuned-in to them (12 hours of talk, news, and music)." Victorino Matus, The Blog, The Weekly Standard, 25 June 2009.

How they organized protests before Twitter (updated).

Posted: 27 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
The media used by protest movements in Hungary 1956, East Timor 1970s/80s, Iran 1979, China 1989, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia 1989. GlobalPost, 19 June 2009.
     Update: "The international media acted the same way 30 years ago. Back then, technology was not so advanced. There was no YouTube, no internet or satellite television. But people still depended on international media for news. Then, it was the age of short wave radios. People depended on the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Israel and Radio Moscow for information and analysis." Azar Majedi, Scoop (New Zealand), 26 June 2009.
     "Recall during the Tiananmen protests in 1989 the exchanges of faxes between the Chinese students in Beijing and expatriate Chinese students in universities around the world. Those outside China faxed the students in Beijing daily summaries of Western news accounts; those in Beijing faxed out first-person accounts of what was happening on the ground. Or remember in 1996 when the Milosevic regime shut down the alternative Serbian radio station Radio B92, its programming stayed on-air because the BBC and Voice of America rebroadcast B92 Real Audio files downloaded via the Net. And before either of those there was Vietnam. In the early days of the war during the Kennedy administration, before the foreign press operated under the rules of the US forces, journalists could send their copy and photographs out of the country via the radio transmitter at the Saigon Post, telephone, and telegraph office, but they had to pass the South Vietnamese censors first." Susan Moeller, Huffington Post, 19 June 2009.

McCain, Graham, Lieberman propose more money for US broadcasts to Iran.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Three hard-line Senate voices on Iran said Thursday they will introduce legislation to expand Iranians’ access to free media in the wake of a post-election crackdown on protests and communication. Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Connecticut independent Joseph I. Lieberman said they would introduce the bill, which would authorize more money for U.S. broadcasting services as well as technology to circumvent attempts to block broadcasts and Web sites, after the July Fourth recess. ... The bill would increase funding authorization for Radio Farda, the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and for Voice of America satellite television broadcasts into Iran, which have expanded since Iran’s June 12 presidential election." CQ Politics, 25 June 2009.
     McCain at press conference: "Radio Farda -- as I mentioned, Radio Farda is part of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty based in Prague. And what it broadcasts isn’t propaganda or even public diplomacy. Rather, its job is surrogate broadcasting, providing the Iranian people with the kind of unbiased, uncensored news and other information they would get in the event that they were living in a free society. Our bill will authorize additional funding to give Radio Farda the ability to confront this jamming more aggressively and to expand its reach across the country with additional short-wave capacity, additional satellite time, and increased proxy capacity. VOA Persian Service -- Voice of America provides eight hours of television broadcast by satellite into Iran every day on a 24-hour loop. A few weeks ago, in response to the election, VOA added an additional hour of programming on a temporary basis. This legislation would authorize the funding to make that additional hour of programming permanent and explore adding to it. ... We’d also like it examine the possibility of establishing one or more Farsi-language Internet-based television channels that would broadcast news and other information." CQ Politics, 25 June 2009. Would these internet-based television channels compete with VOA Persian News Network television? The additional money for US broadcastiong to Iran might be used to woo talent from BBC Persian. More likely, the money will be used by VOA PNN to entice talent from Radio Farda, and vice versa.
     "According to an announcement of the bill from the three senators it will also 'provide the Iranian people with access to other information technologies to ensure Iranians access to the Internet, including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and cellular phone networks.' It is unclear how they would get around Internet monitoring and blocking going on in Iran. Spokesfolk for the senators had not returned calls for comment at press time." Broadcasting & Cable, 25 June 2009.
     "McCain, who holds a warmongering line on Iran, also took one further bold step in questioning the legitimacy of the Iranian government. 'The fact is that the Iranian government is now illegitimate.'" Press TV, 26 June 2009.

Iran cyber update for 26 June 2009.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The spread and speed of the Internet changed the “calculus of censorship.” Over 35 governments—from China, Cuba to Burma—block access to the Web. Iran is one of the most aggressive, notes Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. 'YouTube' traffic within Iran was down 90 percent last week. Facebook has been tamped down by more than half. Some 20 million Iranians are wired. In the Middle East, they’re second only to Israel’s Cyber-savvy citizens who are adept in hop-scotching controls." Juan Mercado, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 June 2009.
     "A venture between Nokia Corp. (NOK) and Siemens AG (SI) mentions in its Code of Conduct that it will respect the rights laid down by the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The statement did not seem to apply to its business in Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, the European companies sold Iran the technology for what's known as deep packet inspection, which the paper says 'involves inserting equipment into a flow of online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.'" Jonathan Berr, DFaily Finance, 24 June 2009.
     "Another agency in the U.S. government that has provided seed money to help Iranians avoid Internet censorship is the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the body that oversees the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Farda, a Farsi-language radio station that stepped up shortwave broadcasts recently to counteract Iranian government efforts to jam the signal. Ken Berman, acting director of engineering for the BBG, said he oversees a three-person anti-censorship team that focuses on China and Iran. He declined to provide the exact budget for the project, saying only that it was 'under $5 million' a year. 'We have realized that Iran has a growing audience of young activist Internet users and we have repurposed our tools to work in Farsi and make it available to Iranians,' he said. 'We open up the channels so the Iranian blogosphere is more accessible to Iranians in Iran.'" Washington Times, 26 June 2009.
     "One of those projects: design the Firefox Web browser to embed the TOR network. That’s the 'onion router' anonymous surfing service, which throws off the Supreme Leader’s online goons by 'distributing your transactions over several places on the Internet, so no single point can link you to your destination,' the project’s site explains." Noah Shachtman, Wired Danger Room, 26 June 2009.

This is not good.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Someone dumped tires, carpets, oil and paint cans in ditches off of Voice of America Road. It’s still there. However, now there’s more vegetation growing over it." WNCT-TV (Greenville NC), 24 June 2009, with link to video report. Near one of the VOA (IBB) shortwave transmitting sites in the vicinity of Greenville.

Iran media update for 26 June 2009.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Freelance journalist Fariborez Srosh was also reportedly arrested on 16 June. He has been imprisoned in the past because of his work with Radio farda (Radio Free Europe)." Reporters sans frontières, 23 June 2009.
     "If Obama were to get on Radio Farda or Voice of America Persian service and speak directly to the Iranian people, if he were to admit he was wrong to have implied that the supreme leader was their legitimate spokesman, that might have tremendous effect." Michael Rubin, National Review Online, 23 June 2009.
     "Rumors are rife that influential Iranian ex-President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is working hard behind the scenes to help resolve Iran's postelection crisis, possibly with an eye to a radical long-term solution. Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah television, which has been doing some provocative reporting and whose Tehran bureau has been ordered shut by Iranian authorities, has reported that Hashemi Rafsanjani met very recently with representatives of the Shi'ite world's highest authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who lives in neighboring Iraq." Mazyar Mokfi and Andy Heil, RFE/RL, 22 June 2009.
     "In a news conference Monday in Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi made some accusations about western media outlets. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi accused Western media outlets of targeting Iran. Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi accused Western media outlets of targeting Iran. Qashqavi accused 'everyone working' at the BBC, the Voice of America and CNN of pursuing the 'weakening of Iran's unity' and seeking the 'disintegration' of the country all because, he said, of ties to Israel and Zionism. In addition, Qashqavi specifically claimed that CNN 'officially' trains people to 'hack government and foreign ministry' Web sites. He cited a CNN.com story about how protesters used a technique against the Web site of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." CNN, 22 June 2009.
     "On shortwave radio, [Iran's] Voice of Justice program [beamed to North America] has made a point during the course of the last week and a half to repeat the phrase 'President Doctor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad' as frequently as possible, as well as making copious mention of those congratulatory statements from abroad - to include one made by President Obama prior to the actual election. The programming has also been changed to focus less on stories maligning the United States, and more on stories about 'President Doctor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad', Ali Khamenei, and any line they can think of to afford the two of them some degree of political legitimacy. The most interesting moment from a recent broadcast of the Voice of Justice program, though, came the day after the poll. The commentators on the program seemed to stutter and stumble over their words more than usual, betraying nerves and apprehension amongst the personnel of the government's propaganda wing. On the topic of radio, Iran appears to be jamming foreign radio broadcasts, including the BBC Persian service." Tom Ordeman, Jr., Family Security Matters, 23 June 2009.
     "Iranian police attempted to arrest RFI’s special envoy at her hotel in Teheran last week, forcing the reporter to call Spanish diplomatic officials to protect her. She then spent three days in the Spanish embassy, before leaving the country under diplomatic escort." RFI, 23 June 2009.
     "Already at the beginning of this year, an increase in German foreign propaganda was noticed in Teheran. In January, Teheran accused the Deutsche Welle, and other German organizations, of seditious activities and temporarily blocked access to their internet site. The current data of the state-financed radio station in Bonn confirm that the Farsi-language program is currently particularly in demand. For example, since the elections the number of visitors to the site has 'multiplied to around 120,000 hits' per day and 'the direct contacts to editorial staff in Bonn' have 'dramatically increased.' According to Deutsche Welle statistics, the Farsi editorial board is receiving up to 3,000 mails daily. Reports 'dealing with reactions in Germany to the developments in Iran' are particularly in demand from the nation at the Persian Golf, according to the foreign broadcasting station." German_Foreign-Policy.com, 22 June 2009.
     "Hardline Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami urged the government on Friday to 'better control' the foreign media, accusing them of fomenting the protests over this month's presidential election. He also suggested that anyone who resorted to violence during the demonstrations should be considered a mohareb -- someone who fights against God -- and face the ultimate sanction. 'The American, the European and the British media have shown their perversity in this story. They added oil to the fire,' he said in his sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran which was broadcast nationwide. 'I expect the government to control them. How can they be allowed to wander round the country with their satellite phones giving information that provokes people to take to the streets?'" AFP, 26 June 2009.

Netherlands based radio calling Iran.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Until the Iranian election this month, Holland's Radio Zamaneh was more interested in underground music, alternative literature and interviews with Iranian cultural figures than in politics. Now it is one of the few Persian-language sources of unfiltered information for Iranians whose access to news has been strictly controlled by the regime since mass protests erupted over the alleged rigging of June 12 presidential elections. Since its launch in 2006, Radio Zamaneh has targeted young urban Iranians inhabiting the blogosphere; the postelection crackdown prompted its reporters to step up its use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and cell phones for information. ... [Chief editor Farid] Haerinejad says he has no idea how many listeners tune into the 90-minute daily broadcast by short wave and satellite, which is repeated twice and appears as an audio and text file on the station's Web site. But he interpreted [a] protest from the Iranian Embassy as a sign that the station has a significant following." AP, 25 June 2009. See also Radio Netherlands Media Network, 16 June 2009.

BBC Persian: "careful about not becoming opposition TV" (updated).

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Thousands of miles from Iran, BBC Persian television in London has become a focal point for Iranians who refuse to believe the results of the presidential election this month. The BBC could not have known, when it launched the channel six months ago, that it would come into existence just in time for an election which has sparked the most serious unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Farsi-language channel has quickly attracted millions of viewers, despite being banned from having a single correspondent in Iran." AFP, 23 June 2009.
     "Though audience estimates are yet to be published, [BBC Persian TV] – which had set a target of eight million viewers by 2011 – is already reported to have millions of viewers. It has increased broadcasting from the previous daily limit of eight hours, and streams BBC Persian radio when off air. Up to 10,000 emails have been received on a single day, and there were some three million hits on BBCPersian.com website on Saturday, the day of protests when at least 10 people died." The Telegraph, 23 June 2009.
     "The Iranian religious leadership has been ... angered by the superb role played by the BBC's Persian service in broadcasting images of the violence on the streets back to people in Iran who would not otherwise have seen them." Editorial, The Telegraph, 23 June 2009.
     "Many Iranians are still convinced the BBC helped topple the Peacock throne and bring Ayatollah Khomeini to power, ironic in the light of the role being played by the BBC's new Persian TV channel, a huge irritant to the authorities in Tehran." The Guardian, 23 June 2009.
     "Iran accuses Britain of launching a Persian-language version of BBC programming aimed at an Iranian audience before the election to sow discontent and undermine Iran's stability." Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2009.
     "The BBC is funded by a government grant and a levy on U.K. television owners. It operates independent of the government." Bloomberg, 23 June 2009.
     "Two people accused of helping the main agents of recent unrest in Tehran, confessed to being affected by foreign media. 'We and the people involved in the recent unrest harmed public property, people and security forces, broke glasses of homes and made riot,' said Ozrasadat M.S., accused of rioting in Tehran. 'On Tuesday (last week) that there was a demonstration in Azadi square, many people told others about the place of next gathering and then we heard about the place of next riot in the Voice of America (VOA) and BBC Persian,' she added. ... 'I was affected by a false atmosphere created by foreign media which made problem for my family,' said Mohsen, also accused of rioting in Tehran. 'Through my friends and satellite channels, mainly BBC, I was informed about gatherings. This channel started to agitate people after the elections and told them what to do on the streets through "Nobate Shoma" program,' he added." Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting via ISRIA, 23 June 2009.
     "Contrary to the Iranian government's escalating accusations against foreign media, BBC Persian acting head Rob Beynon says the channel has reported the story impartially. Staff have risen to the challenge as they concentrate on a big, complex story, putting their opinions, and concerns, aside, he says. 'We have been very careful about not falling into the trap of becoming opposition TV. We've at no point said "these elections were rigged". We've been very measured - so much so that we've had criticism from all sides.'" BBC News, 23 June 2009.
     "The majority of people contacting BBC Persian and BBC News are opposition supporters - so we would like to hear from those supporting the government." BBC News, 23 June 2009.
     Update: The BBC's "Persian TV channel has been on air only since January. It has no offices in Iran but satellite technology has ensured that its broadcasters like Sadegh Saba have become famous there. Saba realized that when he visited Tehran a few weeks before the election: 'For the first time I realized that everybody recognizes me and that told me a lot. The people recognized me because they watch Persian television.' ... Saba is aware of the attacks on the channel's credibility. He calls it a crucial test for the journalists: 'We have to come out of this test victorious as before to show that under pressure when such great upheaval is happening in Iran its staff remain measured, neutral, impartial.'" Laura Lynch, The World, Public Radio International, 24 June 2009.
     "'It's been truly exhausting,' admits Pooneh Ghoddoosi, the glamorous but visibly drained 37-year-old presenter of Nowbat-e Shoma (Your Turn), which encourages Farsi speakers to phone in and discuss the issues affecting them. 'We've all been doing 18-hour days to keep up.' Usually Nowbat-e Shoma broadcasts once a week but with so many Iranians desperate to tell the outside world what is happening, producers have been scrambling to make the show a daily occurrence. It is now the station's most popular programme by far. ... Rob Beynon, the station's head of programming, insists coverage has remained scrupulously impartial. 'Although much of the videos we receive are brilliant, vivid and raw images, we have to be careful how they are used. We're not YouTube. We are the BBC and have to remain entirely impartial and objective.' Most videos and images are only broadcast if the network can corroborate them with separate footage or testimony and the channel's output is strictly governed by the BBC's standard editorial guidelines." Jerome Taylor, The Independent, 25 June 2009.
     Mehdi Semati, associate professor at Eastern Illinois University: "BBC Persian TV, which started its operation only a few months ago, has become a major source of information in Iran. VoA has been eclipsed by BBC Persian TV because they do not appear to audiences as partisan as VoA. BBC enjoys a more established brand recognition. The election and the subsequent protests have been a rating bonanza for these channels, especially for BBC Persian TV. There are numerous foreign-language channels (BBC, CNN, and Bloomberg channels are among these channels). Language barriers mean only the elite can enjoy the foreign-language channels. Internet, online news sources, and weblogs are limited to a younger and more tech-savvy audience. The reformist press has been all but paralyzed in the present context. State's draconian measures have left little room for a serious oppositional press. IRIB's selective coverage has meant audiences go elsewhere to get their information." Interviewed by Jonathan Berr, Daily Finance, 25 June 2009.
     Michael Williams, a professor at the University of London "said the Obama administration has been very careful not to fuel the volatile situation, while the British have drawn verbal fire because of the BBC's prominent role as trusted broadcaster inside Iran. 'The BBC Persian Service is very popular and respected in Iran, and the BBC is working actively to increase its satellite coverage and foil Iranian attempts to block their signal, this has made the Iranian government very suspicious,' he said." Agencies via Taiwan News, 25 June 2009.
     "The recent provocative programs broadcast by BBC’s Persian service were among Britain’s attempts to foment protests in Iran, [intelligence minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei] pointed out." Tehran Times, 25 June 2009.

CNN International will take on BBC and Sky in the UK.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"'Just watch us, Sky and the BBC,' [CNN International MD Tony Maddox] says. 'Frankly, I think we've got by far and away the most compelling news primetime in the UK.' CNN's new evening schedule has a distinctly British flavour, too. Connect the World, a show that explores the cross-border impact of big news stories, is anchored by British journalist Becky Anderson. Another Brit, Richard Quest, plays a key role with his show Quest Means Business. ... His unit, CNN International, has been profitable since its inception. This year will, he concedes, be tougher, with profits falling. But, he says, his division will not see cuts in its programming budget, and will continue to be 'significantly profitable'." Neil Midgeley, The Telegraph, 24 June 2009.
     "CNNI is spending heavily on increasing its overseas news bureaux, with new offices in Abu Dhabi opening this autumn and other new locations including Kabul and Santiago." Rapid TV News, 25 June 2009.
     "Hundreds of protesters had headed to Tehran's Baharestan Square for another street rally against Iran's presidential election result. The first reports of what went on there have been broadcast on CNN and Al Jazeera television." Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 25 June 2009.
     In a hotel in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea: "There is CNN International, of course, but its reporting is limited in comparison to the French coverage. In days gone by, I used to think of the hotel room-based life of a newspaper foreign correspondent as a character-building struggle against the challenges of CNN Repetition Syndrome. The twentieth time in twenty-four hours that one learns that equatorial Africa is likely to experience tropical showers is a demoralizing sort of toll bell." Steve Coll, Think Tank, The New Yorker, 17 June 2009.
     "Radio the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) and the Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific Inc. signed an agreement in Hanoi on June 19, allowing VOV to use programming services from CNN. Under the two-year deal, VOV can now receive, monitor, record and incorporate excerpts from CNN services such as CNN International, International Newsource and CNN Radio in the news and information programmes to be broadcast on its channels. This includes the video image radio channel known as VOV TV. VOV is also licensed to publish CNN’s news stories on its Website." VOV News, 19 June 2009.

VOA Persian News Network gets media attention.

Posted: 26 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"One U.S. government arm doing an exemplary job of reacting to Iran's post-election unrest is Voice of America, which has stepped up efforts to provide Iranians with information they aren't getting from Iran's state-run media. ... Radio beamed behind the Iron Curtain was VOA's primary medium during the Cold War. Today, its use of multiple technologies is key to its worth. The agency says its satellite TV broadcasts reach almost 30 percent of Iranian adults each week. And direct visits from inside Iran to PNN's Web site have increased more than 800 percent since early June. U.S. cable news channels are carrying first-person reports from inside Iran, too. But what distinguishes VOA is its long experience in reaching foreign audiences living under regimes that prohibit the free flow of information. That's an especially valuable capacity right now in regard to Iran -- one that should not be overlooked or underestimated in debate about how the U.S. government is dealing with events there." Editorial, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 25 June 2009. No mention of Radio Farda.
     VOA Persian News Netywork mentioned in stories on NBC, CNN, and ABC. Links to video at BBG Tune In, 25 June 2009.
     "The case can be credibly made that the VOA is a healthy return on investment for U.S. taxpayers when Iran's Foreign Ministry rails that such Western TV channels as the BBC and VOA 'are the mouthpiece of their government’s public diplomacy.' And it's helpful too that the VOA is mentioned in the same breath as the prestigious BBC, which, like the VOA, broadcasts in a language local to Iran. (Also, of course, there is the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda, which broadcasts programs into Iran in Farsi.)" Alvin Snyder, blog, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 23 June 2009.
     "In Iran, Voice of America is nothing more than a watered-down CNN. Under Clinton, Bush, and now Obama, the U.S. State Department has been afraid to offend Iran's rulers." Ann Donnelly, The Columbian (Vancouver WA), 25 June 2009.
     VOA director "Danforth W. Austin, in an interview with News Talk, a daily show aired on the VOA Persian News Network (PNN), told viewers in Iran VOA would continue giving them a full and balanced view of events inside their country and around the world. ... Austin denied Iran's allegations that international broadcasters, including VOA, worked to threaten the country's territorial integrity. 'That's simply not true,' he said. VOA's specific mission is journalism, providing credible, trustworthy information that people can use to form their own opinions, Austin said. The U.S. Government-funded agency reports on those who support – and disagree – with U.S. policy, he added, explaining that VOA encourages debate and an open forum. Moreover, Austin said VOA would be delighted to secure interviews with senior Iranian officials, as well as officials from the United States and other countries. 'That’s good journalism,' he said." VOA press release, 25 June 2009.
     "How did Bush get his message into Iran? Via the main US government funded TV network: Voice of America’s Persian News Network (PNN). The satellite television network, broadcasting out of Washington, DC, in Iran’s own language, came into existence under Bush’s watch in July 2007. It now reaches 30% of Iranian adults. I suppose one could argue that a US government funded network might consist of American government propaganda, but from the BBC and CBC to NPR, these publicly-funded outlets are almost always the exact opposite, and rife with leftist journalists who are attracted by the theory that that a lack of corporate and private funding ought to make them more objective and less beholden to outside interests (rather than just more leftist, as a result of the ideology of the journalists who gravitate towards them). The fact that the network is free of Iranian government propaganda makes it a powerhouse for cultural change in itself. The American government also operates Radio Farda, featuring both music and news. Launched in December 2002, the network’s Persian language programming originates in Prague and is available on the internet and via radio transmission into Iran from various transmission towers in the Middle East." Rachel Marsden, Human Events, 25 June 2009.
     "During my latest appearance on Voice of America--the illegal but most popular TV channel in Iran--on Monday, I asked the Iranians to send me their opinions in response to the question, 'what do you want President Obama to do on Iran?' My mailbox is being flooded with e-mails in Farsi from throughout Iran. I am going to try to post translated excerpts from as many of these letters as possible throughout the next week." Sam Sedaei, Huffington Post, 25 June 2009.

"I-think-we-were-provoked-by-BBC-and-VOA."

Posted: 25 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"On June 23, the television showed one detainee confessing to what amounts to collaboration with foreign powers against the Iranian state. 'I think we were provoked by networks like the BBC and VOA [Voice of America] to take such immoral actions,' the young man said. His face was shown but he was not identified by name. Similarly, a woman was shown saying she, too, 'was influenced by VOA Persian [service] and the BBC because they were saying that the security forces were behind most of the clashes.' ... Her face was pixilated on the screen and her name wasn't given." Charles Recknagel, RFE/RL, 24 June 2009. See also CNN video report via YouTube, 25 June 2009. Does anyone have a link to the Press TV video?
     Discussion of BBC and VOA in Iran in this video: Russian Today, 23 June 2009.
     "Earlier this week, Iran ordered the BBC's permanent correspondent in Tehran to leave the country, accusing him of supporting the rioters. It alleged the British broadcaster as well as Voice of America were Israeli agents whose aim was to to 'weaken the national solidarity, threaten territoral integrity and disintegrate Iran.'" AFP, 24 June 2009.
     Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News: "The BBC's Persian language TV channel, funded by the foreign office, denying it was fomenting revolution, rejecting allegations it was British government propaganda." PBS NewsHour, 23 June 2009. I
     "You know, there's a difference between politics and statesmanship. And the president has to be a statesman and the leader of our nation in terms of foreign policy. At the beginning of your show, you talked about how BBC and Voice of America and public statements are being used by the Iranian government to distract -- those were your words in the reporting -- to distract from the real cause here. The president has been sensitive to that, but anybody who believes that the president has been less than forceful on this is simply ignoring history." Senator John Kerry, PBS NewsHour, 23 June 2009.
     "The Iranian regime blames BBC Persian service for its ills. As a global media corporation, the BBC broadcasts in many languages across the world providing objective commentary on a range of countries. Yet, only Iran says that the BBC is seeking regime-change by broadcasting videos of brutality by its security services. It is as if the British are wielding the batons themselves or using some form of mind control over the Bassij fanatics to shoot dead Neda Soltani and the countless, nameless others murdered by this cruel government. Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime has not voiced anything about the useless and amateurish yet expensive American anti-regime propaganda exercises, VOA Persian and Radio Farda. Perhaps this is because they are afraid that the BBC is regarded by Iranians as trustworthy and without a party line to pursue, while the US efforts are run by a small band of ageing and embittered exiles who barely have a grasp on reality. The regime fears truth more than it fears any ideology." Nasser Bani Assad, British Ahwazi Friendship Society, 24 June 2009.
     Reporters sans frontières "today condemned a parade of Iranian demonstrators being shown on a loop on state-run TV confessing to having protested at the behest of foreign media. All demonstrators make their confessions using the same words that have opened the nightly news bulletin for the past week: 'Bismillah, al-rahman al-rahim. I admit that I demonstrated under the influence of the BBC, the radio Voice of America and other foreign media'. The confessions are aired at every hour of the day and night to show Iranians the extent to which those disputing the presidential election were persuaded by western agents to take part in an 'orchestrated plot' against the Islamic Republic of Iran, confirming the words of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei." RSF, 25 June 2009.

RFI strike in its seventh week.

Posted: 24 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The strike at Radio France Internationale was in its seventh week on Tuesday and staff voted again to continue. At issue is the cutting of about 20 per cent ofthe total number of about 1,000 jobs Talks have been deadlocked, and part of the dispute is playing out in the law courts." RFI, 23 June 2009.

BBG's Blaya points to audience increases for Alhurra.

Posted: 24 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Q: The BBC has operated as a public funded broadcaster in the Middle East for seventy years and is still often accused of bias, what do you do to allay an suspicion over al Hurra’s motives? BBG's Joaquin Blaya: We simply show them our numbers. Five and a half years ago US international broadcasting had a weekly reach of one million. The most recent numbers that we have from Nielsen estimate Al Hurra’s audience to be 27 million. That is incredible growth. In Iraq we have more viewers than Al Jazeera. Q: The network is funded by the US government, what is preventing it from censoring al Hurra? JB: The main function of BBG is to act as a firewall between al Hurra journalists and the government. It has four Democrats, four Republicans and the Secretary of State and is the collective CEO of these operations. This means no one individual can exert pressure. The BBG ensures that our journalists can report whatever they like with balance and objectivity." John Parnell, Digital Production Middle East, 23 June 2009. Alhurra has terrestrial transmitters in Iraq (arguably facilitated by the US military presence in Iraq); Al Jazeera does not. See previous post about same subject.

Israel's Persian shortwave broadcast "relevant again."

Posted: 24 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In his Friday sermon, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reserved special wrath for 'Zionist radio' that he said tried to drive a wedge between the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic. Such attention from Iran's supreme leader was music to the ears of Menashe Amir, a bespectacled Iranian-born Israeli who has been broadcasting in Persian from Jerusalem for the past five decades. 'We're listened to in Iran and considered very credible and effective,' Mr. Amir says with pride. 'We're close to the Iranian people, we know what they want, and we have our sources that give us detailed news about everything that's going on in Iran.' The spread of the Internet and satellite television in Iran over the past decade seemed to eclipse the prominence of Mr. Amir's old-fashioned shortwave broadcasts on Kol Israel, Israel's public radio. But now, as the Web in Iran is either blocked or dramatically slowed and satellite-TV channels are jammed by the government amid spreading unrest, Mr. Amir has suddenly become relevant again." Wall Street Journal, 23 June 2009.
     "The Farsi department of Kol Yisrael is broadcasting a daily 85-minute program and a one-hour program during the weekend. The radio is broadcast into Iran through short wave as well as two Internet Web sites and satellite. Normally, the Farsi department answers calls from Iran only once a week, but since the election results were announced recently, they are answering calls every day. [Station personnel] can recognize which calls came from Iran, and which calls came from outside of Iran." Epoch Times, 24 June 2009.

Iran cyber update for 23 June 2009.

Posted: 24 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Some Iranians have harnessed ways to bypass the system, relying in part on supporters around the world who are offering their computers as so-called proxy servers, which are digital safe houses that can strip out identifying information and allow Iranians to view blocked Web sites. Tor, a volunteer-run tool for masking Internet traffic that bounces Internet connections off three separate computers, said the traffic emanating from Iran over the course of the week increased tenfold. Despite the crackdown, the videos and tweets indicate to many that broadly distributed Internet tools — and the spirit of young, tech-savvy people — cannot be completely repressed by an authoritarian government. 'You can’t take the entire Internet and try to lock it in a little box in your country, as China continuously attempts to do,' said Richard Stiennon, founder of IT-Harvest, a Web security research firm. Brian Stelter and Brad Stone, New York Times, 23 June 2009. Richard Cuff, who sent this item, adds: "What is interesting in this analysis is that the Internet facilitates the word *getting out*, but doesn't facilitate the word *getting in*." And to Mr. Stiennon's comment, North Korea has its Kwangmyong, an internet-like system, or intranet, that is strictly internal.
     "Since post-election unrest began in Iran about a week ago, supporters of the Iranian opposition movement have been propagating lists of available proxy servers to Iranians via Twitter and numerous Web sites. An inspection of about 2,000 such servers shows that while many are hosted in the U.S and Western Europe, proxy services have also been available from numerous other countries, including China, India, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria and Vietnam. ... It's hard to say how many of the proxy services are still available to people inside the country. A majority of the services are likely to have been blocked by Iranian authorities soon after they were publicized on Twitter and elsewhere, he said. Based on anecdotal evidence and on speaking with people inside Iran, the rate at which new proxies are being created has fallen over the past few days -- and it's getting harder to get the information about them to people who need it." Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld, 22 June 2009.
     "'Canada's Psiphon Inc. on the Frontlines of Iranian Netwar,' reads a June 19 press release by Ontario based Psiphon Inc. 'The company is employing dedicated 'psi-operators' - staff whose job it is to propagate Psiphon nodes and engage with the Iranian community both inside and outside Iran - working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.'" The Dominion, 22 June 2009, with link to Psiphon pdf press release.
     "Even though only about a quarter of Iran's 70 million people have Internet access on a good day, the country, like nearly all others around the world, now needs the Internet for banking, security and international trade. If it wants to unleash anarchy that could bring down the current government, that would be a good way to start." Alan Gionet, CBS Television Stations, 22 June 2009.
     "It's not really surprising that it's the twitter folks in Tehran and other cities who are involved. Nor is it surprising that they're proving instrumental in coordinating and maintaining contact. Every revolution in history, including the Chinese, depended on an educated middle class." Douglas Smyth, OpEdNews.com, 22 June 2009.
     "Al-Jazeera and PRESSTV showed clips from Friday. CNN showed a man reading from a laptop. Twitter, meanwhile, was updating every second, with information, maps to embassies, warnings from the ground, and videos and photos of realtime footage. Really, it is as reliable as any medium ever was. Every newspaper article in the 20th and 19th centuries has its flaws, its corrections, its bad sources. Every blog in 2004 predicted a Kerry victory. In 1948, according to newspapers, Dewey Defeated Truman. Twitter has become the new way of communication, and has today, in Iran, at CNN, and in many homes across the world, the only method." Joe Wood, TPM, 20 June 2009.
     "Our international neighbors can no longer gain a propaganda advantage by seizing control of traditional media channels to influence or stifle information on activities and developments within their borders. Not with the proliferation of computers and cellphones among the masses, even among those formerly most oppressed. And especially given the ease with which we can broadcast anything and everything, whether text or images and video, from applications readily accessible and available via any desktop or mobile device. ... Unfortunately, Twitter's gains in usage and credibility have unwittingly led to its potential misuse for nefarious purposes. A list of possibly fake Iran election Twitter users was posted online last week, exposing how Iranian security forces and supporters of the existing regime can abuse the information channel just as readily." Sedef Onder, Advertising Age, 22 June 2009.
     "As more and more attention has been cast upon Twitter’s role in reporting news from Iranian demonstrators, spammers are attacking the microblogging site to setting up false accounts and spread misinformation about goings-on in Tehran, or to trick users into clicking on money-making scam sites." Marisa Taylor, Digits blog, Wall Street Journal, 22 June 2009.
     "Despite ongoing efforts to address the problem, attacks based on exploiting Twitter's 'trending topics' show no sign of abating, according to researchers at Panda Security. The ploy involves finessing topics that are popular on any given day. The attackers post multiple messages, known as tweets, ostensibly discussing or expanding on a topic. The tweets typically have a brief phrase followed by a link, which leads to a fake anti-virus website or a site designed to look like a movie trailer that prompts users to download a codec disguising malicious code." Chuck Miller, SC Magazine, 22 June 2009.
     "There have been a lot of suggestions in the past few days that the Twitter revolution spells the end (yet again) of traditional journalism: obviously I have a vested interest, but I am not so sure. With all the rumours and Chinese whispers surrounding an event of such global magnitude, old-fashioned fact-checking and sourcing are more important than ever." Hamida Ghafour, The National (Abu Dhabi), 22 June 2009.
     "Beyond the ephemeral pyrotechnics of the CNN-Twitter fisticuffs, some traditional news organizations are actually beginning to grapple with the dilemma of curating Twitter feeds to make them more reliable sources of news. At @140conf, for example, Moeed Admad, the head of Al Jazeera digital news in Dubai, gave a fascinating presentation in which he laid out his newsroom’s attempt to harness Twitter into a credible news source for his television channel. At Jazeera, @moeed explained, they’ve set up a team of researchers to check the identity of Twitter correspondents before incorporating their tweets into the regular news." Andrew Keen, The Telegraph, 23 June 2009.
     "In Iran, Twitter is shaping events on the ground. But here in the U.S., it is YouTube and its derivatives, including LiveLeak, that will make the most impact. It is these images that will move people's hearts. And collectively, these changes of heart -- once they hit a critical mass -- that will create enough domestic support for the Obama administration to intervene in the ongoing revolution." Matt Mireless, The Business Insider, 22 June 2009.

