News agencies cite RFA on Tibetan executions, Xinjiang internet restrictions, and North Korean missiles.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Two people have been put to death for their roles in deadly protests last year in the Chinese-controlled region of Tibet, the first known executions for the violence, an overseas monitoring group said Tuesday. ... Xinhua gave few details on the two, but U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia's Tibetan service said Lobsang Gyaltsen was 28 and was from a poor family in Lubuk township in Lhasa. Loyak was 30." AP, 27 October 2009.
     "According to a Radio Free Asia report, Xinjiang’s People’s Congress Standing Committee has also passed a new law, called the 'Information Promotion Bill,' which bans people in the region from using the Internet 'in any way that undermines national unity, incites ethnic separatism, or harms social stability.'" International Press Institute, 30 October 2009.
     "North Korea's short-range missile tests earlier this month were a failure with none of the five projectiles reaching its target, a report said Thursday. ... Radio Free Asia, quoting an intelligence source, said four of the five missed the mark and one did not even launch properly." AFP, 29 October 2009.

Upper-case-prone blogger faults BBC Persian for "comfortable Neutrality."

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The PRo Democracy Fund was aimed at financing SERIOUS Medias like VOA PERSIAN or Radio Farda which have proved to be not only professional in their approach but also proved to be quite in touch with the brutal reality of the Iranian Regime. Unlike the comfortable Neutrality of BBC Persian which masks a total ignorance of the reality of both the Iranian Exiled Community's struggles and concerns for their loved ones back home, VOA Persian has been around long enough and in direct communication with Iranians back home and who have truly made a MAJOR difference by giving VOICE to the VOICELESS Iranians in Iran who have been subject only to IRI Propaganda and religious bigotry for the past 30 years." Darius Kadivar,, 28 October 2009.

Still no charges in Kyrgyzstan murder of reporter for RFE/RL and VOA (updated).

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Kyrgyz authorities to make public the findings of their investigation into the murder of Alisher Saipov, left, the editor of the Uzbek-language newspaper Siyosat, who was shot in Osh two years ago. ... An ethnic Uzbek, Saipov reported on human rights abuses in neighboring Uzbekistan. Besides editing Siyosat, he contributed reporting to the U.S. government-funded broadcasters Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, along with the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting and the independent regional news Web sites Ferghana and Uznews. ... [A] reported suspect has not been publicly identified or charged in the murder, and authorities have released no details concerning his supposed role or the evidence against him." CPJ, 22 October 2009.
     Update: "Kyrgyzstan's Interior Ministry says that a second suspect is being sought in the 2007 murder of independent journalist Alisher Saipov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports. ... Saipov's colleagues suspect he may have been killed by agents of neighboring Uzbekistan since he often wrote critical articles in Uzbek about the situation in that country." RFE/RL News, 26 October 2009.

Good thing there was no Google when I was trying to get a job at VOA.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"It was through sheer persistence that [Daoud] Sediqi obtained a job at Voice of America (VoA), where he hosts a call-in radio show in Pashto. When he approached Beth Mendelson, VoA's Afghan service chief, she needed to be convinced before giving him a job. 'Just Google my name,' he told her. Ms Mendelson has no regrets about her decision to hire him. 'He's a bright young man,' she said, adding that her station's audiences in Afghanistan 'enjoy having one of their country's biggest stars back on the airwaves'." Ashish Kumar Sen, BBC News, 28 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

From the bomb-them-if-necessary school of public diplomacy.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Articles from the Revitalizing Public Diplomacy special section of The Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009...
     "Despite the damage that has been done from the embrace of pop culture and the promotion of anemic themes, the restoration of substance in U.S. government broadcasting can once again attract serious audiences in the countries that America most needs to reach." Former VOA dierctor Robert R. Reilly, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009.
     "What would seasoned political strategists do? First, they would map the world country by country and take an inventory of existing friends, allies, neutrals, opponents and enemies. Then they would map the world by transnational issues, as one would with trans-state or trans-regional issues at home: ethnic, racial, linguistic, cultural, religious, business, labor, women, family, generational, environmental, and so forth. This would be followed by a strategic message for each and a constellation of surrogate spokespersons, both overt and covert; and the political ground troops of activists, donors, protesters, letter-writers, and arm-twisters. By running strategic communication and its elements—public diplomacy, public affairs, international broadcasting, information operations, psychological operations and the like—in the same fashion as a perpetual global campaign on behalf of American strategic interests worldwide, the United States would be permanently conducting the 'engagement' that so many advocate but so few actually practice." J. Michael Waller, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009.
     "As one veteran government official has succinctly summarized, 'the most fundamental problem' with U.S. public diplomacy 'is that no one in the U.S. is in charge. Each U.S. government agency currently has [its] own informational program, but the bureaucracy as a whole lacks a senior official with the authority to integrate these efforts.' Without it, the various agencies responsible for communicating America’s message to the world have succumbed to bureaucratic infighting, funding battles and conflicting mandates. What is needed, therefore, is a real strategic communications 'czar,' a single individual with primary responsibility for truly harnessing the tools of American strategic influence over the length and breadth of the governmental bureaucracy." Ilan Berman, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009.
     "Public diplomacy cannot be a core element of foreign policy if they are seperated. Power at the State Department lies in the geographic bureaus where policy is formulated. PD officers gain from decentralization, not centralization. ... The esprit de corps that existed under USIA exists again, but this time with PD officers who feel valued and empowered at the policy table, and connected to their PD colleagues. ... Public Diplomacy 2.0 should mark the end of the separation of policy and public diplomacy." Colleen Graffy, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009.
     "Obama has abolished another important tool of U.S. public diplomacy: the Department of Defense’s Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Support to Public Diplomacy. The office, originally established in 2006, was disbanded in early 2009, accused by senior administration officials of conducting propaganda.6 The move constitutes a stunning reversal; following September 11, 2001, the Pentagon under then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took charge of a number of public diplomacy efforts because very little was effectively being done out of Foggy Bottom, where the job of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy was left unfilled for long periods of time." Helle Dale, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009.
     "The Treasury Department can and should increase its designation portfolio beyond Hezbollah’s al-Manar and the Iraqi-Syrian al-Zawraa channel to include Hamas’s al-Aqsa television station, the radio assets of Maulana Fazlullah, and the online properties of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and any other terrorist groups which use media to incite to violence and provide operational support for terrorist attacks. ... If such legal, diplomatic and political efforts fail, however, terrorist media represents a viable military target. The precedent exists: during the war in Kosovo, NATO planes bombed the Belgrade-based headquarters of Radio Television of Serbia—an attack that was justified by the Alliance as a legitimate way to end the broadcasting of Slobodan Milosevic’s violent call to arms." Mark Dubowitz, Journal of International Security Affairs, Fall 2009.
     All recommended reading, even though I disagree with most of it.

One of Ukraine's "100 most influential women" is a VOA broadcaster.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Myroslava Gongadze, the host of Voice of America’s (VOA) Ukrainian daily Chas-Time TV program, has been named one of the '100 most influential women of Ukraine' in an annual list compiled by the Ukrainian news magazine Focus. ... VOA Ukrainian’s daily TV programming reaches an estimated weekly audience of 4.8 million adults in Ukraine. Programs are also available on VOA’s Ukrainian web site." Media News International 27 October 2009.

When VOA brought Michael Jackson "fervor" to China.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Zhang Yiwu, professor of Peking University, said the Michael Jackson fervor in the country was a further proof of China's stature in the pop culture world. 'China is not unique in the fervor, but it testifies to the fact that China is on the front of the pop culture with international perspectives,' he said. ... Zhang had his first taste of the pop star's music in the early 1980s on a program of Voice of America. Jackson's music with its free style and unique performance was something exceptional in China at the time and thus gained popularity, he said." Xinhua, 27 October 2009.

International communication concepts in serious disarray.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
John Hughes, former VOA director, USIA associate director and State Department spokesman (all during Reagan Administration) at Brigham Young University Symposium on the Challenge of Afghanistan and Pakistan: "'Our public diplomacy in this country is in serious disarray,' Hughes said. 'I think we need to give some serious consideration as to what has to happen.' Hughes explained how terrorists in Afghanistan have mastered the use of television and social-networking Internet sites to promote their violent agendas. 'More than half the battle is taking place in the battleground of media,' he said. 'It's a media race for hearts and minds.' Hughes recalled the vital role of radio, with examples of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, in promoting democratic values, and called for a renewed focus on communication and diplomacy." Desert News (Salt Lake City), 29 October 2009.

More memories of 1989, when news moved at "better-than Twitter efficiency."

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Former resistance members in the Czech Republic and the former East Germany say there were two factors that made news move at better-than-Twitter efficiency in the revolutionary days of '89: A network of human relationships that conveyed information informally on a regular basis, and a population who were highly focused on only a few channels of information, both official and clandestine. 'You didn't have people looking at 200 different TV channels and 10,000 websites and e-mails from thousands of people,' says Rainer Muller, one of the East German dissidents who brought 200,000 people onto the streets of Leipzig in October of 1989. 'You could put something on a Western TV or radio station and you could be sure that half the country would know it.'" Doug Saunders, Globe and Mail, 29 October 2009.
     "For Aleš Jurina the memory of 17 November 1989 is associated with tea. He and some friends with whom he had formed a kind of secret tea association for tastings and discussions gathered around to listen, via Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, to the events unfolding in Prague during what was one of their regular meetings." Prague Daily Monitor, 30 October 2009.
     "There was an informal air to this 20th-anniversary gathering. On the stage of the Prague theater where he got his start as a playwright, Divadlo Na zabradli, there was Vaclav Havel -- wearing the same trousers, we were told, as he wore in 1989. A balloon in the shape of a red heart -- Havel's trademark -- floated at the side of the stage." RFE/RL, 15 October 2009. In 1990, Jonathan Marks, then of Radio Netherlands, and I were walking along a street in Prague. Suddenly, a security person politely beckoned us to wait. Then, in front of us, Vaclav Havel, by then president of Czechslovakia, came out of a building, entered his car, and was driven away. Astounded, we continued walking.
     "Radio Prague is asking its listeners the world over to share their memories of those heady days. ... Write and let us know where and how you heard the news and how you were affected by it. Radio Prague will select the best letters and interview the listeners in question over the phone. Their memories will enhance Radio Prague’s special programming devoted to the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution." Radio Prague website.

VOA and its wartime origins.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"By the spring of 1942, VOA had established a pattern of around-the-clock fourteen and a half minutes transmissions in English, German, French and Italian. However, only two studios were available at 270 Madison Ave. One studio was reserved for the four main languages twenty-four hours a day. English was broadcast on the hour, German on the quarter hour, French on the half hour and Italian on the three-quarter hour. The announcers had only thirty seconds to leave the studio and make way for the incoming announcers. The second studio was reserved for other languages. These had increased at great speed. Czechoslovak, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Yugoslav, and Finnish desks were added. That was too much for the two studios on Madison Avenue; hence in late fall of 1942, the entire VOA staff moved to the General Motors building on the corner of Broadway and 57th Street where several studios had been constructed and office space was less constrained." Walter R. Roberts, American Diplomacy, 26 October 2009. This detailed historical essay is recommended reading. Dr. Roberts worked for VOA during its first years, and was later associate director of USIA. Among other details, Dr. Roberts tries to nail down the actual date of VOA's first broadcast -- probably 1 February 1942, but perhaps as early as 28 January 1942.
     "Miraculously, a short time after our arrival in New York [from France, in 1942] I received my F.B.I. clearance and started working in the shortwave control section of the Voice of America. My job was to closely follow events as they were happening throughout the world and to check scripts to be broadcast to Europe for factual accuracy and overall policy. Some matters, accurate or not, were taboo. We did not, for example, discuss food or any aspect of easy living when shortwaving to countries where people were hungry or lived under great hardship. We did not brag about our victories, we did not dwell on our mistakes and we did not apologize for missing targets that resulted in casualties. ... When I asked the cabbie to take me to the Argonaut Building on West 57th Street, he responded in his heavy New York accent, 'The Voice of America! I know that place. Tell them over there that we are coming to the rescue, tell them we are finally coming!'" Betty Zentall, New York Times, 4 June 1989. Re Argonaut Building facelift in 2007, see previous post.

This was Radio Moscow! Voice of Russia marks 80th anniversary.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"President Dmitry Medvedev has congratulated the staff of the Voice of Russia radio company that is celebrating the 80th anniversary of its first radio broadcast. 'Throughout all these years due to highly professional work your radio station has acquired a broad audience on five continents. Voice of Russia has proved itself to be a source of prompt information about developments in our country. Your contribution to the popularization of Russian culture and spread of the Russian language in the world also deserves a high praise,' President Medvedev said in a telegram of congratulation he sent to the Voice of Russia staff. 'Today Voice of Russia upholds its position as one of the leaders of global news broadcasting. Following the best of its traditions, Voice of Russia continues to open Russia to the foreign audience and helps strengthen Russia's international contacts,' President Medvedev said in the telegram." ITAR-TASS, 29 October 2009. Telegram?
     "In 1962, 'Radio Moscow', as it was then known, was the first to tell the world that the Cuban missile crisis was over, with an announcement from the then Russian president Nikita Khrushchev." RT (Russia Today), 29 October 2009, with video.
      "The history of Russian foreign broadcasting began on 29 October 1929 with the first call signals of Radio Moscow. Those initial programs from Moscow were in German. Soon after, there began broadcasts in French, and as of December 1929 – regular broadcasts in English. The BBC was the second international radio to start broadcasting in 1932, while the Voice of America began its broadcasts only in 1942. This important anniversary is not just a good reason to recollect the past but also a chance to look in the future. The VOR`s chairman Andrei Bysrtytsky believes the company’s programs will always be in demand in various parts of the world… 'I believe the VOR will remain as popular as it is today because the information we provide is being awaited by our audiences around the globe. The major goal of international broadcasting is to let other countries get first hand information and share views on a wide range of issues. This is one of the means of international communication. But the question is which form is the best to provide information. I think that with time the Internet will surely dominate. However, it does not mean that radio will disappear. You know, cinematography did not abolish theater'." Lada Korotun, Voice of Russia, 29 October 2009.
     Some vintage audio clips of Radio Moscow are available at Dave Kernick's Interval Signals Online. See previous post about same subject.

Canada approves Russia Today for digital distribution.

Posted: 31 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) "approves a request to add Russia Today to the lists of eligible satellite services for distribution on a digital basis... . 1. The Commission received a request dated 10 July 2009 from Ethnic Channels Group Limited (ECGL) for the addition of Russia Today, a non-Canadian, English-language satellite news service, to the lists of eligible satellite services for distribution on a digital basis (the digital lists). 2. ECGL described the service as a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week English-language international news and information service targeted to an international audience. 3. ... There were no comments in opposition." CRTC notice, 29 October 2009. The CRTC documents nowhere refer to the channel as "RT," the new (and apparently unsuccessful) name of Russia Today.

Guest RFE/RL commentary discusses Goldstone report and South African history.

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a searing commentary for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the South African historian and journalist—and former human rights activist—R.W. Johnson takes his compatriot [Richard Goldstone] to the cleaners." Rachel Abrams, The Blog, Weekly Standard, 26 October 2009.
     "The UN Human Rights Council has endorsed Judge Richard Goldstone's controversial report accusing both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the 2008-09 conflict in the Gaza Strip. ... Entrusted by President F. W. de Klerk with a commission to investigate the causes of violence, Goldstone publicized much damning evidence against the apartheid regime but refused to investigate any form of violence organized by the African National Congress (ANC). This naturally made him the ANC's favorite judge." R.W. Johnson, South African journalist and historian and the author, commentary, RFE/RL, 20 October 2009. "The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL."

Kosovo uses international channels to promote itself.

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Kosovo Albanian government in Priština has set aside EUR 5.7mn to promote Kosovo on some of the world’s leading TV stations. CNN, BBC World News, Euronews, CNN Turk, Bloomberg and Eurosport will start broadcasting a TV commercial today, prepared 'with the goal of creating a new image of Kosovo in the world'. ... BBR Saatchi & Saatchi won a tender worth EUR 5.7mn to promote 'the state of Kosovo' a few months ago, and they expect that the campaign will last for two years." B92 (Belgrade), 27 October 2009.
     "In the video advert, Kosovo residents will be seen carrying parts of a large jigsaw to a central point where they will build their country within a map of Europe.", 26 October 2009, with link to video.

New VOA relays in Pakistan raise at least one eyebrow (updated again).

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"As of this month, the Pakistani government has quietly allowed the United States to expand its Afghanistan-based media propaganda network to include Pakistan, in a clandestinely signed deal that is bound to generate more anger when the Pakistani government that is yet to fully recover from accusations of a sellout to intrusive American aid conditions. ... The irony is that Pakistan, which disputes unverified US claims that terrorist camps exist deep inside Pakistan — in Quetta and Muridke — will now be allowing a US government financed propaganda arm to say as much using transmitters owned by the Government of Pakistan and directed at Pakistani citizens. The Voice of America (VOA), which is a US government agency, and the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation reached an agreement earlier this month where Pakistan had agreed to expand the Afghanistan-based US propaganda network - the Americans call this ‘public diplomacy’ - to Pakistan. Under the deal, VOA will use PBC equipment and transmitters in Peshawar, Islamabad and Lahore to distribute VOA material in Pashto and Urdu on medium and FM waves." Ahmed Quraishi, The Nation (Lahore), 27 October 2009. Dismissing US international broadcasting as "propaganda" is uncalled for. The writer is correct that VOA is a government agency, unlike, say, RFE/RL Inc, which is a government-funded corporation, with the added autonomy that that status affords. And then there is the mention of "public diplomacy." This would be a chicken coming home to roost because US decision makers and experts insist on subsuming US international broadcasting under public diplomacy.
     "A spokesperson for Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation has categorically rebutted a misleading news item published in daily TheNation on October 27, 2009 about PBC-VOA agreement. The spokesperson said the professional and technical cooperation between PBC and VOA is in accordance with the Pakistani law and rules of business. He also maintained that the agreement in question is one of the many ventures with other international media organizations being steered by PBC by following the due process. 'PBC has a history of cooperation with BBC, China Radio International, VOA, and is pursuing important agreements with Turkish Radio, China Radio International and other important media organisations to modernise and revamp its technical and programming operations,' said the spokesperson. He said the VOA programmes carried over PBC network are operational under a strict regime of checks and balances, monitoring and editorial guidelines to safeguard the national interests of Pakistan. It was further explained that any violation of the agreement would result in the unilateral cancellation of the agreement by invoking the breaking clause inserted in the agreement. ... The spokesperson said, the PBC has been working hard to revamp and uplift its operations and image and added that two new major agreements with China Radio International will be signed very soon." The Nation (Lahore), 28 October 2009. "Editorial guidelines"? Now at least one additional eyebrow is raised. This story is attributed to "PR," which perhaps means a press release from PBC, because I'm not familiar with any news agency by those initials.
     Update: "US government-owned Voice of America beams its programmes, including ‘soft propaganda’, to Pakistan on two strong transmitters and yet the Pakistani government and the PBC, whose chief is a former VOA employee, decided that giving VOA three more transmitters on Pakistani soil should be the first order of business for PBC and the new government. ... Wasn’t China Radio International more worthy of DG PBC’s attention than VOA, which already beams Pakistan using two strong transmitters?" The Editor, TheNation, 28 October 2009. I think the "two strong transmitters" are at relay facilities located outside of Pakistan. The PBC agreement gives VOA access to transmitters inside Pakistan, for even better reception. See previous post about same subject.

Pakistan bans BBC news on some private FM stations, for now.

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Pakistan has banned BBC news broadcasts on private FM radio stations across the country. BBC confirmed that their broadcast was banned yesterday according to PTI reports. According to BBC, this ban has affected over 50 per cent of its daily transmissions on private FM radio stations. BBC has been airing five-minute news bulletins on several FM stations over the past year but the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) banned the broadcasts a few days ago. ... Principal Information Officer Chaudhry Rashid said he had asked PEMRA to seek documents of the agreement between BBC and radio stations but had not asked for the transmissions to be banned. The BBC has been formally registered in Pakistan and the organisation is called BBC Pakistan. Its employees are following Pakistani rules and pay taxes.", 30 October 2009. Does BBC Pakistan also follow Pakistani rules concerning content?
     "Haroon Rashid, Acting Editor of BBC News in Pakistan told PPF that BBC news bulletins were being broadcast by about 30 FM partners in Pakistan. Out of which PEMRA has stopped broadcast on about 15 FM stations. He said that the reason was that PEMRA required the documents of agreement with BBC from FM partners but these stations had failed to submit the documents to PEMRA." Pakistan Press Foundation, 29 October 2009.

"Culture should never be diplomatic."

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In 2006, with the enthusiastic embrace of many cultural institutions, the British Council, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport developed an International Cultural Policy. The intention is not simply to collaborate and to share works of art between different countries, which would be a good thing. Instead, the aim is to employ the arts as propaganda and, in the words of Labour peer Lord Carter of Coles, to promote ‘behaviour change’. The Carter Review argues that the arts should not just create positive perceptions, but also change the way people act (1). ... This means that arts organisations and artists now have an extra bunch of boxes to tick when they apply for funding: will the artwork improve gender relations, stop terrorism or prevent regime change? The cultural sector is astonishingly uncritical about this sorry picture even though artists are being instructed to act as propagandists. There are several problems with these developments, which have not been addressed but should be - because, as far as I’m concerned, culture should never be diplomatic." Tiffany Jenkins, spiked (London), 27 October 2009. Recommended reading.

BBC World Service via Stitcher, too.

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service has agreed a deal with that will see World Service content made available to users of the mobile phone-based application across the globe. Stitcher is a free mobile phone 'Smart Radio' application, available on a number of handsets, including the iPhone, Palm Pre and Blackberry. ... BBC World Service will provide a selection of English language podcasts, with programming such as Global News, Digital Planet, Global Arts & Entertainment and Africa Today. In addition, podcasts from the Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Arabic and Persian language services will be made available to users." BBC World Service press release, 28 October 2009. See previous post about VOA via Stitcher.

BBC World Service loses digital outlet, digital listeners in the UK.

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC could dump six high profile radio stations - including Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio Scotland - from Freeview to make way for the controversial Gaelic channel BBC Alba, it has emerged. The £14m channel would replace Radio 1, 2, 3, 4, Radio Scotland and the BBC World Service north of the border during the evening under new plans under discussion." Daily Record (Glasgow), 26 October 2009. Freeview is a free digital television platform in the UK. The bandwidth needed for BBC Alba waas formally occupied by the several BBC radio services.
     "According to data compiled by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) for the third quarter of 2009 ... BBC World Service commanded 1.26m digital listeners in the UK, down by 12.6% on the second quarter of this year." Digital Spy, 29 October 2009.

BBC World Service staff boycott canteen over dismissals and service.

Posted: 30 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Staff at the BBC World Service base at Bush House are to boycott their canteen this Friday 30 October in protest at cuts to the service and at the dismissal of BECTU [media and entertainment union] members employed by sub-contractor, Aramark. ... The co-chair of the BBC World Service branch of the National Union of Journalists, Mike Workman ... added: 'We are particularly concerned with the range and quality of food being offered to night workers who have no choice but to eat in Bush House in the early hours of the morning.'" BECTU News, 27 October 2009. Night workers at VOA have only vending machines at their disposal.

New London studio part of Bloomberg Television international changes.

Posted: 29 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Bloomberg, the global business and financial news provider, has continued its expansion across Europe with the launch of a new-look television newsroom and studio in London today (27 October). ... The studio and on-screen changes are being replicated in Bloomberg's key news hubs around the world, including New York and Hong Kong. ... It has reined in non-stop hard business news bulletins to include human angles on stories, bringing it more into line with NBC Universal's CNBC." MediaWeek, 27 October 2009.
     "Andrea Catherwood is joining business news broadcaster Bloomberg Television as one of its anchors. The former ITN foreign reporter and ITV newsreader is becoming one of Bloomberg's star presenters as part of a relaunch of its output. ... Bloomberg has also hired Steve Clark, one of the driving forces behind the launch of TV channel Al-Jazeera English. ... Bloomberg Television is on an expansion drive, recently increasing its distribution from 28m to 140m homes." The Guardian, 27 October 2009.
     "Further expanding its reach, the BLOOMBERG TELEVISION network announced significant brand collaborations this year in India and Turkey, two of the world's fastest growing and most dynamic economies. Last month, the Bloomberg UTV channel was launched in association with UTV in India. Later this year, BloombergHT (Haberturk) will debut in Turkey in association with Ciner Media." Bloomberg press release, 27 October 2009.

Standardizing internet radio and internet radios.

Posted: 29 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"[R]adio manufacturers and broadcasters have banded together to form the Internet Media Device Alliance (IMDA). The IMDA’s mission is a simple one: to come up with a widely accepted minimum set of Internet radio codecs, so that broadcasters and manufacturers alike can use them to reach most listeners at the least cost. To this end, companies such as Reciva, Frontier Silicon and Pure Devices have joined with broadcasters such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Global Radio to form the committees now hammering out such proposed standards. ... 'Internet radios built to ‘IMDA Profile 1’ will be able to decode both WMA and MP3 codecs; use HTTP streaming with 301 and 302 redirection; accept play list formats M3U, ASX, PLS with new-line separation for URLs in plain text; and receive stereo streams via two channels or by downloading a mix of both'." James Careless, Radio World, 26 October 2009. This is important for international radio as internet radios function in much the same way the shortwave radios do, except that the former can receive many more stations. Keep in mind, however, that internet radio stations blocked in the target country will be inaudible on internet radios just as they are on PCs.

Shortwave, but not quite broadcasting: America calling Juanita.

Posted: 29 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Juanita Castro, the younger sister of Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro, worked for the CIA during some crucial years of the Cold War, she says in her new memoir. ... The CIA communicated through a short-wave radio. At an appointed hour daily, if the waltz 'Fascination' aired on the radio, Castro would know that a message would follow. An overture from 'Madame Butterfly' meant that no message was coming, according to the book. A special code was made up of numbers, which Castro would decode with a manual, she wrote." CNN, 27 October 2009. This was from 1961 until she left Cuba for the United States in 1964.

Al Jazeera English covers "nouveau cold war story" in Honduras.

Posted: 29 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"I arrived in Honduras one week after ousted president Manuel Zelaya returned to begin his long spell of internal exile in the Brazilian embassy. With my crew from Fault Lines on Al Jazeera English TV, I went straight from the airport to a funeral. A week later, on our last night of filming, we attended another funeral. The first was for a 24-year-old woman, the second for a 50-year-old schoolteacher, and both active in the resistance to the coup. ... Unsurprisingly, the US mainstream media is not reporting the story of what is really going on in Honduras. The de facto government and its backers invested $400,000 (that we know of) in bipartisan lobbying, and succeeded in implanting a deeply distorted narrative of events--a nouveau cold war story starring Hugo Chávez as puppet master and Zelaya as marionette. Meanwhile, the voice of the social movement struggling to reform its country's constitution in the second poorest nation in the hemisphere has been all but ignored." Avi Lewis, The Nation, 26 October 2009, with links to video of AJE's Fault Lines: 100 Days of Resistance. Regardless of what we think about the events in Honduras, the writer's language, at least in this blurb, does not position Al Jazeera English as a dispassionate, objective news source. "About Fault Lines: Looking deeper into the US and its place in the world." AJE website.

She selects CRI programs for Malaysian radio and -- surprise, surprise -- she wins CRI contest.

Posted: 29 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Nor'Ain Bakir from Radio Klassik Nasional of Malaysia never expected her routine browsing of the China Radio International's (CRI) website would help her in winning a four-day trip to China. She was among 10 winners from 10 countries who participated in the Global Knowledge Contest organised by CRI in conjunction with China's 60th Anniversary celebration. ... Over three months, CRI received 650,000 responses from listeners of 142 countries and regions. Nor'Ain, who is also the head of Radio Klassik Nasional's programme department, told Bernama ... 'I have been a listener of CRI's Malay Language broadcast since April, it is part of my job to monitor CRI radio programs and to select items suitable to be broadcast on Radio Klassik.' Radio Television Malaysia(RTM) started a radio TV programmes exchange iniatiative with China-owned radio and television stations since the begining of 2009. ... Meanwhile, Malaysian Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission Lim Juay Jin who also attended the ceremony, said, Nor'Ain's winning in the contest would encourage more Malaysians to listen to CRI's broadcast, and also help strengthen cooperation between RTM and CRI." Bernama, 27 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

New websites for CNN and CNN International now in revenue service.

Posted: 28 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNN is one of the world's leading news organizations and [its] website is arguably one of its most valuable assets today. In an effort to make it even more valuable, CNN has launched a new design for over the weekend for both its U.S. and International versions. ... The Good: CNN's new website sports an attractive, modern design. It's clean and there's a bit more color and contrast, especially thanks to the new red header, which makes the design a little more impactful. ... The Bad: All of the visuals come at a price: the text is smaller and for anyone who liked reading the latest headlines, that task is a bit more challenging now." Patricio Robles, Econsultancy, 26 October 2009.
     A link to CNN International is now at the top of the home page. Before, CNN International was difficult to find. (The website also has a link to World, which reveals a web page different from that of CNN International.) At the top of the CNN International website are a link back to CNN U.S. and to CNN Arabic. But the link to CNN en Español is at the bottom of the page. Also, the top of CNN International site now has links to Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as the previous links to Europe and Asia. [See previous comment.]
      What if you want to watch CNN International? Below the fold is a link to "CNN TV." This is a bit of brand confusion, because people might think this is the US domestic CNN channel, not CNN International.
See previous post about same subject.

Two fans of BBC World Service.

Posted: 28 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Among media used by CNN International's Christiane Amanpour: "I like to catch BBC Radio 4's Today Programme when I'm in the UK and BBC World Service – I am a fan of all programmes which have entertained, informed and sustained me for all the years I have been on the road and now in the US I hear them on National Pubic Radio." The Guardian, 26 October 2009. "Today" might be a good all-night (6-9 am in UK, thus 1-4 am in eastern USA) program for US public radio, although World Service would insist that World Service is more relevant to US audiences.
     "I must confess I am a huge fan of the BBC World Service (if you have lived abroad pre-internet, you will identify) but a sceptic of the domestic BBC." Elizabeth Berridge, executive director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship [as in UK Conservative Party], Cross Rhythms, 27 October 2009.

Vietnam: busy internet cafes do not necessarily demonstrate internet freedom.

