Sale of Worldspace to Worldspace founder flounders.

Posted: 31 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The purchase of satellite radio broadcaster WorldSpace Inc. by its founder and chief executive has come undone. Silver Spring-based WorldSpace announced Thursday that the sale to Yenura Pte. Ltd., an entity headed by founder and CEO Noah Samara, had been terminated by WorldSpace's debtor in possession lenders. The company said the lenders had exercised their right to terminate the purchase agreement after Yenura had defaulted in the payment of certain amounts payable under the purchase agreement. WorldSpace said that it is in discussions with its creditors regarding strategic alternatives now that the Yenura purchase agreement had been terminated." Tucker Echols, Washington Business Journal, 28 August 2009. See also Worldspace press release, 27 August 2009. Also at Worldspace SEC filings page.
     "Those strategic options must now include finding a buyer who can be relied upon to come up with some cash. It needn’t be much – after all, $25m wasn’t so very much for a pair of aging satellites and an unlaunched ground spare satellite, plus uplink and other facilities." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 28 August 2009.
     "WorldSpace's stock has fallen off a cliff in the past year and was trading at less than a penny per share on Monday. The price was above $2.50 a year ago." Gazette.Net (Gaithersburg MD), 31 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Agree with US values, earn 100,000 bonus points.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. State Department has contracted a small Virginia-based startup to create mobile phone games to help citizens of nations the U.S. has poor relations with — mostly in the Middle East — learn about America and its values. ... The hope is to tone down the anti-American rhetoric by engaging people with a fun game, educate them with American facts, and connect everyone in indirect dialogue through the mobile format." ZDNet, 25 August 2009.

And a *real* psyop operative can "move out for 20 miles loaded down with equipment" in a business suit.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Five Psychological Operations specialists assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) recently underwent a grueling five-day assessment to determine if they are fit to serve and fight with the 75th Ranger Regiment. PSYOP roles are usually divided into two areas: strategic and tactical. Strategic roles may require a Soldier to wear a suit and work in an embassy, whereas tactical missions often see them out in the field, carrying a weighty man-packed loudspeaker system in addition to their normal combat gear." ShadowSpear, 25 August 2009.
     "Technomad LLC, a leader in high-powered weatherproof PA systems and communications equipment for military, security and other government applications, introduces the FireFly Micro PA Unit, the first portable, weatherproof, self-casing, all-in-one PA system for the military. ... Applications include Special Forces and PSYOPS missions where the FireFly's loud, clear audio output and long battery life allow troops and military personnel to broadcast voice and audio on the move." Technomad press release, 25 August 2009.

Radio Pyongyang, not often in the news, in the news.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Talks between South Korean and North Korean Red Cross chapters are scheduled to take place this Wednesday through Friday at Mt. Kumkang. Experts on North Korea are calling these talks a 'surprise offensive' or attempt by North Korea to realize a shift in the state of inter-Korean relations. ... This apparent resolve from North Korea was also demonstrated clearly in Tuesday reports on Radio Pyongyang, the nation’s international broadcasting service. In a program on South Korea-related issues Tuesday, there were no traces of abusive epithets such as 'traitor' and 'gang of rebels' that it customarily deploys when referring to the Lee administration. Some observers say this indicates that North Korea may be complying with a request by South Korean authorities that it stops slandering President Lee as a precondition for restoring inter-Korean relations." The Hankyoreh (Seoul), 26 August 2009. Actually, the North Korean international radio service is these days calling itself Voice of Korea. South Koreans can just as easily hear North Korea's domestic radio broadcasts.

RFI's late news provided Sierra Leonean newspaper with latest news.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"As a journalist, I can also recall a positive side of the ’French Connection.’ First was as part of the editorial corps at Expo Times newspaper in Freetown in the mid-to-late 1990s. Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, publisher/editor of this web site (PV) was General editor. His academic background in English and French gave the paper an edge when it came to publishing the latest international news. We simply waited until the very last edition of African news from Radio France International (RFI). They aired theirs much later than the more familiar BBC. This was where Gbanabome would come in very handy: he would monitor (RFI in French), transcribe and let us do the rest in English. The news vendors just loved the paper for that because headlines went a long way in boosting sales." Abayomi Charles Roberts, The Patriotic Vanguard (Freetown), 28 August 2009.

Evidence that Hugo Chávez is el redactor supremo at Telesur.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The leaders of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will participate in a brief summit in the Llao Llao Hotel in Bariloche [Argentina], with the agenda marked by the conflict unleashed by military agreement between Colombia and the United States. ... Atmosphere was tense at the Hotel because Hugo Chávez is opposed to broadcast live on television the entire meeting. The Bolivarian leader ordered the Telesur network to [emit] no live pictures from the summit of presidents of the UNASUR, which has just begun in Bariloche." Momento 24 (Buenos Aires), 28 August 2009.
     "The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) extraordinary summit on regional security issues would be broadcast live to media, an Argentinean government spokesman said Thursday." Xinhua, 27 August 2009.

Al Mutawhatsit? Muammar Gaddafi's son takes on Al Jazeera.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Saif Gadaffi, the son of the Libyan ruler, is moving his burgeoning media empire to London as he seeks to capitalise on blossoming trade ties with Britain. Gadaffi, who escorted Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the freed Lockerbie bomber, from Scotland to Tripoli, has bought a £10m home in Hampstead, north London. Staff at Gadaffi’s television news company, Al Mutawassit, are moving to the UK — with the first broadcast planned this week — and their boss is expected to follow. Ultimately, it aims to rival Al-Jazeera, the leading Arab news channel, with the launch of a website and newspaper." The Sunday Times, 30 August 2009.

An Al Jazeera for sports fans.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The first sports news TV channel in the Middle East will be launched by Al Jazeera Sports in the next few months. The 24-hour channel will air exclusive sports news as well as talk shows and programmes linked to events to which Al Jazeera Sports has the exclusive TV rights. 'The new Arabic-language channel aims to enlighten viewers about what is happening in the world of sports and provide them with comprehensive coverage of the most important international events.'" Emirates Business 24/7, 25 August 2009.

CNBC Africa and e.tv no longer free in southern Africa.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Thousands of Malawians who were able to access South Africa's e.tv and CNBC Africa television stations through the free-to-air digital satellite have cried foul over the blackout of the stations for three weeks now. There has been no information or contact about why transmission of the two stations was lost. ... The stations are currently beaming a ‘scramble channel' over a black screen, frustrating Malawian viewers who have been watching the two channels." Bizcommunity.com, 24 August 2009. The "free-to-air digital satellite" might be South Africa's Free2View, as Multichoice's DStv Africa has no free bouquets.

VOA Vietnamese wants to interview William Calley, of 1968 My Lai massacre, after his recent apology.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Voice of America wants to help William Calley bring his recent apology for the Vietnam War atrocities at My Lai directly to the people of Vietnam. VOA, a multi-media broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, wants the former Army lieutenant to participate in an interview that would be broadcast in Vietnam. 'We believe our listeners in Vietnam would be keenly interested in hearing what Mr. Calley has to say, especially if it is different from what they have heard or been told by their own media,' said Judy Nguyen, senior editor of VOA’s Vietnamese service. Calley issued his first public apology since the 1968 incident last week at a Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus meeting. ... 'If ever Mr. Calley wanted to say anything that would be heard by the people of Vietnam, the Voice of America would be the appropriate channel,' Nguyen said... . She said the interview could be for radio or television — his choice. VOA would interview him over the phone or travel to Columbus or Atlanta. Efforts by intermediaries to get Calley and the broadcasting service in touch with each other have been unsuccessful so far." Dick McMichael, Columbus (GA) Ledger-Enquirer, 26 August 2009. It's unusual for a news organization's attempt to get an interview to become news itself. The Calley apology has not been reported by VOA in English, nor by any other news organization as a regular story -- only as blog entries or in editorials. Also reported by Voice of Vietnam, 28 August 2009. See also Robert Mackey, The Lede, New York Times, 24 August 2009. And National Public Radio, 30 August 2009.

More new ways to receive international channels.

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The second-largest telco in New Zealand is backing a new venture that will offer 21 channels from around the world and claims to be the country's first internet TV service. Entitled Ziln and with backing from TelstraClear Communications, the service launches today with 14 international news and business channels, including Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, TV5 Monde, TVE and Russia Today. Those channels will stream live, giving New Zealanders the chance to watch the networks in real time." C21Media.net, 26 August 2009. Also: Zee News, Chinese channel CCTV9, Voice of America, and DW-TV. Rapid TV News, 30 August 2009. See also The Dominion Post, 28 August 2009.
     "French IPTV operator Darty has added 26 new channels to its IPTV service 'DartyBox HD'... . The telco has also added 23 new standard-definition channels to the service, of which 22 are in the basic tier, including: TF1 HD, France 2 HD, M6 HD, NRJ Hits, France 24, Canal 24 Horas, ChannelOne Russia, TVP Polonia, Vox Africa, Apsara TV, Al Jazeera Children, Baraem TV and ten regional versions of France 3." ipTV News, 28 August 2009.
     Ireland's "Gorillabox has secured more than a hundred licenses to augment its mobile and TV and video technology offering, including the BBC, CNN, France 24... ." Mobile Entertainment, 26 August 2009.

Shortwave: can all the noise be notched?

Posted: 30 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"In the foreseeable future, you’ll be able to get a home network running at Gigabit rates, just using your mains cable. Already, you can get 100 megabits on HomePlug power-line communications (PLC) systems. And then, you discover that radio amateurs are petitioning the Government to have these banned! ... The official HomePlug response is that they’ve solved the problems. Yes, there is the potential to produce radio interference and yes, if you buy a PLC box and plug it into the mains, and it spoils someone else’s legal right to use shortwave radio, then someone from Ofcom will pop round and tell you to stop. But! – there’s technology to prevent this: notching. ... So you just find the frequency that’s causing the problem, and get a competent engineer to re-program your HomePlug device to avoid it. No, it’s not a job for the beginner. But it can be done." Guy J Kewney, 25 August 2009. But shortwave broadcasting involves hundreds of frequencies, constantly changing. That would involve a lot of notching.
     "I appreciate your article about the PLC HomePlug adapters that can cause terrible radio interference on the HF [shortwave] spectrum. I have tested a pair of Devolo HomePlug adapters myself and found them to create terrible radio interference." Roar Dehli, newswireless.net, 26 August 2009.
     "People are having problems accessing the rfi [web] site in China but plenty of listeners are sending in reception reports after tuning in on shortwave." Radio France International, 21 August 2009.
     "Developing countries are where wireless and mobile businesses are investing. These are often the very places where the people are whom we want to reach. So we have to be there, producing content for this new technology. In some countries, it's the Internet. In some countries, it's mobile. In some countries, it's FM. In some countries, it's still shortwave." Wayne Pederson, president of HCJB Global, interviewed by Elissa Cooper, Christianity Today, 26 August 2009. See previous post.
     "Right-wing militias and nativist or 'Patriot' groups are on the rise again, with law-enforcement agencies noting as many as 50 new militia training groups and 'a worrying uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda.' ... [The Southern Poverty Law Center's] Heidi Beirich said [domestic US] short-wave radio and obscure AM radio stations conveyed the groups' theories 15 to 20 years ago. Today, the crazy theories are on cable news 'and that's a scary thing. It's hard to fight back on something apparently so mainstream.'" Editorial, Lousville Courier-Journal, 23 August 2009.
     In Hawaii, 1959: "'What added luster and mystique to sports was listening to games on short-wave radio, with the announcers fading in and out,' longtime sportscaster Jim Leahey said. 'You'd listen to the World Series in the morning, take the radio on the bus, try to get the teacher to let you listen to the game in class.'" Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 19 August 2009.

The continuing debate about Europropaganda.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
A report by Swedish think tank Timbro "bashes all kinds of European initiatives, including the 'Together since 1957' slogan campaign ... and several media related projects such as Euranet (the European Radio Network), EUTube, EuroparlTV, and last but not least, Euronews. ... [European Commissioner for Communication, Margot] Wallstrom’s response was on the surface quite dismissive, with a blog post entitled ‘The silly season’, yet dwelled on the report quite deeply, giving both some adequate and some insufficient responses. ... And so the endless debate between what is information and what is propaganda sets in, with Timbro and Open Europe suggesting that everything coming out of EU institutions and their funded projects is propaganda, and the other end saying that it is simply information. In our historically charged societies, propaganda is a negative term. What DG Communication is doing, is providing a public service. The messages are indeed politically charged, as they carry a pro-European message, but as much as I welcome dialogue with people who are anti-Europe, the way forward is unity and growth. And if one country gathers a majority of naysayers, then the country is welcome to withdraw. Projects such as Euronews, Euranet, Presseurop, EuroparlTV are needed." Editor's Notes, New Europe, 23 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Yours for happy listening: BBC World Service devotes "season" to the Great Recession.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC World Service is to dramatise the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in a radio drama recorded on location in and around Wall Street. This fictionalised account of events over the weekend prior to the bank's demise and the chain of events that led to the critical decision to let Lehman die stars John Shea and John Rothman, and was made with the assistance of New York's WNYC Public Radio. The Day That Lehman Died is written by Matthew Solon and directed by John Dryden... . Solon and Dryden's 60-minute play, which will air on 5 September, will launch a season of programmes on the World Service, the BBC World News television channel and BBC.com investigating and reflecting on the impact of the global recession." The Guardian, 27 August 2009.
     "'It's a bunch of guys sitting in a room discussing finance. It's potentially such a dry subject. It could be a turkey,' [director John] Dryden says. 'But people who have listened to it say it stands up as a drama of high stakes.' Exactly how do you make collateralized debt obligation come to life? 'It's difficult,' writer Matthew Solon says. 'If you had to explain what a CDO was, it would take 20 minutes of a 57-minute program. But the audience doesn't need to know those details to get the story.'" Wall Street Journal, 29 August 2009.
"BBC World Service will also be investigating the impact of the global recession in Aftershock, a new season broadcasting across the BBC's international news services, with BBC World News and bbc.com, in September." BBC World Service press release, 24 August 2009.
     "Sir John Tusa is to return to BBC Radio 4 for a sequel to the station's acclaimed daily archive series, 1968: Day by Day, fast-forwarding in history to the momentous events of 1989. ... Featuring archive material and commentary by Tusa, the former managing director of the BBC World Service, Newsnight presenter and chief executive of the Barbican, the 'real-time' five-minute bulletins will air every day on Radio 4 from 5 October to 3 January, with a Sunday omnibus edition." The Guardian, 24 August 2009. The year 1989 was huge for international broadcasting, from both sides.
     "Young men armed with their mobile phones are capturing every disturbance in the disputed state of Kashmir in an effort to combat what they see as restrictive policing. ... Producer Suvojit Bagchi, a correspondent with BBC World Service based in Delhi, India meets the people behind the mobile phones and assesses the impact of their work. New Media in Kashmir is part of the World Stories series. These are five individual documentaries made by BBC language service producers about the region they come from." BBC World Service, 28 August 2009.
     "News from the North Caucasus is starting to look more and more like reports from the frontline. But behind the headlines, what is daily life like for the region's people? The BBC Russian Service has joined forces with online news portal The Caucasus Knot to answer that question. The project - entitled North Caucasus through the eyes of bloggers - brings together a variety of thoughts and opinions from the region." BBC News, 27 August 2009.
     "In the fourth of a series of articles marking the outbreak of World War II 70 years ago, the BBC Russian Service's Artyom Krechetnikov assesses Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's motivations behind the 1939 Soviet-Nazi pact." BBC News, 25 August 2009.
     "Nigeria will be marking 50 years of television broadcasting in Nigeria, nay Africa. It was on October 31, 1959 when the signals of the then Western Nigeria Television Services (WNTVS) in Ibadan, went on air, thus pioneering what is now known as first television service in Africa. But what could be termed pre-golden year celebration took place last week in Lokoja, the capital city of Kogi State. The occasion was the 50th General Assembly of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), which had as theme Celebrating Broadcasting. ... The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) delegation highlighted three channels of broadcasting (i.e. BBC TV, Radio and Online) and how their programmes are produced. The presentation also focused on BBC World Service and other programmes that run on Nigerian Radio/TV stations. The rooting of programmes on research was also emphasised. The presentation of BBC Hausa Service pointed towards greater content delivery in their star programmes such as 'Stories Around The world', 'Listeners' Letters', 'BBC Hausa Face-book', and 'Weekly Women's Magazine'." The Guardian (Lagos), 24 August 2009. So BBC fare on Nigerian stations seems similar to that on stations in India, another huge target country: non-news.
     "The BBC World Service Trust is launching a new television drama for Bangladesh, in an attempt to promote learning English in a country which is one of the largest sources of immigration to the UK." The Guardian, 23 August 2009.
     "BBC World Service Trust completed a two-week specialised training course in television news production for Ma'an Network with the participation of network stations Bethlehem TV, Al-Amal TV, and Qalqiliya TV on Thursday. The course, aimed at improving reportage, camerawork and photo editing, came as part of a two-year 'Support to the Palestinian Media Sector' project funded by the European Union and the Dutch government." Ma'an News Agency, 29 August 2009.
     "Arabic-speaking TV journalists interested in improving their skills in creating audio and video TV reports can now access a BBC guide published in Arabic for that purpose. Titled 'The World as You See It: BBC Accompanies You to the World of Making TV Reports,' the guide contains tips on necessary hardware and software, filming, lighting and other tips from BBC’s experience in planning, writing and producing TV reports." International Journalists' Network, 26 August 2009, with link to the document in pdf.
     "We listened to a documentary in which the great Siobhan McKenna told stories of the Abbey, and of her life in London and New York. It was a boiling August day and my grandmother and I were spellbound. Siobhan McKenna related how she had been in radio plays at the BBC World Service in London, and that some of these plays had been broadcast LIVE around the world. 'God bless us,' my grandmother said. 'Imagine that now. Millions of people listening. It would put the fear of God in you!' ... India would be listening now! Australia. New Zealand. Places where it would be nighttime or sweltering noon. Storm-beaten islands. Ships. And some would never have heard a play in the whole of their lives. Houseboys in Rhodesia, sweating farm-hands in the outback, shopkeepers in frazzled Shanghai. ... 'Be calm,' would say her smile. 'Trust your lines. That is all.' This is the BBC World Service broadcasting from London. Greenwich Mean Time is sixteen hundred hours. Welcome to the Thursday Play. And someone would start to speak. And another. And another. And the words would come out of the air. Beamed by Hilversum, Lille, Luxembourg, Allouis, Athlone, Droitwich, Warsaw, Moscow. And perhaps there is an otherworld which only radio waves can attain, where the dead are listening quietly together. Siobhan McKenna, my grandmothers, all those who blessed our summers. Perhaps memory is their oxygen, megahertz their rain, and their country has no currency or flag." Joe O'Connor, Independent (Dublin), 23 August 2009.