Iran: which media are getting through? (updated)

Posted: 23 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Diary entries of Hanieh in Tehran. Wednesday, 21 July: "Today the internet was not working at all and the Farsi language satellite channels were all blocked. SMS hasn't been working since before the election. The mobile phones are constantly cut off as well. Even if you manage to connect to the internet with a great deal of difficulty, all the sites have been filtered and you get the 'access denied' message. Last night Voice of America radio introduced a number of sites which you could connect through and some proxy programmes. This morning they are all blocked. Evidently those in charge had stayed up all night making sure we couldn't access anything." Saturday, 20 July: "I looked at the Ghalamnews site in the morning and was surprised to see it wasn’t filtered. There were pictures from Thursday’s protest and a few other pieces of news but nothing about today’s march. Karubi has issued an interesting statement yesterday that I had heard about from VOA in the morning. I searched through the usual websites to see whether it was true or not as it seemed too strong. I finally found it and it was indeed very interesting." The Telegraph, 21 June 2009.
     At least before the election, VOA Persian television was more popular than VOA Persian radio or Radio Farda. But now, with satellite television and the internet blocked, note that she is not complaining about interference to VOA radio. This might have to do with shortwave's resistance to interdiction, as explained in this previous post. And, so, has VOA been publicizing its shortwave frequencies as well as its proxy sites? Schedule and transmission information tends to be difficult to find on VOA websites. Can VOA add shortwave frequencies for Iran, or have too many shortwave transmitting sites been closed?
     "The news from CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC's Persian service is out. Most people can't get on the Net." Anonymous in Tehran, Washington Post, 20 June 2009.
     "A return to cold-war attitudes to broadcasting? Potential risk: The satellite operators may come under pressure to drop news channels if the interference affects other commercial communications operations too widely. Which would be victory for jamming." Richard Sambrook, Sacred Facts blog, 14 June 2009. Pressure on satellite operators has, over the years, been more common than jamming in making unwanted content go away.
     Update: "To black out a newscast, Iranian authorities beam their own signal up to the commercial satellite carrying the foreign program. The beam is on the same frequency as the newscast, only at much higher power. As a result, anyone in Iran trying to receive the newscast on their home satellite dish receives only the meaningless, substitute signal instead. Similarly, the government is blacking out foreign news programming in Persian on shortwave and medium-wave radio, particularly within major population centers. Here, authorities set up a local high-power transmitter to again overwhelm the newscast with a stronger signal on the same frequency. ... Iran has periodically blocked U.S. broadcasting at critical moments -- including the student demonstrations of 1999 and the last presidential election in 2005 -- but never with such a sustained effort as now." Charles Recknagel, RFE/RL, 23 June 2009.
     "'Despite accusations about foreign media, our broadcasters are simply reporting the news, increasingly by drawing upon the eye-witness accounts of Iranians themselves,' said D. Jeffrey Hirschberg of the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees both VOA and RFE/RL. 'This Iranian interference with our television and radio signals is against international agreements and, most importantly, an injustice to the Iranian people.'" BBG press release, 22 June 2009.

Back to shortwave: authorities remove satellite dishes in Tibet.

Posted: 23 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Chinese authorities have begun to remove satellite dishes in a Tibetan-populated region of China in an effort to block access to foreign broadcasts, according to Tibetan sources. Tibetan-language broadcasts by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America appear to be particular targets of the campaign, one source said. 'Beginning in April of this year, the local broadcasting department in Kanlho [in Chinese, Gannan] prefecture [of Gansu province] dispatched staff to the counties to install cable lines and to pull down the satellite dishes used by local Tibetans to listen to foreign broadcasts like RFA and VOA Tibetan programs,' a Tibetan woman in the Labrang area of Kanlho said. 'They also installed cable lines for listening to government-approved programs,' the woman added, speaking on condition of anonymity." Radio Free Asia, 21 June 2009.

Facebook adds Farsi; Google adds Farsi-to-English.

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Google has added Farsi-to-English translation as one of its translation options to its Google Translate service. Similarly, Facebook has launched a Farsi version of its web site. ... Facebook's Farsi version of its web site, which is still marked as a beta-test version, was launched rapidly, with, the company states, the assistance of more than 400 Farsi speakers who submitted translations of the contents of the site." Wikinews, 19 June 2009. See also The Times, 20 June 2009.
     "The social-networking website Facebook has launched in Swahili, targeting more than 110m speakers of the language." BBC News, 15 June 2009.

VOA: "gang of apologists." Farda: "real Americans who believe in Freedom."

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The single most important thing is to get accurate information to the Iranian people about what is going on inside Iran. At the moment, they are depending on word of mouth and on Twitter, which is often very accurate and often very misleading. Because everyone knows that Twitter is the 'social network' of this revolution, the regime is doing everything it can to shut down reliable tweeters and flood the network with disinformation. It’s a great technology, but sometimes it reminds me of my favorite bons mots on IT: '[T]he information revolution happened, and the revolution won.' So they need a reliable source of information. The regime is doing its worst to jam radio and television broadcasts into the country. Surely we can beat them at that game, and while we’re at it, we should have an internal revolution of our own: replace the gang of apologists over at VOA Persian with some real Americans who believe in freedom. Our best current option is Farda, the RFE/RL service operating out of Prague. Its website should be turned into an ongoing report on events in Iran. The (British) Guardian has such a site, which updates itself every minute around the clock. Farda has lots of sources all over the country; it should use them far more effectively than it is at the moment. Some of us -- notably Senator Tom Coburn -- have been fighting for this sort of thing for years, to no avail. If the administration were serious, it could do a lot in a very short time." Michael Ledeen, Human Events, 19 June 2009.

Iran media update for 22 June.

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Some Iranian journalists have landed in Tehran's Evin Prison, where I was incarcerated for 100 days this year on a bogus charge of espionage." Roxana Saberi, Chicago Tribune, 21 June 2009.
     "At CNN, more than 2,000 reports from 'citizen journalists' related to Iran have been received since the day after the election, and more than 80 'fully verified' videos and photos have been aired, spokesman Nigel Pritchard said. CNN also has reported on content carried by Twitter and other social networking sites, but 'always placing it in context for viewers,' he said. 'It is important that the audience has a clear understanding of not only that (vetting) process, but also the fact that in some cases we are not able to fully verify content from those third-party sites,' Pritchard said. 'Especially in a media situation like we have in Iran, it is vital that all elements of our reporting are placed in full context.' The AP monitors Twitter and other sites and has reported some posted comments on known events. But a campaign was initiated by anti-government campaigners for Twitter users outside Iran to reset their location as the Tehran area — knowing that it would increase their global exposure. 'That's great for activists, but it's terrible for journalists,' said Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs and a professor at Columbia Journalism School in New York. 'You've been following these people who you thought were in Iran and they're not.'" AP, 21 June 2009.
     Restrictions on news coverage in Iran "have meant the news agency Agence FrancePresse has had to buy and source many of its pictures from Iranian state media, including Press TV and the Fars news agency. ... A source at Press TV, which is funded by the Iranian government, says its staff have been surprised that the station has not capitalised on its access. 'This is a great opportunity for Press TV - we can get the best analysis but we're simply reporting the facts.' Unlike in its coverage of Gaza and the Middle East peace process, the station's overseas hubs, including those in London and New York, are not doing any analysis of the election. Roshan Muhammed Salih, the head of news at Press TV's London bureau, admits the channel's coverage is 'a bit short on analysis'. But he says this is because as a state-funded broadcaster it is subject to Iranian election law, which bars it from siding with candidates because the election is still in dispute." The Guardian, 22 June 2009.
     Shahriar, e-mail from Tehran: "getting news about this situation is very hard at this time. so rumors are going around and around. Internet websites are blocked (but we use anti filter programs and easily pass that) but getting news for example websites that are belong to Mousavi's supporters are not trustworthy as before because of several attacks and hack attempts to these websites. so we should be very careful about the source of our news. Satellite channels are attacked by the government with sending noises so BBC Persian TV which was a main news source for people is now almost unreachable. SMS service is blocked so people cant inform each other about demonstrations. cell phones also get blocked in certain areas of Tehran during night and evening. local newspapers get censored even for details of their front pages and articles. calling to the US and UK is almost impossible because they dont want people to contact news agencies and satellite TVs to report about demonstrations. But still this young generation recording and sending out news from Iran. They also united to attack governmental websites and kinda like a cyber war." Via Amber Smith, Babylon & Beyond blog, Los Angeles Times, 21 June 2009. Note that this message came from Tehran via e-mail, not Twitter, whose length restriction would have been surpassed.
     "The BBC's Persian service has had a big influence on the demonstrations, supplying the kind of critical and impartial commentary that the regime would never normally allow. This ayatollah's curse is a vindication of the BBC, and the principle of taxpayer-funded broadcasting. If the BBC's chiefs have an ounce of common sense they will seize the moment, cut Jonathan Ross's salary in half and use the money to hire another 20 Farsi-speaking analysts – because that service is the BBC doing what it is supposed to be doing: using new technology to let nation speak unto nation, to lead people around the world to understand the repression that they endure, to hold up a mirror to their societies of a kind that their governments will never let them see. All credit to the Beeb honcho who decided to expand the Farsi service." Boris Johnson, The Telegraph, 22 June 2009.
     "Government-owned IRIB TV launched a scathing attack on the BBC's Persian channel, accusing it of using tactics reminiscent of Britain's imperial days. 'Soft war is a neo-colonialist method to intervene in the domestic affairs of other countries,' Iran TV stated. 'In order to achieve its colonialist goals, it tries to change other countries' situations through the BBC channel by broadcasting false reports and contradictory analysis.'" Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2009.
     "As traditional media coverage of events in Iran meets with censorship and mobile telephone access is cut, FRANCE 24, thanks to its 'Observers' website, has been able to provide fresh, impartial information. The Observers is a collaborative site on France 24 that covers international current affairs by using eyewitness accounts from 'Observers' - people who are at the heart of event. The content isn't produced by professional journalists but everything is selected, verified, translated and explained by FRANCE 24 journalists." Press release via Al Bawaba, 21 June 2009.
     "In my view, the complexity and importance of events in Iran and the Middle East generally make a compelling case for the introduction of the Al Jazeera English (AJE) satellite television service in Australia. This would have once been unthinkable. A decade or so ago we had room for just five TV free-to-air networks. Now, with the subscription services of Foxtel and Austar, there's plenty of space to accommodate special-interest channels. This should be the consumers' digital dividend. Al Jazeera is special, because it opens a window to the other side of one of the world's most perplexing cultural divides -- the struggle between the forces of fundamentalist Islam and the West. On both sides there are fears and misconceptions best addressed by dialogue and understanding." Mark Day, The Australian, 22 June 2009.

Senator Kaufman, recently of the BBG, on US broadcasts into Iran.

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
In a statement on the Senate floor, Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) "discussed the jamming of radio transmissions and blockage of satellite broadcasts, including those of the Persian News Network and Radio Farda. The Kaufman resolution condemns such action while supporting the journalists who have taken great risk to report on developments in Iran. As a four-term member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Sen. Kaufman has a deep commitment to international press freedom." Senator Kaufman press release, 19 June 2009.

Radio Farda is the go-to source for North American conservative journals.

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Radio Farda (the Persian language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) has been doing a stellar job, especially as the Iranian government has sought to curtail all independent reporting. ... (A year ago, the National Iranian American Council lobbied Congress to cut off funding for RFE/RL and VOA. Thankfully, Congress had the sense not to eliminate independent radio broadcasts)." Michael Rubin, the corner, National Review Online, 19 June 2009.
     "An update from Radio Farda: -People have started to chant 'Aloha Akbar' from roof tops. -Our Hot Bird Satellite is totally jammed in Iran . We are using three different sat. to reach our audience." The Blog, The Weekly Standrad, 21 June 2009.
     "According to news from Radio Farda the Islamic Regime security forces have closed the area around 'Enghelab Square' and started throwing tear gas at the protesters." Canada Free Press, 20 June 2009.
     "(I’m here [in Prague] under the auspices of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and will report on the latest on Iran after meeting the hardworking folks at Radio Farda in a few minutes.)" Victorino Matus, The Blog, The Weekly Standard, 22 June 2009.

BBC Persian television may be blocked in Iran, but its video is being used everywhere else.

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A dramatic video aired on BBC's Persian television broadcast showed Iran's security services apparently firing into the air near crowds as large fires burned in the street." McClatchy Newspapers, 20 June 2009.
     "A video aired by the BBC’s Persian service showed a protester bleeding from the back." Bloomberg, 20 June 2009.
     "Lara Setrakian, a reporter for ABC News based in Dubai, writes on her Twitter feed that sources in Tehran tell her that the nightly ritual of people shouting 'Allah-o-akbar' into the night sky from rooftops and balconies in under way, but that it has a more furious edge tonight: People are very angry…they are screaming like a banshee…this ain’t aloha akbar anymore.' This afternoon, the BBC posted this remarkable video, apparently shot earlier in the week, of what [fefiant shouts from rooftops] sound like in Tehran." The Lede, New York Times, 20 June 2009.
     "Here, you can watch one of the most striking videos I've seen. It was shot from a balcony with a cell phone and obtained by BBC Persian, which unfortunately has disabled embedding on YouTube. A couple of minutes into the video, the militia opens fire." Power Line, 20 June 2009.
     "The witness also said police shot into the air to disperse rival supporters in Tehran's south Karegar street. Does that refer to this incident shown on the BBC Persian service?" The Guardian, 20 June 2009.
     "Foreign news organisations are banned by the authorities from going to unauthorised demonstrations but media outlets have been receiving reports from protesters themselves. This man, who calls himself Siavoush, has been speaking to the BBC's Persian service. 'We witnessed security forces and I couldn't tell if they were in uniform or plain clothing opening fire directly on the crowd,' he said." Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 21 June 2009.
     "BBC Persian TV's Rana Rahimpour takes a look at some of the videos of demonstrations in Iran that have been sent in to the BBC. ... The BBC cannot verify the authenticity of the videos." BBC News, 22 June 2009.

Ultimate insult? Iranian spokesman calls BBC and VOA "mouthpiece of public diplomacy."

Posted: 22 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Speaking at a news conference today, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said the BBC and Voice Of America, the US government's overseas broadcaster, had been given guidelines on their coverage of the continuing protests against the re-election of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 'They [the BBC and the VOA] are the mouthpiece of their government's public diplomacy,' the BBC quoted Qashqavi saying. 'They have two guidelines regarding Iran. One is to intensify ethnical and racial rifts within Iran and secondly to disintegrate the Iranian territories. Any contact with these channels, under any pretext or in any form, means contacting the enemy of the Iranian nation. How can they say they are unbiased when their TV channel is like a war headquarters and in fact they are blatantly commanding riots.'" The Guardian, 22 June 2009.
     "'VOA and BBC are state-funded channels and not privately-run. Their budgets are ratified in the U.S. Congress, as well as the British Parliament,' Qashqavi said." Xinhua, 21 June 2009. So a CNN Farsi channel would be okay?
     "The BBC's permanent correspondent in Iran, Jon Leyne, was asked to leave the country on Sunday." BBC News, 22 June 2009. "The Fars news agency said Iranian officials have accused Leyne of 'dispatching fabricated news and reports, ignoring neutrality in news, supporting rioters and trampling the Iranian nation's rights.'" AP, 21 June 2009.

The only question remaining: will this VOA film be available via Netflix?

Posted: 21 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Members [of the House of Representatives] refused, 178-254, to block U.S. distribution of a Voice of America film depicting how Afghan drug commerce aids the Taliban. A yes vote opposed release under a 1948 law intended to keep federal officials from airing Cold War propaganda domestically. (HR 2410)" Sarasota Herald Tribune, 14 June 2009.
     Actually HR 2410 (Foreign Relations Authorization Act, FY 2009 and 2010) contains language that supported domestic release of the documentary. H. Amdt. 190 to HR 2410 opposed release. Introduced by Rep Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), the amendment failed.
     Rep. Brown-Waite: "Frankly, if, as a body, we are unable to recognize that spending taxpayer dollars for the domestic distribution of a documentary film in a foreign affairs bill is not what the taxpayers need most at this time, if this is truly a choice that's too hard for us to make, then I think we owe it to our constituents to take a good long look in the mirror and decide what we are here to do. ... And this amendment is not just about striking a provision to authorize funding for the distribution of a documentary film. If it were, I would take time to point out that this is a domestic distribution in a foreign affairs bill. I would also point out that laws have been on the books for 60 years that prohibit the executive branch from distributing government-sponsored information campaigns domestically. I might even point out that the film is available already for every man, woman, and child in this country to see right now. I am not kidding. It is actually on YouTube, and yet we have this in the appropriations bill." ... Rep. David Scott (D-GA): "Voice of America has received several requests for a clean copy of the documentary in its original high resolution and in one single piece for viewing at U.S. venues because of the film's educational value. Among those seeking access to this single clean copy are the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies Center on Politics and Foreign Relations and an Afghan students' group at the University of Virginia." House debate on H. Amdt 190, 10 June 2009. The vote on the amendment was largely party line, Republicans voting in favor.
     "The documentary will be aired repeatedly inside Afghanistan in Dari and Pashto on Radio Television Afghanistan, a VOA affiliate as well as by satellite. Audiences in that country will also hear the story on VOA's Radio Ashna, which broadcasts on shortwave, medium-wave and FM 12 hours a day in Dari and Pashto. VOA will make the film available to all its 45 language services, and distribute it online at www.voanews.com." VOA press release, 14 May 2008. It's not easy to find at voanews.com, but here is the URL: www.voanews.com/english/Fateful-Harvest.cfm. And it was always there, for the US domestic pickings, HR 2410 or no.

"Don't call her a propagandist."

Posted: 21 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Western countries spend millions trying to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, only to throw it all away with a clumsy cultural gaffe. That's where Mina Sharif comes in. She's 29, from Scarborough [Ontario], and an expert in what sells in Afghanistan. After moving to Kabul three years ago to help train local broadcasters, Sharif started a media company with two friends. Her main client is the U.S. Department of Defence, for whom she has created hundreds of ads that highlight the war's toll on civilians, explain how to detect roadside bombs and urge locals not to become suicide bombers. And don't call her a propagandist." Toronto Star, 15 June 2009.

Venezuela squeezes private television broadcaster Globovisión (updated).

Posted: 21 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Venezuelan government has moved forcefully in the past two days against the only nationwide private TV broadcaster critical of President Hugo Chavez, staging a series of legal and police actions against the station and its owner. On Friday morning, Venezuelan officials arrived at the Globovision TV station to accuse the company of not paying about $2.3 million (5 million bolivares fuertes) in taxes for certain advertisements it aired in 2002 and 2003, the government reported on its Web site. About 12 hours earlier, national guard troops and authorities from Venezuela's environmental agency staged a late-night raid on the Caracas home of Globovision President Guillermo Zuloaga, an avid hunter, to see if he had killed any protected prey, the TV station reported." CNN International, 5 June 2009. See also: Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, 5 June 2009. Globovisión, 5 June 2009. Telesur, 5 June 2009.
     Update: "Venezuelan civil and political sectors launched Saturday a two-day operation to collect money in the streets to help opposition TV network Globovision pay two fines totaling millions of dollars that were imposed by the Venezuelan government." EFE via COMTEX via TMC News, 13 June 2009.
     "The U.S. State Department issued a statement [12 June] decrying 'challenges' to press freedom in the Americas and a department spokesman identified Venezuela's leftist government as one of the offenders." Latin American International Herald Tribune, 12 June 2009. And more items from LAHT.
     Globovision's president, Guillermo Zuloaga, "says Globovision will not bow to intimidation tactics. We can only hope so. It is no coincidence that many of Chavez's prominent opponents face corruption charges or tax investigations, or have been arrested. And the only other private television station that criticized him, RCTV, lost its broadcast license two years ago. Now it transmits solely on cable to a drastically reduced audience. In Venezuela, there are no newspapers with a national reach, and if a free press is essential to a vibrant democracy, then the country's political outlook is increasingly grim." Editorial, Los Angeles Times, 20 June 2009.

RFE Hungarian, Romanian, and Australian history in the news.

Posted: 21 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"More than 100 names of Communist secret agents or their collaborators have been made public in Hungary. ... The names were put up for the first time since the fall of Communism on the website of the 1956 Institute, the Hungarian daily, Magyar Hírlap, reported. ... Among the revelations was one that all the fledgling political parties had been infiltrated, the editor of a newly independent newspaper, Péter Toke was a secret informer and even a member of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe station’s Hungarian service, László Szekeres, was an agent. The report said the Hungarian Communist agents were 'in contact' with both the West German Federal Intelligence Service and the CIA." Christopher Czabo, Digital World, 14 June 2009.
     "A list published by the 1956 Institute last Thursday of agents active at Nagy’s reburial casts a shadow on the 20th anniversary. ... Journalists named include Péter Toke (from the now defunct newspaper Reform), Gábor Spánn (MTV) and László Szekeres (Radio Free Europe!). The task of the agents in most cases was to lobby for the peaceful course of events in their organisations." Andreas Schmidt-Schweizer, The Budapest Times, 16 June 2009.
     "On June 16, 1989, at least 250,000 people attended the ceremonial reburial of Prime Minister Imre Nagy and four others hanged 31 years earlier and buried face down in unmarked graves. The reburial - broadcast live on TV from Budapest's Heroes' Square - came as Hungary's communist leadership and the democratic opposition were beginning to negotiate the country's transition to democracy. ... On that day in 1989, Sandor Racz, a 1956 veteran, called on the world to 'help the Soviet Union" withdraw its troops from Hungary. Viktor Orban, then 26 and later to become prime minister, also urged the Russians to withdraw but blasted the country's communist leadership for making the 1956 revolution a taboo subject. Sound engineer Benedek Tamas, then 23, said he could not fully grasp the significance of what Racz and Orban were demanding in 1989. 'I grew up in a "soft dictatorship," but the older people in the crowd were shocked,' Tamas said. 'My mother was listening to the speeches on the radio and when she heard the calls for the Soviets' withdrawal, she quickly shut the windows so no one else could hear - an old reflex from the times when she listened to Radio Free Europe.'" Pablo Gorondi, Canadian Press, 18 June 2009.
     "Born in Romania, Alexandru 'Alex' Iftimie was a child during the Romanian Revolution of 1989 when citizens overthrew the country’s communist regime. While Romania was in reform, the USC College alumnus remembers listening to Radio Free Europe. Even at age 7, the independent broadcast’s youth program in which French students freely debated government policies intrigued him. After his family migrated to Canada, then to California, he realized that Radio Free Europe was likely the impetus for his love of debate. In high school and at USC, debate consumed him." USC News, 15 June 2009.
     "Successful journalist, father and husband, Jon Bartlett Powis sadly passed away last Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. ... Mr Powis started his career as a cadet journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald in 1948 and went on to become the London correspondent for the Australian Financial Review in the 1950s. Following his role as a German correspondent for the Daily Telegraph in the 1960s, he accepted the position of senior news editor at Radio Free Europe in Munich where he stayed for 10 years. As a journalist, he ran the newsroom with a firm hand, insisting the news had to be written in a straightforward manner free of propaganda and colour." Highlands Post (Bowral NSW), 12 June 2009.

Report: Sunni television station "has become a source of provocation."

Posted: 20 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Over the last few weeks a Sunni satellite television station based out of the Gulf has begun attacking Shiites during its broadcasts raising new fears about sectarian tensions. The channel, named ‘Al-Khalijiyah’, has quickly become notorious for its attacks on Shiite Muslims and their religious authorities. In Najaf, the holy Shiite city, local residents say the channel has become a source of provocation. ... The channel was launched some years ago, broadcasting Arab songs and video clips from prominent Gulf singers. But, two years ago the channel’s owner announced his 'repentance' and said that he had 'returned to Islam,' prompting a new religious approach." Faris Harram, niqash, 10 June 2009.

Afghanistan releases two Al Jazeera journalists held for three days.

Posted: 20 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Afghan authorities have released two Al Jazeera producers who had been kept at the intelligence headquarters in Kabul for three days. Qais Azimy, a senior producer at Al Jazeera English channel, and Hameedullah Shah, from the Arabic service, were freed around 11:30 GMT on Wednesday. The producers were detained on Sunday, two days after Al Jazeera aired a report on the Taliban in Kunduz province that was produced by Azimy. ... Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said: 'Freedom of the press is respected and allowed and guaranteed by Afghan law. But promotion of terrorism in the name of the freedom of the press is a violation of the press and freedom of the press.'" Aljazeera.net. 17 June 2009.

Mousavi supporters: "We know BBC and VOA are bad, but..."

Posted: 20 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Thousands of supporters of defeated pro-reform presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi gathered in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Square this afternoon [local time] to mourn those who died on Monday, in protests against alleged fraud during the 12 June presidential election, from which incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerged as the apparent winner. ... [A] report adds that some signs carried by mourners read as follows: ... 'Freedom of press, annulment of the election; my silence is not a consent; we will continue our path until the annulment of the election; we know the BBC and Voice of America are bad, but from which domestic news outlet shall we make our voice heard?'" WashingtonTV, 18 June 2009.
     "Millions of people in Tehran have satellite receiver (for now, as they are trying to dismount them). VOA TV, (VOA= Voice of America) accessed from Iran, has now become a source of news. But, as I watch the VOA listen to their news and comments, I notice that they are trying to manipulate Iranians. Believe me, Emily, they repeat every 5 minutes, quotes from Obama, assuring Iranians that Obama and Americans will support people of Iran. They are kind of encouraging Iranians to fight with the government. It's too bad that I can't access them by phone or email, to tell them just stop manipulating Iranians." Vahab, MWC News, 17 June 2009.
     "Pro-government political commentator Dr Armani has appeared on state TV to say much of the unrest is actually being organised by western media, such as the BBC and Voice of America. 'Those channels are openly playing the role of command headquarters for all the unrest,' he said. 'These are channels such as BBC Persian, VOA and other anti-revolutionary networks. The responsibility for them lies with the American Government.'" Meredith Griffiths, The World Today, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 18 June 2009.
     "Foreign media outlets have given wide-ranging coverage to the recent rallies, despite the limits imposed on them by the Iranian government. They use 'unreliable' sources like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube for their reports, attempting to portray the unrest as an 'uprising against the Islamic Revolution'. This is while supporters of the defeated candidates are merely contesting the results announced by the incumbent president's Interior Ministry, within the Revolution's framework and values. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has summoned the ambassadors from Britain, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Canada to warn them against interfering in the internal affairs of the country." Press TV, 19 June 2009. The Czech Republic perhaps because Radio Farda is headquartered in Prague.
     "Word of mouth is the main way for Iranians to get information about the protests, and some Iranians said they feared a complete shutdown of all Internet services and satellite TV broadcasts. Adding to those fears, Iranian state television aired a program, titled 'The Green Wave,' that portrayed the protest movement as being fomented by foreign media, including the BBC and the Arabic station al-Jazeera. The deputy head of Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy committee, Hossein Sobhaninia, called this week for steps against CNN and the BBC, whose Farsi-language satellite channel is hugely popular here. 'Without a doubt, foreign media, and especially the BBC's Persian service and radio, are the main orchestrators of disorder in the country, guiding rioting elements that support neither the candidates nor the Islamic revolution,' Sobhaninia said Tuesday." Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post, 18 June 2009.
     "The squeamish attitude adopted by the Arab media, especially the electronic outlets, concerning the protests in Iran is particularly interesting. The Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network, for example, has expanded its coverage of Mousavi and his declarations, and of the security forces' attacks on demonstrators. Saudi Arabia is afraid of Iran's pretensions for regional hegemony, and is not unhappy with U.S. plans to launch a dialogue with Tehran. Not surprisingly, Al Arabiya was punished for its bold coverage, and its crew was kicked out of Iran. The Al Jazeera network has focused mainly on Ahmadinejad's side and has covered his visit to Russia and demonstrations by his supporters, while being somewhat skeptical of the opposition's reports and offering limited coverage of the demonstrations and the casualties. Qatar, whose ruler finances Al Jazeera, is a friend of Iran and the Gulf state also achieved an important diplomatic achievement when it managed last year to reconcile Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. As long as Ahmadinejad remains the official victor, Qatar will treat Iran with respect - and so will its television station. Al Jazeera thus received a 'bonus' and was permitted to broadcast a special discussion from the heart of Tehran. Apparently, we will have to look elsewhere for the united Arab front against Iran." Zvi Bar'el, Ha'aretz, 19 June 2009.
     "Dr Nabil al Khatib, the executive editor of Al Arabiya, said no official explanation had been given for [its ban in Iran], leaving Al-Arabiya to assume that the order had to do with the channel’s election coverage. 'We passed the first pictures of the demonstration,' he said. 'I won’t say they are exclusive, but lots of media organizations were cautious in showing these pictures, worried that the Iranian authorities would be unhappy. We passed those pictures and we passed intensive reactions to the results of the elections, so the authorities in Iran wanted to make things more difficult.'" Menassat, 17 June 2009.
     "Despite the Iranian government’s tight media restrictions, FRANCE 24 -- like several international news organisations -- has been relying on reporters in the field as well as a growing band of ordinary citizens on the ground to cover the aftermath of the June 12 presidential election. ... There were growing signs that Iranians were relying on the international media to give them an idea of what was happening in their country. 'I demand FRANCE 24 to give news coverage about the unrest in Shiraz,' writes an anonymous user in the southwestern Iranian city of Shiraz." France 24, 18 June 2009.
     Some AP photos from Iran are including this restriction: "'** IRAN OUT — EDITORIAL USE ONLY — NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN TV SERVICE/NO ACCESS VOA PERSIAN TV ** EDITORS NOTE AS A RESULT OF AN OFFICIAL IRANIAN GOVERNMENT BAN ON FOREIGN MEDIA COVERING EVENTS IN IRAN, THE AP IS OBLIGED TO USE IMAGES FROM OFFICIAL SOURCES.' ... The reason, according to AP spokesman Jack Stokes, is restrictions imposed on the AP and other foreign news services by the Iranian regime." John Cook, Gawker, 17 June 2009. See examples.

