Ethiopia, already jamming VOA shortwave, may also be blocking VOA's website.

Posted: 30 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"U.S. funded-broadcaster Voice of America said on Monday that Ethiopia may have blocked its website in a move which may lead to further U.S. criticism of its closest ally in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia holds national elections on May 23 and international press freedom advocacy groups say the government is intimidating and harassing journalists ahead of the vote. The government denies that. 'We have received reports that VOA's website is unavailable inside Ethiopia, and we are investigating the causes,' VOA Director Danforth Austin said in a statement. Government spokesmen were not immediately available to comment." Barry Malone, Reuters, 29 March 2010. In addition to jamming VOA Amharic shortwave. VOA has countered this by increasing the number of shortwave frequencies to nine. See previous post about same subject.

The internet is not freedom juice, and other notes on firewalls in China and elsewhere.

Posted: 30 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Only three days after Google announced the end of its censorship services in China on March 22, criticism of Google has disappeared from the headlines of the Chinese regime's mouthpiece, Xinhua news online. In contrast to its previous criticism of 'United States-backed information imperialism,' the Chinese regime has now played down the incident as an 'individual act by a commercial enterprise.' China analysts believe this is a tactic to quickly divert public attention away from the incident for fear that Chinese citizens may raise more questions regarding the details of the censorship and the regime's control of information." Zhang Haishan, Epoch Times, 28 March 2010.
     Alan Huang's company, "UltraReach Internet, is among a group of companies that make up the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. Through the consortium's simple software, often downloaded through an e-mail, a person can step outside whatever blocking or surveillance their country imposes and freely access anyplace on the Web. ... While the largest share of the consortium's traffic still comes from China, the service is seeing a surge from Iran — where the government cracked down last year on democracy activists using YouTube, Facebook and other social networking tools to communicate — and from Vietnam. The consortium also gets many users from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries — including the United States." Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News, 26 March 2010.
     "Even with censorship, the free-wheeling Internet— especially user-generated content — is a dramatic departure from tradition inside China, where the state controlled news and information with an iron grip for decades. Under that system, the central government disseminated the party line to state-owned newspapers, radio and television, which reported accordingly. Circulation of foreign papers in China was restricted. As the Internet became available to the public in the early 2000s, at first through cybercafé’s that proliferated in cities, and then through widely available in-home and office connections, the government’s ability to control the flow of information began to unravel. ... On some blogs, politically sensitive posts are blocked at the publication stage, ... while others are delayed for 'moderation' and then posted -- or not. Some are posted only in private view, so only the author can view them. ... More commonly, single blog entries disappear 24 hours or so after they are posted. That has created a tendency among knowledgeable Chinese Web surfers to quickly squirrel away potentially sensitive information that they encounter." Kari Huus, MSNBC, 26 March 2010.
     "The deep irony is how authorities use the Internet -- with its enormous potential to promote discussion and the free exchange of ideas -- as a means to silence and intimidate. It seems hardly imaginable that the Internet could be used as a tool of suppression. But so successful is China's model that other authoritarian governments strive to emulate it." Libby Liu, RFA president, Huffington Post, 26 March 2010.
     "Microblogging and Internet searches are their own freedom, and if China wants to block itself off from the Internet and live in a little bubble, let it. More Internet for the rest of us, I say." Greg Dewar, Daily Emerald (University of Oregon), 29 March 2010.
     "When asked about the internet freedom\political freedom linkage, panelist Rebecca McKinnon had what I found to be a pretty insightful response: It depends on what else is happening in the larger environment. McKinnon pointed out that there’s a tendency to look at this issue only in terms of access, but in most cases, it’s not just the blocking of websites or services that’s the problem, it’s all the other bad things usually done by authoritarian governments. When governments can remove web content, surveil users, conduct cyber-attacks, control domain-name registration, etc, expanding access is, in most cases, insufficient for the creation of political liberalization. As McKinnon put it, this is why the internet is not 'freedom juice,' which magically results in democratization. There are limits to what U.S. legislation or diplomacy can achieve if governments are bent on restricting their citizens’ internet activities." Patrick Barry, Democracy Arsenal, 25 March 2010.
     "By now it’s obvious that the Chinese reality is far murkier—all that whatnot, the great gray zone of personal improvement without political advancement. And the country has shown a strong and stubborn tendency to resist following any political model imported from abroad. Outsiders might have a great deal of influence, but it’s often indirect; foreigners can provide key tools, but the Chinese are determined to figure out how to use them on their own. And now, when it comes to the Internet, there’s one less tool out there." Peter Hessler, New Yorker, 26 March 2010.
     "[H]ave you, ordinary citizen like myself, ever tried to touch base with the Communist Chinese Embassy in Washington? Its website is, to put it charitably, under construction. If you click on the all-important part of any website, 'contact us,' you get the following message: 'Sorry, the webpage you browsed has been deleted!.'" John Brown, Huffington Post, 26 March 2010.
     "Implementing artful public diplomacy needs good understanding of reliability, the status and role of self criticism, as well as the role of 'civil society' in the process of implementing soft power. What we need to pay more attention is that public diplomacy which appears to be propaganda weakens soft power. And soft power should be built on the foundation of the understanding of other people's ideas, because the best public diplomacy should be always bidirectional." People's Daily Online, 26 March 2010.

Will new national search engine challenge Google in Russia?

Posted: 29 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"RBK Daily, a respected Russian news agency, reports (in Russian) that the Russian government might soon be launching a 'national search engine'. According to RBK's anonymous sources inside Kremlin, it would aim at satisfying 'state-oriented' needs such as 'facilitating access to safe information' and 'filtering web-sites that feature banned content.' It's going to be an ambitious project: the government is prepared to invest $100 million in this new venture, does not want to allow any foreign funding, and intends to build it in cooperation with the private sector." Evgeny Morozov, Foreign Policy, 26 March 2010.
     "Including Russia in the list [RSF's "under surveillance"] of countries that should raise concerns is certainly justified. But it also requires careful approach that can distinguish myth form facts, try to investigate the complexity, and avoid 'black and white' approach that categorizes some of processes as evidences for repressive actions by government." Gregory Asmolov, Global Voices Advocacy, 28 March 2010.

Critic says Russia Today "shows the country in a bad light."

Posted: 29 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Aleksandr Denisov, the deputy editor of 'Azia i Afrika,' sharply criticized the Russia Today television channel for programming, including the beating of Blacks in Moscow, that shows the country in a bad light and thus reinforces negative images of Russia in the minds of many rather than replaces them with positive ones. And finally, in a tone that likely upset some at this session, Vincente Barrientus, a scholar from Brazil’s Ibero-Latin Institute, went even further and called the leadership of Russia Today and the channel’s 'style,' an enterprise in which Russians have placed so much hope, 'juvenile' and 'unprofessional.'" Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia, 25 March 2010. Reporting all of the news, even if it is not flattering to the broadcaster's country, shows the country in a good light, and builds the broadcaster's all-important credibility.
     A special Voice of Russia web section provides a day-by-day chronicle of the final days of World War II in Europe, marking the 65th anniversary of that event.
     "The first edition of the 'Russia Today' supplement to one of the most influential Italian newspapers La Republica has come off the press. It was prepared by the Rossiyskaya Gazeta as part of the newspaper’s international project of foreign publications. ... It is the eighth information supplement prepared by the Rossiyskaya Gazeta for foreign partners, including also the US, the UK, France, India, Brazil, Bulgaria and Argentina." Voice of Russia, 29 March 2010.

The Moscow subway bombings and international broadcasting.

Posted: 29 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Park Kultury subway station in central Moscow, where the day’s second bombing took place, is close to Russia Today’s studio. One of the station’s anchors, Yulia Shapovalova, said that she had just finished her shift and was trying to board a train in the station when the explosion there took place. She shot some video on her phone outside the station and then returned to the studio to describe what she had seen, while obviously still shaken. ... The first image in this slide show on the Web site of Radio Free Europe shows crowds leaving the Park Kultury subway station in central Moscow after the bombing on a train there." Robert Mackey, The Lede blog, New York Times, 29 March 2010. See also Russia Today and RFE/RL websites. "[A] selection of the click public's comments sent to BBC Russian in reaction to the attacks." BBC World Service, 29 March 2010.

Australia Network video and Animal Planet audio befit the Bulldogs.

Posted: 29 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Meantime a couple from Sydney were in Vietnam last weekend. The husband was dead keen to watch the Bulldogs [of the Australian Football League] game, so started flicking the dials and - sure enough - there it was on the Australia Network (Channel 13). Sadly, however, the voice over was from the Animal Planet Channel (Channel 16). He was very annoyed, but his missus reckoned that, actually, it was better, as some of the dialogue from Animal Planet was quite relevant!" Peter Fitzsimons, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 March 2010.

Could an NHS Global emulate BBC Worldwide?

Posted: 29 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Andy Burnham, Health Secretary, said the taxpayer invests £100 billion in the [UK's National Health Service] annually and the knowledge and skills within the service could generate an income. The NHS must make efficiency savings of between £15bn and £20 between now and 2014 as real term increases in funding end and demand for health services continue to rise. Mr [Burnham] said the total global market for healthcare was around $4.1 trillion in 2007 and is growing at a significant rate and the NHS could benefit from a share in this market. He said NHS Global could be similar in format to BBC Worldwide which sells programmes abroad and invests the money back into the BBC. ... 'We know that BBC Worldwide has already had success in this area, and now the NHS, another of this country’s best-loved institutions, must make the most of these international opportunities.'" Rebecca Smith, The Telegraph, 26 March 2010.

Tributes to BBC World Service world music DJ Charlie Gillett (updated).

Posted: 29 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service DJ Charlie Gillett - the man who helped coin the term 'world music' - has died after a long illness at the age of 68. ... 'His postbag was one of the biggest, most affectionate and diverse in Bush House, which confirmed his special place in listener's lives. He was a very special broadcaster and he will be sorely missed.' And this weekend there is a chance to hear Charlie at his best: a programme from 2009 focusing on music inspired by mountains; tracks from three continents, subtly but clearly linked through the unique prism of his musicality and experience." BBC World Service, 18 March 2010. After several other BBC and UK radio jobs, he was host of BBCWS "World of Music" from 1999 to an unspecified date. I can't find information at the BBCWS website about the time of this weekend's tribute program. Update: Dragan Lekic found the times: 20 March at 2332 UTC, 21 March at 1432, and 22 March at 0332. See BBCWS Charlie Gillett's World Of Music web page.
     Update: "This [past] weekend [saw] a special edition of The Strand, paying tribute to the late Charlie Gillett. His BBC World Service series, World of Music launched in 1999 and was known to a dedicated audience of millions across the globe. Mark Coles presents this tribute programme, which boasts a prestigious list of world music artists including Yasmin Levy from Jerusalem, 17 Hippies from Germany, Toumani Diabate from Mali, Novalima from Peru and Fat Freddie's Drop from New Zealand." BBC World Service, 27 March 2010. Available online through 2 March.

BBC World News head of programs: "Programming should be visually strong enough that if you were watching in a second language, you’d still get it."

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Recently in [Australia] to meet with local documentary makers, [BBC World News head of programs Paul] Gibbs believes that channels such as BBC World news should make the world 'look bigger, not smaller', and provide a level playing field that reflects as many cultures as possible. 'I don’t think it’s fair the world should only have to suffer intelligent Brits or wonderful Americans doing plucky things around the world. The world can talk to itself perfectly,' he said. ... Gibbs and his team constantly receive pitches from filmmakers around the world, and at the moment, they are seeing a high volume of environmentally-themed programs. 'There is a sense of exhaustion. Too many people have jumped on the green bandwagon and a lot of corporations want to associate with green programming, in their "green wash" strategies,' admitted Gibbs. What Gibbs wants to see more of is a convergence between user-generated content and professional filmmaking. ... Another element that Gibbs considers vital for factual programming is that it can be understood by people from a non-English speaking background. 'Programming should be visually strong enough that if you were watching in a second language, you’d still get it, you’d understand it.'" Tasama Vatanaputi, Encore (Sydney), 25 March 2010.

The Canadian MD of Al Jazeera English on the eve of AJE's entry into Canada.

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Tony Burman is on a mission to connect Canadians with the wider world. ... Burman, who worked with CBC Television for 35 years, is now the managing director of AJE, and said the station covers parts of the world that virtually go unreported on Canadian television. When it arrives on Canadian airwaves, Burman said AJE will become the only international news channel with a bureau in Canada, which means the stories of Canadians will be brought before a world-wide audience. ... 'I think people will relate this is not a channel obsessed with the Middle East or pushing a bias or a lie. It's a channel that gives thorough coverage to Africa, Asia and the Americas.'" Pamela Roth, Leader-Post (Regina, SK), 25 March 2010.

The Eisenhower Memorial will be neighbor to VOA.

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission unveiled a design Thursday to honor the 34th president that by 2015 would recast a congested block of the federal bureaucracy in downtown Washington into a striking historical streetscape of columns etched with words, sculpture, trees and water. ... Unlike the well-known presidential memorials for Washington and Lincoln set amid green, open spaces, the Eisenhower design would be nestled among federal agencies that all came into being during his presidency: the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services - which originally were combined as Health, Education and Welfare - the federal Aviation Administration, and the Voice of America." David Goldstein, McClatchy Newspapers, 25 March 2010. VOA came into existence in 1942, in the Franklin Roosevelt administration. The US Information Agency was created in 1953, under the Eisenhower administration, and at that time VOA became part of of USIA. In 1954, VOA moved from New York to the building next to what will become the Eisenhower Memorial. See also Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and map of the site (pdf).

President Obama asks Congress for extra money to reimburse BBG for added VOA Creole broadcasts after Haiti earthquake.

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"I ask the Congress to consider the enclosed amendments to Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 proposals in my FY 2011 Budget. Included are amendments for ... the Broadcasting Board of Governors. These amendments would provide for costs associated with relief and reconstruction support for Haiti following the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, including reimbursement of obligations that have already been incurred by these agencies." President Obama letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, via Article Ant, 24 March 2010.

Daniel Mica says his concurrent service as lobbyist and as member of RFE/RL's board involved "no conflict."

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"[T]he administration has banned lobbyists from serving on certain government boards and committees. While I support lobbying reform and full transparency in the lobbying community, I find this new rule particularly challenging. I had the privilege of serving under President George H.W. Bush on the Board for International Broadcasting, which oversaw Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I was later appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as chairman. I served in both capacities while also serving as a lobbyist for an insurance trade association. When I was in Congress, my subcommittee had oversight of all of these broadcasters. I believed then and I believe now that my years as a congressman allowed me to provide foreign relations and communications expertise that helped those entities grow and prosper and promote democracy abroad. My lobbying work was unrelated, and there was no conflict in my board responsibilities. It seems to me that this current ban deprives the government of a strong resource. There are many on K Street who want to continue serving and have deep expertise they want to share, which does not conflict with their lobbying roles." Daniel A. Mica, CEO of the Credit Union National Association and former Democratic US Representative from Florida, The Hill, 23 March 2010.

Oxymoron? Freesat reaches one million sales mark.

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Freesat, the joint venture between ITV and BBC, announced yesterday that the subscription-free satellite service had reached the one million sales mark, after just 18 months in business. ... Freesat is host to BBC HD and Al Jazeera News along with 151 other channels and radio stations." Ally Bacon, City A.M., 24 March 2010. There is no subscription fee, but one does have to buy a digital box or Freesat HDTV.

Nowruz concerts: Namjoo on VOA PNN versus Googoosh on Radio Farda.

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Viewers in Iran and around the world are hailing the Persian New Year special broadcast by the Voice of America March 20th. Comments flooding into VOA’s Persian News Network and posted on online forums are calling the live Nowruz television program 'wonderful and exciting' with some describing it as 'the best Nowruz show' they have ever seen. The highlight of the three-hour program was an appearance by singer-songwriter Mohsen Namjoo, sentenced in absentia in Iran to five years imprisonment for his music. One viewer described his performance as 'incredible,' adding 'he put the dagger in the heart of the Islamic Republic.' ... The show can still be watched on line. ... The special was broadcast on the same day VOA launched its new English learning website for speakers of Farsi (http://farsi.goenglish.me). Thousands of users visited the site, creating so much traffic technicians were forced to provide additional server support." VOA press release, 22 March 2010.
     "Famed Iranian pop star Googoosh drew a crowd of over 5,000, most of them Iranians, at a concert in Dubai on March 23, with attendees spending anywhere from $100 to $800 per ticket. (Full disclosure: the concert was sponsored in part by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.) Why would your average Iranian go to such lengths to see a 60-year-old pop star live? Three reasons: she's been the country's definitive diva for four generations, she was giving a New Year concert (the Persian New Year, or 'Norouz' being March 20), and the concert was just across the Gulf. Tickets aren't cheap and neither is Dubai, but thousands did whatever it took to see Googoosh live. (They can't in Iran as women are banned from singing in public.)" Kristin Deasy, Transmission blog, RFE/RL, 25 March 2010.

ITU speaks out against satellite jamming "clearly from Iranian territory," but can't impose sanctions for now.

Posted: 28 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The U.N. telecommunications agency says Iranian jamming of international satellite broadcasts is 'forbidden' and has ordered the Islamic republic to clear the interference. The International Telecommunication Union stopped short Friday of blaming the government for the jamming, but said the source was clearly from Iranian territory. ITU said Friday it was acting on a complaint from France, representing satellite provider Eutelstat. ... ITU has no effective means to enforce its order." AP, 26 March 2010.
     "'In this case there is evidence that there is a deliberate attempt to block the satellite transmissions and so they are saying this should be stopped. This is prohibited under the regulations,' ITU spokesman Sanjay Acharya told a news briefing. 'Iran has not admitted it is sending out these signals that are interfering with Eutelsat. They have said they will investigate,' he added. ... 'This is the first time that the radio regulations board has had to take this step,' Acharya told Reuters, noting that the case involved a 'deliberate attempt to block a signal.'" Reuters, 26 March 2010.
     "Acharya acknowledged that the ITU could not impose any sanctions against Tehran before its next world congress in some two years' time. 'What we can do at this moment is to add pressure on the government of Iran,' he said." AFP, 27 March 2010.
     "The ITU said in a statement that after looking at evidence provided by Eutelsat, it had concluded that the satellite operator had been targeted by interference that 'appeared to be emanating from the territory of Iran' and noted that 'the interfering signals appear to be of a nature that is prohibited under Radio Regulations No. 15.1'. The ITU used the statement to urge the Iranian government to "continue its effort in locating the source of interference and to eliminate it as a matter of the highest priority." Roger Field, ITP.net, 28 March 2010.
     "In a delicately worded statement apparently designed not to antagonize Iranian authorities, the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said it accepted the findings of the French National Frequencies Agency concluding that the interference to Eutelsat signals, particularly those from the BBC reporting on Iranian politics, is coming from Iranian territory. ... Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen, who assumed his post less than a year ago, told the Satellite 2010 conference in Washington on March 16 that he is 'not overly impressed by what regulators have done so far. How can they put more teeth into the effort, where we don’t have the typical United Nations approach to life, where you send an ambassador to say, "You really shouldn’t be doing this?"' de Rosen asked. 'Welcome to the industry,' responded Daniel S. Goldberg, chief executive of satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada and a satellite communications veteran. 'Short of a pre-emptive strike,' Goldberg said, persuasion and negotiations are the only tools available to prevent frequency interference." Peter B. de Selding, Space News, 26 March 2010.
     "'If the Iranians are allowed to jam any channel and get away with it, others in other countries will begin to do the same. It's a recipe for chaos,' Behrouz Afagh, the BBC World Service's director of the Asia and Pacific region, told The Scotsman." Michael Purcell, The Scotsman, 23 March 2010.
     "There is someone on the Iranian space team who must be feeling increasingly uncomfortable as this situation drags on. He is Ahmad Talebzadeh, head of the Iranian Space Agency (ISA), which is preparing to launch three satellites, named Tolou, Mesbah-2 and Navid. Talebzadeh finds himself in a very awkward position as Iran decides to go on ignoring the rising tide of protests that are emanating from Europe and the US over Iran's practice of jamming satellite broadcasts. This activity is possibly placing Talebzadeh's successful climb up the career ladder - both at home and abroad - in jeopardy. He did not respond to e-mails from Asia Times Online. Besides serving as ISA chief, Talebzadeh is a very visible figure in the global satellite arena. He serves as the current chair of the UN legal sub-committee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). He is also in charge of the Department of External Relations and Legal Affairs for the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), which is headquartered in Beijing. Pay close attention to 'legal' in both of his titles here." Peter J. Brown, Asia Times, 25 March 2010.
     The insideIRAN.org project at The Century Foundation and the National Security Network recommends: "●Use Sanctions, Technology to Counter Satellite Jamming The Islamic Republic sends jamming signals to commercial satellites, disrupting their broadcasts. Many commercial satellites are reluctant to host Persian- language television channels fearing their satellites might get attacked. These satellites can be jammed because uploads and downloads are sent on a fixed frequency. Newer commercial and military satellites, however, are built to resist such jamming with noise filtering and anti-jamming equipment. ●Levy sanctions on foreign and Iranian companies actively involved in helping the Iranian government's satellite jamming. Prominent Western satellite firms are helping the government block Iranians' access to foreign news networks such as the BBC, VOA, and German television, and providing satellite services to the Islamic Republic of Iran's Broadcasting (IRIB), such as IntelSat and EUtelSat of France. ●Dedicate a hardened satellite to host Iranian channels. This would enable effective Persian news services, such as BBC Persian and Voice of America, to escape the Islamic Republic's routine jamming efforts. This is one of the most important measures that can be undertaken by the U.S. government in order to ease the free flow of information to Iran. ●Facilitate the provision of high-speed Internet via satellite. The regime deliberately has slowed the internet to reduce the time in which Iranians can communicate and read the internet. Making alternative satellites available-aside those used by the regime-could allow Iranians to have high-speed Internet. ●Broadcast digital content via satellite to millions of users in Iran. This is less expensive than the two-way satellite connection discussed above. One-way content delivery would permit the transmission of popular websites, such as YouTube, to users inside the country." insideIRAN.org, 23 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.
     "Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari ... told audience members gathered for the Index on Censorship awards ... In the days of satellite and broadcast television, Facebook, Google and Twitter, the Iranian government wants to change the tide of history. It wants to take Iran back to the era of shortwave radio and terrestrial television - media they can easily control and censor. A wise government would listen to the voices of its own people; the Iranian government shoots the messenger." Laura Oliver, journalism.co.uk, 26 March 2010. Actually, shortwave, though no longer especially popular in Iran, is the most difficult to control because of the physical tendency of shortwave signals to travel more effectively over long rather than short distances.