Posted: 28 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Vietnam's deputy minister of information and communication, Do Quy Doan on H. Res. 672, calling for greater internet freedom in Vietnam: "It (the US House of Representatives) claims that the establishment of the Department for Management of Broadcasting, Television, and Electronic Information is aimed at limiting freedom on the Internet or censoring blogs, I think this is a gross distortion of the truth. In fact, every country has its own agency for broadcasting and television management, including the US. In my opinion, the only explanation for this is simple: either a misunderstanding or intentional misinterpretation. ... Not long ago, during my visit to the US, I went to see one of my friends working at the Voice of America’s foreign relations department who had just come back from Vietnam. He said he was also told that there was a limit on the freedom to use the internet in Vietnam. However, he saw internet services everywhere in the country. Even at 12pm-1am, internet cafes were still busy. Therefore, it cannot be said that Vietnam limits the use of the internet. If that were the case, there would not have been such an internet boom." Voice of Vietnam, 25 October 2009. A high level of internet activity does not preclude the possibility that some websites are blocked or that some bloggers are in prison. More about H. Res. 672 at Rep. Loretta Sanchez website, 21 October 2009.

Voice of Nigeria will tell world that "Nigeria is not the most corrupt country in the world."

Posted: 28 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Nigeria's information and communication minister Dora Akunyili, commissioning new Voice of Nigeria headquarters (including "Pent House"): "We must tell the world the true stories about Nigeria because most of what you hear from foreign media are negative reports about the nation. Nigeria is not the most corrupt country in the world; neither do we have the highest incidents of rape. We must tell the world the positive stories about our great country." VON director general Mallam Abubakar Jijiwa "said the VON would add more languages to its list. Right now the station broadcast in eight languages: Arabic, English, French, Fulufude, Swahili, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. But efforts, he stated, were being made to add Portuguese, German, Mandarin, Chinese and Hindi." Former VON director "Chief Taiwo Alimi on his own part said he was socked to hear the news that the studio would be named after him." The Guardian (Lagos), 26 October 2009.

Two more Willis Conover stories.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"'You’ve no doubt heard that Johnny Mercer passed away on June 25?’ asked Willis Conover, the genial host of the ‘Music and Jazz USA’ programs on a summer day in 1976. We were standing in the lobby of the Voice of America (VOA) building. I had just toured the VOA studios in Washington, D.C., where I was spending the 4th of July week-end to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States of America. ... So I replied to Willis Conover that the death of Johnny Mercer had indeed stunned me. I added that a few weeks prior to my trip to Vermont and thanks to jazz singer Blossom Dearie, I had been able to write to Johnny to express my deep admiration. Willis explained he was busy working on an interview of Johnny Mercer that he had conducted in January 1970. The edited interview would be broadcast worldwide by VOA in a series of six ‘Willis Conover’s Music USA’ programs as a tribute to the late, great American lyricist. Much to my delighted surprise, Willis invited me to attend the recording session for these programs, on the understanding that I should be satisfied with quietly watching and listening to the proceeding. An offer I could not refuse!" Michel-Pierre Montet, The Creative Coast (Savannah, GA), 25 October 2009.
     "Drummers of a certain age have their lists of undiscovered, video 'holy grails,' which usually include Buddy Rich playing two bass drums at the Paramount Theater in 1949, Gene Krupa's performance with the Benny Goodman band at Carnegie Hall in 1938, and the Buddy Rich/Gene Krupa drum battle at Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1952. ... Although there is no recorded documentation on hand thus far, there is evidence that Buddy and Gene continued their battles from time to time through 1957. At joint, 1956 radio interview with the Voice of America's Willis J. Conover, the two drummers spoke of how they felt about the battles, as well as an upcoming JATP show where they were both set to appear." Bruce Klauber, Naples (FL) Daily News, 26 October 2009.

A shortwave poem.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
     "& I am a believer
in the miracle of shortwave. Quito,
Ecuador or Radio Peking. The NHK
or the VOA. Pop or propaganda –
you have your choice amongst the
electronic music of the night ether.
Caught in its web, I am a Columbus
searching for new countries, turning
the dial slowly, hoping to hear
station identification through the static
& distortion."
Mark Young, reviewed by Scott Hamilton, Scoop, 25 October 2009. My problem with poetry is that I want to pause, however briefly, at the end of the arbitrary line breaks.

Money demands for kidnapped Al Jazeera stringer.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The longtime friend of a Canadian journalist who was kidnapped in Pakistan nearly a year ago says he's received calls from her captors demanding money and he fears she will die before any settlement is reached. Beverley Giesbrecht, who converted to Islam and adopted the name Khadija Abdul Qahaar after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was on a freelance assignment for Al Jazeera in the Bannu district of northwest Pakistan last November when she, her translator and guide were taken at gunpoint. ... Giesbrecht was the publisher of Jihad Unspun, a website critical of the U.S.-led war on terror. In a note on the website, she wrote she launched the publication 'to give voice to the other side of (the) war on "terrorism."'" Sunny Dhillon, Canadian Press, 26 October 2009.

BBC offers Hindi version of World Have Your Say.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Hindi audiences can now speak out on issues that affect their lives in a special weekly live programme, BBC – India Bol. Broadcast every Tuesday, the new 30-minute programme is a platform for millions of listeners and online users, who tune in to BBC Hindi radio and access the programmes via, to share their views. BBC – India Bol is modelled on World, Have Your Say, the multimedia interactive programme on BBC World Service and now also on BBC World News television. ... 'We put technology available to us to optimum use to make the programme as open as possible, so our audiences can participate by phone and emails and leave their comments on the programme blog on' ... BBC – India Bol is part of BBC Hindi's news and current affairs programming produced from London and Delhi, and is available on shortwave, medium wave and via cable television." BBC World Service press release, 22 October 2009. But not via BBC's FM affiliates in India, where the content is "infotainment."

RT (Russia Today) Baghdad bureau badly damaged by Sunday's twin bombings.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"RT cameraman Mohammad Salem was at RT headquarters when the blasts occurred. 'When the first explosion took place, our office was damaged. I tried to leave, to escape, and when I got as far as my car the second bomb went off. All the cars were a mess, including ours. I thought it would be better to go back inside, because we thought there would be a third blast. When we got back into the office we saw that the damage was much worse than it was when we left. All of our things are damaged including our video equipment which has been destroyed,' Mohammad Salem says. The ceiling in the office has partially collapsed and most of the windows are broken. Video and sound equipment has been damaged, as well as electrical and Internet wiring." RT, 26 October 2009, with link to video.

The Russian television restructuring: beyond "technical support"?

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Russia's last two independent TV voices, citing financial distress, have announced a major 'restructuring' that may involve partnering with state agencies, with what many liberal critics fear could be an inevitable loss of editorial freedom. Officials of the National Media Group, which owns the independent REN TV and the outspoken St. Petersburg Channel Five, insist they're just looking for economic efficiencies in the reported plans to move REN's operations into a giant Moscow TV center run by the Kremlin's pocket news agency, RIA-Novosti, and home to its 24-hour English-language satellite TV station Russia Today (RT). ... In the past, the Kremlin's chosen vehicle for taking over critical media assets was the state-owned natural-gas goliath, Gazprom, but today liberals are pointing their fingers at a surprising new culprit: Russia Today. Started up less than four years ago as a Kremlin project to counter Western 'misperceptions' about Russia, RT has burgeoned under a lavish flow of state funding into a huge operation that now boasts an Arabic-language service and a soon-to-launch Spanish service. According to the station's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, a new US branch of RT is set to begin broadcasting from studios in Washington, D.C., in January, and will be running special US-oriented programming, 24/7, within a year." Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor, 23 October 2009.
     "The restructuring of the federal television and radio station Channel Five, based in St. Petersburg, which envisages its division into regional and federal channels, will only begin in a year’s time and will not lead to mass layoffs at the channel, its management announced on Tuesday. ... Meanwhile, Yekaterina Sukhova, spokeswoman for the National Media Group or NMG — the holding that owns the channel and recently announced plans for restructuring — said that cooperation between Channel Five and Russia Today would be possible 'only in the field of technical support.' 'All the production of the news will remain at Channel Five itself,' Sukhova told The St. Petersburg Times." Irina Titova, St. Petersburg Times, 23 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Press TV: the state-run subset of state-funded broadcasting.

Posted: 27 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The tradition of calling Press TV a state-run or state-funded agency is a propagandistic technique which the western mainstream media have adopted collectively. Whenever citing something from Press TV, American and British mainstream media state the fact that the network is funded by Iranian government simply in order to cast doubt on the veracity and legitimacy of the source they’re citing. ... A Google search for the term 'state-funded France 24' returns just 253 results while 'state-funded Press TV' returns 11,600 pages, an indication of the familiar exercise of double standards by the corporate media who rule hearts and minds." Kourosh Ziabari, Middle East Online, 23 October 2009.
     There are several government funded public broadcasting entities whose news operations are independent and credible. Press TV does not seem to be in this category. For example: "Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili says, unlike Washington, Tehran has always depended on its vast human resources for its security needs. ... 'When it comes to providing security, unlike the United States, the Islamic republic of Iran bases is approach on justice, serving the people, and interacting and communicating with them,' he added." Press TV, 26 October 2009. This statement is not balanced by any contrasting viewpoint. See also previous post.

DW media trainer in Ghana advises "neutral and circumspect."

Posted: 26 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Media have been advised not to politicized [sic] issues of national interest. The Programme Manager of Deutsche Welle, Radio Academy Training Centre, Babra Grubber, gave the advice at the end of a two-week current affairs training workshop for journalists in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region. She said, it is important for media personnel to be neutral and circumspect in their reportage. Mrs. Grubber said, accurate and unbiased information are the keys to overcoming prejudice and safeguarding peace in the country. Participants were taken through feature reporting, news reading, research and voice training." Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, 23 October 2009.

Because all radio aspires to be television.

Posted: 26 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Amsterdam trade show "IBC was also the venue for the spectacular 'world-first' transmission of 'DrTV', a new application based on DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). DrTV enables small-scale video services for cost efficient large-area distribution of education and information programs, whereby a small-scale video signal is accompanied by one or more audio streams. ... DrTV can be transmitted over all broadcast bands supported by the worldwide DRM standard, including LW, MW, SW and above, and is an ideal platform to reach audiences scattered over a wide geographical area with a single transmitter. DRM transmissions over shortwave have practically unlimited coverage possibilities ranging from 100 square kilometers up to well over 5000000 square kilometers depending on transmission system. Thus DrTV can keep citizens living abroad informed and up-to-date about what is going on in the home country. The DrTV application offers free-of-charge reception and is independent of gatekeepers and third-party providers like satellites and cable networks." Thomson Radio News, Autumn 2009, via guacorecipe, Yahoo! drmna discussion group, 23 October 2009.

China Radio International: contest winners on tour, new Greek website.

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Ten top prize winners of the global knowledge contest hosted by China Radio International embarked on a 10-day tour of China on Friday. Their first stop was Shanghai with sightseeing at the city's landmarks, including the World Financial Center and Oriental Pearl Tower. Because most of the contest winners are visiting China for the first time, they were overwhelmed by the city's . ... The ten top prize winners are loyal CRI listeners from the United States, France, Italy, Japan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Iran, Afghanistan, Serbia and Hungary." CRI, 24 October 2009.
     "A Greek service launched last month by CRI Online, the multilanguage website of China Radio International (CRI), provides about 11 million Greeks with information about China in their native language. A press conference was held in Athens on Friday to promote the new website (, which was launched on September 23 and is China's first website in Greek. ... The website's content is updated daily by a designated team made up of Greek-speaking Chinese as well as native Greeks operating from Beijing." CRI, 24 October 2009." That would be a potential audience of 11 million Greeks, i.e. the population of the country, including some perhaps a bit young to be using the internet.

China starts regional international radio to compete with its national international radio.

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"China's first regional radio broadcast for international audience -- southeast Asian countries -- opened here Thursday on the sideline of the China-ASEAN Expo from October 20 to 24 in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The Guangxi Beibu Bay Radio (BBR), jointly launched by China Radio International and Guangxi Foreign Broadcasting Station, broadcasts from 7 am to 12 pm every day in five languages including English, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese mandarin and Cantonese, said an official with the municipal authorities. The radio will reach more than 100 million people in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, southeast Thailand and China's Guangxi, the official said." Xinhua, 23 October 2009.
     "The station broadcasts on a network of 15 FM frequencies and 2 shortwave transmitters across Southern China from studios in Nanning, Guangxi province. The station will be on the air from 0700-2400 daily (2300-1600 UTC), in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai and English. There are DX opportunities to hear the station on 5050 kHz and 9820 kHz, and on the Web at The main English language programme, called The Hot Pot Show (This a Chinese form of eating, not a reference to the Golden Triangle in South East Asia), is from 1600-1800 local time (0800-1000 UTC)." Tony Harding via Radio Netherlands Media Network, 23 October 2009.
     At that website, the link to the non-Mandarin pages is the pull-down menu in the upper right corner, not that non-Mandarin speakers would know that. Well-designed international broadcasting websites have links to all language services easily found on the home page, above the fold.

Social media and games "fragmented across" the State Department.

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"State is using social-media tools to broaden the reach of its diplomacy beyond government-to-government relations. It must be government-to-people and people-to-people, said Kenneth Rogers, State’s director of enterprise architecture and planning. As a result, using social media has an external focus through the Office of Public Diplomacy and an internal focus through the Office of eDiplomacy. Other miscellaneous deployments of social media are fragmented across the department, he said. State uses multimedia tools, including YouTube, Facebook, blogs, Flickr and Twitter." Rutrell Yasin. Government Computer News, 23 October 2009. See, for example, (3.484 followers). Other State social networking sites are listed here.
     "Since its founding in June 2008, X-Life Games has launched two mobile computer games in collaboration with the State Department’s eDiplomacy program and has garnered a modest following of players in the Middle East. 'Today we have 2,000 players around the world,' most of them in Egypt and Indonesia, said Ali Manouchehri, chief executive officer of MetroStar Systems, parent company of X-Life. ... Players select an avatar for the games, and by answering questions, they can earn virtual currency and progress through different life scenarios, choosing different paths while also learning English and U.S. culture." William Jackson, Government Computer News, 23 October 2009.
     At New Media Forum 2009 in Tblisi: "Radio Free Liberty journalist Niko Nergadze talked about a blog, which he has been running for over a year. ... 'Still we are very far from claiming that the Internet and new media have a serious influence on events. But we are heading toward something,' he said." Georgia Today, 16 October 2009. "Radio Free Liberty" must be the station for people who yearn for their liberty to be free.

Clinton re Pakistan: no "misstatement or inaccuracy unanswered."

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The United States will forcefully counter what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls 'propaganda and misinformation' being spread against various US actions vis-a-vis Pakistan, including the Kerry-Lugar aid bill. 'We have adopted a new approach, which is, we do not leave any misstatement or inaccuracy unanswered', she said when questioned about how Washington planned to counter the growing anti-US sentiments in Pakistan. ... 'I think we have, as a government, not done a very good job in responding to what you rightly call propaganda, misinformation, even in some instances disinformation, about our motivations and our actions in Pakistan. That became clear to me as we were doing our review, and I saw how often there were stories in the Pakistani media that were totally untrue, but we were not responding as effectively as we need to. We have, under Judith McHale, our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, undertaken a very thorough analysis of what better we could do, and we are moving very rapidly to try to fill that void. We have a new team going into Pakistan. A Public Affairs officer may be already there. We have adopted a new approach, which is we do not leave any misstatement or inaccuracy unanswered. It may be that people won’t believe it at first, but we intend to counter a lot of this propaganda with the best weapon we have; namely, the truth. And we’re going to be much more aggressive in interacting with the Pakistani media,' she added." The Nation (Lahore), 23 October 2009.
     Clinton: "This is not something you can fix in a news cycle or by just snapping your fingers and asking people to believe you. You have to go at it day in and day out. And I was, frankly, quite surprised that we had not done much of this in an effective manner. But we’re going to remedy that. And there’s no guarantee that people will pay more attention to what we say, but at least we’re going to be in the mix and we’re going to be in the mix every day in getting out information that can be used by those who understand that the United States is hoping to be a good partner for not just the Government of Pakistan, but more importantly, the people of Pakistan." Remarks to US Institute of Peace, State Department transcript, 21 October 2009.

Information that will not meet columnist's preconceptions about USIB.

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Good news for international broadcasting folks. This interesting tidbit was in New York Times reporter David Rohde's series this week on his seven months in captivity after he was kidnapped by the Taliban [see previous post]. Rohde escaped in June. 'The tribal areas were more developed and the Taliban more sophisticated than I expected,' he wrote. 'They browsed the Internet and listened to hourly news updates on Azadi Radio, a station run by the American government. But then they dismissed whatever information did not meet their preconceptions.' See? Proof that, despite some problems with transmission facilities [see previous post], U.S. public diplomacy efforts are working. Even the Taliban crazies are tuning in. But wait a minute. There was some information that did meet their preconceptions?" Al Kamen, Washington Post, 23 October 2009. Al Kamen, who relegates US international broadcasting to mere "public diplomacy," apparently thinks that the purpose of international broadcasting is to send content that supports US policies and condemns the terrorists and other adversaries. Such an international broadcasting effort would not have many listeners, because audiences are actually seeking reliable and comprehensive news. Some of that news might meet the preconceptions of the "crazies," but, in the long term, credible news is not helpful to terrorists.

VOA via SMS: opportunities and impediments.

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"VOA has been expanding the use of SMS technology to deliver news and information to its audience worldwide. The growing use of mobile phone technology in developing countries, especially in Africa, has made it possible for VOA to reach people directly. ... Sending out thousands of text messages is not cheap, and VOA risks alienating subscribers who may need to pay for incoming messages. But cost is not the only impediment to expansion. According to Joan Mower, the VOA’s Director of Public Affairs, the VOA would like to create an SMS service for Afghanistan. Such a service is technically feasible, but 'the Afghan government and the telephone companies say they want to review all messages in advance, which is unacceptable to VOA,' she said." Mitchell Polman, Understanding Government, 23 October 2009.

Is VOA a good witch, or a bad witch?

Posted: 25 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Effective public diplomacy should always be truthful to be credible, as Edward R. Murrow famously argued, but as a government-sponsored instrument it also has an obligation to help disseminate and explain U.S. policies. The VOA managed successfully to combine those two goals. The VOA Charter said: 'As an official radio, VOA will present the policies of the United States Government clearly and persuasively.' But it added: 'VOA will also present responsible discussion and opinion of these policies.' And it stressed the requirement of journalistic objectivity, saying VOA must be 'a consistently reliable and authoritative source of news' that is 'accurate, objective and comprehensive.' It said VOA must 'represent America, not any single segment of American society. It will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of American thought and institutions.' The VOA repeatedly demonstrated that it could balance policy advocacy with good journalism. For example it covered the Vietnam War including the My Lai massacre in 1969 and then Watergate, telling the story honestly, but while also advocating U.S. policy." William A. Rugh, Arab Media & Society, Winter 2009.
     Dorothy's house in Kansas was picked up by a twister and deposited in Munchkinland. She and the Munchkins made their introductions. By way of her orb, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, fluttered in.
     Glinda smiled at Dorothy and asked, "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?"
     Dorothy responded, "If you please, I am a reliable source of news, but I also advocate the policies of the United States."
     Glinda's smile remained, but her blue eyes went cold, and slight furrows appeared on her forehead. The Munchkins had seen this look before, on rare occasions. They stepped back and cowered.
     "Perhaps you can go to the Emerald City and ask the great and wonderful Wizard of Oz to find you an unambiguous mission," Glinda hissed.
     Just then, an explosion and flume of black smoke revealed the Wicked Witch of the West. No further action by the Munchkins was required, as they were already conveniently cowering.
     Glinda looked over to the Wicked Witch of the West and said, "Why not throw one of your fireballs to hurry Dorothy along to the Emerald City?"
     And with that, Glinda, boarding her orb, turned to the Munchkins. "Goodbye, my dears. I must go now and listen to the BBC."

Another shadow in the cave, another story about RFE/RL.

Posted: 24 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"To those who question its continuing relevance, RFE/RL replies that it has a new mission: to broadcast information to post-Soviet authoritarian regimes from its news, state of the art headquarters in Prague's District 10. ... 'We are seen as a means of projecting soft power and western values," says Joanna Levison, senior media adviser. 'We are aware that that affects our funding, but we do not see ourselves as a mouthpiece for US government policy. Our aim is to promote human rights and to provide accurate, balanced, information.'" Adam LeBor, Monocle (London), November 2009 issue (pdf).
     The "post-Soviet authoritarian regimes" include countries that VOA (mentioned only once, in passing) formerly had to itself: Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
     As for Ms. Levison's comments, human rights are certainly worth promoting, and what better way than the spotlight of quality journalism? Nevertheless, "promote" is a problematic verb to be used by a journalistic organization that depends on credibility to attract an audience. (The Broadcasting Board of Governors mission statement also, problematically, begins with "To promote freedom and democracy... .")

RFE/RL interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Havel.

Posted: 24 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Russia Service, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which he blamed for fraud in regional elections earlier this month. ... Gorbachev has generally supported the Kremlin's foreign policy. He staunchly criticized the policies of former U.S. President George W. Bush and has endorsed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's call for a new European security pact. But he's been cautiously positive about President Barack Obama." RFE/RL, 22 October 2009, with links to video. Cited by Josh Rogin, The Cable blog, Foreign Policy, 23 October 2009.
     "Former Czech President Vaclav Havel talks in a wide-ranging RFE/RL interview about what he expects to hear from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden when he visits the Czech Republic this week." RFE/RL, 21 October 2009, with link to video. Cited by AP, RFE/RL in the News, 23 October 2009.

Message to RFE via pigeon? Or just pigeon droppings?

Posted: 24 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In 1954, a carrier pigeon named Lena was participating in a race between two German towns. While flying from Nuremberg to her home loft in a West German village, Lena got lost and ended up landing in the town of Pilsen in communist Czechoslovakia, where she was discovered by a Czech pigeon enthusiast. The unnamed man recognized Lena's German leg band and decided to send his own message - to Radio Free Europe (RFE) in Munich: "We plead with you not to slow down in the fight against Communist aggression, because Communism must be destroyed. We beg for a speedy liberation from the power of the Kremlin and the establishment of a United States of Europe. We always listen to your broadcasts. They present a completely true picture of life behind the Iron Curtain. We would like you to tell us how we can combat Bolshevism and the tyrannical dictatorship existing here. We are taking every opportunity to work against the regime and do everything in our power to sabotage it.' ... Known as 'The Pigeon Who Crashed the Iron Curtain,' or simply 'Leaping Lena," her celebrity status resulted in Lena's selection as the model for the emblem of the 1955 Crusade for Freedom campaign." Alex Mayer, Off Mic blog, RFE/RL, 23 October 2009. I hope this great story is true. However, given that the Crusade for Freedom was a ruse to make people think that Radio Free Europe was funded by donations rather than by the CIA, and given the conveniently perfect phraseology of the message, some good historians should look into this.

"La carpe est muette," and other shortwave stories.

Posted: 24 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
In WWII occupied Belgium: "The Resistance received information about the flights through shortwave broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corp. ... The code was the French phrase 'la carpe est muette,' which means 'the carp is silent.' Those words designated a particular field near the camp as the drop zone." Ian Darling, The Waterloo (ON) Region Record, 24 October 2009. Medium wave and longwave sufficed for BBC reception in the Low Countries.
     During a five-day hike on the Freezeout Trail in Maine: "Remembered my mini short wave radio that I almost never carry, but did on this trip just for a little company. Turned it on and picked up a few stations. A little news, some music… all good for curing the solitary blues. Later on picked up some of the Patriots game and then the baseball playoffs." Carey Kish, Maine Outdoor Journal, 23 October 2009. Thus probably listening to the AM (medium wave) band on that shortwave portable. However, in some remote US valleys, during daylight hours, no AM or FM stations are audible, but shortwave stations can be heard. Not that there is much to listen to these days on shortwave.
     "It should come as no surprise to anyone that McCain is acting yet again on behalf of his corporate paymasters, this time seeking to gut net neutrality with his Orwellian-named 'Internet Freedom Act.' It’ll be freedom, all right-for the telecoms who want to decide what can and cannot be viewed on the Web. ... Won’t it be nice, to have to once again depend on our mainstream media for information? I’m thinking maybe I should re-acquire a shortwave radio receiver, just in case…" Jolly Roger, Reconstitution blog, 23 October 2009.
     "If you were an active ham radio operator or shortwave listener between 1976 and 1989, you probably remember a rather nasty form of interference on the HF bands during that era known as the 'Russian Woodpecker.' Its name came about because triangulation indicated that it originated in the west end of the USSR and its signature tapping sounded like a woodpecker pecking at wood. Its real name was Duga-3 and it served as over-the-horizon radar for the USSR's anti-ballistic missile early warning system. With an estimated transmission power of 10 MW EIRP, the Russian Woodpecker played havoc on the HF bands."
Stan Horzepa, American Radio Relay League, 23 October 2009.

Chicago calling Canada, in 1940, via shortwave.

Posted: 23 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Chicago "civic leaders were always looking for ways to promote the city. [Cecil B.] DeMille was Hollywood's greatest showman. He was known for his historical blockbusters. His latest movie was an epic of the Canadian Mounties called 'North West Mounted Police,' starring Gary Cooper and other notables. The State Street Council approached DeMille about holding the premiere in Chicago. DeMille readily agreed. ... DeMille gave a speech about how his movie would help bring together 'the two great English-speaking nations of North America.' ... At 7:30 [24 October 1940], the Hollywood group gathered at the WGN radio studios in the Tribune Tower. They broadcast a special program to a nationwide audience, with short-wave transmissions beamed into the more remote regions of Canada." John R. Schmidt, Chicago Now, 23 October 2009.

Army psyop unit rounds up patients for US military clinic in Uganda.

Posted: 23 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Army Reserve Soldiers from across the U.S. are on the ground in northern Uganda, working in an exercise with U.S. Army Africa and five East African nations to improve disaster management response and provide medical care. ... Medical personnel from the 7225th Medical Detachment (Greenville, S.C.) are also providing care for local Ugandans. They have set up at the Pajimo Medical Clinic outside of Kitgum and work side by side with their U.S. Navy, Ugandan and Tanzanian counterparts, treating more than 500 patients per day. ... The clinics owe the large amount of patients to the U.S. Army Reserve's 310th Psychological Operations Unit out of Atlanta, Ga. These Soldiers go out into the communities with translators to issue announcements ranging from advice on how to prevent the spread of disease to directions to the local clinics, such as Pajimo. The Psyops personnel then return to the clinic to gauge the effectiveness of their message." Corey Schultz, Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System, 22 October 2009.

New CNN website will have "more depth to stories in Africa; the Middle East; and Latin America."

Posted: 23 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"On Monday, 26 October, CNN’s new website will launch, harnessing the full power of the brand and delivering web users a visually charged online experience, announced KC Estenson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Through a full-scale design, the new is uncluttered, visually bold and improves the consumer experience. In addition to showcasing CNN’s in-depth reporting, the site includes the launch of new features that make the site easier to browse and navigate; more integrated video and photography. ... The international edition of gives more depth to stories in Africa; the Middle East; and Latin America alongside existing sections for Europe; Asia; and North America. Sections dedicated to the Middle East and Latin America will also incorporate local language feeds in Spanish and Arabic." CNN press release via Media Update, 23 October 2009.
     "Internal statistics show that 50% of CNN's users both watch the video and read the story. 'We had a look on how our users use the site, and put a lot of thought and research behind it.'" The Guardian, 23 October 2009.
     "With 38 million unique visitors a month, exists within the top tier of news Web sites, making any redesign particularly influential. And CNN executives say the revamp is equivalent to the introduction of a new television show — and deserves equivalent extravagance." New York Times, 22 October 2009.
     Christiana Amanpour's "presence in the U.S. could help CNN reassert itself against Fox News ... her program is 'a deliberately internationalist contrast' to most of CNN’s New York output. 'The American people are not dumb, but they are treated as if they are dumb,' Amanpour says. 'I have always had a massive respect for their views, and respect for their knowledge and understanding. If you build it, they will come.'" Dean Graber, Knight center for Journalism in the Americas, 22 October 2009. Nevertheless the American people get "Amanpour." only on Sunday, whereas the CNN International audience can watch the program Monday through Friday.

US Embassy Jakarta sponsors bloggers' events.

Posted: 23 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Embassy is sponsoring Pesta Blogger 2009, Indonesia’s only national-level bloggers’ gathering. ... The U.S. Embassy also sponsored a series of blogging workshops in 10 cities across Indonesia over the past three months, in order to encourage more Indonesians to blog and to impart the principles of citizen journalism." US Embassy Jakarta press release, 23 October 2009.

Some RFE history in Reagan Library's "Fall of the Wall" exhibit (updated).

Posted: 23 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 'the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library opened a new exhibit Thurs., Oct. 15 called "Fall of the Wall—The 20th Anniversary." ... One of the more powerful pieces in the exhibit is a green portfolio containing two small notes: a message to Reagan congratulating him on his 1984 election win in hopes of securing his help in getting their freedom and a schedule of hunger strikes. Written in very small writing on tissue-thin paper, the messages are signed by 10 women from Gulag labor camps, put there because of their human rights activism. The notes were smuggled out of the Gulag to Radio Free Europe and later put in a portfolio that was given to Reagan." Carissa Marsh, The Acorn (Agoura Hills, CA), 22 October 2009.
     They may have been in Soviet prison, and in unpleasant conditions, but the GULAG system had been officially disbanded in 1960. From Richard Reeves, President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination (2006): "On the morning of April 1, 1985, James Buckley, a former senator from New York, serving as president of Radio Free Europe, came into the Oval Office. He was holding a couple of tiny pieces of rice paper. 'This is a message to you from a hundred women who are locked in the pokey' -- meaning a Soviet prison camp. Buckley had a magnifying glass. 'This is what they say: "We women political prisoners congratulate you on your reelection to the post of President of the USA. We look with hope to your country which is on the road to freedom and respect for human rights. We wish you success".'" The Reeves book is the only reference to this message that I can find, so far. Perhaps there is something about this in James Buckley's oral history, Gleanings From an Unplanned Life (2006), which I have not yet read.
     Update: A. Ross Johnson, former RFE/RL official and historian of the radios, writes: "Buckley mentions the Soviet letter on p. 212 of his book. (He was, of course, president of RFE/RL, not RFE.) 'The broadcast [Reagan interview with Buckley for RFE/RL] had its genesis in a letter written in a tiny script on tissue paper that had found its way to our Munich headquarters in the spring of 1985. It was addressed to Reagan by a group of women in a Soviet prison who wanted him to know that they were praying for him. As I was planning to visit Washington in a few weeks, I asked the White House whether I might present it to the president in person. Permission was granted. More than that, the White house suggested that I take the occasion to interview the president. So in early June, I found myself in the Oval Office, microphone in hand, prepared to conduct my first (and only) interview on behalf of the Radios.'"
     And on the subject of Radio Free Europe history: "For over 50 years, a Freedom Bell, based on the Liberty Bell, housed in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the logo or symbol for the Crusade for Freedom and for Radio Free Europe (later to be known as RFE/RL). [The bell was cast and] rang out for the first time in Berlin before a crowd of 400,000 on October 24, 1950. ... Every Sunday at 11:59am, the pealing of the bell is still heard throughout Germany via radio stations of the Deutschlandradio Kultur network... ." Richard Cummings,, 23 October 2009, with link to audio of the bell.