There is no VOA "Radio Farsi," and, besides, it's still on the air.

Posted: 20 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Under severe budget constraints, Voice of America (VOA)--whose mandate is to provide both the news and an American perspective on world events--recently closed down its Radio Farsi service along with a number of other critically important language services, such as those in Russian and Georgian. Needless to say, these cuts did not send positive signals about American engagement in countries like Russia and Iran, where free media are under pressure. Television in Farsi is still being broadcast from VOA headquarters, but it is being blocked on the Internet by the Iranian government, which clamped down on Internet access the day after the election and has restored only limited access since. TV satellite dishes remain a target of the Iranian authorities, making possession a highly dangerous proposition." Helle C. Dale, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies and deputy director of the Davis Institute for Foreign and Defense Studies of the Heritage Foundation, 19 June 2009.
     Is she maybe confusing "Radio Farsi" with Radio Farda? Radio Farda, formerly an RFE/RL-VOA joint project, is now entirely under RFE/RL, and is on the air 24 hours a day. According to this transmission schedule, VOA Persian continues to broadcast radio six hours a day. So US international broadcasting transmits radio in Persian thirty hours a day, including six hours during which Iranians must decide if they want to listen to a US radio station or to a US radio station.
     Ms. Dale is another conservative think tank fellow who thinks the United States should spend more liberally on international broadcasting. If there were any fiscal conservatives in Washington (just hypothetically speaking, of course), they might note that Britain spends less than the United States on international broadcasting, but has more audience.

Why it works inside Iran and other discussion about Twitter.

Posted: 20 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Why does Twitter work inside Iran even after other Internet services have been disrupted? The key feature enabling it to evade government censorship, some observers say, is something that might otherwise be considered Twitter's Achilles’ heel. Unlike Facebook, and most other social networking sites, Twitter users don't need to visit Twitter.com to use the service. In the business world, that's a terrible idea. Twitter has no way to promise potential advertisers that its enormous audience will ever see ads placed on the site. Instead, Twitter has a completely open architecture that allows users to both send and receive messages on a variety of platforms -- cell phones, Blackberries and, of course, other Web sites. This openness is proving to be particularly effective at avoiding government interference." Bob Sullivan, Red Tape Chronicles, 18 June 2009. Thanks. This answers the questions I was asking in a previous post.
     "As I write this (Wednesday), I’m consistently seeing upwards of 40 tweets per minute coming through in the #iranelection category. Messages range from (most importantly) people in Iran reporting what’s going on in the streets ('All foreign news reporters in Iran locked down in their hotels,' 'Rumors of Hamas helping Iran regime suppress dissent'), to Americans reflecting on what they’re learning ('Iran protesters, please keep it going. Help your kids!'), to tech-geek hints on how to help pro-Democracy Iranians circumvent their government’s attempts to stop them ('how to set up a proxy for Iranians'). ... The Iranian government has taken substantial steps to limit their citizens’ ability to use the internet. They have blocked most access to Facebook and other sites, have limited text messaging, and have cut the nation’s 'bandwidth,' meaning the speed with which one can send information through the internet, but have stopped short of simply cutting of[f] the nation’s internet connectivity (probably because they need it themselves.) However, with 'tweets' of only 140 characters or less, bandwidth is a non-issue (as opposed to, for example, transmitting videos)." Ross Kaminsky, Human Events, 18 June 2009.
     "There is certainly no direct line from Twitter to democracy. But Twitter is, by its very nature and architecture, destined to at least democratize information: Google and Yahoo executives can help Chinese authorities censor and rout out opponents with only minor public relations damage. But if Twitter betrays its base of millions, it ceases to exist." Judith Lewis, Los Angeles Times, 18 June 2009.
     "Back in Britain, Sky News television was using content from Twitter to complement the coverage from its foreign editor, who is in the Iranian capital. Ruth Barnett, a multimedia producer on the channel, admitted that it was difficult to check who the Twitter users are. 'But what we feel we've been able to do is isolate people that we think are pretty reliable -- either because things that they have said have been corroborated by other sources or our own information, or because they were already established as Iranian tweeters ahead of time,' she told AFP." AFP, 18 June 2009.
     Several examples of tweets from or about Iran: Outlookindia.com, 18 June 2009.
     "Soldiers may be in the streets of Iran, but they're being outgunned in cyberspace where millions of Iranians and their supporters are fighting back. While the Internet's anonymity and speed of communication are providing an avenue for the free speech quelled by the government's stranglehold on Iranian media and its block on foreign journalists in the country, those factors can also contribute to the spread of misinformation and put Iranians who are speaking out at risk." Gillian Shaw, Vancouver Sun, 19 June 2009.
     "Meanwhile the much-ballyhooed Twitter swiftly degraded into pointlessness. By deluging threads like Iranelection with cries of support for the protesters, Americans and Britons rendered the site almost useless as a source of information—something that Iran’s government had tried and failed to do. Even at its best the site gave a partial, one-sided view of events. Both Twitter and YouTube are hobbled as sources of news by their clumsy search engines. Much more impressive were the desk-bound bloggers. Nico Pitney of the Huffington Post, Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic and Robert Mackey of the New York Times waded into a morass of information and pulled out the most useful bits." The Economist, 18 June 2009.
     "Twitter's own internal architecture puts limits on political activism. There are so many messages streaming through at any moment that any single entry is unlikely to break through the din, and the limit of 140 characters -- part of the service's charm and the secret of its success -- militates against sustained argument and nuance. (Yes, 'Give me liberty or give me death' totals just 32 characters, but Patrick Henry's full speech exceeded 1,200 words.)" John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris, Washington Post, 21 June 2009.
     "Al Jazeera English spoke to one pro-government user of Twitter, the social networking website, who is known in the Iranian blogosphere by the nickname Shahrazad. Al Jazeera: You are part of the 'information uprising' in Iran - why are you doing it? Shahrazad: I just feel the need for a reliable source in this world of rumours. I saw that some people are using this opportunity to mislead non-Iranians. There are many fake Twitter accounts right now which just make everything so twisted and untrue. ... AJE: What do you think of the coverage of events in Iran by the western media? Shahrazad: I am disappointed with the way the western media plays and is being picky. It chooses information that only serves to prove their own wishful thoughts." Aljazeera.net. 20 June 2009.
     "For their part, the Israelis began using Twitter in the early days of the conflict in Gaza, when [Israeli spokesman David] Saranga logged onto Twitter and found, he said, 'incorrect information' from anonymous sources. ... Today, the Israeli Consulate has more than 6,400 followers on Twitter." Jerusalem Post, 17 June 2009.
     "Now it appears that Iranian-Americans like myself are also getting swept up in the recent cyber lockdown. It all began a few weeks ago when the government of Iran, in advance of the Iranian Presidential elections, implemented a shut down of Facebook for all its users. Ahmadinejad’s rival, Mousavi, had garnered nearly 40,000 supporters on Facebook and other social networking arenas. Although I am based in New York, a US citizen, and did not vote in the Iranian elections, last week, I was removed from the site as well." Tala Dowlatshahi, Talk Radio News Service, 18 June 2009.
     "The OpenNet Initiative says Iran has one of the world's most extensive Net filtering systems, on a par with China's. The government's Net-limiting efforts have been on full display over the past week during a clampdown on Web access, text messaging and mobile phone traffic. OpenNet's first report on Iranian filtering, released four years ago, stirred up a controversy when it found that authorities in Tehran were using SmartFilter software, made in the U.S.A., to control Internet access. This year's update says Iran is now using home-brewed software instead, joining China as the two countries in the world 'that aggressively filter the Internet using their own technology.'" Alan Boyle, Cosmic Log, MSNBC, 18 June 2009. Recommended reading.
     "Just hit the Pirate Bay (a notorious P2P site that every student worth his Apple knows about) and you now get 'Persian Bay' logo, with a link to the Iran protest site (in English, although the Pirate Bay is located in Sweden). Another site has the sourcecode with instructions on how to get around Twitter blocks, a third lists his Tor code so that videos can be downloaded... ." Nancy Reyes, Blogger News Network, 19 June 2009.
     "Today, the Revolutionary Guard’s Organised Crime Surveillance Centre issued a written directive to the editors of websites ordering them to suppress 'content inviting the population to riot and spreading threats and rumours.' It said there had been 'several cases of websites and personal blogs posting articles inciting disturbance of public order and inviting the population to rebel.' The directive continued: 'These sites, created with the help of American and Canadian companies, receive the support of media that are protected by the American and British security services such as the BBC, Radio Farda (Free Europe) and Radio Zamaneh.' It added that the Surveillance Centre would make important revelations in the coming days about these 'destructive' networks." Reporters sans frontières, 17 June 2009.
     All this discussion of Twitter's role in the Iranian demonstrations has given me déjà vu. And now I know what it is: memories of the Chinese crackdown on the demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, twenty years ago, and the many frantic usenet posts at that time.
     People are using Twitter as a modern usenet, and as an e-mail system. But they are trading public internet media for a single proprietary system that could crash or go out of business.

BBC Persian adds satellites to overcome Iranian jamming.

Posted: 20 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Today the BBC World Service said it was raising the number of ways it transmits to Farsi-speakers in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan after several days of persistent interference of the service from its usual satellite, Hotbird 6. The World Service added that its satellite operator had confirmed the interference was coming from within Iran. BBC Persian TV is now also available on the Eutelsat W2M satellite and the World Service expects it will also shortly be available on Nilesat. The service will continue uninterrupted on the Telstar 12 satellite. In addition, BBC Persian TV is broadcasting an extra five hours of programming by adding breakfast and lunchtime shows in addition to its usual evening broadcasts, Iranian time. Radio broadcasts have also been extended. Hotbird 6 has been subject to deliberate interference since last Friday, the World Service said, causing disruption to the BBC's international television and radio services along with those of other broadcasters using the satellite." The Guardian, 19 June 2009.
     "Interestingly enough, BBC's Persian television service has been off since the election. VOA's Persian television appears and disappears, as does Radio Farda, which you can listen to via Internet if you are lucky enough to be connected at the right time. My Mom complains that 'this bastard BBC used to announce all official demonstration routes before the 1979 revolution, now they can't even manage one simple thing, they can't even stop the Iranian government from interfering with their broadcast.'" Elham Ahmadi in Tehran, RFE/RL, 19 June 2009.
     "Despite ... interference, bbcpersian.com has experienced a huge growth in usage since the current protests began. Compared to traffic in May, the number of daily page impressions increased seven-fold to more than 3.6 million page impressions earlier this week. The number of visitors to the website has seen a four-fold increase. ... The huge growth in Iran's usage of the BBC's online services means Iran is now second only to the USA as the country which streams the most BBC World Service TV and radio services." BBC World Service press release, 19 June 2009. Apparently this means that Iran is now number two in the amount of BBC World Service streams received. And are they all received in Iran? Or Iran plus the Iranian diaspora?
     "Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had harsh words today for the United States and other Western countries he accused of stirring up the unrest over last week’s disputed elections. ... He called the British 'the most evil' of the Western governments, most likely for launching the highly influential BBC Persian satellite news channel months before the vote." Borzou Daragahi in Tehran, Babylon & Beyond blog, Los Angeles Times, 19 June 2009.
     "Perhaps the sharpest thorn in Tehran’s side has been the BBC’s Persian-language services, by radio since the early 1940s, and by a recently established television channel. Millions of Iranians have come to rely on the BBC’s reporting on Iran, regarding it, Professor [Ali] Ansari said, as the 'most trustworthy' account of what is happening in their country." New York Times, 19 June 2009.
     "Iranians residing in London gathered outside the BBC building this week to protest the angles taken by the BBC during the coverage of the country’s 10th presidential election. Voicing support for all the four presidential candidates, the protesters advised the BBC against what they called ‘interfere in Iran’s internal affairs’." Tehran Times, 20 June 2009. See also BBC News, 18 June 2009.
     "It should be noted that the BBC Persian satellite TV station, which is extremely popular in Iran and played a very important role in the buildup to the elections, was jammed Saturday and Sunday. From what I understand, today it is completely jammed." Arang Keshavarzian, associate professor at New York University, interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, Council of Foreign Relations, 16 June 2009.
     "A Mousavi supporter in Zahedan, who preferred to remain anonymous, also wrote with anger about not being able to watch the BBC Persian service. 'People are protesting here too. I beg you, please take Iran to court for jamming the BBC Persian's satellite signal. And thank you for your news and for reflecting the truth.'" BBC News, 17 June 2009.
     Foreign secretary David Miliband, interviewed by BBC News: "I’m not here to do a political broadcast for the BBC, but there’s no doubt that the independence and clarity of the BBC Farsi service, an important innovation of the BBC World Service, has been a vital resource for many, many Iranians and that’s been cut off." ISRIA, 17 June 2009.
     "A wealth of multimedia reports and information directly from citizens has helped counter this limited access, [BBC Global News director] Richard Sambrook told those attending the Reuters event on the future of international broadcasting. ... Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Sambrook said the process of fact-checking and verifying UGC [user generated content] in the case of Iran and other news stories is a return to basic journalistic skills and editorial judgement." journalism.co.uk, 17 June 2009.

Backlog.

Posted: 19 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
If you'll indulge me a tweet-like post: Today, I said goodbye to my 21-year-old cat Elusive (Lucy). The stories she could have told... . While I get used to the deafening silence (a human who knew Lucy noted that she "was never at a loss for words," and, being deaf as a post in her later years, her words were transmitted at a rafter-shaking volume), I'll be in arrears posting to this website. My backlog consists of about 140 items, most of them interesting.

Iran election strife brings war of words: between RFE/RL (Radio Farda) publicity and VOA (Persian News Network) publicity.

Posted: 19 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Radio Farda is a Persian language radio channel that broadcasts news gathered from the public. It is playing a pivotal role, according to Nasim [Y., an Emirati], who said an official ban on the channel in Iran has forced people to listen to it on the internet." Gulf News, Abu Dhabi, 17 January 2009.
     "...an immediate infusion of funds to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Radio Farda service, which provides invaluable information from and within Iran; technical assistance against the regime's attempts to block websites, shut down cell phone networks, etc." William Kristol, The Blog, The Weekly Standard, 14 June 2009.
     "At the very least, the administration could immediately increase funding for Radio Farda so Iranians can get more independent information, and give grants to private Iranian groups that could help circumvent Internet restrictions." Daniel Politi, Daniel Politi, 17 June 2009.
     "Most of the budget for Bush's maligned Iran democracy promotion went to Voice of America and Persian-language Radio Farda broadcasts. Now that the Islamic Republic has clamped down on internal media, the value of this information platform is clear. Raise Radio Farda's budget 10-fold." Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Los Angeles Times, 18 June 2009. Washington is an amusing city, but what really makes me roll on the ground, writhing with laughter, are the so-called conservative fellows of the so-called conservative think tanks, who are always calling for new ways to spend the taxpayers money. Radio Farda already broadcasts 24 frigging hours a day.
     "Obama should ramp up the programming on Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe for Iran). His administration should send out spokesman to news programs throughout the Muslim world, especially Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. And if nothing else, Obama should at least start wearing a green tie – as a symbol of unity with the demonstrators." Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland, Fox Forum, Fox News, 18 June 2009. So has President Obama determined that Mousavi actually won the election? Of course, we would like to see the Holocaust-doubting whacko lose his position. But democracy involves accepting the choice of the electorate, whether or not we agree with their decision.
     "Mr. Obama can take small-bore yet clearly defined initiatives to lend an unmistakable air of succor to those demonstrating in Iran. He, rather we, can buttress the efforts of Radio Farda." Editorial, Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg VA), 19 June 2009.
     "Radio Farda sends along another letter it received from a journalist Teheran last night. It is written under the pseudonym E. Ahmadi: 'I woke up with a splitting headache this morning as the sounds of honking cars, loud explosions and screams and chants of last night were still echoing in my head...'" John McCormack, The Blog, The Weekly Standard, 17 June 2009. Mr. McCormack gives the impression that this letter was sent to him. Actually, we mortals could also read it at RFE/RL, 18 June 2009. Given the dates of publication, however, maybe RFE/RL handed it to Weekly Standard as a scoop.
     "Two U.S. organizations announced this week that a telephone poll they conducted in Iran in late May showed incumbent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad leading reformist opposition candidate Mir Hossein Musavi by a margin of about two to one. But that poll was conducted three weeks before election day, before Musavi's campaign picked up steam and at a time when the dominant election mood in Iran was apathy. In addition, experience has shown that such polls -- for a variety of reasons -- have wide margins of error in Iran. Of course, there are those who argue that Ahmadinejad might actually have won the June 12 election and even that he might have legitimately polled the 62 percent-to-34 percent win that official results have given him. Such analysts argue that Musavi focused his campaign primarily on the more liberal, urban upper and middle classes, while Ahmadinejad -- with his frequent trips to the provinces and populist tactics -- won the backing of rural voters, the poor, the working class, and voters for whom religious issues are a priority. They claim that Westerners misjudged the race by focusing too much on attitudes in Tehran and among the educated elite. But such arguments ring hollow, and the lopsided official results bear all the hallmarks of an electoral coup aimed at keeping Ahmadinejad in power for the next four years." Hossein Aryan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 19 June 2009. This "news analysis" should have been placed in RFE/RL's commentary section, with the disclaimer that the views expressed "do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL."
     "Radio Farda was launched in 2003 as the successor to the Voice of America's Persian Service." Wikipedia. Actually, Radio Farda was launched as supplement and complement to VOA Persian, which has remained on the air. Bureaucratic maneuvers kept VOA Persian in existence, unlike VOA Arabic, which disappeared when Radio Sawa was formed.
     "Unlike some of the U.S. government's other Middle Eastern broadcasting efforts, VOA's Persian News Network is genuinely popular, according to analysts. Iranians have bombarded the satellite network this week with calls, e-mails and amateur videos of demonstrations. In a sign of their concern, Iranian authorities have tried to jam the VOA and BBC services. And yet, some analysts say the Persian service has been slow to capitalize on the moment. For example, hours after the presidential voting ended in Iran on Friday, the VOA reported the initial results, then ended its live programming. It did not broadcast fresh material until 16 hours later." Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, 18 June 2009.
     "VOA's Persian News Network offers eight hours of Persian programming daily. Like BBC Persian, it has been inundated with images and messages from Iranian civilians. Last week, it received 2,000 e-mails during a single hourlong talk show, VOA spokeswoman Joan Mower said. From June 10 to 15, its Internet news pages saw traffic increase more than 200%. Though VOA is funded by the U.S. government, Mower said, it takes pains to steer clear of partisanship. 'We are congressionally mandated to provide balanced coverage,' she said. 'We don't have in our charter "promote democracy," "change the world."'" Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times, 19 June 2009.
     "Following the same policy of stoppage, the government succeeded to shut off BBC Persian TV, causing BBC to threaten Iran government with a lawsuit because Iran media handlers, that are under government control, have put noise on BBC channel. Strangely, VOA Persian (Voice Of America satellite TV) is still working with the program directed towards attempts to agitate the situation in Iran. Maybe that's why the government decided to physically dismount satellite dishes from rooftops. This one is perhaps a rumor, as I have my satellite receiver still working. Perhaps, though, there are simply too many to dismantle. (FYI, having satellite receiver is illegal in Iran, but government used to ignore millions of satellite dishes on rooftops.)" Vahab, MWC News, 18 July 2009.
     Interesting that the stories about Radio Farda do not mention VOA's Persian News Network, and vice versa. It is US international broadcasting to Iran in its entirety that is the story. In the meantime, members of Congress and commentators are generally remembering the name Radio Farda rather than VOA Persian News network, even though PNN has the larger audience (at least before the election). It is Radio Farda that will therefore more likely get a budget increase. More calls for additional funding for Radio Farda in previous post on 17 June and, with commentary about the existence of competing US broadcasts to Iran, on 16 June.

Washington Times "exclusive" about shortwave spy messages.

Posted: 18 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Longtime State Department intelligence researcher Walter Kendall Myers, 72, and his wife, Gwendolyn, 71, were arrested this month after a weeks-long sting operation in which they told an FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence officer that they received orders from Cuba's intelligence services over shortwave radio, according to a Justice Department affidavit. U.S. intelligence spends little time combing the shortwave bands for secret, nefarious transmissions, said James Lewis, director and senior fellow for the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. 'I'm not surprised [the U.S. intelligence community] missed this,' Mr. Lewis said. 'We don't put an emphasis on monitoring this kind of activity.' Shortwave radio is a remnant of an era that existed before the Internet and satellite communications, including the sophisticated eavesdropping equipment of the National Security Agency. But Chris Simmons, a former Cuba analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said Cuban intelligence still likes to use shortwave to communicate with its agents in the United States." Carmen Gentile, The Washington Times, 18 June 2009.
     One does not often see "shortwave" in a page one headline, and at the top of page one no less.
     The Department of Justice press release cited in the previous post states: "According to the affidavit, the FBI collects high frequency messages broadcast by the CuIS to its agents and has identified messages that it has determined were broadcast to a handler of Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers." So someone is monitoring the shortwave, a.k.a. high frequency, bands for messages.
     That's a fine looking receiver in the picture accompanying the Washington Times article. But it's about 1970s vintage. More recent portable shortwave receivers are smaller, have more precise tuning, and can receive more advanced modes, including single sideband and CW (Morse code).
     The Washington Times piece and court documents I've seen specify that the Myers's received messages by shortwave. However, in recent stories, AFP and AP are still saying the Myers's transmitted via shortwave:
"The couple were arrested on June 4 after an undercover FBI sting operation having allegedly passed on secrets for decades to Washington's Cold War foe via shortwave radio and in shopping carts." AFP, 17 June 2009. "Authorities say the Myerses delivered government secrets to Cuban agents over the past 30 years using a shortwave radio, by swapping carts at a grocery store and in at least one face-to-face meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba." AP, 17 May 2009. See previous post.

Iran media update for 17 June.

Posted: 17 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Additional funding should be provided immediately for Radio Farda, an effective Persian-language radio, Internet and satellite property of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Farda helps Iranians get the information and analytical context that is often denied to them by their own government." Dan Senor and Christian Whiton, Wall Street Journal, 17 June 2009.
     "Beyond token Congressional support for civil society groups and the brave reporting of the Persian-language and U.S.-funded Radio Farda, America's role here is limited." Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 17 June 2009.
     "As Jeff Gedmin, president of Radio Free Europe, said to me on the phone today: 'When we don't speak, that's also speaking.'" Kathleen Parker, PostPartisan, Washington Post, 16 June 2009.
     "'I think that Al Jazeera clearly took the side of the Iranian government and the Iranian establishment, but the question is whether they did that because they were afraid of being kicked out, or because the Qatari government [which owns Al Jazeera] is allied with the Iranian government,” said Salameh Nematt, the international editor for The Daily Beast. 'Al Arabiya did much better, and that’s probably why the Iranian government kicked them out.' But other viewers were surprised by al Jazeera’s even-handedness. 'My impression was that they are hitting both sides,' said Tuqan Tuqan, a Palestinian IT and television consultant who was keeping an eye on al Jazeera’s Arabic coverage over the weekend from his home in Stockholm. 'They are for anti-Western movements in the Middle East, but at the same time, they also reported a lot on the unrest. So I would call them balanced.'" Keach Hagey, The National (Abu Dhabi), 17 June 2009.
     "I followed the events of the weekend via three basic sources. The first was cable news, and as everyone in the world has pointed out, it sucked. Most TV news outlets have no foreign bureaus anymore; they didn't know what was going on; and they were too busy producing their usual weekend inanity to care. Grade: F. The second was Twitter, mostly as aggregated by various blogs. This had the opposite problem: there was just too much of it; it was nearly impossible to know who to trust; and the overwhelming surge of intensely local and intensely personal views made it far too easy to get caught up in events and see things happening that just weren't there. It was better than cable news, but not exactly the future of news gathering. Grade: B-. The third was the small number of traditional news outlets that do still have foreign bureaus and real expertise. The New York Times. The BBC. Al Jazeera. A few others. The twitterers were a part of the story that they reported, but they also added real background, real reporting, and real context to everything. Grade: B+. Given the extremely difficult reporting circumstances, maybe more like an A-." Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, 15 June 2009.
     "The BBC claimed today that Iran had widened electronic jamming of its services, as the country's Revolutionary Guard ordered domestic websites and blogs to remove any material that might "create tension" amid post-election unrest. Both the BBC's World News and Persian TV channels are now being jammed by 'ground-based interference' in what one senior corporation insider told MediaGuardian.co.uk was akin to 'electronic warfare'. Iranian authorities also blocked access to Yahoo Messenger early today as the country intensified its crackdown on all means of communication following Friday's controversial presidential poll. The BBC's Persian website has also been blocked by filters, although the corporation said people were finding a way to unblock them manually and that use of the site had been 'massive'. It was receiving five videos a minute from people within Iran." Leigh Holmwood, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, The Guardian, 17 June 2009.
     "Video footage of a rally in Tehran by supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has been sent to BBC Persian TV. The new protests on Tuesday follow a huge opposition demonstration on Monday. Hospital officials say eight people died in violence which erupted at the end of that rally. Tough new restrictions on the foreign media mean the BBC is unable to confirm the scale of the latest opposition protest." BBC News, 16 June 2009.
     "Javan newspaper was ... acerbic. 'Today democracy slogans have become a lever to provoke, interfere and overthrow,' it said. 'By announcing results in the presidential elections that did not benefit their favourite candidate ... some foreign media such as BBC Persian [service], al-Arabiya, Fox News, CNN and some French media have started a new wave to create social and political division and cause riots.'" Simon Tisdall, The Guardian, 16 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

They might have to buy shortwave radios: Iran cyber update for 17 June.

Posted: 17 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran's most powerful military force is warning online media of a crackdown over their coverage of the country's election crisis. The Revolutionary Guards, an elite body answering to the supreme leader, says Iranian Web sites and bloggers must remove any materials that 'create tension' or face legal action. ... Twitter has served as a vehicle for mobilizing protesters as well as getting out the news — but people who log onto the site couldn't possibly keep up with all the Iran-related postings, nor can they fully sort out firsthand witnesses from posers or government provocateurs. But the Twitter updates — up to 140 characters — provide insight into plans for future rallies, strategies for avoiding censors, and links to photos and videos of new developments such as clashes with police. ... Journalists such as CNN's Maddox say they have to sift through such material carefully to ensure its authenticity as best they can before putting it on the air. He says that CNN still offers caveats to viewers, but the mixture of professional and amateur material is invigorating." David Folkenflik, National Public Radio, 16 June 2009.
     "Voice of America Iran today launched a Twitter account." Nico Pitney, Huffington Post, 16 June 2009.
     "'We turned our collective power and outrage into a serious weapon that we could use at our will, without ever having to feel the consequences. We practiced distributed, citizen-based warfare,' writes Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults, thanks to a 'push-button tool that would, upon your click, immediately start bombarding 10 Web sites with requests.' But the tactic of launching these distributed denial of service, or DDOS, attacks remains hugely controversial. ... Other online supporters of the so-called 'Green Revolution' worry about the ethics of a democracy-promotion movement inhibitting their foes’ free speech. A third group is concerned that the DDOS strikes could eat up the limited amount of bandwidth available inside Iran — bandwidth being used by the opposition to spread its message by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. 'Quit with the DDOS attacks — they’re just slowing down Iranian traffic and making it more difficult for the protesters to Tweet,' says one online activist." Noah Shachtman, Wired Danger Room, 16 June 2009.
     "Tech savvy protestors can just as easily reach Twitter using proxy tools readily supplied for free at proxy.org, notes Chris King, director of product marketing at Palo Alto Networks, a network security firm. 'It's a bit of a cat and mouse game,' says King. 'The government will discover and close these proxies. But the sophisticated activists will just move to the next one. They can get through any blocks put up by the government.'" Byron Acohido, Technology Live blog, USA Today, 16 June 2009. Until, of course, the proxy.org URL is blocked in Iran.
     "'There's actually quite a bit of expertise within the State Department and within Voice of America' in fighting online censorship, said Danny O'Brien, international outreach coordinator at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. The organization works to defend free speech on the Internet. ... O'Brien recommends that the U.S. government, during the post-election unrest, provide [anti-censorship] tools such as Tor, 'so that Iranians can see a full width of opinions . . . rather than just trying to get the State Department's [angle] on these things.' 'I think that it's very easy for groups to discredit messages that come from the American government exclusively,' he added." Nextgov, 16 June 2009.
     "Twitter, whose executives didn't respond to a request for comment, is playing a number of powerful roles in the unfolding political drama in Iran. As Iran's government has blocked the use of text messages in response to widespread protests against current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's suspected election fraud, it's become one of the only ways Iranians can communicate and organize. ... Twitter also played a role in circumventing the Iranian government's attempts to block access to online resources like Facebook, the Moussavi campaign's Web site and the site of U.S.-supported radio station Radio Farda. By using Twitter to pass on links to proxy servers--computers that relay data from blocked Web sites to circumvent Internet filtering--supporters of the Iranian protesters abroad were able to constantly stay ahead of the government's suppression tactics." Andy Greenberg, Forbes, 16 June 2009. But isn't access to twitter.com also blocked? Where would one find the proxy needed to get to twitter.com to find the proxies to visit other sites?
     "There have even been reports that the Iranian government had managed to block the hashtag #iranelection. Many users began using hashtags such as #green and #iran9. However, others state it is unlikely that a single hashtag could be blocked. In all probability, the entire domain would be blocked by the ISP or across a range of IP addresses." Jolie O'Dell, ReadWriteWeb, 15 June 2009.
     "Iran's approach to controlling the Internet contrasts with that used in Myanmar during the 2007 uprising there. Myanmar, which has a much lower rate of Internet use than Iran, eventually severed access entirely. China takes a more sophisticated tack, allowing high-speed access -- with extensive censorship of Web sites deemed harmful by the government. The Iranian government appears to be taking a more nuanced -- and technically difficult -- approach: allowing the Internet to operate, albeit at a slower speed, while using a more centralized approach to blocking specific Web sites. 'The government is clearly allowing some content in and some out,' said Craig Labovitz, chief scientist of Arbor Networks Inc., an Internet security company in Chelmsford, Mass. 'They're not so ham-handed as to just shut everything off.' Throttling bandwidth is almost the same as shutting off the Internet, since it makes accessing Web sites slow enough to discourage users, and makes Internet phoning difficult. 'A lot of people think this is just saving face,' said Kaveh Ranjbar, a co-founder of one of Iran's largest Internet service providers and now an engineer with an Internet regulator based in Amsterdam. 'The government can say it didn't disconnect the Internet, but the reality is you can't really use it.'" Christopher Rhoads, Geoffrey A. Fowler and Chip Cummins, Wall Street Journal, 17 June 2009.
     "The Electronic Frontier Foundation's John Gilmore once famously said that 'The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.' The tweeting in Iran is a case in point, as messages are passed by circuitous routes in an effort to evade the government's blocking efforts. A growing number of Twitter users around the world are also resetting their account to local time in Tehran in an effort to make it more difficult for the government to identify tweets sent by actual Iranians from the scenes of conflict. Doing so could also make it more difficult and time-consuming to identify individuals for later reprisals." Frederick Lane, Newsfactor.com, 16 June 2009. Yes, but reaching users inside Iran requires the use of landlines inside Iran, unless the user has an expensive and atypical satellite connection to the internet. And, then, there is still the probable (or at least possible) blocking of the twitter.com domain.
     "Roozbeh Farahanipour, an activist of the Marze Por Gohar opposition party, told Ynet that the most popular social tool among Iranians is not Twitter, but rather Facebook. But when it was down along with the cellular networks that were blocked, activists reverted to sending messages through carriers to places in where the network was still functioning or to activists abroad, who in turn put them up on YouTube." Ynetnews.com, 16 June 2009.
     "I was sitting in front of my computer and watching the news on BBC Persian TV. My heart pounded and tears rolled down my cheeks as I heard the cries of men and women who told the news outlets that their dignity, trust and pride had been 'spit upon.' ... By the time the final votes were counted and the protests were increasing, communications such as cell phones and SMS text messaging were disconnected. While I was chatting online with a friend in my hometown, she kept complaining about the slow internet speed. There has even been satellite jamming and international media crackdowns. So, I turned to videos and numerous messages from Iranians and young citizen journalists appearing on foreign and Farsi-speaking news channels, blogs, Twitter accounts and Web sites. This suppression of truth could have been successful were it not for Iran's young, educated, and tech-savvy population." Parisa Saranj, Politics Daily, 16 June 2009.
     "On Monday afternoon, a 27-year-old State Department official, Jared Cohen, e-mailed the social-networking site Twitter with an unusual request: delay scheduled maintenance of its global network, which would have cut off service while Iranians were using Twitter to swap information and inform the outside world about the mushrooming protests around Tehran. The request, made to a Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is yet another new-media milestone: the recognition by the United States government that an Internet blogging service that did not exist four years ago has the potential to change history in an ancient Islamic country." Mark Landler and Brian Stelter, New York Times, 16 June 2009.
     "Iranians are still managing to send photos, mobile phone video and emails to the BBC's interactive sites, despite the Iranian government's attempts to close down all media communication beyond its control. You can find a list of some of the most popular websites where this material is being shared here . To find out more about the BBC's use of social media, read this editors' blog entry." BBC News, 16 June 2009.