"Dramatic drop in access" to VOA in Ethiopia.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Voice of America (VOA) began satellite broadcasts of its Amharic-language programs to Ethiopia this week after Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi ordered that VOA’s broadcasts be blocked. ... Letitia King, public affairs director for the Broadcasting Board of Governors ... pointed out that, unfortunately, the move to satellite broadcasting does not necessarily mean that Ethiopians will now be able to listen to VOA programmes. There has been a 'dramatic drop in access,' she told IPI. According to BBG figures, 53 per cent of Ethiopians own shortwave radios, while only 1 per cent have access to satellite television, where they can now listen to VOA on an audio channel. Previously, the broadcaster’s own statistics showed that its Amharic-language programmes were reaching one in 10 Ethiopians. ... 'IPI welcomes VOA’s decision to use satellite technology as a means of overcoming Ethiopian government restrictions,' said IPI Director David Dadge. 'We also condemn the Ethiopian authorities’ attempts to block Voice of America broadcasts. IPI also finds it disturbing and irresponsible that Prime Minister Zenawi would equate VOA broadcasts with the extreme rhetoric of radio stations involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.'" International Press Institute, 25 March 2010. See also Human Rights Watch, 24 March 2010.
     "VOA said it was also exploring other methods of broadcasting to the country. ... VOA and Germany’s Deutsche Welle are the only foreign broadcasters producing Amharic radio programmes." Barry Malone, Reuters, 23 March 2010. Well, Radio Cairo has Amharic, as do some Christian international radio stations, but they would not provide as much news about Ethiopian politics as do VOA and DW.
     "Since 1998, TPLF [Tigrayan People's Liberation Front] has been jamming, on and off, 'the shortwave transmissions of Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea (VOBME), as Eritrean state radio is known,' according to Hans Johnson of Shortwave Central, using Voice of the Tigray Revolution from Mekelle. Moreover, Hans Johnson reports that the practice of jamming in Ethiopia has longer life. Voice jamming is the technique mostly used to create interference on other/ foreign radio broadcasts, i.e., beaming another radio on the same frequency at the same time. The Emperor had jammed radio Cairo Amharic service, which was broadcasting ELF propaganda against Ethiopia in the 1970s. The military regime jammed the Amharic service of VOA and the voice of Germany, when it was under intense internal and external pressures." Genet Mersha, nazret.com, 23 March 2010. Hans tells me that he has not spoken to anyone about jamming in many years, so his statement was obviously dredged from a web search.
     "Radio jamming is the preferred technique that dictators use to stifle the free flow of information. What is mystifying and what is uncommon is that Ethiopia’s dictator and international pariah, Meles Zenawi, who publicly vowed to jam the VOA, is the same person who shares with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown the honor of co-chairing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing." Ginbot 7 Statement, EthioGuardian.com, 25 March 2010.
     "What is an open secret both in and outside Ethiopia is that the leadership of the Amharic service of the VOA is redolent with die-hard opponents of the ruling EPDRF. And here lies the crux of the matter. While no one disputes their democratic right to oppose EPDRF, they cannot allow their political bias to dictate VOA’s editorial policy. I am an attentive listener of VOA, and I sometimes wonder if what I am listening to is party political broadcast on behalf of one of Ethiopian gallimaufry opposition parties." Dilwenberu Nega, Waltainfo.com, 23 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Not an unusual story: Nigerian who listened to VOA is now a US citizen.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"On a crisp February morning, 811 people representing 83 countries gathered in the floor of the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. Their backgrounds were varied, but they were unified in a singular goal -- to become citizens of the United States. ... Among those who, with papers in hand, filed into the historic building was Nigerian-born Fr. Ambrose of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Colfax. ... 'When I went to seminary,' he said, 'I used to listen to Voice of America, a news station broadcast in foreign countries, every night at 7 on my shortwave radio.' Now he is looking forward to participating in the democratic process he heard about on those radio shows." Marci Seither, Colfax (CA) Record, 25 March 2010.

New mobile website for VOA Russian.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"VOA has unveiled a new website for cell phone users in the Russian Federation’s rapidly expanding web market. The new URL, ru.voa.mobi, automatically adapts to each user’s mobile phone – allowing easy and convenient access to the VOA Russian-language Internet site. ... All of VOA Russian’s rich text, audio, and video content is available through the new mobile site. The service’s LiveJournal blog, which is updated several times daily with commentary and analysis by leading Russian and American experts, is also available. ... VOA Russian reaches its audience in the Russian Federation and former Soviet republics exclusively through the Internet." VOA press release, 23 March 2010.

Veteran international broadcaster Vladimir Pozner interviews Hillary Clinton.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Last night at midnight, Russia finally got to see Vladimir Pozner, its Larry King, sit down with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. ... Pozner is a fairly controversial figure in Russia, who is seen by the intelligentsia as a Kremlin mercenary. Born abroad to a Russian father and a French mother, he attended Stuyvesant High School in New York. The English he perfected there served him well: he spent much of his career (and the Cold War) as the voice of Radio Moscow, which, like Voice of America [in reverse], beamed news about Russia into the West. (He was also a regular on Nightline in the 80s, and, in the 1990s, worked regularly with Phil Donahue.)" Julia Ioffe, True/Slant, 23 March 2010, with video.

Owner of Venezuela's Globovisión detained, released, but can't leave the country.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The owner of Venezuela's only television channel that remains critical of President Hugo Chavez was arrested Thursday, spurring concerns among rights activists of a widening government crackdown aimed at silencing critics. Attorney General Luisa Ortega said a warrant was issued for the arrest of Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of the TV channel Globovision, for remarks that were deemed 'offensive' to the president. ... The arrest came three days after opposition politician Oswaldo Alvarez Paz was detained for remarks made on a Globovision talk show on March 8." AP, 25 March 2010.
     "Venezuelan authorities released the president of opposition television network Globovision and prohibited him from leaving the country after he was detained earlier today for comments made about President Hugo Chavez." Bloomberg, 25 March 2010.

China's CCTV-9 English television programs will be seen in Liberia.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Chinese Ambassador accredited to Liberia, H.E. Mr. ZHOU Yuxiao has reiterated his government's firm commitment in bringing more China styled entertainments and funs into Liberia for a furtherance of the cultural exchanges and peope-to-people understanding between the two countries. ... Following the China Radio International(CRI) english programs were introduced in 2008, a move aiming to bringing more cultural exchanges and friendship consolidation between Liberia and China, the introduction of CCTV-9 english TV programs into Liberia by Liberia Broadcasting System(LBS), through its ELTV station, was first initiated by LBS's Director General Mr. Charles Snetter previously and finally came to an agreement between CCTV and LBS and 3 hours of CCTV-9 programs featuring Chinese favor will be broadcasted on a daily base in ELTV. ... Mr. Charles Snetter, Director General of LBS, ... [r]eflecting upon his first refreshing impression with CCTV-9 english programs a few years agao when he was on an overseas trip to Namibia, the LBS boss expressed his delightness in making such a mission achieved during his tenure as the LBS's Director General." Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, 24 March 2010.

US corporations not lining up behind Google in its confrontation with China.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Google is using Internet freedom as a rallying cry in its confrontation with China. But the deafening silence from U.S. corporations underscores how increasingly isolated Google looks in its hope to rewrite the rules in the country with the biggest number of Internet users. Only GoDaddy.com, the Internet domain name and Web host company, immediately followed Google’s lead in protesting Chinese policies. It said that it would no longer register domain names in China because of new rules requiring it to collect customers’ photos. The action by GoDaddy, which has not been known in the past for taking a strong stance on Internet freedom, contrasts sharply with the modest responses from other companies." Reuters, 26 March 2010.
     "Since Monday, Google has been redirecting searches from China to its Hong Kong portal in what could be seen as a face-saving compromise for both sides. Mainland Internet users can still search in Chinese and English. Although the Hong Kong site is not blocked, some searches from the Chinese mainland are restricted." Barbara Demick and David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 26 March 2010.
     "Here’s a better approach for Google to take. ... [E]xplain how Google is going to launch a satellite Internet service similar to one I described in a recent column, specifically to bring freedom of information (and advertising) to totalitarian regimes everywhere. The technology exists, Google could finance it, and China couldn’t stop it." Robert X. Cringely, I, Cringely, 13 January 2010. Worth looking into. But if the satellite internet service involves a direct uplink by the user, this also facilitates direct uplinks by jammers. If the uplink is via telephone, presuming that could be set up in China, it could also be shut down, unless maybe the telephone numbers are frequently changed, à la proxy site URLs. See previous post about same subject.

Disney-ABC producing a Chinese version of The Amazing Race.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Disney-ABC International Television (DAIT) Asia Pacific signed an agreement with Shanghai Media Group (SMG) last Wednesday to produce a local version of the popular reality show The Amazing Race in China, entitled China Rush. The Amazing Race is a reality TV show in which teams of two people race around the world in competition with other teams and fulfill tasks related to their destination and its culture. With a similar format, the 12-episode China Rush will be shot at locations across China, with the final destination set in Shanghai where World Expo 2010 will take place." People's Daily Online, 25 March 2010.

China Radio International helps operate website promoting Chinese films overseas.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"China's Film Bureau has teamed up with China Radio International to set up a foreign-language website to promote Chinese films overseas, a move that further underlines the country's growing ambitions abroad. China made 450 films last year but, with some exceptions, very few actually make it beyond the country's borders and those that do usually end up at festivals or find small markets within the Chinese diaspora. ... The website, www.chinesefilms.cn, ... is operated by China Film Promotion International, which is the overseas sales arm of China Film Group, and CRI Online, the online section of China Radio International." Clifford Coonan, Variety, 23 March 2010. See also CRIEnglish.com, 23 March 2010.

Was leaflets, is now DVDs, sent into North Korea via balloons.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Anti-Pyongyang leaflet campaigns have gone digital, with activists flying out balloons carrying DVDs across the inter-Korean border to show North Koreans what they may be missing. Lee Min-bok, a defector from the North who leads a group that started the leaflet campaign using balloons, said his group began sending propaganda DVDs along with paper leaflets this year. 'We have flown off about 400 DVDs from Baekryeong and Ganghwa islands in the West Sea and Cheolwon since February,' Lee said. Like the leaflets, the DVDs describe North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a dictator indulging in western luxuries or show North Koreans that their government may not be telling them the truth. The North Korea Reform Radio, a short-wave radio broadcaster run by defectors from the North, produced a DVD featuring the inter-Korean naval clash that occurred in the West Sea last November. Lee produced a DVD on Kim Jong-il's luxurious life. Contrary to what many might think, DVD players are common household items in the impoverished North." Kim So-hyun, The Korea Herald, 27 March 2010. DVD players, or VCD players? VCDs are an earlier form of video disk with lower-resolution video than a DVD. They were, perhaps still are, widely used in North Korea and elsewhere in East Asia. Most DVD players can play VCDs, but never vice versa. If it were my balloon, I would loft both formats. Regarding North Korea Reform Radio, the 2010 World Radio TV Handbook, in its convenient section on "Clandestine and Other Target Broadcasts" (easily missed in the back of the book), lists ten such stations beaming into North Korea via shortwave. In the other direction, from North to South Korea, there is only one: Pyongyang Branch of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front. By the time the station finishes identifying itself, the daily broadcast would be half over.

More discussion of IP blocking, geoblocking, and un-international broadcasting.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"In late 1929, Radio Moscow went on air for the first time. It didn't broadcast in Russian. Why? It wasn't meant for a Russian audience. Instead, Radio Moscow's aim was to spread a Russian viewpoint to Europe, or at least the parts of it speaking English, French, and German. Radio Moscow beamed its way into homes across Europe, selling the vision of a happy, productive, empowered Russia. ... For a counterpoint, let's take a look at the BBC. The controversial iPlayer, an online media player, gives Britons access to previously broadcast BBC TV programs. Many of these programs are actually produced by the BBC, which eliminates a vast number of rights issues. All the same, the service is only available to those logging in from IP addresses in the UK. A financial argument for this IP blocking would be that because Britons pay for BBC programs with their mandatory license fee, they should have exclusive access to those programs. This is somewhat shortsighted. There's a proverbial waterfall of money that the BBC (and other organizations like it) is failing to put a bucket under. There's ad revenue waiting to be made on the backs of willing viewers outside the BBC's normal catchment area." Ginger Coons, Internet Evolution, 23 March 2010. Well, BBC does have commercial versions of bbc.com and all-news television for international audiences. As for BBC programs, plenty are available for sale at the BBC America shop.
     "Yes, it makes sense to ensure that content that BBC License Fee payers have paid for is only seen inside the UK. But putting the same block on educational and or publicity material makes NO sense at all. It was the same with the BBC Archives material published a while back. Black and white footage of Neville Chamberlain returning from Berlin were apparently not available in my area! This is not the kind of stuff that will contribute to bandwidth bills. Now that the BBC Management have spoken about the new focus of the corporation, I hope they will consider subscriptions to some BBC domestic channels (or selected content). A new role for BBC Worldwide perhaps?" Jonathan Marks, Critical Distance Weblog, 7 March 2010.

Heritage panel on Russian public diplomacy to the United States, and vice versa.

Posted: 27 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Yesterday, a panel hosted by The Heritage Foundation, 'Russian Anti-Americanism: A Priority Target for U.S. Public Diplomacy,' focused on U.S. public diplomacy efforts in Russia. ... [T]he State Department needs to conduct extensive research on Russia’s activities and find out how effective they are. Once this is completed, ... the U.S. must push back and counter these efforts. It also must be kept in mind that reaching out and engaging the Russian public, rather than the Kremlin is the public diplomacy objective." Morgan Roach, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 24 March 2010. See video of the event at Heritage Foundation, 23 March 2010.
     "Unlike Russia, the US doesn’t need to create misleading documentaries or engage in propaganda, yet the Obama presidency failed to provide a comprehensive public diplomacy policy and leadership, [Ariel] Cohen said." Khrystyna Kushnir, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 26 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

BBC Hindi covers highway construction in India, but it's the end of the road for VOA Hindi.

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"As India's Highways Minister, Kamal Nath, has announced the plans to build 20 kilometres of roads a day from June 2010, BBC Hindi is embarking on a three-week journey across India to find out how this construction may change the nation. As part of the ambitious multimedia project, Highway Hindustan - Rasta Future Ka, from Monday 22 March, a team of BBC journalists will cover about 2,500 kilometres, travelling along India's Golden Quadrilateral highway network which connects Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. With live interactive radio shows and text, blogs, audio and video features online on bbchindi.com, the BBC teams will investigate the effects of the construction on the lives of individuals and communities alike." Press release via India PRwire, 25 March 2010.
     Meanwhile, VOA broadcasts in Hindi will end 31 March with its last "America Live" television program. VOA Hindi radio was suspended in 2008.

And what is still on shortwave from the United States?

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A 1995 Washington Post story, syndicated in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, tells of Mark from Michigan, a University of Michigan maintenance worker who by night ran an hour-long shortwave radio broadcast that the story described as 'whose talk is so violent they're shunned by even the most far-right citizens' militias.' Mark Koernke was imprisoned in 2001 after fleeing the scene of a bank robbery [in which he was not involved] and leading police on a 50 mile chase. Judge Melinda Morris sentenced Koernke on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, resisting and obstructing an officer and fleeing a police officer. ... Koernke is back broadcasting on shortwave radio with a show called The Intelligence Report, which runs from 6-7 p.m. on 9.265 kHz." Edward Vielmetti, AnnArbor.com, 25 March 2010. That would be via private shortwave station WINB, Red Lion, Pennsylvania.

Larry Magne announces Passport to World Band Radio website will close.

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Followers of shortwave broadcasting know well the publication 'Passport to World Band Radio.' Larry Magne's labor of love that stretched two and a half decades was the bible of shortwave broadcasting. The first edition appeared in 1984 (then known as 'Radio Database International') and at its peak it sold 80,000 copies in one year. Its last issue was the 25th anniversary 2009 edition. Now the Web site too is signing off — a victim of seismic changes rattling the broadcast industry." Radio World, 25 March 2010.
     "World band radio gained vigor during the buildup to WW II, and of course during the War. After that, the Cold War with its ideological bent kept the field thriving. But once the Berlin Wall came down, questions arose as to why these government broadcasts were taking place in the absence of any major conflict. So, some reinvented themselves, while many phased down or terminated their shortwave operations. Add to that Sony’s near-downfall, the growth of the Internet, and even the possible fading away of print publications — and it’s sadly evident that the time has come to shutter Passport’s declining operation." Larry Magne, in his soon-to-expire www.passband.com, 19 March 2010. Over the years, I’ve found that people in the shortwave listening hobby are somewhat interested in the content of shortwave broadcasts, but much more interested in the signals that carry that content, and much, much more interested in the receivers that pick up those signals. Passport, with its interesting reviews of shortwave radios, hit the right buttons. I’m grateful to Larry -- a friend for 35 years -- for his many contributions to shortwave – oops -- world band broadcasting, and I’ll miss PWBR.

BBC World News sees audience growth in Asia, even among senior government officials.

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The latest Synovate PAX survey sees BBC World News record its highest weekly and monthly figures since the survey began publishing quarterly results in 2002. BBC World News grew its monthly reach to 3 million across the [Asian] region, up 13% to 20.7%, while weekly reach rose 14% to 1.5 million (10.7%). The channel’s daily reach also rose to 500,000, or 3.5% (a rise of 17%). The channel saw its weekly audience grow by more than 20% year-on-year in such diverse markets as India (+26%), Australia (+29%), Bangkok (+35%) and Singapore (+38%). It also increased its reach dramatically among frequent business travellers, with a massive 60% more now tuning in to the channel, while the number of senior government officials watching the channel rose by 34% to 21.9% weekly reach, more than any other news channel." BBC World News press release, 26 March 2010.
     BBC World News press releases announce new tourist advertising by Botswana 26 March 2010 and Kenya 23 March 2010.
     "BBC World News has extended its BBC World News app, which allows users of the iPhone and iPod Touch to watch the channel live on their Apple devices over Wi-Fi and 3G networks, to fifteen new countries, including ... Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey." BBC World News press release, 17 March 2010. That's fourteen countries. What is the mystery fifteenth country?

BBC World Service introduces an affordable Business Class.

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"BBC Learning English has launched BBC Business Class – a series of weekly online radio programmes aimed at helping Chinese students develop their business communication skills in the English language. BBC Business Class focuses on developing essential skills such as preparing for job interviews, making business phone calls and writing emails. The series consists of seven online modules, which are available free of charge on bbcukchina.com." BBC World Service press release, 25 March 2010. Is bbcukchina.com "in the clear" in China? Other BBC websites are blocked.

The old BBC World Service shortwave transmitters change hands again.

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Babcock and VT group clinched a merger deal today to create a defence and support services group with sales of £3bn and more than 25,000 employees in Britain and the US. ... VT also has major interests in education and training and operates transmission sites for the BBC world service." Richard Wachmann, The Guardian, 23 March 2010. In 1997, BBC World Service contracted out its shortwave transmission to a group of BBC engineering employees, who formed the company Merlin Communications. Merlin owned and operated the BBCWS shortwave and medium wave transmitters based in UK territories, and operated the trannsmitters located elsewhere. In 2000, VT Communications purchased Merlin, at a pretty profit for the Merlin ex-BBC employees. This recent transaction is actually a takeover by Babcock. In addition to leasing (back) shortwave time to BBCWS, VT Communications also leases time to other international broadcasters through its own and partner sites. Religious broadcasters seem to be taking over the time formerly occupied by government-funded stations, but for how long will shortwave transmission remain a profitable concern?

High-level BBC delegation in Pakistan.

Posted: 26 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that Pakistan is in favor of peace in Afghanistan and support reconciliatory efforts being made with Taliban, rejecting the impression that Pakistan has arrested the important leaders of Taliban in order to abolish their contacts with Afghan government or United Nations. He was talking to a delegation of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service headed by its director general Mark Thom[p]son who had called on him here on Monday." Online International News Network (Islamabad), 22 March 2010. Mark Thompson is actually director general of the parent BBC.
     Mark Thompson while thanking the Prime Minister for sparing time to meet the delegation, said that the coverage of Pakistan and the region by international media particularly BBC is extremely important since the developments directly relate to efforts for peace. He also mentioned that BBC is likely to initiate Urdu Service in Pakistan as well as for the Pakistanis living in UK and else where. Associated Press of Pakistan, 22 March 2010. This comes just as BBC proposes to drop its domestic BBC Asian Network (radio). Perhaps Thompson's visit pertains more to a BBC Urdu television product, which could also be shown in the UK. BBC World Service is not subject to any Smith-Mundt-like domestic dissemination prohibitions, and indeed proclaims the extra audience it obtains within the UK.

Palestinian university thesis concludes "un-objective coverage" by BBC Arabic.

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A researcher at Birzeit University [West Bank] submitted findings Saturday outlining what she found to be un-objective coverage around 'the question of Palestine' on BBC Arabic's broadcast news. The study, focusing on the daily news program World News This Evening's broadcasts between 8 November and 8 December 2008, found external political motivations swayed coverage of Palestine only weeks before Israel launched its Operation Cast Lead on 26 December 2008. ... During the study period, the research found 25 news events in Palestine, including the death, injury and detention of Palestinians including children, that went unreported by the news program. The same period saw the full coverage of every home made projectile launched from Gaza into Israeli territory, a total of 14. ... The committee passed the research and awarded Hamdan her Master of Arts. In their comments, the committee applauded the research as a 'remarkable contribution to the field of media research.'" Ma'an News Agency, 23 March 2010.

Bankruptcy court hearing may decide if Worldspace satellites are to be "sent up" (updated).

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"WorldSpace has filed an emergency motion with the Delaware Bankruptcy Court to 'de-orbit' its two satellites. Liberty Satellite Radio, in a matching filing, states bluntly that it has no intention of providing any more funds to WorldSpace. Liberty also adds that the two WorldSpace satellites 'are not assets of [WorldSpace] and thus the request to de-orbit should be denied'. In reality the two satellites, if de-orbited, will be sent up, not down, to a graveyard orbit safe from damaging other satellites. The bankruptcy court judge, Peter Walsh, will hear the application this coming Wednesday, March 24." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 21 March 2010.
     Update: "The Delaware Bankruptcy Court on March 24 allowed WorldSpace to go ahead with de-orbiting its two satellites. Judge Peter Walsh granted WorldSpace’s motion, approving the de-orbiting scheme, 'and to take any additional steps necessary'. Judge Walsh, in approving the WorldSpace plan, set aside any objections over the contested claim of actual ownership of the two satellites. In actuality the two satellites will now be placed into a high geostationary ‘graveyard’ orbit. It is understood that technicians from Intelsat, a near-neighbour of WorldSpace in Washington, will carry out the work." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 25 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Strategic communication: "public affairs on steroids."

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"[A] senior military official ... argued that ... information operations had become 'public affairs on steroids' with what he said was only 'limited oversight.' He explained: '"Strategic communication" has an air of respectability to it that propaganda and influence do not. The problem is that it's a slippery slope, because the information environment is so instantaneously global today. . . . You put something out there and it goes worldwide in a flash, making each influence activity suspect to a much wider and more skeptical audience.'" David Ignatius, Washington Post, 24 March 2010.
     "The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2009 required the President and the Defense Department to submit reports on comprehensive strategies for public diplomacy and strategic communication. These are called 1055 reports because of the section of the NDAA that called for them." With links to the White House and Defense Department 1055 reports. Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner.us, 19 March 2010. The White House 1055 lists the Broadcasting Board of Governors among the agencies involved, stating that the BBG "works to serve as an example of a free and professional press, reaching a worldwide audience with news, information and relevant discussions." But if the BBG elements are subject to the synchronization, coordination, and prioritization stressed in the document, they would not be very good examples of a free and independent press.
     "[R]elevant congressional oversight committees should: ▪ Hold hearings as strategy documents are produced by the executive branch to illuminate the shortcomings of existing public diplomacy structures within the U.S. government; ▪ Hold hearings on each of the multiple public diplomacy and strategic communications challenges faced by the United States today and the specific actions that the U.S. government can take to address them; and ▪ Fund pilot projects that can illustrate the effectiveness of foreign audience research in formulating targeted messaging to build the case for more extensive, strategic audience research." Helle C. Dale, Heritage Foundation, 22 March 2010. Audience research that focuses on U.S. strategic needs rather than on audience needs is not very strategic.
     "Operation Earnest Voice (OEV) is the critical program of record we use to synchronize and oversee our Information Operations activities, to counter our adversaries’ ideology and propaganda in the AOR, and to amplify credible voices in the region, all in close coordination with the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. OEV provides CENTCOM direct communication capabilities to a regional audience through traditional media as well as trans-regional websites and public affairs regional blogging." General David H. Petraeus testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, 16 March 2010.

Live on Radio Martí, Gloria Estefan supports the Ladies in White.