Bonn, no longer a national capital, at least has DW HQ.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"'Media attention has shifted away from Bonn,' admits Monika Hörig, a city government spokeswoman. 'When it was still the seat of government, the city was used by the international press as a sounding board for what Germany was like. Now that role has gone.' ... A total of 80 new business and research organisations have since settled in the city. They include the Centre for Advanced European Studies and Research (Caesar), which specialises in nanotechnology, a new international conference centre, the headquarters of Deutsche Welle, Germany's equivalent of the BBC World Service, and a host of Third World and scientific development agencies." Tony Paterson, The Independent, 22 October 2009. DW completed its move from Cologne to Bonn in 2003. "A new broadcast center was constructed for DW as the broadcaster had to move from Cologne due to the use of asbestos in the former building's construction." DW website.

European survey shows growing audience for RT (Russia Today).

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Independent research from Dutch-based Synovate indicates that news channel Russia Today’s viewership is growing. Telephone research amongst adults aged 21 or over in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Serbia, asked questions such as 'Have you watched Russia Today (RT)?' and 'How often do you watch RT?' etc. Synovate found that Russia Today has an audience of 7 million, with over half of those who watched RT citing its independent reporting and good quality programmes as reasons to watch. ... The research also found that 12% of European RT viewers watch RT daily and 23% of RT viewers consider RT to be their favourite international news channel, ahead of the other foreign news outlets listed in the survey, which included Euronews, France24, BBC World News, CNN and DW-TV." Rapid TV News, 22 October 2009.

BBC, Sky, and CNN can claim success from BE:Europe survey.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
In the 2009 BE:Europe survey "of Europe's most powerful business people": "The BBC's website continues to have the largest reach (21.4%), followed by (12.5%), (8.7%) and Sky News (7.8%). But the same brand rankings are flipped when it comes to TV daily reach across Europe, with Sky News (6.3%) leading CNN International (4.2%), Discovery Channel (4%) and BBC World News (3.3%)." MediaWeek, 22 October 2009.
     "CNN is the international television channel to watch amongst Europe’s most senior business decision makers, according to today’s announcement from the Ipsos Business Elite (BE) Europe Survey." Apparent press release via World Television & Business News, 22 October 2009.

CBC Newsworld becomes CBC NN, to compete with CNN, Fox, BBC.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Turning to a CNN-style format of round-the-clock news, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is rebranding its 24-hour news and current affairs channel, CBS [sic] Newsworld, as CBC News Network (CBC NN) beginning Monday. The rebranded CBC NN channel is to feature more breaking news coverage by correspondents in the field and stepped-up business and consumer news as the public broadcaster chases younger, on-the-go viewers. Also on the new American-style CBC NN schedule is a late-afternoon political news analysis and opinion show and anchor-driven news talk shows in primetime. The public broadcaster faces growing competition in the TV news game from CNN, Fox News, BBC World and other 24-hour news channels available in Canada via cable and satellite." Etan Vlessing, Reuters, 21 October 2009.

BBC Worldwide gets award courtesy of the US space program.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide Channels took home a plethora of gold awards for excellence in on-air promotion and design at last week’s Promax|BDA Africa awards. ... Featuring space-themed programming such as Moonshot -The Flight of Apollo 11, The Space Age: NASA’s Story and Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing this year, BBC Knowledge’s Space Season delivered some the channel’s highest ratings of the year." Media Network International, 21 October 2009.

BBC's Rome Hartman on "Fox News-ization."

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Rome Hartman, current BBC World News America EP: "'Crowds typically like crap,' Hartman says... . 'How do you moderate that instinct towards junk?' ... Calling it the 'Fox News-ization of the media landscape,' Hartman says 'public cynicism' is due to 'a widespread feeling that news organizations -- partly because they have such economic challenges -- have decided that...the chase for audience is more important than an objective decision about which story is worthy.' ... Hartman said that Fox's approach seemed to be more business-driven than editorially or journalistically-driven and admitted that, 'Fox is wildly successful at this ... they have an incredibly loyal audience.' ... Another attendee suggested the BBC and NPR were equally 'as opaque' about bias, something Hartman, of course, disagreed with." Kevin Allocca,, 21 October 2009.
     "Katty Kay of BBC World News America also questioned the [Administration's] strategy [of attacking Fox News], saying that it might be a short-term sop to Obama’s left-wing base, but it may end up alienating the independent voters that helped elect the president." NewsBusters, 21 October 2009.

Vox pop on Al Jazeera English.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera English has commissioned Lion Television to produce a major current affairs series canvassing the opinions of ordinary people in Arab cities. The Arab Street comprises a 6 x 30-minute series and an hour-long special... . Each episode will be filmed in the week of broadcast and located in a single Arab city, where it will 'test the political temperature' by gathering reaction to the week’s biggest news stories." Broadcast, 22 October 2009.
     "Thomson Reuters today issued an update on its OpenCalais Initiative, and cited ten innovative sites and services that use OpenCalais to reduce costs, deliver compelling content experiences and mine the social web for insight. ... Al Jazeera English's new blogging network - - features Al Jazeera correspondents from around the world. ... All posts in the new blog network are semantically tagged using OpenCalais for optimal search and navigation." Thomson Reuters press release, 21 October 2009.
     "When you consider that most of the large U.S. news organizations closed their foreign bureaus as a cost-saving measure, the news we receive from foreign nations is frequently not being generated by U.S. journalists. Do you really want to get news of the Middle East from al Jazeera?" Alan Caruba, Canadian Free Press, 21 October 2009.

Thomson Technicolor contract with France 24.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Thomson ... today announced it has won, through its Technicolor Business Group, a new contract with FRANCE 24 for the operation of content production technical facilities. Up to 2013, Technicolor will be in charge of the production of FRANCE 24 international programs in English, French and Arabic thanks to its team of more than one hundred technicians. This team will [include] 3 live news production teams (French, English, Arabic)." Thomson press release, 22 October 2009.

Report: Russia Today will take over news on Russia's last two independent television stations (updated).

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Campaigners accused the Kremlin today of killing off the last vestiges of independent television in Russia, after it emerged that the two remaining private TV channels would come under state control next year. REN TV and St Petersburg's Fifth Channel, which are sometimes critical of the authorities, have until now been Russia's last semi-independent private TV stations. Although neither can be described as radical, they are the only channels on which opposition politicians can air their views, or where dissenting voices may be heard. Next year both channels' news bulletins will be restructured, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported today. The state-owned, pro-Kremlin English language television station Russia Today will take over responsibility for their news broadcasts from 2010, the paper added. Journalists said they were appalled by the move." Luke Harding, The Guardian, 16 October 2009.
     "That it may not be true or may only be a trial balloon by either the companies or the Russian government is entirely possible. REN TV staffer Marianna Maksimovskaya told that she is 'certain that in the immediate future, the information policy of [her] channel will not change.'" Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia, 16 October 2009.
     'Как сообщил источник "Ъ", знакомый с ситуацией, делаться новости будут силами подразделения государственной телекомпании Russia Today (RT), которая делает новости о России на иностранных языках и финансируется из госбюджета. Вчера главный редактор RT Маргарита Симоньян не стала комментировать "Ъ" ситуацию с производством новостей для РЕН ТВ и "Пятого канала".' Коммерсант, 16 October 2009
     Update: "The claim raised eyebrows because REN and Channel Five have a reputation of the last bastions of semi-independence in their news coverage. Opposition politicians are not banned, and the coverage may even on occasion be overtly critical of the authorities. RT, on the other hand, is a state financed image project dedicated to presenting the Russian government’s point of view to the English-speaking world. It is apparently a sensitive subject. RT’s press service refused to comment on the issue, but [National Media Group DG Vladimir] Khanumyan simply denied the claim. 'The two channels produce their own news, they always have done, and they will continue to do so,' he said. Asked whether there were any plans for RT to take over REN TV’s and Channel Five’s news production, he said 'of course not.'" Roland Oliphant, Russia, 21 October 2009.

Shortwave still has a room in the Pentagon.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"John G. Grimes, the former assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, cut the ribbon on the new Military Affiliate Radio System office on the fifth floor of the Pentagon today. The facility is packed with shortwave radios, radio-telephone patches, computers and data links. It is manned by the Pentagon Amateur Radio Club. 'This is a great facility, manned totally by volunteers,' Grimes said. 'It's a crucial capability for our country.' The system - known by the acronym MARS - began in the early 1950s. It was a worldwide network of shortwave radio enthusiasts who would spring into action in the event of a nuclear war or natural disaster. ... The shortwave broadcasts [sic] have been superseded by the Internet, and servicemembers in many parts of the U.S. Central Command area can use cell phones and voice over Internet protocol to speak with those back home. Still, in the event of an emergency, high-frequency [shortwave] communication is generally the first to recover, and even the most modern technology can get overloaded." Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, 21 October 2009. These are not "broadcasts," but two-way communications. However, the observations about shortwave being "the first to recover" apply to shortwave broadcasts, as well.

CNBC in South Korean partnership.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNBC ... in Asia Pacific announced a strategic partnership with SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) today. CNBC and SBS plan to jointly launch a new 24-hour Korean business news channel, branded SBS-CNBC, in January 2010. SBS is the only private nationwide terrestrial broadcasting company out of three in South Korea. It also has a portfolio of highly successful Pay TV channels... . 'This new channel will not only provide Korean viewers with premium global and local business news, but it will further our ability to take the Korean business story to the international community.'" CNBC press release via Asia Business Journal, 22 October 2009.

"Blogacción" protests press freedom limits in Cuba.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The virtual community was organized to protest the limitations on press freedom, association, and mobilization in Cuba and to demand the freedom of political prisoners, Spain's ABC reports. The initiative, called Blogacción, coincides with Cuba's National Day of Culture and brought together hundreds of digital activists from throughout the world who demonstrated through the publication of stories, images, and videos. Several blogs, as well as Facebook groups and Twitter discussions, also served as protest vehicles. It also occurred only a week after Havana denied an exit visa to blogger Yoani Sánchez, who was barred from traveling to New York to receive a prize from Columbia University. In an interview with the U.S.-funded Radio Martí, Sánchez called Blogacción a success and said it gained more than 8,000 mentions on Google in mere hours." Daniel Mora, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, 21 October 2009.

Report: Islamist group tells two Somali radio stations to close down.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"A powerful Islamist group linked to al-Qaida on Wednesday ordered two radio stations in southwestern Somalia to stop broadcasts indefinitely. Al-Shabab delivered letters to Jubba and Warsan Radio stations early Wednesday ordering the shut down without giving any reasons, said Mohamed Adawe, a journalist with Jubba Radio. Another Jubba Radio journalist, Abdikarin Jakarta, said the letters threatened the stations with unspecified action if they disobeyed the closure orders. 'We do not know of anything that could have lead to the closure,' Adawe said. In recent months al-Shabab asked the stations to stop playing music, which they did, Adawe said. Then al-Shabab complained about programs the stations aired that were generated by Voice of America and the United Nation's Integrated Regional Information Networks that included music, he said." Mohamed Olad Hassan, AP, 21 October 2009.

USIB medium wave transmitter in Afghanistan has yet to sign on.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"If Washington wants to get its message out to folks in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, it has to make sure it's got the facilities to carry the spin. Radio is critical, especially in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where illiteracy is the norm and television is nonexistent in most places. But that requires transmission facilities, towers and the like. And that, in turn, requires approval from the respective governments. So have we gotten all the cooperation we need regarding transmission facilities from the governments in the area? That was the question Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) posed last week to members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors at a Senate subcommittee hearing [see previous post]. Not really, the members said. Iraq hasn't been a problem, they said, but the Pakistani government just recently, and after much delay, gave permission for a series of transmitters for Deewa Radio. And an unnamed Afghan minister -- we understand it's the minister of information -- has been 'sitting on our request' for a transmitter for more than a year. This makes AM reception spotty in the Taliban-infested border regions, though shortwave comes through. ... Well, maybe the new Afghan government will get things moving. A lot of taxpayer money, more than $1 million, has been spent on getting the AM network up to snuff." Al Kamen, Washington Post, 21 October 2009. "Carry the spin"? That's typical US misunderstanding of how international broadcasting works. People tune to international broadcasts to get the news that is more credible than from domestic sources. Re the transmitter, VOA's access to the Peshawar medium wave (see previous post) makes the need for the Afghanistan MW a bit less urgent.

Ascension Island: perhaps the Americans can trade water for transmitter time.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Unless the Ministry of Defence pays millions of pounds in unpaid taxes for its RAF airbase, [Ascension Island] will be bankrupt by June. The only school will have to close, the hospital will have no doctors, the few shops, one hotel and fledgeling tourist trade will be unviable. ... The BBC World Service depends on Ascension, and the 50 specialist engineers who maintain the power station and vast array of transmitters, antennas and satellite dishes would leave overnight if they were forced to send their families off the island. Without the BBC relay there would be no power generation or desalination plant. There would be no water for anyone on the island except the Americans, who operate their own power and desalination plants. The quarrel stems from the establishment of a proper administration in 2002 to replace the ad hoc services reluctantly provided by the BBC and other users of the island." Michael Binyon, The Times, 21 October 2009.

Armenian president is RFI's Européen de la semaine.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"RA President Serzh Sargsyan became the hero of the 'European of the week' program on the Radio France International (broadcasting worldwide in 19 languages to 44 million audience). Radio station aired a special program about the professional skills of Serzh Sargsyan and his initiative on Armenian-Turkish relations’ normalization. The Radio France International called the RA President the most pragmatic politician of the post-Soviet period. The UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron, as well as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other high ranking officials were the heroes of previous programs." (Yerevan), 21 October 2009. Listen to RFI Européen de la semaine, 17 October 2009. I don't think RFI used the word "le héros."

Zimbabwe: satellite dishes as antidote to ZTV "newsreaders picked on the streets and thrown behind the camera."

Posted: 22 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
In Zimbabwe "Most urban households now have on their rooftops small satellite dishes which are brought in mainly from South Africa, Dubai and China. The decoders can receive free public broadcasting channels such as SABC 1,2 and 3, Botswana TV, France 24 and a multitude of Christian stations and radio channels. Families who can afford to pay monthly subscriptions of about 50 US dollars can access digital satellite television (DSTV) which carries fifty or more channels including BBC, CNN, Sky News, M-Net, Supersport, Discovery, Movie Magic and National Geographic, among others. 'I can’t stand [Zimbabwe government owned] ZTV any more. There is too much propaganda, hate language, repeat programming, poor picture quality and low broadcasting standards. Most of the presenters and newsreaders seem to have been picked on the streets and thrown behind the camera without any proper coaching' says Busi, a school teacher. 'That’s why I sacrificed to save my meager salary in order to buy a satellite dish and enjoy quality and variety'." John Masuku, Radio Netherlands, 20 October 2009.
     "Security details manning President Robert Mugabe’s offices at Munhumutapa Building on Tuesday detained two journalists for allegedly attempting to cover Tuesday’s cabinet meeting. Overzealous security details manning the reception at Munhumutapa Building where President Robert Mugabe’s offices are located detained Haru Mutasa, a correspondent for Al Jazeera and her cameraman Austin Gundani for enquiring on the possibility of getting a photo opportunity of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting." Radio Voice of the People, 21 October 2009. Reporters sans frontières condemns. RSF, 22 October 2009.

RSF publishes its Press Freedom Index for 2009.

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The United States has climbed 16 places in the rankings, from 36th to 20th, in just one year. Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this. But this sharp rise concerns only the state of press freedom within the United States. President Obama may have been awarded the Nobel peace prize, but his country is still fighting two wars. Despite a slight improvement, the attitude of the United States towards the media in Iraq and Afghanistan is worrying. Several journalists were injured or arrested by the US military. One, Ibrahim Jassam, is still being held in Iraq." Reporters sans frontières, 20 October 2009. What would hawkishness or doveishness have to do with press freedom within the United States?

Palestinian complaints about Al Jazeera reportage.

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Palestinian politicians are taking issue with several media outlets, especially the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera, for what they view as skewed and biased reportage. The official Palestinian TV, which toes the line of the government in Ramallah, accused Al-Jazeera of pitting Palestinian and Arab public opinion against the P.A. by providing a platform for figures opposed to the government, and especially to members of Fatah’s main rival, Hamas. " Rachel Kliger, The Media Line, 21 October 2009.

Latest example of shortwave's captive audience (updated).

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
New York Times journalist kidnapped in Afghanistan: "The tribal areas were more developed and the Taliban more sophisticated than I expected. They browsed the Internet and listened to hourly news updates on Azadi Radio [RFE/RL Radio Azadi], a station run by the American government. But then they dismissed whatever information did not meet their preconceptions. ... That week, to help us pass the time, we received a shortwave radio and a board game called checkah, a Pakistani variation of Parcheesi. To my amazement, the guards even brought me English-language Pakistani newspapers. Delivered to a shop in Miram Shah, the newspapers were only a day or two old. Instead of beating us as I expected, our captors were at least trying to meet some of our needs." David Rohde, New York Times, 18 October 2009.
     Update: "Trying to stay connected, I listened to the BBC’s shortwave radio broadcasts for hours at a time. The news broadcasts raised my spirits, but they also gave me the sensation of being in a coma. I could hear how the world was progressing but could not communicate with anyone in it." David Rohde, New York Times, 20 October 2009.
     "The video of us trudging through the snow in January was never broadcast. Al Jazeera ran a brief promotional segment but then did not broadcast the full video at the request of The Times." Rohde, New York Times, 21 October 2009.

Live television via iPhone, but it costs bandwidth.

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Now we can watch small-screen stuff on an even smaller screen. In short, live television is now available on the iPhone and it is surprisingly good. I hasten to add that by the above, I am not rating the quality of the content. Rather, I speak of the excellent picture and audio quality of live, free-to-air television on the iPhone. The operative word here is live, as distinct from episodes of television programs or movies that can be downloaded to an iPhone. ... Some TV apps deliver specific channels, such as France 24, a news channel broadcasting 24 hours a day in English, French and Arabic. It will help cripple your bank account by consuming large lumps of your 3G bandwidth quota. Al Jazeera streams its news in English over 3G. Video quality is good but every 10 minutes of viewing burns 7MB. You can be bankrupted while you watch people telling you the world is going to hell in a handcart. But at least there are no ads. The BBC's live video-streaming iPhone app is not available in Australia, although their text-based BBCReader and scads of free podcasts are." Garry Barker, The Age (Melbourne), 22 October 2009.

Makes me yearn for appointment viewing on my 12-inch black-and-white set.

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"After building an audience consuming more than 3.2 million video clips each month while still in beta, personalized video pioneer 1CAST ( today unveiled an all new version of its web platform and announced it has also extended its overall reach to Boxee, the first social media center, making 1CAST the first service to integrate viewing experiences across 3 Screens: InteractiveTV, Online, and Mobile. ... During the nearly yearlong private beta, 1CAST has expanded its roster of content partners to include most major global broadcast news programmers such as BBC World News, CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business News, Reuters, Dow Jones, AFP and more." 1CAST press release, 21 October 2009.

Worldspace no longer in the news except for occasional news even worse than before (updated).

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Worldspace is in financial trouble again. Almost exactly one year since the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (Oct 17 2008), an emergency motion just filed before the Delaware Bankruptcy Court by Worldspace lawyers admits the company needs immediate financing to avoid liquidation. Liberty Satellite Radio, a subsidiary of Liberty Media, is prepared to lend some cash." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 20 October 2009.
     Update: "Now, WorldSpace is seeking to restart the asset sale process with Liberty Satellite Radio, which is indirectly owned by Liberty Media Corp., a holding company that owns the Atlanta Braves baseball club as well as interests in Sirius XM Radio and DirecTV Group Inc. WorldSpace said such a deal would ensure it is able to carry out a debt-payment plan. 'Such a strategic transaction appears to be the debtors' only hope of confirming a plan and making distributions to creditors,' the company said." Bankruptcy Beat, Wall Street Journal, 20 October 2009.
     "Liberty Media, via its subsidiary Liberty Satellite Radio, is now in control at Worldspace, the struggling European and Asian pay-radio broadcaster. Executives from Liberty and Worldspace are visiting Europe this week. Rapid TV News understands that some aspects of the visit are concerned with meeting Worldspace creditors. However, we also understand that Liberty staffers are also in Europe to examine prospects for pay-radio in Europe and elsewhere internationally. Liberty has a significant stake in Sirius Satellite Radio in the US." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 21 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Did RFE "erroneous report" in 1989 spur the Velvet Revolution? (updated again)

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"An erroneous report on Radio Free Europe that a student called Martin Šmid had been killed, in the suppression of the November 17, 1989, student demonstration in Prague, helped to swell the protesting crowds in the first days of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. (In what seems to me the best, and certainly the most amusing, of the retrospective chronicles, György Dalos tells how the student came home the next evening to be told by a somewhat agitated father that he was reportedly dead.)" Timothy Garten Ash, The New York Review of Books, 5 November 2009 issue.
     We are informed by author Richard Cummings (see previous post) that this incident was discussed in Michel Nelson, War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War, pp. 184-186. This excerpt: "A woman, Drahomira Drazska, who subsequently disappeared, went to Vaclav Benda, a well-known Charter 77 movement signatory, and told him the dead man was Martin Smid from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at the university. She said he was a friend of hers since childhood. Benda told Petr Uhl, a Civic Forum activitist who ran a news agency for foreign journalists. Uhl telephoned Michael Zantovsky, a Reuter correspondent, and told him. Zantovsky said, 'I asked him if he was sure and he said he had an eyewitness and that the eyewitness is completely reliable and that he was 100 percent certain that a student was dead.' Zantovsky filed his story, and it was quickly broadcast back to Czechoslovakia by the VOA and RFE. ... So the communications vehicle that started the Czech revolution rolling was U.S. radio stations. But the mystery of the plot continued to thicken as the years went by." Richard also points us to this BBC video news report from 17 November 1989.
     Update: "The Communist regime responded by denying the reports and publicly producing not one student but two with the name Martin Smid, who were interviewed on Czechoslovak Television to prove that they were alive. A government spokesman described western news agencies that reported the death of Martin Smid as 'a deliberate manipulation of people’s minds and an effort to arouse hostile emotions.' Petr Uhl was arrested for spreading false information. This event did not quell the groundswell of protests against the regime that led to larger protests and threats of public strikes if the Communists did not cede power." Richard Cummings, (undated October 2009). See also this BBC news video, 18 November 1989.

Can the word "propaganda" ever be rehabilitated?

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Historically the USG has avoided the use of the word 'propaganda' to describe its efforts to influence overseas publics. In World War I, George Creel, the head of the Committee on Public Information (1917-1919), which (in his words) 'carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the World,' emphasized that propaganda was what the Germans used to further their military ambitions. His organization, in contrast, was involved in informational and educational activities, he argued. ... During the Cold War, the United States Information Agency (1953-1999) pursued what it called 'public diplomacy,' a term coined by Edmund Gullion of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy... ." John Brown, Huffington Post, 19 October 2009. See also Matt Armstrong,, 17 October 2009.
     The negative connotation of "propaganda" came about because of all the false information disseminated, over the years, by propaganda efforts. The professions of public diplomacy and public relations, while not always considered in the highest regard, have a better reputation than propaganda because they have generally refrained from lying, although they involve the careful selection of truthful information. As such, public diplomacy is not journalism, and government-funded journalism should not be considered part of public diplomacy.

VOA Special English celebrates 50th anniversary (updated).

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Special English is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next week. Mario Ritter tells us about some of the ways we are celebrating this event. MARIO RITTER: It all started when Henry Loomis became director of the Voice of America in nineteen fifty-eight. Mister Loomis traveled around the world. He saw that English was becoming an important international language. He wanted to make English easier to understand by listeners of VOA broadcasts whose native language was not English. So Mister Loomis asked VOA program manager Barry Zorthian to develop a way to broadcast to listeners with a limited knowledge of English. This new method of broadcasting used a limited vocabulary. And it was read slower than regular VOA broadcasts. The first VOA broadcast in Special English took place on October nineteenth, nineteen fifty-nine. Critics at the time said this new method would never work. American embassies demanded that the program be cancelled. But Mister Loomis supported the program. Soon, VOA began to receive hundreds of letters from listeners praising the program. In nineteen sixty-one Hal Berman became the first chief of Special English. He saved Special English from destruction by people who did not see its value. And he showed how to change one thousand five hundred words into a living language that informed, educated and entertained millions of people." Voice of America, 15 October 2009.
     Update: "The Voice of America's (VOA) Special English celebrated its 50th anniversary today, with speakers saying the program is more popular than ever because it continues to provide credible, quality journalism for English learners on a wide variety of media and social networking platforms. ... Special English also produced a slideshow of viewers, listeners and Internet users in their everyday surroundings. Nearly 1,000 users submitted photos of themselves. They can be seen at" VOA press release, 19 October 2009, with link to audio and video of the ceremony. See also Washington Examiner, 19 October 2009.

In Washington State, the Voice of America is the bark of the harbor seal.

Posted: 21 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Dungeness Wildlife Refuge, which includes the Dungeness Spit and surrounding forest, has a new center the public is invited to visit. A dedication and open house will take place at the new building, adjacent to the refuge off of Voice of America Road northwest of Sequim, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday." Peninsula Daily News, 18 October 2009.
     Voice of America Road is named for a VOA transmitter site near Sequim, Washington, that was planned in the 1950s, but never built. In 1953 and 1954, the project ran afoul of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Other senators on the subcommittee included Karl Mundt, earlier of the Smith-Mundt Act, Everett Dirksen, and Henry Jackson. See previous post, including link to Senate historical documents. See also Dungeness Wildlife Refuge website.
     And on the subject of history, Art Chimes, host of VOA's Our World, unearthed this 1950 VOA schedule publication. Note that instead of frequencies, dial position is indicated by wavelengths in meters.

NHK World TV adds a feed on AsiaSat 3S.

Posted: 20 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"NHK World TV, the Japanese public broadcaster’s answer to BBC World News, is enhancing its Asian distribution, adding a feed on the AsiaSat 3S satellite. Relaunched at the start of 2009 with the aim of competing with large international news channels such as BBC World News or CNN, the channel will help the channel access more homes in Asia-Pacific, including Australasia. NHK World TV also carries a block called jibtv, which includes programming from other Japanese broadcasters. Japan International Broadcasting (JIB), a subsidiary of NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation has signed the contract to deliver the free-to-air English-language news and information channel through AsiaSat’s C-band full transponder MCPC (Multiple Channels per Carrier) platform on AsiaSat 3S." Rapid TV News, 20 October 2009.

BBCWS Trust starts new program in Bangladesh, purpose unclear.

Posted: 20 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"To celebrate the best of what is happening in Bangladesh at present, BBC World Service Trust is going to launch a new youth entertainment show from its production titled 'Entertainment Buzz.' The programme will be launched on ATN Bangla at 9:20pm on October 23. It will be aired every Friday evening with a repeat at 3:10pm on Mondays. This show focuses on career, politics, fashion, music, known and less known and unseen and many more topics. It will be hosted by two of the country's freshest and brightest young talents - Azra Mahmood and Hasib Zuberi Shihan. The style of the show will be fast paced much like a magazine, showcasing stories that define the aspirations of young people from every corner of the country including features on the country's undiscovered heroes and places, debate on the topics and events that matter, celebrity reports on personal passions, films about the lives of inspirational Bangladeshis abroad and animation to help people succeed at speaking English." The New Nations (Dakka), 20 October 2009. BBCWS Trust projects usually have some social betterment purpose. It's not clear what "Entertainment Buzz" will accomplish, other than the English teaching aspect. It sounds like one of the innocuous programs that BBC World Service, not BBCWS Trust, would develop to get on FM in South Asia.

China at the Frankfurt Book Fair: public diplomacy with a plot twist.

Posted: 20 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"China was to have been the honored guest at the Frankfurt Book Fair this past week, but instead the festival became embroiled in a tug-of-war over exactly which China was the guest. Was it the official China, which had paid a large sum of money to send two thousand people to the fair, including the heir apparent, vice-president Xi Jinping? Or was it the China reflected in the dissident critiques of writers and musicians who organizers had intended to invite? In the end, everyone on all sides would be going home less than satisfied—nobody, perhaps, more so than the fair’s project manager Peter Ripken, who was fired this week, according to Deutsche Welle, 'after he prevented two Chinese activists from speaking at the fair’s closing ceremony.' (That article, I should add, is blocked from the Web in Beijing, as far as I can tell.)" Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, 20 October 2009.
     "In the end, the official Chinese Organization Committee struck a positive balance: Their authors were welcomed and appeared satisfied with their closed-door agreement. However, they repeated over and over again, like a mantra, that there was no censorship in China (but that authors may not break the law)." Gabriela Schaaf, Deutsche Welle, 19 October 2009.

China Radio International begins Chinese language teaching in Bangladesh.

Posted: 20 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"A five-day Chinese film show opened in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of People's Republic of China and as the prelude to the kick-start of CRI-SMF Confucius classroom on Oct. 29. As one part of Confucius Institute, the CRI-SMF Confucius classroom, which is engaged in teaching Chinese Language to those who intend to learn, was established on Feb. 14, 2009, jointly by China Radio International and Shanto-Mariam Foundation of Bangladesh which is a non-political and non-profit organization dedicated to offering creative and job-oriented education. ... The audience can appreciate ten Chinese famous films and documentaries, including New China in Her First 60 years, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Mulan, etc, which will present the Bangladeshi people an overall and amazing China." Xinhua, 20 October 2009.

Swiss cable drops Baby TV "because the audience was too small."

Posted: 19 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Swiss cablenet Naxoo is adding Disney Cinemagic HD and NHK World to its network, in the process offering customers a free trial for the first two months. ... News and information channel NHK World is being included as one of 65 channels within Naxoo’s basic pack. However, the channels will take the place of Foxlife, which Naxoo says was demanding 'an excessive increase in charges'. Baby TV is also being removed 'because the audience is too small'." Julian Clover, Broadband TV News, 19 October 2009.

New CNBC Africa program may put businesses in the mood to buy ads on CNBC Africa.

Posted: 19 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNBC Africa this week launches its Media&Money programme, focusing on the competitive and business side of Africa's media, marketing, advertising, branding and communications sector. The show will each week feature some of the most influential advertising leaders and branding professionals as guest hosts ... and aims to uncover and discuss the issues often hidden behind agency doors and to tell it as it is when it comes to the latest marketing campaigns.", 19 October 2009. See also CNBC Africa website.