Test spacing 2

Posted: 16 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Statement by the Broadcasting Board of Governors: "The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five claims that the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), an entity under the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was improperly influencing U.S. public opinion and particularly the Miami area jury pool by paying local reporters to generate negative coverage in the case of 'The Cuban Five'. These allegations are baseless. OCB did not pay local reporters to influence coverage of 'The Cuban Five.'

Radio and TV Marti are broadcast to Cuba and were inaccessible on the U.S. airwaves in the period leading up to and during the trial. Furthermore, the International Broadcasting Act requires the news and information reported by Radio and TV Marti to be balanced and comprehensive."

Radio and TV Marti are broadcast to Cuba and were inaccessible on the U.S. airwaves in the period leading up to and during the trial. Furthermore, the International Broadcasting Act requires the news and information reported by Radio and TV Marti to be balanced and comprehensive."

Radio and TV Marti are broadcast to Cuba and were inaccessible on the U.S. airwaves in the period leading up to and during the trial. Furthermore, the International Broadcasting Act requires the news and information reported by Radio and TV Marti to be balanced and comprehensive."

Media news from the Horn of Africa.

Posted: 16 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The tribal junta regime in Ethiopia has ordered the Addis Ababa-based Sheger FM (102.1) private radio to stop all its re-broadcasts of Voice of America (VOA) programming effective immediately. Sheger FM had been carrying some of the VOA Amharic programs, mostly music and entertainment, through a contractual arrangement. The order followed the release of VOA Correspondent in Addis Ababa, Meleskachew Amaha, from jail after detaining him for being in possession of radio equipments." Ethiopian Review, 13 June 2009.
     "Last week, the privately owned Sheger FM has been told to cut its broadcast of the Voice of America’s English language service. The local relay of the VOA was taken off over its coverage of Ethiopia. VOA had an hour program every week days, which include African news and sport reports and Jazz America on Saturday morning." Jimma Times, 15 June 2009.
     "Radio Erena ('Our Eritrea'), a Tigrinya-language station broadcasting by satellite to Eritrea, began operating today in Paris, five days ahead of World Refugee Day. The result of an initiative by Eritrean journalists based abroad and supported by Reporters Without Borders, the station is offering freely-reported, independent news and information to Eritreans in Eritrea. ... Independent of any political organisation or government, Radio Erena is offering news, cultural programmes, music and entertainment. A network of contributors based in the United States, Italy, Britain and the Netherlands is providing the Paris-based staff with Tigrinya-language programmes that are broadcast via Arabsat’s Badr-6 satellite. Eritreans can tune into Radio Erena on the 11,785 Mhz frequency with vertical polarisation (SR 27500, FEC 3/4). The station’s programming will soon be broadcast on the Internet as well, so that the Eritrean diaspora will also be able to listen to it." Reporters sans frontières, 15 June 2009.
     "Islamists controlling southern Somalia on Saturday banned watching DVDs or movies on television and said raids would be conducted to catch offenders, who would then be severely punished. 'Watching films is totally banned, even indoors,' Sheikh Mowlid Ahmed, a security forces commander in the port city of Kismayo said in a statement. 'People are allowed to use their home televisions only to watch news on such channels such as Al-Jazeera,' he added." AFP, 13 June 2009.

Iran social media update for 16 June 2009.

Posted: 16 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran's hardline authorities are attempting to suppress news coverage of the country's hotly disputed presidential election, but they can't quash the Twitter brigades. ... 'We're managing to keep the show going largely thanks to this user-generated content from people in Iran calling us, sending video footage and photos,' said Sina Motalebi, editor of BBC Persian TV Interactive. 'The amazing thing has been that even with all the obstacles, the volume of footage we have been receiving has actually been increasing in recent days.'" Variety, 15 June 2009.
     "We don't know how many Iranians belong to Twitter; there seems to have been about two dozen active voices from Tehran, but if we assume a multiplier effect -- these 24 people can coordinate with their 20 friends -- the use of the technology as a central organizing hub that circumvented official channels of communication cannot be understated. In this way, Twitter served as an intelligence service for the Iranian opposition. There are even hints that, once Iranian authorities figured this out, they attempted to spread misinformation via Twitter." Marc Ambinder, Washington blog, The Atlantic, 15 June 2009.
     "Some on Twitter have uploaded pictures of destroyed computer labs at Universities and claimed that the government was responsible. Reports of Internet censorship are also coming from within Iran, including popular websites such as FaceBook. ... Protesters are also heavily utilizing Youtube to independently report on the violence and damage occurring in Tehran." Greg Cook, Digital News Report, 15 June 2009.
     "Earlier today an Iranian reader wrote to tell us that the BBC World Service’s Farsi-language radio broadcasts were important in 1979, as a way to get the Ayatollah Khomeinei’s messages into Iran. Now the Web site of that same network, BBC Persian, has become a focus for messages traveling in the opposite direction, out to the world from inside Iran. Here is video of the vast rally in Tehran today that was shot on a phone and sent to BBC Persian. The BBC also reports that 'People have emailed the BBC from across Iran, in Yazd, Rasht, Esfahan and Tabriz to describe pro-Mousavi rallies.'" Robert Mackey, The Lede blog, New York Times, 15 June 2009.
     "By Monday evening, it had become such a movement that Twitter postponed maintenance scheduled for the wee hours of the morning, California time — midday Tuesday in Iran. 'Our network partners at NTT America recognize the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran,' wrote Twitter co-founder Biz Stone in a blog posting." Fox News, 16 June 2009.
     "The social media blog Mashable has a guide to tracking the Iranian news on Twitter and other social media. As my colleague Michael Hickins points out, people, not Twitter, get the credit for social change in Iran (assuming social change, not a tragic and bloody crackdown, is the end result of the demonstrations in Iran). The blog Red Alerts makes the same point more forcefully, calling the Twitter community to task for arrogant hypocrisy. The blog criticizes 'people who truly believe that sitting in front of a keyboard Tweeting these events will change the situation on the ground for the better.'" Mitch Wagner, Information Week, 15 June 2009. See also Iran media update for 16 June 2009.

Iran media update for 16 June 2009.

Posted: 16 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Websites and text-messaging services have been cut off since polls opened early on June 12. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, a well-known Iranian film director and a spokesman outside Iran for Musavi, told a protest rally in front of the Iranian Embassy in Paris that 'communication is very hard with Iran.' 'The BBC is being jammed, but voices are being aired from Radio Farda and [the Voice of America]. Talk to them,' Makhmalbaf said. 'Don't be like those who advise you not to talk to VOA. We don't have any other media, we don't have SMS (mobile phone text messaging) anymore. Whoever gives you air time talk to them, convey the people's message and voice. Don't let us be censored inside Iran and be silent outside.'" RFE/RL, 16 June 2009.
     "The Iranians we hear from ... say: Tell Iran's government that it should permit free media and respect the free flow of information and ideas. Radio Farda, the Voice of America and the BBC are important; independent, truly indigenous media are even more so." RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin, Washington Post, 16 June 2009.
     "Someday a future president may have to apologize to Iranians for Mr. Obama's nonfeasance, just as Mr. Obama apologized for the Eisenhower administration's meddling. But the better Eisenhower parallel is with Hungary in 1956. Then as now a popular uprising coalesced around a figure (Imre Nagy in Hungary; Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran), who had once been a creature of the system. Then as now it was buoyed by inspiring American rhetoric about freedom and democracy coming over Voice of America airwaves." Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, 16 June 2009. Iranians seek out foreign broadcasts because of the "rhetoric" that infests their domestic broadcasts. Then as now, US international broadcasting is better off sticking to its news mission.
     "It’s interesting to note that during Bush’s administration the State Department reiterated over and over that it would not interfere with Iran’s internal affairs. However, with Obama’s administration it appears that State, according to Kenneth Timmerman, met with Mousavi’s campaign manager and offered their full support. In addition, the State Department pressured Voice of America’s (VOA) Persian service to only invite guests that support reformist candidates." Roozbeh Farahanipour, Iranian journalist and "democracy activist," interviewed by Jamie Glazov, FrontPage Magazine, 15 June 2009. Refers to Foundation for Democracy in Iran news items on 10 June (with link to FDI letter) and 7 June 2009.
     "Seven people have since died in clashes with the security forces and many more were wounded, putting a bloody face on the manifestations of protest. The confrontation is indeed fuelled by Western outlets such as Voice of America, which has increased its satellite transmission capacity in Farsi language ever since the run-up to the elections, as part of a strategy to achieve regime change through destabilization." Arab Monitor, 16 June 2009.
     "The BBC, AP and Voice of America were warned on Saturday that the government would enforce an existing law banning provision of news video to the Farsi-language services that broadcast to Iranians via satellite in their own language." NRC Handelsblad (Amsterdam), 15 June 2009.
     "Iran has banned foreign media journalists from leaving their offices to cover protests on the streets of Tehran following the country's disputed presidential elections. ... 'No journalist has permission to report or film or take pictures in the city,' a Culture Ministry official told Reuters." Reuters, 16 June 2009.
     "Al Jazeera's Teymoor Nabili, reporting from Tehran, said that it had become increasingly difficult for the media to operate in Iran since the elections results were announced on Saturday. 'Day-by-day our ability to access any information has been slowly whittled away,' he said. 'I now stand in a position where I am no longer allowed to take a camera out onto the streets, I am not even sure if I can walk out onto the streets with a mobile phone without getting into trouble.'" Aljazeera.net, 15 June 2009.
     "The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for an end to the Iranian authorities' ongoing crackdown on media following the disputed re-election of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad." CPJ, 15 June 2009.
     "Although it was targeted by a campaign on Twitter for supposedly under-covering unrest in Iran, CNN is offering the best U.S. TV coverage of the unfolding post-election drama. It has aired more coverage than either of its competitors, Fox News and MSNBC. CNN's weekend reporting, including the courageous Christiane Amanpour not backing down during a news conference with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ... With American TV news cutting back dramatically on foreign coverage for financial reasons, CNN is often the only TV news outlet with its own reporting from overseas. The fact that it operates CNN International around the world means its market for world news is broader than its competitors. CNN International, by the way, is available to satellite and digital cable subscribers." Tim Cuprisin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 June 2009.
     "I know Twitter folks have been all over CNN for not providing more coverage on Saturday. I'm sure CNN could have done more, rather than run some taped programming, perhaps by taking the CNN International feed in the U.S. But it seemed to me that CNN did more than the other cable networks, with regular reports by Christiane Amanpour from Tehran, and especially on Sunday, when it ran many hours of live coverage." Howard Kurth, Media Backtalk, Washington Post, 15 June 2009.
     "Several Iranians spoke to BBC Persian TV's live interactive programme 'Your Turn' on Monday, before the channel became blocked. The programme's producers say they repeatedly invited supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to get in touch, but none has contacted them so far." BBC News, 15 June 2009.
     "The polls closed at 10pm on Friday, Tehran time. Most main streets then were fully decked out in green. ... Iranian bloggers broke down the vote at the time as 19.7 million for Mousavi, between 7 and 8 million for Ahmadinejad, 7 million for Karroubi, and 3 million for Rezai. Then all hell seemed to break loose. Phones, SMS, text messaging, YouTube, political blogs, opposition websites, foreign media websites, all communication networks, in a cascade, were shutting down fast. Military and police forces started to take over Tehran's streets. The Ahmadinejad-controlled Ministry of Interior - doubling as election headquarters - was isolated by concrete barriers. Iranian TV switched to old Iron Curtain-style 'messages of national unity'. And the mind-boggling semi-final numbers of Ahmadinejad's landslide were announced (Ahmadinejad 64%, Mousavi 32%, Rezai 2% and Karroubi less than 1%)." Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online, 16 June 2009.
     "Iranians today flooded the Voice of America (VOA) with videos, pictures, e-mails and calls from inside Iran as the popular U.S. broadcaster's Persian News Network (PNN) launched a morning show to cover the country's tumultuous post-election events. ... PNN's new breakfast show aired for two hours today, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tehran time, and will continue as an hour-long special for the foreseeable future, examining events in Iran in the aftermath of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declared victory. Supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi have protested the election results. In advance of the election, VOA created new TV satellite paths to circumvent jamming by the Iranian government." VOA press release, 15 June 2009.
     "The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) calls on authorities in Iran to open the airwaves and respect the right of its people to freedom of information and opinion. ... Iranian authorities are choking off reliable news and information from the people in Iran. Interference with satellite television, shortwave radio, mobile devices and Internet programs of international broadcasters including the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Radio Farda persists. Further obstacles to a free press include the harassment and arrest of journalists on the scene. U.S. international broadcasting, as well as others reporting in Persian, are again playing a crucial role in getting the important story of events to the people of Iran. By tapping into sources on the ground, our journalists get eye-witness accounts of news the Iranian regime wants to suppress." BBG press release, 15 June 2009.
     See previous posts on 16 June and 15 June 2009 and Iran social media update.

Senators Lieberman and McCain express support for Radio Farda.

Posted: 16 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"I think we should dramatically increase our funding for something called Radio Farda, f-a-r-d-a. It's the Farsi language, Persian language station for the Voice of America, so that we're speaking through that much more frequently to the people of Iran to tell them that we're on their side." Senator Joseph Lieberman on Fox News, 15 June 2009.
     "Lieberman said on MSNBC that the U.S. should increase funding for Radio Farda, which broadcasts to Iranians in the same way that Radio Free Europe targeted residents behind the Iron Curtain." The Hill, 15 June 2009. Does anyone have a link to this MSNBC item?
     "This election should be canceled because it was obviously a rigged election. And it's shameful and we should be funding immediately Radio Free Iraq. Fardar (ph) I believe is the proper pronunciation of it, Fardo (ph), and we should be taking actions to impose further sanctions on the Iranians." Senator John McCain, interviewed on Fox News, 15 June 2009.
     Radio Free Iraq already exists, as part of RFE/RL. It appears that Senator McCain corrected himself and tried to remember the name of Radio Farda. Contrary to what Senator Lieberman said, Radio Farda is part of RFE/RL, not VOA, though until recently it was nominally a shared project of RFE/RL and VOA.
     Radio Farda could proclaim to Iranians that "we're on their side," and that might be cheered by those now demonstrating in Tehran. As a news organization, Radio Farda should not be saying that, although it can interview American policymakers who would no doubt express such sentiments.
     The structure of US international broadcasting is confusing, so it's not surprising that the senators are confused about US international broadcasting to Iran. Unmentioned by the senators is television service of VOA's Persian News Network, the US broadcast with the largest audience in Iran.
     It is difficult to get news out of Iran, and to get content back into Iran amid jamming, blocking, and censorship. This is a good reason that US international broadcasting to Iran should not consist of two entities that duplicate and compete with each other. Radio Farda transmits 24 hours (so how can it speak to the Iranians "much more frequently"?), while the VOA Persian radio service is on the air at 0500-0600 and 1800-2300 Iran time. Thus, for six prime-time hours a day, two US radio stations are simultaneously broadcasting largely the same news into Iran.

Some of us can no longer visit the UK edition of the BBC website.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Many of you have explained why you liked being able to choose whether you see the UK or international version of the site, wherever you are in the world. The changes mean that's now decided automatically, depending on your IP address - where you are. For many of you living outside the UK, in particular, that means you now see the international front page, which isn't the one you'd choose. ... We are working on a whole range of developments over the next year, and to give us a firm platform for that work, we had to simplify the underlying architecture of the site, by removing the increasingly complicated consequences of the different UK/international permutations. ... We are working on a whole range of developments over the next year, and to give us a firm platform for that work, we had to simplify the underlying architecture of the site, by removing the increasingly complicated consequences of the different UK/international permutations. Right now that means, I'm afraid, that there's one fewer choice you can make - selecting your edition. Over time we want to introduce more choice and flexibility over what you can see on the site, wherever you are." Steve Herrmann, The Editors blog, BBC News, 15 June 2009. I enjoyed the old system in which I was automatically logged in to the UK edition. I was an ersatz Brit. Now, because of my IP address, I'm forced to log in to the version of the BBC website pre-masticated for foreign users. At least that foreign edition has, for the time being, links to the BBC domestic radio networks: Radio 1, Radio 2, etc. Generally the demarcation is that UK domestic users (because they have paid the BBC license fee) have access to the BBC video archives, while international users see BBC sites that contain advertising.

BBC World Service name purloined in camera caper.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Robert White Photographic, a camera dealer based in Dorset, was the victim of a fraud resulting in the loss of four Nikon D3x digital SLRs, four D3 models and four 14-24mm lenses. A D3x camera retails at £6000, a D3 at £4000 and a 14-24mm lens at £1600. ‘We received via fax an official order (or so we thought) from the BBC World Service. The order was similar to orders we had received in the past, details such as the document layout and order number were the correct format and the quantities of stock were not suspicious,’ the company tells BJP. ... 'The investigation unit of the BBC seem to be doing all they could to look into the matter.'" British Journal of Photography, 12 June 2009.

BBC World Service improves look of its radio via satellite television in the UK.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC World Service has been given a new look on Freeview to make it more user friendly. Until recently, the international radio service just offered a static, blue page on the digital terrestrial platform that did not fit with the overall BBC Radio interactive branding. ... By utilising extra bandwidth made available, the Red Button radio interface will now offer greater functionality to the estimated one and a half million UK listeners of the World Service. This includes live information on current and forthcoming programming, as well as up-to-date news headlines from around the world." Digital Spy, 12 June 2009. See images at InteractiveTV Today, 11 June 2009.

BBC World News America "ratings boost" -- all the way up to a zero point fourteen.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World News America, BBC America's nightly newscast has been the recipient of a ratings boost of late. While the newscast, anchored by Matt Frei, has been seeing long term growth since it launched in October 2007, it is when there is an international event that it really shines. This week, with the aftermath of Air France flight 447 and President Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe, the newscast has been in its comfort zone, and viewers have followed. ... Monday evening the newscast posted a .14 rating in the key news demo of persons 25-54 on its 7 p.m. airing. That tied Lou Dobbs on CNN, and beat Larry Kudlow on CNBC (.08 rating). It also put the Beeb's newscast within striking distance of MSNBC and HLN." Broadcasting & Cable, 12 June 2009. That .14 rating would be 0.14% of Americans aged 25-54 watching BBC World News America at 7 p.m. Such a minuscule percentage would not seem to have much impact on US public opinion. However, that translates to about 186,000 upscale Americans of that age group, perhaps enough in raw numbers to attract advertisers.

CBC and its public funding.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Quality newspapers as well as broadcasters are looking to website publication. But surely this has to be more than web-friendly headline clips and superficial opinion blogs. How can an authoritative and well-researched electronic journal of record be financed? I would argue that Canada is ahead of the game by already paying for an experienced public newscaster that shouldn't have to cut its journalism to switch from one medium to another as tastes and technology change. Arguments that a Crown corporation can't be relied on for objective reporting are hogwash. For generations, the world relied on the objectivity of the BBC's World Service, captured on shortwave in locales where free speech and adequate news sources didn't exist. CBC News isn't threatened by the web. Quite the contrary, it is very likely its future, in the interest of all Canadians, provided the public mandate is interpreted as it should be." Jeremy Kinsman, opinion article at CBC News, 12 Friday 2009.

House bill includes permanent authority for RFA.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The House of Representatives has approved legislation authorizing U.S foreign assistance programs and other spending for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years. ... The measure also funds U.S government-funded international broadcasting activities, establishes permanent authority for Radio Free Asia and extends the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy." VOA News, 11 June 2009.
     Radio Free Asia is a very good international radio station, with dedicated employees. Permanent authority, however, makes permanent the splitting of US resources for broadcasting to East Asia into two entities, RFA and VOA, that compete with each other for budget, transmitters, talent, and audience. East Asia is a vast region, difficult to get news out of, difficult to transmit news into. Success in this region requires all of the broadcasting resources the United States can muster. The present structure of US international broadcasting requires that the US broadcasts to East Asia with all of the resources it can muster, divided by two.
     The Obama Administration will have to reduce the US budget deficit. The consolidation of international broadcasting would contribute to the cause. So would the elimination of the various advisory commissions scattered around the US government.

CPJ complaints to Iraqi PM include Alhurra incident.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Excerpt of letter from Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalsts, to Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki: "On February 23, your bodyguards prevented press crews from covering the reopening ceremony of the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, JFO reported. Ahmad 'Aram, a journalist with Al-Hurra television, told CPJ that the guards pushed him and other journalists out of the building under the justification that there was no space for journalists in the press conference hall. 'One guard screamed at me, «If you don't back off, I will break your teeth»,' 'Aram said. The journalists were allowed into the hall only after a staffer from the prime minister's office intervened, 'Aram told CPJ." CPJ, 10 June 2009.

Iran election and international media update.

Posted: 15 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC has announced today that its satellite TV and radio broadcasts to Iran and other parts of the Middle East and Europe are experiencing heavy electronic jamming by sources that BBC technicians have identified as being situated in Iran. The jamming, which began on Friday but has increased in intensity since, is targeting one of the BBC’s satellites that broadcasts BBC Persian TV to Iran. A BBC comminiqué quoted by French daily Le Figaro stated that they are using various methods to counter the jamming, which is mainly hitting its programmes in Arabic, although some other countries have been affected. Reception problems range from bad image and sound to total interruption of signal reception." Michael Cosgrove, Digital Journal, 14 June 2009. See also BBC News, 15 June 2009 and Peter Horrocks blog entry in previous post.
     "Jamming over-the-air transmissions like radio and satellite isn't difficult. To jam satellite or radio broadcasts, one simply needs to generate interference on the frequencies that the broadcast uses. ... The internet is slightly more difficult to completely block because it is designed to be routed around problems, even if that problem is government censorship. However, in countries like Iran and China, the government controls much of the infrastructure and can cut down on the number of alternate pathways to uncensored information. ... Sophisticated users are able to route through alternate pathways or proxies to bypass government controlled gateways. Information about open proxies is being passed around on micro-blogging service Twitter to allow Iranian internet users unfettered access to the internet, but this is often a cat-and-mouse game. Government censors block the proxies as soon as they become aware of them." Kevin Anderson, The Guardian, 15 June 2009. This article fails to mention that shortwave radio remains the least interdictable medium of international broadcasting, because radio waves on shortwave frequencies travel more readily over long distance than short distance. Thus, a distant foreign broadcaster can often be heard over the nearer jamming transmitter.
     "The blocking of access to foreign news media has been stepped up. In addition to the blocking of the BBC’s website, the Farsi-language satellite broadcasts of the VOA and BBC – which are very popular in Iran – have been partially jammed. The Internet is now very slow, like the mobile phone network. YouTube and Facebook are hard to access and pro-reform sites ... are completely inaccessible. Said Shariti, the editor of the news website Nooroz, has been arrested. The foreign media have also been the victims of police violence. A member of a TV crew working for the Italian station RAI and a Reuters reporter were beaten by police in the capital. A BBC TV crew was being threatened by police at one point, but demonstrators chased the police away." Reporters sans frontières, 14 June 2009.
     "German public broadcasters ZDF and ARD say their journalists are being prevented from doing their jobs, with the ZDF team barred from reporting and ARD correspondent Peter Mezger no longer allowed to leave his hotel." Deutsche Welle, 15 June 2009.
     "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the election that critics contend was marked by widespread voter fraud. At a news conference Sunday, he accused international media of launching a 'psychological war' against the country. ... A range of communications have been disrupted inside Iran since election day, including those which could be used to organize protests." AP, 14 June 2009.
     "Basically, last night, according to phone call to Voice of America ... from one of the people inside Mousavi's election committee, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the following happened: The Interior Ministry called Mousavi, told him... he'd won. Told the progressive newspapers to avoid printing the word 'victory' in publications. Then it seems like 'they' essentially changed their minds. All mobiles in Tehran are shut off." Amir Safavi-Naeini via Mondoweiss, 14 June 2009.
     "As the Iranian election aftermath unfolded in Tehran--thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to express their anger at perceived electoral irregularities--an unexpected hashtag began to explode through the Twitterverse: 'CNNFail.' Even as Twitter became the best source for rapid-fire news developments from the front lines of the riots in Tehran, a growing number of users of the microblogging service were incredulous at the near total lack of coverage of the story on CNN, a network that cut its teeth with on-the-spot reporting from the Middle East. For most of Saturday, CNN.com had no stories about the massive protests on behalf of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was reported by the Iranian government to have lost to the sitting president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." Daniel Terdiman, CNET News, 14 June 2009. "@jason_pontin If CNN International was reporting, and CNN USA was not - what despicable contempt for American audience!" Coturnix, A Blog Around the Clock, 14 June 2009.
     "This geek has always been quite a CNN junkie, and started to get on Twitter more seriously partly because of CNN's flagrant promotion of Twitter, which I never quite understood. But I switched to BBC since last weekend, the main reason being CNN's lack of coverage for the Iranian protests that resulted in violence. I think the irony is that despite all CNN's promotion of Twitter, Twitterers have created this hashtag #CNNfail and you can see all the tweets on how CNN has failed on the Twitterverse... Well, at least CNN wisened up and listened. But maybe a little too late because this geek is already on BBC and will think twice about going back to CNN for fear of missing the next big news because of some bikers' interview." Nicholas Aaron Khoo, CNET Asia, 15 June 2009.
     "BBC's reporting of the election results has been nothing short of incredible: John Simpson and his cameraman were actually arrested before filing the following report: [Video] And where's the American cable news media on this? Up until today, kind of absent. Flipping through cable news networks, you could've caught some sporadic coverage yesterday - as the events were unfolding - but really, not much more." Foster Kamer, Gawker, 14 June 2009.
     "Iranians sympathetic to reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, who lost his election bid against the incumbent president, fought back against a government crackdown on media by hacking official news websites Sunday. Activists dissatisfied with what they say were fraudulent elections that saw President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad elected to a second term with a landslide 63 percent of the vote, organized a denial of service campaign through Facebook that appeared to have caused the websites of several official news agencies to crash. The official IRNA and FARS news agencies websites could not be displayed for several hours in the morning, Press TV’s site delivered a server busy message while the official parliament site, Majlis.ir, gave an unending 'still working' message. The websites of IRIB, the official broadcaster, Sepah News, the Revolutionary Guard's newspaper and Kehan, the conservative government mouthpiece, were also unavailable." Al Arabiya, 15 June 2009.
     "It's full-out cyberwar in Iran. And thanks to Facebook, people all over the world are participating." RFE/RL Web Team, RFE/RL, 15 June 2009.
     "Twitter and YouTube have proved the most successful hosts for covering the events with amateur video uploaded via mobile phones and eyewitness accounts via Twitter. A simple way to follow the conversation about Iran on Twitter is to use a search aggregator, or a site that brings together tweets by topic. The latest tweets on the elections and protests can be retrieved by typing in #iranelection into the Twitter search box an aggregator that automatically bundles together Iran tweets can be found here. SBS News has its own twitter feed which is providing links and updates on the Iranian situation." Special Broadcasting Service (Australia), 15 June 2009.
     "In days gone by, crushing a revolution was a lot easier. There were no mobile phones to co-ordinate street action or relay what was happening to the outside world. Even more importantly, there wasn't an internet. Now it is common to hear of 'internet' or even 'twitter revolutions' - as Andrew Sullivan on the Atlantic has already described the current protests in Iran. It is precisely for that reason that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to have – temporarily at least – shut down Facebook, Twitter, mobile phone networks and unsympathetic websites. Nevertheless, Iranians are still managing to feed out information, embracing the technology that the moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi employed during his ultimately unsuccessful election campaign." Haroon Siddique, News blog, The Guardian, 14 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Notes from Kai Ludwig about Iranian satellite jamming

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link

It appears that quite massive jamming attacks against Hotbird satellite signals with Persian programming are going on at present. Seen so far here:

http://forum.mysnip.de/read.php?8773,703105

Summary, disregarding incompetent postings, [plus my comments], see original for links to a Polish forum where the matter is being discussed as well:

Already for some time problems with 12.303 GHz v have been reported and suspected to be the result of jamming. This mux includes the Persian New Channel TV.