Iran media update for 29 August 2009.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Constitutionally, Iranian government has right to control all electronic media through its organ- Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) which has authority to manipulate all internal and external broadcasting. State run media is widely criticized for blackouts of political opponents; however, because of government’s sanctions on local press, now foreign media is getting enormous popularity in Iranian people. Many western media broadcasters hugely increased their coverage in recent years, particularly after contested Iranian election. Based in Prague and Washington, Radio Farda’s Persian transmission has been estimated by US State department as ‘the highest weekly reach rate of any international radio station in the Iran’. Similarly, BBC Persian-language television has also attracted huge viewership in Iran and abroad." Zafar Iqbal, News Agency of Kashmir, 27 August 2009. Before the election, VOA's Persian News Network television had larger audiences than Radio Farda or VOA Persian radio. Surveys after the election will determine if VOA PNN TV or BBC Persian TV have larger audiences in Iran. Or if Iranians have returned to international radio amid Iran's blocking of satellite television and confiscating of satellite dishes.
     "In reaction to the Islamic Republic's media crackdown, I have been discussing the merits of establishing shortwave radio broadcasting with media experts and those interested in over throwing the Islamic dictatorship of Iran. The idea has received wide acceptance as a viable tool. I have decided to share it with the people of the world and ask for input and financial support, as they have been most generous and supportive allies of this pro-democracy movement. ... Shortwave possesses a number of advantages over newer technologies." Arash Irandoost, Arutz Sheva, 24 August 2009. Dr. Irandoost still seems unaware (see previous post) that Kol Israel's Persian service transmits on shortwave, its sole remaining shortwave service. His five listed advantages of shortwave over newer media do not include the most important one: the natural tendency of shortwaves to travel better over long than short distances, hence their physical resistance from jamming. And any plans for shortwave to Iran must take into account the Iranians' preference for television, even if radio has an easier time getting through.
     "Canada has called on Iran to release an Iranian-Canadian journalist detained in Tehran during the unrest that followed the June 12 presidential election. Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon expressed 'Canada's grave concern over Iran's disrespect for basic human rights, unacceptable treatment and continued unjustified detention of Bahari'. ... Maziar Bahari, who worked for Newsweek and had connections with the BBC and Britain's Channel 4 news, has been accused of acting against Iran's national security. In a press conference held after his arrest, the reporter admitted to giving 'false and biased' reports about the events that erupted in Iran after the re-election of Presi dent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Specifically highlighting the role of the BBC, CNN and Euronews, Bahar also backed up Iran's assertions that foreign media were trying to set the scene for a 'velvet revolution' in the country." Press TV, 27 August 2009.
      "The Dutch city of Rotterdam and Erasmus University Rotterdam have dismissed Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss-born Islamist academic, from his two local jobs. ... The specific reason: his weekly television program on PressTV, an Iranian government media network which operates studios in Britain and the U.S. in addition, of course, to the Middle East. ... In an official statement, Erasmus University stated: '... Press TV is a channel financed by the Iranian government. The excessive force used by this government in June against demonstrators, many of whom were students, prompted a number of journalists to cut their ties with the channel. However, Tariq Ramadan chose not to do so, and has since justified his decision in a statement... .'" Stephen Schwartz, American Thinker, 29 August 2009.
     Video of "News anchor Suzie Ziai on [National Iranian Radio and Television] International channel covering the chaos which was taking place in Iran during the last days of the monarchy." In English, from 1979. Iranian.com, 25 August 2009.

"Series of bureaucracies" versus "men in caves": Adm. Mullen criticizes US strat comm.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written a searing critique of government efforts at 'strategic communication' with the Muslim world, saying that no amount of public relations will establish credibility if American behavior overseas is perceived as arrogant, uncaring or insulting. The critique by the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, comes as the United States is widely believed to be losing ground in the war of ideas against extremist Islamist ideology. ... 'I would argue that most strategic communication problems are not communication problems at all,' he wrote. 'They are policy and execution problems. Each time we fail to live up to our values or don’t follow up on a promise, we look more and more like the arrogant Americans the enemy claims we are.' ... Admiral Mullen expressed concern over a trend to create entirely new government and military organizations to manage a broad public relations effort to counter anti-Americanism, which he said had allowed strategic communication to become a series of bureaucracies rather than a way to combat extremist ideology. He also challenged a popular perception that Al Qaeda operates from primitive hide-outs and still wins the propaganda war against the United States. 'The problem isn’t that we are bad at communicating or being outdone by men in caves,' Admiral Mullen wrote. 'Most of them aren’t even in caves. The Taliban and Al Qaeda live largely among the people. They intimidate and control and communicate from within, not from the sidelines.'" Thom Shanker, New York Times, 27 August 2009. See also John Brown, Huffington Post, 29 August 2009.
     "Mullen lauds the Marshall Plan, which funded the reconstruction of Europe following the second world war, and other past US efforts as the "essence" of good communication, because US actions spoke for themselves without the need for opinion polling and other PR tools. 'We sure didn't need talking points and PowerPoint slides to deliver aid,' he wrote. 'We simply showed up and did the right thing because it was, well, the right thing to do.'" The Guardian, 28 August 2009.

VOA reports on CAIR's Koran distribution campaign.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Voice of America, an international broadcasting service with a worldwide audience of some 134 million people, recently aired a segment featuring CAIR`s [Council on American Islamic Relations] educational Share the Quran initiative. CAIR`s Share the Quran campaign is designed to distribute free copies of the Quran to 100,000 [US] local, state and national leaders by the end of the year." Via Student Operated Press, 27 August 2009, with link to VOA video report.

Reporters, dissidents, and international broadcasting.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Angolan government has unexpectedly released a local journalist who had been in jail for the last two years on charges of threatening state security, writes Gilberto Neto for journalism.co.za. Jose Lelo, correspondent for Voice of America in the oil-rich enclave of Cabinda, was arrested in 2007 amid an outcry from civil society, the media and the opposition. He was tried and found guilty in 2008 of supporting the separatist group Front for the Liberation of Cabinda (Flec) and sentenced to 12 years in a high-security prison. Lelo has now been unexpectedly been freed, and authorities have given no reason." journalism.co.za, 28 August 2009.
     "A reporter for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kandahar was beaten by police as he was speaking with witnesses of a massive truck bombing in the center of the city. ... Dawa Khan Meenapal was not arrested but his recording equipment was confiscated, though it was later returned to him." RFE/RL News, 26 August 2009.
     Local radio reporter Adel Kazar "remembers how the water and sewage authorities in Karbala [Iraq] sued Al-Hurra reporter Iman Bilal for reporting on water supplies filled with dirt. Although Iman Bilal won the case, 'the incident exposes how authorities mistreat journalists, leading to restrictions on freedom of the press,' Adel explained." Menassat, 21 August 2009.
     "Masoud Bastani, a journalist detained [in Iran] after the election, ... [noted] that he cooperated with the website RoozOnline, Radio Farda, Radio Chekavak and the weekly Shahreban, Bastani said that these media outlets sought to attack the administration’s four-year record, as well as the Guardian Council, police, Basij and IRGC, in addition to sowing seeds of doubt about the election results and the viability of the administration’s policies. As the trial dragged on, Shahabeddin Tabatabaei, a member of Mosharekat Party’s central committee and the head of its youth branch, expressed regret for having agreed to an interview with the BBC about the post-election protests." Iran Press Watch, 27 August 2009.
     "Uzbek authorities should promptly investigate new allegations of abuse against a political prisoner, Yusuf Jumaev, and ensure that his family is permitted regular visits, Human Rights Watch said today. ... [His daughter Feruza] Jumaeva and other members of the Jumaev family have reported previous abuse of Jumaev in Jaslyk prison to Human Rights Watch as well as to media outlets such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Uzbek service, ozodlik.org, and Uznews.net." Human Rights Watch, 27 August 2009.
     "A statement by Yermek Dzhakishev, brother of the ex-head of Kazatomprom [national nuclear company], Mukhtar Dzhakishev, who has been incarcerated for three months by the National Security Committee and has been deprived of constitutional rights to [legal] defense, information, medical treatment, and communication with his loved ones, is another signal that the special services have begun to abuse their power for political purposes signaled to them by the authorities, as well as for narrow personal objectives. The statement was sent to the electronic addresses of Kazakh and Russian media outlets. The editorial offices of both Respublikas, in Almaty and Moscow, received it. We also know that information about the content of this statement appeared on Wednesday [presumably on 29 July] on the website of Radio Azattyk [Kazakh service of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty] and on several Internet blogs." Respublika, 31 July 2009, via BBC Monitoring, via Transitions Online, 27 August 2009.

Remembering Ted Kennedy, and VOA, in 1978 USSR.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
The family of Boris Katz was allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1978 with the help of Senator Edward Kennedy. "At first, Katz said, he didn't believe him, sure that the Soviet authorities would find a way to scupper the plans. Katz went home and told his wife, who also didn't believe it, he said. The next morning, a friend called Katz to say he heard Kennedy on the Voice of America radio network listing the names of people leaving the Soviet Union. The Katz family was on the list, the friend said. Despite the report, however, the Soviet authorities denied it, Katz recalls. '"We are telling you that this is not the case,"' he remembers them saying. 'But this was just part of the game that they played.'" CNN, 26 August 2009.
     "I remember the first days after the [1986] Chernobyl disaster well. I wasn’t living in Kiev then, but wanted to visit my relatives for the May 1st holidays. ... Panic was already wandering the city streets, everyone was picking up [Radio] Svoboda and Voice of America, buying up red wine by the case. ... Were there a different society, then journalists would appear. But in order for this to happen, Russia’s citizens must themselves feel the necessity for honest journalism, which thinks about them, and not the authorities." Vitaly Portnikov, Grani.ru, via The Other Russia, 25 August 2009.

CBS hires VOA VJ to work in Afghanistan (updated).

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"CBS News executives announced today that they have hired Mandy Clark, a former video journalist for Voice of America News, as the network's digital journalist to be stationed in Afghanistan. ... With the hiring of Ms. Clark, CBS News would appear to be exploring a similar model. 'Mandy has done great work from the field in all conditions and we are pleased that she is joining CBS News,' said Mr. Friedman in today's release. 'Mandy is intrepid and her wealth of experience reporting from the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere and her adroit use of technology, make her a terrific addition.'" The New York Observer, 27 July 2009.
     Update: "In July, CBS announced that it was assigning Mandy Clark, a former video journalist for Voice of America News, to Afghanistan. Clark represents a new model in foreign coverage – a digital journalist who can shoot, report and edit video while on the move in hot zones." Sherry Ricchiardi, American Journalism Review, August/September 2009.
     Candidates for president of Afghanistan include ... "one-time Voice of America broadcaster and former attorney general Abdul Jabbar Sabit." The News (Karachi), 28 July 2009.

Former VOA broadcasters in the news.

Posted: 29 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
Death of Wanda Ramey, in 1959 one of US television's first female news anchors, in 1970s California correspondent for VOA. Wall Street Journal, 26 August 2009.
     John Weitz: "In 1943 his fluency in German landed him a job with the Voice of America. Weitz joined the Army, then became a U.S. citizen after he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA. Working as an undercover espionage agent, he infiltrated enemy lines in France and worked with the German Resistance, including the officers who plotted the unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944." People Magazine, 1992, via Jweekly.com, 23 August 2009.

More news from the old VOA Bethany transmitting site.

Posted: 28 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A local home improvement company has been awarded a $1.5 million contract to replace the windows of the historic Bethany Station, Voice of America Museum in West Chester [Ohio]. All-Seal Home Improvement, which has offices in Vandalia and Medway, won the contract as part of the major exterior renovation of the building. All-Seal’s work on the project is expected to be complete by March, 2010. ... The Voice of American Museum, located at 8070 Tylersville Road, dates back to World War II." Dayton Business Journal, 24 August 2009.
     "Carnatic Indian music and an opera singer will share the stage Aug. 28 in a concert at the Voice of America Park in West Chester Township." Sue Kiesewetter, Share, Cincinnati Enquirer, 24 August 2009.
     "There will be a focus on art and community at Miami University’s Voice of America Learning Center this fall." Hamilton (Ohio) Journal-News, 23 August 2009.

Things named "Voice of America" that are not Voice of America.

Posted: 28 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Presented by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) in partnership with the Florestan Recital Project and Tufts University Department of Music, the Voice of America festival showcases a series of American vocal music both new and unknown to Boston audiences." ArtsBoston.
     "House Minority Leader John Boehner will speak at the Voice of America 'Freedom Rally' on September 5. 'Tea Party' organizers says Boehner will answer questions in a townhall format." WCPO-TV (Cincinnati), 26 August 2009. See also Oxford (OH) Press, 24 August 2009. Well, it is at a park located at the former VOA Bethany (Ohio) shortwave transmitting station. But it is not a VOA endorsed event. After all, the tax cuts advocated by the "Tea Party" probably would lead to a substantial budget cut for VOA. See previous post.
     "The sun is still spotless, now at 44 days and that places us in the top 10 longest periods of calm in history. We’ll be in the top 5 by midweek and if we can get to 53 days (early next week) we’ll not only be in the longest sunspot drought of the current solar minimum, but this will be the quietest pattern since the early 1900s. Some solar physicists are forecasting a minimum rivaling those we had during the Little Ice Age and I agree with them. This one will change weather patterns in ways that we have not witnessed in hundreds of years. I'll have more on the solar minimum at The Voice of America rally on September 5th. Join me and more than 10,000 like-minded people for the afternoon." Rich Apuzzo, Examiner.com, 24 August 2009. Also affects reception of VOA from its surviving shortwave transmitting sites.