Redesigned CNN International website tested by heartbeats, sweat, eye movement.

Posted: 19 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Close on the heels of a major redesign initiative for the CNN International channel, plans are on for redesigning the CNN website as well, which is expected to be unveiled in about two weeks’ time. William Hsu, VP – News Advertising Sales for Asia Pacific, CNN International, explains more on the organisation’s new media plans and more. ... 'We did a lot of research, biometric research, in Europe. So, it’s not just asking people "do you like this, do you like that'. We wired people up with electrodes, monitored their heartbeats, sweat, where their eyes were moving on the website and used it as a basis to redesign the site. ... Regarding introducing more Indian content on the CNN channel, he said, 'The reality is the market is so competitive for news. I don’t feel there is a need to create more Indian content. If you want more Indian content go to the other 15 channels that are available. But who has lot of international content and can do it in a credible way? Very few. Moreover, we have a partnership with IBN here for local Indian news.'" Shanta Saikia,, 19 October 2009.

So Americans get "serious global news" only on Sunday?

Posted: 19 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Christiane Amanpour is surveying her studio, proud. It is typically, grandiosely, CNN. Her name scrolls in giant letters across a dozen flat-screen televisions, bathed in a rich red. Along the vast video wall that dominates one side of the set, a map of the world floats in blue. 'Teal,' she corrects. 'All the American shows use red, white and blue. We didn't want that.' After all, the show – titled simply Amanpour – is a new daily flagship for prime time on CNN International. A 'greatest hits' package is aired on Sundays in the US, but the programme is a deliberately internationalist contrast to most of the rest of the output from the New York newsroom where it is based. It is serious global news, from the quintessential global news reporter." Stephen Foley, The Independent, 19 October 2009.
     "In [the 1970s], ITV's coverage of Third World affairs rivalled the BBC's and often outshone it. ... But things have changed. In its monitoring of developing world coverage on British television, the International Broadcasting Trust refers bluntly to the 'collapse' of ITV's interest in international affairs. ... Again last year, there were [in Ethiopia] many deaths from starvation. The crisis was revealed not by British TV, but by CNN which was putting together a one-hour special with Unicef." Peter Gill, Organ Grinder blog, The Guardian, 19 October 2009.

Romanian dissident: those who didn't listen to RFE "were idiots."

Posted: 19 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"2009 Nobel Laureate Herta Müller caused an explosion of flash bulbs as she made her way to The Epoch Times booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week. ... Müller, raised in Romania under the Ceausescu regime ... refused to work for the Securitate, Romania’s secret police, and thus lost her job in 1979. To this day, she warns and exposes incidents of the Securitate. ... A journalist from Radio Free Asia, which is banned in Mainland China but very much appreciated there nonetheless, asks her whether or not she listened to Radio Free Europe in Romania. 'I listened to Radio Free Europe several times a day, and those who did not do so were idiots.'" Epoch Times, 18 October 2009.

Former BBG member Marc Nathanson is "giving back."

Posted: 18 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"THEN: Marc Nathanson got his start in the cable business by selling cable door-to-door in the mid-1960s. He worked for Hamscope Cable, running Able Cable, a small 2,000-subscriber system in Malibu, Calif. ... In 1995, Nathanson was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, created in 1994 to oversee U.S. international broadcasting efforts. The board oversees such well-known outlets as Radio Martí, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. Nathanson served as the board’s chairman in 1998. NOW: Nathanson sits on the Board of the Aspen Institute and is currently the vice chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He has also made a number of venture-capital investments, including one in a company that held patents for a water-free urinal. ... 'I have been given so much,' he said, 'and I want to spend the rest of my life giving back.'" K.C. Neel, Multichannel News, 19 October 2009.

Is Pan-Arab television doing what Voice of the Arabs never could?

Posted: 18 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"[S]ome Arab TV channels have achieved more than was achieved by the torch bearer of pan-Arab nationalism Jamal Abdul Nasser and his mouthpiece, the 'Voice of the Arabs Radio'. The few things that brought Arabs together back in the 1960s were the speeches of Abdul Nasser, the afore-mentioned radio, and Al Ahram newspaper of Egypt. Legendary Arab singer Um Kolthoom also had a very unifying effect. Millions of Arabs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf listened to her songs. But with the death of Abdul Nasser and Um Kalthoom the pan Arab dream almost came to an end. However, thanks to the satellite revolution, the Arab masses seem to have found their new voice and identity. One can now safely talk about a big Arab village stretching from Mauritania to Jordan. ... We are no longer talking about a Syrian or Saudi broadcaster. We now have The Arab broadcaster whom millions of Arabs receive warmly as if he were their national hero. ... It is true that we do not need too many satellite channels that overfill the Arab space, but at the same time one can never ignore the fact that the new satellite wave came to stress that there is one Arab world, at least culturally, socially and religiously and even politically." Faisal Al Qasim, Gulf News (Dubai), 18 October 2009.

BBC Lifestyle in the Middle East: "inspirational rather than aspirational."

Posted: 18 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide Channels is no stranger to the Middle East but now the commercial arm of the UK public broadcaster is set to launch new stations, establish an ad sales business and potentially even invest in the local production industry. ... 'It’s difficult to gather accurate viewership data at the moment, so we are unable to analyse this in the same way as we can in other markets. We do conduct our own studies in terms of taking samples and talking to viewers through quantitative studies. What we have seen is that BBC Lifestyle has been very successful.' ... With all Western content and no provision for Arabic (or any other) subtitles it does seem somewhat surprising that the channel is holding its own. ... 'The breadth of the programming on the channel is key to that. Another big difference between the channel and other international lifestyle channels is that it is inspirational rather than aspirational. So instead of showcasing Hollywood living it is more grounded whether it is dealing with parenting, health, fashion, food, etc.'" John Parnell, Digital Production Middle East, 16 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Radio Azadi billboards may have a familiar ring to Americans.

Posted: 18 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Oddly, billboards have become an extremely popular method of advertising in Afghanistan -- despite the fact that only 28% of the population is literate. Radio Azadi's billboards can be seen in many locations around Kabul and along major highways. The text at the bottom of the billboard reads: 'We report. You judge for yourself.'" Alex Mayer, RFE/RL Off Mic blog, 15 October 2009. A tee-shirt sold to raise funds for the VOA museum at the old Bethany, Ohio, transmitting site says: "Tell the truth, and let the world decide." Same idea as the billboard. Much better than: "We will provide you with the correct views, and then you will agree with the correct views."

The harrowing work of Radio Free Iraq.

Posted: 18 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"[T]he 12 journalists in Prague and 31 in-country stringers who work for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq (RFI) have faced significant challenges in delivering the news to Iraqi citizens. RFI's Baghdad bureau coordinator Laith Ahmed says that 'the security situation is the main challenge for us in Iraq.' Ahmed says that although the security situation has improved, Radio Free Iraq's journalists still fear armed groups and 'sleeper cells' which 'are trying every waking moment to attack us.'" RFE/RL Journalists in Trouble blog, 16 October 2009. See also RFE/RL Off Mic, 24 September 2009, with links to first two parts of the series.

Via RFI, France urges its citizens to leave Guinea.

Posted: 18 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"France’s foreign ministry officials, in a statement broadcast on Radio France International (RFI), appealed to its estimated 2,500 citizens most of whom are living in the Guinean capital, Conakry, as well as those in other parts of the country, to report to the nearest consular services or the embassy for an urgent repatriation back to France." Sunday Nation (Nairobi), 17 October 2009. See also RFI, 16 October 2009.
     "Authorities there turned away six French television journalists at Conakry airport on Saturday -- three reporters from the France 24 news channel and three journalists from public broadcaster France 2, their employers said Sunday." AFP, 18 October 2009.

News about iPhone apps and international broadcasting.

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
", an online video news service started in the spring in partnership with the Missouri School of Journalism, announced that its iPhone application is currently ranked number six on the list of free news apps in the iTunes app store, ahead of those of many traditional news organisations. ... Newsy describes itself as a news analyser rather than a news aggregator, producing videos that analyse the key differences in how a story is being reported by various news organizations. For example, a video on whether or not the Czech president will sign the Lisbon treaty used information from France 24, ITN, the New York Times, Al Jazeera and the Prague Daily Monitor.", 16 October 2009. See previous post about Newsy.
     "Enter ZenNews, the latest iPhone app from Zensify. The app not only aggregates news headlines, but relies on analytics technology to highlight stories that are likely of greatest importance to the user. ... ZenNews ships with 12 sources, including the BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and others. Swiping from side to side takes you from the aggregated view of the ZenNews page to the tag clouds for the individual sources. That gives users a chance to compare the coverage of a story from source to source, Campbell says. (Al Jazeera has precious little to say about Thursday evening’s Phillies-Dodgers game, for example.)" Philip Michaels,, 15 October 2009.

MD of Al Jazeera: "putting the human being at the centre of our news agenda."

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Interview with Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera: "Q: What has been your proudest moment? Khanfar: Our coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, putting the human being at the centre of our news agenda. Q: Which decision gave you the most sleepless nights? Khanfar: Every time I sent a crew into the field, after our colleague Tariq Ayoub was killed in the US bombing of our offices in Baghdad. The risks are high; journalists have become targets in many areas. ... Q: What is your greatest hope for the next 10 years? Khanfar: To see journalism liberate itself from the chains of political influence and commercialism, and to see freedom of expression become sacred without any suppression by governments or authorities." Rosanna Greenstreet, The Guardian, 17 October 2009./
     Interesting, given that Al Jazeera is funded both by a government (Qatar) and by commercial advertising. International broadcasting has to get its money either from government budgets, or from advertising, or from some combination of the two. I prefer advertising, because funding is diffused among several advertisers. In most languages, however, there is little potential for commercial sales, so government funding is necessary.

International media fill in the Iranians on nuclear talks.

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"[F]or the past few months President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been insisting that the specifics of Iran’s nuclear programme were no longer up for negotiations with P5+1 and questions regarding the programme could only be addressed through technical discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. But this line of argument could not be maintained for long. The stream of information coming out of the western press and Farsi media based in the West - particularly BBC Persian television - regarding the details of the talks made clear that Iran’s nuclear programme was indeed discussed in Geneva." Mitra Farnik, Global Arab Network, 16 October 2009.

Looking back, bemused, at the "media olympics" in Beijing (updated).

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"China's parade through Beijing on Oct. 1 celebrating the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic was a massive display of military might. Just days later, the government switched to soft power by hosting the first World Media Summit. ... That Beijing was the venue for the event is bizarre, as censors working for the Communist Party maintain rigid control over what Chinese can say, read and write. In fact, the summit was organized and of course covered by China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, a party mouthpiece. ... 'It's all about soft power and it certainly doesn't mean China will get easier for foreign media companies,' said Peter Herford, a professor at the Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communications at Shantou University in southern China, and a veteran of CBS News in the U.S." Normandy Madden, Advertising Age, 14 October 2009.
     "China's increasing exposure to the international media as well as its own growing media presence is a trend that simply reflects the country's rising importance. Hopefully, as time goes on, it will internalize the values of the global media rather than just see the media as a propaganda tool to serve the government's interests." Frank Ching, Globe and Mail, 13 October 2009.
     "The fact that Xinhua, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, got together with eight renowned media companies to hold the Beijing summit demonstrates China’s ambition to participate in the global media community – despite China’s efforts to make this event appear 'nongovernmental.' Observers pointed out that there were no discussions about freedom of speech or of the press at this event, which China termed a 'media Olympics.' China’s goal is clear – it hopes for greater influence in directing world opinion – while the participating media tycoons hopped on board in hopes of somehow winning a slice of what they imagine to be a huge Chinese media market. At this point in time, the two are indeed strange bedfellows." S.L. Shen, UPI Asia, 13 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     "The Frankfurt Book Fair opens after a month of controversy over who is running the show - the German organizers or the Chinese delegation, this year's guest of honor. But will diplomatic relations be affected?" Deutsche Welle, 14 October 2009.
     Update: "How can the heads of the world's most prominent media organizations gather for two days of talks in the Chinese capital and ignore the elephant in the room - the central government's ongoing repression of the media? The topic of media freedom was conspicuous by its absence on the conference agenda and was also largely avoided in comments made on the sidelines by the bigwigs in attendance." Kent Ewing, Asia Times, 17 October 2009.
     "As if to complement one another, two like-minded media declarations were posted on the internet only two days apart from each other, one on Oct. 8 by a group of 15 Chinese intellectuals [see previous post], another by the Chinese government’s Xinhua News Agency during a World Media Summit in Beijing on Oct. 10. Both documents express a need for an open media and development in the circulation of information. Both embrace the utilization of new media technologies and encourage interaction and cooperation among journalists and audiences. Yet their implications are more dissimilar than alike, and one of the declarations has altogether disappeared from online viewing." Deng Bolun, Global Voices Advocacy, 15 October 2009.
     "President of Xinhua News Agency Li Congjun met here Wednesday with Frank Gonzalez Garcia, president of Cuban press agency Prensa Latina, pledging closer cooperation. arcia is here to attend the just-concluded World Media Summit." Xinhua, 14 October 2009.

When Soviet youth smoked, drank, danced, and listened to VOA.

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The poisonous seeds of the Voice of America broadcasts are taking root among Soviet youths, 'The Banner of Lenin' said today. (It mentioned two teenage boys and continued:) 'these dissipated youths smoked, drank and danced and listened to the Voice of America broadcasts'. The paper said one of the boys wrote the following poem in prison: 'I was drinking to the boys from the street, / I was drinking to the girls and to jazz.. / During the night the Voice of Washington / Filled us with the powerful urge to passion.'" UPI, 19 September 1965, via Vello Ederma, Eesti Elu (Toronto), 16 October 2009.

Voice of Russia now via your neighborhood mobile re-translator.

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"As of Tuesday, Radio Voice of Russia's broadcastings will be available for owners of cellular phones, including Lithuania. Voice of Russia Chairman Andrei Bystritsky explained that the Mobile Voice of Russia project made it possible to listen to VOR broadcastings in any part of the world with good-quality mobile re-translators. ... Right now, the Mobile Voice of Russia-related programs in 17 languages are available for owners of smart phones which have the Windows Mobile operating system. The smart phone owners should first visit VOR's website at and download a special software which is needed to listen to the VOR's mobile broadcastings. ... The beginning of next year will see more mobile gadgets and relevant operating systems used by listeners to listen to the Mobile Voice of Russia, which plans to start broadcastings in 39 languages before the end of 2010." Andrew Fedorov, The Baltic Course, 16 October 2009. See previous post about Voice of Russia.

Low-key Senate hearing on international broadcasting.

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, Joaquin Blaya, and Steven J. Simmons of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) testified today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues on 'U.S. International Broadcasting into the War Zones: Iraq and Afghanistan.' BBG press release, 15 October 2009.
     "RFE/RL and VOA are together the number one broadcasting entity in Afghanistan in audience reach. VOA plays to its strengths as a U.S.-based broadcaster focused on coverage of news and policy debates concerning Afghanistan taking place in Washington, news in Afghanistan with a strong U.S. angle and regional and international news. RFE/RL stresses its trademark local news coverage, capturing all aspects of the insurgency and micro-reporting on health, education, women’s issues, among other topics at the top of the Afghan people’s news and information agenda." From testimony by Messrs. Hirschberg, Blaya, and Simmons at the hearing. Such are the rhetorical gymnastic employed to justify the existence of two US stations broadcasting to the same country in the same languages. Given the importance of credibility to success in international broadcasting, describing it as having a "strong U.S. angle" is not helpful to VOA. The fact is, both RFE/RL and VOA aggressively report on domestic events in Afghanistan and, thus, despite finite budgets and scarce resources, duplicate one another. Nothing about that was asked at this tame hearing, attended by only three senators.
     "It is not the job of the taxpayers to ensure that international audiences are informed of current issues, no matter how laudable that might be. The BBG must demonstrate that it primarily serves the interests of the United States citizens." Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), opening statement at the hearing.
     "Sen. Edward Kaufman (D-Del.) praised the work of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and their entities, Thursday, for successfully broadcasting news into the war-zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. 'I think it is really extraordinary when you have two countries … listening to U.S. and international broadcasting on a regular basis and getting both sides of every discussion,' said Kaufman." Talk Radio News Service, 15 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

RFE/RL's executive editor cautions against "multiplication of human rights."

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin, Executive Editor John O'Sullivan, and Afghan Service journalist Freshta Jalalzai all took part in this year's Forum 2000 conference in Prague. The annual conference brings together personalities from politics, business, academia, journalism, and NGOs as well as leading pro-democracy activists from around the world for a discussion on the state of freedom in the world." RFE/RL press release, 14 October 2009, with links to video and a transcript.
     In his presentation, Mr. O'Sullivan stated that "human rights and democracy don’t always blend perfectly." He predicted "the gradual corruption of human rights protection and democracy in an attempt to blur the different views that different cultures hold on human rights. To avoid that we need a revival of the democratic spirit within Western countries—and especially within Western Europe. And that is currently a higher priority than the continued multiplication of human rights and human rights enforcement mechanisms." I did not see the usual "views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL" at the bottom of his printed speech. There is, instead, "(c) 2009 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty." Nevertheless, I don't think this was meant to convey the official position of RFE/RL.

Trans-Atlanticists sat for 24 hours at RFE/RL uniting their modi vivendi.

Posted: 17 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Twenty individuals representing fifteen countries, many of whom have, and have had, the ears of presidents and prime-ministers -- MILSEC types, three ambassadors, journalists and specialists -- sat for 24 hours at Radio-Free Europe pondering how to unite diverging modus vivendi. They were brought together by the United Kingdom's Henry Jackson Society, the Legatum Institute, the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Initiative, the Prague Society and Berlin-based Global Panel Foundation. ... This was a group of trans-Atlanticists. All have strong ties to, and interest in, the relationship with the United States and to each other. All have served in distinguished capacities. ... The discussion of public diplomacy brought intense and lively discussion. One participant wondered if the promotion of democracy is dead. Another wondered if it might not be better to promote the rule of law and the politics of small steps first. Yet another wondered if the West really knows what it means when it promotes democracy: 'Whose democracy are we promoting, Germany's, Australia's, the United States'?'" Marc S. Ellenbogen (columnist), UPI, 15 October 2009. Oh, great, one of the trans-Atlanticists was trying to provoke a war of words among the democracies. By the way, the Henry Jackson Society, based in the UK, is named for the late US senator.

Former RFE/RL HQ opens up to Prague arts festival.

Posted: 16 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Markéta Cerná, executive producer of Prague's 4+4 Days in Motion: “It was closed. Before it was the parliament building and then it was Radio Free Europe so it was closed to the public. The National Museum opened it to the public on August 15, but I think because we have a different audience we’ve opened it for different kind of people. They seem to be surprised actually, because this building is really an institution.” Radio Prague, 14 October 2009. See also Festival 2009 website, especially photos.

Poland and its "uncensored information" about Cardinal Wojtyla, 31 years ago.

Posted: 16 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"All the papers take note of the 31st anniversary of the election of Cardinal Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II. GAZETA WYBORCZA recalls that the communist authorities had a hard nut to crack. At a time when Poles had access to uncensored sources of information, such as Radio Free Europe, it did not really matter how the official media covered the reports from Rome. Poles took to the streets in an outburst of enthusiasm which had few parallels in the nation’s history but few people believed at the time that the election of the Polish Pope was the beginning of the end of communism, GAZETA WYBORCZA concludes its editorial." Polskie Radio, 16 October 2009.

Retired VOA correspondent recalls reporting from Addis Ababa in the 1960s.

Posted: 16 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"As the Voice of America regional correspondent for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan and Somalia, I was based in Addis Ababa in the mid ‘60s in what seemed to be a country of peace and tranquility. All of that abruptly changed in 1967 when thousands of stone-throwing students and townsfolk in Addis Ababa went on a rampage against the government, attacking anything that smacked of authority, from police stations to banks to public buildings. I was driving through the city when I saw the first mobs forming. I drove quickly to my VOA office and had the shutters lowered and the doors locked. When a part of the mob reached our building it began hurling rocks (which are everywhere in Addis Ababa) and smashing windows. Frustrated at not being able to break in, it called for setting the building on fire. We were trapped this way for several hours until the police finally gained control of the mobs melted away. I cabled back to the VOA an account of what had transpired, unmindful that this would prove to be the first manifestation of ongoing unrest that would eventually unseat Emperor Haile Selassie and his government. Within a couple of years, after I had left Ethiopia, left leaning army officers overthrew the government, killed the Emperor and established a regime called the Dirg." Harry Leonard Heintzen, 1956-1957 Edward R. Murrow Press Felllow, Council on Foreign Relations, 15 October 2009.

Senator may hold up State Department funding because of reductions in Radio/TV Martí funding (updated).

Posted: 16 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
US Senator "George LeMieux [R-FL] is threatening to hold up funding for the State Department to protest cuts at Radio and TV Marti he says would 'weaken our country's policies with respect to Cuba.' In a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, LeMieux calls the proposed Senate cuts 'drastic.' The president has proposed cutting the agencies' budget by $4.2 million, but the Senate wants to go further, trimming $15 million. The Senate version also has a provision that specifically prevents international broadcasting dollars from being spent on TV Marti. LeMieux's move will force Senate leadership to round up at least 60 votes to get the 2010 budget for the State Department passed." Lesley Clark, Miami Herald blog, 13 October 2009, with link to pdf of LeMieux's letter.
     Among ten steps to improve AM radio: "Marathon, Fla., has one AM station, with a directional array pointed away from the U.S. It’s time to make a deal to make it go away. ... We as loyal broadcasters stood mostly silent while our government attempted to reach Cuba with up to 100 kilowatts from this station, only to have Cuba successfully jam more than one frequency back at us. That jamming continues today. Write your congressman." Mark Heller, Radio World, 13 October 2009.
     At press conference, confrontation between Michael Morales, who identified himself as a reporter from "American Forces Radio and Television Service, Voice of America and Radio and TV Martí" and NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. The NASCAR Insiders, 12 October 2009. There is a Miguel Ángel Morales who reports, or at least has reported, about NASCAR for Radio Martí. See (y escuche) his report on 20 October 2005. Update: BBG spokesperson informs me: "This stringer's contract was canceled over a year ago. As we told NASCAR he is not affiliated with Radio Marti or the Voice of America."

Cuba now owns 903,000 shares of Telesur.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Cuba's Institute of Radio and Television is the new joint owner of the multi-state TV network Telesur, according to the shareholders meeting held on August 31, whose minutes were published in the Official Gazette 39,282 dated October 9. The Gazette reported the entry as a new shareholder of the institute belonging to the Cuban government, which paid USD 475,000... . With the entry of Cuba as joint owner, the majority shareholder is the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela with 5,810,256 shares while Cuba owns 903,000 shares, paid at one VEB per share. The Official Gazette also reported that one of the members of the new board of directors of Telesur is Juan Carlos Ortega, son of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega." El Universal (Caracas), 14 October 2009.
     "Jorge Valero Briceño (Venezuela) ... said that the regional television station, Telesur, had been set up by Venezuela and other countries in South America, and aimed to overcome the 'news gap' between the North and South. That new vision reflected the realities of the developing world, and was an expression of solidarity and cooperation among nations and peoples. That innovative initiative for communication information constituted a 'modest alternative' to communication monopolies, which disseminated and promoted the 'exclusive interests of national and international elites'. However, very often, Telesur journalists suffered aggression or restraints with regard to their work, as had occurred in the coup d'etat in Honduras while covering hostilities against the Brazilian Embassy." From Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) of United Nations General Assembly, 14 October 2009.

Update on indicted former VOA chief of staff.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Horace Cooper, who served as a staffer for former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and as chief of staff for two executive branch agencies, indicated today that he will go to trial to fight charges that he accepted tickets and meals from imprisoned ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for official actions that would benefit Abramoff's clients. Cooper was indicted in August on five charges of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and bribery, fraudulent concealment, false statements and obstruction of an official proceeding. The alleged crimes took place between 1998 and 2005, when Cooper served on Armey's staff and then as chief of staff at Voice of America and the Labor Department's Employment Standards Administration." Beth Sussman, Under the Influence blog, National Journal, 14 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Veteran of Iraqi Media Network has new endeavor.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Joan Betros is a petite woman with a big heart and an even bigger goal -- to bring about healing and meaningful change through the volunteer organization FUTURE (Families United Toward Universal Respect), aimed at assisting and supporting the women and families of Iraq. ... Betros, with more than 35 years in national and international broadcasting and entertainment, spent a year in Iraq starting in 2003. She served as director of women and children’s family television programming for the newly established Iraqi Media Network in Baghdad, a U.S. government-funded news and entertainment network. Her husband, U.S. Army Col. Fareed Betros, was stationed in Iraq in 2003 during the height of the war, she said."
Greenville (SC) News, 13 October 2009.
     The BBC country profile for Iraq now lists Al Iraqiya, station name of Iraqi Media Net,, as "state-run public TV." An a href="">old website for the station, that stopped updating in May 2008, has this online surver on its home page: "Who's Iraqi channel that transfers and covers the facts without alignment for any sects or nationalities? □IRAQIA □ALHURRA-IRAQ □AL-BAGHDADIA □AL-SUMERIA □AL-SHARQYIA □AL-FORAT □NO ONE OF THIS CHANNLE"

Four more BBC channels on Hong Kong Cable.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Hong Kong Cable, one of the territory's largest pay-TV operators, has sealed a carriage deal with BBC Worldwide to launch four BBC-branded thematic channels by the end of 2009. First will be BBC Knowledge, launching on the basic tier on October 29 and subtitled in Chinese. It will be followed by BBC Entertainment, BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies, which will all launch at the end of the year. They will join BBC World News on the platform.", 15 October 2009.

Bloomberg website adds Japanese.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BLOOMBERG.COM Web site, one of the world's fastest growing major financial Web sites, has launched a new version in Japan. The new Japanese language Web site allows users access to business news, global market snapshots and portfolio tracking tools tailored specifically for the Japanese market. ... To access the new website, visit" Bloomberg press release, 12 October 2009. Japanase seems to be the only non-English version of, for now.

Sky versus ABC bids for Australia Network contract could be "battle royal."

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Could [Australian Broadcasting Corporation managing director] Mark Scott be concerned that Murdoch's News Ltd might mount an anti-ABC campaign back here in Australia, suggesting to the government that its power and funding should be constrained in the interests of giving commercial media a better go? ... Not far in the background is the attempt by Sky TV, part-owned by the Murdoch empire, to pinch the $20 million contract to broadcast internationally over the Australia Network. The ABC holds the contract, but it expires in 2011, and Sky is promising to turn it into 'the biggest international broadcasting network undertaking by any Australian media organisation'. It has got right up the nose of the ABC, and promises to become a battle royal." The Goanna, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 2009.
     "Scott's speech, at the University of Melbourne, took aim at recent public comments by News Corporation leaders Rupert and James Murdoch. He disparaged Rupert Murdoch's call for news outlets to take back their assets from online 'content kleptomaniacs' as 'a classic play of ... empire in decline - believing that because you once controlled the world, you can continue to do so'. ... The speech was an inflammatory one from an executive known more for his cool business-school style. It comes as the ABC battles subscription channel Sky News (part-owned by News) for the Australia Network broadcasting contract and supremacy in 24-hour news." Michael Bodey, The Australian 15 October 2009.

In Australia, international channels to iPhone now, other handsets later.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"An updated Mobile Foxtel service from Telstra provides better image quality and stereo sound - but initially only to iPhone owners. ... The News & Docos pack comprises Sky News Business, National Geographic, Fox News, Discovery, Crime & Investigation, CNN, and BBC World News." iTWire, 14 October 2009.
     "Telstra said the improved service would offer 'enhanced viewing quality' and stereo sound. The service consists of 30 channels streamed to devices on Telstra’s Next G network. While the i[m]provements will only be available initially to iPhone users, the capability will be rolled out progressively for a range of future handsets over the coming months." Rapid TV News, 14 October 2009.

In international broadcasting publicity, beware of unfortunate juxtapositions.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Over more than a decade in Cambodia, Design Group (DG) has established itself as a leading graphic design company, creating appealing layouts and printed products for some of the country’s premier clients. ... DG art director Sok Kong ... talked about the challenges of printing T-shirts for ABC Radio Australia during the Water Festival. The firm asked for medium-sized T-shirts for their advertisements, but initially failed to realise that an Australian medium-sized shirt and a Cambodian one were considerably different in size. 'For some Cambodians, the T-shirt reaches below their bottoms, and you can’t see the advertising on the bottom of the T-shirt,' Sok Kong said." The Phnom Penh Post, 14 October 2009.

More shortwave as music: consumerism, cynicism, nihilism...

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"STS9 stands for Sound Tribe Sector Nine, a Santa Cruz, Calif., quintet... . The group's fourth CD, 'Peaceblaster,' features allegories of consumerism, corporate media, cynicism, nihilism and other "isms," but the theme for its current project 'Ad Explorata' came about in a somewhat subversive way. In the recording studio, they stumbled upon a phenomenon in the air, via a shortwave radio, when they heard a women's voice reciting numbers in a precise mechanical manner. Apparently, radio stations exist that feature folks reading numbers, which are thought to be spy codes, though no government will acknowledge such a thing exists." David Malachowski, Albany Times Union, 15 October 2009.
     Kraftwerk's "'Radioland’, with its sick-robot vocoded vocals and wild shortwave tunings shooting theremin-like from a wall of glittering synthesiser tones, is an early example of a Kraftwerk ballad, and captures their uncanny ability to make music of genuine soulfulness from the most sterile-seeming of ingredients." Chris Power, Drowned in Sound, 12 October 2009. See (listen to) also YouTube, 27 February 2009.

Uyghur uses hidden antenna to receive RFA Uyghur.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"When I asked where [Merhum, of Kashgar, Xinjiang] obtained information over the past months he drew close and mischievously motioned at the floor. 'I have a radio I use to get the news, but I have to keep it hidden from the police,' he replied, likely referring to the extra antennas or pieces of tin required to receive signals from media sources like Radio Free Asia, a U.S. government-run Uighur news service whose broadcasts are blocked in China." Paul Mozur, Asia Sentinel, 15 October 2009.

New rebroadcasting outlets for VOA in Pakistan and Somaliland.