As of last night also 11.117 GHz v is affected, a mux carrying BBC Persian TV [plus on the radio side BBC WS in Persian and Payam-e-Doost]. The spectrum of this signal shows a strong empty carrier exactly in the centre. This carrier disappeared at 0055 UT sharp and the signal quality improved dramatically. Looks very much like jamming.

The same on 12.303 GHz v [which also carries RNW feeds, thus even their shortwave transmissions could be affected].

Today: Now 11.727 GHz v gets targeted, a mux with Pars TV. The Astra relay of TVE is disrupted as well, apparently this Hotbird signal is the signal source of it. [Numerous BBC World Service feeds use this mux as well, so it is well possible that a number of BBC WS relays got disrupted likewise.]

1150 UT: The empty carrier in the 11.117 GHz signal has returned, even a bit stronger than last night. With a 60 cm dish the signal can not be demodulated at present.

Same again on 11.727 GHz v, here the carrier is about 15 dB stronger than the actual modulation when viewed with 300 kHz bandwith. It's a very clean and stable carrier.

The Dutch BVN TV Europe has appeared on 12.207 GHz h, apparently due to 12.303 GHz v being jammed.

Postings after 1300 UT: BBC Persian had temporarily been removed from 11.117 GHz v [who got this idea, the BBC and/or Globecast?], the jamming disappeared and promptly returned when BBC Persian had been put back on.

And just posted a first, so far unofficial reaction from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2009/06/stop_the_blocking_now.html

It will be really interesting to see how Eutelsat will deal with the situation, since inavoidably it affects also other, completely unrelated customers. And at the same time IRIB is an Eutelsat customer as well.

This just in a hurry to tip off. Other satellites than the Hotbird fleed on 13 deg. East may well be affected as well.

Back to post.

The Iranian election, ensuing unrest, and international media.

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"From early evening onward, the entire mobile phone network was cut off, making it difficult for protestors to coordinate, or to learn of the widespread nature of the protests. The Internet was also blocked in certain parts of the city, and satellite TV trannsmissions were reduced to snow. Out of Iran's six television channels, only the all-news channel aired reports on the election, and those mostly exalted 'the glory of people's participation in the election."' Reuters, 14 May 2009.
     "Friends texted one another to find out where the 'action' was, and Mousavi’s headquarters relayed campaign messages by text and e-mail. In Iran, the wealthier have access to the internet and satellite television, though officially satellite dishes are illegal. Poorer Iranians receive all their information from state-controlled TV and radio, which carry government propaganda." The Sunday Times, 14 June 2009.
     "On the eve of Iran's presidential election, the Islamic state shut off the text messaging services of all cell phones, and as I am writing this it is still impossible to text someone in Iran. Also, state-imposed 'parasite' signals have been reported to be interfering with satellite TV channels particularly BBC Persian and VOA Farsi." Telma Parsa, 12 June 2009.
     "State television ignored the protests, showing instead repeated footage of the mass turnout and voting from the day before, though many Iranians tuned into the BBC Persian service, which is only available on illegal but common satellite dishes." Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, 13 June 2009.
     "BBC audiences in Iran, the Middle East and Europe may be experiencing disruption to their BBC TV or radio services today. That is because there is heavy electronic jamming of one of the satellites the BBC uses in the Middle East to broadcast the BBC Persian TV signal to Iran. Satellite technicians have traced that interference and it is coming from Iran. There has been intermittent interference from Iran since Friday but this is the heaviest yet." BBC World Service dierctor Peter Horrocks, The Editors blog, BBC News, 14 June 2009. Thanks to Kai Ludwig in Germany for sending the link to this item. Kai also sends these technical observations about Iran's satellite jamming.
     "In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, Iranian reformist cleric Hassan Yusefi Eshkevari has spoken out following the government's announcement of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's election victory. He was interviewed by telephone from his home in Tehran by Elaheh Ravanshad. Radio Farda: What is your reaction to the official election result? Hassan Yusefi Eshkevari: It seems that what has happened in Iran is a punishment for the people. People, including young Iranians, took to the streets and showed their maturity and their wish for peace and goodwill. That’s one issue. The other issue is that the establishment seems to fear democracy, and because of that it held an election coup d’etat to take its revenge on the people, especially on the youth." RFE/RL, 13 June 2009.
     "A Radio Farda staffer emails: 'While reports from Iran indicate that all foreign sat TV signals have been jammed, Radio Farda and especially its website remain one of the few open channels for the people in Iran. Our filter-busting software was launched just in time. Yesterday and today we have had 90,000 visits from Iran - more than twice the election campaign period daily average, which was a peak in itself. We have had 4,300,000 hits in two days, which is one quarter of all hits in the month of May. The day is not over yet and only today we might reach 75,000 visits. However, it is possible that they will shut down internet completely. There are reports from Iran that now even local phone service is being shut down.'" John McCormack, The Blog, The Weekly Standard, 13 June 2009.
     "Iranian Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli has declared that the 10th presidential elections were conducted in a manner that ruled out the possibility of voter fraud. ... He explained that there may have been some tensions between the representatives of the presidential hopefuls but added that there is no evidence to suggest that the issues of contention have led to violations. His remarks came after Moussavi described the official count as a 'sleight of hand' by those in charge of the crucial election." Press TV, 13 June 2009.
     "Iranian authorities closed down Al Arabiya's Tehran bureau Sunday afternoon amid heightened tensions in the violent aftermath of a disputed election victory by incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinijad over leading reformist rival Mir Hossein Mousavi. Officials gave no explanation for the decision to shut the office for a week, effectively preventing broadcasting from the country amid riots and protests by reformists over what they allege was a fraudulent election and rival protests planned by supporters of Ahmedinijad." Al Arabiya, 14 June 2009.
     "I noted earlier that Twitter was the only major social network still operating in Iran. Now something has changed. All of the Iran-based Twitter users I've been reading haven't posted for at least 30 minutes or so. The reasons are unclear. Some on Twitter are claiming there is a complete electricity shut-down in Tehran. One Iran-based Twitter user, @tehranelection, last posted an hour ago: 'I have to shut down for a bit, the police are looking for satellites.'" Nico Pitmey, Huffington Post, 13 June 2009.
     BBC Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba says the margin of the win was so wide that it made a lot of people suspicious. He says given the high turnout, it was expected that Mr Mousavi would have won at least half of the votes. ... The BBC's John Simpson saw secret policemen being attacked and chased away by protesters, which he says is extremely rare." BBC News, 14 June 2009.
     "'There was this cat-and-mouse game between the rioters and the police,' said Samson Desta, a CNN producer, who was hit by a police baton." CNN, 14 June 2009.
     "Videos received by employees of VOA's Persian News Network on their personal accounts on (the social networking site) Facebook showed thousands of opposition supporters marching in the streets." VOA News, 14 June 2009.
     "Al Jazeera's interviewee was an Iranian professor from the University of Tehran (most of the Iranians seen on CNN and other Western channels have been expatriate Iranians). He was actually a supporter of Moussavi, but explained how the election result wasn't that huge a surprise, and how the view of the Iranian electorate in the Western media is totally distorted by their focus on the upper middle class, and how they never actually even visit, much less talk to, the working people of the country." elishastephens, Daily Kos, 13 June 2009.
     "The IRI is quickly closing off media websites, including the BBC Persian service. Facebook, used heavily by Mousavi supporters, is being filtered. ... The US media has been horrible in its coverage of the elections and its aftermath. NPR had more coverage of the European soccer last night and of the Stanley Cup this morning. It was evening in Tehran before Amanpour did a short piece for CNN. Even Keith Olbermann had a sleepy dude from the New America Foundation on … without even bothering to explain what his credentials as an Iran expert are. With an estimated 750k Iranians living in the US and several major academic organizations devoted to Iranian Studies, the unwillingness and inability of the US media to cover these elections properly is truly indicative of a larger problem in Irano-US relations. US press coverage has been embarrassing and shameful." Shiva Balaghi via Mondoweiss, 13 June 2009. See update.

Township trustees: no money to help VOA museum find money.

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Members of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting executive board say they desperately need a professional grant writer in order to move forward with the planned renovation of the former Bethany Station. But West Chester Twp. trustees decided Tuesday, June 9, by a 2-1 vote the board would have to launch the campaign to raise an estimated $12 million to $14 million themselves. 'This is a very talented board. I believe it’s time for us to let these people find their wings and fly,' said Trustee Catherine Stoker." Dayton Journal News, 10 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

How Old Blue Eyes on VOA saved Italy from communism and helped create the CIA.

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Review of Michael Holzman, James Jesus Angleton, the CIA, and the Craft of Counterintelligence: "The Italian election of [1948] turned out to be a major coup for the intelligence services. A great deal of money was raised in the United States, a massive letter-writing campaign was organized from Italian immigrant neighbourhoods, and Frank Sinatra made a Voice of America broadcast, all designed to browbeat the electorate into voting against the Communists. The campaign’s success aided the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency, legislation supporting it was passed in June 1949, and Angleton joined the organization immediately." Terence Hawkes, Times Literary Supplement, 10 June 2009.

Propaganda to Portugal, 1939.

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
From The Telegraph, 13 June 1939: "The British Ambassador to Portugal, Sir Walford Selby, who leaves Lisbon on Sunday for a month’s visit to England, will call at the Foreign Office, before going on holiday to report on Anglo-Portuguese relations. It is expected here that he will draw attention particularly to the assiduity with which German and Italian propaganda in Portugal, as elsewhere, is seeking to convey the impression that Britain is a senile Power hardly to be trusted as an ally. This idea is being conveyed in many guises and through diverse channels. It flavours much of the news distributed to the Portuguese Press at a nominal charge by the official German News Agency. It flavours, also, the news service broadcast to Portugal in English from Germany on a powerful wave-length, so close to that of the British short-wave service that many listeners in Portugal, wishing to hear the British service, receive the German instead. It is put still more bluntly to parties of Portuguese who visit Germany by invitation and are entertained in the most flattering manner." Reprinted in The Telegraph, 13 June 2009.

Saving sounds.

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"From bells, to taxi horns and the shouts of street traders, BBC World Service's new multimedia season Save Our Sounds is on a quest to make people around the world stop, listen and think about the defining noises around them. The Save Our Sounds website – bbcworldservice.com/saveoursounds – has launched an innovative interactive sound map. Audiences are able to record and upload sounds on to the world map to become part of a sonic worldview and an online archive of global noises." BBC World Service press release, 10 June 2009.
     Among the 2008 selections for the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress: "'A Festival of Lessons and Carols as Sung on Christmas Eve in King's College Chapel, Cambridge,' King's College Choir; Boris Ord, director (1954). The annual Festival of Lessons and Carols by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, was introduced in 1918 to bring a new, imaginative approach to worship. The British Broadcasting Corporation began broadcasting the festival in 1928 and included it in BBC's overseas shortwave schedule starting in the early 1930s." Cybergrass, 12 June 2009.
     Review of Michael Snow, "2 Radio Solos": "This release is as much an artefact in time as it is a musical presentation. The image of Michael Snow sitting in a kerosene lamp-lit cabin in northern Canada scanning the shortwave band is something that is quintessentially of this country. The signals are further altered by a cassette recorder whose batteries are running down, providing the only semblance of 'post-production' that manifests in this distinctly primitive scenario. Sounds range from voices and music from around the world phasing in and out of the air, combined with the static-laden, whining frequency shifts that warp with every slight turn of the dial. This way of creating can only be achieved with the analog dial — no digital manipulation here." Nilan Perera, exclaim.ca, 9 June 2009.

Shanghai Television Festival closes with "few deals."

Posted: 14 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"After five days of modest attendance and few deals, the 15th Shanghai Television Festival closed Friday with focused talk about the great small-screen potential for Sino-foreign partnerships. The TV marketplace at the Shanghai Exposition Center was filled with booths set up by U.S. network CBS, Canadian animation giant Nelvana and Germany's Deutsche Welle, among other international exhibitors trying to crack the complex China market. ... Talk was mostly of the sale of formats, not finished product. Some looked to Mexican giant Televisa's recent deal for a new localized telenovela with the Shanghai Media Group for a model. ... Ge Gong, a longtime Dragon TV host and former CNN TV news producer, announced the launch of the 12-part English-language reality TV competition series 'Shanghai Rush' on SMG's International Channel Shanghai." Jonathan Landreth, Hollywood Reporter, 12 June 2009.

"Robust public diplomacy" to East Asia.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Kurt M. Campbell at his Senate confirmation hearing to be Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs: "The elements of U.S. power -- hard and soft -- and American influence are broad and multi-faceted. ... We have enormous opportunity to engage not only governments but also East Asian societies more intensively and creatively, with both traditional tools and new technologies. If confirmed, I will urge our diplomats to take every opportunity to reach out to the people of the Asia-Pacific region through a robust public diplomacy program." State Department, 10 June 2009.

Australian public diplomacy versus assaults on Indian students.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"If you clicked on to the website of the Hindustan Times, one of India's best newspapers, yesterday you would have found the lead story concerned an assault on an Indian student in Adelaide. On the opinion page, columnist Indrajit Hazra penned a thoughtful and oddly witty piece that acknowledged the complexity of the issue of bashings of Indian students in Australia, but included this deadly comment: 'It is disturbing to know that the Australian authorities - whether out of ignorance or as part of PR damage control - are in denial about these attacks being racist.' Australia has been sleepwalking into a crisis over the Indian students. For the moment the news cycle here has run its course. ... If you added up all the money Australia has spent on public diplomacy in the past and added it to all the money we are likely to spend on public diplomacy in the next 20 years, you couldn't buy a tenth of the bad publicity Australia has had in India, and at a less intense level in many other parts of the world, over this." Greg Sheridan, The Australian, 13 June 2009.
     "International interest in the story is continuing. Last night, even BBC's World Service was leading its international bulletin with news of the latest unrest in Sydney." The World Today, ABC (Australia) Radio, 10 June 2009.

Disney-ABC integrates its distribution to the Asia Pacific region.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Disney-ABC International Television (DAIT), Asia Pacific, today announced an integrated distribution structure for the Asia Pacific region aimed at accelerating international growth. Under this structure, the portfolios of Disney Channel and Disney-ABC International Television will be brought together in a single multi-platform distribution business. The move is in keeping with The Walt Disney Company’s continuing efforts to accelerate international growth and create efficient and streamlined structures that drive long-term strategic benefits around the world. ... In the rapidly developing China and Korea markets, the in-market sales teams will be aligned with overall Walt Disney Company country strategies. This integrated distribution structure has been formed to reflect the unique geographic and business nature of the Asia Pacific markets and marks a significant move for the industry in this region. 'With this integration we have ensured we are perfectly positioned to capitalize on the rapidly developing markets and multi-platform opportunities in Asia Pacific,' said Ben Pyne, President, Global Distribution, Disney Media Networks." Disney-ABC press release, 10 June 2009.
     "Dai Hua will become vp media distribution for greater China. All will report to Gilby, with Dai also reporting Stanley Cheung, managing director of the Walt Disney Co., greater China. Disney declined to make Dai available for interview and would not comment beyond the statement." Hollywood Reporter, 11 June 2009.

Burma expands its ethnic radio programming.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Burmese military junta has extended its ethnic radio programs to one hour long in order to propagate its strategies and activities among the ethnic nationalities of Burma. ... The seven major nationalities that are represented in the radio program are Arakanese, Mon, Kachin, Shan, Karen, Kayah, and Chin. ... The Burmese military authority did not allow the airing of Arakanese nationalist songs in the past, but is now attempting to draw Arakanese to listen to the radio program. According to a local source, even though the Arakanese radio program airs Arakanese songs through the Myanmar Broadcasting Service, the program is less popular than the BBC, VOA, and RFA. The majority of people are still listening to the BBC, VOA, and RFA to get accurate and unbiased news stories about Burma. ... Radio Free Asia (Burmese) and the Democratic Voice of Burma also air programs every day in the various ethnic languages, and all major ethnic nationalities in Burma receive nearly 30 minutes a day of programming in their language." Narinjara, 10 June 2009. See previous post about similar subject.

"Shortwave Radio May, In Fact, Be Dead."

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"I bought a Sangean WFR-20 wi-fi tabletop radio. ... In more than 30 years as a shortwave buff, I have never had access to international radio like I do now. Yes, I have been listening to streaming radio for years. I can hardly be in my office without Radio New Zealand, BBC World Service, Radio Australia, or a dozen other favorites coming over my computer speakers. But the Sangean – it looks, feels and sounds like a radio." Jim Tedford, Radio Enthusiast, 5 June 2009.
     "If dad's got a wireless home network, he'll be blown away by a Wi-Fi-ready Internet radio like the VTech IS9181 ($199.99, www.vtech phones.com) or Tivoli Audio Networks Radio ($599, www.tivoliaudio.com). Both deliver endless entertainment from thousands of global radio stations singing and speaking in all manner of languages. While still something of a secret here, Internet radios are a huge phenomenon in Europe, where music lovers are more into creating and listening to independent radio stations than just trading files (and blatantly cheating artists). Big-time broadcasters worldwide have also hopped onto the Internet radio bandwagon as the replacement for shortwave, so many choices sound quite professional. And commercial interruptions are minimal." Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News, 10 June 2009.
     The Livio Radio is the "friendliest Web radio device yet." Arik Hesseldahl, Business Week, 4 June 2009. Unlike most other internet radios, the Livio has a headphone jack on the front, making it useful as a bedside radio for nocturnal listening.
     More internet wifi radios at C Crane Company. In countries where internet content is blocked, and where satellite dishes are illegal, there is no substitute for a shortwave radio. And on the subject of shortwave radios...
     "The Etón Corporation is promoting a 'Buzz Aldrin edition' of its Grundig Aviator G6 AM-FM-shortwave portable radio with an aircraft band. Magazine ads show Mr. Aldrin in profile, in a space helmet, superimposed on the number 40; the radio sits on the surface of the moon." New York Times, 10 June 2009.

Another regulatory setback for Worldspace in India.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"WorldSpace India, not wholly tarnished by the parent company’s recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy, must re-apply for its India radio licences. The ruling also covers the playing of streamed music content on the broadcaster’s website. The decision has been made because internet-based services must be authorised and cleared by India’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board. WorldSpace local Indian services are seen as ‘business to consumer’ proposals, and thus must be licensed. ... WorldSpace streams – or has been streaming – about 34 radio channels locally. While this is something of a revenue set-back for WorldSpace, it seems the broadcaster is still hopeful of starting an all-India satellite radio service by the middle of next year – provided it gets hold of its much-promised license." Rapid TV News, 10 June 2009. "Thanks to a quirky policy, WorldSpace India will have to wait until the notification of Government policy pertaining to satellite radio services, to offer streaming of audio music programmes on its Web site." The Hindu Business Lines, 10 June 2009. See also Radioandmusic.com, 10 June 2009.

"Gently, gently" for democratization in the Arab world.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Enabled by satellite broadcast media, Arab citizens — not, by and large, their governments — are at the forefront of democratization, and democratization will likely remain a key focus of U.S. interest and involvement in the Arab world for decades to come. This process, however, is slow-going and subject to pressures and influences from within and without. U.S. policies aimed at advancing the process have thus far has sought to inject American values via hard-power and soft-power interventions alike. The degree to which this American role will include listening to and understanding Arab voices is an open question. For now, clues to how democratization will continue to unfold and whether U.S. policies will ultimately contribute to its success can be heard on Arab satellite TV, echoed in the words of Fawzia Salama, the Egyptian co-host of Kalam Nawaem: 'We are a traditional conservative society. There is a common value system that we all share. And this value system,' says Salama, 'stems from the notion of stability, of resistance to change. And if you try to break that mold, you won’t have an influence at all. I don’t think the Arab world takes very kindly to revolutions; I would say it’s an evolution. Gently, gently does it, in the Arab world.'" Marda Dunsky, PBS Wide Angle, 1 June 2009. For "gently, gently," US international broadcasting might be more suitable than US public diplomacy. See previous post.
     "Unfortunately this posting has several inaccuracies. Let’s get the facts straight on Alhurra’s audience and mission. Alhurra has a weekly reach of 27 million people, according to international research firms such as ACNielsen. This independent research shows that Alhurra is the third most popular 24-hour pan-Arab news and information network and that Alhurra is the leading international news television channel broadcasting to the Middle East. In Iraq, Alhurra has a weekly reach of 55 percent of the viewing audience, beating Al-Jazeera. Alhurra’s mission is a journalistic one. Alhurra is required, by law, to be conducted in accordance with the highest professional standards of broadcast journalism; and include news which is consistently reliable and accurate, objective and comprehensive." Alhurra spokesperson Deirdre Kline, comment to ibid, 9 June 2009.

Qantara.de, with DW as partner, adds Indonesian.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Internet portal Qantara.de, which seeks to promote intercultural dialogue with people in the Islamic world, is now available online in Indonesian. The aim is to make the website, which has until now been available in German, English, Arabic and Turkish, more accessible to target groups in Southeast Asia. ... Qantara.de has been published online in Arabic, English and German since 2003, with Turkish being added in 2007. The project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and is jointly run by Deutsche Welle, the Goethe Institute, the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) and the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa)." DW press release, 9 June 2009.

Play in Prague based on trial of Václav Havel for his 1989 remarks on RFE/RL.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A drama called Instigation and Punishment (Podnecovani a trest) based on the exact transcripts from the trial of Czech dissident and later president Václav Havel in February 1989 was premiered in Prague's Montmartre Gallery on Tuesday. ... In January 1989, Havel, playwright and anti-communist activist, remembered on Radio Free Europe student Jan Palach's self-immolation in January 1969 in protest against the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia. The communist police then arrested Havel. He was, among others, charged with 'instigation' and sent to prison for eight months." ČTK, 9 June 2009.

Will former BBG chairman move in close to RFE/RL HQ?

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"There's chatter that Marc Nathanson, cable and radio mogul and former chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, Radio and Television Marti, and Radio Free Asia, is the leading contender for that spectacular ambassador's residence in Prague -- despite his strong support for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid." Al Kamen, Washington Post, 10 June 2009.

New chief of VOA's New York bureau.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Bernard Shusman, a veteran of radio and television news, has been named chief of the Voice of America (VOA) New York bureau, responsible for covering the northeastern United States. ... Shusman joined VOA a year ago, working with VOA’s language services that produce television programming. While at Newsweek, Shusman won the George Foster Peabody Award for developing an animated editorial cartoon series for broadcast by TV stations across the country. He spent eleven years at Newsweek as a Vice President and Executive Producer. He has also worked in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City for NBC News/GE. As a corporate news director at General Electric Group, Shusman managed television and radio news operations in Denver, Nashville, and Schenectady. He established a Washington, D.C., news bureau to cover news in the nation’s capital." VOA press release, 10 June 2009.
     As chief of the New York bureau of US-funded VOA, Mr. Shusman will have to vie with reports from New York from competing international broadcasters, including this one from VOA's US-funded archrival: RFE/RL News, 12 June 2009.

RFE/RL and US base unwelcome in Kyrgyzstan.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has steered Kyrgyzstan sharply back into the orbit of Moscow. In January, Mr. Bakiyev jolted Washington by announcing he was evicting the U.S. from an air base that has been crucial to the supply of troops fighting in Afghanistan. ... In the fall, the Kyrgyz government cut off broadcasts of U.S-funded Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, which had hosted a talk show critical of regional elections that were swept by mostly pro-government parties. The U.S. issued a statement of protest, but the programming has remained off the air.
Russian state television, which is broadcast throughout the country, has beamed in a steady stream of reports critical of the U.S. presence, alleging the U.S. base here was a center of high-tech surveillance and drug dealing." Alan Cullison, Wall Street Journal, 10 June 2009.
     "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported last week that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had written to Bakiyev, urging him to help Afghanistan by allowing operations at Manas [the US base] to continue." CNSNews.com, 12 June 2009. Referring to RFE/RL News, 11 June 2009. See previous post about Kyrgyzstan.

US official meets with Azerbaijani officials about US broadcast relays.

Posted: 13 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Philippe Gordon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and civil society groups in Baku, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. ... Gordon said the U.S. administration is keen to move forward on the issue of U.S. radio broadcasts on local frequencies, as the Azerbaijani government ended all RFE/RL and Voice of America broadcasts on FM stations on January 1. The U.S. government has proposed an intergovernmental agreement that would allow Azerbaijani and U.S. broadcasts in both countries. Gordon said there is no need for an alternative plan to convince the Azerbaijani government to resume broadcasts on FM." RFE/RL News, 12 June 2009.
     "Recently a group of activists from Azerbaijan ... do not like that the famous German Radio Station Deutsche Welle has introduced Nagorno Karabakh with its administrative borders within the territory of Azernaijan in the map of the weather forecast column. Azerbaijan got frustrated that for example borders of Abkhazia and South Osetia are not marked in Georgian territory unlike to Nagorno Karabakh. 'The best option is to mark only the state borders', - Azeris suggest. They have decided to apply to Deutsche Welle with a demand to correct the mistake." Aravot daily via Huliq News, 9 June 2009.

Another Nigerian sponsor for CNN International.

Posted: 12 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNN International has announced today that Nigerian insurance company IEI will sponsor CNN International's newest programming block, dedicated to exploring global companies who are making a positive impact on the environment while trying to make a profit. The 'Going Green: Green Light for Business' programming will begin from 5th July across CNN screens in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; the first of three blocks over the next six months with IEI commercial spots and billboards attached." CNN press release, 10 June 2009.
     "'Going Green: Green Light for Business' is a half-hour special presented by CNN anchors Fionnuala Sweeney, Kristie Lu Stout and Brooke Baldwin from Paris, Hong Kong and California, respectively. The program examines the pressure on companies to balance their environmental ethics with the imperative for profit. CNN, 12 June 2009.

African Union and Venezuela discuss new "South-South" television channel.

Posted: 12 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The president of the African Union (AU), Gabonese economist and politician Jean Ping, met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and other government officials in Caracas on Tuesday to prepare for the Africa - South America Summit scheduled to take place in Caracas in the last week of September. ... Ping and Chávez discussed commerce, education, health care, and the need to create a television channel based in the Global South, similar to the Caracas-based news station Telesur, to connect the African and South American continents. 'We become accustomed to listen as the North speaks,' said Ping. 'We must give our countries the opportunity to express themselves, that it be the South-South voice.'" venezuelanalysis.com, 10 June 2009.

Alleged spies for Cuba: shortwave listeners or shortwave senders? (updated again)

Posted: 12 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A former State Department official and his wife have been arrested on charges of serving as illegal agents of the Cuban government for nearly 30 years and conspiring to provide classified U.S. information to the Cuban government. ... An indictment and criminal complaint unsealed today in the District of Columbia charge Walter Kendall Myers, 72, ... and his wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 71, ... with conspiracy to act as illegal agents of the Cuban government and to communicate classified information to the Cuban government. ... According to the affidavit, during this time frame, the CuIS [Cuban Intelligence Service] often communicated with its clandestine agents in the United States by broadcasting encrypted radio messages from Cuba on shortwave radio frequencies. Clandestine agents in the United States monitoring the frequency on shortwave radio could decode the messages using a decryption program provided by the CuIS. Such methods were employed by defendants previously convicted of espionage on behalf of Cuba. According to the affidavit, the Myers have an operable shortwave radio in their apartment and they told an FBI source that they have used it to receive messages from the CuIS. ... The Myers also discussed how they had passed information to CuIS agents, with both agreeing that the most secure way was 'hand-to-hand.' According to the affidavit, Gwendolyn Myers said her favorite way of passing information to CuIS agents involved the changing of shopping carts in a grocery store because it was 'easy enough to do.' ... According to the affidavit, the FBI collects high frequency [shortwave] messages broadcast by the CuIS to its agents and has identified messages that it has determined were broadcast to a handler of Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers." US Department of Justice press release, 5 June 2009. Thanks to Jukka Kinkamo for sending this.
     News reports provide conflicting details. Some report the Myers's transmitted on shortwave, others says they just received messages via shortwave. Some reports mention Morse code: "Their methods of communicating with the Cubans included Morse code on shortwave radio, changing shopping carts at the grocery store and a face-to-face meeting with President Fidel Castro himself, court documents say." AP, 6 June 2009. "The indictment alleges that they spent years sending encrypted Morse code messages from their flat in Washington's expensive diplomatic quarter - just a few hundred yards from the British Embassy." The [ahem] Telegraph, 7 June 2009.
     Other reports specify receiving: "The two received messages from the Cuban government via shortwave radio and hand-passed messages, and typically passed their responses to handlers by hand." Reuters, 5 June 2009. "Mr Myers allegedly received his instructions from his Cuban handlers over short wave in the form of coded messages." BBC News, 6 June 2009.
     I would have to see the "court documents," but transmitting shortwave is rather more difficult than receiving shortwave, especially from an apartment in Northwest Washington. And Morse code requires skill and practice. The "Morse code" might be a corruption of just "code," which can be accomplished by voice transmissions. Most of us who own an "operable shortwave radio" have stumbled across "numbers stations," on which usually a female voice speaks numbers, usually in groups of five. A portable radio costing 100 dollars or less can easily pick up these transmissions.
     Update: "An indictment filed against the couple alleges that in 2006 they destroyed or disposed of 'certain clandestine foreign agent tradecraft items,' except for a shortwave radio they owned. The indictment notes the radio is the same make as one used by Ana Belen Montes, who is now doing 25 years in prison for spying for Cuba. And, the indictment notes, Kendall Myers knows Morse code." Lesley Clark, Miami Herald, 7 June 2009. So my "Morse code as corruption" hypothesis seems to be disintegrating. The indictment, however, does not state specifically that Mr. Myers used Morse code to receive the messages from Cuba. It does appear that shortwave was used for receiving, not transmitting. See section of the indictment that refers to radio. The indictment was posted by Charisse Van Horn to Examiner.com, 5 June 2009.
     Second Update: Most of the recent batch of stories have the alleged spies transmitting shortwave, though I did not see any specific references to transmitting in the indictment. ...
     "US authorities say that the Myerses delivered government secrets to Cuban agents over the past 30 years using a shortwave radio, by swapping carts at a grocery store, and in at least one face-to-face meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Cuba." Nedra Pickler, AP, 11 June 2009.
     "They are charged with spying for 30 years in a case filled with Cold War-style intrigue -- with the couple allegedly passing messages to Cuban agents via shortwave radio and by swapping shopping carts with Cuban agents in D.C. supermarkets. ... Facciola, the magistrate judge, noted that the evidence presented by prosecutors included shortwave messages to Cuban agents that mentioned the Myerses' code names, as well as the discovery in their home of a shortwave radio similar to those used by convicted Cuban spies." Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, 11 June 2009.
     "The two allegedly passed on secrets for decades to Washington's Cold War foe via shortwave radio less high-tech methods." AFP, 11 June 2009.
     "One of the preferred methods for agents to receive instructions from Havana is by shortwave radio. U.S. intelligence officers and amateur radio enthusiasts have long noted the daily broadcasts from 'numbers stations,' which are known to carry information to Cuba’s espionage network in the U.S. The 'numbers stations' broadcast a series of numbers through voice or code, and are given meaning by the use of 'pads.' The numbers gain meaning usually by corresponding to letters in a 'pad.' Because the 'pads' differ day to day, it is impossible to break the broadcast codes. In this manner, Havana can send information to its network in the U.S. without fear of interference by American counterintelligence. Other nations also use 'numbers stations,' but there are particular 'stations' which are specifically associated with Cuba. Not only are signals traced back to Cuba with reasonable reliability, but there have been occasions when Cuban 'numbers' are mixed for a brief time with regular Radio Havana international broadcasts." Toby Westerman, Canada Free Press, 9 June 2009.