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Cuban-American music star Gloria Estefan, indignant over the 'aggression and harassment' that relatives of political prisoners on the communist-ruled island have suffered, announced plans for a march here in support of the group known as the Ladies in White. ... 'Cubans and non-Cubans alike that live in liberty need to take the opportunity at this moment in history to come together and show them that we care,' Estefan said at a press conference that was broadcast live to Cuba via U.S. government-funded Radio Marti." Latin American Herald Tribune, 23 March 2010. See also Radio Martí, 24 March 2010.

VOA editorials in the news. (Or maybe I should rephrase that.)

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America published an editorial on Monday once again singling out Cuba as a violator of human rights. The US government says that since its previous report in 2009, 'the Cuban government has made no has made no effort to expand political freedoms.' ... After a year plus in office, the president’s Cuba policy has thus far turned out to resemble his 10 predecessors in many ways including the maintaining of a half century economic blockade on the island, the biggest obstacle for normalization. Each year the US government judges other nations on their human rights observance. It does not issue a similar report about human rights violations in the United States." Circles Robinson, Havana Times, 23 March 2010. See said editorial.
     "While [Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles] may disagree with the news that VOA is committed to broadcast, his comparison of it to the hate media that enflamed the ethnic killing in Rwanda in 1994 is outrageous and deflects attention from the core issue of objectivity. VOA's Amharic service has a long and honorable history in the Horn, but only now with an election coming up does the government complain that it broadcasts destabilizing propaganda." Editorial, Voice of America, undated(!) (probably 22 or 23 March 2010).

IPTV service adds to its lineup of Arab channels for North America.

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"TV2MORO, after quickly establishing itself as the premier IPTV platform in North America, announced today the addition of Melody Drama to its offering in the USA and Canada. The channel's initial launch in the Middle East was only 10 weeks ago and it received a resounding reaction. The channel will be added to the Arabic Premium Packages in the USA and Canada, and there will be no price increases to the packages. ... Earlier this year, TV2MORO launched two top-tier Arabic television subscription packages servicing Arab Americans and Arab Canadians coast to coast: The Arabic Choice package and The Arabic Premium Package. The channels offered are Al Hayat 1, Al Hayat 2, Al Hayat Series, Dream 1 and Dream 2, Al Mehwar, Orbit Al Yawm, Orbit Series, Orbit Cinema 1, Orbit Cinema 2, Orbit Series, Orbit Series +4, Orbit Al Safwa, OTV (Lebanon), MTV (Lebanon), Dubai, Dubai Sports, Sama Dubai, Ashorooq, Al Jazeera English, France 24 Arabic, Fashion TV Arabia, Melody Arabia, Jaras TV, and Arab Woman TV." TV2MORO press release, 23 March 2010.

News about the for-profit subsidiary of the not-for profit company that used to be RFE/RL's audience research department.

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Gerry Power, the director of research and learning for the BBC World Service Trust – the broadcaster’s charity arm – is leaving to take up the role of managing director of InterMedia UK. The InterMedia UK business is a for-profit subsidiary of the US not-for-profit InterMedia Survey Institute, both of which specialise in conducting media and communications research projects in developing markets across the world. Recently the firm launched AudienceScapes, a website which brings together information on media and communications technology use in certain African, Latin American and Asian countries." Brian Tarran, Research, 22 March 2010. InterMedia evolved from the old RFE/RL audience research operation in Munich, and it now has the contract for almost all of the quantitative and qualitative audience research conducted for VOA, RFE/RL, and Radio Free Asia.

Radio Free Europe and the 1951 Freedom Train.

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"On September 11, 1951, a passenger train carrying 108 persons and crew was 'hijacked' and deliberately driven across the Czechoslovak-German border into the town of Wildenau in the American military Sector. Thirty-one persons, including Jaroslav Konvalinka, the train’s engineer, Karel Truxa, and their respective families, asked for and received permission to stay in the West. ... Harold Stassen, the 1951 Crusade for Freedom campaign chairman, told the press, 'The Communists have concocted a wholly false version of the escape and are pumping it out over their controlled press and radio.' Chairman Stassen also sent out telegraph messages to the Crusade state chairman that were in turn given to local newspapers: 'One of the passengers aboard the runaway Czechoslovak train had with him several letters for Radio Free Europe, which had been given to him by Prague listeners. He said it was primarily through Radio Free Europe Broadcasts that he finally decided to escape the country. As a special service, Radio Free Europe has been broadcasting personal messages from all passengers to their relatives and friends in Czechoslovakia.'" Richard Cummings, Historytimes.com, 23 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

The Media Network Vintage Vault is open, and worth a visit.

Posted: 25 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
At his Critical Distance Weblog, 2 March 2010, my friend Jonathan Marks writes: "I have been gradually digitizing old editions of Media Network in an attempt to rescue tapes before they crumble into pieces of ferric oxide and polyester. I plugged my Revox tape recorder into the line-input of a Zoom H2 recorder, and the results are amazing. In fact, since these programmes were broadcast on shortwave, this is the first time people have been able to hear these documentaries in 'studio quality'. These programmes are being shared in the spirit of Creative Commons, i.e. I have no plans to charge for downloads." The results are in his Media Network Vintage Vault. Media Network was Jonathan's excellent weekly review of broadcasting and electronic media on the English Service of Radio Netherlands, circa 1980s/1990s. (I was a regular listener, via shortwave.) (Media Network continues today as Andy Sennitt's blog at the Radio Netherlands website.)
     See also Jonathan's report on a visit to Wolf Harranth and the Dokufunk -- Documentary Archive for the History of Radio Communication and Electronic Media -- in Vienna.

VOA, sex discrimination, and my close encounter with a lucrative settlement.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A Look Back: March 22, 2000: Some 1,100 women denied jobs with the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency and its broadcast branch, the Voice of America, won $508 million from the government in the largest-ever settlement of a federal sex discrimination case." South Bend Tribune, 22 March 2010. Normally, I would not post this mere kumquat of a news item. Except, in this case, I have a personal anecdote. I was, for a time, listed among the plaintiffs in this suit. That is, until, some bureaucrat with too much time on his/her hands noticed that I was among the rare group of Guys Named Kim. Immediately, $200,000 or so was subtracted from my projected income. The requirements were that I be female and passed up for promotion. I failed the former but qualified eminently for the latter. If I had a dime for every time I've been passed up for promotion, I could own one of those nice home entertainment systems. You know, with a 63-inch plasma television and the big chairs that form an arc, each with its own cupholder. Turns out I can afford one of the cupholders.

The international broadcasting playhouse.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"'Shankaboot,' which was shot in Beirut and produced by Saleh's Batoota Films in association with the BBC World Service and with the support of local organizations, bills itself as the first online Arabic drama in the tradition of lonelygirl15 and KateModern, but with a distinctively local flavor." Meris Lutz, Babylon & Beyond blog, Los Angeles Times, 21 March 2010.
     "'Trying,' a new play by Erin Browne, will receive its premiere at the Bushwich Starr Theatre [Brooklyn] on April 15th for a limited engagement through April 18th. ... 'Trying' was recently nominated for the Richard Imison Award and is the winner of the BBC World Service International Radio Play Award." BroadwayWorld.com, 21 March 2010.
     "It has been so long since Vietnam entered American consciousness that the arrival off-Broadway of Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers by Geoffrey Cowan and the late Leroy Aarons definitely feels like a historical artifact. Cowan, dean emeritus of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, and Aarons, who was a reporter at The Washington Post at the time of the case, wrote a version of the play in the early 1990s that was presented on National Public Radio. As revised by Cowan, a lawyer, writer, former director of the Voice of America, and cultural entrepreneur, a staged version of the drama has now toured the country and been featured at universities as well as theaters in Los Angeles and Washington." At the New York Theater Workshop through March 28. Peter Osnos, The Atlantic, 23 March 2010.
     "Hendersonville Little Theater's season kicks off tonight with 'Visiting Mr. Green,' a popular play by Jeff Baron that begins as a comedy and turns into a drama. ... Baron's play stars Jim Parisi as Mr. Green, a crotchety, 86-year-old retired dry cleaner, and Jonathan Forrester, a yuppie type in his 20s, as Ross Gardiner. ... [Parisi's] credentials also include working as a voice actor, writer, director and producer in the English Language Division of Voice of America." Claudia Lampley, Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), 12 March 2010. Any relation to Katy Parisi, who worked at VOA in the 1960s and won the BBC World Service annual drama competition in 1995? See VOA Digest, 26 October 1995.

International channels to Malaysia via new IPTV service.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Telekom Malaysia Bhd has signed agreements with 20 content partners to provide a diverse mix of programming and content for its soon-to-be launched, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service." International channels are "BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies, Channel News Asia, DWTV Asia +, Travel Channel International, Star Chinese Movies 2, Star Chinese Channel, Channel [V] Taiwan, Euronews, FTV HD and LUXE.TV. TM is also partnering with Hit Entertainment and major Hollywood studios like CBS, Disney-ABC International Television and Sony Pictures Television to bring IPTV viewers, the latest movies and TV series through video-on-demand (VOD)." Bernama, 22 March 2010.
     "Currently, only BBC World News is already available in Malaysia, on the network of dominant pay-TV operator Astro All Asia Networks." Rose Major, Rapid TV News, 22 March 2010.

Next will be the Minimum Ionospheric Requirement document.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The DRM Consortium's Technical Committee has completed the technical requirements for receivers designed for the DRM system below 30 MHz. This Minimum Receiver Requirement (MRR) document describes the minimum performance required for the technical parameters that provide a fully functioning DRM receiver. ... 'We have taken account of the real world environment in which DRM receivers will operate' says Frank Hofmann of Robert Bosch, who led the team writing the document. 'That means ensuring that the receivers will not only work well if they meet all the requirements, but will also be cost effective to manufacture.' ... The finalised MRR document will be presented to the DRM General Assembly this week and then published on the DRM website for easy access." Digital Radio Mondiale Consortium press release, 22 March 2010.

Now one can watch international television after the all-you-can-eat buffet.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"MTN Satellite Communications (MTN) has launched MTN Worldwide TV, the industry’s first TV broadcast service delivering programming from six major U.S. and international television networks to cruise ship passengers anywhere on the high seas. With MTN Worldwide TV, passengers are able to enjoy programming from BBC World News, CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC, Sky News and Sky Sports News in their cabins while at sea or in port, with no interruption — additional programming packages, including entertainment and sports channels, are to be added in the near future." Satnews Daily, 21 March 2010. See also MTN Worldwide TV web page.

Google.com.cn search engine redirected to google.com.hk -- for now.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Overnight in China, Google started redirecting users of its mainland Chinese search engine Google.cn to the uncensored, Hong Kong-based Google.com.hk, presenting a challenge to China’s control of the Internet. Google’s latest move to offer unfiltered results to Chinese users represents the most prominent challenge to Chinese authorities in recent memory, particularly for a company that says it still wants to do business in China. ... The question now is how long China will allow Google to continue to exploit the loophole offered by “one country, two systems.” Mainland authorities could easily revoke Google’s right to use the Google.cn domain name (as well as the related g.cn domain) and/or block access to the Hong Kong site, but beyond that, Google’s activities in Hong Kong are largely beyond their reach. This has made the city a haven for media outlets that take a critical stance toward the Chinese government, such as Jimmy Lai’s Next Media (publisher of Apple Daily) and the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia, as well as human rights groups and NGOs that focus on issues in China." Sky Canaves, Digits blog, Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2010.
     "By moving to the island, Google avoids a direct confrontation with China, and the danger of 'politicalization' that Xinhua states would ensue. But should the company go forth with plans to do a 'Radio Free China' act from the comfort and exile of the island, it could find its message somewhat muted." By Scott M. Fulton III, betanews, 23 March 2010.
     "American politicians may be glad to see Google being politicized but this is no doubt a tragedy for a famous multinational company which has gained its reputation and advantages by one innovation after another in the Internet field. How can people believe that the company's search results are without any bias when it lacks independence as well as business ethics?" Zhang Jiawei, China Daily, via China Radio International, 20 March 2010.

Will CCTV and Xinhua TV compete with Al Jazeera, or just with each other?

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
China "has reportedly earmarked 45 billion renminbi (6.58 billion U.S. dollars) for the international expansion of state media, while other international media outlets struggle to cope with declining advertising revenue and a changing business model. As part of this push, the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) and Xinhua news agency will produce content in different languages for both western and Asian audiences. CCTV has opened Russian and Arabic channels to go along with its French and Spanish offerings, with Portuguese to follow. The network has a three-year plan to expand its foreign bureaus from 19 to 56. ... On Jan. 1, Xinhua launched China Xinhua News Network Corp (CNC), a 24-hour station that broadcasts content in Chinese to Asia-Pacific and European countries. A business and finance channel was launched simultaneously. CNC will begin broadcasting English programmes in July, followed by pieces in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian. Xinhua will also expand its overseas bureaus from 100 to 186 and will reportedly launch an all-English station modeled on Al-Jazeera that will compete with the U.S.-based international work Cable News Network (CNN) and British Broadcasting Corp (BBC). Well-funded state media companies have already started looking for international media assets, and CCTV’s English channel has developed a following in Africa and Asia. Some have suggested that CCTV and Xinhua could follow the path of Al-Jazeera, which was met with scepticism a decade ago but is now considered a reliable and accurate source of global news that is providing audiences with news choices." Mitch Moxley, Inter Press Service, 22 March 2010.

Using satellite phones (carefully) to get the news out of North Korea.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A Seoul-based rights group said Monday it has supplied contacts in North Korea with satellite phones to expand news coverage of the secretive communist state and minimise the use of riskier cellphones. Free North Korea Radio, run by North Korean defectors, said it gave satphones to 'correspondents' in the North five months ago to try to break down the wall of secrecy. Several rights groups in South Korea have contacts who relay news via Chinese cellphones with pre-paid cards, but these work only in border areas. Free North Korea Radio, which broadcasts to the North on short wave as well as running an Internet service, said the satphones give it access to information from more parts of the country. 'Three satellite phones, on top of cellphones, have been in use since last October to bring more live and direct news out of North Korea,' its head Kim Seong-Min told AFP. ... Rights groups say authorities operate cars with special equipment to detect unauthorised cellphone signals along the border with China. 'It would be harder for authorities to detect our satellite phone users, but we ask our correspondents to employ extra caution given the huge risk of being caught,' said Kim." AFP, 22 March 2010. They may be using one of the two telephone services using low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites: Iridium or Globalstar.

Possible Saudi blasphemy charge against writer after appearance on Alhurra.

Posted: 24 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Summary Court in Jeddah is expected to look into complaints raised by a number of people against a Saudi writer for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Saudi writer had allegedly described a Hadith of the Prophet as barbaric, during a program on Al-Hurra Channel, which is presented by Nadeen Al-Badr. Sources told Arab News that the court had sent a copy of the lawsuit filed against the man to Justice Minister Muhammad Al-Eissa in order to seek his opinion on the issue. The plaintiffs have presented audio and visual evidence to prove their argument. ... Previously a group of Saudis filed a lawsuit against Al Arabiya Channel and one of its program presenters. A verdict has not yet been issued on the case." Muhammad Humaidan, Arab News (Jeddah), 19 March 2010.

Eventually Radio Azadi will have to cover the person who runs against Radio Azadi's Person of the Year.

Posted: 23 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A tent-dwelling former Afghan presidential candidate with a reputation for fighting corruption has been named 'Person of the Year' by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Ramzan Bashardost -- often called 'Afghanistan's Gandhi' for his self-effacing style -- has been living in a tent adjacent to the Afghan Parliament since he returned from exile in France nearly seven years ago. 'Bashardost tirelessly seeks to improve the lives of Afghans regardless of tribe, ethnicity, gender, or religion,' said Radio Azadi Director Hashem Mohmand. 'We are pleased to formally recognize his inspiring work.'" RFE/RL press release, 22 March 2010.

Nonexistent Radio Free Iran in the news again.

Posted: 23 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Tim Burns and Bill Russell, candidates for the Republican nomination to the U.S. House of Representative for Pennsylvania's 12th District "differ in how they would approach Iran. Asked how they would marginalize the current Iranian regime and support the opposition movement there, Burns said the country needs to be dealt with as a serious threat. 'They are our enemy, and how do we know that? Because they tell us so. We have to take them at their word,' he said. 'We need to meet our enemies off of American soil. We do not want to wait until they come here.' Russell said that while the U.S. needs to maintain a strong Middle East presence to ensure Iran doesn't cut off the world's oil supply, he said he favored what he called a social, diplomatic approach. He said Iranians are well educated and are growing tired of the theocracy. He said the U.S. needs to spread the message of democracy through subversive broadcasts over outlets such as Radio Free Iran." Indiana (PA) Gazette, 21 March 2010. There is no Radio Free Iran. But see previous post.

EU steps up verbiage, if not specific actions, against Iranian satellite jamming.

Posted: 23 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The European Union will put pressure on Iran to stop jamming satellite broadcasts from the BBC and other international channels. Iran has been blocking news channels broadcast into the country from a French satellite following widespread anti-government protests there. But it is not yet clear exactly what action the EU will take. A statement from the EU foreign ministers said they would act to end the 'unacceptable situation.'" BBC News, 22 March 2010.
     "At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels today, the three countries will seek more than a rhetorical rap across Iran’s knuckles. They will urge fellow members of the 27-nation bloc to 'define and apply strong measures that may be implemented' if Tehran does not immediately end 'this electronic interference'." Michael Theodoulou, The National (Abu Dhabi), 21 March 2010.
     "The EU high representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, said no specific EU countermeasures have been decided. 'We are very concerned about what's happening in terms of broadcasting [in Iran],' Ashton said. 'We haven't yet moved further forward in terms of what further action to take. As you know, we remain very concerned about what is happening in Iran.' EU sources say the Netherlands in particular had asked for concrete action to ban the imports of technology to Iran that could be used to carry out Internet or mobile-telephony censorship." Ahto Lobjakas, RFE/RL, 22 March 2010.
     "The EU wants to take up the issue before the International Telecommunications Union. 'The interesting thing is that Iran wants to expand its satellite channels network around the world - that's why the ITU is the best place to talk about that,' German deputy foreign minister Werner Hoyer said." Raf Casert, Canadian Press, 22 March 2010.
     "The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was particularly scathing about Iran's behaviour. 'I think it says a lot about the trust that the Iranian government have in their own people that they are not willing to let them have independent news,' he said." DPA, 22 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

VOA Amharic now available by satellite to sidestep Ethiopian shortwave jamming.

Posted: 23 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America launched satellite transmission of the daily Amharic language programs for our audience in Ethiopia over the weekend. The international broadcasting agency launched this new means of transmission in order to overcome the jamming being conducted by the Government of Ethiopia. Please let us know if you have heard the show on this satellite service. We are exploring other alternatives so check our web site for further developments." On New Skies (NSS), 57 degrees east. Via Jimma Times, 23 March 2010. Requires a big C-band dish for reception. More shortwave frequencies, from more locations, would still be helpful. As would, perhaps, time on the Radio Sawa medium wave relay in Djibouti.
     "Since Zenawi is accusing the VOA of the 'worst practices' of genocidal radio, we challenge him to produce a single word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, story, analysis, commentary, editorial or any other broadcast whatsoever in audio, written or symbolic form to back up his reckless and irresponsible charges. We pledge to bring to the bar of American justice the VOA or any individual in that organization and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law if Zenawi could produce a single molecule or speck of evidence, or a single example of the “worst practices of radio stations such as Radio Mille Collines” committed by the VOA! The U.S. response to Zenawi’s bizarre allegations was uncharacteristically bold, and gave Zenawi a much needed introductory lesson in his own constitution." Alemayehu G. Mariam, nazret.com, 22 March 2010, and many reader comments.
     "This month has been the best for listeners back home and the rest of us in the diaspora thanks to VOA Amharic programs that covered issues that is critical to the future of Ethiopia and the well being of Ethiopians. The issue of the land grab by foreigners was the best of VOA Amharic by Tizita Belachew." Tedla Asfaw, EthioGuardian.com, 20 March 2010.
     "Voice of America Director Danforth Austin issued a statement Thursday saying ... VOA's Amharic Service is required by law to provide accurate, objective and comprehensive news and abide by the highest journalistic standards. Austin noted that 'while VOA is always ready to address responsible complaints about programming, the government of Ethiopia has not initiated any official communication in more than two years.'" VOA News, 20 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Somalis in Kenya calling Somalia via shortwave, other media.

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A new radio station for Somalia, Bar-Kulan, or 'the meeting place', has been launched by Somalis in neighboring Kenya. Broadcasting from studios in Nairobi and drawing content from a network of correspondents throughout Somalia and around the world, Bar-Kulan’s aim is to be the radio of reference for Somali speakers everywhere. Bar-Kulan’s Director David Smith said the primary audience is young people because as is the case anywhere in the world, the future is in the hands of the youth. ... Test transmissions have been on the air since March 1 on two frequencies: 15750 kHz in the 19 meter band between 8.00 a.m. (0500 GMT) and 9.00 a.m. (0600 GMT) and on 9630 kHz in the 31 meter band between 7.00 p.m. (1600 GMT) and 8.00 p.m. (1700 GMT). ... 'Thanks to generous support from the United Nations, Bar-Kulan has been able to construct an infrastructure enabling it to cover the entire Horn of Africa on shortwave, a growing number of urban centers in Somalia on FM, all of Africa on DSTV and soon live streaming as well,' he said." Xinhua, 19 March 2010.

One conditional Philadelphia cheer for BBC World News.

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"BBC’s World News holds an honored place at our house. Since Peter Jennings died, ABC World News is not. You get more, in thirty minutes or an hour, from BBC correspondents reporting from on-the-ground around the world than any other cable source. No one else — certainly not Fox and its Sky News sister networks — even comes close. Ditto the New York Times. Yes, the BBC hates Israel. Filter it out." James G. Wiles, The Bulletin (Philadelphia), 19 March 2010.

Democratic Voice of Burma and Voice of Tibet: moving beyond "opposition media."

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Seeing their radio frequencies jammed, undertaking clandestine reporting and sourcing, dealing with poor signals and being spied upon are daily fare for the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and India-based Voice of Tibet (VOT). Since 1992, DVB has been broadcasting news that is aimed at Burmese audiences, going past state-controlled media in the South-east Asian ountry that has been ruled by the military since 1962. Based in Dharamsala in northern India since 1996, Voice of Tibet gives out news about Tibet, which China has ruled as a province since it occupied the territory in 1959. ... Both DVB and VOT get funding from international donors, but refer to themselves as independent stations that follow professional journalistic practices. In recent years, this has meant trying to get the views of the ‘other side’ in their reports as well. While junta officials still see DVB as an 'opposition media', Aye Chan Naing says more government officials appear to see it in a more 'friendly' light. 'We changed too. We began as an opposition media and would have never thought of giving them our valuable and tight airtime (before),' he said. But VOT still faces a blank wall when trying to talk to Chinese officials." Lynette Lee Corporal, Inter Press Service, 19 March 2010.

Controversial Turkish drama will be broadcast on Arab channels.

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Arab television channels are planning to air the controversial Turkish Television show that depicts Israel Defense Force soldiers shooting innocent Palestinians, the French news agency AFP reported on Saturday. ... The art director at the Turkish production agency responsible for creating the show said that it has been sold to both a Saudi Arabian channel as well as a Dubai based channel. The channels are reportedly planning on airing the series, officially called 'Separation: Palestine in Love and In War' as soon as Saturday." Ha'aretz, 20 March 2010.

For Russia Today, conspiracy theories bring YouTube hits, if not stature.