BBC and VOA as free news sources?

Posted: 28 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A few weeks ago, Rupert Murdoch announced the online version of Fox News (the fair and balanced one) will become a pay-per-view service. ... I know what you’re thinking. This is a bad deal. Practically every other news service provides online articles and commentary, with costs covered by ads, not users. Even if every newspaper in the United States switches to a monthly pay plan, you’ll still be able to get free localized news from the BBC World or Voice of America, both of which are bound by law to provide services for free." Westin McDorman, JackCentral.com, 27 August 2009. I'm not aware of any laws that require BBC (internationally) and VOA to distribute their content for free. BBC video archives are free for UK internet users, but unavailable to international users. Note that there is generally no live stream of BBC World News. (One exception, for now, is Peepat.com.) You are supposed to watch via cable or satellite systems, for which you pay. VOA could use the same discrimination of IP addresses to make its content free for internet users outside the United States, but, because of the Smith-Mundt prohibition aganst domestic dissemination, altogether unavailable to US users. For discussion of news for free, or otherwise, via the internet, see BBC News, 6 August 2009 and BBC World Have Your Say, 6 August 2009.

Former VOA official indicted, accused of favors to Abramoff (updated).

Posted: 28 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A former top official for Voice of America was indicted Friday on corruption charges, accused of taking thousands of dollars in concert and sports tickets in exchange for favors to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Horace Cooper, who is also a one-time aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, is accused of defrauding the government after getting choice seats to see 'N Sync, the Dixie Chicks, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. The indictment charges Cooper agreed to use his position at Voice of America — and his subsequent job at the Labor Department — to advance the interests of Abramoff and his clients. ... Cooper, 44, worked as chief of staff at Voice of America in 2002, before taking the same position at the Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration, where he worked until 2005. In both positions, prosecutors charge, he used his official position to advance the private interests of the lobbyist Abramoff and his clients. The indictment charges Cooper agreed to help Abramoff secure VOA funding for the lobbyist's newly formed television production business, and assist an Abramoff client, a Mariana Islands garment manufacturer, with an investigation they were facing by the U.S. Department of Labor." AP, 22 August 2009, and many others. See also Department of Justice press release via TPM, 21 August 2009. And Cooper bio at GOPUSA.
     Update: "If convicted of all charges, Cooper faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He is scheduled to appear in court next on Sept. 9. ... Cooper's Washington attorney, Solomon Wisenberg said in a statement that his client was innocent and would challenge the charges in court. 'We are very disappointed that the Department of Justice has decided to go forward with these charges,' Wisenberg said. 'Mr. Cooper will fight these charges vigorously and looks forward to his day in court.' ... Prosecutors claimed that Cooper assisted Abramoff in securing approximately $10 million to $15 million in federal funding from VOA and the State Department for the lobbyist's new television production business. During that same time period, Cooper reportedly accepted thousands of dollars' worth of complimentary meals and gifts from Abramoff. ... VOA did not respond to a request for comment." Government Executive, 24 August 2009, with link to full text of indictment.
     From the indictment: "On or about June 26, 2002, Abramoff instructed an associate to establish an Internet domain for Mount Vernon Studios, the new business which Abramoff planned to use to obtain federal funding for the production of television content for Voice of America and the Department of State. ... or about early-August, 2002, COOPER met with representatives of a California-based production company interested in participating in the Voice of America broadcasting project and received a presentation tape that the company representative hoped would assist his company in being chosen to participate in the Voice of America broadcasting project and in receiving federal funding." It would be interesting to know which VOA video broadcasting project this was, if it were ever implemented. Cooper joined VOA (as a political appointee?) in late 2001, at about the time Robert R. Reilly was appointed VOA director. Cooper left VOA in 2002, shortly after Reilly left.
     Cooper created the blog fightforglenn.com, with the first entry on 21 August and the most recent on 28 August. The website is in support of popular US conservative television peronality Glenn Beck, subject of a recent boycott. The cynic might conclude that, given that Cooper probably had an idea by 21 August that he might be indicted, Cooper was hoping Beck might return the favor and campaign for Cooper in Cooper's time of travail. It's interesting that a search of "horace" at glennbeck.com website finds yields no results. This might lead said cynic to think that either Beck has thrown Cooper under the bus, or that Beck has no idea who Cooper is.

News from the Bing dynasty.

Posted: 22 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Overseas Chinese news website, Boxun, revealed on August 19 that Microsoft’s newly launched search engine, Bing, provides completely different search results in China compared to its U.S. version. Bing provides obviously filtered and selective search results in accordance with Beijing’s point of view. What’s worse is that the situation remains the same even outside of China as long as the Chinese version of bing.com is used." Ding Xiao, Radio Free Asia, via Epoch Times, 21 August 2009.

Orchestra named for former VOA director plays on.

Posted: 22 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Greenwich [Connecticut] is rich in community bands making merry every summer. The three oldest - Sound Beach Community Band, Billy and the Showmen, and the Bob Button Orchestra - total 125 years of music-making with patriotic, soul and swing music. ... With the Bob Button Orchestra playing big band hits of the 40s and 50s, there's an age hike with musicians and stories that goes with it. Trombonist John Low (75 +) has a winner about the oldest member of the band, 98-year-old trumpet player, Tony DeJulio of Stamford. ... Low was playing with the Retreads orchestra in 1985 when pianist Bob Button, a World War II code breaker and former head of Voice of America, came along and took over the orchestra. 'I urged him to change the name to Bob Button,' said Low who remains grateful that Button kept him on." Greenwich Citizen, 21 August 2009. Mr. Button died in August 2008. For mention of his role at Bletchey Park, Britain's World War II code breaking site, see The Independent, 21 August 2009.

"Tea party" at old VOA Bethany site invokes history of VOA.

Posted: 22 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Cincinnati Tea Party has extended invitations to Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana regional officials to attend what promises to be the largest Midwest tea party to date: the Voice of America Freedom Rally, September 5, from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., at the Voice of America Park Museum in West Chester. The theme of the event will focus on average citizens becoming engaged in the political process and holding their representatives accountable. ... As it was during World War II, America’s voice will be heard on September 5 at the historical site of wartime broadcasts that were heard around the world. The United States intended the Voice of America to provide hope—the very first program in 1944 began, 'We shall speak to you about America…'" Sue White, Share, Cincinnati Enquirer, 21 August 2009. See Wikipedia on Tea Party protests.

Obituary: World War II leafleter.

Posted: 22 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Barbara Lauwers Podoski, 95, who launched one of the most successful psychological operations campaigns of World War II, which resulted in the surrender of more than 600 Czechoslovakian soldiers fighting for the Germans, died of cardiovascular disease Aug. 16 at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington. ... Mrs. Lauwers, a private, realized there was an opportunity to flip the loyalties of her former countrymen. She quickly borrowed the Vatican's Czech and Slovak typewriters and prepared leaflets in both Czech and Slovak languages that urged the conscripts to change sides, telling them that they were being used. 'Shed this German yoke of shame, cross over to the partisans,' she implored them. ... After Mrs. Lauwers returned to the United States, she was involved in broadcasting for the Voice of America." Washington Post, 22 August 2009.

IBB/HCJB DRM shortwave tests: evidence of effectiveness.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
The IBB/HCJB tests of Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) shortwave, via Greenville, North Carolina, have been brought in reception reports from disparate locations. This audio is from a listener in Germany, tuning to 15475 kHz on 19 August at 2045 UTC. Also, this screenshot from British Columbia, 21 August at 0200 UTC on 9405 kHz. Average power is 6 kilowatts into a rhombic antenna. Schedule is 2000-2200 UTC on 15475 kHz, 0000-0400 on 9405. See previous post about same subject.

International channels on mobile devices via new RealPlayer SP plus.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"In the war between online video players, Real Player has launched a new version of its player incorporating social functions as well as the ability to transfer files to mobile devices. Called Real Player SP, the software is now available for download. ... In the premium version, SP Plus also gives access to live news from Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN and Euronews. RealPlayer SP plus has a one-time cost of EUR 29.99." Broadband TV News, 21 August 2009.

Advertisements on international channels in the news.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A diplomatic storm is brewing between Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia's president has accused Peru of thievery. Peru's Congress issued a bristling denial. ... The two Andean neighbors are tussling over a costume in the Miss Universe pageant. ... This week, Bolivia's government began running ads asserting its sovereignty over La Diablada on CNN's Spanish-language network and regional broadcaster Telesur." Wall Street Journal, 21 August 2009.
     "Romania's tourism minister ... Elena Udrea ... is accused of misspending ministry money, including overspending on advertisements on the EuroNews and CNN television channels." AP, 20 August 2009.

Expand international broadcasting to Burma, writes president of East Timor.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Major broadcasting institutions like Voice of America, BBC, and others should significantly expand their Burmese language programmes." José Ramos-Horta, president of East Timor, Huffington Post, 19 August 2009. BBC, VOA, and RFA Burmese already occupy all the key morning and evening listening times. The next big thing would be satellite television in Burmese. The splitting of US international broadcasting resources in Burmese between VOA and RFA is ridiculous for radio, and would be breathtakingly absurd for television.

Afghanistan election media items.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"British broadcasters have not changed their plans for covering the Afghan election after the country's government ordered media organisations not to report on any violence during the polls. The BBC – whose BBC Persian TV service broadcasts by satellite to Afghanistan – said it would proceed with its plans for covering the presidential election, which takes place today. ... British broadcasters believe the decrees were targeted at local media although the position of the BBC is more sensitive because of its Persian service." The Guardian, 20 August 2009.
     "The American and NATO troops who will guard polling stations this week are crucial to that outcome. So are the efforts of Radio Free Afghanistan, which co-sponsored the country's first live, televised presidential debate this week. (The station director, Akbar Ayazi, described the process of persuading candidates to participate as so difficult that 'I could take people to Mars probably by now.')" Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 19 August 2009.
     "For a better picture of the state of the Afghanistan election, I called Akbar Ayazi, the director of Radio Free Afghanistan, a project of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Ayazi moderated Sunday’s presidential debate and has a team of 42 reporters from around the country, including 20 in Kabul. According to Ayazi, contrasting with what’s been going out over Twitter, reports of fraud are 'minor' so far, but Taliban intimidation has been heavy. 'Personally, I feel the psychological war conducted by the Taliban somehow worked,' as evidenced 'by low turnout,' he told me." Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent, 20 August 2009.
     "A woman reporter for Radio Free Europe, who roamed the compound of one polling station wearing a fashionable gown and no veil, had an interesting encounter with one of the voters she was interviewing. 'Who did you vote for?' she asked. 'Karzai,' the voter replied. 'Why did you vote for him?' she asked. 'Because he is a liberal. Without him, you wouldn't be here without a burka.'" BBC News, 20 August 2009.
     "The New York Times report ...'U.S. Turns to Radio Stations and Cell Phones to Counter Taliban's Propaganda,' [emphasized] what would seem to be a star project of Holbrooke's 'counterinsurgency expert,' Vikram Singh. It is to build a communications and media system that can reach into every Afghan village to deliver an anti-Taliban message. As Afghanistan is a very large and mountainous country, and one of the poorest in the world, one would like to know his plan for regularly delivering replacement batteries necessary to millions of peasants to power the new cell phones they have been given, as well as supplying guards (from Blackwater?) to protect from the Taliban the thousands or tens of thousands of satellite receivers or relay stations necessary to deliver the Voice of America into Afghan homes. Suppose the Taliban tap into the network and deliver their own messages? A learned friend of mine quoted Herbert Marcuse on this plan: 'Reality is its own caricature.'" William Pfaff, Hartford Courant, 20 August 2009.

More blocking and unblocking of the internet.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
Internet privacy tool Tor "scrambles information, then sends it over the Web. It hides the user's location and gets past firewalls. Those features make it popular with activists in countries like China and Iran. ... When a user shuts down a browser running on Tor, all information exchanged during the Web session is deleted. The U.S. government is one of Tor's biggest financial backers. It contributed $250,000 of the $343,000 in income the nonprofit reported in 2007, the most-recent year for which financial data is available. 'We are trying to encourage a certain freedom of the Internet,' said Ken Berman, director of information technology at the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America." Reuters, 19 August 2009.
     Survey of 2000 websites "showed that governments in the Middle East and north Africa routinely block sites that host discussions critical of their policies or that cover human rights issues. Opposition parties' sites are also censored. At times entire social networking services, including Twitter, are unavailable, and the same goes for the YouTube video-sharing site. Orkut, a social networking site, is offline in the United Arab Emirates. The BBC Persian site cannot be accessed from Iran. The governments' task of blocking internet access is made easier because many countries in the region have only a handful of service providers." Jim Giles, NewScientist, 21 August 2009.
     Sweden's English-language website The Local is blocked in China. The Local, 20 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Want to "friend" the Defense Department?

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. Defense Department has become the latest establishment organization to venture into the Internet world of social networking. Officials from the generation of regular old mail, and maybe email, are trying to tweet, blog, post and 'friend.' ... The U.S. Defense Department's primary audiences for this effort are the troops, their families and the American public. But with the Internet, it gets an international audience at the same time. 'If those people overseas are seen to have an opportunity to engage, be heard and listen, that even if they may disagree with the policy they will have seen the policy develop in a way that they did have a voice in its development. And therefore I think their support or at least not their active antipathy will happen,' [Pentagon public affairs chief Price Floyd] said." Al Pessin, VOA News, 19 August 2009.

Canada "used to be quite good at public diplomacy."

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"We [Canada] used to be quite good at public diplomacy. An advertising campaign attracted two million foreign settlers to the Prairies between 1896 and 1914, and in doing so embedded Canada firmly in the global consciousness. By 1945, just six years after its creation, the National Film Board was reaching more than 40 million people with weekly newsreels aimed at educating U.S. and British audiences about Canada's contributions to the Second World War. ... Public diplomacy can be essential during short-term crises, such as when the U.S. media wrongly convinced themselves that 9/11 terrorists had entered from Canada." From review of Evan H. Potter's Branding Canada: Projecting Canada's Soft Power Through Public Diplomacy by Michael Byers, Globe and Mail, 19 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

International channels to Canada via "over-the-top" box.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"While we wait for the CRTC to decide whether or not Al Jazeera English can be distributed in Canada by cable, satellite and telco TV companies, I already have it in my office. Actually, I have both the English and Arabic versions, right now, on my television. (No Canadian BDU [broadcasting distribution undertaking] offers the Arabic version because even though it’s on the eligible satellite list, the regs around it say that BDUs must employ Arabic language censors to monitor it 24/7, if they want to launch.) And yet, here they both are, in standard definition, full-screen quality, on my 30-inch LCD television thanks to the Nextv box I have borrowed... Nextv is an 'over-the-top' product that hooks into customers’ high speed Internet service and TV sets, delivering 112 channels in 10 languages at the moment. Since it’s Internet-delivered, it’s unregulated – and offers many more third language channels than any Canadian BDU." Greg O'Brien, Cartt.ca, 20 August 2009.
     The conditional access television market in Arab countries is discussed in Digital Production Middle East, 20 August 2009.