Al Jazeera commentary cites VOA Persian (updated).

Posted: 12 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Iran election: "Reformist supporters are rallying around Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man who has rocketed to idol status following Khatami’s endorsement of his candidacy. ... Though he lacks the soaring oratory of Khatami, his tone conveys backbone. 'I will deliver,' he seems to say. No small feat given the enormity of the pledges he has made: privacy rights, revision of discriminatory laws against women, removing the widely-hated morality police and allowing a free press. Many pundits – notably on Voice of America's Persian service which broadcasts via satellite into the majority of Iranian living rooms – dismiss such goals as empty slogans, or lofty idealism at best." Tara Mahtafar, Aljazeera.net, 11 June 2009.
     "If a 'Mousavi Effect' could open a window of opportunity for Iranian public diplomacy and soft power, the big question -- just as it was for Obama -- would be whether Iran would use that moment to reinforce existing lines of conflict or to break them down." Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy blog, 10 June 2009.
     Update: "Mohsen Rezai (former head of the notorious IRGC, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) does not give campaign speeches in universities so that he may steer clear of questioning perhaps pertaining to Interpol’s warrant for Rezai’s arrest for direct involvement with the July 18, 1994 suicide bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. ... In 1999, Mohsen Rezai’s own son, Ahmad Rezai sat in a panel discussion with the news service Voice of America to voice one of the most serious accusations against his father. He stated: 'We believe that the Islamic Republic is a terrorist regime, the biggest terrorist government in the world…We want to be free…but we have no freedom in Iran.'" Ana K. Sami, Al Arabiya, 12 June 2009.
     "Supporters of 'reformist' candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, with the backing of the Persian Service of Voice of America, claim to have discovered a secret 'fatwa' or religious ruling issued by a radical cleric close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." Kenneth R. Timmerman, Newsmax.com, 11 June 2009.
     "Radio Farda and independent Iranian news agencies report that text-messaging services, which are particularly popular among the country's youth, have been blocked across the country since the early morning hours on election day. It was unclear why authorities or telecommunications providers might be interfering to prevent people from sending or receiving messages on mobile phones." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 June 2009.

New head of hasbara.

Posted: 11 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The editor of the '7 Days' supplement in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth has been appointed head of hasbara (public diplomacy) at the Prime Minister's Office. Nir Hefez, 44, has been the supplement's editor for the last three years. He is considered a close associate of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and other senior Likud figures, and in 2001 was nominated to be director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, though he was ultimately not selected for the post." Ha'aretz, 12 June 2009.

Mussolini (dead) versus the British Council (75 years old) (updated).

Posted: 11 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
The Rt Hon Lord (Neil) Kinnock of Bedwellty, chair of the British Council: "Two years before the Italians invaded Ethiopia (as you know from your knowledge of the 1930s) there were countries in Europe and Asia who were trying to express their attitude towards international relations by wearing jackboots and marching, rearming and invading other countries. In Britain there was a group of people in the foreign office, who felt the need to prepare for war. We (The British Council) feel that much longer lasting effects can be achieved if we seek to influence people's attitudes through contact and creativity rather than simply engaging in warfare. Reality remains that, sometimes, international policy returns violence for violence. I am not a pacifist and neither is the British Council but we understand the ongoing veracity that when people are bullied, they will fight back. But if international relations were left at that, it would be a very dangerous and ugly world. Even if it were left at formal diplomacy - government to government diplomacy- such as it is, still would not be enough for it would not reach the people in the various countries belonging to the various cultures, opinions and persuasions. The reason we exist and the reason we started out was to develop what we now call, in phrases that I coined, 'People to People Diplomacy' or 'Public Diplomacy', which goes along side the more formal diplomacy. While it is not the sole alternative to armed engagement, I think it is a much more durable way of conducting affairs. I sum up like this: Mussolini and Hitler are dead and we are celebrating our 75th anniversary." Addis Fortune, 7 June 2009.
     Update: Council, the UK’s international body for cultural relations. ... 'I have ... come to the conclusion that the vitally important status of the British Council as an «arms length» Non-Departmental Public Body means that I cannot continue in the office of Chairman without risking the possibility of perceptions, at home or abroad, that the essential operational independence of the Council could be compromised because I am the husband of a Minister in the FCO, the sponsoring Department of the Council.'" finchannel.com, 10 June 2009. See also British Council press release, 9 June 2009.

Aljazeera.net wins Arab eContent Award for harmony, simplicity, etc (updated).

Posted: 11 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Qtel, The Doha Debates and Al Jazeera were all recently awarded the Arab eContent Award for 2009 at a ceremony in Bahrain. ... When it comes to Aljazeera (www.aljazeera.net), which is the most visited website in the Arab world and is among the top 200 most visited in the world, getting news in both Arabic and English to the general public and engaging them is their primary focus. With images, video, audio, flash, documents and easy links, the website's tool bar helps the users to conveniently navigate the site by providing rich and well structured content. The site's harmony and simplicity in color and graphics also make for a positive user experience." Shalini Ravi, Global Arab Network, 9 June 2009.
     Update: "Al Jazeera English has been awarded four gold and three silver Promax/BDA Arabia Awards in recognition for its originality and creativeness for its on-air promos and titles. The prestigious Promax/BDA awards recognize outstanding creative on-air promotion and advertising in the field of broadcast media and electronics. This year, where almost 700 entries were received Al Jazeera English won four gold awards for, 'Best News, Factual Programme Promo: State of the Union', 'Best Promo Not Using Programme Footage: State of the Union', 'Best Holiday/Seasonal/Special Event Promo: State of the Union" and "Best Promotional Campaign: News Maps'." Australian-Media.com.au, 11 June 2009.

Al Jazeera English hopes to be on Canadian cable by fall (updated again).

Posted: 11 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The managing director of Al Jazeera English is confident that the network will get regulatory approval to broadcast across Canada, perhaps as soon as the fall. A 30-day 'public consultation' process is now underway by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission... Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said his organization remains concerned about allowing Al Jazeera English in Canada, but less so than it was six years ago. 'Al Jazeera English, we know, is not Al Jazeera Arabic. But they still have this millstone around their neck and that is their parent company,' Farber said." Toronto Star, 2 June 2009.
     "'Having more independent journalism, having another voice or another option for the Canadian audience to tap into is something that will help democracy, will help shape public opinion,' said Walied Khogali, coordinator of Canadians for Al Jazeera. ... 'A lot of people watch it online,' said Khogali. 'Why shouldn’t we have that in the comfort of our living rooms?'" The Hook blog, The Tyee (Vancouver), 5 June 2009.
     "Al Jazeera’s staff and reporters are as diverse as Canada. It has more than 1,200 staff from nearly 50 nationalities, including more than 45 ethnicities, constituting the most diverse news network in the world. Furthermore, a high proportion of AJE’s reporters are women, also adding to the diversity in topics and perspectives covered." Walied Khogali and Anita Krajnc, Toward Freedom, 5 June 2009.
     Update: "Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) urges the CRTC to allow Al Jazeera English Television to be broadcast in Canada. ... 'CJFE believes that the English service of Al Jazeera brings coverage from parts of the world which western media does not cover, particularly in many conflict situations." CJFE press release, 8 June 2009.
     "Two networks of groups, Canadians for Al Jazeera and Campaign for Democratic Media, have partnered in a campaign to support Al Jazeera English’s CRTC application to broadcast in Canada." rabble.ca, 8 June 2009.
     "All five major student unions in the Greater Toronto Area unanimously endorsed Al Jazeera English's application to the CRTC." StraightGoods.ca, 11 June 2009.
     From review of Philip Seib, the Al Jazeera Effect: How the new global media are reshaping world politics: "Seib's analysis sweeps through the Middle East and Asia, where newer media are challenging the old, often state controlled information channels. It constructs a strategic analysis of what he called ‘the al Jazeera effect’; the ‘rewiring of the world’s neural system’ by more accessible and interactive media." Alan Knight, Pacific Journalism Review, via Scoop Review of Books, 1 June 2009.

International broadcasting: not as simple as stimulus-response.

Posted: 11 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Ongoing attempts to improve Arab opinion of the United States through public relations ... proved ineffective. In 2002, the Bush administration established Radio Sawa to air news from an American perspective and in 2004, the al-Hurra news channel was launched. Despite the considerable financial investments in the outlets, Arab opinion of the United States continued to decline." Bayann Hamid, Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, 8 June 2009. It is a mistake to tie the existence of US international broadcasting efforts to changes in opinions in the target country. International broadcasting succeeds by providing news that is more reliable, comprehensive, and credible than the news from state controlled media in the target country. It does not succeed by proving news "from the perspective of" the broadcasting country. The most noticeable change caused by international broadcasting is that the audience will be better informed, not that its opinions will change. If the policies of the United States are wise and virtuous, then it is plausible that the opinions of well informed audiences will, in the long term, move, at least slightly, in the direction of US views. This is a subtle process, usually not measurable, year-to-year, in surveys.
     "The White House views the speech in Cairo by President Obama reaching out to Muslims as part of its aggressive effort to counter the lies of Muslim extremists while promoting American values around the world. Specialists in international public diplomacy, however, said the president missed a chance to launch a much-needed program to more directly critique the roots of Muslim extremism and counter its ideology of hate with a war of ideas. ... James Glassman, who left government in January as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, said the Obama speech fell short by failing to offer a new strategic direction. Mr. Glassman said the problem is the president continued the ineffective line of reasoning that the best way to counter the false notion that the U.S. is out to destroy Islam is by promoting the "to know us is to love us" theme. 'That doesn't get you anywhere,' Mr. Glassman said. 'Nobody wants to listen to that. It's much better to develop a counternarrative that states that what this is all about is that there is a conflict going on in Muslim societies that deeply affects us, but [that it] is an intra-Muslim conflict. We need to say that even though it may not be politically correct.'" Bill Gertz, Washington Times, 11 June 2009. This sounds like a job for international broadcasting. If US public diplomacy takes a side in the intra-Muslim conflict, that could arouse suspicions about that side. If US international broadcasting reports on the various sides of that conflict, the moderate side gets an airing it might not otherwise have.
     "Obama’s speech may help him back home by pushing up his popularity. Americans love such orations. It may not help the US much in the Islamic world. The use of soft power to counter pernicious ideologies coming out of the Islamic world is important. They have to be countered in a more subtle and sophisticated manner through personal interactions, dialogue in small groups, radio and TV programs, Internet chats etc. A Cairo-style address is not suited for this purpose." Bahukutumbi Raman, YNetnews.com, 10 June 2009.

Foreign Policy blogger: US international broadcasting "rarely taken seriously."

Posted: 11 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The future of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and other US-funded media ventures lies in providing services like content aggregation. In the long term, their only shot at staying relevant is to figure out how to be the Google News of their region, helping to discover new and original content without producing any expensive content of their own. Their content, whether they like it or not, would always be perceived as American propaganda and thus thus rarely taken seriously . ... Our extremely saturated new media environment makes the US-funded media sources look even less appealing, especially if compared to hundreds of other (much less expensive) sources. Aggregation (and, possibly, even curation) is the only activity where these media could add value; they should get out of other business lines as fast as we can. The huge savings that would occur from this transfiguration–Voice of America alone has a budget of roughly $188 million – could be put to good use by subsidizing the production of high-quality original reporting in the local languages by independent newspapers, magazines, and TV stations; many key players in this field have been cultivated by players like USAID and Internews and are well-known to the State Department. While many viewers and listeners have concerns about the objectivity of Alhurra or even RFE/RL, considerably fewer of them have reservations about the objectivity of some Russian, Egyptian, or Kyrgyz radio or TV station simply because some of its promising young journalists got to spend 9 months as fellows at American college (even if their entire fellowships were paid by the US government)." Evgeny Morozov, net.effect blog, Foreign Policy, 9 June 2009.
     US international broadcasting would not have its present weekly audience of 175 million (second only to that of the BBC world services), if it were perceived as "propaganda and thus rarely taken seriously."
     The idea of transferring the budget of USIB to the subsidization of local media ignores the main point of US and other Western international broadcasting. These broadcasts get information into countries where independent local media are not allowed to exist, or are controlled to the point that they are deficient news sources. That's why many Russian, Egyptians, and Kyrgyz still access international broadcasts even though domestic broadcasting is available in their countries.
     As for content aggregation, can USIB really compete against Google and Yahoo!, which are already available in several languages? On the other hand, Google and Yahoo! don't translate all of the news they aggregate. Thus, for some target countries, USIB might someday consist largely of a website that translates AP and Reuters into the countries' languages.

Pan-Arab channels cover the Lebanese election.

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Hezbollah’s mouthpiece Al-Manar had reporters in districts where the opposition vote was most crucial, focusing on any violations and alleged incidents of fraud throughout the day. ... Al-Jazeera sent a team of reporters from Qatar for election field coverage in order to link 'the Lebanese window to the rest of Al-Jazeera’s news journals.' ... The field reporters spoke to citizens from all the competing parties. Al-Arabiya consistently referred to a sophisticated 'interactive touch screen' to present election-day graphics. And while Al-Jazeera spent more time on street interviews to get the facts on the ground, Al-Arabiya instead focused on studio interviews and analysis." Sarah A.I., Menassat, 9 June 2009.

One cheer for "hot print."

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"We can watch 24/7 news channels on TV such as CNN or BBC World; we can listen to the radio online, tuning in to BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service or Voice of America and yet most of us -- from my generation, at least -- get our news from the newspapers. I have written before that, while it is laughably easy to access any news publication in the world over the Internet, nothing beats cracking open a newspaper, turning or folding the pages and actually reading hot print. Reading online is just not the same experience as the touch, feel and smell of a real newspaper, book or magazine." Ashley Perks, Istanbul, Today's Zaman, 8 June 2009.
     "Enunciate your newspaper. Read it out loud. On this one the government is miles ahead of us. The Voice of America has long hosted a broadcast service known as 'Special English.' It reaches out to the English-speaking Caribbean, where so many variants of the mother tongue are spoken that is impossible to misinform with just one speaker using only one dialect. So they write the news up (typing slowly, I presume) and the announcer reads it with such lengthy pauses between each word that it is feels nearly unbearable. ... And isn’t that what a newspaper should be?" Syracuse New Times, 10 June 2009.

CRI launches FM outlet in Canberra (updated).

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"China Radio International is now on the air in the Australian capital of Canberra. ... The launch ceremony was held on Friday evening at the Australian National Museum. It was attended by senior officials from CRI, China's ambassador to Australia, and members of Canberra City Council. Carried on the frequency of FM 88, CRI Canberra will provide twelve hours of English-language content each day. Its signals will reach some 300 thousand people in the city and surrounding areas." CCTV.com, 10 May 2009. Perhaps CRI is leasing time on a Spanish-speaking station in Canberra, on 88 Mhz, called Radio Austral. It can't be very high powered, because there is also a university station in the same city on 87.8 MHz. Any chance for reciprocity, i.e. Radio Australia Mandarin in Beijing?
     Update: "The Australian partner in the Chinese radio venture is Melbourne-based Tommy Jiang, 45, who was a soccer player until he came to Australia 21 years ago from Beijing to improve his English. Since deciding to stay and becoming a citizen, he has developed a media empire, including eight Chinese-language newspapers covering most major Australian cities, as well as the commercial radio stations, which employ about 60 people. ... Meanwhile, Australia Network, the government-funded ABC station that broadcasts TV programs to the Asia-Pacific region, remains locked out of China, a key target, despite extensive lobbying by Canberra. But Bruce Dover, chief executive of AN -- which has meanwhile negotiated 422 rebroadcasting contracts in other countries in the region -- says he remains optimistic about eventually gaining access in China." The Australian, 8 June 2009.

Burma warns against unlicensed radio listening.

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Burmese junta has clamped down on the rising numbers of unlicensed radio owners in a move that media experts see as restriction on the freedom of media and access to pro-democracy broadcasts. The ruling junta yesterday issued a warning in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper that those listening to radio without holding a license could be prosecuted under the Wireless Act. The warning carried no information on why people would be prosecuted nor why numbers of listeners are increasing, but a Burmese journalist on the China-Burma border said the increase was linked to the political crisis. 'People tend to buy radios when there is a stir in politics,' he said. ... He added that sales of shortwave radios manufactured by China, which are used by exiled Burmese media groups to broadcast, were also on the rise." Democratic Voice of Burma, 8 June 2009. Many countries impose license fees on television receivers, e.g. the UK, to pay for the BBC. A few countries, e.g. Burma, still have license fees on radio receivers.

BBC Insomniac Service.

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Q: I am a poor sleeper and while away the long hours by listening to the BBC World Service. I use a speaker under my pillow so as not to disturb anyone. I have started to worry that the radio waves might cause damage to my head. Is this a real danger? A: [By Dr Dan Rutherford] Radio waves and all the other electromagnetic radiation associated with television, satellite communications, mobile phones, for example, that surround us are there anyway and we are exposed to them whether we like it or not. Devices that transmit radio waves, such as mobile phones, have raised health concerns but to date there is no good evidence that they cause definite harm. Ordinary domestic radios receive only the radio signal and turn it into sound, so you can be reassured there is no health hazard associated with your nocturnal listening." The Telegraph, 8 June 2009. The writer is almost certainly listening to the all-night relay of World Service on BBC Radio 4. For listening to radio during insomnia, even better than a pillow speaker is this thing.

BBC channels expand presence in Singapore (updated).

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide Channels Asia today announced a new deal to launch BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies on StarHub TV, Singapore's largest pay TV platform. The 24-hour channels will go live on 1st August, reaching some 527,000 pay-TV subscribers in Singapore." BBC Worldwide press release, 5 June 2009.
     Update: "BBC Worldwide has struck two deals in Singapore, with rivals StarHub and SingTel’s IPTV platform mio TV, which will see the BBC’s linear channels leave mio TV. Starhub’s deal makes the operator the exclusive partner for BBC Worldwide channels. Three additional channels will launch from August 1 – BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies. The channels join BBC World News and BBC Entertainment on the platform. ... Meanwhile, the SingTel deal will see a selection of BBC and ITV content added to the mio on-demand roster. Programming from BBC Worldwide and ITV Global Entertainment will form two new categories in the VOD section, British Drama and British Documentary." Rapid TV News, 7 June 2009.
     "BBC Worldwide Channels has acquired ... chat show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross for its network of international channels, including BBC AMERICA. A consistent ratings hit on BBC One, Ross' entertaining blend of comedy, celebrity chat and the latest music will air from June on BBC AMERICA, BBC Canada, UKTV in New Zealand and the BBC Entertainment feeds across Latin America, Scandinavia and Africa." BBC Worldwide press release, 4 June 2009. See excerpt at BBC America.

Travel to a distant exotic locale, then watch France 24 in your hotel room.

Posted: 10 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"France 24 reaches 670 000 hotel rooms in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and New York. ... According to European Media Survey 2008, France 24's audience is the one who travels the most: 18 nights on average spent in hotels per year compared to 16 for the other international channels (BBC World News, CNN International, Euronews, MTV, Eurosport). It also clearly indicates that in hotels, opinion leaders watch news channels twice as much as other thematic programs, such as sports or music channels, when travelling." Press release via AMEInfo, 9 June 2009.

Would change in EuroNews status increase turnout in European elections?

Posted: 09 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
European elections: "Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) leader Graham Watson said the low turnout could be interpreted in two ways: 'Either people don't go to vote because they are perfectly satisfied, or because there must be something wrong. We need to work towards a proper policy of communication about what happens at EU level, give Euronews the status of public station broadcaster in all of our countries, and elect a percentage of the European Parliament on a pan-European list. That might help us to have a European debate, rather than help us to have 27 national debates,' he said." EurActiv, 7 June 2009.

NPR versus Radio France.

Posted: 09 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In France, we praise ourselves as being the champions of public broadcasting. We have many brands around Radio France, great shows, excellent journalistic crews and so on. Brands such as France Inter or the all-news channel France Info appeal to a large audience; others, France Culture being one example, target only small circles and feel themselves totally liberated from vulgar strictures such as attracting large audiences. Fine. Personally, I don’t mind having a fraction of my taxes (including a specific line item) diverted to the feeding of the public broadcasting beast. Unfortunately, in my country, public broadcasting is the permanent epicenter of political battles. When the government appoints new management, the new princes replace the next layer on the org chart and reward their friends in the process. ... By comparison, NPR is close to what a public broadcasting system ought to be: independent, content-rich, mass market, local — and fully digital. Here are key figures (some are extracted from a great story published this spring in Fast Company magazine): • NPR weekly audience: 26.4m listeners; by comparison, Fox News has 2.8m viewers in prime time. ... Less than 2% [of its funding] is coming from the government (this should come as a surprise to my French friends who see public broadcasting inherently dependant on public funding). NPR is privately-funded public radio." Frédéric Filloux, Monday Note, via CBS News, 8 January 2009.
     The Radio France mentioned in this piece is the domestic public broadcaster, not Radio France International. The point about the political appointment of Radio France management, versus the board-appointed management of NPR, is important. US international broadcasting top managers are also now appointed by a board, the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Abolish the BBG, and senior managers of US international broadcasting elements would again be politically appointed, à la Radio France.
     The article also points out that "43% of [NPR's] funding comes from membership fees paid by local affiliates." These affiliates receive grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, so the amount of government funding going to NPR is actually greater than two percent. The affiliates, however, do provide a layer of decision making between the government and NPR.

Gabon officials criticize French media for reporting the death of President Bongo, who died.

Posted: 09 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The apparent death of Bongo was first reported late on Sunday by the Web site of French magazine Le Point, quoting a source close to the Gabonese president’s entourage. The news was immediately seconded by AFP news agency, this time quoting a source close to the French government. However, Gabon’s government spokesman Raphael N’Toutoume told French radio: 'I am putting out a formal denial of this'. Later on Monday, Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong claimed Bongo was 'indeed alive,' in a formal statement that also lambasted the 'excesses of French media'." France 24, 8 June 2009.
     "The French Foreign Ministry has denied being the source of reports that Bongo had died on TV station France 24, as well as several other French media houses." AP, 8 June 2009.
     "Gabon voices protest against French media over false information." Xinhua, 8 June 2009.
     "Access to the internet in Gabon has been cut since Sunday, and state TV has been playing religious music. In a written statement on Monday, Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong announced the 73-year-old veteran leader had died of a heart attack, hours after saying Mr Bongo was alive and well." BBC News, 9 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

A few more items about Obama's Cairo speech.

Posted: 08 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera. The coverage from this Qatar-based satellite television network was probably the most positive of any of the Arab world's major news outlets. ... Al-Manar. The Beirut-based satellite television station of Hezbollah emphasized the mixed reviews that Obama's speech received in the Arab world, even as it celebrated Obama's conciliatory gestures toward Islam. But Al-Manar also represented Obama's speech as a defeat for Israel. ... Al-Alam. The Arabic-language news station owned and run by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting also interpreted Obama's speech as a victory for Palestine and a defeat for Israel. ... Al-Arabiyya This influential Dubai-based satellite news channel emphasized the political struggles Obama will face at home because of his speech." Eric Calderwood, Boston Globe, 7 June 2009.
     "The White House said it carefully monitored the response across the Arab world to Obama's landmark speech in Cairo on Thursday in which he vowed to forge a 'new beginning' with Islam. Officials cited an online poll by Maktoob Research for the Broadcasting Board of Governors that showed more than 75 percent of people who were asked in Muslim nations said they viewed the speech positively. They are also sifting through data collected from the use of new media methods like Facebook and the social networking site Twitter to spread Obama's message." Stephen Collinson, AFP, 7 June 2009.
     "From my hotel room in Kabul I listened to Obama’s speech as it was broadcast on the Arabic-language network Al-Jazeera. Often accused in Washington and by U.S. military commanders of having an anti-American bias, Al-Jazeera dedicated "special events" coverage to the Cairo speech. The network, the leading Arab broadcaster, had correspondents posted around the world to gather reaction and ran highlights of Obama’s address in every newscast. Its reporters described Obama’s appeal to open a new page in relations with Muslims as a possible 'turning point.' ... This is a huge break from the past. Former President George Bush was Al-Jazeera’s bête noire." Richard Engel, World Blog, NBC News, 5 July 2009. See previous post about same subject.

More Tiananmen memories (updated).

Posted: 08 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"I felt numb for all of Summer break. I went back to school in the fall, but the normal classes were cancelled. The first month was arranged for pure political document study. Since the senior students I was in charge of had graduated already, I was appointed to lead a new freshman class. The first day, I told the students 'Today our task is reading one piece of news from Voice of America. We know nobody died in Tiananmen Square, so obviously Voice of America is lying. Study the truth provided by our central government, and write an essay to criticize the malignancy of America Imperialism.' Next day: 'Today our task is reading one piece of news from BBC, and then analyzing the lie according to the truth provided by our central government.' We did this for the whole month." Yuki Cheng, Northwest Progressive Institute, 4 June 2009.
     "We'd heard all about it where we were in Jinan from the very beginning. There'd been some coverage on TV. You might remember that the Government television actually broadcast some dialogues with students and so on. We ... obviously also had access to short-wave radio and were listening to BBC, Voice of America and so on." Peter Cave, interviewed by Radio National's PM, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 4 June 2009.
     "China blocked attempts to mark Thursday's 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre by swarming the plaza with police and blacking out foreign TV reports recalling the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators." USA Today, 4 June 2009.
     "The Techcrunch UK website reports that some users are bypassing China's restrictions by using VPNs, and third-party apps that use the Twitter API (TweetDeck, Twhilr, and Seesmic Desktop) are working." MaximumPC, 4 June 2009.
     "Michel Wu is now the director of Radio France International’s Mandarin language service. In 1989, he was a reporter for China’s state-run Xinhua news network: 'These segments of the population called ‘petitioners,’ seeking their last chance for support in the capital, are revealing the same issues as the students of twenty years ago. Like the students of 1989, they’ve been systematically crushed with the worst acts of violence.'" New Tang Dynasty Television, 4 June 2009.
     Update: "As the students often dismissed much of Chinese culture, much of government policy, and adapted a very naïve to me pro-Western outlook ranging from almost total belief in the Western media – reports from BBC, Voice of America, fascination with Western philosophers, like Sartre, Nietra, and Freud; and I traveled all over China back in those days talking to university students, so it was quite striking to me. It seemed clear that, in an ironic sense, the more the Chinese government had limited information about the West entering into China, the more students who knew their government was lying about what they were doing assumed they were also lying about the West." Stanley Rosen, USC US-China Institute, 6 June 2009.
     "This isn't 20 years ago. I've watched several news broadcasts on BBC World recently about the massacre, and I'm in China no more than 70 miles outside of Beijing. I just read a New York Times article online about the 'Tank Man' photographs without the use of a proxy. I have talked, albeit in English, with friends about the Tiananmen Square event countless times in public coffee houses without fear of Big Brother or his cronies. However, I get BBC World because I live in a serviced apartment at the university where I teach. It only houses foreign teachers and any Chinese visitors must register with the front desk when visiting, unlike foreign guests." Elizabeth Dilts, Gary Post-Tribune, 7 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

The Psyop of D-Day.

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The D-Day landings were preceded by a massive psychological warfare attack. Planes dropped leaflets encouraging sabotage and surrender, while others, in an attempt to minimize civilian casualties, warned French citizens about which town would be bombed. We covered PsyOps in June of 1945 in the article 'Words That Win Battles." Popular Science website, 5 June 2009. As of today, the link to the 1945 article doesn't work. I hope they fix it soon.
     Update: Thanks to Professor Adrian Monck for providing this link to the June 1945 issue of Popular Science, which weighs in at an astounding 275 pages.

The international broadcasting of sports.

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In July a version of 'Where Amazing Happens,' a behind-the-scenes look at the NBA Finals, will air in India. This year, for the first time the championship games are available to a Middle Eastern audience in Arabic on Al Jazeera and for the first time since 2005 are on a free television channel in Mexico. ... Tim Kane is running an elaborate operation in a separate trailer at Staples Center that provides TV feeds to 215 countries in 42 languages. And in many of those countries there are no commercials sold, so while we're watching ads foreign viewers get extra shots of Jack Nicholson or scenes from Los Angeles." Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times, 6 June 2009.
     "For much of its post-war history, football in Australia was largely played and followed by migrants from Britain and southern and Eastern Europe. The Australian media attention to the sport was limited, but the advent of the Internet and cable television meant supporters Down Under were able to watch live coverage of matches from the major international competitions each week, as well as access the latest news in real time. Among the people who stayed up after midnight to watch the broadcast of the Qatar match in Doha would have been many who once had to tune into the BBC World Service radio broadcasts to hear the latest scores from Europe." AP, 7 June 2009. That's football as in soccer. Actually, soccer has a better claim to the word football than does American football because the former make much more use of the foot to transport the ball. American football might more accurately be called "handball," except that that word is already taken by another sport. Maybe "moveball," because the sport involves moving the ball down the field, either by carrying it or passing it. Or, perhaps, "unpiling," as in getting up from the pile after the ball possessor has been tackled, which seems to be what takes up most of the time of America's version of "football."

CNBC devotes an hour to Africa as "investing frontier."

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"One-Hour Special Takes An Unprecedented Look At Africa, A Continent Rich In Resources And Fraught With Risk. ... Libya, Senegal, Egypt, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria - CNBC's Erin Burnett spent a year traveling to Africa to examine how the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression may be the investment opportunity of a lifetime in a continent full of riches and risk. On Wednesday, June 10th at 9PM, 10PM and 1AM ET, CNBC presents 'Dollars & Danger: Africa, The Final Investing Frontier,' anchored and reported by CNBC's Erin Burnett. ...
"Dollars & Danger: Africa, The Final Investing Frontier" will re-air on Sunday, June 14th at 10PM ET." Reality TV Website, 6 June 2009.

Russia Today et al add bulk to largely empty Russian business showcase.

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
At St Petersburg International Economic Forum: "Few Russian private sector companies were represented in the main exhibition hall, apart from the country's main two mobile phone operators MTS and Beeline and oil firm Lukoil. But in case participants were tempted to stray off message, a large collection of stands run by Russia's state-controlled media ringed the hall to keep them on track. State television channel Rossiya, state news agency RIA-Novosti, the Kremlin's English-language TV channel Russia Today were all strongly represented." Reuters, 6 June 2009.

Ambassador Rice interviewed, and other Al Jazeera news.