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Russia Today " — created five years ago and widely seen as a Kremlin project to improve Russia's image around the world — regularly reports on conspiracy theorists’ claims that the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York on Sept. 11, 2001, were committed by someone inside the United States — not by Islamic militants. As of Tuesday, one of the top-rated videos on the channel’s web site, RT.com, was a report about a conference in Pennsylvania for 'truthers,' those who believe that the U.S. government had a role in the attacks. ... [Margarita Simonyan, the channel's editor] said Russia Today never hid that it was funded by the government. 'Probably many viewers of BBC World News also do not know that their program is directly funded by the British Foreign Office,' she added." Nikolaus von Twickel, The Moscow Times, 17 March 2010. Actually, BBC World News, unlike BBC World Service, is not funded by the British Foreign Office. It is, in theory, self-funding through advertising and pay-TV deals. (In reality, BBCWN is not yet paying for itself, so the deficit probably comes out of the commercial BBC Worldwide budget.) As for RT, I have seen many reports that are well-produced, interesting, and fair. And then there are some reports that are over the top. RT needs to mature, but it has potential.

International channels via new pay TV provider in South Africa.

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"We have seen the future, and it is this: DSTV will continue to dominate the high-end market populated disproportionately by sports fanatics, while newcomer Top TV will trust its bargain-basement prices to lure in those who are less rich." International news channels on Top TV will include BBC World, Fox News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, and France24. The Daily Maverick (Johannesburg), 18 March 2010. See also MyBroadband, 19 March 2010.

CNBC Asia hires VPs for marketing and advertising.

Posted: 22 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
CNBC Asia Pacific "announced the promotion of Jacqueline Lam to Vice President of Marketing & Distribution effective immediately. Based in Singapore ... Lam will be responsible for providing strategic direction to the marketing function and further building the CNBC brand with advertisers, partners and their core audience. ... She has expanded the network across Asia Pacific and will continue to oversee CNBC’s efforts to enhance distribution opportunities on all TV and digital platforms." Press release via News on News, 17 March 2010. CNBC Asia Pacific appoints Junji Sumitani as VP advertising sales. asiamediajournal.com, 16 March 2010.

CNN versus CNN International.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"And then there is CNN -- a fine news gathering organization -- and its endless chatter from experts who talk to each other on and off the air and manufacture a conventional wisdom that too often betrays what the public is actually telling us in our polling. What is really sad about CNN is that it has been reduced to covering itself and its celebrities. ... What is even sadder is that this is not how CNN International operates -- they cover real stories about the real world. ... The power of television news is the visual of the event, not the celebrity covering the event trying to fill things in with idle chatter. Watch the BBC as a model." John Zogby, Huffington Post, 18 March 2010.
     "Ellana Lee, managing editor, CNN International Asia Pacific claimed that ratings were not the benchmark for CNN. 'We are a global network beaming into 250 million homes across countries. We don't subscribe to ratings, instead we undertake regional surveys to gauge each market,' she said. 'Our currency is credibility and ethical, accurate and objective journalism,' she added." Sapna Nair, afaqs! (Noida, Uttar Pradesh), 18 March 2010.

Amanpour will leave CNN International to anchor ABC's "This Week."

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, is leaving after almost 30 years to become the new anchor at rival US TV network ABC. One of CNN's best-known correspondents over the past two decades, Amanpour is leaving Time Warner's cable news channel to host This Week, the Sunday morning news programme on ABC News. She will leave CNN next month and start work for ABC in August. Amanpour joined CNN in 1983 as a foreign desk assistant. Her decision to leave comes just six months after she stepped back from her role as a foreign correspondent to launch her own interview show, called Amanpour, on CNN International. ... 'I leave CNN with the utmost respect, love and admiration for the company and everyone who works here,' said Amanpour." Mark Sweney, The Guardian, 19 March 2010.
     "'With Christiane we have the opportunity to provide our audiences with something different on Sunday mornings,' [ABC News President David] Westin said in a memo to ABC News staffers. 'We will continue to provide the best in interviews and analysis about domestic politics and policies. But now we will add to that an international perspective. All of us know how much the international and the domestic have come to affect one another -- whether it's global conflict, terrorism, humanitarian crises, or the economy.'" Lisa de Moraes, Washington Post, 19 March 2010.
     "With Amanpour, who's more known for her work in the Balkans than in the Beltway, ABC has a chance to do a show that breaks from the Sunday shows' myopic obsessions, that focuses on policies and ideas over partisan handicapping (and kneecapping). It could even—crazy talk, I know—build a show that focuses on world news rather than Washington news. Or it could spend five months preparing Amanpour to be another Sunday host, a Beltway-politics interviewer with, you know, just a little bit of a difference, just a taste of international flair, a little je ne sais quois. In which case je ne sais what the point is." James Poniewozik, Time, 18 March 2010.
     "ABC said Ms. Amanpour would also anchor documentaries about 'international subjects.'" Brian Stelter, New York Times, 18 March 2010.

Be the first to own a CNN prune pitter.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"CNN is planning to expand its portfolio of product and services today with the announcement of a brand licensing initiative. It is seeking a select roster of partners with the vision to translate the key characteristics of its globally respected brand into high quality, commercially viable licensed products. A product concept guide has been created which focuses on travel and business products for the first phase of the campaign and conversations have started with partners in the field including travel guide publishers and luggage and travel accessories manufacturers." CNN International press release, 18 March 2010. I'm not sure if the merchandise will be branded "CNN" or "CNN International." Probably "CNN," because outside of North America, CNN means CNN International. I wouldn't mind having a CNN International tchochke, because here in the States, CNNI is a rare commodity.

CNN International launches "CNN Marketplace Africa."

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"CNN International, this week, launched its new programme CNN Marketplace Africa which looks at the dynamics of African business on and off the continent. Each week features major players affecting African enterprise and changing the commercial landscape. CNN Marketplace Africa is hosted by Robyn Curnow, CNN's South African correspondent, and airs every Wednesday at 8.45pm CAT, as well as weekend repeats on Saturday and Sunday. CNN Marketplace Africa extends CNN International's existing programming focused on Africa, including African Voices and Inside Africa." Bizcommunity.com, 19 March 2010.

Africans still want an Al Jazeera of their own.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Participants at the Pan Africa Media Conference heard that the continent was so riddled with stories of conflict, corruption and hunger that there was no way it could get positive coverage. Delegates agreed that something had to be done and there was talk of establishing an independent African media, modelled along Al Jazeera, to champion the African cause." Saturday Nation (Nairobi), 19 March 2010. There is Africa 24, as well as the financially beleaguered SABC International...
     "Unions are calling for meetings with SABC management to discuss the fate of SABC International staff whose operations are to be dramatically scaled down from next month. This will leave only a small group to set up the broadcaster’s new 24-hour domestic news channel. ... The writing has long been on the wall for SABC International, which was taken off Sentech’s Vivid platform in January where it was allegedly reaching only a handful of viewers despite being on air for nearly two years." Chantelle Benjamin, Business Day (Johannesburg), 16 March 2010.
     "Talk With Funmi is an exciting new television show that captures people and conversations around Nigeria. It is a thought provoking, illuminating and entertaining journey into the life of Nigerians from all over the country. ... The show airs on Sundays on DSTV's Africa Magic at 6pm local time and viewers can also catch up with past episodes on the official TalkwithFunmi website." Guide2Nigeria, 19 March 2010.

Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya equipment seized in Yemen (updated).

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Yemeni authorities have seized the transmission gear of Arab satellite news channels over their coverage of deadly unrest in the south of the country. 'The SNG (satellite news gathering) equipment used by the Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya channels without being declared to the information ministry has been seized,' the ministry said late on Thursday. ... Such equipment 'should not serve to provoke trouble and amplify events in such a way as to harm public order, as has been the case with Al-Jazeera,' a ministry spokesman said. He said Al-Jazeera had broadcast 'archive footage, presenting it as new, which amounts to fraud and an encouragement for elements intent on sabotage and separatism,' he charged." Middle East Online, 12 March 2010.
     "Al Jazeera said Yemeni security forces had stormed its office in Sanaa on Thursday evening after being warned over its coverage of a southern secessionist movement on which the government recently launched a major crackdown. ... Al Arabiya also reported that some of its broadcasting equipment had been confiscated by police on Thursday. Its bureau chief was questioned for two hours but then released, Nasser al-Sarami, head of media at Al Arabiya told Reuters." Reuters, 12 March 2010.
     "An official source in Ministry of Information has said that the satellite broadcasting equipments (SNG) of Al Jazeera and Al Arabia satellite channels were not authorized by the ministry. The source told Saba that the two devices have not been confiscated but they would be returned where they came from. ... He denied any arbitrary or offensive practices accompanied the reservation process, unlike what has been promoted by Al-Jazeera." SABA Yemen News Agency, 12 March 2010.
     Update: "A Yemeni official resource confirmed that President Ali Abdullah Salih has decided to return the transmission devices belonging to al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya channels. Authorities seized the transmission devices one week ago. ... 'The two unlicensed transmission devices were confiscated under government direction,' clarified a spokesman from the Information Ministry. Moreover, he insisted on that there should not be any transmission devices that enable programs or events that harm the tranquility of Yemeni homes. Al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya channels criticized the government-launched campaign against them. 'This is a blackout of the facts,' said Hamoud Munasar, the Director of al-Arabiya channels." Iscander al-Mamari, Yemen Observer, 20 March 2010.
     "The Yemeni government should not remove equipment from journalists just because they do not like what they are broadcasting; it is flagrant censorship." David Dodge, director, International Press Institute, 15 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Al Jazeera English goes to North Platte "to portray America and Americans to people overseas."

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Bake sales have always been a popular way for groups to raise money for a project or charitable cause. So when Jeanie Gilbert decided to bake 100 cakes to raise money for the Rape and Domestic Abuse Program in North Platte, she never thought what she was doing was all that unusual. But soon, her fundraising efforts will be shared with an international audience. On Wednesday, a television crew from the Al Jazeera Network came to North Platte to interview Gilbert as part of a series on how the economy has affected domestic violence programs at a time when the demand for these services is on the rise. ... Rob Reynolds, who is the network's senior correspondent in Washington, D.C., said Al Jazeera English is not simply a translation of the Arabic news channel. They currently have offices in Washington, D.C., and New York and are hoping to expand to other parts of the United States. 'I see my job as trying to portray America and Americans to people overseas, many of whom may have very different ideas about what goes on this country,' Reynolds said." John Lindenberger, North Platte (NE) Telegraph, 19 March 2010.

US nonprofit Layalina Productions begins second season of Arabic-language On The Road In America.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Layalina Productions, Inc., an American non-profit, announced today that the second season of its hit reality series, Ala al Tariq fi Amrika (On The Road In America) will premiere tomorrow on MBC1, the leading pan-Arab free-to-air satellite network. The second season of On The Road features the exploits of a young and diverse Arab cast on a forty day odyssey across the United States. ... The series focuses on Arab and American attitudes toward each other as seen through the eyes of the Arab visitors and the Americans whom they encounter in their journeys. Ultimately the series highlights the differences and similarities between the two cultures and facilitates a deeper understanding of each." Layalina press release, 18 March 2010. See also www.layalina.tv.
     Also at Layalina.tv: "The Ever-Expanding Global
Electronic Town Meeting: Challenges ahead for U.S. international broadcasting." Excerpt: "Coordinate real-time program planning, newsgathering, information sharing, and distribution systems among the networks. The broadcast entities may insist on preserving their brand names and newsgathering systems. But might not more coordination and sharing of content among them be the daily norm, rather than the rare exception? All five networks have highly qualified CEOs capable of exchanging content to create a news service unmatched in scope and reach while reducing costs." Alan L. Heil Jr., former deputy director of VOA Layalina Productions Perspectives, 2 February 2010.

Appearances on Alhurra in the news.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Today, I was given an opportunity that reminded me of why I got into blogging in the first place: I was invited to appear as a film pundit for none other than AlHurra TV. For those of you who haven’t heard of AlHurra—you philistine—it’s an Arab-language satellite station based in Washington, and broadcast across the Middle East. I was on discuss why movies about the American war effort in Iraq have failed to resonate with audiences. ... Things began disastrously when my hosts Enji and Ahmed said 'Julian Sancton from the Vanity Fair, welcome,' and I answered, 'Welcome!' After my heart stopped pounding—this was AlHurra!—I answered that there is no fundamental reason that films about the war in Iraq can’t do well." Julian Sancton, Vanity Fair, 17 March 2010.
     "Late yesterday afternoon, I participated in an hour long Alhurra discussion program with three other Middle East specialists... . During one of my times at bat during the interesting show, I suggested that Israel's continued settlement expansion was directly helping Iran and enhancing its pretensions and goals in the region." Steve Clemons, TPMCafé, 16 March 2010. See also Justin Elliott, TPMCafé, 19 March 2010.

Good move by RFE/RL, says State IG.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Despite the challenges of relocating a news organization that broadcasts around-the-clock to 20 countries in 28 languages, a new report says RFE/RL's move into its new Prague headquarters last year was 'exceptionally smooth, efficient and cost effective.' According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. State Department and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), 'Close coordination and communication between the [State Department], RFE/RL, and the contractor...resulted in a striking building that is very efficiently configured.' ... 'Many employees felt an initial hesitancy towards the move and the new building, but as they moved in and got settled, it gave way to mostly enthusiastic acceptance due primarily to the consistent flow of communication throughout the project,' according to the report." RFE/RL press release, 19 March 2010.
     "The new building, located in Prague 10's Strašnice neighborhood, was developed by Orco Property Group to RFE/RL's strict specifications, which, according to lead architect Vincent Marani, were 'the size of two phone books.' RFE/RL, funded by the U.S. Congress, will pay $5.4 million annually to lease the building... . The rent will go up to $6.1 million in the fourth year of the 15-year lease." Johanna Breen, Prague Post, 29 July 2009.

Library of Congress opens exhibit of letters to Radio Free Afghanistan (updated again).

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Library of Congress has launched a new exhibit in Washington, D.C. showcasing some of the thousands of handwritten scrolls and letters sent by listeners to Radio Azadi, RFE/RL's popular Afghan radio station. Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington calls Voices from Afghanistan 'a window through which can be seen the society, culture, and concerns of the Afghan people.' [Link to online, interactive tour of the letters] ... Since it began broadcasting in 2001, Radio Azadi has received nearly 15,000 pieces of 'fan mail" from merchants, clerics, farmers, university students, and schoolchildren across Afghanistan. RFE/RL is presenting these letters as a gift to the permanent collection of the Library of Congress's African and Middle Eastern Division." RFE/RL press release, 24 February 2010.
     The letters "are remarkably elaborate -- filled with drawings, decorations, floral motifs, stickers, anything that can gussy up a piece of paper -- for letters directed to something as remote and bureaucratic as a radio station, but they give a powerful sense of the immediacy of radio's role in Afghan daily life." Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 11 March 2010.
     "While listeners tune-in to Radio Azadi as a conventional source of news and entertainment, it has also become a forum for people to air their grievances or petition for assistance in a country where government response comes slow, if at all. 'People live in remote places, the government is clearly not formed in such a way that people can get instant feedback from their representatives,' explains [RFE/RL spokesman Ari] Goldberg, 'so this radio station is really one of the few avenues to have their voices heard.'" PBS Newshour, 9 March, via RFE/RL, 10 March 2010.
     Update: "It's been nearly a month since RFE/RL's "Voices from Afghanistan" exhibit opened at the Library of Congress, and Kim Curry, who led the effort to put it together, is pleased with the results. 'This exhibit is unique in that we assembled it in less than three months,' she said, citing Librarian of Congress James Billington's enthusiasm for the project as the reason for the short timetable." Abby Holekamp, Off Mic blog, RFE/RL, 18 March 2010.

Azerbaijani MPs line up to criticize RFE/RL.

Posted: 21 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"An Azerbaijani MP has criticized coverage of the Karabakh conflict by Radio Liberty and called on international media to report on the conflict. Azerbaijani media, including 1news.az, a while ago commented that Radio Azadlig, the Azerbaijani service of Radio Liberty, is too politically committed on Karabakh, while Radio Liberty's Armenian service actively protects the interests of the Armenian state on the issue. ... [Zahid Oruj] said that protection of the Azerbaijani position by media such as Radio Liberty, the BBC and Voice of America would open more opportunities for Azerbaijan." News.az, 16 March 2010.
     "Ruling party MP Aydin Mirzazade has criticized Radio Liberty's Azerbaijani service. 'Unfortunately, cosmopolitanism is becoming more obvious in the activity of Radio Liberty. Instead of giving an objective assessment of events in the country, the editorial board has in fact turned into an opposition mouthpiece.' ... The BBC, Radio Liberty and Voice of America have been off air in Azerbaijan since 1 January 2009, when new regulations banning foreign broadcasters came into force. Azerbaijani media, including 1news.az, have commented that Radio Liberty's Armenian service actively protects the interests of the Armenian state on the issue, while the Azerbaijani service fails to do so." News.az, 17 March 2010.
     "MP Rabiyyat Aslanova has added her voice to the recent outburst of criticism of Radio Liberty's Azerbaijani service. 'The Azerbaijani service of Radio Liberty hardly covers events in the country and when it does, it sees everything negatively. For example, if we look at the work of the Russian, Armenian or Georgian services of Radio Liberty, we won't hear as much dirt or unfounded information about the authorities of their country as we can see in the work of the Azerbaijani service.'" News.az, 18 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Protests against the closure of RFE/RL rebroadcasts in Kyrgyzstan.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Several dozen activists and opposition politicians rallied in the capital of Kyrgyzstan on Monday in protest against what they say are government efforts to block the broadcast of U.S.-funded radio and television programs. ... Radio Azattyk has been unavailable across most of Kyrgyzstan since Wednesday after several of the station's local partners revoked their rebroadcasting deals. 'Our partners, which relay our radio transmissions, say they have come under pressure and been threatened with having their license revoked, so they unilaterally broke their contracts with us,' said Radio Azattyk reporter Bektash Shamshiyev. ... 'Radio Azattyk is the only radio station that informs the public about what is really happening in the country,' said Ak-Shumkar opposition party leader Temir Sariyev." Leila Saralayeva, Canadian Press, 15 March 2010.
     "'Press freedom violations seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity,' Reporters Without Borders said. 'By harassing independent and opposition media and allowing those responsible for physical attacks on journalists to go unpunished, the authorities are assuming a decisive share of the blame for the extremely worrying deterioration in the situation.'" Reporters sans frontières, 17 March 2010.
     "U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) today called on the government of Kyrgyzstan to allow independent media and opposition to freely express their views following a crackdown on several media outlets and efforts to prevent public protests. 'I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating media situation in Kyrgyzstan, highlighted by the government’s stoppage of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts,' said Chairman Cardin. 'The effective blocking of information from RFE/RL affiliates and barring of access to several independent news websites underscore a disturbing trend to hinder free expression and free flow of information in Kyrgyzstan over the past year.'" Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe press release, 17 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Reports: Google search engine will leave China; 20% of Chinese internet users know about firewall circumvention.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Google will tomorrow set out plans to close down its Chinese search engine after refusing to comply with China’s strict censorship laws. The company is expected to announce the closure of google.cn by as early as April 10 after the Chinese government refused to acquiesce to demands that it stop self-censorship of the site. It is understood that Google will continue to operate other services in the country and will maintain its research and development operations." Rupert Neate, The Telegraph, 20 March 2010.
     "'Just two years ago, only 5% of Chinese internet users knew that the government censored the internet,' [Isaac Mao, one of China's first bloggers] says. Roughly 20% of Chinese internet users now understand what 'Fan Qiang' ('circumventing the firewall') means, and they also have a strong determination to do so. 'But today, information flows faster and faster and people try to use different tools to spread information between social networks.' 'There are a minority of users who can use technology to bypass censorship. No more than one or two percent. More users - about 18% - have become second-hand information consumers from those savvy users.' 'So roughly 20% of Chinese internet users now understand what "Fan Qiang" ("circumventing the firewall") means, and they also have a strong determination to do so.'" Weiliang Nie, BBC News, 19 March 2010.
     "The U.S. government is making free speech in cyber space a key part of American foreign policy in a fresh bid to reach out to Internet users around the world. Experts say the push not only highlights the growing influence of the Internet and its power to pressure even the most tightly controlled governments, but it also seeks to shed light on the link between economic growth and Internet freedoms." William Ide, VOA News, 18 March 2010.

President Obama speaks to Iran in Nowruz video.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"President Obama sends an important message to those celebrating the Persian holiday of Nowruz, and in particular to the people and government of Iran. With Persian subtitles." The White House, 20 March 2010. Also at the top of VOA Persian News Network, Radio Farda, and the Persian version of America.gov.
     "Like everything this year, however, Nowruz will be different for all Iranians, both inside and outside of the country. I, for one, will be following the news intently as I cook the traditional fish and dill rice dinner to celebrate, knowing that this year's celebration may very well be tainted by the suffering of my people half-a-world away. I expect it will be hard not to burn the rice or forget the saffron, as I will undoubtedly be consumed by Twitter, Facebook and BBC Persian radio." Melody Moezzi, Huffington Post, 18 March 2010.

It's simple: broadcast "loads of information embarrassing to Iran's leaders."

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"[S]anctions will not be enough. We also need to focus public diplomacy on Irans human rights abuses. The regime is already quite unpopular at home. That weakness should be exploited. The U.S. should ramp up exposure of the regimes corruption, abuses and aid to terrorists, and make sure that information is broadcast widely among the Iranian people. ... Surely, our intelligence services have loads of information embarrassing to Irans [sic] leaders: Where they keep their foreign bank accounts, how lavishly they spend on mansions and villas inside and outside Iran, etc. Such information should be released to expose the mullahs hypocrisy and corruption." Kim R. Holmes, Washington Times, 18 March 2010. Here is the disconnect: Washington pundits see international broadcasting as part of public diplomacy, where the broadcaster "ramps up" policy-supporting content at the direction of the administration. The audience, on the other hand, uses international broadcasting as a source more comprehensive, reliable, and credible than the news they get from their state-controlled domestic media. Success in international broadcasting involves following the agenda of the audience, not of the pundits. To Iran, this will include news unfavorable to the regime, but not to the point of being the all-bad-news-about-Iran-all-the-time station.

Activists want more access in Iran to US internet hardware.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"At a time when the Obama administration is pressing for harsher sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, democracy advocates in Iran have been celebrating the recent decision by the United States to lift sanctions on various online services, which they say only helped Tehran to suppress the opposition. But it is still a long way from the activists’ goal of lifting all restrictions on trade in Internet services, which opposition leaders say is vital to maintaining the open communications that have underpinned the protests that erupted last summer after the disputed presidential election. ... The opposition tried to fight back with software designed to circumvent the restrictions, but that became a losing battle after Internet service was slowed. Opposition leaders say they would like to have access to Internet hardware — any products made by Cisco Systems, for example, are subject to sanctions — and high-speed satellite Internet service, which experts say is generally harder to jam than broadcasts. That service is available from the American company Hughes Global Services, in Europe and the Middle East, and could be used by Iranians. But Payam Herischi, senior director at Hughes, said that the company was reluctant to allow its satellites to provide service to Iran until sanctions are lifted." Nazila Fathi, New York Times, 18 March 2010. Satellite internet is an interesting, if expensive and probably jammable, solution.
     "[T]he Iranian regime has too much control over the internet infrastructure. While private companies sell internet service, they are banned from providing service of faster than 128 kb/s for residential accounts, making it virtually impossible for Iranians to view many online contents and internet simulcasts of Farsi TV channels that are run outside of the country, such as BBC Persian and Voice of America. And the Iranian regime has also blocked access to thousands of websites from inside Iran, including The Huffington Post. But the new lift of internet sanctions can allow American companies to think about ways to send high-speed wifi internet signals into Iran. Should that happen, it can free the Iranians from having to access internet through Iranian companies, allowing them to pick up the signal via wireless devices and accessing uncensored content at a high speed. While this may sound a trivial advantage to Americans, it will have a significant impact on Iranians' ability to freely access information and organize." Sam Sedaei, Huffington Post, 16 March 2010.