Posted: 15 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America (VOA) is expanding its reach across Pakistan. A new arrangement with Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) now allows VOA to broadcast Pashto language programs on medium-wave (AM) radio and Urdu broadcasts on FM stations for the first time. ... VOA's Deewa Radio, a Pashto language service for people in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, is now available on medium wave (AM) at 540 kHz from a transmitter in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. ... For the first time, VOA’s Urdu language program Radio Aap Ki Dunyaa (Your World) ( will be heard on the FM band. A 30-minute morning program at 0900 and a 30-minute evening program at 1800 will air on 11 FM stations across Pakistan, including Islamabad and Lahore." VOA press release, 13 October 2009. The 540 kHz transmitter is listed at 300 kilowatts. Will RFE/RL's new Radio Azadi service in Pashto for the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region (see previous post) also have access to this transmitter?
     "The Voice of America launched a new radio station in the Somalia breakaway region. ... VOA Hargeisa 88.0 will air 24 hours of VOA programs daily. The broadcast stream includes three and half hours of news and features from VOA’s Somali service along with popular English news, discussion and music programs such as World News Now, Daybreak Africa, Hip Hop Connection and Music Mix." VOA press release, 14 October 2009.

Religious broadcaster 1Africa markets to potential affiliates.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Need something to spice up your radio shows? Well, 1Africa has special interest programming which will add value to your broadcast schedules - enlightening special reports, exclusive interviews, and all the 2010 action can colour your content at no cost or obligation. We also go topical and dig deep into burning issues around Africa like HIV/AIDS and malaria. 1Africa Digital offers these programmes for free to FM and AM affiliate radio stations anywhere in Africa. ... While our shortwave signal covers sub-Saharan Africa, you can listen to us locally on the free-to-air and DStv channels (see website for details) or listen online at" 1Africa Radio press release, 13 October 2009. 1Africa Radio is a subsidiary of UK based Protestant evangelical international broadcaster Christian Vision, CVC.

Bloggers in the Middle East, and methods to control them.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Blogging has flourished in the Middle East, propelled by the region’s unusually high growth rate in Internet use, and the exceedingly restrictive landscape for traditional media. This nexus of demography and repression has led activists, journalists, lawyers, and others online, where they express dissent and report information in previously unimaginable ways. ... Blogging is policed by overlapping regulations that vary across the region. Iran employs the most elaborate scheme of layered legal restrictions, but virtually all regional countries rely on three basic types of laws to restrict online expression: longstanding press and penal code provisions; emergency laws; and emerging Web-specific laws and decrees. Penal codes and press laws in the region are typically rife with vaguely defined provisions that criminalize criticism of government and material deemed insulting to religious and public officials." Committee to Protect Journalists, 14 October 2009.

Al Jazeera English launches network of its correspondents' blogs.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera English has launched a new blogging network featuring its correspondents from around the world. 'The Al Jazeera Blogs are written by our extensive network of correspondents who will take you behind the news and across the world,' AJE head of online media, Mohamed Nanabhay, told 'This project is part of our continuing commitment to field journalism, while allowing our correspondents to be part of the ongoing conversation in the blogosphere.'", 13 October 2009. See also Mohamed Nanabhay's blog, 13 October 2009. And

CNN International versus Sky News websites in user experience assessment.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Which website offers the best user experience when it comes to online news and features? Revolution partnered with user experience consultancy Webcredible to assess the merits of and Sky News reaches 5.5 per cent of viewers across Europe, according to the latest viewing figures from the 2009 European Media and Marketing Survey, which samples 13 per cent of adults in Western Europe. CNN International fares less well, with a total share to 3.8 per cent, placing it 3rd in Europe. ... Conclusion: CNN International fares better in this contest, but Sky News isn't far behind; demonstrating that the bar is set pretty high in the online news sector. A few tweaks here and there, on both sites, would cement what are already fairly robust user experiences." Webcredible "sponsored feature," Revolution (London), 12 October 2009.

CNN International: "Editorially, no one covers Africa like we do."

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Rani R. Raad is the senior vice president, Advertising Sales, CNN International. In this interview with Daniel Obi conducted via phone, he discloses that in the last seven years, advertising spend by African advertisers on CNN has increased 175 percent, as Nigeria is an important part of CNN’s commercial strategy in Africa. ... Q: There seems to be more Nigerian news on CNN lately, what informed this? Raad: Editorially, no one covers Africa like we do. We’ve made substantial investments in terms of bureau presence and hiring ground reporters in several countries including Nigeria - and that is in addition to new feature programming dedicated to the region. Africa is a diverse continent that represents tremendous opportunity for us editorially. Nigeria is a major economic player in Africa - our coverage of the country is a reflection of the new stories that are coming from the region. Africa is generally becoming more interesting to the rest of the world from both business and cultural perspective, and our increased coverage is indicative of that shift." BusinessDay (Lagos), 13 October 2009.

Radio Netherlands DG is new head of EBU international broadcasting group.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Director-General of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Jan Hoek, has been appointed chairperson of the International Broadcasting Group of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The group comprises all the European international broadcasters, including RNW, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale/France24 and the BBC World Service." Radio Netherlands Media Network, 13 October 2009.

When RFE was in the air as well as on the air.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In 1989, the most crucial moment in the country’s modern history occurred in then Czechoslovakia, when the Iron Curtain fell. The country is now preparing to commemorate the events that set the nation free. ... The National Museum will host an exhibition ‘Bee Free’. Its aim is to recreate the atmosphere of the former communist regime - including a hot-air [sic] balloon from which Radio Free Europe dropped anti-communist pamphlets across former Czechoslovakia, or even a typical apartment of that time period." Travel Video News, 13 October 2009.
     "Herbert A. Friedman of has written an extensive piece on Radio Free Europe's Cold War-era 'leaflet campaign' over central and eastern Europe during the 1950s. Friedman writes that the 'leaflets were a major part of the post-WWII psychological warfare battle between East and West...the operation sent 590,415 balloons that carried 301,636,883 leaflets, posters, books, and other printed matter from West Germany over the Iron Curtain to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland from August 1951 to November 1956.'" Alex Mayer, Off Mic, RFE/RL, 6 October 2009, with link to the undated Friedman article.
     "In mid-October 1989, Radio Free Europe was celebrating the opening of its newest bureau in Budapest, Hungary. It was quite a feat for a network that, not so long ago, had to overcome jamming of its frequencies and intimidation of local correspondents, who filed reports over the phone or through secret messengers. Established at the beginning of the Cold War, Radio Free Europe was modeled after RIAS, a U.S. government-sponsored radio service for Germans living in the American sector of Berlin. With its mission for free speech and the capitalist way, the network had earned loyal listeners, some of whom credited it with keeping hope alive during some dark times. ... While Radio Free Europe could operate freely in Budapest, so could others. 'They have a lot to do these days to compete with Hungarian radio,' student Andrew Deak told the Journal. 'The Hungarian [radio] reporters seem better informed and more critical about about what's going on here." The British Broadcasting Corp. and the U.S. State Department's Voice of America had begun broadcasting over Hungarian airwaves.'" Wall Street Journal, 14 October 2009.
     "Forced to scrape by alongside booming postwar Western economies, the Communist states (particularly East Germany) had their noses rubbed in their failure on a daily basis. Media, from Western propaganda efforts like Voice of America to TV and radio intended for Western European audiences but picked up by audiences behind the Iron Curtain, made the superior consumer goods and political freedoms of the West common knowledge and the subject of much envy and yearning." Laura Miller, Salon, 14 October 2009.
     Some of the history above needs revising. RIAS may have been created for West Berliners, but its mission and audience came to be concentrated on and in East Germany. Even in its early days, I think RFE's audience tuned in for news rather than lectures about "the capitalist way." VOA was not "the State Department's" after 1953. Over the years, VOA became less of a "propaganda effort" and more of a source of reliable news, the latter being the main reason people listened.

Corporate parent of Alhurra/Radio Sawa drops contractor and its 96 employees.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Nearly 100 employees working under Team Broadcast Services’ contract in Springfield will be laid off at the end of next month. The employees were working for Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc. for the past five years in production and post production jobs. The Springfield-based international multi-media broadcasting company broadcasts news and information to the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe. The nonprofit is funded through the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency. D.C.-based Team Broadcast Services had a contract to staff technical positions for the company and was responsible for identifying workers, interviewing, hiring and managing them. ... Employees were in a variety of production positions, including editors, master control operators, and studio staff. According to several job hiring sites, postings for the open positions at Middle East Broadcasting Networks went up less than two weeks ago." Washington Business Journal, 12 October 2009.
     "MEBN operates Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa, which produce and broadcast news and information to 22 countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Both are funded through the Broadcasting Board of Governors." Television Broadcast, 13 October 2009. See also Digital Production Middle East, 13 October 2009.
     I can't find a website for Team Broadcast Services. "MEBN" usually abbreviates itself MBN. Is MBN in-sourcing jobs for Alhurra and Radio Sawa?

BBC Mundo "Noticias en 60 segundos": Easy download, easy on the World Service budget.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Spanish-language news scene has been enriched with the launch of video bulletins on the BBC's Spanish-language service, From today, Monday 12 October, one-minute video bulletins, The World In One Minute, will keep Spanish-speaking users up to date with the global news agenda. At 14.00 GMT, from Monday to Friday, the dynamic video bulletins delivers 60 seconds of succinct reporting on the essential world news stories from the BBC's unparalleled newsgathering network across the world. The bulletins on are also available for download on mobile phones via the WAP site" BBC World Service press release, 12 October 2009.

BBC Arabic and Morocco in unspecified cooperation.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Morocco's Communication Minister, Spokesman for the government, held, on Monday in London, talks with BBC Arabic managers on means to strengthen co-operation between Morocco and the British channel. Khalid Naciri, who highlighted the pivotal role the channel plays, said the meeting addressed a number of viewpoints, adding that he took the opportunity to reiterate Morocco's character as a country of openness." Agence Maghreb Arabe Presse, 12 October 2009. No details, but seems to be related to earlier reports of BBC Arabic seeking content from Arab video producers.

MP recalls World Service listening in questioning Question Time's choice of guest.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC's invitation to Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party – a racist organisation with known fascist roots and values – to appear on Question Time is quite extraordinary. It flies in the face of all the BBC's core values as the world's most respected broadcaster: to promote diversity in the UK, tolerance, fairness and our parliamentary democracy. It's a bitter pill for me especially – as a regular guest over the years on Question Time, and having listened to the BBC World Service as a teenager in the 1960s, then the only reliable source of news in apartheid South Africa where my parents were involved in the freedom struggle." Peter Hain, Comment is Free, The Guardian, 11 October 2009.

International broadcasting of sorts : Monty Python Radio on XM Sirius.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"SIRIUS XM Radio announced today that it will launch Monty Python Radio, a 24/7 channel devoted to, and hosted by, the iconic British comedy troupe. The limited-run channel will premiere on Friday, October 16, the day after the stars receive a Special Award from The British Academy of Film and Television Arts event at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, and will run for ten full days featuring classic Python sketches, skits and, songs; fans calling in with requests; fans and celebrities telling favorite sketches and Python memories; and various members of the original Python troupe reminiscing and talking of new projects." Sirius XM press release, 13 October 2009.

Secretary Clinton discusses Afghanistan in interview on (ahem) "British radio."

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. administration is also trying to adapt to the changing situation in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, on a European tour told British radio America's goal is clear. 'We are not changing our strategy, our strategy remains to achieve the goal of disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaida and its extremist allies, and denying them safe haven and the capacity to strike us here in London, or New York or anywhere else,' said Clinton." VOA News, 12 October 2009.
     "We are not changing our strategy. Our strategy remains to achieve the goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda and its extremist allies, and denying them safe haven, and the capacity to strike us here in London, or New York, or anywhere else." Transcript of Clinton interview on BBC Radio, State Department transcript, 11 October 2009. Reported by BBC News, 12 October 2009, with link to audio. See also BBC Radio 4 "Today," 12 October 2009.
     What is "British radio"? There are dozens of British radio stations. "British radio" is actually VOA-speak for the BBC. VOA should drop this silly practice of not referring to BBC by name. An earlier version of the VOA story had this sentence: "Hillary Clinton said Monday, in an interview with the BBC, that Hamid Karzai had been 'very helpful on many fronts.'"

Middle Eastern press picks up US diplomat's interview on Alhurra.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"US Assistant Secretary State for Middle East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has welcomed the Syrian-Saudi summit's interest in the new Lebanese government line up, describing his talks held ten days ago with the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad as positive and constructive. The remarks were made in an interview with alhurra Arabc Language T.V. channel which affiliates to the US State Department." Syrian News Station, 11 October 2009. Also mentioned by Naharnet, 10 October 2009 and Now Lebanon, 12 October 2009. But not reported by VOA, even though a theoretical central function of VOA is to report on US foreign policy. This is because VOA and Alhurra are separate entities, with no benefit of synergy.

Internet provides "interesting alternatives" to VOA and BBC for English learning.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Among "a few tips that teach you to become a successful English language learner": "Virtually every radio station in the world is up for grabs with the Internet. Don’t just be content with the VOA or BBC world service. There are many other interesting alternatives. Try listening to radio from around the English speaking world." Charmont Sodi, Literacy News, 10 October 2009.

Reorganizing the State Department public diplomacy organizational chart.

Posted: 14 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"1. Create a Public Diplomacy Bureau for Field Operations, headed by a senior Foreign Service Public Diplomacy professional (perhaps, Assistant Secretary), who would advise and answer to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and oversee all activities in each country. 2. Transfer public diplomacy 'desks' and budgets from the six geographic bureaus to this new Bureau, to coordinate field programs and provide country-specific expertise to the new Assistant Secretary and Under Secretary, but retain several experienced hands as senior advisors. 3. Recognize that public diplomacy professionals manage programs, unlike their political and economic colleagues, and require special training (including advanced language skills). They should be able to maintain careers largely in public diplomacy, but compete for senior Foreign Service assignments equally well across all specialties." Former diplomats and/or USIA officers Thomas K. Pickering, Henry E. Catto, David I. Hitchcock, Stanley M. Silverman, Fred A. Coffey Jr., American Diplomacy, 12 October 2009.

China Radio International cooperation deal with Malaysian news agency.

Posted: 13 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA) will work with China Radio International (CRI) to jointly produce and exchange radio programmes and multimedia contents in Bahasa Malaysia. ... Established in 1941, CRI ... has since transformed from a traditional radio station broadcaster into a modern international broadcasting institution with multimedia capabilities and CRI is currently incorporating all mass communication means such as newspaper, radio, television, internet and future media. CRI had started its Bahasa Malaysia language broadcast in March 1959, with two daily one hour programmes that include news, commentary and features on tourism, culture, music and Chinese language learning." Bernama, 11 October 2009. See previous post about CRI exchange deal with Radio TV Malaysia.

RT (Russia Today) will add Spanish and UK English.

Posted: 13 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"RT [Russia Today] has grown quickly: while it does not supply viewing figures - only percentage growth - the channel says that during the South Ossetian conflict YouTube viewings of RT's reports from the region rose to more than 1.3 million. Funded by the Russian state (a $30 million annual budget) it is a non-commercial organisation: by state law it can make money through advertising, but not profit. ... The channel's progress echoes the launch language of Al Jazeera English - it also currently broadcasts in Arabic - and a Spanish-language channel is set to launch at the end of the year. ... And what's next? Beyond the Spanish launch, viewers can expect new content specifically designed for a British audience in the future (audience values are so different from the US, says [RT head Margarita] Simonyan)" Judith Townend,, 12 October 2009. Like the old Radio Moscow, which had separate English services for the UK and for North America.
     "RT, the four-year-old English-language global television channel formerly known as Russia Today, has opened up all its content to rival networks for free use.", 12 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Imagining a second round of protests in Iran, with better communication.

Posted: 13 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Now, for one moment, imagine a second round of massive protests nationwide and the effects they might have if, unlike five months ago, Iranians had better access to communication tools for the exchange of information. If they could freely follow international radio and TV programs, and had unimpeded use of, and access to, the Internet and mobile phone systems. ... Recently, Reuters reported that the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors 'is covertly testing technology in Iran and China that lets residents break through Internet censorship imposed by their governments.' If confirmed, that could be good news. Maybe there is no need for either military actions or tougher economic sanctions that are widely thought to be counterproductive or ineffective. Providing Iranian people with tools of better communication and information would do the job, in concert with other political and economic components." Abbas Djavadi, associate director of broadcasting of RFE/RL, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 13 October 2009. "The views expressed in this commentary are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL."

Defense appropriations bill includes provisions for broadcasting to Iran, including shortwave.

Posted: 13 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
From the conference version of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Bill (HR 2647), Sec. 1262: "This provision authorizes $15 million in funding for the Broadcasting Board of Governors' International Broadcasting Operations Fund (funding normally dealt with under the Foreign Operations Appropriations and Foreign Affairs Authorization bills) in order to 'expand Farsi language programming and to provide for the dissemination of accurate and independent information to the Iranian people through radio, television, Internet, cellular telephone, short message service, and other communications.' Specifically, the funding is to 'develop additional transmission capability for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network to counter ongoing efforts to jam transmissions, including through additional shortwave and medium wave transmissions, satellite, and Internet mechanisms;' 'develop additional proxy server capability and anti-censorship software to counter efforts to block Radio Farda and Persian News Network Web sites; 'develop technologies to counter efforts to block SMS text message exchange over cellular phone networks;' 'expand program coverage and analysis by Radio Farda and the Persian News Network, including the development of broadcast platforms and programs, on the television, radio and Internet, for enhanced interactivity with and among the people of Iran;' 'hire, on a permanent or short-term basis, additional staff for Radio Farda and the Persian News Network;' and 'develop additional Internet-based, Farsi-language television programming, including a Farsi-language, Internet-based news channel.'" Lara Friedman, Americans for Peace Now, 9 October 2009. RFE/RL Radio Farda, VOA Persian News Network, and the new internet-based news channel will have to compete with one another for the "additional staff."

Conference on internet freedom in Vietnam.

Posted: 13 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Please join us for a briefing with leading experts on the state of Internet freedom in Vietnam on Wednesday, October 14th from 11:30am to 12:30pm in 121 Cannon House Office Building. To most of the world, the Internet is an amazing medium to share information, promote social and economic development, and bring people together. However, the government of Vietnam sees this open source of communication as a threat. As a result the Government of Vietnam has taken numerous actions to restrict internet freedom and censor private blogs in addition to imprisoning numerous Vietnamese bloggers and pro-democracy activists for peacefully advocating their views over the Internet." Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren, via Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), 12 October 2009.

In Beijing, did the foxes organize a conference about henhouses?

Posted: 12 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Dozens of worldwide media organizations agreed on Saturday to make concerted efforts to collaborate, achieve common development and provide accurate and transparent news to the public. The 300 media representatives from 170 companies had convened in Beijing for the World Media Summit to overcome the current challenges facing world media outlets in the fast-changing digital and multimedia era. The theme of the three-day summit, which was hosted by China’s Xinhua News Agency, was 'Cooperation, Action, Win-Win and Development.' ... The summit attracted representatives from The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Agence France-Presse, NHK, Canadian Press and Al Jazeera." JoongAng Daily, 12 October 2009.
     "To some it may seem a little odd that a country that engages in such widespread and all-powerful press control could host an international media summit and still keep a straight face, but it does not seem that way to China's President Hu Jintao. Bosses of the major media organisations from all over the world - including the BBC World Service, Reuters, CNN, Associated Press and the ABC - have gathered in Beijing for the conference." Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 10 October 2009.
     "New technologies are creating rapid changes in audience expectations, and China is a prime example of the global changes in communication, said Richard Jeremy Sambrook, director of the BBC's Global News. China has become the largest Internet market in the world with 338 million online users. It also tops the world's mobile phone market with a stunning cell phone population of over 680 million while more than 100 million users surf the Internet via mobile phones." China View, 10 October 2009.
     "Some don't believe we should be here at all without human rights and free expression being fully on the agenda. Others argue that soft power can flow in two directions - if the Chinese are opening the door to try to influence us, we can use the opportunity to influence them." Richard Sambrook, SacredFacts, 9 October 2009.
     "An August Qiu Shi article complained about the dominance of the global media by a small number of conglomerates like Murdoch and Time Warner. But in China oversight of CCTV and Xinhua is consolidated in the hands of the Party. When Li Congjun, head of the Xinhua News Agency and chief organizer of last week's event, noted during the summit that 'there is some misunderstanding" that Xinhua was a "traditional media organization,' Human Rights Watch researcher Nicholas Bequelin said he thought Li was preparing to be unusually candid about the Party's role in news coverage. Instead, Li went on to describe Xinhua's extensive multimedia offerings. ... At a time when the media is still hemorrhaging from the economic downturn and the Internet-led destruction of traditional advertising and subscription models, China has money to spend and offers new markets for foreign media. The risks are high. Not only could Western media players miss out on a big deal in China, they could sell their soul to win one." Austin Ramzy, Time, 12 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     "The Chinese government’s effort to prevent dissident authors from taking part in the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair, an international showcase for freedom of expression, has offered Germany a close-up view of China’s intolerance of dissent. In September, two Chinese writers, journalist Dai Qing and poet Bei Ling, had their invitations to the fair revoked by German event organizers after China’s organizing committee complained. The Chinese delegation threatened a boycott over invitations to the writers for a September symposium promoting the Frankfurt Book Fair, which begins on October 14. China is the 'guest of honor' at this year's fair." Christopher Walker and Sarah Cook, Far Eastern Economic Review, 12 October 2009.
     "China's top 10 international friends, who have made exceptional contributions to the country in the past 100 years, have been selected by Chinese netizens after 40 days of online voting, the sponsor China Radio International (CRI) announced on Monday. ... Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor who died during the Anti-Japanese War in the 1930s [after] saving Chinese soldiers' lives ... won the most votes with more than 4.6 million.", 12 October 2009.

Another jazz musician inspired by Conover on VOA.

Posted: 12 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Polish-born percussionist Les Blachut: "My parents knew I wanted to be a musician when I (being less than 1 year old) hit the keys of a piano and they couldn't get me off of it. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician when I heard jazz on Willis Conover's The Voice of America short wave radio broadcast. The first thing I heard was Charlie Parker's unreleased take of 'Parker's Mood,' and that is still one of my most favorite recordings."
All About Jazz, 12 October 2009.

Cold Waves, film about RFE Romanian, showing in Budapest.

Posted: 12 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"A series of Romanian films, including award-winning productions, will be premiered in Budapest's National Film Theatre during the Romanian film week to start next Monday. The first film to be screened will be Alecu Solomon's 'Cold Waves', a story about Romanians, Germans, Americans and Frenchmen fighting for the survival or the demise of Radio Free Europe (RFE) during the 1970s and 1980s. The screening will be preceded by a panel discussion with one-time RFE staff members and historian Ioana Toma." MTI, 10 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     "Former anti-communist dissident Doina Cornea on Friday got the decoration of Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honour, a decoration that was handed to her by French Ambassador in Bucharest Henri Paul. ... Doina Cornea is 80 and was an anti-communist dissident. She was arrested for spreading anti-Ceausescu leaflets. She also voiced several protests at Radio Free Europe and after 1989 she became a member of the Christian Democratic National Peasant Party, a historical party." Agerpres, 9 October 2009.

TVUPlayer is another way to bring international channels to iPhone and PC.

Posted: 12 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"TVU Networks, the leading provider of live Internet TV services and developer of TVUPlayer, announced today that it has exceeded the milestone of one million downloads for TVUPlayer on the iPhone and the iPod touch. The PC-based TVUPlayer has been downloaded by over 50 million viewers in 220 countries to date. Now, the same great channels that viewers watch with TVUPlayer on the PC and Mac, are available on the iPhone over WiFi connections. TVU's 400 live television channels from around the world, including top tier channels such as Deutsche Welle and Telemundo, international sports such as cricket, and alternative niche programming are now live on the iPhone." TVU Networks press release, 8 October 2009. And a few other international channels, such as Channel News Asia, plus all CCTV and many other Chinese channels.

VOA Somali FM relays in Puntland resume after nine-day ban.

Posted: 12 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The government in Somalia's Puntland State has lifted the temporary ban from the Voice of America's Somali Service programs, which were re-broadcasted via local FM radio stations, Radio Garowe reports. ... The VOA Somali Service’s temporary ban Puntland lasted nine days and the press release noted that the program was allowed to resume operations after discussions between the Puntland government and the U.S. State Department.", 10 October 2009.
     "Authorities in Somalia's breakaway Puntland region on Friday allowed local FM radio stations to resume rebroadcasting of Voice of America Somali language programmes. The programmes were ordered off air last week for failing to 'objectively and accurately report about Puntland affairs,' the region's information and telecommunication ministry said in a statement. They were allowed to broadcast again after talks between Puntland authorities, US state department officials and the US embassy in Kenya, the statement said." AFP, 10 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

At Conservatives conference, William Hague shout-out to BBC "foreign language services" (updated).

Posted: 12 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
William Hague, Conservative shadow foreign secretary, at the 2009 Conservatives Party Conference: "Given the growth of the power of nations that do not share all our assumptions on the great value of freedom and democracy, and the relative shrinking of Britain’s and Europe’s economic weight, we must all the more uphold our own values, doing so not by imposing them on others but by being an inspiring example of them ourselves. The country that drove the slave trade from the seas two hundred years ago can still be one of the greatest forces for common humanity. ... It is why we see such a strong role for the British Council and the foreign language services of the BBC. It is why we are so strict in denouncing the use of torture against friend or foe.", 8 October 2009. Note that Mr. Hague specifies the foreign language services of BBC. This might be because some Conservatives lately have had issues with BBC domestic. Or merely because only BBC international broadcasting would be within his remit.
     "Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has dashed hopes that he might use his major speech at the Conservative party conference to flesh out his party's media policy. ... Hunt has spoken at three fringe events including 'BBC World Service and BBC World News: Blogs and Ballots - world politics in the age of social media' on Monday (5 October)... ." MediaWeek, 7 October 2009. About this event I can find nothing other than Robin Lustig, BBCWS presenter, was chair, and that refreshments were served. Update: David Murphy in Dresden writes: "The discussion was edited and broadcast as a 'special edition' of the BBC WS programme called Politics UK, available at: Podcast at"

Al Jazeera reporters will embed with UK forces in Afghanistan.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Reporters from the controversial Arab TV channel Al Jazeera - infamous for broadcasting video messages from Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden - are to be allowed to report for the first time alongside UK troops from the frontline in Afghanistan. Until now, so-called 'embeds' in Helmand Province, where most UK troops are fighting, have been restricted to British media outlets such as the BBC, ITV and Sky, plus US TV stations. ... The MoD claims its decision was made in order to reach millions of Muslims and Arabs in the UK and the rest of the world who might otherwise be denied the chance to see how British Forces are trying to free the Afghans from Taliban rule. It is keen to persuade the Arab world that, unlike the Taliban, British forces make extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties in the conflict." Christopher Leake, Daily Mail, 10 October 2009.

Interviews from IPI terrorism and media conference.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Riem Higazi of Austrian public broadcaster ORF attended the International Press Institute's conference "The War on Words - Terrorism, Media, and the Law," the purpose of which was "discussing and drafting a declaration with regards to a code of conduct for journalists reporting on terrorism." She conducted interviews (in English) with participants, including one with Ibrahim Helal: Deputy Managing Director, News and Programming, Al Jazeera English, "the man who interviewed Osama Bin Laden three times (including once post 9/11)." ORF FM4, 9 October 2009, with link to audio. Despite a few instances of Euroantiamericanism, the interviews are interesting and worth a listen.

Geo TV blocked again in Pakistan.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Geo News and some other TV channels were once again blocked by the [Pakistan Peoples Party] government on Saturday afternoon, an action replay of the Musharraf-era. The action was taken allegedly for 'objectionable' coverage of the GHQ terrorist attack, but the Pakistan Army officially announced that it had no objection to the coverage and asked the government to reopen the channels. Geo TV, however, remained shut in the afternoon while three other channels, which were also closed, were reopened shortly." The News (Karachi), 11 October 2009.
     "Throughout the siege, people tuned into Pakistani and international channels like BBC, CNN, Sky News and Al-Jazeera to keep abreast of the latest developments." Press Trust of India, 11 October 2009.

China Radio International content will be rebroadcast in Pakistan.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) and China Radio International (CRI) the two major broadcasting houses have agreed to join hands for cooperation with each other. This was stated by Director General of PBC Murtaza Solangi after meeting with Vice President of CRI Wang Yunpeng here Friday. ... The MoU would provide CRI to broadcast its various programmes for one hour on PBC network. The CRI, he further said would help PBC in setting up FM Radio Stations in major cities of Pakistan." Associated Press of Pakistan, 9 October 2009.

At ITU, Mugabe criticizes radio services targeting Zimbabwe.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Zimbabwe "President Robert Mugabe yesterday made an appearance at the ITU Telecom World in Geneva, Switzerland. International sanctions prevent Mugabe from travelling within Europe but United Nations events are exempt from the ban - and the ITU is an agency of the UN. Hence his visit. The oxygen of publicity and all that. In his address to the Council of Ministers, Mugabe, yet again, could not resist stirring things up and taking a sideswipe at the mysterious cabal of 'certain western countries' that, he alleges, is working to depose him and re-impose imperialism and colonisation on Zimbabwe. In his closing remarks Mugabe said he was 'registering Zimbabwe's dismay at the continued violation of her airwaves by certain western countries whose radio broadcasting systems have targeted my country to further these countries' obnoxious regime change agendas.' ... Mugabe was apparently referring to the Voice of America's Studio Seven, which broadcasts from Washington into Zimbabwe on a daily basis, London-based SW Radioafrica and the Voice of the People." Martyn Warwick, Association of Zimbabwe Journalists, 8 October 2009.

Radio Netherlands prevails in legal action by Al-Hurra University.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Al-Hurra University in The Hague has failed in its attempt to be granted an injunction against Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The Arabic university argued it had been misrepresented in RNW reports. The reports said the impression was given that students of the university could gain degrees, but that Al-Hurra diplomas were not recognised in the Netherlands. The Amsterdam court ruled that RNW had not acted wrongfully and that neither rectification nor the payment of damages were necessary." Radio Netherlands, 8 October 2009. No relation to Alhurra, the US-funded television channel.

International television -- in 1930.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Radio 4 has broadcast an item in their Making History show about the reception during the 1930's of USA TV transmissions in the UK by pioneering Radio Amateurs such as Douglas Walters G5CV. Could a well-known ‘radio ham’ have picked up television signals from America in 1930, more than three decades before the Telstar satellite enabled regular transmissions across the Atlantic? ... Early TV signals used both the Short Wave and Medium Wave radio bands and this meant that they could be picked up over considerable distances (particularly at night). The scientific reasons were little understood at the time, but it explains Walters success in picking up test transmissions from New York." Southgate Amateur Radio Club, 8 October 2009.