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"US Ambassador Susan Rice in an interview with Al-Jazeera, on President Obama’s speech to the Muslim world, June 4, 2009." ISRIA, 5 June 2009.
     At the International Freedom of Expression Exchange general meeting: "For me, a highlight was finally meeting Sami al-Haj, at left, the Al-Jazeera correspondent who was held for six years at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Haj, who was never charged with a crime, was finally released in May 2008 after intensive international advocacy by CPJ and others. He now lives in Doha, were he directs Al-Jazeera's public liberties and human rights program." Joel Simon, executive director, CPJ Blog, Committee to Protect Journalists, 5 June 2009.
     "I subscribe to the Arab World TV systems using a neat little cable package called 'Talfazat' through NeuLion Media that requires no satellite dish and uses an Internet box that connects to my TV and Internet. (Check it out at Talfazat.com. It's under $30 a month and you can watch Al-Jazeera English while trying to learn Arabic.)" Ray Hanania, Huffington Post, 5 June 2009.

Alhurra described as "Saudi."

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a recent panel discussion at the New York Public Library, prominent writers from America and the Middle East made the case for the 'soft power' of literature. ... [The discussion] was a step in the right direction, according to al Hattlan, who hosts a current events television programme broadcast on Saudi Arabia’s Al Hurra TV as well as helming the Arab Strategy Forum." Sarah Wolfe, The National (Abu Dhabi), 6 June 2009. Over the years, Alhurra has been described as beloging to or funded by countries other than the United States. (See, for example, previous post.) I'm surprised that the editor at The National, a publication with regional expertiose, would let this get by.

Heritage: even more broadcasting to a nuclear Iran.

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
A Heritage Foundation special report, Iran's Nuclear Threat: The Day After, i.e., the day after it acquires a nuclear weapon, includes a recommendation for public diplomacy: "Launch a public diplomacy campaign to explain to the Iranian people how the regime’s nuclear weapons program and hard-line policies hurt their economic and national interests. ... The U.S. and its allies should work to defeat the regime’s suppression of independent media by increasing Farsi-language broadcasts by government-sponsored media such as the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Radio Farda for Farsi), and other information sources." Heritage Foundation, 4 June 2009.

VOA's Pashto to the border region expands by three hours daily.

Posted: 07 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Deewa Radio, the Voice of America’s (VOA) popular Pashto service broadcast to the war-torn Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, is expanding to nine hours daily starting Saturday, June 6, 2009. ... Created in October 2006, Deewa is aimed at an estimated 40 million Pashto-speaking people in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, including the NWFP where some 2.5 million people have been displaced as Pakistani military battle Taliban fighters. Deewa also reaches Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan." VOA press release, 3 June 2009.
     Glenn Hauser, in his DX Listening Digest, notes the absences of times and frequencies of the expanded transmission in the press release, at the Deewa web page, and on the voanews.com frequencies page. DX Listening Digest, 6 June 2009. Dragan Lekic in Serbia, reporting to DXLD, provides the expanded schedule: 0000-0300 UTC on 9380, 11535, and 12015 kHz. ibid. This is in addition to the already existing transmission at 1200-1800 UTC. Pakistan is UTC + 6 during the summer. All Deewa frequencies are shortwave.

Press TV, citing BBC Persian: no Blair apology to Iran.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Britain rejects a comment by the Iranian president that former British premier Tony Blair had sent a letter of apology to Iran over the Marines case. The rejection came one day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a televised debate with rival Mir-Hossein Moussavi said that a letter by blair had prompted Tehran to release the 15 British sailors who were arrested by Iranian forces for illegal entry into Iranian waters in 2007. ... An official with Britain's Foreign Office, however, told the BBC Persian website that the [B]lair administration had not apologized to the Iranian government in 2007." Press TV, 4 June 2009.

Digital radio receivers are not especially "green."

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Clearer reception may be the result for some listeners, but, according to an Energy Saving Trust report published two years ago, 'traditional analogue radios have an average on-power consumption of two watts, but digital radios consume, on average, more than four times this amount (8.5 watts).' Radios – be they analogue or digital – rank fairly low down the list of the most energy hungry appliances in our home, but it does seems slightly at odds with our energy-saving mantra that we should be making a step-change towards a technology that uses "more than four times" the power of its predecessor." Leo Hickman, The Guardian, 3 June 2009. This article refers to DAB domestic radio in the UK, but also applies to DRM shortwave radio. Battery consumption is an issue here. Newer chipsets promise lower power drain.

Psychological Operations week at Fort Bragg.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Capt. Adria Horn, 31, was part of a psychological operations task force in the Philippines that used text messaging to fight a Muslim insurgency. Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Cruz, a 28-year-old Puerto Rican, just got back from a mission to discourage support for terrorism in Peru. Capt. Tim Manton, 32, recently returned from promoting U.S. interests in West Africa. The three soldiers on Monday were among people telling their stories during the third annual Psychological Operations Regiment Week. Fort Bragg is the home of the 4th Psychological Operations Group, the only such unit on active duty. Battalions have specialties, such as specific geographic regions of the world. Some soldiers are native speakers of the languages in those countries. Others studied the languages in school. The week continues through Thursday with sports events to test physical prowess and a language skills competition today and a speed chess tournament Wednesday to provide mental challenges. During the week, vendors get a chance to show off products such as television cameras and software that will help the soldiers do their jobs. Psychological operations soldiers are the Army’s specialists in influencing opinion to change behavior in foreign countries to meet U.S. objectives. A psy ops soldier might be working in a suit and tie or dress in a U.S. embassy or in uniform with a Special Forces A-team in the countryside." Henry Cuningham, Fayette (NC) Observer, 2 June 2009.
     "Late at night, after all the fighting had died down, then-First Lt. Richard Ruiz would get on his shortwave radio and he would talk one on one with the Taliban. 'What would it take for us to have peace with you?' he asked. 'You have to be Muslim. You're an infidel,' the voice replied." Gilroy (CA) Dispatch, 5 June 2009. Because of the presumed proximity of the Taliban, Lt. Ruiz was perhaps using a VHF or UHF transceiver, rather than shortwave.

Will jazz win Algerian hearts and minds?

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A jazz festival may seem a little out of place in this remote Algerian town [Constantine] battered by social unrest and unemployment. But it's part of an attempt by the United States to sponsor cultural events across the Arab world to capture the 'hearts and minds' of people often wary of American policies in the Middle East. ... The practice of "jazz diplomacy" was invented during the Cold War, with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Amstrong and Duke Ellington bringing their music to the Soviet bloc countries." AP, 3 June 2009.

More shortwave as music (updated again).

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Jason Molina, frontman for Magnolia Electric Co.: "'I'm definitely a shortwave freak. I tune to West African radio and stuff from Russia — I love it. Get yourself an old thrift store shortwave and tune it to the world! Sure, you can get everything online, but it's kind of, like, manicured; you don't have to work with it.' Plus, it doesn't come with all that static and wow and flutter. 'Right, it doesn't have all those screaming sci-fi Theremin sounds,' Molina evangelizes. 'You'll be listening to something for 20 minutes, and you'll be just engaged beyond belief, and then you'll lose the signal! And you're never gonna catch who the artist is because, even if they do announce it, it's in a different language.'" Bill Forman, Colorado Springs Independent, 21 May 2009.
     Marc Leclair, a.k.a. Akufen's "debut full length, My Way, released on Force Inc. at the dawn of the millennium, created a stir with its unique micro-sampling technique (microscopic samples of short-wave radio broadcasts built into beats and melodies) and infectious house undertow." Meg Hewings, Hour (Montreal), 21 May 2009.
     Mungolian Jetset's album We Gave It All Away...Now We Are Taking It Back will include Glitches n Bugs, a "psychedelic meetings at the mixing desk with The Shortwave Set." Altsounds, 21 May 2009.
     In Theo Bleckmann's Twelve Songs by Charles Ives, "Songs My Mother Taught Me" "is given an interesting baseline of media noise (almost inaudible short-wave radio transmissions) over which it is performed." C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz, 20 May 2009.
     "Recently in this magazine, Holger Czukay recalled attending the first performance, in Bremen in 1968, of Kurzwellen ('short waves'), Karlheinz Stockhausen’s work for piano, electronium (an early monophonic synthesiser), tam-tam gong, viola and four short-wave radio receivers. He remembered how, as the musicians used the radios as instruments, Stockhausen sat centre-stage, 'mixing the audio like a DJ'." Jonathan Derbyshire, New Statesman, 21 May 2009.
     Daniela Gesundheit "plays small percussion toys, loops her vocals, plays a short wave radio and sometimes sings through a wine glass." Hour (Montreal), 1 June 2009.
     Update: American composer William Basinski "latest record, 92982, is titled for the date of its recording, meaning it’s being released 27 years after the fact. For Basinski this lag is the rule rather than the exception. Though actively recording his experiments with homemade reel-to-reel tape machines, found sound, and shortwave radios since the early 80s, he did not release his first solo record until 1998’s Shortwavemusic (recorded in 1983)." Brandon Kreitler, The Brooklyn Rail, June 2009.

The "CBS short wave listening post" was the place to be during WWII.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"What is clear to us now was troubling uncertainty to our forebears on the morning of June 6, 1944. ... One revelatory relic of that amazing day is a transcription recording of CBS News coverage of the breaking story, about six hours of it. This is an uncommon artifact, for in that age before tapes and cassettes, it was rare for anyone to archive a newscast, let alone one of that length. ... The recording fades in with an announcer named Irwin Darlington saying, 'The Allied invasion has started. The news to this moment is all supplied by the enemy… there is no Allied confirmation.' He goes on to say that a CBS short wave listening post just after 1 a.m. Eastern War Time has heard Radio Berlin reporting heavy bombardments of the harbor at Le Havre. He repeats the bulletin, then cautions that this could be a feint — newsmen actually used words like that in 1944 — by either side. He announces that CBS will stay on the air overtime until the report is verified or proven false." Courtney Haden, Birmingham Weekly, 4 June 2009, with audio.

Maybe if there were an international shopping channel.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In the rest of the world, a plethora of international media channels is the televised norm. BBC World, France 24, Al Jazeera and the Chinese state provider, CCTV, all broadcast in Africa. Virtually all international news channels can be found on European TV. Germany, France and Britain have each launched Arabic-language news channels in the Middle East. And many international carriers now deliver international outlets' programming to Asian and Latin American broadcasters. Pity the United States, where programs from such stations as Al Jazeera English, BBC World, and France 24 are only on special cable packages or squeezed into few-minute slots on local PBS channels - if they're available at all. ... One solution would be à la carte pricing - selling each channel individually - an option that would enable consumers to receive Al Jazeera's or Japanese NHK's programs if they'd like. When American viewers can't access international news, their ability to take part in global conversations suffers greatly." Cyril Blet, The Argument blog, Foreign Policy, 4 June 2009.
     "On June 12, the United States will wake up to the digital age of broadcasting. That same afternoon Washington, D.C. area residents will be able to watch ten premier international television channels from MHz Networks, all for free. Like many broadcasters, MHz Networks has been preparing for the digital transition for a long time. What's different is MHz Networks has formulated its technology in a highly innovative way to bring viewers a programming line-up not replicated anywhere else in the country." MHz Networks press release, 2 June 2009. See channel lineup (Al Jazeera English will replace BVN on 1 July).

Africa 24 seeks freelance flacks.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Twenty-four hour Pan-African news channel 'Africa 24' launched in Paris, France on May 11 and is looking for African freelance journalists and other media and NGO professionals to contribute their work. Africa 24 aims to offer a fresh look at Africa with all content written and produced by African journalists. It operates under the tagline: '...An Africa voice telling the African story.' The Pan-African coverage is intended to reach Africans around the world with positive, high-quality programming designed to change Africa's image for the better. It also serves to give Africans a worldwide voice. ... Contributors will send their material to the main office in Nairobi, Kenya, where it will be verified, re-edited and published. African journalists receive 60 percent of the revenue generated by their story and own the copyright of their original work after it is published." journalism.co.za, 3 June 2009. Revenue from what? Also, if Africa 24's content is "designed to change Africa's image for the better," then, laudable as it may be, it isn't really news. It is, instead, a continental public diplomacy effort.

CNN covers Thailand from different angles.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A CNN documentary that sparked worldwide condemnation of Thailand's alleged practice of pushing Myanmar's Rohingya boat people out to sea has won an Amnesty International Media Award." CNN International, 3 June 2009
     "Thailand has been declared the number one tourist destination for the Asia Pacific region when it comes to getting good value for money by CNN International. The Online Consumer Survey (OCS) on Travel and Tourism attracted over 5000 participants worldwide who voted China as the runner up and India in third." traveldailynews.com, 31 May 2009.

Dispatches from the DW Global Media Forum.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"'We have effectively overcome the struggle between traditional and new media. The discussions here at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum have shown the only possible way to move forward: The media – regardless of how it is distributed – must live up to clearly-defined quality standards,' said Deutsche Welle Director General Erik Bettermann at the closing ceremony of the international conference in Bonn. 'Media is defined by well-researched, verifiable and reliable content.' More than 1,200 participants from approximately 100 countries came to the World Conference Center Bonn to participate in the three-day conference focusing on 'Conflict Prevention in the Multimedia Age'." DW press release, 5 June 2009.
     "Later this year, Deutsche Welle will launch an extensive educational radio program in Pashto and Dari for a younger target audience in Afghanistan. The interactive educational project 'Learning by Ear for Afghanistan' will focus on topics like education, democratization and the country's rebuilding process. Erik Bettermann, Director General of Germany’s international broadcaster, announced the new development at the closing ceremony of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn." DW press release, 5 June 2009.
     See other DW press releases about the Forum, the Forum website, and posts from the Forum by Keven Anderson at The Guardian's PDA blog.

A report to prevent the undermining of the budgets of organizations that are undermining the authoritarians who are undermining democracy?

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"A joint report by a human rights group and U.S.-funded broadcast services accuses China of deceptively distributing billions of dollars in aid to Africa and other regions in no-strings-attached packages that promote Chinese power while subverting human rights. The report on the use of aid by foreign governments also accuses Russia, Iran and Venezuela of using oil wealth to build foreign alliances and bankroll developing states without pressing them to avoid corruption and cultivate democracy. 'These authoritarian regimes are undercutting or crippling the democracy-promotion and human rights efforts of rules-based organizations including the United Nations,' the report said. It was prepared jointly over two years by Freedom House, a Washington-based nongovernment organization that has supported freedom around the world since 1941, and U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. The report did not address U.S. foreign aid or its use." AP, 4 June 2009.
     "A study this week by a group of American institutions, Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia, looks at the use by China, Iran, Russia and Venezuela of what it calls 'authoritarian aid'. The study, 'Undermining Democracy', is the first attempt to estimate the global scale of such operations." The Economist, 4 June 2009.
     "'Policymakers do not appear to appreciate the dangers these 21st century authoritarian models pose to democracy and rule of law around the world,' said the study by Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia, all prominent U.S. democracy-promotion bodies. 'Just as they rule without law within their borders, authoritarian regimes are eroding the international rules and standards built up by the democratic world over the past several decades, threatening to export the instability and abuses that their systems engender,' it said." Reuters, 4 June 2009.
     "Libby Liu (劉仚), president of Radio Free Asia and one of the analysts involved in the study, said: 'China has modernized its strategy of suppression.' 'The sophistication of media management by the Chinese authorities, including market-based censorship combined with more traditional methods of intimidation, suggests a system that is both repressive and resilient,' she said." Taipei Times, 5 June 2009.
     "Call it 'Authoritarianism 2.0.' Today's authoritarian regimes are undermining democracy in updated, sophisticated, and lavishly funded ways. ... The new authoritarians also shape international values and views through sophisticated and well-funded global media enterprises. The Kremlin has launched Russia Today, a multimillion-dollar television venture that broadcasts to North America, Europe, and Asia. In 2007, Iran created Press TV, an English-language satellite station with an international staff several hundred strong. And China is poised to spend enormous sums on expanding overseas media operations in a bid to improve the country's image. Beijing has reportedly set aside at least $6 billion for these media expansion efforts." Jennifer Windsor (executive director of Freedom House), Jeffrey Gedmin (president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), and Libby Liu (president of Radio Free Asia), Foreign Policy, June 2009. See also www.underminingdemocracy.org and reports.
     The Undermining Democracy report and conference address the international activities of China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and Venezuela. They were co-organized by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia. Pakistan and Venezuela are not targets of either of these stations (yet).
     I'm not losing any sleep over the influence of Russia Today, Press TV, and the future Chinese international media efforts, because they are operated, after all, by authoritarians. (Russia Today is fun to watch and might increase your affection for the Russian people, if not its government.) And, so, I continue to advocate for the consolidation of US international broadcasting, which would improve its performance without any increase of its budget, and perhaps even with a reduction of its budget.
     We know that RFE/RL and RFA are funded by Congress as part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors budget. As for Freedom House, its "about us" page says: "Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that relies upon tax-deductible grants and donations under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS. Major support has been provided by various private foundations and government agencies." Freedom House buries the lead: its 2006 annual report shows 80% of its $26.4 million revenue to come from federal grants.

News, notes, and nonsense about Obama's Cairo speech.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Arab satellite stations Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, as well as Egyptian TV broadcast the speech live, with a voice-over Arabic translation. In Lebanon, Hezbollah leaders said they didn't see the speech and could not comment. But the militant group's TV station Al-Manar broadcast it live, with an Arabic voice-over translation. Syrian state TV did not air the speech but the mobile text messaging service of the official Syrian news agency SANA sent four urgent headlines on it as Obama spoke. In Israel, the speech was broadcast live on all TV and radio stations. TV stations ran subtitles or provided Hebrew voiceovers, while radio stations provided simultaneous translations. Afghanistan's state television broadcast the speech live, but without translation so few could understand it. Iranian television did not air Obama and there were no reports on it. But Iranian radio reported that Obama gave a speech in Egypt — in a single sentence report without giving details. Most Iranians who own satellite dishes could not watch it as their reception was jammed." AP, 4 June 2009.
     "Mr. Obama's speech was not broadcast live or in whole on Iran's state-run television and radio networks and thus his message to the Muslim world may not reach the Iranian public. Those who had watched the speech had access to Satellite television channels. 'Obama's speech was extraordinary. I loved it,' said Morteza Sinaie, 24 years old, who had watched the speech on Euronews. 'I wish every Iranian would hear it. I think it would dramatically change their opinion about Obama and the United Sates.' Wall Street Journal, 4 June 2009.
     "The State Department, meanwhile, offered SMS text messages with highlights of the speech to mobile phone users in four languages: Arabic, English, Farsi and Urdu. SMS recipients were invited to send back their comments on the speech and selected messages were being posted at america.gov/sms-comments.html. ... White House spokesman Gibbs said: ... 'There will be a great effort on our part to distribute this through different means, social networking sites, in order to get this in front of as many eyes throughout the world as we can,' [White House spokesman Robert Gibbs] said. 'The Internet team here is working with a host of others to get this information to as many platforms as humanly possible so that people will get a chance all over the world to see what the president has to say,' he said. Besides relying on the Web, the Obama administration enlisted the official US government Arabic-language radio and television outlets in a bid to spread the message. Alhurra Television station and Radio Sawa broadcast the speech live with simultaneous Arabic translation and a live stream of the speech was available on alhurra.com." AFP, 4 June 2009. A previous item said the text was available in 13 language. I'm sure Alhurra and Radio Sawa covered the speech on their own accord. Any "enlisting" by the White would have violated the letter and spirit of the International Broadcasting Act of 1994.
     "From the State Department, where there is an Undersecretary of Public Diplomacy, the speech was carried live via the Department's website www.america.gov and translated into 13 languages. Over on the other side of the firewall, where U.S. communicators are shielded from public diplomacy and those who could influence content, the U.S. government Middle East satellite TV news operation, Alhurra, asked viewers in a special three hour evening program to offer their thoughts in advance about President Obama's remarks via e-mails and a Facebook page and the channel conducted an online polling in Arabic and English to gauge real-time reactions which showed that the 'Arab World reacted favorably' to the speech." Alvin Snyder, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 5 June 2009.
     "President Obama’s goodwill address to Muslims of the world from Cairo University was an obvious big story, but it did not dominate coverage as much as one might have thought. All channels included it, played excerpts and had political analysts giving generally positive, but decidedly mixed analysis. ... Al-Baghdadiya highlighted negative remarks by Sadrist politicians. American-backed Al-Hurra Iraq was the only channel to really make it the single focal point of the night. Second was government-sponsored Al-Iraqiya." Daniel W. Smith and Yousif al-Timimi, IRAQSlogger, 4 June 2009.
     "The unfortunate lesson from the past is that trying to force democracy doesn't work and may end up with extremist religious people taking power. It took the west centuries to reach the point that it is now, it will take the Arab/Muslim world a long time yet. The things to do about it are delicate and small, they come in the form of shortwave radio, satellite TV and free internet." astrolapithicus, commenting to The Middle East blog, Time, 4 June 2009.
     "Throughout the Bush years, Al Qaeda’s leadership served as a sort of Netflix for the Al Jazeera television network, sending in new tapes every few months to keep Islamic extremists whipped into a frenzy of anti-American animus. ... Now, just 4½ years later, a Democratic president has traveled to the heart of the Arab world in pursuit of real improvements in U.S.-Arab relations. The ranting by bin Laden and the attacks of domestic political rivals have made hardly a dent, a sign of just how fundamentally the political and global ground has shifted in the Age of Obama." Matt Bennett and Scott Payne, Politico, 5 June 2009.
     "Bin Laden had a parting thought: 'Obama has followed the steps of (Bush) who established wars with other nations.' Actually, the American left has begun denouncing Obama for following some Bush administration policies too closely. With critics like these, maybe Obama is doing something right." Dale McFeatters, Scripps Howard, 5 June 2009.
     "Kenya's Muslim leaders have largely reacted positively to the contents of President Obama's speech, but say they are waiting to see if the words are followed by concrete action." VOA News, 4 June 2009. Reactions from RFE/RL listeners. RFE/RL, 4 June 2009.
     "It was also important that he talked about the founding principles of America. This should happen more often in our public diplomacy. It is much more productive than trying to promote popular American culture as an instrument of public diplomacy, which is a losing proposition." Lisa Curtis and James Phillips, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 4 June 2009. There are dozens of other stories referring to the public diplomacy aspect of President Obama's speech. I'm sure many of them will be cited at John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review.

Israel redesigns its public diplomacy blog.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Consulate General of Israel in New York on Wednesday unveiled a new redesign of the official blog of Israel, isRealli.org. ... isRealli was launched in 2006 and was the first blog in the world to ever be administered by a government office. Today, it has become a defining tool in Israel's public diplomacy efforts, attracting users from more than 150 countries across the globe; a large constituent of them from Europe, Asia, and Muslim countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Egypt." Jerusalem Post, 3 June 2009.

Supreme leader says foreign broadcasts trying to lower Iranian election turnout.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran's supreme leader on Thursday accused foreigners of trying to discredit Iran's upcoming presidential elections. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke to crowds in Tehran on the anniversary of death of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, saying that foreign radio broadcasts were seeking to undermine the June 12 contests. 'During the past two or three months, foreign radio programs have been tarnishing the elections, making people pessimistic,' he said, adding that the broadcasts were aimed at lowering the turnout for the election and decreasing support for the system. 'They are confiscating hope of Iranian people,' he said, complaining that the reports were saying the elections were not competitive or that the results would be faked. Many Iranians listen to the Farsi broadcasts of the BBC and Voice of America." AP, 4 June 2009.

Another shortwave case study in Burma.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"More than 200 volunteers, mostly navy personnel, were undertaking renovation work at Danok pagoda, about 20 kilometres southwest of Yangon, when it suddenly sunk into the ground, leaving behind a mound of concrete, earth and scaffolding. Many were buried under the rubble. By Saturday night about 40 survivors had been rescued, with at least five confirmed dead. The final total is likely to be far higher. ... Not surprisingly, there has been no mention of this tragedy in the state media... The military cannot control short-wave radio broadcasts, however, and news of Danok pagoda has spread rapidly." Kyaw Kyaw, Crikey, 3 June 2009.
     "Towards evenings in Yangon, old people tune in to the Burmese-language broadcasts of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in an attempt to smother their anger. Many young men march to cafes to watch football, while many girls and women glue themselves to Korean movies nightly broadcast by state-run television." Swe Win, Asia Times Online, 5 June 2009.

Khyber Radio: "The people love it!"

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Interview with Aurangzaib Khan, manager of media development for Internews based in Peshawar: "Q: Why is it important to work with media along the 2,000-kilometer Pakistan-Afghan border? A: There is a great demand for trusted local media in this region. Surveys have established that people in and around Pakistan's border regions, particularly the tribal areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP), listen to more external broadcasters than local. More tune into BBC and Voice of America than government broadcaster PBC as there is hardly any local content available. In FATA, where the literacy rates are abysmal, people depend mostly on foreign radio for information, a need reinforced by the local oral tradition. Newspapers they cannot read, TV is generally not available. The locals cannot operate independent local media under a Raj-era law. Instead of eastwards, they are tuned westwards for information that comes to them in their own language. Q. How do you know that your work in media development is having an impact? A: Take the case of the Khyber region of tribal areas close to Peshawar. The state radio, PBC, is available locally, but it offers little information relevant to local people. There are three so-called 'rogue stations' run by mullahs preaching intolerance. And then there is Khyber Radio, which even though it is a government-supported station, with extensive help from Internews it now produces news bulletins on local issues. At their third anniversary recently, I was amazed to see local tribal elders, poets and political administrators owning up the station and pledging support. After having a newsroom built, reporters trained and news bulletins and current affairs programs produced and aired daily, Khyber Radio has become the voice of the community, satiating a hunger for information. For the first time in Pakistan's restive tribal areas, locals are articulating local issues and telling their own stories. The people love it! The station's phones don't stop ringing as listeners call. The mail sacks are running full. Incredibly, the station even recently ran a 'Khyber Idol' competition!" Internews Network, 1 June 2009. See previous post about the region on 29 May 2009 and about Khyber Radio on 16 March 2009.

After a month of barrier removal, old RFE/RL HQ will be a museum.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Czech National Museum (NM) director Michal Lukes today symbolically received the key to the former seat of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in Prague centre in which the museum will open its first exhibition on November 17. ... Before RFE/RL moved to Prague from Munich in 1995, the building used to shelter Czechoslovak parliament. ... After the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, special security measures were adopted to prevent a possible attack against the RFE/RL, including concrete barriers. ... It will take nearly a month to remove all the barriers. The RFE/RL moved to a new tight-security building in another part of the city." CTK, 1 June 2009.

Q: Does Italy need a Radio Free Europe? A: (She laughs.)

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
Interview with Emma Bonino, Italian candidate for European Parliament. "Q: You have not been given access to the media? Bonino: Not only me, many others too, because the only one who has total access is Prime Minister [Silvio] Berlusconi. And in spite of the authority's ruling, [Italian public broadcaster] RAI is simply not complying. ... Q: The citizens of Eastern Europe were deprived of information during the Cold War, but at least Radio Free Europe was emitting from Munich. Does Italy need a Radio Free Europe? (She laughs.) Well, the political context is different, but definitely the question of proper information and of having a political debate is definitely an issue in my country." EurActiv, 3 June 2009.

RFE interview vexes Moldovan political career.

Posted: 05 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Zinaida Greceanii was named Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova on Wednesday. Incumbent Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin announced that by June 10, when the Parliament will be reunited again, the government will designate its ministers. Up to yesterday, ex-Parliament's Speaker Marian Lupu was favored for the Prime Minister position. He lost his party's support after in an interview for Radio Free Europe he implied that he might leave the Communist Party." HotNews.ro, 3 June 2009. See also RFE/RL, 3 June 2009.

New US money to fight net censorship?

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Last month, a coalition of human rights activists and dissidents from countries including China, Burma, Laos and Cuba joined in signing an open letter to Congress urging the allocation of $50 million to beef up efforts to provide hardware and software tools to counter government censorship of the Internet. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., urged an appropriations panel to support the initiative, calling it 'a low-cost method of allowing people, especially those living under repressive regimes, to access all-source, uncensored, unfiltered information.' Exactly how to do that, and how to mete out the anti-censor funding, would be a task for the State Department." James O'Toole, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4 June 2009.

Expats in China listened to shortwave during the Tiananmen protests of 1989.

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"We watched Chinese television, listened to Voice of America broadcasts urging Americans to leave and wrestled with a decision. Should we leave, as most foreigners were doing, or should we stay?" Sylvia Krebs, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4 June 2009.
     "Somebody shouted. I pulled back and hid my camera. 'No, no! Take pictures!' They said in English. 'American?' We nodded. 'Take pictures! Show them this!' ... Two days later, June 5, a British guy rigged up a short-wave radio, and we finally caught word of the massacre." Jen Huntley, Reno News & Review, 4 June 2009.
     "When the group reached the airport, a military facility, one member used a shortwave radio to get BBC reports. There was no local news coverage, and they, as Americans in the middle of the crackdown, didn't want to ask any questions, he said." Augusta Chronicle, 4 June 2009.
     "My father and I heard about it on the radio, on ‘Voice of America’. That was the only source there was. Soon we all knew what had happened. We watched CCTV the next day. The reporters were wearing black and some of them were obviously in a deep state of grief, their eyes visibly red, as they announced that the anti-revolutionaries had been put down. I saw those reporters with my own eyes, and soon afterwards they were replaced." David S., interviewed by The Peking Duck blog, 3 June 2009.
     Reporters sans frontières "has received a list of websites - social networking sites, chat forums and blog platforms - that are currently blocked by the authorities. They include such Chinese sites as Fanfou.com, Verycd.com, Xiaonei.com and Wordku.com. When Internet users try to access them, they get a message saying they are down for 'maintenance.' Access to international websites such as those of the BBC, TV5 Monde and CNN, which have been showing photos and videos of the June 1989 events, has also suddenly been blocked in China, while pages containing articles on the subject have been removed from imported newspapers." RSF, 3 June 2009.
     "Interviews with anti-government activists, a 30-minute documentary and a comment forum on the Voice of America's (VOA) Chinese website are part of Thursday's coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests." VOA press release, 3 June 2009. See also Radio Free Asia's Remembering June 4th.
     See previous post about same subject, now with audio of the extraordinary Radio Beijing broadcast.

BBC World News to European iPhones.

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World News today announces the launch of the BBC World News app, allowing users of the iPhone and iPod Touch in sixteen European countries to watch the channel live on their Apple devices over Wi-Fi and 3G networks. The application, which is available to download directly from the Apple AppStore, enables users from the Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland to watch BBC World News live, wherever they are in the world. The BBC World News app, which has been produced together with online TV specialist Livestation, is available for €7.99 and can be downloaded from the iPhone App Store from 3 June." BBC World News press release, 4 June 2009.
     "It’s basically a version of the Livestation app that offers just one channel, rather than its usual 21." Robert Andrews, paidContent:uk, 4 June 2009.

Livestation adds Press TV for "different perspective."

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Internet users worldwide are being offered exclusive free access to Wednesday's live Presidential debate between incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his challenger in the forthcoming election, the last Prime Minister of Iran, Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The live broadcast, which takes place at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday 3 June, is being broadcast on Press TV and streamed live on Livestation, the destination for live TV online. The live Presidential debate marks the addition of Press TV to the line up of international news channels on Livestation. It will offer a different perspective on an important international news event. ... Welcoming Press TV to the Livestation line up, CEO Matteo Berlucchi, said the addition of the channel comes at an important time in Iranian history. 'Livestation is all about providing people with the widest choice of news and views, and Press TV is an excellent addition to our current line up because of the different perspective it offers to a global audience.'" Livestation press release, 3 June 2009. For an example of the "different perspective," see previous post.