Eutelsat and European foreign ministers issue statements about Iranian satellite jamming.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Eutelsat wishes to give the following clarification regarding the transmission via its satellites of BBC Persian, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America in Persian, which are the target of repeated and deliberate jamming operations: 1. Eutelsat continually carries out technical operations aiming to preserve transmission of BBC Persian and Voice of America via its HOT BIRDTM 8 satellite. Both channels have been transmitted via this satellite without disruption or jamming since the beginning of March; 2. When jamming first began, Eutelsat decided to duplicate the BBC Persian and Voice of America channels on other satellites within its fleet that are more resistant to jamming from Iran. Today, BBC Persian and Voice of America are also transmitted via the W3A satellite in addition to HOT BIRDTM 8; 3. Several complaints have been lodged by Eutelsat over the last 10 months with the relevant French and international telecommunications regulatory authorities to denounce these deliberate jamming operations." Eutelsat press release, 17 March 2010.
     "'Iran has been regularly jamming the broadcasting by satellite of a number of foreign televisions and radio stations ... since December 2009, a repetition of its practice in the run up to the disputed elections earlier that year,' French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle wrote to the European Union's new foreign-policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, in a previously unreported letter obtained by The Cable. 'The objective was clearly to prevent the people of Iran from freely exercising their right to information.' The three powers want the EU not only to pen a declaration condemning the practice, but also to figure out how to un-jam the satellites and perhaps even stop the export of technologies that Iran can use for censorship purposes." Josh Rogin, The Cable, Foreign Policy, 17 March 2010.
     "The draft EU statement that reporters obtained in Brussels Friday does not list any potential retaliatory action against Iran's jamming. However, European news reports suggest two possible tactics: a ban on exports to Iran of equipment that enables Tehran to intercept e-mail and mobile telephone transmissions, or a decision to block Iranian broadcasts relayed by the Eutelsat communications satellite, which has been a target of the jamming." VOA News, 19 March 2010.
     "The French daily Le Figaro reported that potential sanctions could include stopping companies such as Germany's Siemens or Finland's Nokia from delivering technologies to Tehran that allow the interception of cellphone and e-mail conversations. On Tuesday, Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi blasted Nokia Siemens Networks, a subsidiary of Siemens and Nokia, saying the company supplied Iran with software used to suppress dissent in the Islamic Republic. ... Another suggestion is to boot Iranian programs from Eutelsat, the leading French satellite operator which is said to have been specifically affected by the Iranian jamming. Eutelsat carries more than 70 foreign radio and TV programs, including some from the Iranian government. 'Another measure of retaliation would be to request that Eutelsat blocks in response to the interference of Iran in international channels, IRIB's programs (Iranian state television), which it oversees the distribution of in Europe' a diplomat familiar with the matter told Le Figaro. Iran's Arabic-language channel, Al-Alam, and the English-language Press TV, would be affected, Le Figaro's report said. The jamming violates the principles of the International Union of Telecommunications, to which Iran is a party." Alexandra Sandels, Babylong & Beyond blog, Los Angeles Times, 18 March 2010.
     "Iran began jamming foreign satellite transmissions in December 2009 and escalated it ahead of the anniversary of the 1979 revolution on Feb. 11 when nearly 70 foreign radio and television programmes transmitted via Eutelsat were interrupted." Reuters, 19 March 2010. See previous posts on 13 March and 19 February 2010.

State Department issues statement against Ethiopian jamming of VOA Amharic.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The United States opposes Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles’ decision to jam Voice of America’s Amharic Service and condemns his comparison of their programming to Radio Mille Collines of Rwanda. Comparing a respected and professional news service to a group that called for genocide in Rwanda is a baseless and inflammatory accusation that seeks only to deflect attention away from the core issue. The Prime Minister may disagree with news carried in Voice of America’s Amharic Service broadcasts; however, a decision to jam VOA broadcasts contradicts the Government of Ethiopia’s frequent public commitments to freedom of the press. We note that the Ethiopian Constitution states that all citizens have the right to freedom of expression 'without any interference' and that this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, 'regardless of frontiers.' The Constitution further notes that freedom of the press shall specifically include 'prohibition of any form of censorship.' We look to the Government of Ethiopia to abide by its constitution." Gordon Duguid, Acting Department Spokesman, State Department, 19 March 2010.
     "Zenawi’s statements [on 18 March] were the first acknowledgment of government interference with VOA broadcasts, which are beamed by satellite from Washington and received in Ethiopia via short-wave radio. Just two weeks earlier, Shemelis Kemal, a government spokesman, told CPJ that any suggestion of government involvement in the interference was an 'absolute sham.' He said such practices were unconstitutional.' Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 March 2010.
     "[T]he timing of a recent story on VOA about the alleged jamming of the Amharic Services of Voice of America and of Germany’s Deutsche Welle, appears equally deliberate. To be fair the story does quote a denial from the spokesperson of the Government Communications Office, and it does also make clear that the VOA transmissions in Afan Oromo and Tigrinya which are broadcast on the same frequencies before and after the Amharic transmissions are heard normally. Nevertheless, the timing of the story, and the fact that VOA chose to raise the issue publicly rather than with the Government Communications Office directly, does suggest the intention was to have a political effect." Walta Information Center (Addis Ababa), 13 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Cambodian listens to RFA and VOA for "trustworthy news."

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Radio station: I also like listening to breaking news on Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, which I think are trustworthy news outlets for people. I firmly believe that if people spend some time listening to news on radio and television, it would really help them improve their understanding of real society, and they will become responsible citizens." From "5 Cool things with Chrann Chamroeun," The Phnom Penh Post, 17 March 2010.

Pakistani Senate committee "chagrined" by good VOA, BBC reception.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Senate’s standing committee for information and Broadcasting has stressed upon its relevant ministry to ensure that PEMRA’s code of conduct was carried out, and also wanted to ban controversial programs of VOA (Voice of America) and Indian movies. The meeting of the committee was convened by chairman senator Haji Ghulam Ali on Monday [15 March] in Parliament House took notice of illegal appointments in PTV and Radio Pakistan. ... The members of the committee were also chagrined of the fact that BBC, VOA and Indian broadcasts were easily accessible to all Pakistan, with special reference to the NWFP zone; while Radio Pakistan’s broadcasts in these areas were specifically weak." Agencies via Regional Times (Karachi), 16 March 2010.

VOA's influence on musicians is not limited to jazz.

Posted: 20 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Sila Matungi’s dream of becoming a celebrity musician began as a youngster growing up in the mountains of Kenya. Chasing after his dream, he found himself in the Bay Area with his band, Sila and the Afrofunk Experience. ... SF Station: Will you tell me a little about where you grew up? Sila Matungi: I grew up in a town called Machakos. I grew up in the mountains, listening to Voice of America with tunes from James Brown, Bob Marley, Kool and The Gang, and Jimi Hendrix. I was hooked to music. Growing up listening to that music was very helpful. Because of the struggles of growing up in a village, all I had was my grandmother and music." David Johnson-Igra, SF Station, 18 March 2010.

How VOA altered a Polish pianist's interpretation of Chopin.

Posted: 19 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra treated us to a jazz pianist named Adam Makowicz. The Polish native grew up playing the music of his fellow countrymen, such as Chopin. What made Makowicz so different came about thanks to the 1950's and '60s U.S. State Department radio station Voice of America, where the young pianist first heard musicians like Art Tatum. The station played the Soviet prohibited musical style unique to the U.S. called jazz. After Makowicz first heard jazz, he could never play the music of Chopin in the grand style by which he was usually interpreted." Ray Blum, The Advertiser (Lafayette, LA), 12 March 2010. VOA was not a "U.S. State Department" station after 1953, though as part of USIA, close to it.

BBC Global News staff told "we need to become more global"; management reorganized.

Posted: 19 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Senior management roles will be cut as part of an extensive management restructure within the BBC's Global News division, Journalism.co.uk has learned. Nine senior management posts will close as part of the changes, which will create a saving of £600,000. The standalone post of director of BBC World Service and the positions of BBC Global News' controller Future Media, Technology & Distribution and head of governance and public affairs will be closed. The two roles of director of BBC World News and director BBC World Service English will also close as part of the restructure, while the three roles of director digital content BBC World News, commercial director BBC World News and controller strategy business and development for BBC Global News will also be cut. Four new roles assuming some of these responsibilities will be created within Global News, which is responsible for the BBC's World Service output, and as such there will be a net loss of five jobs." Laura Oliver, journalism.co.uk, 17 March 2010. See also paidContent:UK, 17 March 2010.
     "Horrocks told staff: 'We need to become more global. And we need to make these sorts of tough decisions about the way we organise ourselves as one team, working together, in a way that really benefits our global audience.' He added: 'Research shows that the audience talks about BBC rather than BBC World Service, BBC World News or BBC News. Our audiences seek distinctive multimedia content from us that gives them a unique insight into their changing. No other news organisation has such a commanding global presence as us. We can exploit that globalness even better on behalf of our audiences.'" John Plunkett, The Guardian, 17 March 2010.

Is the BBC's global tweet-in "the future of news"?

Posted: 19 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The BBC is hosting a 'six hour snapshot of a global conversation as it unfolds' today, simultaneously translating Web2.0rhea contributions into several languages including Chinese, Arabic and Persian. Producer Mark Sandell told us there would be as few barriers to topics as he could get away with. Sandell produces World Have Your Say, a weekly participation show on BBC World Service. The event will be filmed and recorded. Other languages for the massively parallel Tweet-in are Indonesian, Spanish and Portuguese. It's part of the BBC's no-expenses-spared Superpower season. ... Mark seemed very enthusiastic. We felt quite the party-poopers asking whether he thought that the BBC, which is in a unique position to tell us stuff we didn't know, was copping out of its duties by hosting what was in effect a giant bulletin board? How about, um... telling us something new? Was this the future of news, then? 'I'm not disagreeing with that,' said Sandell. 'I wouldn't dream of turning World Service into 24 hours of World Have Your Say ... the two go hand in glove.'" Andrew Orlowski, The Register, 18 March 2010.
     "Direct, real-time communication among politicians and the public through social media platforms is reshaping democracy and the news media, but questions remain about how the fabric of society might change as a result, argued a panel at an event hosted by the BBC on Tuesday evening at Westminster. ... The panel was chaired by Peter Horrocks, director of BBC global news, and included Pooneh Ghoddoosi, a presenter with BBC’s Persian service and Peter Barron, director of communications for Google in north and central Europe. BBC is producing a series about the Internet titled 'Superpower'." Julie Mollins, Reuters, 17 March 2010.

Ethiopian ambassador seconds Geldof complaint about BBC World Service report (updated).

Posted: 19 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The row between Bob Geldof and the BBC escalated into a diplomatic dispute yesterday as the Ethiopian ambassador called for an apology from the World Service after it reported claims that aid money meant for famine victims had been spent on weapons. Peter Horrocks, director of the World Service, has said he fully supports the report, which featured one former Ethiopian rebel saying 95% of the money that flowed into famine-hit Tigray in 1985 was spent by the TPLF militia on guns. ... Now ambassador Berhanu Kebede has told the Observer that he expects a full apology from the BBC, which has 'destroyed its credibility in Africa'." Tracy McVeigh, The Observer, 14 March 2010.
     Bob Geldof "has called for everyone involved to be sacked, including the reporters, the producers and the head of the BBC World Service, Peter Horrocks. He probably wants you sacked too, if you heard the report." Ron Liddle, The Sunday Times, 14 March 2010.
     "The BBC stands by its story. But they can’t both be right." Richard Dowden, Daily Mail, 15 March 2010.
     Update: "[T]he BBC report was not specifically about Band Aid. Nor does it discredit the World Service to report on international aid deliveries during the Ethiopian crisis of the 1980s. The real issue is about the way humanitarian assistance to victims of war and famine was – and still is – manipulated by all sides, whether rebel or government." Edward Girardet, Comment is Free, The Guardian, 18 March 2010.
     "Ethiopia's honorary consul in Australia, Graham Romanes ... ran Community Aid Abroad's East Africa operations at the time I went in to Tigray. Asked about the BBC's figures now, he says 'they just don't add up. The aid groups - particularly Christian Aid - at the time monitored this question very closely and they found nothing like this.' I think Bob Geldof is overconfident when he says that there's not a shred of evidence of a single cent going astray. But between him and the BBC, his is the lesser exaggeration." Mark Colvin, presenter of ABC Radio's current affairs program PM, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 17 March 2010.
     "Today, for the first time, the Band Aid man on the ground in Ethiopia speaks out exclusively to The Daily Mail, saying he believes it is possible that up to 20 per cent of donor's money went to fund the rebels." Zoe Brennan, Daily Mail, 20 March 2010.
     "As ever, Geldof’s latest reaction has been long on outrage and short on analysis. Precisely the sort of muddle-headed thinking that ensures well-intentioned do-gooders like him get taken to the cleaners by dodgy African regimes and despots, who can spot an opportunity a mile off. To be fair to Geldof, admittedly the BBC’s programme was largely based on the claims of two former rebel commanders said to have political axes to grind. This however in no way justifies Geldof’s claims that the BBC simply had it in for him and Band Aid or failed in its journalistic role." Editorial, Daily Mail, 18 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

PM Meles Zanawi says Ethiopia has been "testing jamming equipment" against VOA.

Posted: 19 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says he is prepared to order jamming of VOA broadcasts in Amharic, the country's main official language. Mr. Meles compared VOA Amharic to the hate media that incited the Rwanda genocide. The Ethiopian leader denies having authorized the interference VOA Amharic listeners have been experiencing since February 22. But speaking to reporters Thursday, he acknowledged ordering preparations for jamming, and said as soon as the equipment is working properly, he would give the go ahead. ... The prime minister compared VOA's Amharic Service to Radio Mille Collines, which broadcast hate messages blamed for inciting the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. ... Voice of America Director Danforth Austin issued a statement Thursday saying, 'any comparison of VOA programming to the genocidal broadcasts of Rwanda's Radio Mille Collines is incorrect and unfortunate.' He added, 'the VOA deplores jamming as a form of media censorship wherever it may occur.'" Peter Heinlein, VOA News, 18 March 2010.
     "Ethiopia has admitted it is jamming the Voice of America's (VOA) broadcasts in Amharic, accusing the radio station of engaging in 'destabilising propaganda'. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Ethiopia had been testing jamming equipment, although there had been no formal decision to bloc [sic] the US station. ... 'We have for some time now been trying to beef up our capacity to deal with this, including... jamming,' Mr Meles said on Thursday." BBC News, 19 March 2010.
     See previous post about same subject, with audio examples of the jamming. New 9700 kHz has been added to the five other VOA Amharic frequencies, per this schedule. More frequencies and transmitter locations would be helpful.

Is Worldspace close to "a frozen death more than 22,000 miles above the earth"?

Posted: 18 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Bankrupt satellite radio operator WorldSpace Inc said on Tuesday that its lender Liberty Satellite Radio has terminated transaction negotiations between the two companies. Liberty Satellite Radio, a unit of media mogul John Malone's Liberty Media Corp (LINTA.O), was widely expected to seek a strategic alliance between WorldSpace and Sirius XM Satellite Radio (SIRI.O), the New York-based company in which it owns a significant stake. WorldSpace did not give any details of what the transaction negotiations were about. A Liberty Media spokeswoman declined to comment." Reuters, 16 March 2010.
     "WorldSpace, a bankrupt satellite radio company, is running so low on funds that it is preparing to send its satellites to a premature death. The Silver Spring company has been in Chapter 11 since October 2008 and announced this week that negotiations with a lender and prospective buyer had fallen apart. 'WorldSpace is planning for a potential de-commissioning of its satellites and reviewing its strategic alternatives in light of the termination of negotiations,' the company said in a news release. ... WorldSpace's 'dire cash position' has left it 'no choice but to prepare to remove immediately the Satellites from orbit to prevent damage to both the Satellites and equipment in orbit owned and operated by others,' WorldSpace said in an emergency court filing. The procedure would involve steering the WorldSpace satellites into a higher orbit, out of the way of others, said Tobias Nassif, vice president of satellite operations and engineering at Intelsat, which would assist WorldSpace. The satellites' propellant would be dumped and their batteries would be disconnected, leaving them to a frozen death more than 22,000 miles above the earth." David S. Kilzenrath, 18 March 2010.
     "WorldSpace, in a filing to the Delaware Bankruptcy Court on March 16, said that Liberty Satellite Radio on March 12 had 'abruptly and without explanation terminated its negotiations with [WorldSpace]'. ... 'Liberty has not provided [WorldSpace] with any guidance on protecting or disposing of Liberty’s collateral [the orbiting satellites] despite the Debtors’ repeated requests.' ... What a mess! We cannot begin to speculate as to what’s gone wrong this time." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 17 March 2010.
     "Maybe someone else will step up to give WorldSpace a hand. Hopefully it will be someone with either a short memory or the ability to grasp the nuances of programming language-specific content across many different territories at ridiculous price points." Rick Aristotle Munarriz, The Motley Fool, 17 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Radio Sweden will drop shortwave, medium wave, and three immigrant language services.

Posted: 18 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Radio Sweden will terminate its medium and short wave broadcasts this October 31st in favour of web services – with Swedish Radio management stating that is the best use of resources and in line with international trends. The English-language service is to continue on the web and on national broadcasts. The Russian output will be available on the web as is the German now. ... Among the immigrant languages, Albanian, Assyrian-Syriac and Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian are to be terminated on the same date. Meanwhile, Arabic and Somali – the largest immigrant language groups here at present – are to be boosted. The same applies to Romani – one of Sweden’s five official minority languages. The Persian service is to include even Dari spoken by the rapidly increasing number of Afghan refugees coming to Sweden. Kurdish broadcasts remain unchanged." Radio Sweden, 16 March 2010.

Survey: State-owned Zimbabwe Television not competing well with international media.

Posted: 18 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Despite being the latest target of attacks and ridicule by Zanu PF, exiled media outlets have become the reliable sources of news after the closure of vibrant independent newspapers by the previous Robert Mugabe government, a media survey by the Zimbabwe All Media Products Survey (ZAMPS) has revealed. According to the poll held in the country’s urban areas, there was a growing interest by Zimbabweans to listen to such channels as the Radio Voice of the People (Radio VOP) Voice of America (VOA)’s Studio 7 and British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) in the wake of biased coverage from the state controlled Zimbabwe Television. ZAMPS, a leading market observer, which surveyed a sample of 2,000 consumers in each town, said ZTV’s viewer ship rankings had drastically dropped down in the face of competition from free-to-air channels." Radio Voice of the People, 14 March 2010. "Free to air" is usually a term associated with satellite television, which is another source of outside information (and entertainment) for Zimbabweans.

Bad news leaks from North Korea, and Free Radio North Korea leaks it back.

Posted: 18 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Despite being vacuum-packed by the Kim dictatorship and sealed off behind a once-solid technological firewall, North Korea is increasingly leaking bad news – and much of it is coming from [Free Radio North Korea]. Run by defector Kim Seong-Min, the small shortwave station has an apparently simple mission: to bring democracy to one of the world’s most paranoid, secretive nations. ... Today, much of the funding for the broadcaster comes from Japanese activists and the US state department – at no cost to its independence, he insists. 'I’m asked about interference a lot, but it’s not an issue. There has been just one clash. We ran a programme carrying testimony by defectors who spoke of their treatment – being beaten by guards at the Chinese border and so on. One defector said he was going to shoot Kim Jong-il. The Americans told us to delete that programme or they wouldn’t pay.'" David McNeill, Irish Times, 15 March 2010. Does the funding come from the State Department, or from another US entity such as the National Endowment for Democracy? And does the US funding entity preview the content, or just ask for objectionable content to be deleted from the website post hoc? Regarding transmission, the various exile stations beaming into North Korea have never had access to transmitters located in South Korea, so they lease time on shortwave transmitters located outside the Korean Peninsula. Because more North Koreans have access to modified medium wave radios than to shortwave radios, a medium wave transmitter in South Korea would be helpful. See previous post about same subject.

Cycle 24 brings back shortwave propagation (if not shortwave broadcasters).

Posted: 18 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Just as El Nino can significantly affect the Earth's weather patterns, the solar cycle can greatly influence radio propagation. What is the solar cycle? It is a roughly 11-year cycle of sunspot activity that peaks midway through each go-round. In the most basic terms, more sunspots equal better propagation, and more activity on the bands. We are currently in the beginning of cycle 24. Each cycle has been numbered since the cycle was first observed by scientists. So far, '24' has been slow to get busy, and ham-radio operators and shortwave listeners have been looking forward to better conditions for the last few years. ... The new cycle might also rekindle the radio spark for some of our colleagues who have gone quiet lately, and should make life on shortwave interesting for those in listen-only mode, once solar flare activity heats up in earnest." Lee Syracuse, Syracuse.com, 14 March 2010.

TV Martí: novelas instead of newscasts? (updated)

Posted: 17 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"In addition to increasing purposeful people-to-people and family-to-family interaction, which is essential to the overall effort, we must demand of the U.S. government the immediate and effective restructuring of two of our strongest vehicles for helping Cubans to promote change on the island: Radio and Television Martí (Office of Cuba Broadcasting, OCB) and the U.S. Agency for International Development's Cuba Democracy Program. Rather than focusing on the mission of effectively transmitting news and information to the Cuban people and hiring qualified personnel able to utilize modern technology and messaging, OCB's decision-making has been ruled by nepotism and political cronyism the past several years. As a result, Radio and Television Martí are failing to meet their mandate of providing objective news and information to the Cuban people. OCB has virtually eliminated programs that incorporated the participation of Cuban dissidents and has done away with full television newscasts, opting to transmit novelas. Apparently Spanish-language soap operas hold transformative powers we don't know about." Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, Miami Herald, 25 February 2010. This may have to do with planned budget cuts and layoffs at TV Martí.
     Update: "As a citizen of a free country, Hernández is entitled to his critical opinions, but such opinions must be based on facts, which is the essence of our struggle for liberty. ... [A] falsehood is to proclaim that Televisión Martí has canceled its newscasts. All our programs carry news of interest to Cuba, at half-hour intervals, in a manner that increases the audience's access. Televisión Martí also offers three half-hour programs: Cuba al Día, Nuestra América and Washington al Día, each carrying news and views on the island's happenings. ... We now employ four broadcast platforms: The Direct TV satellite (Channel 8); the Hispasat Spanish satellite; the ``Aero Martí'' aircraft, which flies over the Florida Keys transmitting simultaneously in VHF (Channel 13) and UHF (Channel 20); and our digital webpage martinoticias.com, available to those Cubans with secret Internet access that's banned by the government. This has been a difficult year for the budget of Radio and TV Martí. It is distressing that certain influential Cubans, with access to the U.S. Congress, kept silent and did not join the efforts of those who fought to prevent the drastic $7-million budget cutback slammed on the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB)." Pedro Roig is the director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (parent entity of Radio/TV Martí), Miami Herald, 3 March 2010.

The BBC in Kabul and the challenge of finding the truth.

Posted: 17 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Not many aspects of [Afghanistan] country remind me of home. I am therefore bemused when the stream of Dari pouring from the taxi’s radio gives way to the familiar BBC News countdown music. BBC Afghanistan is a major broadcaster here, its Pashto and Persian (Dari, more or less) services popular across the country. Daud Qarizadah, head of the BBC Persian Television bureau in Kabul, tells me how the operation is the BBC’s largest outside of London, employing dozens of journalists and technicians. He shows me the television and radio studios, full of the latest equipment shipped from Britain. I ask Daud what his biggest challenge is. Security? 'No, the BBC is very good at protecting its staff,' he says. 'By far our biggest challenge is finding the truth. The foreign forces do not tell you the truth, the Taliban obviously do not tell you the truth. Even some rural villagers have an agenda.' Nevertheless, his efforts seem to be paying off. 'It’s the only news source we trust,' is a refrain I hear from Afghans of all stripes." “AfPak” diary, The Economist online, 10 March 2010.