Radio Pakistan shuts down a medium wave transmitter.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Instead of upgrading the equipment and replacing the old transmitter of Lahore Station, one of the major medium wave (MW) stations of the Radio Pakistan, has been shutdown completely on the directions of Director General Murtaza Solangi on the other day. This medium wave station had been working since 1937 and was widely listened throughout the world, including the main cities of India on 630 kilo watts (KW) [should be kilohertz (kHz)]. It played a key role in the wars of 1965 and 1971 by broadcasting patriotic national songs. ... The DG Radio Pakistan is of he view that the closed station was in loss costing expenditure; moreover, old infrastructure was not fulfilling the modern requirements of broadcasting. For meeting modern needs, on the further directions of DG, a new short wave [sic] channel FM 93 has been established by replacing Lahore Radio Station, which is listened on short range covering the area of 30 or 40 km." The Nation (Lahore), 20 August 2009. While FM is transmitted by radio waves that are shorter than those of medium wave, "shortwave" generally refers to the range from 2 to 30 MHz, whereas the FM broadcast band is, most places, 88 to 108 MHz. This story is an example of many countries that are replacing their medium wave transmitters in favor of FM.

George Woodard on why shortwave should remain part of the media mix.

Posted: 21 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
George Woodard, former director of engineering for RFE/RL and IBB, on the future of shortwave: "Washington, driven by incompetent technocrats and bureaucrats at the IBB and the U.S. Department of State, who are experts at saying what they perceive people want to hear rather than the truth, has taken a wrong turn on shortwave broadcasting since about 1989. The result has been a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. As we close down most shortwave broadcasting to parts of the world, it is no surprise that 20 years later we find fewer people are listening! My advice is to pursue vigorously all new technological means to communicate accurate world news to the parts of the world that do not have that blessing of their own. Expand Internet, TV, local AM and FM, Wi-Fi and cell phone broadcasting, but do not significantly reduce shortwave. In many instances, as has been recently seen in Iran, Belarus, Georgia, Pakistan and other places, and chronically seen in parts of Russia, China and North Korea, increased shortwave capability is critical." Interviewed by Michael LeClair, Radio World, 20 August 2009.

Perhaps someone should send him a BBC lapel pin.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The greatest danger to world security and sanity is not pan-Islamic terrorism, nuclear proliferation, Democrats or swine flu. It’s the British Broadcasting Corp­oration (BBC), specifically the state-owned network’s World Service on radio and television, that is targeting the US with a ramped up presence on the BBC America cable channel and regular broadcasts via National Public Radio. For decades BBC News was proper and unaffected without the melodrama infecting media today. Alas, that is hardly the case now. The UK has fallen to the forces of mediocrity commensurate with the 'leveling' of society that ignores achievement and emphasizes self-esteem." Bernie Reeves, Metro Magazine (Raleigh NC), August 2009.

BBC World Service launches mobile and online initiatives.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"As part of the Your News In Your Palms (Labarinku A Tafinku) initiative, starting tomorrow, Friday 21 August, listeners in six Northern Nigerian villages will be using the mobile phones provided to them by BBC Hausa to send to a dedicated BBC Hausa phone number their views and reports about themselves and developments in their communities." BBC World Service press release, 20 August 2009.
     "The website of BBC Russian – bbcrussian.com – has teamed up with the web publication, Caucasian Knot – kavkaz-uzel.ru – to launch a major editorial initiative, engaging online audiences in a discussion about key issues faced by people in the North Caucasus." BBC World Service press release, 17 August 2009.

"Triumphs and challenges": Africa Business Report on BBC World News premieres this weekend.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"From 22 August BBC World News launches Africa Business Report – a groundbreaking new show featuring the triumphs and challenges of doing business on the continent some economists are calling the last great frontier. The monthly programme is sponsored by Skye Bank and will capture some of the energy and diversity of business life in Africa. Presenter Komla Dumor will travel the continent meeting the hot new entrepreneurs and the international giants shaping economic life there." BBC World News press release, 19 August 2009. See also Myjoyonline.com (Ghana) 20 August 2009 and Africa Business Report web page.

Twitter "failing to deliver meaningful commercial or political content." Good.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The clue’s in the name of the service: Twitter. It’s not called Roar, Assert, Debate or Reason, it’s called Twitter. As in the chirruping of birds. Apparently, according to Pears ... 40% of Twitter is 'pointless babble', which means of course that a full 60% of Twitter discourse is NOT pointless babble, which is disappointing. Very disappointing. I would have hoped 100% of Twitter was fully free of earnestness, usefulness and commercial intent. Why do these asinine reports jump onto a bandwagon they don’t understand and why do those reporting on them relate with such glee that a service that was never supposed in the first place to be more than gossipy tittle-tattle and proudly banal verbal doodling is 'failing to deliver meaningful commercial or political content'. Bollocky bollocks to the lot of them. They can found their own 'enterprise oriented' earnest microblogging service. Remind me to avoid it." Stephen Fry blog, 18 August 2009. Thanks to RS tip. Speaking of verbal doodling: twitter.com/kaedotcom. See previous post.

US public diplomacy's baseline: "From the bottom of our souls, we hate you."

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Judith A. McHale was expecting a contentious session with Ansar Abbasi, a Pakistani journalist known for his harsh criticism of American foreign policy, when she sat down for a one-on-one meeting with him in a hotel conference room in Islamabad on Monday. She got that, and a little bit more. After Ms. McHale, the Obama administration’s new under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, gave her initial polite presentation about building bridges between America and the Muslim world, Mr. Abbasi thanked her politely for meeting with him. Then he told her that he hated her. 'You should know that we hate all Americans,' Ms. McHale said Mr. Abbasi told her. 'From the bottom of our souls, we hate you.'" New York Times, 19 August 2009. Which much effort and, of course, the obligatory budget increases, the United States can work its way up to "dislike somewhat." See previous post about same subject.

Former BBG chairman remembers columnist Robert Novak.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"For those who believed the Cold War should be won, [Robert] Novak’s Sonnenfeldt Doctrine column [spring 1976] was a gift that kept on giving. Eight years later I was director of the Reagan Administration’s Voice of America when top State Department official Lawrence Eagleburger summoned me to his office. He was enraged by tough VOA editorials damning Polish strongman Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski as being 'Soviet imposed' on the people of Poland. At one point, an aide interrupted Eagleburger’s harangue. 'Tomlinson is a close friend of Bob Novak,' he explained. 'Before he leaves we better have an agreement that he will not tell Novak of this meeting.' Suddenly Eagleburger’s demeanor changed. There were no more complaints about our anti-Soviet Polish broadcasts." Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Human Events, 18 August 2009. During this time, was VOA news (a function of VOA unmentioned by Mr. Tomlinson) able to describe accurately Gen. Jaruzelski's tenure, without being influenced by US accommodationists or by US hardliners or by communist propaganda from either Poland or the USSR? Mr. Tomlinson was appointed chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, one of the most important jobs of which is to appoint the director of VOA, so that VOA's credibility is never again sunk by being called "the XYZ Administration's Voice of America."

Not that anyone noticed: Birdamlik movement ends hunger strike in front of RFE/RL Washington headquarters.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Bakhodir Choriev, Birdamlik movement's leader reported to «Ferghana.Ru» by telephone from Washington, DC: 'We again held talks with the the representative or RL's leadership Martin Zvanersom, during which he promised that all our concerns and demands will be reviewed once again. He also expressed hope for fruitful and close cooperation with our movement. We hope that this promise will be fulfilled. Therefore, on 14 August at 1:30 pm Washington time we stopped our hunger strike.'" Ferghana.ru, via Sergei S., DX Listening Digest, 19 August 2009. Two of the hunger strikers were hospitalized. Ferhana.ru via Sergei S., DXLD, 15 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

VOA Pakistani reporter released after 10 days of detention by US immigration.

Posted: 20 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"U.S. immigration officials released a visiting Pakistani journalist employed by the U.S.-sponsored Voice of America news service Wednesday, 10 days after taking him into custody on his arrival at Dulles International Airport. Rahman Bunairee, 33, was hoping to find refuge in the United States after receiving threats in recent weeks from Islamic militants displeased with his reports about their activities in Pakistan's restive North-West Frontier Province. ... Concerned for his safety, officials at VOA quickly arranged to bring Bunairee to the United States on a J-1 visa, often used by research institutions to sponsor scholars on temporary exchange programs. Bunairee was to work on expanding VOA's Pashto language service, which serves the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region." Washington Post, 20 August 2009. See also VOA News, 19 August 2009. And McClatchy Newspapers, 18 August 2009.
     "While welcoming the news of Mr. Bunairee's release, the BBG also expects that Mr. Bunairee will in due course be able to undertake the assignment at VOA for which he has come to this country. His work and that of his colleagues at Deewa Radio is critical to advancing U.S. strategic interests in the struggle against extremism. The BBG wishes to thank Paul Virtue, an attorney with Hogan and Hartson in Washington, who has worked pro bono to provide Mr. Bunairee with expert legal counsel." Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 19 August 2009. "Advancing U.S. strategic interests in the struggle against extremism"? What about reporting the news, which is what reputable international broadcasters do? In any case, if Bunairee can't resolve his US immigration issues, perhaps he can go to Prague to work for RFE/RL's new service for the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, created to duplicate VOA's Deewa Radio. The two US-funded archrivals will be raiding each other's talent pools as a matter of course.
     "'CPJ is relieved that Rahman Bunairee has been released,' said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. ... 'We hope that his status in the U.S. will be resolved quickly so he can resume his work as a journalist.'" Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 August 2009. See previous posts on 16 August and 12 July 2009.

Outrage as public diplomacy.

Posted: 18 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Today ... we have rescuers for the few, but little concern for the fate of the many—in North Korea, Iran, and Burma, to name the nations at hand. Where, for example, is Washington’s condemnation of the show trials? What are we doing—besides the superb work of Voice of America’s Persian News Network and Radio Free Europe’s Radio Farda—to help peaceful, freedom-desiring Iranians communicate with the outside world and to help the outside world give them moral, if not material, support? I understand very well that foreign policy sometimes requires compromise with bad regimes. I understand realism. But I also understand that diplomacy—certainly public diplomacy—requires not just missions of mercy but outrage and compassion founded on principle as well." James K. Glassman, Commentary, 16 August 2009. This is a dilemma for international broadcasters. Cover dissidents more than their due (as Radio Moscow did with Angela Davis in the 1970s), and the station is perceived as little more than a conduit of bad news about the target country. Cover them too little, and charges of bias towards the target country's government will ensue.

Broadcasting and "patriotism."

Posted: 18 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Authorities in Azerbaijan have reportedly brought in dozens of music fans for interrogation, questioning their patriotism after they voted for Armenia in this year's Eurovision song contest." The Guardian, 18 August 2009.
     "The Chinese Ministry of Education and communist regime-run CCTV have jointly produced a TV program aimed at promoting patriotism. It will be aired to elementary school and junior high students at the beginning of the fall semester." Epoch Times, 18 August 2009.
     "There are millions of patriots in the heartland who have no intention of allowing Barack Obama or anyone else to trash the Constitution and get away with it. There are contingency plans. One way or another, conservative mass communication will continue, even if it has to be done apart from the watchful eye of government. Conservative groups could conceivably, if necessary, go offshore and set up the equivalent of 'Radio Free Europe' which operated outside the control of the Communist block during the Cold War." Anthony G. Martin, Examiner.com, 16 August 2009.

BBC Worldwide tinkers again with its international channel brands.

Posted: 18 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The rebrand of BBC Prime as BBC Entertainment will 'put a new face on the channel', Dean Possenniskie, SVP & GM, BBC Worldwide Channels EMEA, has told Broadband TV News. ... BBC Prime was launched in 1995, replacing the European version of BBC World Service Television, itself having evolved out of the old BBC TV Europe. The pan-regional version of BBC Entertainment will be available in markets where the portfolio of channels that also includes BBC Lifestyle, BBC Knowledge and CBeebies is not available." Julian Clover, Broadband TV News, 18 August 2009. See also BBC Worldwide press release, 18 August 2009. And I no longer have the brain cells to keep up with these BBC channel name changes. Maybe they need to add BBC Getting Forgetful.

Don't ask me to explain: Polish Radio External Service receives award for promoting India.

Posted: 18 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Polish Radio’s External Service ... was awarded 'India’s Promoter 2009' for 'extensive coverage of economic, social, cultural and religious aspects of contemporary India' on the English-language portal thenews.pl. ... For two years now, Thenews.pl portal has been closely collaborating with the Indian population based in the country. 'We inform them about current developments in the community, we highlight cultural issues,' said [deputy director] Adam Burakowski. 'They, on the other hand, can prompt their country's top officials to read news posted on our website, and thanks to us entrepreneu[r]s from India become acquainted with the political and economic situation in Poland.'" Polskie Radio, 16 August 2009.

Daljit Dhaliwal will become anchor of Worldfocus.

Posted: 18 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Worldfocus, public television's weeknightly international newscast, will make adjustments to its nightly anchor lineup. Martin Savidge, who has anchored Worldfocus since its debut, will become a special correspondent in the field. Daljit Dhaliwal, who has been a contributing correspondent and occasional substitute for Savidge, will become anchor. The changes will begin August 31, 2009. ... Dhaliwal is a seasoned broadcaster who has worked for some of the world's most respected news organizations, including CNN International and BBC News." WNET press release via SAJA Forum, 17 August 2009. Dhaliwal was first known to US television viewers as anchor of UK-based ITN World News, seen on US public television stations until 2001.

RFI's remaining rebroadcasters warned by DR Congo authorities.

Posted: 17 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans frontières "is worried by the National Intelligence Agency’s warning to the managers of three local radio stations in the eastern [Democratic Republic of Congo] province of Nord-Kivu that their stations will be closed down unless they stop retransmitting the programmes of French public broadcaster Radio France Internationale (RFI). ... Kennedy Wema of Radio Télé Graben, Rochereau Kambakamba of Radio Liberté and John Tchipenda of Radio Scolaire went to the National Intelligence Agency’s local office on 12 August in response to a summons received the previous day and were told during the ensuing interview that they could be closed down if they did not stop retransmitting RFI. In fact, according to the information available to Reporters Without Borders, the only station currently retransmitting RFI is Radio Télé Graben. Wema, its manager, told Reporters Without Borders that the station would definitely continue to broadcast RFI until it received official notification in writing." RSF, 17 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

BBG's Feed over Email (FOE) workaround gets press attention, even in China (updated).

Posted: 17 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
Feed over Email (FOE) is "a new technology being pioneered by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, a US federal agency, to get around the blocks put in place by government censors. ... Internet users in China or Iran would need to open an email account with a company based outside of their own country, such as Yahoo! and Google's Gmail, to overcome one of the first initial censorship hurdles. That would then allow them to use their email as what Ho calls a 'proxy-less RSS reader'. In other words users could be sent a specially formatted email containing feeds from external news outlets. ... Feed over Email is flexible enough to handle not only text-based news feeds but also small files and podcasts. In time, the service might even be able to be applied to mobile phones, allowing people in countries where that's the predominant means of accessing the internet to enjoy the same kind of freedom of information as those using computers." The Telegraph, 14 July 2009. As discussed in a previous post, this assumes that access to foreign e-mail accounts will remain unabated.
     "'We have people testing it [feed over e-mail] in China and Iran,' Ken Berman, the Board's IT chief told the Reuters news agency. He provided few details on the new system, which is in the early stages of testing. He said some secrecy was important to avoid detection by the two governments. ... A technician who worked on the development of FOE said via email that the system could be tweaked easily to work on most types of mobile phones. The US government also offers a free service that allows overseas users to access virtually any site on the internet, including those opposing the United States. 'We don't make any political statement about what people visit,' added Mr Berman, 'We are trying to impart the value: "The more you know, the better." People can look for themselves.' In addition to China and Iran, targets for the FOE technology include Myanmar, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, he said." The Telegraph/Reuters, 14 August 2009. On most types of phones that have internet access, which most types of mobile phones don't, unless FOE can inject itself into SMS systems. But, then, as a person who uses a mobile phone less than once a month, I'm not the expert on these matters.
     "The US government wants to send a message to countries applying strict control over the Internet that people have the right to access any information they want, that is why FOE is developed by the US government, said Pan Wei, a professor in Peking University's School of International Studies. 'China should be confident enough to be transparent and take criticism. It's about time China loosened its control over the Internet,' Pan said. 'It actually damages China's international image.' ... Lots of people know how to use proxies to get around Internet blocks, said Jeremy Goldkorn, founder of the Chinese media monitoring website Danwei.org, which was blocked since July this year. 'It doesn't make any difference to me if the US government has a new one. Of interest to me would be for the Chinese government not to block (my website).'" Lara Farrar and Cui Jia, China Daily (Beijing), 15 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     Update: "The announcement about FOE comes just as Internet censorship seems to be all over the news—China and Malaysia recently scaled back their plans to mandate more filtering, while Vietnam added an additional layer." Jacqui Cheng, ars technica, 17 August 2009.
     "As much as people would like to see the filters removed, it is unlikely to happen any time soon, but it is also doubtful that China won’t find a way to block the FOE system either." SZean p. Aune, Tech.Blorge, 16 August 2009.
     "Going online in countries where internet censorship is common is rather like visiting a parallel universe run by the world's strictest, most bigoted parents. Entire sites disappear without warning. YouTube is frequently blocked for hosting content that some regimes don't want their citizens to see, and online translation services, blogging platforms and even VoIP utilities like Skype often fall foul of censors." Gary Marshall, techradar.com, 7 August 2009.
     Governments in the Middle East and North Africa are clamping down on Web freedom while they invest in plugging their countries into the Internet Age, the OpenNet Initiative (ONI) said Wednesday. A study released by the ONI, a partnership between universities in Toronto, Harvard, Cambridge, and Oxford, concluded that online censorship is rising in those regions, with sophisticated technology being used to filter and monitor Internet activities." AFP, 12 August 2009. See also OpenNet Initiative, 12 August 2009.
     "During the third trial of [Iranian] opposition supporters accused of sparking unrest following the June 12 presidential election, Behnam Dehpanah was charged with the possession and use of Molotov cocktails and taking part in 'unauthorized' gatherings. ... The 20-year old university student was also charged with sending inciting text messages to other fellow students -- an accusation Dehpanah also denied in court. 'I had only sent a single message containing the email address of the Voice of America responsible for introducing new proxy sites among users.'" Press TV, 6 August 2009.