BBG's Blaya makes the case for Alhurra (updated).

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Does [Alhurra] have a secret agenda? No, [Broadcasting Board of Governors member Joaquin Blaya] says, quite emphatically. When Alhurra was launched, critics accused the channel of being the voice of the US government. 'In five years, Alhurra has gone from one million to 27 million viewers on a weekly basis. And I can assure you those numbers are growing,' he says. 'They [the US government] never tell us anything. We are on our own,' adds [executive producer Fran] Mires. There are situations when members of the US government don’t agree with the channel’s coverage, says Blaya, but adds that the board acts like a firewall between the government and journalists. 'We clearly understand the separation between the two,' he says. ... 'You don’t increase your audiences through propaganda.'" Aarti Nagraj, Kippreport (Dubai), 21 May 2009.
     Update: "The Alhurra television channel is an American foreign policy tool, and Joaquin Blaya, one of four members of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors who oversee the channel, makes no bones about it. 'Yes, it is part of our public diplomacy. Alhurra today has a budget of $126m a year. We don't carry any advertising. We are subsidised by the American taxpayer. The American taxpayer is not paying for entertainment for people living in the Middle East. They are paying for the promotion of freedom and democracy, through news and information,' he says. ... Blaya says he expects Alhurra will double its audience over the coming two years, and that doing so will influence the region's political culture." Damian Reilly, ArabianBusiness.com, 3 June 2009.
     US international broadcasting would greatly benefit from the re-adoption of language used by former BBG chairman Kenneth Tomlinson in Senate testimony, quoted on page 3 of the BBG's 2002 annual report: “We need to understand the importance of maintaining the strength of public diplomacy and the traditions of international broadcasting. I am convinced that we will not be successful in our overall mission of delivering our message to the world if we fail to grasp that these are two different spheres and that they operate according to two different sets of rules. It is very important that government spokesmen take America’s message to the world— passionately and relentlessly. We should not be ashamed of public advocacy on behalf of freedom and democracy and the United States of America. International broadcasting on the other hand is called upon to reflect the highest standards of independent journalism as the best means of convincing international audiences that truth is on the side of democratic values. These arms of public diplomacy should be parallel pursuits because the effectiveness of either is adversely affected when one attempts to impose its approach on the other.”
     Positioning US international broadcasting as part of US public diplomacy erodes the credibility of US international broadcasting. Separating international broadcasting from public diplomacy, as the BBC World Service has done with obvious success (see previous post), protects that credibility.
     "In a televised broadcast on Alhurra satellite channel, Dr. Hiyam Al-Yassiri, Advisor to the Iraqi Minister of Communications, stated that the Ministry consulted with the private sector whilst drafting the Telecommunications Law over two years ago. This statement was made during Alhurra's weekly program, 'In Iraqi'. However, [Iraqi telcommunications company] Asiacell strongly denied any truths to this statement, indicating that it was never consulted on any drafts for the law and that the current draft is absent of any comments from the Iraqi mobile telecommunications companies." Asiacell press release via Maktoob, 3 June 2009.

CNN "dipping into the energy" of the Middle East.

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNN has taken a major step towards setting up its Middle East commercial and editorial hub in Abu Dhabi later this year with the appointment of Reme al Saiegh as sales director for the Middle East and North Africa. The Abu Dhabi office, to be the site of a daily live television broadcast and a regional centre for advertising sales, will be set up in the twofour54 media zone and marks the 24-hour news channel’s fourth global hub after Atlanta, London and Hong Kong. 'The Abu Dhabi office will be the first Middle East sales and live broadcast facility,' said Ms al Saiegh. 'We are excited about dipping into the energy of the region.'" The National (Abu Dhabi), 3 June 2009.

A paucity of broadcast news in the Gulf states.

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"In most of the Arabian Gulf, TV and radio stations have not had the revenues or imagination to allow them to invest in hiring reporters, so they do not have a flow of immediate or spot news. This means that TV and radio have not built themselves the dominant position that they have in many parts of the world as the main channel for immediate news, even if many people tune into the radio while they drive around town. The benefits of having a good reporting staff are made all the more obvious by the few exceptional TV stations which do their own reporting, like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya which stand out miles above their TV competitors, as do the few radio programmes which have original content." Francis Matthew, Gulf News (Dubai), 3 June 2009.

State will text portions of Obama speech in 13 languages.

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"President Barack Obama’s latest diplomatic offensive employs a technology familiar to any ‘tweener: text messaging. Highlights from the President’s June 4 speech in Cairo will be the first-ever texted in 13 languages to more than 200 countries. But mobile users in the United States will not be able to receive the messages. That’s because the text blast is being paid for by the Department of State. State Department funds, by law, can only be used to address foreign audiences." Roy Furchgott, New York Times, 4 June 2009.
     "The BBC News website will carry a fully-annotated transcript of President Obama's Cairo speech, with analysis of key passages by BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds." BBC News, 4 June 2009.
     "Voice of America (VOA) is fielding a team of journalists in Cairo to cover President Barack Obama's speech to Muslims, soliciting international reaction online, and providing in-depth analysis in more than two dozen languages." VOA press release, 3 June 2009.
     "Al-Arabiya, which scored a coup this January when it became the first international channel to be granted an interview with the newly inaugurated U.S. prexy, has been dedicating much of its grid to coverage of Obama's visits to both Saudi Arabia and Egypt. ... Rival newscaster Al-Jazeera, which until now had been giving Obama uncharacteristically favorable coverage, brought out two of its big guns on the eve of his arrival in Cairo with the airing of tapes allegedly by Osama Bin Laden and Aymen Al-Zawahiri blasting the U.S. prexy." Variety, 3 June 2009. See also Aljazeera.net, 3 June 2009. See previous post about same subject.

North Korea disapproves of budget increase for US "reptile broadcasting services."

Posted: 04 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"U.S. President Obama was reported to have markedly increased the spending for overseas broadcasting in the budget for the fiscal 2010 submitted to Congress the bulk of which is to go to those broadcasting services that specialize in the anti-DPRK propaganda. ... 'The Voice of Free Asia' operated by the U.S. started its Korean language programs in March 1997. The U.S. has since increased the time for broadcasting by steadily boosting its financial disbursement for the reptile broadcasting services. ... The Obama administration's huge spending for smear broadcasting against the DPRK indicates that it is little different from the preceding regimes in the hostile policy towards it. What should not be overlooked is that the U.S. rulers asserted that the important role of the broadcasting services for overseas listeners to meet U.S. interests is reflected in the new budget. It is, indeed, a base and mean act to deceive the world. The main objective of 'the Voice of Free Asia' and the Voice of America is to disseminate the American-style 'freedom' and 'democracy' and corrupt bourgeois way of living to the DPRK and other Asian countries. Most of the contents of their broadcasting programs are a whole string of vituperation against the top leaders of those countries, stories finding fault with their policies, interference in their internal affairs and reactionary propaganda. It is needless to say that the activities of the above-mentioned broadcasting services are designed to bring down the DPRK and other countries which do not meekly follow the instructions of the U.S. or incur its displeasure." Korean Central News Agency via ISRIA, 2 June 2009. What KCNA calls "Voice of Free Asia" is actually Radio Free Asia.
     "In the last decade, we’ve even seen the establishment of news services run by defectors, which relay reports from North Korean citizens using clandestine cell phones. Those services still might not meet the journalistic standards to which we’ve become accustomed. They tend to be poorly translated, and for understandable reasons, their reports can’t always be confirmed. What they lack in editing, they make up for in fascinating content and extraordinary courage (the correspondents will be executed as spies if caught). They’re also generally accurate barometers of social, economic and political trends in North Korea. Here are the best of them: the Daily NK, Open Radio for North Korea, Radio Free Chosun, Good Friends, and PSCORE (People for Successful Corean Reunification)... ." Joshua Stanton, The New Ledger, 30 May 2009.

China's media crackdown 20 years after the Tiananmen crackdown.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
In 1989: "I listened to the BBC and attended lectures at Nanjing University where we debated whether Western-style democracy was the answer for China. ... During that time, my ear was glued to my shortwave radio, and I learned about the crackdown at Tiananmen from foreign broadcasts." Lijia Zhang, 31 May 2009.
     "Speaking of Tiananmen Square, I’m watching BBC World in The Globe and Mail’s Beijing office as I type this. Each hour, when the anchor tries to introduce the piece BBC has done for the 20th anniversary of June 4, 1989, the screen here goes blank." Mark MacKinnon, Points East blog, Globe and Mail, 1 June 2009.
"China has begun imposing an information blackout ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, blocking access to popular networking websites such as Twitter and BBC television reports inside China." The Telegraph, 2 June 2009.
     "Forty-eight hours ahead of the most sensitive date on the Chinese calendar, a host of popular websites, including photo-sharing site Flickr.com, search engines Livesearch.com and Bing.com (Microsoft’s answer to Google), as well as Hotmail, are all suddenly inaccessible, in addition to Twitter.com." Mark MacKinnon, Points East blog, Globe and Mail, 2 June 2009. See also New York Times, 2 June 2009.
     "Hong Kong newspapers reporting on the anniversary are not delivered to the mainland, while Hong Kong TV broadcasts are interrupted with commercial breaks within China if they raise the topic, Radio Free Asia says. ... China's aggressive propaganda measures distorts the present, as well as the past." Madeline Earp, Committee to Protect Journalists, 1 June 2009.
     "A State Department spokesman declined to chastise the Chinese government for any crackdown on Internet access or other attempts to control coverage of this week's events." Fox News, 3 June 2009.
     "For a brief period [in 1989], Chinese journalists were allowed to report objectively on the student protests. But this press freedom was short-lived and ended May 20 with the imposition of martial law and the entry of the People's Liberation Army into Beijing. ... The good news is that the blackout isn't complete. We know from Radio Free Asia's call-in shows that some younger Chinese know just enough about Tiananmen to want to learn more." Dan Southerland, executive editor of Radio Free Asia, Washington Post, 2 May 2009.
     Jonathan Marks recalls "the very dramatic broadcast from the English service of Radio Beijing as it was then (now China Radio International). The announcer called on all listeners to recall the events of the evening of June 3rd 1989 in Tianamen Square. At the time we believed the announcement to have been made by Li Dan, a producer in the English department." Critical Distance Weblog, 2 June 2009.
     I was listening to Radio Beijing on my shortwave the US morning after the Tianananmen crackdown. Reception was good from the relay via the Radio Canada International transmitter in Sackville, New Brunswick. (RCI and Radio Beijing had a transmitter exchange agreement at the time. RCI and China Radio International still do.) I heard the renegade statement opening the Radio Beijing broadcast on that day. Fortunately, my friend Tom Gavaras in Minnesota recorded it. I have his recording on tape somewhere, and will digitalize it when I find it. It's surprisingly difficult to find on the web. I did discuss it on VOA's Communications World, 1 January 2000.
     Update: Mike Barraclough tells me that excerpts of the broadcast are available at the SUNY Albany "Talking History" website. Mike wrote about the broadcast in DX Listening Digest, 25 August 2005. Latest: Complete audio now available from Bill Pearl, LongBeachReport.com, 4 June 2009.

CRI contest marks 60th anniversary of PRC.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"China Radio International (CRI) will hold an activity entitled 'A Global Knowledge Contest for the Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China' through broadcasts and CRI Online websites. ... This activity has two parts – answering online questions and leaving messages in the 'Blessing China' section. The first part contains ten questions. Those who get all answers correct and leave their blessings will have the chance to win a prize. Prizes: Top Prize: There will be ten Top Prize winners – FREE trips to China. First Prize: A valuable Chinese silk painting. Second Prize: A hand-painted Chinese silk scarf or cloth with decorative Chinese patterns. Third Prize: T-shirts. CRI website.

Seeking Arabic-language radio producer for new broadcast to Sudan.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"For its new radio programme Facing Justice Darfur IWPR [Institute for War and Peace Reporting] is looking for an Arabic-speaking radio producer. The role of the radio producer is to create a stream of radio programs on peace and justice issues related to Sudan that will be directed at internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable populations in Darfur. Programming will be broadcast via a new independent shortwave radio channel in the Netherlands and to the Sudanese Diaspora by webcast. IWPR will produce an Arabic radio programme entitled Facing Justice Darfur in conjunction with local Sudanese journalists either in the region and/or outside." journalism.co.uk, 29 May 2009. There are no longer any shortwave broadcast transmitters in the Netherlands, pioneer nation of shortwave broadcasting. Perhaps the studios will be in the Netherlands, and/or maybe the station will use Radio Netherlands' relay transmitter in Madagascar.

Shortwave staple: the CBC Northern Service.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Thanks to satellites, what goes on in the [Canadian] Arctic is now only a second or two away from our television sets. Yet before satellites and less than 50 years ago, the northern regions were isolated and totally dependent on themselves during the long winter months. As an indication of just how isolated they were, in the 1950s and '60s the CBC's shortwave service's 50-kilowatt transmitters in Sackville transmitted a regular northern shortwave service to all northern communities such as Rankin Inlet, Pangnirtung, Igloolik and Cambridge Bay. Part of that service included current news and other events. Yet, since mail only arrived in early summer with the supply boat, those who grew up in southern Canada and were now living and working in the north were often desperate during those long winter months for news of their loved ones in the south. At that time the CBC did indeed have a heart, to the extent that part of the northern shortwave service transmissions included the announcer reading letters from those in the south to their relatives and friends in the north. This included news such as births, deaths, who had gotten married, had an accident, found a job, what mom and dad or sister were doing, who was in hospital, etc., all very much appreciated by those in the far north who were clustered around their shortwave receiver sets. But times change and much is forgotten that should not be." Everett Mosher, Times & Transcript (Moncton NB), 2 June 2009. The CBC North service continues on 9625 kHz shortwave. Over the decades, it was popular among US shortwave listeners as a way to hear CBC domestic programming, rather than Radio Canada International.

Enough shortwave noise to scare the cows.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Interest in broadband over power lines (BPL)--a technology that uses frequencies ranging from the medium wave to low-band VHF to carry data--appears to be waning, as evidenced by systems being shut down or scaled back, and few new systems being constructed. However, this week the FCC, in its 'Bringing Broadband to Rural America' report, said, 'While issues remain, broadband over power lines continues to emerge as a viable option.' Some BPL systems have been found to cause interference to shortwave radio and amateur radio operation, while others appear to be able to co-exist with few problems." TV Technology, 29 May 2009.

BBC Global News claims record audience despite drop in radio listening.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC's Global News division attracts a record weekly global audience of 238 million people to its international news services including BBC World Service and the BBC World News television channel, according to independent surveys. Last year's audience totalled 233 million. BBC World Service attracted a record weekly audience of 188 million. This figure was boosted by its new BBC Arabic television channel but masked an overall decline in radio listening which was down five million to 177 million in 2008/9. However, despite this loss, BBC World Service remains the world's most popular international radio broadcaster. The largest overseas audiences for BBC news, across all platforms, are in Nigeria (26.0m), USA (24.1m) and India (22.2m). ... BBC Global News Director Richard Sambrook said: 'In a year when international radio listening to the BBC actually went down marginally, record overall global audiences demonstrate the success of our multimedia strategy and investments.'" BBC World Service press release, 2 June 2009.

Obama selects BBC for "nuanced and thoughtful" interview.

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
President Obama's "first interview with a UK broadcaster comes on the eve of a trip to the Middle East and Europe. ... Speaking to BBC North America Editor Justin Webb, Mr Obama said he believed the US was 'going to be able to get serious negotiations back on track' between Israel and the Palestinians. ... Justin Webb says the president chose to speak to the BBC now because his team wants to reach the parts of the world the BBC reaches, with a message that is nuanced and thoughtful. But Mr Obama is not apologising for the actions of the Bush White House, our correspondent adds." BBC News, 2 June 2009, with link to video. Transcript: White House, 2 June 2009.
     "Justin Webb's interview with President Obama was months in the planning, confirmed on the morning and almost endangered by a security scare." Simon Wilson, The Editors blog, BBC, 2 June 2009.
     "In the BBC interview -- and they said, 'Why did you give the interview to BBC?' 'Well, I wanted to reach out. I wanted to reach out beyond our media.' The state-run media is only good for so much, I guess. You gotta reach out beyond the state-run media at some point, I suppose. But the BBC may as well be state run for all intents and purposes." Rush Limbaugh, 2 June 2009.
     "As President Obama seeks to reach Muslim audiences with his June 4 speech in Cairo, BBG broadcasters will engage their audience (of 175 million people weekly), bringing them into a discussion of the address and of broader issues in US-Muslim relations. The BBG's 60 broadcast languages will cover Obama's speech, and it will be broadcast live with simultaneous translation in a number of languages, including Arabic, Urdu, Pashto and Persian." Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 2 June 2009.
     "Voice of America (VOA) is fielding a team of journalists in Cairo to cover President Barack Obama's speech to Muslims, soliciting international reaction online, and providing in-depth analysis in more than two dozen languages." VOA press release, 3 June 2009.
     "The US Department of State has selected Clickatell, global mobile messaging provider, to build and power the online enrollment process and support the global delivery of 'live' mobile speech highlights via SMS during President Obama's speech to millions of international citizens." Clickatel press release, 3 June 2009.

UAE's new Star FM: too Sawa-like?

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC) all set to launch Star FM, a new radio station, which they claim is 'trendy, modern, and designed exclusively for young Arabs.' The station’s programming includes Arabic beats, western music and celebrity interviews among other things. ... But this kind of mixed music has drawn some skepticism from journalists; some compared the station’s content to Radio Sawa and questioned if it will be a propaganda tool. Other journalists suggested that music was not necessarily just for enjoyment, but rather subtly hinted at certain agendas and products. The Star FM team says that the station is recreational rather than political, and has no intention of dishing out any kind of propaganda. The channel can be picked up in Abu Dhabi (92.4FM), Al Ain (100.1FM), and Dubai (99.9FM)." Kippreport, 2 June 2009.

The problem with calling the Muslim World "the Muslim World."

Posted: 03 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"No one would claim that Guatemalans, Germans, or Guineans are the same because they are Christians, and it's equally nonsensical to lump Turks, Trinidadians, and Tunisians together simply because they also happen to be Muslim. This term is not only an analytical error - it's also a critical public diplomacy mistake. 'Muslim world' unfairly and singularly assigns adherents of Islam into a figurative ghetto." Scott Carpenter and Soner Cagaptay, Foreign Policy, June 2009.
     "The Indonesia that President Obama knew as a child, with its culture of pluralism and constitutional protections for religious freedom, provides the world with an important model of religious diversity. His Administration should act quickly to support that tradition. It can begin by sharply curtailing the use of rhetoric that carelessly describes diverse regions based on the faith of dominant groups." Richard G. Kraince, Heritage Foundation, 1 June 2009.
     "All too often, what is called public diplomacy or strategic communications is believed to consist entirely of decreasing anti-American opinions abroad. The theory goes that this will translate to more allies and reduce support for terrorists. It is a strategy that is based on hope and self-appreciation but fails to tackle the driving force of those who commit acts of terror: the Islamist ideology. ... This matters because it shows that our primary task is not to go out into the world and win a popularity contest. Rather, we must help bring about the decline of an ideology." Christian Whiton, The Weekly Standard, 2 June 2009.

More complaints about VOA and those pesky Taliban spokesmen.

Posted: 02 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Complaints that the U.S. government's Voice of America (VOA) interviewed a top Pakistani Taliban leader have sparked an investigation into VOA's Pashto language service to determine if it has allowed itself to become a platform for terrorist propaganda. ... The investigation of VOA's Pashto service is another example of the long-standing tension about the role of American-funded broadcasting. The professional staff of VOA consider the operation akin to the British Broadcasting Corp. and other Western news outlets, Mr. Austin said. Hence, the correspondents from time to time interview Taliban leaders in the process of covering news from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and Pashtun areas in neighboring Afghanistan. State Department policymakers, however, have recently bemoaned the absence of an effective operation to counter Taliban propaganda in the group's Afghanistan-Pakistan stronghold. Last month, Richard C. Holbrooke, the chief U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States lacked 'counter-programming' to Taliban FM stations, which he likened to the Rwandan radio stations that broadcast ethnic Hutus' propaganda against the Tutsis during the 1994 genocide." Eli Lake, Washington Times, 2 June 2009 (see also comments).
     Broadcasts that provide only the non-Taliban side of the story would not be "counter-programming." They would just be more propaganda. Real counter-programming is accurate, reliable, balanced news, which must necessarily include coverage of what opponents are doing and saying.
     If decision makers want to use broadcast media to transmit one-sided broadcasts into Afghanistan and Pakistan, they can do so. They can be public diplomacy under State, or information operations under Defense, as long as they are not part of or confused with US international broadcasting under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. While Taliban one-sided broadcasting might appeal to local prejudices and ideologies, US one-sided broadcasting would not (unless it is an uncommonly clever "black" clandestine operation). The latter would therefore probably not have much of an audience.

Where Judith McHale sits vis-a-vis US international broadcasting.

Posted: 02 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"One official who is likely to have a significant impact on Alhurra is Judith McHale, the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. McHale's predecessors in the Bush administration struggled to defend or resolve systemic problems at Alhurra. But McHale's background is in television programming and international broadcasting. She was the president and CEO of Discovery Communications and instrumental in developing Discovery Channel, which now has 100 channels telecast in more than 170 countries and 35 languages to more than 1 billion subscribers. McHale is close to Secretary Clinton and one administration official said she is now reviewing memos written by transition team members on Alhurra and the BBG." Dafna Linzer, ProPublica, 29 May 2009.
     McHale has one vote, on behalf of the Secretary of State, on the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Beyond that, she has no executive authority over Alhurra or any other element of US international broadcasting. If US public diplomacy did control US international broadcasting, then US international broadcasting would lack the independence necessary to achieve the credibility required to attract an audience. And given McHale's experience, she might have been a better fit as BBG chairperson than under secretary for public diplomacy.
     McHale's testimony at her 13 May Senate confirmation hearing does not mention international broadcasting. But was she thinking of international broadcasting when she said "our public diplomacy must be run strategically – not just in unconnected, unintegrated programs"?

Invasion of the Alhurra bashers.

Posted: 02 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Results from the largest public opinion poll in the Arab world indicate that Alhurra, the U.S.-funded Arab satellite station that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than half a billion dollars, is the least-watched station in the region and is losing viewers. ... 'Alhurra is at the bottom of the list of stations,' Telhami said in an interview. 'It was low last year too, but obviously the numbers don't look good for them. It doesn't mean people never watch Alhurra – they surf and watch multiple stations. But it's not where they go for news, and those numbers were consistent from country to country,' he said." Dafna Linzer, ProPublica, 29 May 2009.
     "U.S. Taxpayers Shell Out Half Billion Dollars for Little Watched Arab TV Station." AllGov, 31 May 2009.
     "Alhurra, US-Funded Middle East Propaganda Station, Watched By Only 0.5% Of Middle East Population." [sic] Huffington Post, 1 June 2009.
     The question is "which network's news broadcasts do you watch most often?" That is a ridiculous measure by which to evaluate the success of an international broadcaster. Foreign stations are rarely watched, or listened to, "most often." They are used supplementally, especially by elites. See previous post. Results of the Zogby/Telhami poll are available here.
     "Any station that can consistently grab 1% of the region’s viewers on a regular basis is significant. Very few stations can make that claim. The fact that one affiliated with the USG can, is significant and suggests there is a niche that has the potential to be exploited." Arabic Media Shack, 1 June 2009.
     "Letitia King, spokeswoman for the Broadcasting Board of Governors – the U.S. agency that oversees Alhurra –preferred the BBG's own data, which measures 'audience reach' rather than audience preference. 'Alhurra now reaches 26.7 million people weekly across the Middle East, up almost one million in the last year,' King said." ProPublica, op cit.
     "Indeed, Alhurra is the number one foreign (i.e.,non-Arab) channel in the Middle East (including BBC Arabic). When Radio Sawa's numbers are added and duplicate listeners/viewers subtracted, the stations together reach nearly 34 million Arabs weekly-- this, despite intense media competition and still-high anti-Americanism across the region." King to John Brown, John Brown's Notes and Essays, 31 May 2009.
     If the BBG had already issued a press release about these new audience figures for Alhurra and Radio Sawa, the negative impact of the Zogby/Telhami poll could have been headed off. Alhurra can claim success if it has a respectable percentage of the audience size of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Also important is how well Alhurra competes with the other Arabic-language foreign stations, especially BBC Arabic, but also France 24, Russia Today, DW-TV, EuroNews, CNBC Arabic, Alalam, etc. Good news or bad, the taxpayers deserve to see these results. Some citizens, after analyzing the data, will come forth with helpful suggestions. Alhurra is, after all, their station, too.
     "Obama appeared to snub Alhurra in the earliest days after his election when he gave his first interview with an Arab language network to the more popular, Saudi-based Al Arabiya." ProPublica, op cit. Actually, the choice of Al Arabiya was good public diplomacy on President Obama's part, and good for Alhurra's credibility. See previous post.

Makes complete sense: listening to RFA, in Cuba, in Uighur.

Posted: 02 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
At Guantánamo: "Some 17 Uighur Muslims awaiting a nation to grant them asylum are about to go high-tech, with laptops and web training. ... As devout Muslims, they fear religious persecution in their homeland, in part because of the stigma of having been held at Guantánamo for allegedly getting paramilitary training in Afghanistan before Sept. 11, 2001. ... Nury Turkel, a Washington, D.C.-based Uighur rights activist, hailed the computer training development. Internet access could allow the men to listen to Uighur broadcasts of Radio Free Asia, he said." Miami Herald, 31 May 2009.

And when his popularity inevitably slips, it will be blamed on a failure of US public diplomacy.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"President Barack Obama remains by far the most popular world leader among people in major Western nations and is the one political figure on whom people consistently pin their hopes in the economic crisis, according to new polls conducted for the International Herald Tribune [and France 24]. About 80 percent of people in France, Germany, Italy and Spain have a positive view of Mr. Obama, a ratio that declines only slightly, to about 70 percent, in the other two countries surveyed, Britain and the United States. The only politician who comes close is Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who gets a positive rating from two-thirds of those in Continental Europe but from only one-third of Britons and Americans." New York Times, 29 May 2009. Probably fewer than a third of Americans know who Angela Merkel is.

Science fiction fills first week of BBC America HD.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide launches BBC AMERICA HD on July 20 with the high-definition simulcast of BBC AMERICA. BBC AMERICA HD kicks off with an extraordinary week of sci-fi U.S. premieres - the return of the channel's highest rated series, Torchwood, the latest Doctor Who special, Planet of the Dead, the BBC AMERICA co-production, Being Human and the thrilling season finale of Primeval, Season 3." BBC Worldwide press release, 1 June 2009.

Big Ben's 150th.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Defiantly low-tech yet accurate to the second, London's Big Ben -the most famous clock in the world- [had] its 150th birthday on Sunday. ... Millions (m) of tourists have travelled to London to witness the distinctive chimes of Big Ben. Millions more have heard the bell on the BBC World Service, where for decades it was broadcast each hour." AP, 30 March 2009. The Westminster Chimes and Big Ben are heard less often these days on World Service, but can always be heard at 0000 GMT on 1 January.

Guantánamo's satellite television choices.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Eighty or so well-behaved captives who live in group dorms now have the chance to watch live satellite television, choosing from among three sports channels, al Jazeera's English channel and another Middle Eastern channel, Hayhurst said. Satellite TV will be extended to the medium and maximum security camps within a month, he said. 'We vet all of our channels very, very closely to ensure there is nothing that would incite the individuals here.'" Reuters, 31 May 2009. What's the other Middle Eastern channel?
     Canadian Omar "Khadr remains classified as a compliant detainee, earning him the right to live in medium security Camp 4, where additional amenities over the past year include four-hour-a-day access to five live TV channels arriving via satellite. Among them is the English service of the pan-Arab network al Jazeera, which contains programming and news-slants some critics see as less than sympathetic to the West." Calgary Herald, 31 May 2009. See previous post about same subject.

CNN claims success in survey of upscale Middle East audiences.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Results released today by Synovate's EMS Middle East survey confirm the network is the top choice for advertisers wanting to reach upscale television and online audiences. The results, which measure daily, weekly and monthly audience reach among the main income earners in the top 13% of households from June to September, rank CNN number one in the Middle East for monthly (21%), weekly (14%) and daily (9%) reach. In monthly reach, CNN has a substantial lead over its rivals, reaching over third more viewers per month (35%) than its nearest commercial competitors (BBC World News; 15.6%, Aljazeera English; 9%, CNBC; 4.8%, Euronews; 3.6%)" CNN press release via AMEInfo, 31 May 2009.

Revamped Al Arabiya English, New 24 websites.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"The revamped English-translated site of Al-Arabiya is pleasing to the eye, easy to navigate, finally catching up to Al-Jazeera and, dare I say, a bit tabloid." Bridget Johnson, About.com, 31 May 2009.
     South Africa's "News24.com has begun June 2009 with a new-look website and a fresh approach to news consumption and distribution. The new philosophy is based on focusing on a more accessible, interactive and visually rich website. ... The new website is designed to be more accessible to users and showcase a wider range of content, including international breaking news from Al Jazeera English." Bizcommunity.com, 1 June 2009.

Press TV will broadcast "Iran & the West" documentary.

Posted: 01 Jun 2009   Print   Send a link
"Press TV is to broadcast a landmark documentary series on Iran and its relationship with the Western world and the country's role in the war against terrorism. ... The documentaries screen the history of the Islamic Revolution and contributors, including Iran's former president Khatami, tell the inside story of the West's continuing nuclear confrontation with Iran. President Khatami and Jack Straw, then UK foreign secretary, describe how Iran offered to help in war against Saddam Hussein and terrorism in Afghanistan. ... Iran's Press TV, the UK's BBC2, the US's National Geographic, and Germany's ZDF are among the 15 channels scheduled to broadcast the documentary." Press TV, 31 May 2009.

New source of content about Iran.

Posted: 31 May 2009   Print   Send a link
"To expand its coverage of politics, foreign affairs, culture and society in Iran and the Iranian Diaspora, TehranBureau.com celebrates its official launch this month. A 'virtual bureau' with contributors in Iran, the United States and Europe, Tehran Bureau is connecting journalists, Iran experts and readers all over the world. The stories are shaped by Iranians in Iran and the Middle East, foreigners viewing or interacting with Iranian culture for the first time, and hyphenated Iranians best suited to bridge the cultures. ... 'This is a critical time in relations between the United States and much of the world. At a time when news organizations should be augmenting their foreign news coverage, they are forced to scale back,' said Golnoush Niknejad, founder of Tehran Bureau, who has previously reported for PBS Frontline, the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine. ... Tehran Bureau is not affiliated with or funded by any government, religious or interest group, and is therefore quickly becoming the premier source of news on Iran in the English language. Stories have been picked up and quoted by the mainstream media, including ABC News and the BBC World Service." newsmax.com, 29 May 2009. BBC World Service is funded by a government, but it probably enjoys more credibility than TehranBureau.com, whose funding is rather murkier.