Maneuvering for the Australian international television contract.

Posted: 17 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Australian Broadcasting Corporation managing director Mark "Scott's most vaulting ambition? To establish an international news service to rival the BBC and CNN and advance what he calls Australia's 'soft diplomacy' around the globe. Some cynics in the commercial media have dubbed his ambitions Messianic, and his package, 'Mark's plan to take over the world'. ... Scott argued that the ABC should be funded 'to become the dominant regional provider of news, information and English-language learning material' and warned against China, in particular, as a rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific region. (This, as the ABC negotiates with China for 'landing rights' for ABC telecasts into the country.)" Karen Kissane, The Age (Melbourne), 13 March 2010.
     "Sky News has fired another shot in its battle with the ABC over the right to broadcast Australia's international diplomatic television service by launching the Australian Parliament program into North America. Sky chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos will today announce the Australian Public Affairs Channel -- a not-for-profit channel funded by pay-TV operators Foxtel and Austar, and produced by Sky -- has launched Australian Parliament on the C-SPAN public affairs channel in the US and CPAC in Canada. The launch comes at a critical time for Mr Frangopoulos, who has criticised the ABC's plans for a 24-hour news service and is competing with the public broadcaster for the Department of Foreign Affairs contract to deliver the Australia Network diplomatic service. ... The federal government told the ABC and Sky in January that it would invite each to effectively pitch for the $94.2 million Australia Network contract." James Chessell, The Australian, 15 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.
     Whoever holds the contract, Australian international television will have a better chance of success if it jettisons terms like "soft diplomacy" and "diplomatic service."

BBC World News, with its "global perspective," does not aim to be India's hometown station.

Posted: 17 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Asserting that it does not aim to compete with the local television channels in the country, BBC has said India is an important market for the British broadcaster. ... 'We don't aim to compete with the local stations, instead we try and offer something different - we broadcast news from a global perspective,' BBC World News' Commercial Director Colin Lawrence told PTI." Press Trust of India, 14 March 2010. Yes, but BBC World News programs with an Asian or Indian focus include Asia Today, Asia Business Report, India Business Report, Impact Asia, and The Hub with Nik Gowing.

Watching BBC Arabic TV because "it has the characteristics of the mother institution."

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Liliane Landor, head of the BBC World Service's Middle East Region, interviewed about the BBC Arabic television channel: "BBC is well known because it is British, the Arabic Service is known to employ Arabs, and hence it is not CNN, Al-Hurrah [Alhurra], or French F4 [presumably France 24]; everybody knows the unbiased policy and course of the BBC. Recently, I visited Lebanon, and I did not hear from anyone that he watches the Arabic Service because it is British; it is an Arabic channel that is interested in Arab affairs, but it has the characteristics of the mother institution, namely it is unbiased, and it calls things by their names. At the editorial meetings, we spend most of our time in considering the issue of terminology. This is an important issue, which I place among my priorities, as it preoccupies me; for instance, it is not allowed to call those who fall victims in Palestine 'martyrs.'" Jocelyne Elia, Asharq Al-Awsat, 14 March 2010. Don't Alhurra and France 24 also employ Arabs?

RFE/RL loses its radio and television outlets in Kyrgyzstan (updated: BBC, too, maybe).

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Radio Free Europe's popular Kyrgyz television and radio programs have been off the air in the capital city of Bishkek since Wednesday, shortly after affiliate managers reported that they had been pressured by Kyrgyz officials. RFE/RL's Bishkek television affiliate station 'Echo of Manas' was warned by Kyrgyz authorities that they would face difficulties in renewing their broadcast license if they continued to air the Kyrgyz Service's widely viewed 'Inconvenient Questions' and 'Azattyk Plus' programs. Radio affiliates in Bishkek and the northern city of Naryn have also stopped carrying Kyrgyz Service programming. ... The broadcasting of RFE/RL programs was halted just days before expected rallies and protests marking the fifth anniversary of the country's so-called Tulip Revolution." RFE/RL press release, 12 March 2010. Not mentioned in the press release is that RFE/RL Kyrgyz remains available via shortwave: 1200-1230 UTC on 9465 and 13755 kHz, 1500-1530 UTC on 7480 and 11790.
     Update: "The BBC's local-language service in Kyrgyzstan experienced an unexplained interruption today, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported, sparking concerns the U.K.-funded broadcaster might share the fate of other media outlets suffering setbacks there. One of three BBC broadcasts was unavailable today, although its 9:00 p.m. program was back on the air." RFE/RL, 15 March 2010.

Thirty arrested in Iran for allegedly operating "networks of the US cyber war."

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Thirty people from anti-Iran groups including the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) that were found to operate 'important organized networks of the US cyber war' have been arrested by the Iranian general prosecutor office, according to the state news agency IRNA. The IRNA report claimed that during former US President George W Bush's time in power, a 'cyber war' plan was set up to destablise Iran. One of the main projects dubbed the Iran Proxy received $50 million in funding from the CIA and was used to bypass the state's internet filtering system. The objectives of Iran Proxy included '....getting access to Iran's information banks, penetration and sabotage in Iran's internet sites, fight against filtering in the country, creating security for internet users, creating a secure telephone and data communication ground for making interviews with Radio Farda, Radio Zamaneh, Voice of America and other western media'." Vineetha Menon, ITP.net (Dubai), 14 March 2010.
     Ten "most important missions" of the alleged network include "issuing false news." Hamsayeh.net, 13 March 2010.
     "The Iranians claimed further that the cells were financed by the U.S. International Broadcasting Bureau and by the State Department, which had allocated $50 million to their activity." Sepahnews.ir (Iran), 13 March 2010 via MEMRI Blog, 14 March 2010.

Internet freedom in the news, with references to international broadcasting.

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The information battle was so much simpler in the Cold War. U.S. government broadcasting services Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty brought news to people behind the Iron Curtain, playing a key role in undermining communism. Everyone in the West understood the value of this broadcasting, even with the costs of getting around jamming by repressive governments. We're all just beginning to understand the importance of the modern-day version of Radio Liberty—the Web and services available online. It's time to get serious about protecting the freedom of servers." Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 15 March 2010. Anti-blocking software will help, but the internet remains vulnerable because it is conveyed through landlines (or cell towers) in the target country. The advantage of RFE and RL's (and unmentioned VOA's and BBC's) shortwave is that it dropped in to the target country wirelessly (and still does, to some countries).
     "Google is tired of whitewashing its results in China, and trying to provide balance from the outside is a noble pursuit. Attempting to counter internal propaganda is reminiscent of Radio Free Europe and -- more recently -- Radio Marti fueled by Cubans in exile. The rub for Big G is that renegade broadcasters don't have profit as an incentive. Google is going to score some serious style points with human-rights activists worldwide, but it's not going to pad its pockets." Rick Aristotle Munarriz, The Motley Fool, 15 March 2010.
     "The first anti-censorship software developed inside China, the Xi Xiang project, has recently been released online to penetrate the regime-sponsored Internet surveillance tools, the Great Firewall of China (GFW). ... ... After studying the software, Dong Xiaoxing, a computer network expert, told Radio Free Asia that the Xi Xiang tools take advantage of the RST [reset] packets that are ignored by the GFW. Dong believes the blocking and anti-blocking war will be ongoing, and the software will be widely spread in the Chinese Internet communities." Epoch Times, 14 March 2010.
     "On March 24, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) will hold an event to mark the public launch of the U.S. Senate Caucus on Global Internet Freedom, which will provide bipartisan leadership and serve as a resource in the Washington policy community on this important issue. The event will feature remarks from caucus co-chairs Senators Ted Kaufman (D-DE) [former BBG member] and Sam Brownback (R-KS), in addition to other Senate caucus members and a panel of experts." CNAS website.

Social media fundamental to democracy, or vice versa?

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, has given a lengthy interview to the BBC World Service, in which he claims that social media is fundamental to the spread of democracy. Or should that be the other way around? ... The company is trying to improve SMS coverage in India and Haiti, but Williams admits there is nothing he can do about his site's being blocked by the Chinese authorities. 'My hope is that eventually the open exchange of information will prevail in most regions, but we don't have any specific plans in China or other areas where we're blocked.'" Addy Dugdale, Fast Company, 12 March 2010. Podcast here. See also BBCWS The Interview web page.

Reporters sans frontières lists 12 nations as "Enemies of the Internet."

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The 'Enemies of the Internet' list drawn up again this year by Reporters Without Borders presents the worst violators of freedom of expression on the Net: Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam." Reporters sans frontières, 12 March 2010, and links.
     "'The censorship by the [Chinese] communist government now affects almost all foreign Web sites. If you don't actually have a Chinese Web address, then you're likely to be entirely blocked so no one in China can access the site,' said Adrienne Woltersdorf, head of the Chinese department at Deutsche Welle. Access to Deutsche Welle's websites is strongly affected by the country's censorship. Other international broadcasters like the BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia have the same problem. Not only is critical news being blocked out, but competition on the media market is also significantly affected." Jan Bruck, Deutsche Welle, 12 March 2010.

New satellite television enforcement campaign in Beijing.

Posted: 16 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Beijing Municipal Tourism Bureau issued a notice Tuesday, saying that a special campaign concerning the overseas radio and TV channels at Beijing star-rated hotels will be carried out in March. ... According to the regulations released by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) last month, 31 overseas satellite TV channels are available for hotels with 3-stars or above that target overseas visitors. These channels include CNN International, HBO, Discovery, Channel [V] and others. A similar large-scale campaign was conducted in Beijing last August ahead of the 60th National Day Celebration. According to a report by the Beijing Evening News, over 300 devices were confiscated, and about 40 shops selling such devices were shut down. However, an increasing number of Beijing residents still risk installing such devices in order to enjoy more programs from foreign channels, which means that it has become a booming business. ... [O]verseas satellite TV channels can only be installed at three types of locations. They are: high-level educational, scientific and research institutes, star-rated hotels and office buildings or apartments geared especially towards overseas nationals or people from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. ... A British citizen who requested anonymity said the regulations are ridiculous, as foreigners in Beijing live in different residential compounds. He said he lives in a medium sized community where those who have the devices are nearly all Chinese nationals." Yang Jie, Global Times (Beijing), 11 March 2010. If the campaign is aimed at hotels, is the goal to make sure the hotels are making available only the 31 authorized channels?

ICANN CEO calls for more internet access in Africa.

Posted: 15 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A U.S.-based organization that promotes the use of the Internet is urging leaders in east Africa to make the Internet accessible and affordable to all of their citizens. ... The Chief Executive Officer of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says by expanding the reach and affordability of the Internet, African countries can vastly help improve the economic future of the people on the continent. Speaking at an ICANN-hosted Internet conference in Nairobi Monday, CEO Rod Beckstrom noted that Africa, which has 15 percent of the world's population, is home to less than seven percent of Internet users worldwide. ... According to the figures provided by African Internet providers, Internet usage in east Africa is wildly uneven. For example, more than 10 percent of the 41 million people living in Sudan use the Internet on a regular basis. But less than one-half of one percent of Ethiopia's 85 million people has access." Alisha Ryu, VOA News, 8 March 2010.

CNBC creating a regional hub in Bahrain.

Posted: 15 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"CNBC ... will create a regional editorial hub in Bahrain to cover the Middle East. The facility is expected to be operational in the second quarter of the year. The hub will coordinate and produce business and financial newsgathering from the Middle East, with a studio and production facility linked to CNBC’s global network. CNBC is in the process of recruiting an on-air presenter, reporters and production staff in the region. ... The hub will contribute to CNBC’s pan-regional programme Capital Connection, which will become tri-anchored live from London, Bahrain and Singapore, four days a week." Press release via Al Bawaba, 14 March 2010.

CNN International: "global beast" that is "personality-led."

Posted: 15 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"CNN may be a firmly established American news outlet, but its sister channel CNN International is emerging from the shadows as a truly global beast. The channel has undergone a radical change over the past two years, and with access to 230 million households and hotel rooms worldwide, it is one media outlet PR professionals should not overlook. ... Ketchum's head of strategic media Richard Griffiths says ...: 'In the past, a breaking news story meant editors instantly flicked back to domestic CNN in Atlanta. That now seems to be changing and the attempt to be more global buys CNN more credibility with international brands.' ... Griffiths, a former BBC World journalist, advises PROs to recognise the difference between the BBC and CNN International's approach to stories. 'CNN International is much more personality-led.'" Kate Magee, PR Week UK, 12 March 2010.
     "CNN [the US version] has lost more than 40% of its primetime audience, and 35% of its total day audience... . Anecdotally, I have heard that several former CNN viewers have switched over to CNN International because they find that network much more satisfying when it comes to hard news." Reeses Schonfeld, Huffington Post, 9 March 2010.
     "CNN International will cease broadcasting in analogue on the Astra position at 19.2 degrees East on March 31. The channel will remain available as a free-to-air service in digital." Robert Briel, Broadband TV News, 15 March 2010.

Heritage ideas to combat Russian anti-Americanism include budget increase, new bureaucracy (updated).

Posted: 15 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Kremlin is using anti-Americanism as a strategic tool for pursuing domestic and foreign policy goals. Through media controlled or owned by the state, the Russian government is deliberately spreading poisonous anti-U.S. propaganda at home and abroad, blaming many of Russia's problems on the West, particularly the United States. The partial success of this policy exposes a number of serious failures in U.S. public diplomacy, which has been in decline since the end of the Cold War. To counter Russian information warfare and to consolidate democracy and freedom in Eastern and Central Europe, the U.S. needs to reinvigorate its public diplomacy efforts, using both traditional TV and radio broadcasting and new media to reach the peoples of the former Soviet satellites and post-Soviet states." Abstract from "Russian Anti-Americanism: A Priority Target for U.S. Public Diplomacy," Ariel Cohen and Helle C. Dale, Heritage Foundation, 24 February 2010. This is a detailed paper (with several footnotes) about an important subject. See my comments on this separate page.
     Sergei S. in Moscow writes: "I'm all for academic and culture exchange. But when it comes to mass media the authors seem to overestimate the power of propaganda (incl. 'public diplomacy') and underestimate the attraction of non-ideological, truth-seeking reporting. The paper says that 'RT regularly features Kremlin-supported commentators.' As RT's occasional viewer I know that it draws on a diverse pool of experts and personalities, incl. Dr. Ariel Cohen himself. This is one of his latest appearances on RT: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbBoT7qfRvs."
     Update: "Russian Anti-Americanism: A Priority Target for U.S. Public Diplomacy" will take place 23 March at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium in Washington. Speakers are Daniel Kimmage (senior fellow), Svetlana Babaeva (RIA Novosti), and Ariel Cohen (senior research fellow), with Helle Dale as host. Heritage announcement.

Expansion of Russian radio to India could involve up to 12 languages from "Soviet times."

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Russia is ready to expand radio broadcasting to India in local languages, Russia’s prime minister Vladimir Putin stated during his video link with India. 'I’m glad that India is interested in what is going on in Russia and the features of the Voice of Russia are popular', Vladimir Putin said answering one of the questions. The Voice of Russia radio is broadcasting to South Asia in Hindi and Urdu but used to broadcast in all Indian languages during the Soviet times. 'It’s sad that now broadcasting to India is only in two languages. Russia’s government has to work in this direction', Putin said." Voice of Russia, 12 March 2010.
     Putin, during same video conference: "However, there are also positive trends: broadcasting is expanding thanks to the use of modern means of communication. It is expanding through the use of cutting-edge technology and due to the move to broadcasting in other languages that are indigenous to your country. For example, the MTS company uses new technology to transmit information from Russia in real time and broadcast television pictures to mobile phones. I think one should take advantage of this. ... But that is not enough, of course. Efforts must be made at government level and we will think about it." ISRIA, 13 March 2010.
     Voice of Russia now broadcasts to South Asia in Hindi, Urdu, and English. For languages during "Soviet times," I referred to my 1970 World Radio TV Handbook. Back then, Radio Moscow transmissions to South Asia also included Assamese, Bengali, Gujrathi [Gujarati], Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Tamil, and Telugu.
     If Voice of Russia does add languages to India, Ideally it would want them placed on FM stations in India. But because news is not allowed on non-AIR FM stations, the content would be limited to "infotainment" fare, such as now placed by BBC World Service. For news from VOR in those languages, Indian listeners would have to use shortwave or the internet.

Bob Geldof complains about BBC World Service report (update: and calls for BBCWS director et al to be fired).

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Bob Geldof and the Band Aid trust are to report the BBC to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom over a World Service report that millions of pounds raised for famine victims in Ethiopia in 1985 were actually spent on weapons. A group of Britain's most respected agencies – including Oxfam, the Red Cross, Unicef, Christian Aid and Save the Children – are joining Band Aid in writing an official complaint to the chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons. They are to complain of the 'false and dangerously misleading impression' created by a report by the BBC World Service's Africa editor, Martin Plaut, which alleged that 95 per cent of the $100m in aid which went to the northern province of Tigray in 1985 had been diverted for military use by the rebel forces which held the area." Paul Vallely, The Independent, 6 March 2010.
     Update: "The real story of this sorry saga is the intense systemic failure of the World Service, that cherry on the cake of the BBC's reputation. It's a rotten old cherry these days. And I am as bereft as a jilted lover. Of all the taxes I pay, I pay only one gladly – my licence fee. I am Mr World Service. I have done ads promoting the BBC, I have written and spoken in its defence, it is indeed the BBC who started me and others on this African journey; I believe it must, at all costs, be retained very similar to what it is now, albeit cutting away the deadwood and slack. ... Martin Plaut, Andrew Whitehead [editor, news and current affairs] and Peter Horrocks [director of World Service] should be fired. There should be an immediate investigation into what went wrong; steps should be taken to rectify the identified faults; and the World Service must work very, very hard to re-establish its glorious trust and hard-won reputation as the world broadcaster of excellence." Bob Geldof, Comment is Free, The Guardian, 9 March 2010.
     "A BBC spokesman said the World Service would continue to defend its report. 'This was a well-researched programme and the BBC stands by its journalism,' he said. 'We are happy to repeat that there is no suggestion that any relief agency was complicit in any diversion of funds'. However, a senior BBC source told the Guardian that there was concern about the amount of criticism that 'a relatively obscure documentary [which] didn't even mention Band Aid' had attracted." Sam Jones and James Robinson, The Guardian, 9 March 2010.
     "The Independent asked for an interview with Mr Whitehead but a BBC spokesman said: 'Sorry, we won't be able to accommodate your request.'" Paul Vallely, The Independent, 10 March 2010.
     "Plaut is a first-class journalist. He hasn't just come to this. He was actually there on the frontlines in Tigray, with his wife, a nurse, in 1984, as the famine was brewing." Rageh Omaar, Comment is Free, The Guardian, 8 March 2010.

Some Americans use international channels as antidote to scandals, opinion on US cable channels.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Online discussion between Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi and readers: "Q: When CNN started it was meant to be a TV version of all-news radio stations or like the evening news all day long, meaning you watched it for a half hour and found out quite a bit about what was going on in the world. Now, all the cable news stations show is missing people, scandals, or opinion shows; even CNN Headline News is a mere shell of itself. Now, if I really want to know what is going on the world, I have to watch BBC News World or France 24, or EuroNews, or even Al Jazeera English. Luckily in the Washingon area, we can get those last three because they are on WNVC-Channel 30. ... A: CNN (and the other news channels) discovered long ago that talk ABOUT the news (or about certain news stories, particularly politics) beats covering the news. Shocking revelation: The domestic news networks are primarily concerned about maximizing their audiences, not covering the news. ... Q: I think if you want to actually see the news you have to get beyond the 'big' networks. Watch BBC World. Or even CNN International. One of the things I really love about FiOS is the access to better news sources. And they carry most of the MHz networks which are devoted to foreign news services like France 24, NHK World, Al Jazeera English, etc. A: Yes, good news sources all. Unfortunately, not many people watch any of those sources." Washington Post, 9 March 2010.
     "I use the BBC, because they give me exactly what I want: news. Unfortunately for the American network news agencies, which truly have an unlimited amount of resources, this process of actually providing quality news has become lost. ... On a daily basis, I try to watch the One-Minute World News on the BBC’s news website. Guess what the anchor does at the beginning? He or she does not say her name, rather the anchor simply says 'Hello, here are the latest headlines from BBC World News.' There is no bias and no personalization. Isn’t that the kind of news we all should be able to consume?" Adam Troxtell, The East Texan, 11 March 2010.
     "Starting April 26, 2010, BBC AMERICA will broadcast via a dual feed, making all programming times uniform for viewers on both coasts. This exciting development comes just as BBC AMERICA increases its availability to more than 67 million households." BBC America press release, 11 March 2010.

BBC World Service will "make a contribution" to FCO budget adjustment caused by declining pound.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Foreign Office has asked the Treasury for an 'urgent' cash injection to help fill a nearly £135 million budget shortfall as the value of the pound slumps, it was revealed today. ... [Foreign Secertary David] Miliband told MPs last month that he had negotiated a package with Chancellor Alistair Darling to 'manage the impact on the purchasing power of its budget' caused by the changes in the value of sterling. The agreement included an additional £25 million from asset sales to be recycled into the FCO budget, £35 million from Treasury reserves and £15 million in 'end-of-year flexibility'. The British Council and BBC World Service, which between them account for more than 20% of the £2.1 billion annual Foreign Office budget, would also 'make a contribution' alongside other cost savings, Mr Miliband said." James Tapsfield, Press Association, 9 March 2010.

Deutsche Welle (which is not a newspaper) partnerships in South Africa, Bangladesh, Afghanistan.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Community television station Cape Town TV (CTV) has formed a programme partnership with German international satellite broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW-TV), an international news and current affairs channel. The channel will provide viewers with a variety of programmes in English, ranging from news and current affairs, magazine programmes from Germany, Europe and global society to Bundesliga (Kick off), which presents the latest happenings from the German soccer league during the season." Bizcommunity.com, 12 March 2010.
     "Thanks to a new partnership agreement with Bangladesh Betar (BB), Deutsche Welle’s Bengali radio service will be broadcast by Bengali’s public broadcaster in the future. ... Following this agreement, Bangladesh Betar will broadcast DW programming between 8:00 am and 8:30 am as well as 8:00 pm and 8:30 pm using six transmitters in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi and Rangpur. ... In addition, the two partners agreed to extend a successful training program for journalists with DW-AKADEMIE." DW press release, 9 March 2010.
     "The Afghan radio station ARIANA FM started broadcasting Deutsche Welle’s radionovela 'Learning by Ear' on Friday, March 5, 2010. Germany’s international broadcaster has planned 50 episodes – each 15 minutes long – in the two national languages Dari and Pashtu. The radio dramas have been made with young listeners in mind. ... The project, supported financially by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, sheds light on topics like political education, health, the advancement of women and girls, drugs and their consequences and tolerance and understanding." DW press release, 10 March 2010.
     Deutsche Welle is often described by other news organizations as a newspaper, e.g.: "Reiner Kind, a researcher at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, told the Deutsche Welle newspaper, 'No one has so far successfully proved that earthquakes on one side of a plate are linked with earthquakes on the other side of the plate.'" Global Times (Beijing), 10 March 2010. Occasionally, DW is described correctly: "European Union officials warned against U.S. protectionism on Tuesday and said the decision could have negative consequences for future defense deals between Europe and the U.S., according to Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcasting station." Roxana Tiron, The Hill, 9 March 2010.