Sixtieth anniversary of German news agency DPA.

Posted: 17 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"It was in 1949, too, that dpa [Deutsche Presse Agentur] began broadcasting a German-language short-wave radio service, taken over from dpd [German Press Service]. After this came airmail delivery, in four languages, which took days or even weeks to reach news desks around the world. These were the forerunners of dpa's foreign-language services today. ... As well as the English service, which started as a short-wave wire for Asia, the company also set up a French service aimed at the African market (which wound down 15 years later), a Spanish service and, in 1968, dpa's Arabic service. The newest addition to dpa's language services is the Turkish service, launched in the spring of 2009. ... In many parts of the world, including South America, South-East Asia and the Middle East, dpa is as much of a household name as in Germany." DPA via Monsters and Critics, 17 August 2009. This recalls the days when press agencies transmitted their content, especially internationally, via shortwave radioteletype.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan will host presidential debate (updated).

Posted: 17 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"On Sunday, August 16, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi, is hosting the first and only debate featuring President Hamid Karzai and his two main challengers in the August 20 presidential election. Radio Azadi Director Akbar Ayazi will moderate the discussion between President Karzai, Ashraf Ghani, and Abdullah Abdullah. ... The groundbreaking event will take place in Kabul at 5:30pm [1300 UTC] in front of a studio audience and be broadcast live throughout Afghanistan on Radio Azadi and televised on Afghanistan's state television channel RTA as well as other local and international media." RFE/RL press release, 16 August 2009. But not on VOA, whose own Dari and Pashto services will be preempted during the debate, and whose journalists will not partipate in the debate.
     "Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, reaching the largest combined audience of any radio broadcaster in Afghanistan, are helping Afghans engage with presidential candidates in the lead up to the August 20 presidential election. VOA and RFE/RL, overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, both air in Dari and Pashto and will give audiences unprecedented access to the candidates." BBG press release, 11 August 2009.
     "Although independent TV stations and other independent media have tried to let the various parties participate in debates and interviews, the leading broadcasters have accorded most space to a limited number of candidates. According to Insight, a local NGO supported by the United Nations Development Programme that has been monitoring coverage of the elections, the TV stations have been favouring just a few candidates. There are independent media in Afghanistan but they are in the minority. It is very common for media to be funded by political parties or foreign governments that dictate their political and religious agenda. This politicises and 'ethnicises' independent media and severely reduces the quality of news and information." ... Sediqullah Tauhidi, president of the Electoral Media Commission "voiced reservations about the state radio and TV broadcaster. 'It has not performed its duties with impartiality and has instead displayed a clear support for the incumbent president even if, in certain regions such as Mazar-i-Sharif or Balkh, local branches of the state television have supported other candidates.'" Reporters sans frontières, 14 August 2009.
     Update: "The event Sunday, sponsored by Radio Free Europe and held in an auditorium operated by Afghanistan's national television station, marked the first time during the campaign that Karzai has publicly debated his opponents. But the candidate considered the strongest challenger to Karzai, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, chose not to participate." Washington Post, 17 August 2009. See also RFE/RL News, 16 August 2009. And RFE/RL press release, 16 August 2009.
     "The debate was organized and broadcast by both the state TV channel, Radio Free Afghanistan and Radio Azadi, which is funded by the U.S. Congress. The event also aired live on the frequencies of VOA's Afghan Service." VOA News, 16 August 2009. Which is to say the debate was broadcast by both the state TV channel and by Radio Free Afghanistan, known locally as Radio Azadi. Radio Azadi and the VOA Afghan Services share time on transmitters inside Afghanistan. The debate was therefore "on the frequencies of VOA's Afghan Service" but identified as Radio Azadi.
     "Mr Karzai, not known for his soaring rhetoric, has refused to participate in previous televised debates. He dropped out of the first event on July 23, broadcast live by private television station Tolo, saying he was not ready and accusing the network of bias. It went ahead regardless between his two closest rivals, Dr Abdullah and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, with a third, empty podium left pointedly on stage. A second debate scheduled for last Thursday was cancelled after Mr Karzai dropped out without explanation. But Mr Karzai is said to have picked Radio Free Afghanistan director Akbar Ayazi as the moderator for last night's debate. Dr Abdallah pulled out, leaving Mr Karzai to debate Dr Ghani and Ramzan Bashardost." Amanda Hodge in Kabul, The Australian, 17 August 2009.

IBB and HCJB testing Digital Radio Mondiale shortwave via Greenville -- soon.

Posted: 17 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The HCJB Global Technology Center, based in Elkhart, IN, USA in cooperation with the International Broadcasting Bureau, will begin a series of digital broadcast test transmissions on shortwave starting on August 17. The demonstration broadcasts are using IBB transmission facilities on the east coast of the USA and a DRM exciter and content server developed by the HCJB Global Technology Center. The broadcasts are operating at an average DRM power of approximately 8 kW using a rhombic antenna aimed at 45 degrees on 15475 kHz from 2000 to 2200 UTC for reception in Europe and a log periodic antenna aimed at 306 degrees on 9405 kHz from 0000 to 0400 UTC for reception in North America. The broadcasts are expected to continue for at least several weeks." Yahoo! DRM North America discussion group, 17 August 2009.
     "Due to some unexpected personnel limitations in Greenville the HCJB/IBB trial DRM broadcasts will not begin until later this week. I'll post more details as they become available." op cit, 17 August 2009.

Worldspace asks for bankruptcy extension (updated).

Posted: 16 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Worldspace has asked the Delaware Bankruptcy Court to extend the period of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The original period granted by the court ended on July 31. Worldspace is now asking the court to let this date slip to Dec 31. A Motion before the court said, in effect, that Worldspace has been too busy to compile its reorganisation plan. There are also doubts – as ever – whether Worldspace founder Noah Samara can come up with his much-promised cash. ... However, one has to wonder at how much delay the court – or Worldspace creditors – will tolerate while Samara stumps up his ever-elusive cash." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 9 August 2009.
     Update: "It seems the plan for the sale of Worldspace’s assets to a business controlled by Noah Samara is in serious trouble. The Samara company, Yenura Pte, based in Singapore, has seemingly not come up with the funds to complete the Worldspace purchase. A quarterly fee note, filed on August 14 by Worldspace’s co-Counsel in bankruptcy and covering the quarter to June 30, talks about the 'termination of the Yenura agreement', and 'termination issues' and the signing of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to a 'potential bidder' and 'correspondence and drafts regarding Yenura default'." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 16 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     "Would-be European satellite radio broadcaster Ondas Media has signed up Rotana Audio & Video to a 'strategic partnership'. While cash terms were not revealed, the deal will allow Ondas to broadcast music, concerts, interviews and 'related content' to satellite radio listeners across Europe. Rotana, which has a number of music and movie TV channels already on air, is owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 16 August 2009.

NPR slide show on Jazz Ambassadors traveling exhibit.

Posted: 16 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"With the help of libraries and special collections -- as well as avid fans -- Meridian International Center in Washington, D.C., has assembled an exhibit called 'Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace The World.' The exhibit itself isn't news; it's been around for about a year. What's exciting is that 'Jam Session' has been copied six times and has recently embarked upon a three-year, worldwide tour with the State Department." Clair O'Neill, the Picture Sow blog, National Public Radio, 14 July 2009, with link to audio slide show. See previous post about the Meridian exhibit.

VOA covers Woodstock now, maybe not so much back then.

Posted: 16 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"When Woodstock got underway 40 years ago today, Richie Havens was a popular folk singer who happened to be the first performer. The U.S. was still embroiled in Viet Nam, peace signs and home-made tie-dyed shirts were everywhere. And Voice of America Radio was still (and is) an arm of the U.S. government. Voice Of America Radio concerned itself with other matters then. Today, Voice of America has a special Woodstock section on its website. ... And here's a tip of my UNITE-constructed cap to VOA for growing up with us." John Nielsen, Examiner.com, 15 August 2009.

Anti-militant concept made in the USA involves radio stations that won't be stamped "Made in the USA."

Posted: 16 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Obama administration is establishing a new unit within the State Department for countering militant propaganda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, engaging more fully than ever in a war of words and ideas that it acknowledges the United States has been losing. Proposals are being considered to give the team up to $150 million a year to spend on local FM radio stations, to counter illegal militant broadcasting, and on expanded cellphone service across Afghanistan and Pakistan. The project would step up the training of local journalists and help produce audio and video programming, as well as pamphlets, posters and CDs denigrating militants and their messages. ... Officials acknowledge that the government routinely fails when trying to speak to the Muslim world and battle the propaganda of extremism — most often because the efforts to describe American policy and showcase American values are themselves viewed as propaganda. ... Officials involved in the new unit say they are seeking to amplify the voices of Afghans speaking to Afghans, and Pakistanis speaking to Pakistanis, rather than have 'Made in the U.S.A.' stamped on the programming." Thom Shanker, New York Times, 16 August 2009. The article sidesteps the issue of getting licenses for these stations. So we would have VOA to Afghanistan and Pakistan as the "official" US station, RFE/RL to Afghanistan and (soon) to Pakistan as the "surrogate" station, and now these these quasi-indigenous stations, all reporting on events in the two countries. Add to this Khyber Radio (see previous post), and BBC World Service, soon to set up shop inside Pakistan, with the result being a complex media situation -- and heavy competition for reporting talent.

Pakistani reporter for VOA still held in US immigration lockup.

Posted: 16 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Six days ago, a Pakistani journalist on the run from Taliban militants landed in the United States holding a valuable key to sanctuary: a visa granting him the right to work for the Voice of America radio service for one year. But today Rahman Bunairee is in an immigration lockup in Virginia after being detained upon his arrival at Dulles International Airport. ... Advocates expressed disbelief at the predicament facing Bunairee, whose reports on Pakistani television and the Voice of America made him a target for the Taliban. Militants blew up his house and threatened him in recent months, according to officials at the government news service and the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom group based in New York. ... Depending on what he told inspectors at the airport, officials may have concluded he was seeking political asylum or was a potential political refugee. In such a case, they would detain the traveler in order to evaluate his potential case for asylum and determine whether he misrepresented his reasons for travel, according to experts on immigration law. Bunairee's advocates doubt he would have requested asylum." Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times, 15 August 2009. See also VOA News, 14 August 2009.
     "The Voice of America (VOA) and its parent agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), hope for a speedy resolution of whatever issues led to the detention of Rahman Bunairee by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ... The VOA and the BBG are working with other federal agencies to resolve the situation." VOA press release, 14 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

BBC World Service on Indian Independence Day: whacky, serious, and edgy.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"On the occasion of [India's] Independence Day, BBC World Service has unveiled a special programming line-up that will be played across all its partner stations. These include Radio One, Radio Chaska, Radio Choklate, FM Tadka, Tomato FM, Radio Misty, Radio Rangila and Radio Spice. Indushekhar Sinha, business development head, BBC World Service India, says, 'We look at Independence Day as a special event and are glad to offer an array of programmes to the audience.' From August 13 to August 15, all the partner radio stations will air Independence Boley To?, a one-minute programme that will have whacky, serious and edgy responses from the youth on what independence means to them." Televisionpoint.com, 14 August 2009. But no news, still banned on BBC's Indian FM partner stations.

BBC World Service winners are exquisite, human, spare, imaginative, muscular, hysterically funny, and manage waste.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Efo Kodjo Mawugbe from Ghana and Erin Browne from the USA have been awarded the two top prizes in the BBC World Service and British Council International Radio Playwriting Competition 2009. ... Erin Browne from the USA won the English as a First Language category with her play, Trying, described by the judges as 'exquisite', 'human' and 'spare'. Efo Kodjo Mawugbe from Ghana won the English as a Second Language category with his play, The Prison Graduates, described by the judges as 'imaginative', 'muscular' and 'hysterically funny'." BBC World Service press release, 13 August 2009.
     "Twenty-one-year-old Kenyan Jane Mweni has won the BBC Swahili Faidika na BBC (Prosper with the BBC) young entrepreneur competition in a grand final broadcast live from Mombasa, Kenya. She was presented with the competition trophy and US$5000 prize to help launch her business proposal on waste management in Mombasa." BBC World Service press release, 14 August 2009.

When a superpower twitters.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
Review of recent articles about the use of social media for US public diplomacy. The Layalina Review, 13 August 2009.
     So a superpower would be just one of millions of Facebook pages or millions of Twitter users. US public diplomacy could aspire to reach Twitter-leader Ashton Kutcher's 3.2 million followers, but that would only be 0.06% of the world's adults.
     The BarackObama Twitter account, number 8 with 1.8 million followers, is not a US government site. It is an extension of the continuation of the Obama campaign website, now called Organizing for America. (So who needs a public diplomacy budget?) The official whitehouse Twitter account is number 106, with 932,000 followers. The State Department's dipnote Twitter account has 7,609 followers.
     Actually, nothing beats an official country website, where basic information, policy information, tourist information (or links thereto), etc. would be available in as many languages as possible. It should be the website at or near the top of the results when doing a Google search on the name of the country. One example is thisisFINLAND, with the easy-to-remember URL finland.fi, available in English, French, and Russian. Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website is available in 31 language, most accessible via Japanese embassy websites. The official US public diplomacy website is America.gov, available in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Persian.
     To reach large numbers, public diplomacy is best accomplished by way of interviews on dominant media in the target country, or advertisements placed in those media.

The imposter blogs of Iran.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Persian language service of the Radio France International reports of weblogs of some of the detainees that are enjoying the top rated prison facilities of the IRI are being regularly updated with new content not by the incarcerated weblog owners but by the regime cyber imposters." Iranian.com, 12 August 2009.

Al Jazeera to the Philippines; Filipino and other channels to the Arab countries.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The 24-hour world news channel Al Jazeera English is launching in the Philippines on SkyCable. Beginning August 15, the English-language service will be available to SkyCable's digital subscribers in metro Manila." Worldscreen.com, 13 August 2009.
     "Orbit Showtime will offer up to 75 exclusive premium channels on one smart card on Nilesat offering a choice of first run movies, international sports, Western, Arabic, and Filipino entertainment from August 14. ... Major news networks on the Orbit Showtime offer include Sky News, Fox News, CNBC, ABC News, Euro News, France 24, C-Span and Orbit News 1 and 2." TradeArabia, 13 August 2009.