New Livestation player provides more options to receive international channels.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The online video portal Livestation will soon launch its new dedicated player for free download. New features include Twitter integration, multiscreen and the ability to subscribe to premium services. Livestation offers live streams of news channels including BBC World News, Al Jazeera and Euronews and is available both in the browser (using Flash) and a dedicated player for PC, Mac and Linux. ... Viewers will be able to chose between up to three different download speeds, according to their broadband subscription. At the moment, only Al Jazeera offers a premium subscription on the portal. On a technical level, Livestation was recently in the news for building an application which allows live streaming of channels to the iPhone. "The BBC asked us to build it and we came up with it in two months time,' said Daniel Adams, VP Business development." Robert Briel, Broadband TV News, 8 October 2009.

As ad dollars dwindle, BBC Worldwide plans pay-per-view in the USA.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The commercial arm of the BBC, BBC Worldwide, is planning to launch a pay-per-view iPlayer-esque service in the States where 20 million of's 50 million users are. The online video portal might offer some catch-up US content for free, but would charge for 'premium catalogue material' and archive programming. Such material includes the likes of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Top Gear, all of which do well in the States, but would be offered for a little more than consumers are used to paying on iTunes." Pocket-lint, 7 October 2009.
     “'It’s inevitable that we, the digital media business, need to move to a mix of paid services,' [ MD Luke Bradley-Jones] said. 'There just aren’t enough ad dollars to support traditional media models. Consumers will pay for services they truly value… we can exploit many more monetisable opportunities, including in the paid space.' The proposal will require BBC Trust approval." paidContent:UK, 7 October 2009.

BBC America: broadcaster and target divided by a common language.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"If the development of cabler BBC America is a work in progress, the progress is nothing to dismiss. For the chief Yankee in King Arthur's smallscreen court, BBC Worldwide America prexy Garth Ancier, it has been a rollicking adventure, requiring nerve, flexibility and patience all at once. ... Distribution for BBC America has grown to just shy of 65 million homes, but that's still roughly two-thirds of its potential audience. ... BBC America continues to emphasize adventure, fantasy and science fiction ('Doctor Who,' 'Torchwood') along with nonscripted shows like 'Top Gear,' because, as Ancier says, American audiences struggle more with British accents in contemporary, everyday fiction. ... Already, BBC Worldwide is more pursuing 'true co-productions between the U.K. TV networks and BBC America,' that would fit BBC America's Blighty-flavored niche, with the not-so-fringe benefit of being saleable to U.K. networks." Jon Weisman, Variety, 9 October 2009.

Listening habits of the BBC World Service English-language audience.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"After the appearance of Anne Koch, Deputy Director of the World Service in English on last week's programme and Rajan's appeal to tell us more about your listening habits - we were inundated with responses. As there were far too many to include in this week's edition, I thought I'd use this post to summarise what you said. We heard from lots of internet listeners - but perhaps that's because they were the people who were already seated at their computers and so could fire off an e-mail. They included Jayne Solesbury in Rome, Claire Buckley in Hong Kong (who also listens on shortwave) and John Parsons and Hope Smith in the United States. Lots of internet listeners seemed to listen for very long periods of time. Joyce Brennan says she has World Service streaming all day and all night! ... Listening on mobile phones seems to be growing. Jackie used hers to text Over to You and say she listens for three hours every morning this way. But she tunes to other stations in the afternoon when she finds the same programmes coming back on the BBC." Penny Vine, "Over to You," BBC World Service, 9 October 2009.
     "For ten days or more, before he sets off, Nick [Baker] is enlisting the help of you the BBC World Service audience on air and online - finding stories of local internet cafes from listeners and web users. If it's on his way, he might drop in." BBCWS, 9 October 2009.

Former BBCWS director heads international child sponsorship charity.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Nigel Chapman can pinpoint the encounter that sparked a life-changing decision. For the former director of the BBC World Service, the decision to abandon a successful broadcasting career after 30 years came down to a few grains of rice. 'I went to Bangladesh and saw a girl picking up rice in the market,' he says. 'She was about ten years old, very poorly dressed, scrabbling around in the dusty market. I asked her what she did with the rice and she said she tried to eat it but often it got stolen. She couldn’t even protect the 20 grains of rice she picked up off the street.' ... Mr Chapman took up a post as chief executive of Plan International, a development charity that works with children, having been a trustee of its UK branch for six years. ... Despite its sponsorship base, he believes that Plan International needs to adapt. 'Any organisation that has been around a long time, whether the World Service or Plan, can become too introspective and look in on itself rather than out at the world,' he says." Emily Ford, The Times, 9 October 2009.

Malaysia testing DRM shortwave for domestic broadcasting.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Radio Television Malaysia "radio stations have not only started planning for the dawn of digital radio but its implementation is also underway. ... For short wave the use of DRM is best. With DRM, one can use analog and digital but DAB+ can only be used for digital transmissions. 'In most of our radio stations, we use FM except in Kajang and Kuching where we have DRM and also for Suara Malaysia and Suara Islam stations, short wave transmission is used. However for Suara Islam and Suara Malaysia we have introduced Internet protocol.' Datuk Ibrahim [DG or RTM Department of Broadcasting] goes on to explain that it was in the year 2008 that the DRM trial run was carried out in Kajang and MCMC has reported good transmission on DRM is received all over the country including Sarawak. 'Our ultimate goal is for all major stations to be equipped with DAB+. DRM will be mainly for areas which need their own transmitter, such as rural areas surrounded by hills and mountains.'", 7 October 2009. What will they use for DRM receivers, which are still generally unavailable?

Projecting America to Asia: Desperate Housewives, Funniest Home Videos, etc.

Posted: 11 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Malaysia's "Media Prima Bhd has renewed a multi-year deal with The Walt Disney Company's integrated distribution arm, Disney-ABC International Television (DAIT) Asia Pacific. This will ensure that viewers of TV3, ntv7 and 8TV get the latest and most successful content available this season, Media Prima said in a statement today. The agreement covered a range of live action TV series from ABC Studios, which year-on-year delivers some of the most successful series on television, it said. The TV series included 'FlashForward' which was launched in the United States to much fanfare on Sept 24, 2009, as well as highly-rated 'Grey’s Anatomy' and 'Desperate Housewives'." New Straits Times, 8 October 2009.
     "Disney-ABC International Television (DAIT) has for the first time entered into a multi-year deal with [India's] Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) for first-run content. The multi-year volume deal with The Walt Disney Company’s international distribution arm will provide Zee access to some of the top-rated live action series. Some of the titles from the ABC Studios portfolio include Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, Gary Unmarried, Brothers and Sisters and the long-running America’s Funniest Home Videos. ... 'Given that the content will premiere on our channel in India, we are confident that it will be received with a lot of excitement.'", 8 October 2009.
     "Disney is increasing its coproduction activities in Asia, with two animated series already in the works in China and plans progressing for local versions of hit dramas like Desperate Housewives. Rob Gilby, senior VP and MD of Disney-ABC International Asia Pacific, told C21 that India, China, Korea and Indonesia were all showing great growth potential, but that the Mouse needed local partners to cash in on this.", 8 October 2009.

Thinly sliced baloney: 162 news channels serve Europe.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
One hundred sixty-two (162) "news channels both national and international are currently available in Europe (the European Union and the two candidate countries Croatia and Turkey). Among these, ●32 European channels appear to have an explicit international remit. These include the well-known channels: Al Jazeera, BBC World News, CCTV-9, CNN International, Deutsche Welle, Euronews (8 linguistic versions), France 24 (3 languages), Russia Today and Sky News International. Each of these channels is distributed in more than 20 countries in Europe. ●87 channels have essentially national remits. However, a detailed analysis of the lists of channels offered on the main distribution platforms in Europe (cable, satellite, IPTV, 3G TV, mobile TV…) shows that a certain number of national news channels also have a strategy regarding their international presence. Hence, the Spanish public service channel Canal 24 Horas is available in 16 European countries and the German channels n-tv and N24 are distributed in 15 countries. The Fox News Channel, ZDF infokanal and Rainews24 are also present in close to ten countries. ●43 news channels are established outside Europe (EU 27 + Croatia and Turkey) but are available in at least one European country. About 40% of these are serving Arabic communities and are mostly broadcast in Arabic. English, French, Persian, Korean and Russian language channels are also significant. ... The multiplication of news channels has given rise to an even more fiercely competitive market, where competition is already driven by high production costs and low audience shares (2 to 3% of the national total audience)." European Commission press release, 2 October 2009.

By thinking of it as "soft power," China lacks a "correct understanding" of news.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"China is seeking to expand its 'soft power' around the world through an international propaganda offensive in which its Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is investing billions of dollars. ... China’s status as guest of honor at next week’s Frankfurt Book Fair is also part of its 'soft power' campaign as is a World Media Summit, to which Xinhua invited representatives from 100 foreign media outlets to Beijing this week. The CCP’s most important propaganda arm organized the conference to create a platform for itself to discuss global media challenges on an equal footing with independent news organizations from other countries and to seek possible new cooperation. In the meantime, China is striving to build its own international media empires, following the Western examples of Time Warner Inc and News Corp." DPA, 9 October 2009.
     "To enable the world to have a correct understanding of China, people in the country cannot count on 'Western media to be fair and objective to China on the whole in their reportages some day,' and still less to expect them to take the initiative in filling in an ideological gap or chasm left over by history. To introduce worldwide China's real situation, including the longstanding Chinese culture and social ethnics, the socialism with Chinese characteristics, and the nation's domestic and external policies, it should depend primarily on the communicating capacity of Chinese people, whereas China's public diplomacy is precisely a vital, crucial way of increasing such capacity. In this endeavor, Chinese citizens should further raise their awareness about public diplomacy. This is not only a sort of responsibility but an embodiment of patriotic feelings. Only when people have undergone a solid, basic training by acquainting themselves with their concrete national conditions and situation elsewhere in the world, can they obtain high attainments for public diplomacy." Zhao Qizhen, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and dean of the School of Journalism & Communications at Renmin (People's) University of China, People's Daily, 9 January 2009. This approach may not move any needles, except perhaps for the fact that the needles are probably manufactured in China.

Professor says State's social media program has no comparison to VOA.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In my story today on the State Department's grant program to increase the availability of social media and online learning tools in the Middle East, George Washington University professor Henry Farrell calls the program a 'sophisticated and interesting approach' to 21st century diplomacy and democracy-building. Given how the events following the Iranian election in June captured the world's attention online, I think most can agree that there is a great deal of untapped potential in social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, particularly when it comes to increasing citizen engagement. Developing an infrastructure that will allow for the free exchange of ideas is probably the first step towards crafting a sustainable democracy, which is why Farrell was so encouraged by the State Department's new approach. During our conversation, I compared the new program to Voice of America, which has been broadcasting the American perspective internationally since World War II, but Farrell didn't agree with the analogy. 'This is different. We want to build a platform, create civil societies, educate people and see what they have to say,' he replied." Gautham Nagesh,, 9 October 2009. VOA is developing its own social media tools, including Twitter accounts and, for news, English teaching, and audience feedback, rather than "the American perspective." For the American perspective, see on Facebook or on Twitter (3,304 followers).
     "State said priority will be given to applications that leverage existing social media platforms to improve the ability of Middle Eastern citizens to engage with one another, exchange information in real time and provide an outlet for them to freely discuss political issues. It also states applicants should take into account 'Internet access penetration, connections speeds, costs to users and other functional aspects of new media in the region, including censorship, cultural barriers, nuances of local dialect or language, and infrastructure shortcomings when designing projects.'" Gautham Nagesh,, 9 October 2009.

How to get rich? Develop software that blocks Twitter in the USA but allows it to get through in China and Iran.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"An arrest of a New Yorker for using Twitter to alert anti-capitalist protesters at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh to police movements would be deemed a human rights violation if it happened in Iran or China and raises free speech concerns, experts and rights activists say. Pittsburgh police arrested Elliot Madison, 41, on September 24, the first day of a meeting of leaders from the G20 rich and developing nations, and accused him of using the online social networking site to help protesters avoid apprehension. ... But the U.S. government's Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, is covertly testing technology in Iran and China that lets residents break through Internet censorship imposed up by their governments." Michelle Nichols, Reuters, 7 October 2009. To avoid apprehension, or to avoid apprehension? And speaking of which, Madison was arrested in his room at the Carefree Inn in suburban Pittsburgh. See Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 5 October 2009.

Today is (if it catches on) the first Internet Human Rights Day.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"(Fifteen) Chinese intellectuals have issued a Declaration of Internet Human Rights, suggesting that netizens of China and the world celebrate October 10th to be Internet Human Rights Day." The first principle of which: "Freedom of speech on the Internet is a part of citizens’ rights to freedom of speech. It is the most basic human rights and the most fundamental value that should be pursued, treasured and protected." Rebecca MacKinnon, RConversation, 10 October 2009. MacKinnon adds: "Netizens of the world, act now to protect your rights."
     Thanks to RS for news tip. The date 10 October might inject a problematically partisan note to the proceedings. It is the anniversary of the 1911 Wuchang Uprising, which established the Republic of China, which was overthrown by the communists in 1949 and forced to move to Taiwan. The Republic of China on Taiwan was not democratic until late in the 20th century. Perhaps a better date would be 25 January, because on that date in 1999, the Republic of China on Taiwan officially ended its baojin system of control over newspapers. It shows that, in a Chinese entity, a free press can flourish without things falling apart.

Foreign channels on Russian cable may face licensing issues.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Foreign channels are facing the real prospect of losing distribution on cable networks in Russia. Kommersant reports that the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, IT and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) have met with representatives of at least one international broadcaster to discuss how they could align their activities with Russian legislation. It was first announced last May that Roskomnadzor plans to bring some order into a market in which foreign channels, with apparently the exception of the BBC and euronews, apparently operate without a Russian licence." Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News, 6 October 2009.
     "'We comply with the law,' said a Discovery spokesperson. 'From time to time we consult with officials to ensure our ongoing compliance with local laws.'" Vladimir Kozlov, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

New RFE/RL program for South Ossetia and Abkhazia; Itar-Tass doubts the postulation (updated).

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"RFE/RL will launch a news program in Russian to the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The new 60-minute daily radio broadcast, called Ekho Kavkaza (Echo of the Caucasus), will focus on local and international news and current affairs. ... Journalists from RFE/RL's Georgian and Russian services will contribute to Ekho Kavkaza from Georgia (including South Ossetia and Abkhazia), Russia, and Prague. The program will also feature a Russian-language website with news, photos, audio clips, and video." RFE/RL press release, 7 October 2009.
     "An Internet portal in Prague said RFE/RL staff member Andrei Babitsky, who has made his name notorious in the past by interviewing the terrorist Shamil Basayev, will coordinate the new program. [RFE/RL spokesman Martins] Zvaners confirmed on his part that Babitsky has a position in this program but it is an open question yet whether he will chair the whole project. ... The objective of this programming is reconciliation and the bridging of different viewpoints expressed by the parties to the processes that are unfolding in the region, the executive claimed. Doubts over the latter postulation arise, however, from the fact that the stance of the U.S. Administration of the problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains one-sided and prejudiced. ... Following the end of the Cold War and the loss of the previous ideological platform of their existence, U.S. propaganda mouthpieces have been waging a fight for survival, which means the preserving of budget allocations. This prompts RFE/RL and other 'radio voices' to seek out hotbeds of tensions in the post-Soviet space where the White House might need the application of their efforts." Itar-Tass, 7 October 2009.
     The wording of the Itar-Tass "news" item demonstrates why international broadcasts to Russia and vicinity are still needed. But what will the new service be called? Radio Free Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Radio Free Abkhazia/Radio Free South Ossetia? Either one of those repeated several times could wear out the transmitters. It will probably just be "Ekho Kavkaza" on Радио Свобода.
     Update: "In Abkhazia, you can tune into a dozen radio stations. The audience in this small republic by the Black Sea gets to choose between Russian, Georgian, Abkhazian and even Turkish broadcasters." RT (Russia Today), 10 October 2009, with link to detailed, if not especially balanced, video report.

RT (Russia Today) and its tabloid tendencies.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"One of the wonders of the digital age is the ability to travel around the world's national news shows by a mere tap of the TV remote. On 9-11 the news shows from country after country were remembering the mass terrorist attack on America in 2001. They were all in basic sympathy with America. Except one -- Russia Today (RT). Flipping the channel to RT, I found myself in a different universe. A universe of anti-American conspiracy theories. A show about whether to believe 9-11 was an inside job by the American Government. One should give RT credit: at least it's different. Not for RT the me-too journalism of the respectable Western daily papers. More like the supermarket tabloids with the Aliens Sighted headlines. ... Conspiracy theory is something RT is providing more and more often, not just for 9-11. On just about any American topic in the news, RT pops up with a conspiracy theory. ... The practice of coming up with fanciful economic conspiracies is also often seen on RT. It's an echo of Marxist-Leninist days, when regime journalists would regularly point to sinister economic interests as the explanation for anything, and any one, it didn't like." Ira Straus,, 9 October 2009.
     As I've written before, RT can often be charming and fun to watch. But it does have a penchant for conspiracy theories. RT will have to take its journalistic function more seriously if it is to be a significant player in international broadcasting. (RT no longer refers to itself as Russia Today. It's not as if the Russia Today brand had been around long enough for people to get in the habit of using the RT abbreviation. And "RT" does not roll off the tongue as compfortably as, say, "BBC" or "CNN" or "NHK.")
     "On one occasion a nuclear submarine, which was on a combat mission in the Pacific Ocean, detected six unknown objects. After the crew failed to leave behind their pursuers by maneuvering, the captain ordered to surface. The objects followed suit, took to the air, and flew away." Russia Today, 21 July 2009.
     "Millions of residents in Moscow witnessed a strange bright ring-shaped cloud hanging over the city’s western districts on Wednesday. Scientists from the city’s weather forecast service say there is nothing supernatural about it, however." RT, 8 October 2009.
     "It’s always worth watching Russia Today for laughs — and to remind ourselves how Al-Hurra probably looks like to Arab audiences." Nathan Hodge, Wired Danger Room, 7 October 2009. I don't have Arabic, but I don't think Alhurra is given to conspiracy theories.

Radio Moscow's past, and Voice of Russia's future.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"On October 29, 1929, Radio Moscow – the Soviet Union’s first try at foreign propaganda – became the first radio station in the world to broadcast to an international audience. It was followed three years later by the BBC, and then by Voice of America in 1942. By 1939, the station was broadcasting in English, French, German, Italian and Arabic and warning the world about the growth of fascism in Europe. Mussolini personally ordered Radio Moscow to be blocked, as did Hitler following the onset of the Second World War. ... Hence, Radio Moscow – called Voice of Russia since 1991 – developed its vast international broadcasting network in languages such as Urdu, Bengali and Pashto. Today, the station broadcasts in 38 languages – more than any other network – to 160 countries." Andrei Bistritsky, head of Voice of Russia: “We plan to develop broadcasting over the internet – already a reality – and over mobile-phone networks. We’ll also have to get an FM station in the US and open our own bureau in Washington. The main problem is financing: our budget remains a state secret, but I can tell you that it should be at least three times as large. ... While we’re a single radio station, each of our languages is a separate media outlet. We try to maintain a somewhat unified editorial line that directs content, but it’s not always easy." Artem Zagorodnov, Russia Now supplement (the content of which Rossiyskaya Gazeta takes sole responsibility) via The Telegraph, 7 October 2009. See also Voice of Russia website.

Croat sacked by RFE/RL sues Czech Republic in human rights court.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has officially registered a suit against the Czech Republic submitted by a Croat that claims national discrimination. The Czech Republic, claims Snjezana Pelivan, a Croat who has resided in Prague since 1995, failed to safeguard her rights to non-discrimination and a fair trial guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Pelivan was employed as a marketing manager by American Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). After several years of work, her employment was terminated in June 2005 without any reason stated orally or in writing, any prior warning or previous disciplinary measures, and without severance pay because she had refused to agree in writing with her dismissal and, also in writing, to give up her right of appeal. ... The RFE/RL policy manual stipulates that 'RFE/RL's relationship with its employees is governed by an "employment-at-will" philosophy. That means that either party may terminate an agreement at any time for any reason.'" Croatian Times, 7 October 2009. See also ČTK, 7 September 2009.

Former RFE/RL president will "spruce up the image of" Alhurra and Radio Sawa.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Former RFE/RL president Tom Dine "has been hired as a communications consultant by Middle East Broadcasting Networks, a U.S. government–funded nonprofit devoted to courting the region’s Arabs. MBN, which was created by an act of Congress in 2003, operates a television station, al-Hurra (Arabic for 'the free one'), and a radio station, Radio Sawa. ... Dine, who was hired about a month ago, was brought in to spruce up the image of MBN, which has been tarnished during the past few years due to allegations of financial mismanagement, biased news reporting, low ratings and a general lack of professionalism. MBN approached Dine because his 'vast experience and understanding of U.S. international broadcasting and the Middle East' make him well suited to present MBN’s case to opinion shapers such as media outlets, universities and think tanks, according to Deirdre Kline, director of communications at MBN. ... Dine could not be reached for comment for this article, as Kline said in an e-mail he was 'unavailable for an interview.'" Richard Greenberg, J. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, 8 October 2009. MBN is not "courting" Arabs. It is providing them with news. I hope Mr. Dine can find a way for media outlets, universities and think tanks to understand that concept. See previous posts on 19 September and 29 September 2009.

"Deewa is on top of the list." For now.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Visiting leaders from Pakistan toured the Washington facilities of Deewa Radio (Radio Light), with several participating in a call-in show produced by the Voice of America's (VOA) popular Pashto radio service for the war-torn Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. 'I pay tribute to Deewa for its role, and it is very effective,' said parliamentarian Jafar Shah from the North West Frontier Province in the Swat area. ... 'I can tell you everybody listens to radio in that part of the world,' said Muhammad Sher... . 'Deewa is on top in the list.'" Along with news, Deewa provides information about health, shelter, food, social issues, education, science and culture. The program reaches people in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and elsewhere." VOA press release, 7 October 2009. See previous post about Deewa's new competitor, soon to come on the air.

Senate hearing on international broadcasting.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold the hearing "U.S. International Broadcasting into the War Zones: Iraq and Afghanistan," 15 October at 2:30 pm. Witnesses are Joaquin Blaya, D. Jeffery Hirschberg, and Steven J. Simmons, members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), until recently a member of the BBG, will preside. Senate Foreign Relations Committee announcement.
     I'm sure one of the issues to be discussed will be the competition faced by elements of US international broadcasting. In Iraq, Radio Free Iraq faces competition from Radio Sawa. And vice versa. In Afghanistan, RFE/RL Radio Azadi faces competition from VOA Radio Ashna. And vice versa. Soon, in the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier region, VOA Deewa Radio will face competition from the new RFE/RL Radio Azadi service for that region. And vice versa.

Clinton and Gates as public diplomacy tag team on CNN (updated).

Posted: 09 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are to join CNN's Christiane Amanpour for an exclusive roundtable discussion this week, looking at the global challenges now facing America. The war in Afghanistan, nuclear tension with Iran and global efforts to combat terrorism are all on the agenda in what is expected to be a compelling discussion in Washington D.C. ... This special edition of Amanpour, where Christiane will be joined by Frank Sesno, Director of George Washington's School of Media and Public Affairs, will air on both CNN International and CNN/U.S. on Tuesday, 6 October at 15.00 ET/21.00 ET[sic]." CNN, 5 October 2009. The 21.00 is actually Central European Summer Time, same at 1900 UTC. "Amanpour." is usually seen weekdays only on CNN International, so this will be a special play on CNN domestic. See previous post about same subject.
     Update: On the other side, the tag team consisted of Amanpour and Frank Sesno, director of the George Washington School of Media and Public Affairs. "Sesno: Let's talk about 21st century diplomacy and how it's changed and -- and what you're doing, because you both addressed this, different terminology that's often used. In one particular area, information, I want to talk a little bit for a moment here. You call it strategic communication, you call it public diplomacy, but it's connecting with the rest of the world. It's learning back from what others are saying. It's influencing leaders and persuading publics and knocking down myths or propaganda and maybe, in some cases, propagandizing ourselves. A lot of this is now done by the military. There is no one person in charge of this. How should this very important information battle be waged and who Should be in command? ... Clinton: You know, a -- a battlefield conflict zone requires the military to respond to, you know, rumors, attacks. They have to have a strategic communications effort. But it must be part of a broader national public diplomacy outreach effort." State Department transcript, 5 October 2009.

BBC World Service Trust radio drama promotes gender equality in India.

Posted: 09 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) is to launch an ambitious new FM radio drama series in India, designed to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women. Life Gulmohar Style, a 156-part Hindi-language radio drama, will broadcast beginning Wednesday 7 October, three times a week for one year. Telling the story of five young people in search of their destiny, Life Gulmohar Style is funny, romantic and serious. The drama deals with a host of issues facing women today, including their sexual and reproductive health, violence, and their roles and responsibilities in a changing India – all in an entertaining way that stimulates listeners to question negative attitudes about women. ... [Director] Pervaiz Alam said: 'It’s a sad fact that the genre of radio drama is declining in many countries, including India. But with the launch of Life Gulmohar Style, arguably, India’s first FM Radio drama in the form of a long-running serial, we are trying to tap the newer and younger audiences who are tuning into FM radio.'" BBC World Service Trust, 30 September 2009. I don't know exactly how to describe the relationship between BBC World Service Trust and BBC World Service. BBC WST uses various media to promote for good causes, but that content generally does not find its way into BBC World Service itself, which, in its quest to remain neutral and objective, should not promote anything, no matter how worthy.

BBC World Service reports from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Posted: 09 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Forum, a BBC World Service weekly discussion show that brings together acclaimed thinkers to explore and challenge thoughts and ideas from outside their own discipline, is recording a series of programmes in partnership with ABC Radio National and Radio New Zealand during October. Presented by the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Bridget Kendall, The Forum will be recording a series of programmes with leading thinkers, writers and scientists from the region at the Sydney Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the Melbourne International Arts Festival and the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, with lively audiences participating in all recordings. New Zealand's contribution from Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, co-hosted by Radio New Zealand and the BBC World Service, will be recorded on Saturday 10 October when the programme addresses what makes us human, the human heart and human values.", 7 October 2009.

New Turner Broadcasting website markets content to Asia Pacific.

Posted: 09 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, Inc. (TBSAP) has announced at MIPCOM the launch of a brand new syndication marketplace to enable buyers to search and preview a vast collection of well-established television programs under the Turner brand. These include, amongst others, content from the world’s leading 24-hour news network CNN International, truTV featuring real-life stories told from an exciting first-person perspective and Adult Swim offering original and acquired animated live action series for young adults. Continuing Turner’s ongoing growth in the Asia Pacific region, the new site is overseen by a syndication team aim to meet buyer demand for quality programs under the Turner brand. The team in Hong Kong oversees local sales representatives across Australia and New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Greater China, South East Asia and South Asia.", 5 October 2009.

Terrorists and their multi-modal mobile phones.

Posted: 09 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Prakash Mirchandai, a visiting fellow at the [Australian National University] Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda had successfully harnessed technologies such as video and mobile phones to bypass Coalition messages conveyed by mainstream media. 'If you look at where the Taliban is getting its message across to the non-committed Afghanis it is through video,' he said. 'They’re shooting Jihadist videos which are very sophistically edited and put on DVDs and the Internet.' ... ... 'The future is in mobile phones which are a radio, a camera, a phone, GPS, and listening device all in one,' ... 'The challenge [for the US] is language expertise — and that’s desperately short — and secondly, credible voices; what is the credible message and who is the credible voice delivering it?' he said. 'You can use all the technology in the world, but if the basic message is unsound, then you’re not going to convince anyone.'" Tim Lohman, Computerworld, 6 October 2009. The future would therefore actually be in the control of the cellular relays.
     The item above refers to War 2.0: Political Violence and New Media conference held at the Australian National University. See also The Age (Melbourne), 5 October 2009, with links to video.

Reports: Israeli seeks 50% ownership of Al Jazeera.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Former Israeli billionaire Haim Saban is holding negotiations for the purchase of 50% of the al-Jazeera television network from the Qatari government, Egyptian newspaper al-Mesryoon reported Wednesday. The negotiations are said to be conducted through an Egyptian mediator. According to the report, the television network is experiencing financial trouble despite its immense popularity. This is the second time Saban is negotiating with the Qatari emir." Ynetnews, 8 October 2009.
     "Mr Saban, who is originally from Egypt, is worth over $3billion. He made his fortune selling the Power Rangers franchise in the Middle East, and developing the Fox Family television network with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. He also owns a controlling stake in Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq.", 8 October 2009.
     "The Israeli-American magnate has supposedly made an offer of $5 billion for the popular Arabic-language news channel, in an attempt to get a hold of it and to broadcast a pro-Israeli message so as to influence the Arab opinion in favor of Tel Aviv's hawkish regime." Press TV, 8 October 2009.

One cheer for Al Jazeera's investigative reporting.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the The Independent (London): "'Unfortunately, [journalists] have become a kind of trumpet, or an echo chamber for government spokesmen, in which we don’t actually channel their statements through our own critical faculties,' he says. 'We don’t actually investigate, we don’t ask the question, "Why?"' Al Jazeera is one outlet that Fisk clearly believes is asking why. He credits the 13-year-old network with transforming coverage of the Middle East. He recalls a quote from Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who upon visiting the Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, said, 'You mean this little matchbox is causing all of my problems?'" Rania Habib, Kippreport, 6 October 2009.

Al Jazeera English, via Austar, satisfies Australia's "strong appetite for international news channels."

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera's English-language news network has launched on the Austar pay-TV platform in Australia. Al Jazeera English joins more than 40 other channels in Austar's Starter Package, which reaches about 750,000 subs across regional Australia. Announcing the carriage deal, Phil Lawrie, the director of global distribution at Al Jazeera, said: 'Australia is one of the most important English-speaking markets in the world and a country with a strong appetite for international news channels.'" Press release verbiage via, 7 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Al Jazeera mobile app: one guess what its name is.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera, the world's first global 24-hour news and current affairs television network, based in the Middle East, is today launching a mobile application called 'Al Jazeera', which gives access to the channel's Arabic and English programs live and on-demand for all users of Symbian or Windows Mobile phones worldwide. Developed by mobile TV specialist Mobiclip, the 'Al Jazeera' mobile application provides high quality live viewing of the News Channel in English and Arabic as well as Video News Bulletin on demand. The application runs on Wi-Fi, 3G and Edge networks and can be downloaded from" Al Jazeera press release, 5 October 2009.