Perhaps it is China that should evolve.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Zhao Qizheng, spokesman for the Third Session of the Eleventh CPPCC, implied that Google should continue its previous policy of self-censorship. He said that 'Darwin's theory of evolution teaches us that what is first and foremost in the evolution of species is adaptation to the environment, not the environment adapting to species,' according to an Oriental Post report." Yiran Feng, Epoch Times, 11 March 2010.

Azerbaijani bloggers jailed for showing a donkey giving a press conference.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"An Azerbaijani court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by two bloggers jailed after satirizing the government with an Internet video that showed a donkey giving a press conference, their lawyer said. ... The two bloggers, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, were arrested and jailed on hooliganism charges last year shortly after posting the video, which lampooned ex-Soviet Azerbaijan's docile press and statements by government officials. Hajizade, 26, was jailed for two years and Milli, 30, for two-and-a-half years." Emil Guliyev, AFP, 11 March 2010.
     "In the past few days in Azerbaijan, some users have complained that many sites, including Yahoo Mail, Gmail and Facebook, were inaccessible. In a region such as the Caucasus where the Internet is less than reliable at the best of times, such things can happen. However, because the problems also included users having problems accessing the web site of Radio Free Europe's Azeri service, some automatically assumed it was a government block." Onnik Krikorian, GlobalVoices, 10 March 2010.

News Corp plans for Arab content spark discussion, speculation.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has ambitions to produce Arab content to serve 335 million people in the region and abroad, helped by its partnership with Saudi-based media group Rotana. ... 'To be frank, Rotana does not really need our financing. We are partnering with Rotana for something more ambitious: to tap into Arab talent and ultimately produce original Arab content for market both here and abroad,' Murdoch told the conference." Georgina Prodhan, Reuters, 9 March 2010.
     Chairman and chief executive of the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, is calling on Arab countries to stop putting restrictions on their media. His comments were made at a high-profile summit currently taking place in the United Arab Emirates that aims to portray the country as a tolerant, cultural hub. But critics say government crackdowns on freedom of expression are increasing. ... "'Markets that look to distort their media end up promoting the very panic and distrust that they had hoped to control,' said Murdoch. 'Certainly, each nation and culture has a right to insist that the people they allow into their countries to do business respect their national values and traditions. This is best administered, however, with a gentle touch.'" Phillip Walter Wellman, VOA News, 10 March 2010.
     "Talk about waving a red flag: before giving his keynote address to audience in Abu Dhabi and saying there should be less media censorship in the country, Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corp, the owners of Fox News, would be opening an office in Abu Dhabi in April." Scott Shuey, Gulf News (Dubai), 11 March 2010.
     "The 'moving' of some of Murdoch’s television satellite channels from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi is neither an innocent decision nor an economic one. It is the result of a series of restrictions set in place by the legislative bodies in China, which always showed reservations and objections to what was being broadcast by Murdoch's network. It considered some content a threat to China’s national security and forced Murdoch to accept some interference in the content that was aired. This explains why he has now chosen a more flexible and less harsh environment to serve as a new starting point without any nuisances or significant competition. His next step will be to Arabize the content of his programs and I do not mean by dubbing films and soaps into different Arabic dialects. I think his main concern will be news and documentaries, as 'this is where the real game is,' said one observer in his analysis of Murdoch’s move. The Muslim experience with Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and The Times emphasises that they are not objective mediums and they have their own method and ideology that they are keen to spread. And today, they are right on our doorstep!" Hussein Shobokshi, Asharq Alawsat, 13 March 2010. There has been speculation about an Arabic Fox News channel to compete with Al Jazeera, but no announced plans by News Corp.

Al Jazeera covered the Iraqi election with the help of YouTube and Flipcams.

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Millions of Iraqis turned out to cast their ballots across the country on Sunday, choosing from more than 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups looking to gain seats in the 325-member assembly. ... For this crucial event in Iraq's history, Al Jazeera partnered with YouTube to hear directly from the Iraqi people using Flipcams distributed across the country." Omar Chatriwala, The Middle East Blog, aljazeera.net, 8 March 2010.
     "While internet in the home is by no means ubiquitous in Iraq, ... many Iraqis took to uploading YouTube videos during the last conflict. The Iraqi government also launched its own channel on the site last year." Laura Oliver, journalism.co.uk, 9 March 2010.

Public Diplomacy 2.0: dubbed documentaries by directive?

Posted: 14 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The United States needs to do more: providing moral and educational support for the green movement in Iran by publicizing what worked in Ukraine or Georgia; dubbing into Farsi documentaries on the fall of Ceausescu, Milosevic, and Pinochet; the transitions in South Africa and Poland; and the achievements of the U.S. civil rights movement." From James K. Glassman, "How to Win the War of Ideas," Foreign Policy, 10 March 2010. Jim Glassman's essay is mainly a renewed argument for his Public Diplomacy 2.0 concept. The only reference to international broadcasting is about the dubbed documentaries. Presumably, Iranian domestic television will not put these on the air. This leaves VOA Persian News Network TV. It's important that PNN is not directed to use these documentaries, but is offered them for consideration. It's likely that PNN can use them. However, if all the documentaries in the series happen to correspond with U.S. foreign policy or public diplomacy objectives, Iranian audiences may no longer see PNN as the go-to source for an comprehensive and balanced portrayal of events present and past, and thus go-away.
     "The U.S. public diplomacy strategy should highlight the Iranian regime's violations of human rights. ... Elements of such a public diplomacy strategy should include: ... ▪Increased broadcasting by Radio Farda and support for independent Iranian broadcasters outside the country so Iranians can hear about activities censored by the government; ... and ▪Educating Iranians about the necessity of reforming the Iranian constitution to give genuine representative democracy a chance and do away with the office of Supreme Leader." James Phillips, Helle Dale and Janice Smith, Heritage Foundation, 11 March 2010. Radio Farda is already 24 hours a day. "Increased broadcasting" would result in Radio Farda Program One and Radio Farda Program Two. Those two would compete not only with each other, but also with VOA Persian News Network (usually, curiously, not mentioned in Heritage missives even though it has a larger audience than Radio Farda), which has eight hours per day of television and five hours of radio.

A review of Jeffrey Herf's Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Although Jeffrey Herf's book mostly chronicles German radio broadcasts to the Arab world during the Second World War, it also covers German propaganda directed at Turkey and Iran, as well as Italian propaganda to the Arabs. ... Nazi propaganda, narrowly focused as it was on anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism, was repetitive. Since Herf's book follows the content of the broadcasts quite closely, it too is repetitive. The facts he has dug up do no credit to the propagandists or their Arab collaborators. But there were very few of the latter and there was no great jihadist uprising against the British or even any significant acts of sabotage. " Reviewed by Robert Irwin, The Independent, 12 March 2010. See also Yale University Press re Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World.

"Whatever Happened to Shortwave Radio?"

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"It is easy to blame the Internet and international satellite television for the decline in shortwave radio listenership. But shortwave was in trouble before these new media took hold, said Larry Magne. He is publisher of Passport to World Band Radio, the annual shortwave radio tuning guide that thrived for 25 years but suspended publication in 2009. ... Magne said he believes it was the BBC World Service that speeded shortwave’s decline in North America. In 2001, then-BBC World Service Director Mark Byford decided that local AM/FM rebroadcasting, satellite radio and the emerging Internet made it possible to stop shortwave broadcasts to North America. ... For all its transmission expense and audio problems, analog shortwave radio has one clear advantage over the Internet and domestic radio/TV: It cannot be easily blocked — even when states try to disrupt its signals using jamming transmitters. Webcasts can be filtered or blocked through IP geolocation techniques that block access to sites based upon the IP address of the site or the user. Access to local radio transmitters can be withdrawn by officials. For example, Radio Azadliq, the RFE/RL service for Azerbaijan, along with VOA and the BBC World Service, was forced off local FM and medium-wave frequencies at year-end 2008 after its often critical coverage of that year’s elections." James Careless, Radio World, 8 March 2010. Recommended reading. A good review of the arguments for and against the continued use of shortwave in international broadcasting.

An essay on shortwave, the "unregulated Wild West of broadcasting."

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Imagine was a communications medium that spanned virtually the entire globe and was virtually impossible to censor. Now imagine that, unlike the internet, it couldn’t be switched-off by the powers that be and didn’t require expensive equipment or monthly subscription fees to access. ... It’s called short wave radio. ... Short wave isn’t like other forms of radio, either technically or in terms of its content. For a start, it’s an unregulated Wild West of broadcasting where signals clash and merge, the loudest voice often blasting in over the one you were trying to listen to. It is also able to blanket vast swaths of the entire globe with a single signal. Even relatively low-powered signals are easily able to reach across national boundaries. ... Today the short wave bands are home to all manner of weirdness: religious broadcasters like the infamous Brother Stair, who was convicted of assault and battery, preaching hellfire and asking for money – God really does have a hard time balancing the books – and American far-right nutjobs selling gold on the basis that the world economy is about to collapse altogether. ... Bizarre signals still emanate from regimes such as North Korea and even the Voice of America continues to have trouble figuring out whether it’s a journalistic or government entreprise, but most political stations are much more sophisticated." Jason Walsh, forth magazine (Dublin), 6 March 2010. An interesting and detailed essay. Some of the conclusions by the author and his interviewees would be refuted by audience research data, if that information should ever find its way into the public domain.

The homeless, serial killer, and indie rock band segments of the shortwave audience.

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Vendors of the Week Tammie and Wesley Clark ease the struggles of homelessness by engaging in activities they enjoy. They listen at night to a shortwave radio that broadcasts from all over the world. The other night they were listening to Radio Beijing." Jane Austin, Real Change (Seattle), 10 March 2010. I hope they noticed that the station is now called China Radio International.
     Serial killer Peter Woodcock "died Friday – his 71st birthday – at the Oak Ridge division of the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre. The facility was his home for most of his 53 years in custody. ... In his later years, he was a frail-looking man who followed Toronto news closely, listened to short-wave radio broadcasts, and made a quiet life for himself behind the barred doors and double locks of the Penetang institution." Mark Bourrie, Toronto Star, 9 March 2010.
     "The Besnard Lakes' frontman Jace Lasek believes 'the truth is out there,' just like X-Files character Fox Mulder. He's also convinced it's accessible by what many of us would consider archaic means: shortwave radio. For several decades, intelligence organizations around the world have been making use of shortwave transmissions to communicate with their spies abroad, on a platform known as number stations." Scott Bryson, CHARTattack, 10 March 2010.

Another government-inefficiency-to-fight-censorship bill.

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A top US senator introduced legislation Thursday aimed at boosting US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing disappointment at the pace of democratic reforms in key target countries. 'Certain governments still believe in blocking uncensored news from their citizens,' Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. On the eve of the 14th anniversary of RFA's creation, Lugar unveiled a bill that would provide long-term budget authority for RFA, rather than obliging lawmakers to take up the matter annually. ... 'Permanent legal authority for Radio Free Asia would send a strong signal that the US supports freedom of the press across the globe,' said Lugar." AFP, 11 March 2010.
     "Governments routinely jam AM transmissions and hack into RFA’s websites and servers." Senator Lugar press release, 11 March 2010. "AM" as in amplitude modulation, the mode used on both shortwave and medium wave? Or the common American term for the medium wave band? RFA transmits mostly on shortwave, and it is mostly the shortwave transmissions that are jammed.
     Long-term authority for RFA would mean long-term division of scarce transmitting, newsgathering, and talent resources between RFA and VOA. And because the two stations often cover the same news, it would also mean long-term duplication of effort in a time when the US government should be finding savings and efficiencies.
     I am not saying RFA should go away in order to give VOA broadcasters more job security. I am saying that the two stations should merge, combining their strengths in order to compete more effectively in an increasingly competitive Asian media environment.

Senators revisit NSC involvement in VOA/BBC/DW statement on Iranian satellite jamming.

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Three senior Republican senators are demanding answers to questions raised by an exclusive report in The Cable that revealed the involvement of the National Security Council in the Broadcasting Board of Governor's actions regarding Iran. [See previous post.] In the Feb. 18 story, which was also reprinted in the Washington Post, we reported that the NSC had been involved in negotiating the wording of a statement on Iranian media censorship that was eventually issued by the Voice of America, a subsidiary of the BBG, as well as the British Broadcasting Company and Deutsche Welle. ... Sens. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, Sam Brownback, R-KS, and Tom Coburn, R-OK sent a letter Tuesday to BBG President [sic, he's executive director] demanding a full accounting of the actions of the NSC and the State Department in dealing with the BBG before it eventually issued the statement, which criticized Iran for its jamming of international satellites. 'If true, these actions constitute serious violations of U.S law, policy, and tradition related to the editorial independence of the taxpayer-funded Broadcasting Board of Governors.' ... The senators demanded that Trimble identify the specific individuals who were involved in the statement, state whether anyone at State raised concerns about possible violation of the editorial 'firewall' between the administration and the BBG, and detail all of the BBG's activities related to Iran since last June's election. Several BBG nominees are pending confirmation in the Senate, the letter noted. An NSC official, speaking to The Cable on background basis, admitted that the NSC held a series of interagency meetings on the issue after the BBG asked the council for advice and defended the interaction as 'appropriate.' 'The BBG approached the NSC for guidance regarding a specific request from BBC and Deutsche Welle to issue a joint statement with VOA,' the official said. 'The NSC then worked with State and BBG to review the content of such a statement to ensure it was both factually accurate and legally sound; the NSC endorsed the issuance of a joint statement, and a strong statement was indeed issued.'" Josh Rogin, The Cable, Foreign Policy, 10 March 2010. Note that the content in question is a press release (issued by BBC and DW, but never by VOA), not an actual VOA news report. NSC kibitzing in the latter would be a far more serious matter. And it's interesting that Senator Coburn is now concerned about the firewall. He was writing a different prescription back in 2008: see previous posts on 14 April (and accompanying commentary), 9 May, and 16 May 2008.

VOA launches radio reports, website, in English, to cover Sudan's election.

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America (VOA) has launched special broadcasts to Sudan and created a content-rich website on elections more than a month before Sudanese are to vote in the country’s first free presidential contest since 1986. ... VOA’s 'Sudan Elections in Focus' website http://www.voanews.com/sudan contains stories about the candidates, analysis and commentary by bloggers, details about election preparedness and logistics. Every Friday in March, VOA will air a 10-minute special report on the English-to-Africa stream. Programs examine the candidates, their platforms, electoral preparedness, and the ongoing conflicts over land and resources in Africa’s largest country. It can be heard at 1645 UTC and 1845 UTC on VOA shortwave frequencies 6080 and 15580. Starting in April, the Sudan special report will air every day." VOA press release, 10 March 2010. Any similar efforts by the Arabic-language Radio Sawa and Alhurra?

A composer's interpretation of Gertrude Stein's account of what VOA sounded like in France during World War II.

Posted: 13 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Heiner Goebbels is a well-known European avant-garde composer whose ... 'Song of Wars I Have Seen,' a stunning hour-long chamber work ... is based on texts of Gertrude Stein (written in 1943, published in 1945). Stein’s inherently musical poetry is made up of sounds and rhythms as much as it is syntax and semantics. The poems document women’s experience of war, sitting at home, rather than out on the battlefield. Because of rationing, the women use honey instead of sugar; they listen to BBC and Voice of America on the radio; they hear the threatening sound of airplanes overhead." Maria Coldwell, Crosscut.com (Seattle), 8 March 2010.

Nominee for Architect of the Capitol has VOA background, and has VOA proximity.

Posted: 12 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The man who has helmed the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) agency on a temporary basis since 2007 is a step closer to becoming its permanent leader. On February 24, President Obama officially nominated Stephen Ayers, AIA, for the position. ... Ayers, 47, a former Air Force captain who helped the military rebuild Voice of America radio stations in Greece, Albania, and Germany early in his career, said he was honored to be nominated." C.J. Hughes, Architectural Record, 10 March 2010. VOA, or actually International Broadcasting Bureau, has relays stations in Germany, and had one until recently in Greece. I'm not aware of any such IBB/VOA facility in Albania. The Architect of the Capitol is responsible for grounds which extend to just one block from the VOA headquarters.

VOA reporter at receiving end of French FM's "outburst" (updated).

Posted: 12 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The reporter who on Tuesday found himself at the receiving end of an offensive outburst by French FM Bernard Kouchner has commented on the incident. 'I had no intention to provoke Mr. Kouchner, I was just doing my job professionally,' Voice of America's Budimir Ničić told Tanjug news agency. Ničić's question about the Kosovo organ trafficking case, put to Kouchner in the Serb enclave of Gracanica on Wednesday, saw the French minister's visit go downhill. 'I asked Kouchner, noting that many families of the kidnapped accuse him of having taken part in the organ trade, what his answer to this was, and what his position on the so-called Yellow House was. He then asked me whether I'm sick and insane,' Ničić recounted. The reporter stressed that he was 'hurt and offended' by Kouchner's reaction. In Belgrade on Tuesday, the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) condemned Kouchner's behavior." B92 (Belgrade), 3 March 2010.
     Update: "The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), strongly condemns the manner in which French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner behaved towards Budimir Nicic, a Voice of America reporter, in the Kosovo town of Gracanica." SEEMO press release, 10 March 2010. See also Washington Post, 10 March 2010.
     From a reader in Europe: "At least he wasn't working for RFI or France 24 where several journalists were sacked by Mrs. Kouchner a.k.a. Christine Ockrent [GM of France 24 parent Audiovisuel Exterieur de la France and wife of Kouchner] for having fallen foul of Mr K. Ulysse Gosset, a renowned senior journalist - former Washington correspondent for French TV - interviewed Kouchner on France 24 in July 2008. The latter became very agitated (perfectly normal behaviour for him) after a film showing him carrying bags of rice from a ship to a beach in Somalia in the mid 1990s was shown during the programme and after he was asked a couple of questions he didn't like. When the programme ended he told Gosset: 'goodbye Mr Gosset, and good luck!' Four months later Gosset's contract was not renewed. The reason his programme had too few viewers. Another journalist (with RFI) who had written a book (in 1993) critical of Kouchner's tenure in Kosovo... was sacked from RFI in 2008, another one was sacked for 'serious professional fault' (he had interviewed Bashar Al Assad without telling his managers in advance... and the interview was broadcast on TV5 before being broadcast on RFI, both supposed to work at the time for the AEF...). Other cases too. The common thread between these: their boss was C. Ockrent."

The Voice of America Walking Club doesn't walk anywhere near VOA headquarters.

Posted: 12 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The newly established Voice of America Walking Club invites people of all ages and fitness levels to join the group on their walks. Walks begin at 9 a.m. on every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, weather permitting. Meet at the VOA Ronald Reagan Lodge breezeway." Cincinnati Enquirer, 11 March 2010. At the Voice of America Park near Mason, Ohio, site of the old VOA Bethany shortwave transmitting station.
     "The bait and tackle shop at the Voice of America Park in West Chester Township opens for the season March 20. ... The 2010 fish stocking begins March 20 with 200 pounds of Rainbow Trout that will be added to the 35-acre lake at the park." Cincinnati Enquirer, 21 March 2010.

VOA Amharic is jammed, thoroughly.

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"International shortwave radio monitors have confirmed that VOA broadcasts in the Amharic language are being jammed. Amharic is the main official language and the language of commerce in Ethiopia. VOA representatives in Ethiopia have been received complaints from listeners about noise drowning out its Amharic Service broadcasts. People trying to tune in can hear occasional snippets of the VOA broadcast covered by a loud crackle. The static began February 22 on all five VOA shortwave frequencies aimed at East Africa in the 25 and 31-meter shortwave bands. The other foreign broadcast heard in Ethiopia, the German government's Deutsche Welle Amharic language program, also reports experiencing some interference, in the past few days. Monitors say VOA transmissions in two other Ethiopian languages, Afan Oromo and Tigrinya, are being heard normally." Peter Heinlein, VOA News, 4 March 2010.
     "In media interviews today, government spokesman Shimelis Kemal denied any government involvement. 'This is absolutely a sham,' he told CPJ, adding that 'the Ethiopian government does not support the policy of restricting foreign broadcasting services in the country. Such practices are prohibited in our constitution.'" Committee to Protect Journalists, 4 March 2010.
     "'VOA deplores jamming and any other form of censorship of the media,' Danforth Austin, director of the U.S. government-owned news service, said in a statement read to Bloomberg News by spokesman David Borgida. The broadcaster hasn’t been able to identify the source of the interference, Borgida said." Jason McLure, Bloomberg, 4 March 2010.
     "As usual, spokesperson of the government dismissed it as a baseless allegation. He added, 'Ethiopia has a constitution which outlaws any act by any official organ to restrict the dissemination of broadcast material from abroad.' This continuing practice has also been confirmed by shortwave radio monitors (so says VOA)), further discrediting government credibility." Genet Mersha, nazret.com, 7 March 2010.
     Listen to these samples via the IBB RMS receiver in Addis Ababa on 10 March: 1) VOA Amharic mostly in the clear at 1817 UTC on 11905 kHz, but 2) mostly covered by jamming on theat frequency by 1844. Also at 1844: 3) covered on 11675, 4) getting through a bit on 9860, 5) some background audio on 9485, and 6) covered on 9320. It seems the jammers are winning. (The only VOA Amharic transmission is at 1800-1900 UTC.) To combat jamming, the best remedy is to transmit on as many frequencies as possible, from as many azimuths as possible. The closure of the IBB relay stations in Morocco and Greece has not been helpful in this regard. Transmitters for lease will have to be found.

A new Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus, and a curious assertion about "curious assertions."

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Winning a war of ideas is an endeavor in which America has traditionally been quite successful. During the Cold War, the United States passed ground-breaking strategic communication legislation like the Smith-Mundt Act, established the U.S. Information Agency, created Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, and undertook other measures to fight communism and totalitarianism abroad. These measures, along with containment and President Reagan’s defense spending, helped bring down the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, we are a world away from the fall of the Berlin Wall, especially when it comes to communication. This is largely a result of the widespread adoption of cellular technology, the proliferation of broadcast, and the advent of the Internet. Initiatives that once served U.S. interests abroad may now hinder them. For example, language in the Smith-Mundt Act ties the hands of U.S. strategic communicators to counter online jihadists. Some on-air contributors to Radio Farda and Radio Liberty are prone to curious assertions that many Americans may be surprised to hear from taxpayer-funded 'pro-American' radio. Now is the time to explore and spread creative strategic communication ideas and to revisit existing legislation. To help reinvigorate the discussion, I have introduced H.R. 489 a bill to improve how America directly communicates with people across the world. This bill would establish an independent 'Center for Strategic Communication' that would coordinate America’s message across our government. It would provide research on attitudes and media trends in foreign countries and build expertise on how we can better communicate around the world. There is no one right answer to winning the war of ideas, and any solution requires bipartisan consensus. A solid first step is establishing the Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Caucus in the House of Representatives, which I have done with Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA)." Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 4 March 2010. Specifics, please. What "language in the Smith-Mundt Act"? What "curious assertions" on Radio Farda and Radio Liberty? If US international broadcasting is "coordinated" by the new Center for Strategic Communication bureaucracy, audiences will tune to the BBC for news that is, as it should be, uncoordinated. And what is "strategic communication," other than an excuse for the Defense Department to get involved in public diplomacy? Have a nice caucus.

One year anniversary for Alhurra flagship news program Al Youm.

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Alhurra, the Arabic-language television network, celebrates the one-year anniversary of its flagship program Al Youm (Arabic for Today) on Monday, March 8, 2010. Al Youm, which has been heralded for broadcasting simultaneously from five countries in three continents, brings together all areas of the Middle East (the Gulf, North Africa and the Levant) and the U.S." MBN press release via Broadcasting Board of Governors, 4 March 2010.
     "Alhurra Television and Radio Sawa will have comprehensive coverage of the historic Iraqi national parliamentary elections on Sunday, March 7, 2010. Both networks will have more than 35 correspondents throughout the country providing wide-ranging coverage of the election that will help determine the future of the country, as it faces the challenges of democracy and establishing a civil society, in an unstable security situation." MBN press release via Broadcasting Board of Governors, 8 March 2010.