Latest psyop gear: drones with speakers.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Your Predator drone has all the latest gear, including communications, laser target designator, day and night cameras and, of course, Hellfire missiles. But, according to Special Operations Command, it still needs that essential finishing touch: the latest sound system. The command is setting out to correct this, providing speakers not just for drones but also for plenty of other applications, in a new high-tech loudspeaker program. ... One could imagine a lot of uses for speakers or an LRAD-style hailer on a Predator or other drone. It could warn a vehicle to stop, or tell the occupants to leave a building or face the consequences. ... Predators are already feared, and sound effects could add considerably." David Hambling, Wired Danger Room, 12 August 2009.

CNN's Generation Islam looks at Muppet Diplomacy, etc.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"In the Palestinian territories, Muppets teach nonviolence on a local version of Sesame Street called 'Shara'a Simsim.' Sesame Workshop calls this effort 'Muppet diplomacy.' 'This means using our characters -- characters children love and parents trust -- to bridge some of the world's most intractable divides,' Knell said. 'Muppets give children, and the parents who watch the show with them, a chance to explore other cultures from the safety of their living room, where no one will criticize them for being curious.'" CNN, 13 August 2009.
     Christine Amanpour, in her two-hour Generation Islam documentary on CNN and CNN International, "focuses on a range of efforts being made in Afghanistan and Palestine to turn young Muslim children away from violent extremism. Along the way, Ms. Amanpour introduces viewers to a handful of Westerners devoted to the task and employing a range of tactics, from building new classrooms to constructing skate-boarding parks to creating TV shows. At one point, viewers are even introduced to something called 'Muppet diplomacy.'" The New York Observer, 13 October 2009. See also CNN Generation Islam page.

Concerns about planned Pan-Africa Media Observatory.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"In September 2008, members of the African Union and European Union convened in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou to consider forming a Pan-African Media Observatory. ... A subsequent consultation document revealed plans for it to work at a 'political and institution level', in some respects, on the basis of a charter that would lay down the 'rights and responsibilities of the media'. Such entangling of politics and media freedom has provoked strong concern from the African and international media community with the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) rejecting the proposals in a declaration backed by 32 members. ... Existing projects such as the BBC World Trust Service's African Media Development Initiative and the Strengthening Africa's Media process are also startlingly absent from the document." Jenniu Marsh, journalism.co.za, 12 August 2009.

Workshop on humanitarian information delivery in West Bank/Gaza Strip.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Media professionals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip practiced basic humanitarian information delivery, as part of BBC World Service Trust's project 'Support to the Palestinian Media Sector' project, which is funded by the European Union and the Dutch Government. Led by BBC World Service Trust Expert Imogen Wall, participants from different media and aid organizations discussed topics including principles of humanitarian media, sources of humanitarian content, understanding audience needs, and basic principles of messaging. ... This was the chance for media professionals to develop some new skills and look at their role as information providers in a different way, focusing more on audience needs." European Union, via ReliefWeb, 11 August 2009. Humanitarian information is good, but it's not the same as news.

USIA, BBG, State, square pegs, round holes, etc.

Posted: 15 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The USIA function was taken over by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which told the GAO that its mission to provide objective news 'sets it apart from other strategic communications.' That’s in contrast to USIA Director Edward R. Murrow, who said in 1963 that the agency’s purpose was to 'further the achievement of U.S. foreign policy objectives.' 'Folding the U.S. Information Agency into the State Department in 1999 has proven to be an exercise in placing a square peg into round holes,' said a Heritage Foundation study from last November on public diplomacy." Fred Lucas, CNSNews.com, 12 August 2009.
     Some confusion here. The USIA function was taken over by offices under the under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. International broadcasting was separated from public diplomacy and placed under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Placing public diplomacy under State is very much a round peg in a round hole, because public diplomacy must be lined up with foreign policy, and because public diplomats largely work through US embassies. Using international broadcasting to send advocacy, when audiences really want reliable news, would be the square peg in the round hole. Hence the BBG and its mission that "sets its apart from other strategic communication."
     Mr. Lucas also writes: "The U.S. spends one-third less on public diplomacy than it did during the Cold War." I wonder if that takes into account that international broadcasting was a large part of the public diplomacy budget during the Cold War, whereas international broadcast and public diplomacy are now separate budget items.

Extension of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest prompts resumption of Radio Australian Burmese service (updated).

Posted: 14 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, says the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is a new low for Burma's military regime. ... The Prime Minister has also announced the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have agreed to Ms Suu Kyi's previous request to have the Radio Australia service resume broadcast service to Burma. He says it is a gesture of solidarity to her and opens a new channel of international contact for the people of Burma." Radio Australia, 11 August 2009. Radio Australia's own shortwave transmitters may be a bit far from Burma for reliable reception. Even the more powerful former RA transmitters at Darwin, which now must be leased from the present owner, religious broadcaster CVC International, may not be ideally located. Transmitters leased from VT Broadcast in Thailand might be the best bet. And then there is the selection of an ideal evening time. Only 1800-1900 Burma time is not now taken by BBC, VOA, or RFA Burmese. Burmese, however, prefer later hours for international radio listening. Maybe 2200-2300, competing with the second half of the VOA Burmese broadcast.
     Update: "Hanh Tran, Radio Australia's CEO, says events in Burma such as the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, the recent conviction and extended detention of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the upcoming election, all highlight the need for strong communications into the region. 'The service to Burma in English will be imminent, with a Burmese language service to follow,' he said in a statement Wednesday. The new services will use shortwave radio distribution and digital technologies." Australia Network News, 12 August 2009. See also Radio Australia press release, 12 August 2009 (pdf).
     "Australia's decision to resume short-wave radio broadcasts of independent news and information to the Burmese people is a welcome step. The service, like existing broadcasts by the Voice of America and the BBC, will provide a beacon of hope to a people enslaved. It will be a daily reminder of the junta's illegitimacy." Editorial, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 August 2009.
     "Foreign radio remains popular among locals, including US Government-funded Radio Free Asia and Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norwegian-supported operation. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the Burma service would become the eighth language broadcast by state-owned Radio Australia, which focuses on Asia and the Pacific. Mr Smith said the service would 'open up a new channel of international contact for the people of Burma'." Press Association, 12 August 2009.
     "When the Saffron Revolution took place in 2007, there were protests in front of the Burmese Embassies in India and Sri Lanka. I was in Buddhagaya, India, listening to the BBC and Voice of America when news came through of troops opening fire. Images of monks laying face down in Yangon River were distributed on the Internet." "Prominent Burmese chief monk in exile," writing to David Calleja, Foreign Policy Journal, 8 August 2009.

French song to accompany a white Burgundy, and other shortwave stories.

Posted: 14 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"It was 1972 and I was just back from harvest in Italy when my stepfather asked me to 'close the cabin' in Lake Tahoe. Closing the cabin was a ritual done every late fall before the snows fell. ... Back in the cabin I had to decide what to eat for dinner. ... Finally, in the cupboard, I found a tin of sardines, a small can of tuna and some saltine crackers. I took them to the table, opened my bottle of wine and went to the living room and turned on our 100-pound, military surplus, tube-filled short wave radio. I was taking the first sip of wine, turning the massive dial (after everything had warmed up) and viola [actually: voilà] (!) in came a French song as loud and clear as if I were in a Parisian bistro! So there I sat, sipping great white Burgundy in Lake Tahoe, watching the snow fall on pumpkins, listening to French music, eating sardines from Norway and marveling at the world. Now that is a memorable glass of wine!" Lorn Razzano, Ashland (OR) Daily Tidings, 11 August 2009.
     "My great-granddad bought the first radio in his neighbourhood back on the farm in Saskatchewan. Far from being a hayseed, he was literate and subscribed to many newspapers and magazines. He spent the equivalent of $10,000 in today’s money to own the best radio money could buy, about a quarter of the value of a new small tractor. It had a shortwave band on which he could listen to Radio Moscow in the evenings. The neighbours said, 'That’s it! The newspapers’ days are numbered.' Of course, they were wrong." Mischa Popoff, The Suburban (St-Laurent, Quebec), 12 August 2009.
     "Back in the early 1980s, I sailed my little 38-foot cutter from Canada to Florida via Bermuda and a tour of the Caribbean Sea. Other than relatives and a few friends coming to visit for short periods, I made most of the voyage single-handed. ... I could say, do and write anything I wanted with absolute impunity. As soon as I turned off the short-wave radio, I was cut off from the rest of the planet. Back then, the Internet and satellite phones were items of the future." Sam Bari, The Jamestown (RI) Press, 13 August 2009.
     The Department of Homeland Security "sent to law enforcement in Missouri and across the nation warns police to be on the lookout for Americans who like short wave radios, Tom Clancy novels, some Presidential candidates, historic American flags, returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, or display political materials and bumper stickers about abortion, illegal immigration, taxes, or gun rights." Americans for Legal Immigration PAC press release, 12 August 2009.
     Jonny Greenwood "was commissioned by the BBC to write Popcorn Superhet Receiver, an elegiac exploration of 'white noise' featuring 36 strings and inspired by Olivier Messiaen and Krzysztof Penderecki. With its title taken from shortwave radio, the piece had its premiere in London in 2005, was performed in the US in 2008 and will form part of the 2010 program for the Australian Chamber Orchestra." The Australian, 14 August 2009.

Broadband via shortwave to the exclusion of everything else via shortwave?

Posted: 14 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"On the one hand you could argue that amateur radio is a long-established hobby, which the upstart powerline networking technology is beginning to wreck, where the adverse effects are almost certain to become worse in the future. ... On the other hand, you could argue that the world has moved on, that shortwave radio is a 'legacy' hobby while IP-based communication is very much tomorrow’s technology, with powerline networking forming an important part of this new world. ... Indeed, most, if not all, of the shortwave broadcast stations being blocked by un-notched HomePlug frequencies would be available (in much better quality, and not subject to atmospheric conditions) via internet streaming." Paul Ockenden, PC Pro, 10 August 2009, and comments. Yes, but covering the shortwave frequencies with noise to accommodate broadband is like cutting down the last virgin forest to build a Walmart. Only the shortwave frequencies allow long-distance allows long distance communications without the assistance of satellites or undersea cable. When infrastructure is disrupted by a future crisis, shortwave communications and broadcasting will be needed, but will it be audible? (Power line communications (PLC) is called Broadband over Power Line (BPL) in the United States.) See previous post about same subject.

If you can't wait until you get home for the latest news from China Radio International...

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A China Radio International (CRI) English service is now available on Mobile telephone sets all over the world. The Mobile phone users only need to type http://m.cri.cn to gain access to English news, business, showbiz, travel services, a Chinese language learning studio, as well as video and audio English programmes produced by China Radio International. The advent of CRImobile was a response to the increasing popularity of surfing the internet via mobile phones." Associated Press of Pakistan, 12 August 2009. See also CRI Mobile Internet page.

Maybe he was detained for reporting on the target country, because only the "surrogate" station is supposed to do that.

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"U.S. immigration officials have detained a Pakistani journalist employed by the U.S.-sponsored Voice of America news service who was hoping to find refuge in the United States after Islamic militants in Pakistan destroyed his house and threatened his life. Rahman Bunairee, 33, was taken into custody Sunday afternoon upon his arrival at Dulles International Airport, according to VOA officials. It is not clear why Bunairee was detained. Joan Mower, a spokeswoman for VOA, declined to comment on the particulars of Bunairee's detention other than to say, 'VOA is obviously extremely concerned. We're really upset about what's happened to this guy.'" Washington Post, 13 August 2009.
     "U.S. authorities must explain why they are holding a journalist with a valid U.S. visa and release him immediately." Committee to Protect Journalists, 13 August 2009. See previous post about Bunairee.

Candidate for Virginia House of Delegates is former RFA, pro-union, Republican.

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in the heavily Democratic 46th District would be a difficult challenge for any Republican — especially in a general election that will feature a hotly contested gubernatorial up-ballot race. But Sasha Gong is not a typical Republican candidate. A native of China, she spent a year in jail for speaking out against the communist government. After coming to America, she said she was fired from a job at Radio Free Asia for refusing to work against a unionization effort. Now she hopes to unseat Del. Charniele Herring (D-46), who was narrowly elected in a special election to replace Brian Moran, who resigned from the seat to focus on his ill-fated gubernatorial campaign." Alexandria Gazette Packet, 13 August 2009. Fired for supporting a union? "Not a typical Republican candidate" indeed. Perhaps RFA has a different take on why she was fired. See also RFA unit of Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild of Communications Workers of America AFL-CIO. And previous post.

WSJ editorial lauds RFA Burmese, ignores BBC and VOA Burmese.

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Tuesday's sentencing by a Burmese court of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years of hard labor is a fresh reminder of the ruling junta's cruelty. That the sentence was then magnanimously reduced to an 18-month extension of her house arrest is a reminder of its cynicism. ... Financial sanctions targeting the junta and its associated businesses are ... effective and could be tightened. No less valuable are Burmese language broadcasts of Radio Free Asia, which are vital in breaking the regime's monopoly on information." Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 13 August 2009. Of the foreign stations broadcasting in Burmese, BBC has the largest audience, followed by VOA, followed by RFA. All three vigorously report on Burmese domestic events. But the WSJ editorial only mentioned number three, perhaps because it has the coolest, kick-dictator's-butt name.
     "Q: "Do you think the release of the journalists [detained by North Korea] was a total success or would it encourage similar behavior by rogue nations in the future? Representative Ed Royce: I think it’s a success for two reasons. The first is that I do not believe Kim Jong Il got anything other then a photo-op out of this. And second, I think it worked against him because Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts the truth about the regime into North Korea. We have vastly expanded our broadcasting into North Korea with the facts and 40% of defectors tell us they are monitoring RFA broadcasts." Epoch Times, 11 August 2009. Surveys of North Korean defectors, imperfect to be sure, indicate larger audiences for VOA than for RFA in North Korea. That is even more likely now, given that VOA, but not RFA, has a medium wave relay in South Korea. Neverthless, Rep. Royce mentioned only Radio Free Asia, perhaps because it has the cooler, kick-dictator's-butt name.

Issue of Azerbaijan's foreign radio ban still being raised.

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"During his visit to Baku OSCE MG Co-Chair Matthew Bryza raised the issues of arrested Azerbaijani bloggers and foreign radio stations’ going off air in Baku. He touched upon the issue at press conference, August 12, 2009 after the meeting with [Azerbaijan president] Ilham Aliyev. ... Since 2008 the broadcasting of Radio Liberty, Voice of America and BBC in Azerbaijan is banned. He mentioned that U.S. expects the 'response' to their suggestions to resume the broadcasting. This year U.S. offered to resume the broadcasting of these radio stations in exchange to the broadcasting of Azerbaijani radio stations in U.S." News.am, 14 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Congressional panels worried about growth of Pentagon's strategic communication, but not about its domestic dissemination (updated).

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Lawmakers are voicing concerns about the Pentagon's strategic communications programs, through which the military aims to win over civilians and erode support for adversaries in countries around the world. The programs have grown too fast and are spread through the Defense Department budget in a way that hampers oversight, complain the House and Senate Armed Services committees and the House Appropriations Committee. They also suggest that the military is producing propaganda and other materials that mask U.S. government sponsorship and focus 'far beyond a traditional military information operations.' ... The House Armed Services Committee said 'online strategic communications,' such as Web sites now run by the Defense Department in the Balkans and North Africa, 'are essential tools for the department to effectively counter the violent extremist groups abroad.' It described the Pentagon as 'overly cautious' in its approach, for fear of violating the law that prohibits films and articles produced by the State Department from being circulated in the United States. The committee said the Pentagon should conduct a new legal review of that law, which it said applies only to the State Department, and expand its online media operations even if they can be accessed in the United States by American audiences." Walter Pincus, Washington Post, 28 July 2009. The two websites, as discussed in a previous post, are SETimes.com and Magharebia.com. See also previous posts on 19 July and 8 July 2009.
     Update: "The Defense Department's strategic communications budget has grown exponentially since 2005. 'We're in a battle for hearts and minds, and information operations are vital,' said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. But I have news for Morrell: That's exactly what $900 million worth of State Department public diplomacy programs are designed to do. And besides, our diplomats have the necessary communications skills and cultural sensitivity to conduct such programs effectively, and they usually speak the host country's language, which is essential." Guy W. Farmer, Nevada Appeal, 10 August 2009.
     In a State Department inspector general's report about State's Africa Bureau, a "sticky issue" is "considerable internal debate about the wisdom of military funding of U.S. development and public diplomacy activities in Africa." Elizabeth Dickinson, The Cable, Foreign Policy, 12 August 2009.