Arabic news channels cover Yemen's Sa'ada (Sa'dah) insurgency.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Sa’ada has attracted the attention of the largest news satellite channels, especially those that target Arab audience including Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and BBC. This was revealed in a study conducted by the Lebanese Comtrax Solutions, specialized in media monitoring, which noted coverage given to the war in Sa’ada has come closer to that of the war in Afghanistan with 5 percent. Comtrax Solutions also mentioned that the war in Sa’ada was among the main stories telecasted by three satellite channels in their news bulletins. The British BBC came in first place as to covering the news of Sa’ada war and at 6 percent. ... Some observers pointed out that each channel displayed the situation in Sa’ada from the view of the governments owning these channels. Al-Arabiya, according to them, was completely against Houthis, while Al-Jazeera seemed – sometimes- to be against the government. Some also stated that the coverage of BBC is not balanced and it is selective and this applies to the other two channels." Yemen Post, 5 October 2009. Not much coverage here in the USA.

Media reaction to Iran nuclear talks includes "very anti-Tehran" Al Arabiya.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Media in the Middle East, Russia and China reacted in a subdued manner on Thursday and Friday to the relatively positive conclusion to the latest nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers in Geneva. ... The Iranian TV news channel carried chief negotiator Sa'id Jalili's news conference live from Geneva, in which he said the talks had been positive and would continue. This was also carried on Iran's international English-language Press TV and Arabic-language Al-Alam TV. ... Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya led with news of possible sanctions and said that the USA was putting more pressure on Iran. The tone of its reporting was very anti-Tehran, in contrast to Qatari-funded Al-Jazeera's view of the talks as 'constructive'. Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam international channel said all parties were 'satisfied with the progress of the talks', adding that President Obama had supported 'Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy'. The previous day Al-Alam had led with the Geneva talks and reported that there were 'Franco-British attempts to control the agenda'." BBC Monitoring, BBC News, 4 October 2009.

Georgian will not be among the languages of Pentagon-funded websites.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"A U.S. military officer denied on Friday that the U.S. is planning to create a website designed to garner foreign support for U.S. counter-terrorism operations in the Georgian language. Eurasianet had reported on Wednesday, September 28 that Georgian was one of the languages chosen by the builders of this website. But representatives of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) refuted this report in e-mails to The Georgian Times. The languages which will be used, as specified in the contract granted to GDIT, are Arabic, Urdu, Kurdish, Farsi, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and English, said Major Wesley Ticer, Media Relations Officer at USSOCOM. The command currently manages four sites under the same GDIT contract, which use only these languages: (in English, Russian, Farsi and Urdu), (in English, Spanish and Portuguese), (in English, Arabic and Farsi) and (in Arabic)." Lizaveta Zhahanina, The Georgian Times, 5 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.

CNBC Asia hires new VP Partnerships.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNBC ... in Asia Pacific today announced the appointment of Tan Wee Tuck as the Vice President, Business Development and Partnerships effective immediately. ... Tan, who will be based in Singapore, will spearhead the network’s business development and partnership unit in the region. In this capacity, Tan will oversee CNBC’s efforts to build up business opportunities for the network in the Asia Pacific region. He is also responsible for managing relations and developing new opportunities with CNBC’s current partners in Asia Pacific, as well as building strategic partnerships with other potential associates in the region." CNBC press release, 5 October 2009.

Radio Farsi: Washington's favorite mythical international station.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Senator Lindsay Graham: "I’ve got a bill with Senator Schumer restricting -- sanctioning companies who provide cyber assistance to the Iranian government to oppress their own people. Radio Farsi, Radio -- the Voice of America needs to be enhanced." Interviewed on Fox News Sunday, 4 October 2009 (CQ Politics transcript). "Radio Farsi" is a corruption of Radio Farda. (Happened before, see previous post). The confusing jumble of US international broadcasting brands confuses even US senators. Expect the introduction of a bill calling for the expansion of the schedule of Radio Farsi. It will get all the way to conference before it's realized that there is no Radio Farsi, and that Radio Farda is already 24 hours a day.

What do "Radio Free" and an NFL quarterback have in common? Not much.

Posted: 08 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Jackson Jaguars quarterback "David 'Radio Free' Garrard has completed nine of 11 passes for 90 yards... ." Mike Florio, NBC Sports, 4 October 2009.
     Why "Radio Free"? I spent too much time on Google trying to find out, but eventually uncovered this: "Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard thought hosting a weekly radio show would be a good idea. He was meeting fans, answering questions, giving away tickets and previewing the team's upcoming game. Maybe he should have discussed it with head coach Jack Del Rio first. When Del Rio learned about Garrard's Friday show, which aired the last three weeks, it was cancelled faster than a network television dud." Canadian Press, 2 October 2009. "Radio Free" is not Garrard's enduring nickname (at least not yet), just a one-off literary kumquat by Florio.

Better think some more about Alhurra.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Let’s think about the Pentagon-funded propaganda channel Al-Hurra. Originally conceived in 2004, it was meant to be an Arabic-language counterpart to the supposed anti-Americanism of other Middle Eastern-focused news channels, notably al-Jazeera. Ever since, especially given its dismal ratings, the channel has faced criticisms from all angles, whether Congress insisting it was still insufficiently pro-America and pro-Israel, the GAO noting unacceptable management and editorial practices, or, most recently, an investigation by the State Department’s Investigator General. ... Not to belabor the point, but the real strength of RFE/RL and VOA is that they criticize American actions. Even though they are not truly independent journalist organizations, that kind of editorial freedom gives them a lot more credibility than, say, the Pentagon Channel." Joshua Foust,, 3 October 2009.
     "Pentagon-funded"? Alhurra's budget would be petty cash for the Pentagon, but it's still part of the Broadcasting Board of Governors budget. Re Alhurra's audience, see previous post. RFE/RL and VOA do not criticize American action, but as part of the news process, they occasionally interview people who do. RFE/RL and VOA may not be "truly independent" by dint of their government funding, but one would be hard pressed to prove that their journalism is not independent.

Does PD to Pakistan require the re-creation of USIA?

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"I ask Pakistani colleagues what U.S. officials should do, they quickly provide a list: 1. Pay attention to Pakistani media. Have U.S. officials constantly appear on Pakistani TV, even hostile channels such as GEO (Holbrooke did it) and challenge every media lie. Be more proactive. Example: Ambassador Anne Patterson invited Pakistani media to tour the embassy grounds and see that there are only eight Marines on the premises. 2. Put a team of U.S. media specialists on the ground in Pakistan, who know the language and the culture and can devise new ways to communicate with Pakistanis - whether by FM radio, or Internet, or interviews. 'Recreate a USIA for Pakistan,' one Pakistani journalist told me, a reference to the wretched decision in the 1990s to disband the U.S. Information Agency." [etc.] Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4 October 2009. Did the elimination of USIA bring about the end of public diplomacy towards Pakistan? Is a restored, large, top-heavy bureaucracy required for public diplomacy to Pakistan to exist? Perhaps the Pakistani journalist recalls a more visible USIS presence in Pakistan, and perhaps an American library.
     "Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, is on a public diplomacy tour of the United States, arguing that the Obama administration will lose credibility if it pulls back in its war against the Afghanistan insurgency." Los Angeles Times, 3 October 2009.

Accordionist/composer inspired by shortwave "deep listening."

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Accordionist and composer Pauline Oliveros "listened to the static between channels on her grandfather’s radio and to the cracks and pops of her father’s short-wave radio. When Oliveros entered the world of electronic music, she enjoyed the feeling of 'inventing (her) way through it.' ... Deep listening, as Oliveros explained it, can be practiced by anyone, even those who know little about music. Oliveros called it a form of meditation — listening to listening, expanding attention and awareness to the 'whole space-time continuum of sound.'" The Brown [University] Daily Herald, 5 October 2009.

Good advice: keep a shortwave radio in your backpack.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
In Indonesia: "Masni Fanshuri, 30, a law student and music teacher, carries a shortwave radio and backpack filled with his most important documents. It's a habit he picked up after a 2005 earthquake left him with a broken leg; he was in traction for two months. This week, he said, the radio let him know there was no risk of a tsunami and helped him shepherd his choir students to safety." Charles McDermid, Los Angeles Times, 5 October 2009. Indonesia still uses shortwave transmitters for domestic broadcasting, though to a lesser extent than in previous decades. VOA, BBC, and Radio Australia Indonesian broadcasts are also available on shortwave.
     Off Vanuatu: "Here we were preparing to go ashore for a dental clinic at Waterfall Bay and had not turned the HF [shortwave] radio on to listen to the morning news from the wonderful Radio Australia. Our practice is to always have the VHF on 16 (emergency and calling channel) and friends at the next anchorage up the coast radioed us to let us know that a wave of unknown size was expected in 30-40 minutes." Heather and David Churcher, Sail World, 4 October 2009.

French-language media in Lebanon include RFI via Radio Liban.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The French-language Lebanese television channel essentially shows a French satellite channel, while viewers have access to French stations through cable. This speaks to a more general phenomenon: Lebanon’s francophone culture is largely sustained by access to French media. Several radio stations are in French, but their impact is limited as much of their programming is music. Local FM runs Radio France International on the Radio Liban channel, but the contrast in quality only shows up the local programming in French. The dearth in media outlets is partly a reflection of the crisis in traditional media internationally. There is also the fact that Lebanese above all watch television, which is mainly in Arabic." Michael Young, The National (Abu Dhabi), 3 October 2009.

BBC Worldwide expands in the Middle East: "government agenda," or just profit?

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide is to expand its offering to the Middle East with more channels and additional localised content. The company – the commercial arm of the BBC – said that the move would strengthen its commitment to the region, and comes on the back of the launch of BBC Arabic, in March last year. Dean Possenniskie, General Manager and Senior Vice-President Emea BBC Worldwide Channels, speaking by telephone from London, said: 'We have three of our most successful channels beaming in the region, covering a very large footprint, and we are looking at beaming another three soon, taking our bouquet to six.' Since the launch of BBC Arabic, it has been increasing its regional emphasis 'as part of the UK Government's regional agenda', said another BBC official on the condition of anonymity. ... 'We do not burden the UK taxpayer. In fact, we are the commercial arm of the BBC that has done tremendously well even during the current crisis,' said Possenniskie. However, profits for the organisation in the past year have fallen by 12.8 per cent to £103 million, as declared in its annual report." Vigyan Arya, Emirates Business 24/7, 6 October 2009.
     Welcome to the confusing world of BBC's international television activities. BBC Arabic is part of World Service and is funded by the Foreign Office. The BBC Worldwide channels, including BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle and BBC Entertainment, in theory bring money into the BBC organization through advertising or inclusion in pay TV packages outside the UK. The BBC Worldwide channels are in English; I don't know if Arabic subtitles are available. The BBC official speaking anonymously (not surprisingly) was probably referring to the Foreign Office's "regional emphasis" causing its funding of World Service to shift to Arabic and Persian television, at the expense of recently dropped BBCWS European services. Self-funding BBC Worldwide should have commercial reasons rather than the UK government's agenda for expanding into the Middle East. Or is it some peculiar combination of both: foreign policy with profit?

BBC Arabic's "Fact-Finding Commission" reports on Iraq's 1.5 million war widows.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Two editions of BBC Arabic television's flagship investigative programme Lajnat Taqqasi Al Haqqaeq (The Fact-Finding Commission) will be looking at the situation of widows in Iraq. Recorded in Baghdad, the programme is hosted by BBC Arabic television's Norma Al Hajj. ... According to various reports, the number of widows in Iraq has exceeded 1.5 million, with a majority of them living on less than US $125 a month. ... Lajnat Taqqasi Al Haqqaeq is a panel of independent people who get to the heart of the matter by investigating various social, political and economic issues. The panel calls expert witnesses and key commentators to examine their knowledge and capture their insights on the key issues." BBC World Service press release, 6 October 2009.

"World's most respected news source" discusses Glenn Beck and US conservative media.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute says the character and tone of Beck's form of political assault was prevalent in the Clinton administration; but with Barack Obama, it's 'ramped up even more.'" Lucy Williamson, "Analysis," BBC World Service, via Public Radio International, 5 October 2009, with audio. The PRI blurb, which looks like the last paragraph of the story: "Produced by the world's most respected news source, the BBC World Service is a 24-hour news service that gives listeners access to the latest world news, expert analysis, commentary, features, and interviews on issues of the day."

Commentator: Don't shrink BBC "model for the world" to "feeble" PBS.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Rupert Murdoch ... has launched a long campaign through his newspapers to delegitimise the BBC. They relentlessly present it as poor value, biased to the left, and bloated. It's not working with the public: the BBC is 9 per cent more popular today than a decade ago. But he is determined to shrink the BBC to a feeble service like PBS in the US, producing worthy programmes watched by a handful. ... [BBC] is a model for the world of how to create journalism that isn't contaminated by either corporate advertisers and proprietors on one side, or state ownership on the other." Johann Hari, The Independent, 2 October 2009. This has to do with the debate over the BBC license fee in the UK. BBC World Service is funded by the Foreign Office, but the world services benefit from the journalistic and other strengths of BBC domestic. Contamination of the news process by corporate advertisers is an interesting hypothesis, but it needs more evidence to be taken as fact.
     "If you want television coverage of the Booker prize ceremony, you won't find it on national television – you'll need to join the global audience for a half-hour show to be broadcast on BBC World and the BBC News channel. New fiction may no longer be newsworthy in the UK, but the Booker is still a global phenomenon, and more so, in some senses, than ever before." Robert McCrum, The Guardian, 5 October 2009.

BBC Afrique (French to Africa) prepares cost-cutting move to Dakar.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Un journaliste londonien qui a tenu à rester anonyme explique: 'L’équation est simple. Un producer (journaliste de base) gagne environ 2200 livres par mois à Londres. À Dakar, le salaire serait de 1400 livres, pour l’instant sans garantie de couverture médicale.' S’ils voulaient suivre le mouvement, les journalistes londoniens devraient donc repasser par le processus de sélection et accepter, au mieux, une baisse de salaire de 800 livres." Jeune Afrique, 22 September 2009. BBC Hausa and Swahili have already undergone similar moves.

In China, passing the word via Bluetooth.

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Many [Chinese] netizens are now making use of Bluetooth, an open wireless protocol for exchanging data, to create personal area networks with a range of up to 10 meters on their mobile devices and share information. Xingzai, a netizen in China’s southern Guangdong province, said the technology helps him to spread news from media organizations that are otherwise censored in China. 'I just want to spread the news to others…so they won’t feel they have been left out. We download the news every day and transmit it to others,' Xingzai said. Most modern cell phones are equipped with Bluetooth technology, and when two or more cell phone users have the feature enabled, it is easy to share data such as downloaded audio or text files between devices." He Shan, Radio Free Asia, 1 October 2009.

USA as nation brand: number one with a bullet. So to speak.

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Brand America is now ranked #1 by global citizens, according to the GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media... . Results from the 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI), which measures the global image of 50 countries, show the United States taking the top spot as the country with the best overall brand, up from seventh last year. ... Turning to the rest of the NBI rankings, mostly the same countries are in the top ten as in 2008 - but also with some shifts in position. France again captured second place overall, while Germany and the United Kingdom fell to third and fourth, respectively. Japan (5th) and Italy (6th) did not shift rankings from 2008. However, Canada lost ground, slipping from fourth last year to seventh in 2009. Switzerland, Australia, Spain and Sweden round out the top 10." GfK Roper press release, 5 October 2009.
     We will not soon hear the end of this. (And wouldn't it be great to be Judith McHale right now?) Nevertheless, we should not get too worked up over something so superficial as a "nation brand." And we should keep in mind that this probably has much to do with Brand Bush versus Brand Obama. The number one nation brand did not bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago. And it happens in the same year that Pakistanis overwhelmingly believe the United States to be a greater threat than the Taliban (59% versus 11%, see previous post).

Chinese students preparing documentary at old VOA Bethany transmitting site.

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Through a partnership with Miami University’s regional campuses, Chinese students from the Communications University of China’s Nanjing Campus this month are studying the Voice of America, past, present and future, with an emphasis on the Bethany Relay Station in the Voice of America Park. They are putting together a documentary that will be edited in China and broadcast in Nanjing, which has a population of six million. It also will be shared with the local community through TV West Chester." Middletown (OH) Journal, 5 October 2009.

Report: Uganda television station under pressure to drop VOA program.

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Inside Politics can reveal that [Uganda's] WBS television was asked to suspend broadcast of the syndicated Voice of America live TV and Radio show, Straight Talk Africa. The popular show, hosted by celebrated Ugandan-born journalist Shaka Ssali, hosted two successive shows on Uganda after the riots. ... Sources at both the Broadcasting Council, WBS and VOA have told Inside Politics that the Council first asked for a recording of one of the shows before quietly advising suspension as a review was being done. Inside Politics understands that an official at WBS communicated the developments to Washington DC, the headquarters of VOA which communication has sparked a diplomatic frenzy over the intentions of the State. These reports could not be independently verified." Gerald Bareebe, The Monitor (Kampala), 4 October 2009.

Ban on VOA reporting in Puntland "cannot be tolerated."

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America condemns the indefinite ban on reporting imposed on three VOA journalists by the government in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. 'This represents censorship and a serious blow to press freedoms and cannot be tolerated,' said Voice of America Director Dan Austin. 'Our journalists all over the world follow the guidelines laid out in the VOA charter; reporting that is accurate, objective and comprehensive. I urge the Puntland government to reverse this suspension immediately.' Puntland's Deputy Minister of Information Abdishakur Mire Adan issued a letter late last week, banning three VOA reporters - Nuh Muse, Mohamed Yasin, and Abdulkadir Mohamed - and any other VOA journalist from working in the region. The deputy minister also ordered all VOA affiliate FM stations to cease airing VOA programs." VOA press release, 5 October 2009.
     "At the moment, local radio stations continue to broadcast VOA's English service programs as the ban is interpreted as targeting only the news agency's Somali language service." Alan Boswell, VOA News, 5 October 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     "Some Somali people in Mogadishu and government officials have accused al Jazeera television based in Doha, Qatar of inciting the violence in Somalia, broadcasting ideas wrecking havoc in the country.", 3 October 2009.

VOA reaches iPhones and BlackBerrys via Stitcher.

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Voice of America (VOA) is adding another way for English, Mandarin and Spanish audiences around the world to listen to news by downloading Stitcher ( on smart phones and the Internet. Stitcher allows listeners to create personalized VOA radio content on computers, iPhones and Blackberry phones in three languages. ... Users can share VOA broadcast stories through Stitcher accounts with friends through Facebook and Twitter to help spread the news they hear." VOA press release, 1 October 2009.

Award for RFE/RL Kazakh website.

Posted: 06 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"RFE/RL's Kazakh website has won a prestigious award for excellence in online journalism. The Online News Association (ONA) singled out RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, known locally as Radio Azattyq, for 'standing in defense of citizens' rights to seek and receive information.' The judges noted Radio Azattyq's rebuff of government attempts to censor a book critical of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev. They commended the station for 'good original journalism and tenacity of purpose.'" RFE/RL press release, 5 October 2009.

When the surrogate needs a surrogate.

Posted: 05 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Any soft-power strategy should include a focus on surrogate broadcasting -- government-sponsored broadcasts that provide accurate and reliable news to countries where independent media do not exist. Surrogate broadcasting grew up during the Cold War, when the United States sought to penetrate the Iron Curtain with radio broadcasts to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. These broadcasts -- first clandestinely funded by the CIA and then openly by Congress -- were designed to provide the people of communist nations with the domestic news and information that their own governments denied them. Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasts to 20 countries, from Russia and the Caucasus to Central Asia and the Middle East. RFE/RL's broadcast region encompasses Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, and will soon include Pakistan. Its sister company, Radio Free Asia, reaches nine countries, including Burma, China, and North Korea." Jeffrey Gedmin, president, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc, Foreign Affairs, 27 September 2009.
     Domestic media in, say, Russia and China have improved since the depths of the Cold War years. Production values are good, and reporting on international affairs and most domestic events is thorough. There are, however, a few domestic issues, usually affecting senior party and governmental leadership, that are off limits. Audiences in these countries are not getting a complete picture. They need "surrogate" broadcasting from abroad to fill in some essential gaps.
     This website provides a "surrogate" function in that it provides the complete picture about US international broadcasting that US officials, experts, and fellows rarely do. The complete picture is that the Voice of America, unmentioned in Gedmin's essay, also provides "accurate and reliable news to countries where independent media do not exist." And that includes news about those countries.
     VOA is not merely, as Gedmin described it at a recent Congressional hearing (see previous post), "a window on American society, American thinking, American culture, American politics." If VOA were merely that, VOA would not have an audience, because audiences for international broadcasting are primarily interested in news in their own countries.
     And, so, the complete picture is that in 18 languages, VOA and Radio Free stations are covering the same stories, i.e. duplicating one another. This is even as they (or their supporters) ask for increased resources to cope in an increasingly competitive global media environment.

     "Clearly the spreading America’s message of democracy and freedom is not high on the current administration’s agenda. This was not the case on November 9, 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell. America’s message to those living under communist rule, as President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jeffrey Gedmin has so aptly put it, 'were designed to provide the … domestic news and information that their own government denied them.' The people who most depended on international news service received it. The same cannot be said today when America, who according to Gedmin as being 'out-communicated' by insurgents broadcasting information from the backs of donkeys in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan." Morgan Roach, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 1 October 2009.
     Before losing any sleep over back-of-donkey broadcasting, see previous post. Heritage is muddling the distinction between news and propaganda ("spreading America's message"). Hint: The former is what audiences are seeking when they make the effort to tune to foreign broadcasts. Furthermore, Heritage, though it professes belief in "limited government," enthusiastically jumps on the "surrogate broadcasting" bandwagon. The concept of "surrogate broadcasting" is a politico-bureaucratic contrivance to justify the existence of two government-funded entities doing the same thing, even though one entity could do a better job at less cost to the taxpayers. Maybe there is a need for a surrogate conservative think tank, that would espouse the values that "conservative" think tanks would if they were really conservative.

Writer's old desk at RFE/RL is now part of a museum tour.

Posted: 05 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"This past weekend I made a pilgrimage of sorts back to where my European adventure began. I had been to Europe before I moved to Prague to study and do an internship at Radio Free Europe in 2002. ... RFE is a radio broadcaster set up during the Cold War by the United States congress in order to broadcast programming into Eastern Europe. ... After the cold war ended RFE began gradually closing its Eastern European stations and opening new ones in the Middle East and Central Asia. After 9/11, the US government decided that the building needed a huge cordon of security around it, because it was broadcasting into the middle east. So the traffic flow at the top of Wenceslas Square was severely disrupted as all the roads around it were closed off. To get into the building I had to go through an elaborate system of security checks at 4 different points! Because of the chaos this was creating RFE had to move out, and today the area around the building is completely opened up and a museum about the federal assembley is now housed inside. What a strange feeling, being able to see the desk you used to work at being shown to you on a guided museum tour." Gulf Stream Blues, 29 September 2009.

RFE bomber, would-be bomber in the news.

Posted: 05 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Gen. Nicolae Plesita, a die-hard Communist and ruthless chief of the Securitate secret police who arranged shelter in Romania for terrorist 'Carlos the Jackal,' and was tried for the bombing of Radio Free Europe has died, news reports said Wednesday. He was 80. ... He gained notoriety for his contacts with Venezuelan-born terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as 'Carlos the Jackal,' who was hired by the Securitate on the orders of ex-dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to assassinate Romanian dissidents in France and bomb the Radio Free Europe offices in Munich in 1981. Nine people were injured in the attack on the Munich-based radio that broadcast into communist Eastern Europe." AP, 1 October 2009.
     "Former Communist secret police agent Pavel Minarik must serve up to six years in prison for insurance fraud, a Czech Republic court ruled. ... Minarik, who had pleaded not guilty, is well-known in connection with an StB plot to bomb the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe station where he worked undercover from 1969 to 1976. Minarik was acquitted of charges after Czechoslovakia's Communist regime fell in 1989, CTK said." UPI, 29 September 2009.

There you go again: Heritage renews call to expand US government by adding Agency for Strategic Communication.

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The fact that Cold War ended with the relatively bloodless dissolution of the Soviet empire was in part due to the U.S. instruments of power used to engage in the war of ideas, the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty which broadcast into the Soviet Union itself. ... It was Ronald Reagan, who had the clearest vision of the potential of public diplomacy as an instrument of national power, combining a clear ideological, anti-communist vision and talents as a 'great communicator.' Reagan brought a new infusion of resources and intiative to the ideological struggle with the Soviets, revitalizing the USIA, and providing it with a new clear mandate and strategy. ... Recommendations for the president: Provide clear leadership on revitalizing U.S. public diplomacy intitutions, drawing on the lessons of the Cold War. This is particularly relevant for the struggle with ideological Islamism. Propose an Agency for Strategic Communication to take the lead in formulating a national doctrine and strategy on communication and public diplomacy outreach. Specify lines of authority and interagency cooperation to make sure the various parts of the U.S. government work together coherently in their messaging." Helle Dale, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 29 September 2009.
     I think this means bring US international broadcasting into the "interagency cooperation." This would releive USIB of the burden of having an audience. The audience seeks news from foreign broadcasters because it is more credible than the ersatz news from their state controlled domestic media. News that is produced "coherently" with "national doctrine and strategy" becomes state controlled. It won't fool audiences abroad. They will tune to the BBC.

"Edgy, chaotic, and rebellious" social media poor fit for "stiff, officious, and centralized" State Department?

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Navigating today’s new media maze has proven rather challenging, especially for multi-layered and inflexible bureaucratic entities such as the State Department. The edgy, chaotic, and rebellious spirit of blogging and social networking appears to be a poor fit for the stiff, officious, and centralized style of communications favored by diplomats; after all, a say-nothing press release sounds as trite when posted on Twitter as it does in print. In retrospect, given how little influence American 'cyber-diplomats' had on events in Tehran via Twitter and Facebook, one wonders whether they overestimated the power of such sites. 'Polluting' these online communities with US-approved messages adds very little to the global appeal of American diplomacy; this fledgling form of geopolitical spam is surely irritating, and some online goodwill is destroyed in the process. This 'geo-spamming' may have doubled the supply of American ideas, but it has not increased global demand for them." Evgeny Morozov, design mind, issue 11 (undated 2009).
     Actually, I think State Department public diplomacy personnel, proficient in Arabic, etc., have been participating in blogs and social networks using the conversational phraseology of those media. Their function is to set the record straight when misinformation and disinformation are distributed. Their affiliation with the US State Department is stated, not hidden. This means of international outreach should work well if used only as needed, or in response to questions. Expectations for the impact of these messages should be realistically modest.
     Public diplomacy personnel can express opinions -- official US government positions -- via social media. US international broadcasting is also becoming more active in social media, but its journalists should not be passing along any sort of opinion. USIB would therefore use the social media to relay their news reports. News and press releases are not really the original purpose of social networking, but some Twitter users do "follow" such content.

Very advanced public diplomacy: involvement in other people's theology.

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"It would be very difficult for the United States to engage Wahhabists in direct public diplomacy or a battle of ideas. After all, they do not accept the modern secular premises — whether liberal, realists, Marxist, etc. — that Western arguments rest upon. However, the United States does have a direct interest in limiting the influence of the more violent Wahhabists, and in empowering the most non-political scholars. The first step is for U.S. diplomats and policymakers concerned with the Middle East to familiarize themselves with the internal arguments and language of Wahhabist debates. All Wahhabists, from the most violent to the most passive, share the same basic beliefs. What separates Al Qaeda from Wahhabists who oppose attacks on the United States, such as the Saudi religious establishment, is that some Wahhabists consider the United States to have entered into a treaty or an alliance with an Islamic ruler. The United States is, therefore, protected under Islamic law and an illegitimate target for jihad. These are technicalities of Islamic law but they are very important to Wahhabists and can make the difference in convincing a Muslim to support or refrain from supporting terrorism." Samuel Helfont, Foreign Policy Research Insitutute, September 2009.
     During the Cold War years, the United States funded the journal Problems of Communism. Do we now need a Problems of Islam? Except it would need a better title. (So did Problems of Communism.) And there would be First Amendment ramifications with the US government poking its nose into anyone's religion. This, therefore, might be an opportunity for advocates of "private public diplomacy" to step up, checkbooks in hand.

Guerrilla diplomacy is "sharper, faster, lighter" (and vaguer) version of public diplomacy.

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
From review of Daryl Copeland, Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations: "As for GD or guerrilla diplomacy--that turns out to be PD [public diplomacy] kicked up a notch, a 'sharper, faster, lighter' version of PD. ... It consists of diplomats with the skills of invention, of improvisation, of taking initiatives without awaiting orders, but with the street smarts to avoid offending the local government, but it is out in the street, 'mixing it up with the locals,' 'interacting with friend and foe alike, building relationships, focusing on issues.' And it is not much more specific than that. ... Perhaps we need to settle for two tracks of diplomats and diplomatic practices, and keep our fingers crossed that they can co-exist while meeting the challenges of the day." Peter R. Beckman, American Diplomacy, 28 September 2009.

Amazing new StratCom tool: word of mouth.

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"To many, StratCom is characterized by its extensive use of (if not fascination with) modern communications tools, including the electronic media. But [General Stanley A.] McChrystal stresses the importance of 'traditional communications to disseminate messages,' including 'more orthodox methods such as word of mouth.' ... Strategic communications often has an abstract approach on how to reach target audiences. It smacks of military theory. But McChrystal has a more down-to-earth perspective, noting that 'in order to enhance the development and use of Stratcom messaging' what is required is '[i]ncreased cultural expertise.'" John Brown, Huffington Post, 28 September 2009.

Holbrooke orders public diplomacy overhaul in Pakistan, sends in "seasoned diplomats."

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In order to improve American standing in Pakistan, the special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, had ordered an overhaul of the public diplomacy programs and was sending several seasoned diplomats to bolster the embassy, a senior American official said. A public affairs strategy centered on the American desire for a strong relationship with Pakistan and focused on describing the common enemy as Al Qaeda and the Taliban was about to begin, the official said. The new effort included spending about $30 million on educational and cultural exchanges between Pakistan and the United States, and providing more Fulbright scholarships for Pakistanis to study at American universities." Jane Perlez, New York Times, 30 September 2009.

At Muscatatuck, training to combine the "soft" with the "power."

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Indiana National Guard hosts the only integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency program focused on the civilian mission. At the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, trainees from the departments of State and Agriculture, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other civilian agencies work through interpreters to build relationships with Afghan authorities in simulated encounters. ... [Senator and former BBG member Ted] Kaufman said more time, money and effort need to be put into public diplomacy. 'I really think that if we can demonstrate how well this works, that will be a big step for people to start thinking about soft power,' he told the trainees." Indianapolis Star, 29 September 2009.

Questions that keep public diplomacy experts awake at night.