Western international broadcasters not swayed by Birdamlik protesters or Azerbaijani press releases.

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"On August 11 the representatives of the Birdamlik opposition movement continued the protest in the capital of USA. Ferghana.Ru reported earlier that in the morning of August 10, 2009 the organization members started open-ended hunger strike in front of Radio Liberty headquarters in Washington (District of Columbia) with the demand to abolish the censorship of Uzbek service of Radio Liberty -- 'Radio Ozodlik' -- and offer air time for all the leaders of Uzbek political opposition, residing both in Uzbekistan and abroad. ... According to the protesters, there has been no response from the Liberty Radio management yet. 'Everyone uses back entrance, avoiding meeting us'." Sergei S., DX Listening Digest, 13 August 2009.
     "Bakhodir Choriev, the leader of the Birdamlik movement, [said] Martins Zvaners, the public relations deputy director of Radio Liberty, met the protesters. He promised that the protesters will be offered air time for an interview where they can voice out their demands in the extended format and answer questions raised by the management of radio station and listeners. Nevertheless, nobody showed up by last night." Ferghana.ru via Sergei S., DX Listening Digest, 11 August 2009.
     "Iran's large Azerbaijani minority feels disappointed and ignored by the pro-democracy movement, which has been widely praised internationally for opposing the Iranian government's attempt to rig the June 12 [2009] election. ... Azerbaijanis and other minorities have been savagely treated by Iranian authorities during the crisis - first for supporting the opposition and second for demanding the right to enjoy their own culture and language. But this has not been acknowledged by the followers of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main opposition candidate, because they are mostly Persians and share the government's concern that minority rights would threaten Persian hegemony in Iran... . This bias extends to the Persian media, and the alternative media, which has been celebrated internationally for escaping the heavy hand of Iranian censors. ADAPP's press releases have been ignored by the Voice of America's Persian service, which is normally receptive to criticism of the Iranian government, as well as the BBC and Radio Farda." thepeoplesvoice.org, 16 July 2009.
     It is the job of good journalists and news editors to ignore some press releases and even some protesters camped out in front of the building. Or at least not to give them as much coverage as they may think is their due.

End of shortwave from HCJB Ecuador moved up to late 2009.

Posted: 13 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The end date for international broadcasts from Radio Station HCJB in Ecuador has been moved up as the missionary radio ministry defines new strategies for future outreach. Anticipating the opening of the new Quito airport near the station’s international transmitter site in Pifo, staff member have already dismantled all but 14 antennas and towers. Present shortwave broadcasts in Portuguese, Spanish, German and indigenous languages, including Quichua, had earlier been announced to end no later than April 1, 2010. These international broadcasts will cease between September and November 2009. ... 'The way people consume media has changed,' said HCJB Global President Wayne Pederson. 'So we have the opportunity to change to delivery systems such as satellite, FM Internet and podcasting. The closing of shortwave in Latin America is strategic because of the planting of local FM radio stations across the region and around the world. These stations are staffed and programmed by local believers who can speak to the culture in their own communities.'" Undated (!) press release, HCJB Global website. HCJB in Ecuador is the oldest Protestant evangelical shortwave station, dating back to 1931. HCJB continues shortwave broadcasts from Australia. It would not have been especially difficult or expensive for HCJB to move one of its shortwave transmitters elsewhere in Ecuador to serve remote parts of the Andean region, where local affiliated FM and MW stations are not available. And for old time's sake. Presumably this will also end program feeds from Quito to partner stations in Brazil using Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) shortwave.
     HCJB's Jorge Zambrano dies at age 63. "A gifted musician and radio man who produced one of HCJB’s longest running radio programs, 'Música del Ecuador' (Music of Ecuador). For years listeners rated that program as one of the top international shortwave programs." Undated press release, HCJB Global website.

Ethiopia attempts cross-border television pruning.

Posted: 12 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Last week, the Ethiopian government tried to force private Kenyan broadcaster Nation Television (NTV) to drop a four-part exclusive report on separatist rebels in southern Ethiopia. NTV aired the first two parts of 'Inside Rebel Territory: Rag-Tag Fighters of the Oromo Liberation Front,' which led Ethiopia's ambassador to Kenya to accuse the Nation Media Group of giving a platform to a terrorist organization, the daily Nation reported." Mohamed Keita, CPJ Blog, Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 August 2009.

Canadian Liberal Party leader laments loss of Radio Canada International Ukrainian Service.

Posted: 12 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff met today with members of the National Executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. ... The Liberal Leader expressed dismay about funding cuts to Radio Canada International which resulted in the cancellation of broadcasting in the Ukrainian language. 'It is unfortunate that Ukraine was singled out. This flies in the face of Canada’s commitment to the democratic development of Ukraine. In a country where many parts of the population have access only to Russian media, this will deprive many Ukrainians who listened to this broadcast of a valuable source of independent information.'" Quebec Liberal Party, 4 August (?) 2009. Google lists 4 August as the date of this release, which is, malheureusement, undated."

Documentary about Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Soviet years on Australia's SBS.

Posted: 12 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"To Russia With Love: The Great Radio War," acquired docuemntary on Australia's SBS television, will be broadcast 14 August at 8:30 pm Australian Eastern Time: "For most of the world, news (or what passes for it) might seem almost inescapable but during the Cold War there was an inexhaustible hunger for it inside the Soviet Bloc. On July 4, 1950, the US launched Radio Free Europe to transmit through the Iron Curtain and satisfy that craving. Initially funded by the CIA (although that would be denied until 1971), the station was staffed by locals with code names and listened to by an estimated 70 million people. The US and Soviets were immersed in a nuclear arms race but there was another arms race too as the West tried to broadcast and the East tried to block the signals. Over the years, Radio Free Europe and a second station, Radio Liberty, would break significant stories, such as Nikita Kruschev's denunciation of Joseph Stalin, the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary and the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Skilfully told by its ageing participants, this doco merges the stories of individuals with the history of a station that today broadcasts into Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq." Sydney Morning Herald, 13 August 2009. See also SBS schedule page for 14 August.

New NATO funded radio station in Afghanistan is "not limited to any specific groups."

Posted: 11 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"NATO’s International Security Assistance Force is giving voice to residents of this remote area through a radio station run by one of their own. When Shaib Dad Hamdard was growing up here near the Pakistan border, he dreamed of being a voice to his people. Now, with the turn of a dial and the flick of the switch, he’s on air at Kalagush Radio, reaching out across the remote mountain province. ... Although ISAF funds the station, Kalagush Radio employees insist they decide what is put on the air. 'Of course it is funded by the coalition forces, but I have total control over the programs,' Hamdard said. 'The programs are not limited to any specific groups.' ISAF forces are working with Kalagush Radio to expand its broadcast schedule to 24 hours a day. They’re also planning to hire several new journalists for the station, including an Afghan woman, offering a voice for what the station’s crew calls a silent majority." American Forces Press Service, 10 August 2009. On FM? Or on medium wave or even shortwave, more capable of "reaching out across the remote mountain province"?

Money for, doubts about US democracy promotion in the Middle East.

Posted: 11 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
A report by the Washington based Project on Middle East Democracy "notes that given the large-scale protests following Iran's presidential elections in June, it is likely that Congress will approve the $40 million requested by the White House for the Near East Regional Democracy Fund. That fund has been supporting Iranian democracy through a variety of educational and cultural exchange programs and by making Persian language information available on line through international broadcasting. But the Carnegie Endowment's Marina Ottaway questions whether U.S. funding for democracy and governance in the Middle East can be effective when so many governments in the region continue to suppress dissent and stifle true democratic reform. Ottaway doubts that outside funding can trigger reform under these circumstances, and she has little hope for any kind of democratic awakening - the so-called Arab Spring that some Western analysts had predicted a few years ago." Mohamed Elshinnawi, VOA News, 10 August 2009.

Al Jazeera poll: Pakistanis see USA (not Taliban, not India) as "greatest threat."

Posted: 11 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A poll commissioned by the news network Al Jazeera in Pakistan has concluded that a majority of Pakistanis believe that Pakistan's largest military aid donor, the United States, is the 'biggest' threat to the country today. The polling was conducted by Gallup Pakistan, an affiliate of Gallup International. Of the more than 2,600 Pakistanis polled 11% believed Taliban fighters to be the biggest threat, another 18% believed neighboring India to be the biggest threat to Pakistan. However, 59% (1,534) of the 2,600 Pakistanis polled believed that the United States is the biggest threat to Pakistan today." Wikinews, 10 August 2009. See also aljazeera.net, 9 August 2009.

A suggestion for US international broadcasting so bad that it might happen.

Posted: 11 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
At a State Department dinner before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's departure for Africa: "I told the group that there was no need to re-invent the wheel and that the West should deal with Africa the way it dealt with the former Soviet Union. There it didn't form partnerships with communist regimes and hand over money to them on promises of reform. It helped Solidarity movements and established Radio Free Europe. Why not Radio Free Africa? Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said it is a great idea and she likes it." George Ayittey, GhanaDot.com, 1 August 2009. Creating a Radio Free Africa would precisely be reinventing the wheel, because VOA is already providing Africa with a reliable source of news about Africa. The division of US international broadcasting into two competing stations would destroy the decades-long run of success that US international broadcasting has enjoyed in Africa. On the other hand, creation of Radio Free Africa would have excellent boondoggle value, because two suites full of senior managers would be doing the job that one managed to do before. This being Washington, bet on the boondoggle. See also previous post.
     "Since the beginning of this year, Radio France International (RFI) has been cut off the air by the [Democratic Republic of Congo] government three times, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. One of two major foreign broadcasters in the region, Congolese citizens heard static since late July after authorities shuttered the station. ... The only other major international station, Radio Okapi — a joint project of the Hirondelle Foundation and the United Nations — has had two reporters murdered in mysterious circumstances since June 2007. Botched investigations into the murders of Radio Okapi journalists Didace Namujimbo and Serge Maheshe have allowed their murderers total impunity. Few locals in South Kivu listen to national broadcasts since they are generally controlled by political forces, Mushivizi said, while the press is hampered by fiscal and political pressures. With RFI banned and local media compromised — there are few voices left to report one of the world’s greatest tragedies. As Hillary meets President Joseph Kabila to call for an end to the mass rapes that plague eastern Congo, she must also call for an end to media censorship. The free flow of independent information within and outside the country is pivotal to solving the rape crisis." Tom Rhodes, contributing blogger, Worldfocus, 10 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

How Smith, Mundt, and a bureaucrat prevented VOA from providing a public service.

Posted: 11 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Earlier this year, a community radio station in Minneapolis asked Voice of America (VOA) for permission to retransmit its news coverage on the increasingly volatile situation in Somalia. The VOA audio files it requested were freely available online without copyright or any licensing requirements. The radio station's intentions were simple enough: Producers hoped to offer an informative, Somali-language alternative to the terrorist propaganda that is streaming into Minneapolis, where the United States' largest Somali community resides. ... It all seemed straightforward enough until VOA turned down the request for the Somali-language programming. In the United States, airing a program produced by a U.S. public diplomacy radio or television station such as VOA is illegal." Matt Armstrong, Foreign Policy, 6 August 2009.
     Matt has found a good example of the most harmful outcome of the Smith-Mundt domestic dissemination prohibition. There are immigrant communities in the United States that would appreciate news about their home countries in their first languages. VOA can provide such a public service, at -- this is the best part -- no extra cost to the US taxpayers.
     Actually, per Gartner v USIA (1989) (see previous post), it is not illegal for any private US media unit to use VOA material. It is, however, illegal for VOA to spend money or effort disseminating its content in the United States, or to encourage such dissemination.
     A number of radio stations in the United States are using, or have used, VOA programs on a "don't ask, don't tell" basis. This includes WFED, Federal News Radio, 1500 kHz AM in Washington. The Raleigh Telegram frequently uses VOA news articles, most recently on 8 August. The Minneapolis radio station made the mistake of asking.
     Ameliorative legislation would have to be cleverly worded, to allow VOA content to be used for such a domestic public service, but in a way that money intended for international broadcasting is not diverted to an intentional domestic information campaign.
     By enforcing the domestic dissemination ban, VOA acceded to the presumption of Smith-Mundt that VOA is engaged in propaganda. If VOA were propaganda, people in Somalia wouldn't listen, and Somali-language radio programs in Minneapolis would not ask to retransmit its content. Another good reason to maintain distance between US international broadcasting and US public diplomacy.

Radio/TV Martí job cuts due to budget cuts.

Posted: 10 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"In the face of anticipated budget cuts in federal funding of the Office of Cuba Broadcast (OCB) in Miami, Radio and TV Martí will eliminate 35 jobs, or 21.8 percent of their workforce. ... Twenty-two employees will be laid off -- mainly television anchors and technicians, news editors and radio anchors... . The rest involve vacant positions and employees who have volunteered for buyout packages. ... The staff cuts 'reflect the proposal to change the news format of TV Martí, replacing two evening news programs with news updates every half-hour and giving Radio Martí an all-news format,' OCB director Pedro Roig wrote in a memo to the staff Tuesday." Miami Herald, 6 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     Comments about the recently removed electronic billboard at the US Interests Section in Havana. Alfredo Prieto, Havana Times, 2 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.

More private Venezuelan radio stations may be closed.

Posted: 10 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Some 206 private radio stations are expected to be closed by the government in the coming days, joining 34 stations in 11 states that were shut down indefinitely over the weekend, CNN International reports." Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, 3 August 2009, with links.
     "The 34 media-stations (32 radio and 2 television) have not presented any evidence whatsoever that would put into question the decisions made by the authorities. They have the right to take their case to the Supreme Court." VHeadline.com, 8 August 2009.
     "Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez announced on Tuesday that suspect Lina Ron had been arrested for her presumed participation in a tear gas attack on the private television channel Globovision, in La Florida, Caracas on Monday. A small group of people identified with Lina Ron’s pro-Chavez United for Venezuela Party (UPV) were filmed firing tear gas into the Globovision offices and clashing with police in La Florida, before making their getaway on motorcycles early Monday morning." venezuelanalysis.com, 4 August 2009.
     "Venezuela: A Dark Month for Media Freedom," Article 19, 7 August 2009 (pdf). See previous post about same subject.

RFI taken off FM throughout Democratic Republic of Congo (updated).

Posted: 10 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Democratic Republic of Congo has suspended transmission of Radio France Internationale within the country. ... This is not the first time that the government has taken action against RFI. The DRC cut off RFI’s signal in Bunia in May and later threatened to shut down all six of RFI’s FM frequencies over what it called 'national security concerns'. They accused the station of inciting unrest after it reported on problems within the armed forces." RFI, 28 July 2009.
     Protested by Reporters sans Frontières, Journalistes en Danger, and Radiodiffuseurs sans Fréquences, RSF, 28 July 2009. Okay, just kidding, there is no Radiodiffuseurs sans Fréquences, but it might be a good idea.
     "The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today denounced the decision of the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to suspend Radio France Internationale (RFI) broadcasts in the country." IFJ, 29 July 2009.
     Update: "Tuning to 93.4 FM today on my Roadstar car radio returned an unexpected, pleasant surprise: RFI! No public explanation was immediately offered. Neither was it clear whether the station's return to one of its two FM frequencies was permanent. But the government's actions in the RFI case raise many questions. When informing the public becomes a crime, is it better to shut up before suffering the wrath of sanction?" Charles M. Mushizi, CPJ Blog, Committee to Protect Journalists, 3 August 2009.