Posted: 04 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"I don't know why it has proven so difficult for the U.S. government to mount public diplomacy and strategic communications campaigns in support of key administration policy goals. Is it something about the organization of the government, leadership, or the allocation of the resources? Is it that deeds have not kept up with words, harming the credibility of such communications campaigns? Is it the cultural clash between traditional public diplomacy and the demands of goal-oriented strategic communications? Is it that the State Department hasn't stepped up as the Pentagon's strategic communications operations have been scaled back? Is it a backlash against the over-selling of stratetic communications in recent years? Or is it something else?" Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy blog, 28 September 2009.
     "Stratetic"? Typo, or (entirely possible) a form of communication I've never heard about? Anyway, checking this page from the Bureau of International Information Programs, with links, there seems to be quite a bit going on in support of administration policy goals. One "program" they should add is an issue advertising department. (Yes, Charlotte Beers was on the right track concerning the conveyance, if maybe not the content.)
     Maybe too late to RSVP, but to find answers to Marc's questions, he invites everyone to:
"New Approaches to U.S. Global Outreach: Smart Power on the Front Lines of Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication" (pdf), 5 October 2009 at the George Washington University. See also State Department notice, 1 October 2009.

Middle East Broadcasting Networks (whatever that is) is hiring a production director.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. is an international multi-media broadcasting corporation based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area that broadcasts news and information to the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. We are seeking qualified candidates to consider for the position of Director of Production Operations." via AWN Career Connections, 28 September 2009.
     This notice mentions nowhere that Alhurra television is the major component of MBN. The e-mail domain is used, and it does say: "Interface and work with Radio Sawa personnel on shared technical concerns." The job seeker seeking information about Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc. could be frustrated, because MBN has no website. Instead, he/she will probably stumble on Middle East Broadcasting Network,, "the only 24-hour network channel broadcasting from the United States (Southfield, Michigan) to cater to more than 550,000 Middle Eastern Americans in Michigan alone (Comcast cable), 250,000 in Washington Dc area (Cox cable)."

Africa 24 blares in Libreville salon.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"When I arrived in Libreville, I quickly detected that people were reluctant to freely express their views in public to someone they do not know. Even the barber I went to for a haircut politely declined to share his views on the elections, when I put the question to him as the TV in his salon was blaring Africa 24’s coverage of the polls. Bizarre." Andriankoto Harinajaka Ratozamanana, CPJ Blog, 2 October 2009. See previous posts on 3 September and 12 May 2009. And

Which is the model for an Indian news channel?

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The problem is that neither CNN, nor Skynews, nor MSNBC are symbolic of any sober journalistic standards. The BBC, somewhat abstemious and even pious by contrast, is after all a preserver of a post-colonial dignity in the face of American trashiness. If there is any news and analysis channel that stands out for putting out sober, dignified and reflective journalism, it is Al Jazeera. And Indian journalists are not looking at Al Jazeera for inspiration, for sure. ... Indians like the boom-bang, dhoom-dhamaka style of journalism." Trevor Selvam,, 30 September 2009.

Newsy aggravates -- sorry -- aggregates the news.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The right religiously watches Fox News and the left MSNBC, a pattern that tends to emphasize differences rather than the things we have in common — especially when it comes to politics. The web and iPhone service Newsy, now in beta, hopes to help remedy the situation by creating short, original video clips with their own reporters highlighting how various sources reported the same news item. The sources comprise a gamut of news organizations and blogs around the world, including CNN, Al-Jazeera, BBC, ABC, The New York Times and Fox News." Eliot Van Buskirk, Epicenter blog, Wired, 30 September 2009. Try it at Also saw France 24 used in one Newsy piece.

Internet no longer in the US government's domain.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"After complaints about American dominance of the internet and growing disquiet in some parts of the world, Washington has said it will relinquish some control over the way the network is run and allow foreign governments more of a say in the future of the system. Icann – the official body that ultimately controls the development of the internet thanks to its oversight of web addresses such as .com, .net and .org – said today that it was ending its agreement with the US government. The deal, part of a contract negotiated with the US department of commerce, effectively pushes California-based Icann towards a new status as an international body with greater representation from companies and governments around the globe. Icann had previously been operating under the auspices of the American government, which had control of the net thanks to its initial role in developing the underlying technologies used for connecting computers together." Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian, 30 September 2009.
     "Has the Obama administration just given up U.S. responsibility for protecting the Internet?" Jeremy Rabkin and Jeffrey Eisenach, Wall Street Journal, 2 October 2009.
     "Vint Cerf, the man widely acknowledged as the co-developer of the Internet, is among a slew of supporters backing the new agreement signed Wednesday between ICANN and the U.S. government." ChannelWeb, 1 October 2009.

Solution to lousy shortwave reception?

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), near Gakona, Alaska, has spent nearly two decades using radio waves to probe Earth's magnetic field and ionosphere. ... 'This is the really exciting part — we've made a little artificial piece of ionosphere,' [research physicist Todd] Pedersen says. ... 'Instead of depending entirely on the natural ionosphere to redirect radio waves or short-wave broadcasts,' Pedersen says, 'we are now getting the capability that we can actually produce our own little ionosphere'." Naomi Lubick, Nature, 2 October 2009. Anti-jamming capabilities? If so, probably very expensive.

Sesame Street comes to Ramallah.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"This season’s episodes of 'Shara’a Simsim,' the Palestinian version of the global 'Sesame Street' franchise, were filmed in a satellite campus of Al-Quds University, a ramshackle four-story concrete structure that houses the school’s media department and a small local television station. ... Since the inception of 'Sesame Street' in the United States 40 years ago, the nonprofit New York City-based organization that produces the show, which is now called Sesame Workshop, has created 25 international co-productions. Each country’s show has its own identity: a distinctive streetscape, live-action segments featuring local kids and a unique crew of Muppets. Bangladesh’s 'Sisimpur' uses some traditional Bangladeshi puppets, and South Africa’s 'Takalani Sesame' features Kami, an orphaned H.I.V.-positive Muppet. But in each co-production, at least in its early years, every detail — every character, every scene and every line of script — must be approved by executives in the Sesame Workshop office, near Lincoln Center. This requires a delicate balance: how to promote the 'core values' of Sesame Street, like optimism and tolerance, while at the same time portraying a version of local life realistic enough that broadcasters will show it and parents will let their kids watch. The Palestinian territories have been, not surprisingly, a tough place to strike this balance, Sesame executives say, rivaled only by Kosovo." Samantha M. Shapiro, New York Times, 30 September 2009.

Beyond Tom & Jerry: Al Jazeera Children's Channel (updated).

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Four years ago, 90% of children's television in the Arab world consisted mostly of fare like 'Bugs Bunny' and 'Tom & Jerry' dubbed in Arabic. That changed with the 2005 launch of Al-Jazeera Children's Channel (JCC) based in Doha, Qatar. The brainchild of Qatar first lady Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, it offers edutainment programming in formats like game, talk, magazine and animation -- all in classical Arabic. It has special programming for Ramadan. And it's altering the face of kids' TV in the pan-Arab world." Kate Hahn, Variety, 22 September 2009.
     Update: "Al Jazeera Children's Channel (JCC) launched its new grid 2009 - 2010, on Friday 25 September 2009. The new bouquet will showcase the latest of JCC's home grown content, and a rich variety of co-produced programs specially designed for the children and families in the Arab world and Europe. ... Viewers located outside the geographic range of JCC's coverage, in North and South America and some parts of Asia and Africa, can benefit from JCC's state of the art website ( which enables outstanding interaction. The upgraded website features new multimedia tools like VoD (Video on Demand) and other interactive features linked to its live programs, like 'Allo Marhaba' and 'Aala Al Hawa'." AMEinfo, 1 October 2009.

Two brands combine to form a brand that consists of two brands.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Washington Post and Bloomberg will launch a global news service, The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News, which will offer a selection of content from The Post and BLOOMBERG NEWS(R) stories to newspapers, Web sites and other subscribers daily. ... The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News will be available starting January 1, 2010 to news organizations around the world. With 120 stories available daily, the service will offer an expansive selection of news across topics to subscribers along with photos, graphics and other story elements." Washington Post press release, 1 October 2009.

More news than you can use: 162 news channels in Europe.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The number of news channels operating in Europe has hit 162, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory, double the number available in 2005. Of the 162 channels operating in the European Union, Croatia and Turkey, 32 have an explicit international remit—they include Al Jazeera, BBC World, CNN International, Deutsche Welle, Euronews, France 24 and Sky News International. ... The market for news channels is currently worth more than 1 billion euros, however challenges remain for many of these channels in achieving profitability, the report notes.", 2 October 2009.

CBS becomes an international broadcaster (again).

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"CBS Reality, CBS Action and CBS Drama channels will launch in the UK on 16 November via the US network giant’s recent deal with Chellomedia. The joint venture will signal the first time CBS-branded channels have operated outside of the US... . Programming, sourced from CBS’s 70,000-hour library, includes Judge Judy and Dr Phil on CBS Reality, Dynasty on CBS Drama, air military thriller Jag and the remastered original Star Trek series on CBS Action. CBS Studios International president Armando Nunez said it was already considering other channel launches around the world, but that the immediate focus was on getting the UK project right." Chris Curtis, Broadcast, 1 October 2009. On Sky Digital satellite platform. Actually, CBS previously dabbled in international broadcasting, via shortwave, from the 1930s until World War II. See, for example, Adrian M. Peterson, Radio World, 12 May 2009.

Why can't internet television be more international?

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Give me a good reason why Americans or anyone abroad cannot watch British television networks such as the BBC, ITV or Sky Sports. And vice-versa, why can’t Brits legally watch HBO, Fox, PBS and other networks? It’s about time that television becomes democratized so it can be viewed by people around the world. Sure, there are obstacles but it’s time for television to redefine its business model. Take, for example, the BBC iPlayer. If you live outside the United Kingdom, you may have experienced the same frustration as I have when you click on a program to watch with the BBC iPlayer only to read the message that the program is not available in your part of the world due to rights restrictions." The Gaffer, EPL Talk, 1 October 2009.
     "What you propose to do is cut out the middle-men by making it possible for me to get the program direct from its 'source' television station. This does two things – it cuts out the revenue from syndication, which itself is a massive issue. ... Secondly, it will ruin a lot of local stations that depend on syndication for viability, and in turn, likely will kill lots of local television markets for development." Jon, responding to ibid.

Two North American cheers for Al Jazeera English.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"In its bid for a Canadian broadcasting license, Al-Jazeera English has taken a lot of heat, having to stand idly by as these groups began whispering, questioning Al-Jazeera’s integrity and purpose. The main concern is whether the station’s leaders could, one day, be manipulated to air controversial programming similar to its Arabic sibling, a highly unlikely scenario since the English language network’s managing director is former CBC News chief Tony Burman. ... We, as Canadians, should rally behind new sources of information. After all, we are the ones who constantly whine and complain about the content of our current ones. Al-Jazeera coming to Canada will revolutionize the way we consume daily news, for the better." Sachin Seth, Martlet (University of Victoria), 30 September 2009.
     "The BBC barely maintains their gold standard English-speaking news niche these days, suffering cut-backs despite public funding. Hot on their heels is Al Jazeera, whose web content alone, rivals the British media empire. In America, cable providers continue to shun carrying Al Jazeera." Tom Ryan, Reader Advisory Panel, Kansas City Star, 29 September 2009.

Press TV's recently resigned web editor is an American wanted for murder.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"I met Abdulrahman, né David Theodore Belfield, on a visit to the studios of Press TV, which is a government-owned English-language satellite television-news channel—Iran’s answer to Al Jazeera. It turned out that Belfield, who grew up in Bay Shore, Long Island, and who converted to Islam in 1969, at the age of eighteen, was the editor of Press TV’s Web site. (He is said to have resigned recently.) Belfield is also a U.S. fugitive, who has been wanted on murder charges since 1980... ." John Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, 30 September 2009.
     "An American fugitive, accused of murdering an aide to the late Shah of Iran in the United States, was made an editor of Iran’s English-language television network in Tehran. ... Mr Abdulrahman said that he did not volunteer any information about his past when he was given the job at Press TV, nor did his employer ask him about his criminal background. 'I didn’t ask them, they didn’t ask me,' he said by telephone from his home in Karaj, northwest of Tehran." Richard Kerbaj, The Times, 4 September 2009.

New AP Baghdad chief has VOA experience.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Rebecca Santana, who has covered the Middle East and Russia as a reporter and editor, has been named bureau chief for The Associated Press in Baghdad. ... Before joining the AP, Santana worked as a reporter for Cox Newspapers and Voice of America, as a freelance reporter for Fox News and held positions with NBC News." AP, 1 October 2009.

Somalia shuts off VOA FM relays; Puntland bans VOA reporters.

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the suspension on Thursday of three Voice of America (VOA) reporters in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. Puntland’s Deputy Minister of Information Abdishakur Mire Adan issued a letter suspending all three VOA correspondents and any other VOA journalist from reporting in the region. ... According to the director general of the Somali Broadcasting Corporation, Mowliid Haji, the deputy minister also sent a decree banning all VOA affiliate FM relay stations from airing VOA programs from Friday onward. ... The Washington-based VOA Somalia bureau chief, Abdirahman Yabarow, told CPJ he believes the suspension stems from a VOA interview Wednesday of Sheikh Sayid Khalif, a religious leader who allegedly opened a branch of the religious group Ahlu Sunna Wal-Jama’a in Puntland." CPJ, 2 October 2009.
     "The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) strongly condemns the suspension from work of three journalists who are reporters for the Voice of America (VOA) Somali Service in the Puntland region of northeastern Somalia." via International Freedom of Expression eXchange, 2 October 2009.
     "Residents living in the Somali regional state of Puntland were on Friday ordered not to listen to the Voice of America Radio, according to statement from the ministery of security. ... Residents in different cities in the Puntland region told kashmirwatch that the ban has come to affect in the region on Friday where people switched off Voice of Ameria Radio because of fear of being arrested." Kashmir Watch, 2 October 2009.

RFI reporter in Moscow in hiding after "controversial article" (updated again).

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans frontières "is very worried for the safety of freelance journalist and human rights activist Alexandr Podrabinek, who has gone into hiding after getting death threats over a controversial article about the current government’s defence of the Soviet Union despite its crimes against the Russian people. The Moscow correspondent of the French public radio station Radio France Internationale, Podrabinek also writes for Novaya Gazeta (the newspaper that journalist Ana Politkovskaya worked for at the time of her murder) and edits the human rights news agency Prima (" RSF, 27 September 2009.
     "Radio France Internationale exprime sa solidarité et son inquiétude face aux attaques dont est victime son correspondant à Moscou, Alexandr Podrabinek." RFI press release, 29 September 2009.
     Update: "Moscow police must immediately investigate and bring to an end a campaign of harassment orchestrated in part by a pro-Kremlin organization against online journalist Aleksandr Podrabinek, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Podrabinek, 56, known for his sharp commentary on political and social issues, has gone into hiding after receiving a series of threats stemming from a September 21 commentary on the news Web site Yezhednevny Zhurnal that pointed out the human rights abuses of the Soviet government." CPJ, 30 CPJ 2009. CPJ does not mention Podrabinek's affiliation with RFI, but RFI reported the
CPJ protest on 1 October 2009
See also AP, 2 October 2009.

Two RFA reporters "named" in Cambodian disinformation case (updated).

Posted: 03 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Military police clashed Wednesday with a group of about 40 Cambodian Cham Muslims outside the Takeo Provincial Court after a judge ordered the arrest of a Muslim community leader on disinformation charges. Supporters of the suspect, Ny San, blocked police from entering the courthouse for two hours before finally being dispersed. Ny San was then taken to prison. ... Two Radio Free Asia reporters and two Cambodian Centre for Human Rights activists were also named in the case and were due for questioning today, but the arrest of Ny San has put the appearance of the four in doubt." The Phnom Penh Post, 1 October 2009.
     Update: A Radio Free Asia reporter and two human rights activists charged with spreading disinformation were released after appearing for questioning before a Takeo provincial court on Thursday. ... According to Chheng Sophors, a senior investigator for local rights group Licadho, 'RFA reporter Sok Sarey arrived in court for the interrogation accompanied by a lawyer. Although he was allowed to go home, the charges against him still stand. All the defendants are awaiting trial.' The charges were brought against the defendants by Ry Mab, acting representative of the Borei Cholsa Cham, after RFA and the CCHR reported on a leadership dispute involving Cham Muslims supporting Ny San." The Phnom Penh Post, 2 October 2009.

Speaking of which, my ingest and playout are not what they used to be.

Posted: 02 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Omneon Spectrum media servers are being used for ingest and playout for BBC Persian TV, a new service launched in January 2009 by BBC World Service. Installed in BBC facilities in London, the Omneon server systems support an efficient and reliable tapeless workflow for BBC Persian TV, which currently broadcasts eight hours of daily current affairs and features news content for Persian speakers in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and around the world, complementing the BBC's existing radio and online news offerings in Persian. The installation for BBC Persian TV is based on the same tapeless workflow model used successfully for the launch of BBC Arabic TV in 2008." Likely Omneon press release via, 1 October 2009.

International travelers of the 21st century could find themselves as uninformed as those of the 19th.

Posted: 02 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Among "things you can do to protect yourself" if a natural disaster occurs while traveling abroad: "Read and watch the international news for the areas in which you’re traveling. You can find BBC World and CNN International broadcasts in English in most Western-catering hotels and even smaller guesthouses. You can even set up a CNN profile and be alerted via email or your mobile device when breaking news occurs." Molly McCahan,, 30 September 2009.
     Until recent years, travelers carried shortwave radios to stay informed during foreign travel. During a disruption, international television may not be available in a hotel room if it is fed to the hotel via the local cable television system. Internet access would also be interrupted. If the hotel receives the international channels via satellite, and the hotel has an electric power generator, BBC World and CNN International might still be available. Otherwise, a battery powered shortwave radio is the information lifeline. However, travelers are less likely to carry shortwave radios if they are needed only during emergencies. And major Western stations such as BBC and VOA have cut back on their shortwave transmissions, making them less likely to be audible at any given time.
     Well prepared hotels should have an emergency monitoring post, with auxiliary power, consisting of satellite and shortwave receivers, satellite telephones, and a copy machine to distribute essential news to guests.

     "A new device that would force radios to turn on and automatically issue information during emergencies is being developed in Canberra. The yellowbird radio alert system allows radios to flash a warning light and transmit official messages such as bushfire warnings. The system's developers say it could be used to alert people in the Asia Pacific region to natural disasters." ABC News, 2 October 2009. In the United States, radios that turn on when alerts are sent by NOAA weather broadcasts (near 162 MHz) have been available for years.

Democratic Voice of Burma depends on VJs "willing to take the risk."

Posted: 02 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Founded in 1992, the [Democratic Voice of Burma], a non-profit media organisation, broadcasts news in English and Burmese via radio, satellite television and the Internet. The courage and tenacity of DVB's team in chronicling events in Myanmar is the subject of Anders Ostergarda's documentary 'Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country'. Having won almost 20 international awards, 'Burma VJ' - which was screened at Toronto's Hot Docs documentary festival this May - is now playing in Toronto theatres. Present at the Hot Docs was 'Burma VJ's' key subject and the narrator, known only as Joshua. ... Although DVB began broadcasting into Myanmar via shortwave radio from July 1992, it was only from 2005 that it began satellite telecasts into the country. 'We did not know how it (TV programming) would turn out when we recruited journalists like Joshua. We just had to try and we were lucky that these youngsters were willing to take the risk,' said Khin Maung Win, DVB's Deputy Executive Editor." V. Radhika, Womens Feature Service, via NewsBlaze, 30 September 2009.

China Radio International, CCTV gush correctly in coverage of PRC 60th anniversary.

Posted: 02 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Covering the parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China: "Commentators on China's English-language TV channel repeatedly stressed the country's commitment to peace, describing its military as defensive and stressing its contribution to peacekeeping initiatives. 'It sticks to the strategy of using nuclear power to defend and refuses to engage in the nuclear arms race,' said the commentator as camouflage lorries bearing ballistic missiles rolled past the leaders and the air force roared overhead, leaving a rainbow of smoke-trails behind them. ... After the recent unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, the parade tried to emphasise ethnic unity. 'Look at all our ethnic groups holding hands and dancing together,' gushed a commentator on the state's China Radio International. 'They are a moving picture of harmonious unity.'" The Guardian, 1 October 2009. See also and
     "English-language parade commentators on China Radio International made frequent reference to natural disasters the country had faced in recent times, such as the earthquake in Sichuan province in May last year in which tens of thousands were killed." Daniel Bardsley, The National (Abu Dhabi), 1 October 2009.
     "Just because: GlobalPost has it covered, from a historic and cultural perspective, we thought we'd point out that not everybody is celebrating 60 years of Communist Rule in China: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong Thursday to denounce China's human rights record as the country celebrated, Voice of America reports." GlobalPost, 1 October 2009, with links. Interesting that Boston-based GlobalPost has no qualms, Smith-Mundt or otherwsie, about linking to VOA.

RFI, BBC reporters in Guinea make themselves scarce after threats.

Posted: 02 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans frontières "is extremely worried for the safety of Mouctar Bah, the Conakry correspondent of Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale, and Amadou Diallo, the BBC’s correspondent. After being threatened and roughed up by soldiers while covering the violent dispersal of an opposition demonstration two days ago in which hundreds died, they are now reportedly wanted by the military authorities. ... As a result, the two reporters have gone into hiding." RSF, 30 September 2009.

International channels nominated for Hot Bird awards.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
For the HOT BIRD™ TV Awards, Deutsche Welle TV and National Geographic are nominated in the HDTV theme. BBC Persian, France 24, and TVN CNBC Biznes (Poland) are nominated in the News category. CCTV9 (China, in English) in the National Window category. "More than 1,000 channels broadcast via [Eutelsat's] HOT BIRD™ video neighbourhood at 13 degrees East which serves over 123 million cable and satellite homes in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa." Eutelsat press release, 29 September 2009.

"Next Generation Leaflet Delivery System."

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Communicating messages to the Afghans is an important part of the Nato mission, with the German army nominally in charge of 'psychological operations', producing billboards and handbills. Ingenious graphics are used to try to get across basic ideas to a largely illiterate audience: evil cartoon poppies with fanged teeth are supposed to be suggestive of the evils of opium production and convoluted photo-stories warn of the dangers of interfering with roadside bombs. Airdrops of leaflets tend to be concentrated in dangerous parts of the south where it is not possible for troops to hand out bits of paper. Other items have been dropped, including footballs decorated with the world's flags, courtesy of the US military last year. But these caused huge offence – and sparked demonstrations – due to the inadvertent inclusion of the Qur'anic verses on Saudi Arabia's flag." Jon Boone, The Guardian, 1 October 2009.
     "U.S. Special Operations Command is looking for a wider range of options, and their current R&D budget calls for a 'Next Generation Leaflet Delivery System,' which will: '…provide forces a family of systems consisting of unmanned air vehicles, drones, missiles, and leaflet boxes that safely and accurately disseminate variable size and weight paper and electronic leaflets to large area targets, at short (10-750 miles) and long (>750 miles) ranges.'" David Hambling, Wired Danger Room, 30 September 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Shortwave goes boldly where no man has gone before, and to the library.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Star Trek sound designer Ben Burtt "remains particularly proud of ... his use of shortwave radio transmissions to create a realistic tone to the futuristic technologies ... something that the original series was no stranger to. 'The other thing that was used a lot in the original show was shortwave radio recordings and sounds off of transmissions and Morse code, things you can pick up in-between the dials on a shortwave radio,' Burtt said. 'I love that sort of thing and I’ve collected it for years. There’s some of that in the original "Star Trek" television show – and the whole beginning of the movie, that first minute or two where the [USS] Kelvin is coming into view, is all short wave radio sounds.'" Alan Stanley Blair, Airlock Alpha, 27 September 2009.
     "In the midst of today's electronic gadgetry and communications innovation little is either known or remembered about shortwave radio - sending and receiving. But the Norwalk Public Library, in partnership with the Greater Norwalk Amateur Radio Club (GNARC) is offering an opportunity to experience the thrill and adventure of 'ham' radio. With a 66 foot-long inverted 'Vee' antenna mounted on the Main Library's roof, radio signals from all over the world can be heard on the shortwave receiver in place on the Main Level. The receiver is available for public use. The headset attachment is located at the Information Desk." Norwalk Public Library via, 29 September 2009.

Venezuela's Radio del Sur signs on, claims affiliates in 18 countries.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Radio del Sur, a 300-station public network envisioned by Caracas as a tool for regional integration, signed onto the air this week, at a time when the Chávez administration is waging an offensive against private radio outlets, BBC Mundo reports. The network is based in Caracas. According to El Universal its affiliate stations are in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay. It will expand soon to Africa and intends to extend throughout the global South, state-owned Venezuelan National Radio says." Ingrid Bachmann, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, 30 September 2009, with links to several reports. See also Planning for the station goes back at least to January 2007. See also previous post on 17 December 2008. Based on those reports, I've been looking for a "Radiosur" or "Radio Sur." Actual use of Radio del Sur content by the listed affiliates needs to be verified.
     "La Nueva Televisión del Sur (teleSUR) firmó tres convenios con Mozambique, Angola y Guinea Bissau, para dar inicio de la expansión de su señal hasta el continente africano, así lo dio a conocer el domingo su presidente, Andrés Izarra. Otro de los países africanos donde posiblemente teleSUR podría transmitir es Cabo Verde pues dentro de los planes que se estipularon en el acuerdo se encuentra la transmisión del noticiero en portugués." Telesur, 29 September 2009.

Zelaya-affiliated broadcasters closed in Honduras.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Turning its words into actions, the facto government [of Honduras] yesterday followed up its decree suspending civil liberties by closing Radio Globo and Canal 36 television, two Tegucigalpa-based stations that had already been assaulted and suspended several times in the past three months for their opposition to the 28 June coup d’état. In both cases, the police evicted staff and confiscated all the equipment." Reporters sans frontières, 29 September 2009.
     "This kind of decree has been the norm for authoritarian rulers - from Chile's Pinochet to Cuba's Castros - who tolerate freedom of speech only when it favors the government." Human Rights Watch, 28 September 2009.
     "Radio Globo has a reporter inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa where Zelaya has been staying since he slipped back into the country a week ago in defiance of an arrest order against him.", 29 September 2009.
     "The unofficial radio station of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya resumed broadcasting via the Internet on Monday, a day after the country's caretaker government shuttered it by force. ... On Tuesday, Radio Globo DJs played 'resistance' music and took calls by mobile phone from a cramped peach-colored bedroom in a safe house at the end of a narrow residential alley." Reuters, 29 September 2009.
     "Along with a state television station, the government of Roberto Micheletti, the de facto president, has many vehicles with which to discredit, if not smear, Mr. Zelaya. On Wednesday night, for example, government television reported, without attribution, that Brazil had promised to reinstate Mr. Zelaya in return for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. But Mr. Zelaya has his own media allies, notably the Radio Globo radio station, which broadcasts around the clock, opening its microphones to callers and repeating its own set of rumors and misrepresentations. Mr. Zelaya is a frequent caller to the station and to others around the world, where he makes his own outrageous claims: Israeli commandos have been hired to kill him; he is being secretly poisoned by gas and radiation; Mr. Micheletti is preparing to storm the Brazilian Embassy." Elisabeth Malkin and Marc Lacey, New York Times, 24 September 2009.

Beijing will ban various forms of radio during National Day.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
Beijing "will implement 24-hour radio control in some of its areas during the National Day of China on October 1, 2009. ... First, taking Tiananmen as its center, use of radio devices, including radio interphones, VHF amateur radio stations, wireless microphones, outdoor base stations of wireless local area networks, wireless spread spectrum outdoor stations, and internal wireless paging centers, should be suspended ... . Next, use of all vehicle-mounted amateur radio stations, campus FM radio stations, wireless paging centers, FM transposer stations, model remote control equipment, and launch systems with the paging mode should be suspended within the entire city." China Tech News, 30 September 2009.

Appearances on Al Jazeera and France 24 lead to beating on return to Tunisia.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Hamma Hammami, the former editor of the banned newspaper Alternatives and spokesman of the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (PCOT), was badly beaten by police on arriving at Tunis international airport yesterday from Paris, where he had criticised the government in an interview for Al Jazeera. ... In his interview for Al Jazeera on 25 September, Hammami also criticised the human rights situation and the way the government is organising the 25 October presidential election. His comments were retransmitted by the French 24-hour satellite TV news station France 24 the following evening." Reporters sans frontières, 30 September 2009.

CNN iPhone app worth the two dollars; CNN International app "coming soon."

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"CNN introduced on Tuesday morning an iPhone app that puts to shame similar products. Featuring live newscasts, video-on-demand, and a familiar iPhone interface, the CNN iPhone app also takes a step ahead of other news apps by charging $2 for the download. ... It's worth noting that international news channel France 24 has been offering a free app for a few months now that delivers live streaming of the channel's programming, but the CNN iPhone app, even with the $2 price tag, outshines most of the competitors' free apps." Daniel Ionescu, PCWorld, 29 September 2009. The iTunes App Store page states. "The CNN App is available to U.S. iPhone users only. The CNN International App is coming soon." Does this mean the app to receive CNN International would be available only to iPhone users outside the United States? If I could receive CNNI inside the United States, I would pat two dollars for the app. I suppose I would also have to buy an iPhone to go along with that app.
     "According to Ringo Chan, [CNN] Asia-Pacific vice-president of wireless, interactive content development and distribution at CNN International, CNN’s iPhone application was made available in the US yesterday, and CNN will develop a localised app in Asia-Pacific in the coming months." Media, 30 September 2009.

Nigerian school receives bouquet of international channels.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"Multichoice Nigeria , in collaboration with SchoolNet Nigeria, has donated a resource centre and an education bouquet to Oladipo Alayande School of Science, Okebola, Ibadan , Oyo State as part of efforts to improve teaching and learning. The school was among the 10 schools in the state that received the bouquet comprising: BBC World and Knowledge, National Geography, Animal Planet, History, Discovery and Learn[ing] Channel. Facilities provided to enhance its successful delivery included television sets, DVD recorder, whiteboard, satellite dish, decoder, unlimited free subscription, among others." THISDAY, 30 September 2009.

More BBC channels added to Australian pay TV platform.

Posted: 01 Oct 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Worldwide Channels has today announced a significant new distribution deal in Australia, which will see the launch of three BBC branded channels on AUSTAR, Australia's regional subscription television platform, this November. From November 15, AUSTAR subscribers will have access to CBeebies, ... BBC Knowledge, ... as well as new offering UKTV HD, showcasing world class drama, comedy and entertainment in the vividness of HD.
The three channels will join UKTV and BBC World News which are already available on AUSTAR... . The expanded distribution comes just one year after the launch of CBeebies and BBC Knowledge on FOXTEL, Australia's leading subscription TV provider." BBC Worldwide press release, 29 September 2009.
     New channels on Austar also include Al Jazeera English. Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, near Brisbane), 30 September 2009.