UK regulator says London-based, Iranian-funded Press TV violated impartiality rules.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"George Galloway's two chatshows on Press TV, the 24-hour news channel funded by the Iranian government, have been criticised by Ofcom for breaking impartiality rules after the Respect MP labelled Israel's actions in the Gaza conflict 'war crimes' and an 'apartheid-style occupation'. The Respect MP presents a weekly phone-in show, called Comment, and also a weekly current affairs programme, The Real Deal, on Press TV. ... Complainants argued that the shows failed to put both sides of the Gaza argument, that Galloway's broadcasts amounted to 'Iranian propaganda' and that the Press TV presenter did not conduct a balanced discussion. Press TV, from which the presenter Nick Ferrari quit last month in protest at the fallout from the Iranian elections, rejected the complaints, arguing that there were 'sufficient' alternative views within each of Galloway's shows." The Guardian, 3 August 2009. See also Jerusalem Post, 3 August 2009, Press Gazette, 3 August 2009, and journalism.co.uk, 3 August 2009, with links.
     Press TV Beirut news director Ali "Rizk points to Press TV’s coverage of the protests as an example of the network’s balance. 'Did you see the pictures from Mousavi’s protests?' he said. 'Press TV was the ones that took them.' (This may owe much to the fact that foreign news organizations were prohibited from covering the demonstrations.) He went on, the only difference between Press TV and, say, the BBC’s Farsi service, which found its broadcasts jammed in Iran during the demonstrations, was discretion. Press TV was 'careful not to make the same mistakes which BBC Farsi maybe made. Like filming some place you’re not supposed to film, things like this.' (The final verdict on Press TV’s coverage of the protests is far from rendered, but in mid July, some close observers did notice a shift toward more sympathetic and thorough depictions of the protesters. ...)" Joshua Hersh, The Faster Times, 6 August 2009.

VOA, BBC, Twitter mentioned in Iranian indictment of dissidents et. al.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran's hardline regime sharply escalated the post-election confrontation on August 8 by putting two foreign embassy staffers and a French teacher on trial alongside dozens of political dissidents. ... In a vague and rambling indictment, the three were charged with espionage and 'acting against the national security,' and blamed for inciting 'riots.' It went on to blame a litany of Western intelligence agencies, media organizations, and software companies — including Israel's Mossad spy agency, Facebook, Twitter, Voice of America, BBC Persia, and even Google's new Persian-to-English translation software — for their roles in the supposed vast conspiracy." Time, 8 August 2009.
     "The indictment also accused the BBC Persian service and Voice of America of inciting the public and attempting to present a distorted image of Iran. The BBC Persian played the most important role in inciting unrest through its attempts to give the impression that vote fraud occurred through a psychological warfare campaign, the indictment said, adding that VOA tried to tarnish the image of the president and question the legitimacy of the system by attempting to give the impression that it is undemocratic." Tehran Times, 9 August 2009.
     "The Iranian government had subjected the [Radio Farda's] in Prague to 'threats, and blackmail', so [RFE/RL president Jeffrey] Gedmin said he was considering relocating some of the staff to Washington. 'It is true that the Iranian regime is quite talented and tenacious in finding ways to intimidate people, and they do that to our journalists. And we are in fact moving some of our colleagues to Washington...There are about 40 of them,' Gedmin said." WashingtonTV, 9 August 2009. As stated at House Europe Sucommittee hearing reported in previous post. So, three miles apart, Radio Farda and VOA Persian News Network journalists will be pursuing the same news about Iran. Perhaps they could all work in the same building, eliminate the redundancy, and double the number of stories covered. (Don't bet on that happening.)
     "Responding to claims that western media are stoking unrest in Iran, RFE/RL Executive Editor John O'Sullivan told CNN's Fared Zakaria that 'RFE/RL's Persian Service, Radio Farda, simply reports the news and provides a forum for debate among Iranians. And on both accounts - free debate and truth - the government doesn't like it. Radio Farda is doing what journalists would be doing if Iran had a free television station, a free radio station, or a free newspaper,' O'Sullivan said on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS program. 'We are therefore acting, in a way, like a domestic broadcaster for the Iranian people.'" RFE/RL, 3 August 2009. BBC Persian and VOA's Persian News Network are also acting in similar fashion, even though Washington experts and decision makers and other gullible persons think that RFE/RL is the only "surrogate" broadcaster.
     "Some of the founding ideologues of the Islamic Republic of Iran are currently in exile, having fallen foul of the current leadership, and, together with royalists, they represent the most backward sections of the opposition. Yet they have been given unprecedented coverage by the international media, including, worst of all, sections of the Farsi-speaking media. First we have Akbar Ganji, promoter of a New York hunger strike and a man portrayed in the US media as a 'human rights activist' who talks of Islam and democracy. ... Yet the Voice of America’s favourite Iranian ‘human rights activist’ has no regrets about his own past and defends everything that happened during and in the first few years after the February 1979 uprising! The next ‘Islamist democrat’ propelled to fame on Farsi-speaking airwaves, broadcast both by the BBC Persian service and Voice of America, is the ‘philosopher’, Abdolkarim Souroush, who is a visiting scholar at Georgetown University in Washington DC. ...
     "Around 40 TV channels broadcast into Iran. Some are from exiled groups, ranging from royalists to those claiming to represent communist organisations. Sadly, most of the programmes are so appalling (or so boring) that very few people pay any attention to them. Yet Iran’s official radio and TV news service is so unreliable that no-one takes it seriously. In this situation, the slightly more informative BBC World Service, broadcast by satellite and on the internet, has suddenly become a main source of news and analysis for many Iranians, resulting in the supreme leader’s accusations of British involvement in the protests. In fact many Iranians consider the BBC to be too even-handed, giving too much time to supporters of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei." yasmine, Iranian.com, 2 August 2009.
     "An [Iranian] opposition daily, Etemad Melli, reported that Nokia sales have been slashed in half because the Finnish firm provided Iran Telecom with the ability to monitor local communications from fixed and mobile phones late last year." Macleans, 6 August 2009.
     "As the leader of the Free World, Mr. Obama must decide: How does the United States support the legitimate quest for freedom by the Iranian people? ... Through various communication channels (Radio Free Europe, Voice of America), encourage work slowdowns/stoppages, particularly by the oil-field workers, plus other measures to interrupt the flow of oil." Adm. James Lyons (retired), Washington Times, 9 August 2009. Perhaps Admiral Lyons should sail his little dinghy into the Persian Gulf and use a bullhorn to encourage work slowdowns/stoppages, and spare RFE/RL and VOA the destruction of their credibility.

Taliban multimedia propaganda and the US response.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Taliban have a sophisticated public relations machine which is making it harder for governments and their international allies to win the ever-important propaganda war. ... The insurgents use audio and video recordings, flyers and handouts, so-called 'night letters' [letters with warnings or messages posted overnight], newspapers, journals and magazines as well as books. Radio and television broadcasts are the militants' main tools to spread their message and glorify their achievements. The Taliban and their sympathisers have FM radio stations in Pakistan broadcasting anti-US propaganda. Although the Taliban banned television when they were in power in Afghanistan (1996-2001), they now use video recordings containing messages and footage of their attacks on foreign and local security forces. ... The Pentagon has reportedly launched a broad 'psychological operations' campaign to counter the Taliban advances in the propaganda war. It includes taking down their websites and jamming radio stations. The Taliban reacted angrily, calling it a 'cowardly act' and an 'infringement of the same freedom of expression that the US boasts'." BBC News, 3 August 2009.

Used to be when you heard a radio station on your phone, it was interference.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"RFI has signed an agreement with mobile phone broadcaster AudioNow to broadcast its French programmes on the telephone network, 24 hours a day, in five US cities. Listeners in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and New York City have been able to hear RFI on their cellphones since 1 August." Radio France International, 6 August 2009.
     "weComm, the leader in interactive mobile data solutions, today announced that it has partnered with Livestation to deliver live TV news to mobile handsets including Android and BlackBerry devices. Livestation already delivers high quality live TV streaming services on iPhone for world class news partners such as BBC World News and Al Jazeera. weComm’s wave On-Demand Mobile Application Platform™, will enable Livestation to deliver live broadcasts from Livestation’s global news TV partners to all leading mobile operating systems. ... Livestation is the online destination for global TV and radio news, offering international channels from Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, BBC, C-SPAN, Deutsche Welle, euronews, ITN, France 24, Press TV and Russia Today." weComm press release, 7 August 2009. Available everywhere? Or only through certain mobile providers?

New home of BBC World Service will be "inspiring, exciting and [phew!] vibrant."

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The contract for the supply of workplace and interior design services for Phase Two of the BBC Broadcasting House development in central London has been awarded to HOK following a competitive public procurement process. The BBC was looking for a design partner with leading-edge, innovative solutions to support and encourage a creative, flexible and agile workforce and create an inspiring, exciting and vibrant environment for people to work in. ... The 45,000 square metres state-of-the-art media centre at BBC Broadcasting House will be an iconic home for the BBC’s national and international journalism from 2012. It will bring together BBC News, Global News, including the BBC World Service, and Audio & Music for the first time in a new live multimedia environment. ... The new Broadcasting House building will house more than 5,000 staff – nearly a quarter of the BBC’s workforce. ... This unprecedented co-location of BBC staff and services will create one of the world’s largest newsrooms." WebWire, 3 August 2009.

Good news, bad news for BBC World Service as home service.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
UK radio data: "The internet listening share is 2.2%. ... Moreover, 21.1% of all radio listening is now via a digital platform. Digital listening, in terms of weekly reach, has risen by 14% and, for the first time, over one third of the population now tunes in to radio via a digitally enabled set each week. ... And finally, the BBC World Service had 1.44m listeners in the UK, up from 1.31m last year but down from the record 1.47m domestic audience in the first three months of this year." UTalkMarketing, 6 August 2009.

Tiananmen documentary could interrupt BBC Worldwide sales in China.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Chinese authorities are understood to have ordered state-owned broadcasters in the country not to co-operate with BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, after officials were angered by a Kate Adie film about the [Tiananmen] massacre, which was made to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the pro-democracy protests, MediaGuardian.co.uk can reveal. It is understood that domestic Chinese broadcasters, including China Central Television (CCTV) have been told not to co-operate with BBC Worldwide in buying programmes or becoming involved in co-productions. BBC News is believed to be unaffected by the current row, however. BBC Worldwide is expanding aggressively in developing markets, including China, as the corporation seeks to supplement the £3.6bn a year it receives from the licence fee with commercial income." The Guardian, 5 August 2009.

New not-entirely-government FM stations in Burma.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"Three new FM radio stations will soon begin broadcasting across 10 states and divisions in Burma in a joint operative between private companies and the Burmese government. The stations, named Shwe, Cherry and Padamya, will go on air on 15 August, adding to the four FM stations already in existence in Burma. This is the first time stations not fully owned by the government will be allowed to broadcast in the country, although the three have been given permission by the ruling junta." Democratic Voice of Burma, 5 August 2009. If these stations broadcast news at all, it will almost certainly be controlled by the government. Nevertheless, these stations could distract some of the many present listeners to the BBC, VOA, and RFA Burmese services.

Sky News in bid to take over Australia Network in 2011.

Posted: 09 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a direct challenge to the ABC, Sky News has approached the federal government with plans to expand Australia's international diplomatic television broadcasting service into a global network. ... The international Australia Network is provided for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under a $20 million contract with the ABC that expires in 2011. 'We will commit to the biggest international broadcasting network undertaking by any Australian media organisation,' Mr Frangopoulos said. ... Sky News's global plan includes broadcasting the DFAT channel across five satellites with unencrypted distribution into Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Africa, India, China, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. The parent company of Sky News, Australian News Channel, would open the biggest network of international bureaus Australia has seen, located in major cities across these regions." The Australian, 1 August 2009.
     "As the new Australia Network correspondent in New Delhi, the first thing Michael Edwards has noticed is the natural curiosity of everyday Indians. It seems every time he brings out his camera, he attracts a crowd." "Correspondents Report," ABC Radio National, 9 August 2009.
     "The ABC's Saturday afternoon broadcast [of the Australian Football League] will continue to be heard on Radio Australia, the ABC's overseas shortwave radio service." Australian Football Association of North America, 2 August 2009.

Getting past the net censors. Maybe.

Posted: 06 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
"A security researcher at the Defcon security conference has proposed a way to get news feeds into countries that ban them via email clients. The proposal aims to simplify the process by which Internet users in censored countries can get uncensored news, making it useful in countries such as China and Iran. Sho Ho, a researcher at the federal government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors program — which sponsors Voice of America and other programs — proposed a project that could circumvent attempts to crack down on censored web sites. The Feed Over Email program is the equivalent of a proxy-less RSS reader, Ho said. It uses U.S.-based email programs such as Gmail as delivery vehicles." VentureBeat, 1 August 2009. But to establish an account at Gmail or other U.S.-based e-mail service, one most go to a website, and that website can be blocked. On the other hand, there are so many free e-mail services, which come and go, that it might be difficult to block all of them.
     "I think that this is a great initiative: while governments constantly block proxy servers, there is no way that they will block Gmail, in part because many of them (and their children) use Gmail too. This also presents Google, Yahoo and other tech companies with a guilty conscience about their actions in China and elsewhere with a unique opportunity to offer their idle computer capacity for noble use." Evgeny Morozov, net.effect blog, Foreign Policy, 3 August 2009. Of course they will block Gmail.
     "What should we make of Twitter's recent [infallibility] to DDOS attacks, which made it inaccessible for several hours? One conclusion that I've drawn is that Twitter is less robust that we think. ... What does it all mean? Most likely, it means that we are poised to see more and more governments experimenting with cyberwarfare as a potentially viable alternative to censorship." Evgeny Morozov, net.effect blog, Foreign Policy, 6 August 2009.
     "Twitter was a great resource during the protests — for people who knew how to use it. ... Most of them relied on particular 'keywords' (like #iranelection) to read everything that was being posted about the events in Tehran. After a few days, the #iranelection and #moussavi channels contained so much noise that they became attractive destinations for spammers and marketers. ... To make things worse, supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began spreading misinformation. ... Finally, the more we talk about 'Twitter revolutions,' the more American diplomats and policymakers fall in love with the tool. 'Twitter diplomacy' might soon replace the expensive efforts of the struggling Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). So what that they would only get 140 characters to express the American position on a given subject? Stripping these messages of the legalese would only add to their appeal, while helping to tap into the otherwise ADD-ed minds of the 'digital natives' who might never have heard the radio broadcast of BBG's Voice of America because they don't know what radio is. And given how much U.S. government money has spent to bolster the BBG, even buying Twitter outright would look like a rounding mistake." Evgeny Morozov, Think Again, Foreign Policy, 6 August 2009.

CCTV Arabic: will most Arabs watch it more than once?

Posted: 01 Aug 2009   Print   Send a link
China's new CCTV Arabic channel "faces quite a challenge. The channel has had to hit the ground running and compete in a crowded market against many well-established names, including Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Britain’s BBC Arabic and the USA’s Al Hurra, as well as hundreds more Arabic language channels. CCTV Arabic certainly looks different. Programming made for a non-Arab audience interspersed with female Chinese presenters speaking fluent Arabic on a futuristic-looking set will surprise an Arab audience, even if in countries such as Syria the drone of state programming quickly makes them feel at home. The schedule is predominantly made up of news, cabaret and theatrical music, documentaries and soap operas, which are usually shown in Chinese but subtitled in Arabic. Four hours are broadcast live each day; the remainder is repeats or pre-recorded programmes. ... Lacking live interviews or correspondents in the field, CCTV news is delivered exclusively with studio voice-overs, which can make the channel appear alien, stage-managed and lacking context. ... Ordinary Arabs are unlikely to ever watch this strange creation of the satellite age more than once." Hugh Miles, The National (Abu Dhabi), 1 August 2009. See previous post about same subject.