State's public diplomacy employees should be, by now, expert users of the coffee pot.

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Speaking of the State Department, the inspector general's report on the agency's public affairs operation found serious problems with morale, staffing, communication and leadership in the 175-person bureau. ... [T]he public diplomacy office seems to be somewhat overstaffed. One employee, the report found, works about 90 minutes a day. Another 'employee cited a three-page memorandum that the office director issued to all staff on the proper use of the office coffee pot,' according to the report, first obtained by the Associated Press's Matt Lee." Al Kamen, Washington Post, 5 March 2010. I think the people who are writing and translating content at www.america.gov are busy enough.
     "The report's most damaging findings involve the Office of Broadcast Services, which produces and distributes audio and video content to worldwide media outlets. That office, it said, is beset by severe morale problems and hostility between employees and managers. It said several employees expressed concern 'that violence in the workplace could result because of the high levels of workplace animosity and tension.' The report called for the current director of the office to be replaced." Matt Lee, AP, 25 February 2010. The State Department's Office of Broadcast Services distributes public diplomacy content and is not to be confused with the news organizations under the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
     The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the hearing "The Future of Public Diplomacy" on 11 March. Only Ted Kaufman (D-DE) (chairman) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) attended. Witnesses were previous undersecretaries of public diplomacy Evelyn S. Lieberman, Karen P. Hughes, and James K. Glassman, and present undersecretary Judith A. McHale. Testimony and video at the committee website. Even though its really a BBG matter, there was much discussion of international broadcasting. A major theme in the discussion was the urgency to confirm the new members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
     The Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has prepared the report "Public Diplomacy: Strengthening U.S. Engagement with the World: A strategic approach for the 21st century." Access via Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner.us, 9 March 2010. "It is a stunning disappointment." Philip Seib, Huffington Post, 8 March 2010. The report, appropriately, makes no mention of international broadcasting.
     "[T]he State Department will create a new position of deputy assistant secretary for international media support, who will report to the assistant secretary for public affairs, P.J. Crowley. Six additional deputy assistant secretary positions will be added to each of the department's so-called regional bureaus, which cover Europe, Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. 'These officers will be responsible for ensuring that a public-diplomacy perspective is incorporated as part of senior policy deliberations and for coordinating all our public-diplomacy initiatives throughout their respective regions,' Ms. McHale said. 'We are taking steps to ensure that our policies and programs are informed upfront by a clear understanding of attitudes and opinions of foreign publics,' she said." Nicholas Kralev, Washington Times, 11 March 2010.

"Britain should have either a proper World Service TV channel ... or none."

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"In the television age, it's no good for the BBC to rest on the laurels of World Service radio. It's equally hard to understand why the Foreign Office, which funds World Service radio via a grant-in-aid and recently had the BBC add Farsi TV for Iran, thinks that everyone else should make do with the travesty that is BBC World. Britain should have either a proper World Service TV channel, to be the face and voice of Britain abroad, or none. The hybrid BBC World should be stripped of its faux BBC brand and sent out into cold hard commercial reality. The just-departed director of the BBC's Global News division, Richard Sambrook, told me that Parliament would not fund a World Service TV channel and that a commercial station was better than none. I don't agree – and neither should the Government. If the BBC made the sort of cuts to the domestic services that it could, there would be funds enough to produce a BBC World we would be proud of." Mary Dejevsky, The Independent, 5 March 2010. The channel is now called BBC World News. It is successful enough to be considered one of the big three global English-language news channels (CNN International and Al Jazeera are the other two). While BBC World News is, in theory, self-funding as a commercial channel, Parliament has funded BBC World Service television on Arabic and Persian. World Service has not received (or shifted) funding to move into television in other languages, to the benefit of VOA, which has begun television broadcasts in Indonesian, Pashto, Dari, Urdu, Albanian, Ukrainian, and other languages.

BBC World Service poll: Most people believe internet access is "a fundamental right."

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests. The survey - of more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries - found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide. ... Web users questioned in South Korea and Nigeria felt strongly that governments should never be involved in regulation of the internet. However, a majority of those in China and the many European countries disagreed." BBC News, 8 March 2010. See also BBC World Service press release, 7 March 2010.
     "Speaking in her annual Commonwealth Day message the Queen has warned internet use has become an 'unaffordable option' for a lot of citizens. ... [Her message] warned many people in the Commonwealth aren’t able to get hooked up to broadband because they simply can’t afford it." BroadbandGenie, 8 March 2010.

Shortwave at sea.

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Seth Stevenson has a book coming out this spring about his six-month journey around the world - all by land and sea. ... Q. What are some uncommon things you brought along that proved vital? A. A little shortwave radio was a delightful companion on lonely nights in the middle of oceans. We tuned in news from everywhere on the globe - and felt incredibly far away from it all." David Abel, Boston Globe, 7 March 2010.

The internet's equivalent of pirate radio.

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Doug French has an interesting opinion on the the matter, 'While totalitarian governments seek to stifle the human spirit and initiative, there are always brave souls who either pierce or work around the walls that governments erect. For instance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, highlighted by Jeffrey Tucker’s recent blog post, works on behalf of your rights in the digital world and has created Tor, making it possible for people to browse the Internet without being detected by government busybodies. Tor depends upon volunteer servers to provide proxy routes to shield thousands of users a day from detection.' ... This heroic struggle in the digital world is reminiscent of the fights over the radio waves in the mid-1960s depicted by the recent movie Pirate Radio (a pared-down version of the British theatrical release The Boat That Rocked)." The Quincy Cove, 6 March 2010. The headline of this piece is "Is the Web 2.0 Community the Next Pirate Radio?" However, it's not Web 2.0 (nowhere mentioned in article itself) that is providing the pirate-radio-like workarounds, but software and applications such as Tor that specifically deal with net blockage and censorship.

Al Jazeera "outshines CNN International," riles southern Yemen governors.

Posted: 11 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Qatar's Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani "funded with $137 million the creation of Al Jazeera (the Peninsula), a no-holds-barred radical Arab voice that sent shock waves through conservative ruling families that kept their media on the straight and narrow. Today, Al Jazeera's English service, available in Washington on Channel 275, with its globe-girdling bureaus, twitter feeds and YouTube channel, outshines CNN International. ... Last week, Al Jazeera's one-on-one interview in English with Ahmad Chalabi made the former neocon icon (who produced disinformation on weapons of mass destruction designed to maneuver the U.S. into invading Iraq in 2003) squirm under the barrage. ... Al Jazeera's interviewer left no doubt that Mr. Chalabi, a Shia and frequent traveler to Tehran, is now Iran's man and that his goal is to become prime minister." Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times, 7 March 2010.
     "The local authorities of the south provinces of Abyan, Lahj and Dalei have demanded the Cabinet to quickly close the Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel's office in Yemen, the state-run 26sep.net has reported. The governors of the three provinces noted, in their letters sent to the cabinet, that the channel has lost its credibility and neutrality and breached the media professional ethics and rules by broadcasting false and offensive news and reports targeting Yemen and its national unity." SABA Yemen News Agency, 8 March 2010. "Unfortunately, Al Jazeera channel has been creating doubtful questions among the Yemeni people and viewers of the channel, via promoting such fabrications to viewers, which are inflated and exaggerated." Yemen Post, 7 March 2010.

Radio Australia begins annual search for Pacific music talent.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Today Radio Australia announced the launch of Pacific Break for 2010. Now in its third year, Radio Australia’s Pacific Break – the search for the best original, unsigned musical talent of the Pacific – has proven immensely popular with Pacific audiences and impressed at this year’s Association of International Broadcasters (AIB) Media Awards in London, winning the international award for 'Most Creative Marketing Strategy'." Australian Broadcasting Corporation press release, 4 March 2010.
     "Entry to the Competition is open to residents of any Pacific island nation who do not have a recording contract with any record company." From entry form via Radio Australia Pacific Break website. I could not find a specific list of eligible Pacific island countries. Would Taiwan qualify? Guam? Tahiti?

International Radio Serbia marks 74th anniversary, "formed six years before the VOA."

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"International Radio Serbia is marking its 74th anniversary. On that occasion, a ceremony was held today, attended by many eminent persons, embassy and media rerpesentatives, former and present employees of this radio, the only short-wave radio station in the country. Director Milorad Vujovic spoke about the significance of the radio and future plans. This radio was formed six years before the VOA. It started broadcasting programmes on March 8, 1936, in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It is broadcasting programmes in all parts of the world, in 12 languages: Serbian (for the diaspora), English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Greek, Albanian, Hungarian and Chinese." International Radio Serbia, 5 March 2010.

Iranian documentary will "challenge" BBC Persian TV.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Iranian production company Sima Films will be making a documentary on BBC with a focus on the Persian service of BBC television. The 90-minute documentary primarily spotlights BBC Persian TV programming to review Britain’s diplomatic objectives in Iran. The screenplay was written by the Iranian researcher Majid Tafreshi who resides in the Britain. ... 'We will also conduct interviews with some people who previously worked for BBC but now are critical of this media organization,' he added." Tehran Times, 6 March 2010.

Azerbaijani claims RFE/RL biased on Karabakh.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Interview with Jeyhun Osmanli, chairman of the Ireli public union in Azerbaijan: "[T]he website of Radio Liberty has not said a single word about events held to commemorate Khojaly [massacre in 1992]. How can this be understood? As no order from the sponsor? Or does Khojaly not feature on the list of issues that must be covered in Azerbaijan? Unfortunately, Radio Liberty takes a biased position on Karabakh." Also mention of Euronews. News.az, 5 March 2010.

Press TV reports that Press TV is popular in Afganistan.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Press TV, Iran's English-language news network, available through broadcasts and the Internet, has been reported to be a very popular news source among the people and even journalists of Afghanistan. According to local reports, when Press TV became available on cable in Kabul and various provinces, Afghan officials and ordinary citizens welcomed the international network as an alternative, more credible news source. The country's media regularly consults Press TV's website to access daily news that are more in tune with the public preference, say media officials. Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is reported to have told a private gathering he tunes in to Press TV's news reports and that he finds them more reliable and enlightening than other English language sources." Press TV, 8 March 2010. Press TV is in English and has no Pashto and/or Dari output.

Tweets from the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Who exactly is the intended audience of the U.S. military's tweeting efforts? They're all in English." And other discussion of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan Twitter account (USforA). Rahim Kanani, Huffington Post, 6 March 2010. This Twitter account seems to be one of many Defense Department outreaches to the US public. With very low internet penetration in Afghanistan, tweeting in Pashto might have limited impact. The RFE/RL (Radio Azadi) Pashto web page shows that podcasts and and RSS feed are available. The RSS feed could be made available at a Twitter feed.

China shuts down Twitter emulators.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Two popular microblogging platforms in China have permanently shut down after being closed for several months, according to company managers. Jiwai.de and fanfou.com were the two earliest online providers of Twitter-style services in China. ... Analysts pointed to ethnic riots in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, starting July 5 last year as the cause of the suppression." Xin Yu, Radio Free Asia, 2 March 2010.
     "One Beijing-based blogger, known online by the nickname Zhang Shuji, said China's Internet police regularly patrol micro-blogging services like Twitter. ... 'The Web police just make a back-up copy of all the chats. Then, if they get a subpoena, they just print it off for evidence that the person concerned was expressing opinions tantamount to incitement.'" Xin Yu, Qiao Long, and Hai Nan, RFA, 8 March 2010.

VOD deal brings Burning Roses to bouquets in Europe.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"GlobeCast’s newly launched Content Acquisition and Distribution division has signed a VOD distribution deal with ZN Animation, one of China’s biggest animation producers, as well as general and popular entertainment content fromShanghai Media Group’s subsidiary, WingsMedia. Under the deal, GlobeCast – the content management and delivery company and division of France Telecom, will help this top-notch content reach VOD viewers on DTH and pay-TV bouquets throughout Europe. ... ZN Animation’s popular programmes include Chinese animation hits such as RUBI, an educational and entertaining pre-school program, and Zheng He’s Voyages to the West Seas... . WingsMedia is a wholly owned subsidiary of China’s one of the biggest media groups, Shanghai Media Group (SMG). Among its hit shows are talkshow ChenChen All Star and hugely popular dramas such as Love Affairs and Burning Roses." GlobeCast press release, 25 February 2010.

Risky radio listening in Somalia.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Last year Somalia's Radio Warsan was a pro-government station that vilified al-Qaida-linked insurgents. Today it is in the hands of the rebels as they battle the U.N.-backed government on the ground with guns and on the nation's airwaves with pro-jihad messages. As the propaganda war intensifies in the battered Horn of Africa nation, the government is using a newly modernized radio station to get its own message across to more Somalis, and the U.N. is financing a new radio station. When Somalis tune in to the government station in insurgent-controlled territory, they tend to do so in secret to avoid being punished by the al-Shabab rebels, who routinely execute suspected government collaborators." Malkhadir M. Muhumed, AP, 2 March 2010.

Death of a North Dakota RFE supporter.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Floyd Boutrous, a Bismarck-area businessman who became a member of the board of Radio Free Europe and was known as a tireless constitutional advocate, has died at age 93. ... He served on the board of Radio Free Europe, which beamed western broadcasts to communist countries that made up the Iron Curtain, and delivered an address on Radio Free Europe in Berlin. He visited Soviet-controlled East Germany in 1954, as well as the American, French and British sectors of the split country." Bismarck (North Dakota) Tribune, 2 March 2010. Mr. Boutrous was actually North Dakota state chairman of RFE fundraising entity Crusade for Freedom. This from Richard Cummings forthcoming 'Crusade for Freedom': Rallying Americans Behind Cold War Broadcasting, 1950-1960: "General Alfred M. Gruenther, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, visited Bismarck, North Dakota, on February 22, 1955, and was honored at a dinner in his honor at the Apple Creek Country Club. General Gruenther had flown directly from Paris to speak before the North Dakota State legislature. Invited North Dakota Crusade directors and officers, sponsored by Crusade for Freedom state chairman Floyd Boutrous, attended the dinner; entertainment was provided by two former Miss North Dakota's."

Learning English with Michael Jackson Radio; shortwave in the (1954) language lab.

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Listen to Online English FM Radio Stations with Online English Radio Utility on your Desktop Computer. Listen to Pop, Rock, Ambient, Electronic and much more with Online English Radio. Online English Radio has all the Hit English FM Radio Stations. Listen to the King Of the POP Michael Jackson Radio in Online English Radio which plays all time Hots of Michael Jackson 24×7. ... Listen 70’s, 80’s, 90’s Pop music Online Live from various Countries like UK, USA, and other Countries in the World. Listen easily the FM Radio Music broadcasting from various Countries right on your desktop Computer." Literacy News, 2 March 2010. From freeware developer (apparently in India) murgee.com, which also has World Radio and Hindi Radio utilities that aggregate available streams. In the meantime, Literacy News may want to consider a unit on capitalization.
     At the Rosary College Language Lab in 1954: "Each student in the lab had her own set of earphones to access any of five languages. She could listen to recordings in the language or monitor short-wave radio broadcasts." Chicago Sun-Times, 4 March 1954 via John R. Schmidt, Chicago Now, 3 March 2010. Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois, is now Dominican University, which appears to have majors only in French, Italian, and Spanish.

For interesting television, "we can always rely on the Brits."

Posted: 10 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"[W]hen we run out of ideas or interesting shows we can always rely on the Brits. Since the inception of television, the British have shipped across the pond some of the most engaging television to grace our screens. ... While many British-made television shows find their homes on U.S. cable networks and public television stations, the major networks tend to shy away from airing these shows in their original form, opting instead to recreate them as in-house productions. ... Outside of the major networks, cable channels have embraced original imported shows. BBC America, the cable/satellite channel launched in 1998 to exclusively air British-made content is one such channel. In its early years, the channel’s content revolved around reruns of Cash in the Attic and the daily BBC World News reports. However, the influx of many critically-acclaimed shows gave BBC America a much-needed makeover and has garnered some of the highest ratings on cable and satellite television in the past five years." Jason Stives, Daily Targum (Rutgers University), 3 March 2010.

China Radio International learns that Galveston radio is not Houston radio.

Posted: 09 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"China Radio International bought 'a pig in a poke' when it leased a Galveston radio station in January that network officials mistakenly believed broadcast to the Houston market, according to a former China Radio International employee. 'It was the dumbest thing they could have ever done,' said Mark Shorey, a consultant at CRI headquarters in Beijing before his resignation last month . 'CRI believes that they are broadcasting in Houston and continue to announce this fact on the air and on their Web site.' ... George Lee, whose Electric Theater Radio Hour was taken off the air to make room for CRI, said that if a listener is driving from Galveston toward Houston, the signal will usually start to fade near Santa Fe. 'It's a small market station, and it was never intended from the day it was built to broadcast to Houston,' Lee said. 'On some nights, if all the planets are in alignment and the weather conditions are just right, you may be able to pick it up in Houston.'" Harvey Rice, Houston Chronicle, 3 March 2010. I can't find a reference to Houston at the CRI website. Perhaps since deleted? See previous post about same subject.

The Mouse goes to Indonesia.

Posted: 09 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Disney-ABC International Television (DAIT) Asia Pacific has signed a multi-year agreement with PT Media Nusantara Citra Tbk (MNC), Indonesia’s largest integrated media company, to distribute the best of Disney animation, pre-school programs, live action series and original movies over MNC’s leading national television broadcast networks across Indonesia. ... RCTI, Indonesia’s first and leading private free-to-air channel, will start broadcasting a 90-minute, weekly pre-school animation block – titled ‘Disney Clubhouse’ – from March 6, 2010. Disney Clubhouse will be a learning-based programming block featuring original series such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Little Einstein's and My Friends Tigger & Pooh." Press release via asiamediajournal.com, 4 March 2010.

France 24 suspended in Côte d'Ivoire (updated: suspension lifted).

Posted: 09 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Broadcasts by French TV channel France 24 have been suspended in Ivory Coast for 'unprofessional treatment of the news' and political events in the country, the regulatory board announced Monday. The National Council for Audiovisual Communication (CNCA) has taken 'a precautionary measure' cutting off broadcasts by the channel 'while waiting for a discussion by the council,' its president Franck Anderson Kouassi told AFP. 'The decision taken on Friday comes into effect this Monday,' he said, adding that the measure was a consequence of France 24's coverage of 'political news' in Ivory Coast, without giving further details. Tension has increased in the divided west African country since President Laurent Gbagbo on February 12 dissolved both the national unity government and the Independent Electoral Commission." AFP, 22 February 2010.
     "'The management of our channel regrets the Ivorian authorities’ decision and hopes that, at its Wednesday meeting, the West African state’s broadcast regulator will review this decision, which to us seems unjustified,' France 24 said in a statement." France 24, 22 February 2010.
     "The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned... ." CPJ, 24 February 2010. "Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned... ." Reporters sans frontières, 23 February 2010.
     Update: "Ivory Coast has lifted the suspension it placed last month on satellite TV news channel France 24, the West African country's National Council for Audiovisual Communication said on Wednesday." Reuters, 3 March 2010. “This satisfactory outcome ends a week in which Ivorians were deprived of a major international news source.” Reporters sans frontières, 4 March 2010.

DW-TV and France 24 authorized for distribution on Russian cable.

Posted: 08 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The legalisation of foreign channels for distribution on Russian cable networks is gathering momentum. AKTR reports that Roskomnadzor, the federal body responsible for licensing channels, has approved the distribution of MCM Top, Mezzo Classic-Jazz, DW-TV, MGM Networks and France 24. ... National Geographic, Fox Life, Fox Crime and Travel Channel are to be registered as mass media channels." Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News, 4 March 2010. Neither DW-TV nor France 24 have Russian-language content.

More skepticism about H.R. 2278.

Posted: 08 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A new US bill aimed at taming the foreign media perceived as hostile to American interests is expected to continue to lean on the tradition set by Woodrow Wilson and which has been dutifully followed by eager beavers elsewhere. There are of course different ways of dealing with a channel like Al Jazeera for example. One is to not allow it to broadcast in a country by legal or bureaucratic fiat, as happens to be the case in India. The other way is to bomb the supposedly recalcitrant broadcasters as happens in the Middle East. In Pakistan journalists can be killed or made to ‘disappear’. In India, in the tradition of Creel, they are co-opted. Some of the provisions of the US bill that purports to curb 'anti-American incitement to violence in the Middle East' have set off alarm bells in the Arab world. The bill pleads gratuitously that though freedom of the press and freedom of expression are the foundations of free and prosperous societies worldwide, 'with the freedom of the press and freedom of expression comes the responsibility to repudiate purveyors of incitement to violence'." Jawed Naqvi, Dawn (Karachi), 4 March 2010.
     "Perhaps instead of going after Arab TV, Congress should enact new laws to create a more competitive market for comprehensive news in America." Jalal Ghazi, New America Media, 4 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Removal of Russian-language channel from Eutelsat results in a one-way flow of satellite TV (updated again).

Posted: 08 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The last victim of Moscow's censors and their western friends is called Perviy Kavkazskiy (First-Caucasian). This young Russian-language television station was, until the end of January, freely available to people living in Russian-speaking areas. Now, Eutelsat – the leading European satellite provider based in Paris – has taken the channel off the air and refuses to implement the contract negotiated with the TV. It seems the Russian company Intersputnik made Eutelsat an offer it couldn't refuse on 15 January, holding out the possibility of millions of dollars in business with the media holdings of Russian gas giant Gazprom on the condition that Eutelsat stop doing business with First-Caucasian. Eutelsat capitulated and sent a disastrous message to the world: no Russian-language television that is not controlled by the Kremlin will be allowed to be aired in the Russian Federation. Even if it is based abroad. Even if it has a contract with a European satellite provider. The English-language satellite channel, Russia Today, funded and controlled by the Russian government, did not face such problems with European satellites." Garry Kasparov [the chess grandmaster] , Comment is Free, The Guardian, 23 February 2010
     "Was Europe’s leading TV satellite operator, Eutelsat, censoring again in violation of article 3 of the convention under which it was created when it recently refused to carry the Georgian public TV station Pervyi Kakvazkyi on its W7 satellite? That is the question that a French court will begin to address on 22 March. ... Another case concerns the BBC’s Farsi-language television station, BBC Persian TV. Although it was Iran that was accused of repeatedly jamming and interfering with its signal, Eutelsat stopped carrying the station at the start of the year, yielding to political and commercial pressure from a government that constantly violates its citizens’ basic rights, including the right to be informed." Reporters sans frontières, 25 February 2010.
     Update: "Saakashvili is pursuing a propaganda campaign aiming to destabilise the region through direct and indirect provocation of Russia and support of terrorists with the tacit approval of Washington and Brussels. He has launched a Russian-language TV station First Caucasus beamed into South Ossetia, much like Reagan’s TV Marti set up in 1985 for Cubans." Eric Walberg, Faxts.com, 2 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Former BBC journalist and the three issues she "cannot touch" on China Radio International.

Posted: 08 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Susan Osman, who accused previous employer BBC of ageism, is now at China Radio International, where she is the host of "the breakfast-time English-language show, Beijing Hour. In style, it sounds much like a local BBC radio show, including traffic roundups and chit-chat with the business reporter. But while a news report about the Dalai Lama avoids the kind of angry rhetoric sometimes employed by state media, it is noticeable that it also omits the viewpoint of the Tibetan government-in-exile. ... Are there any issues she cannot touch at all? 'Yes, three.' Reluctantly, she elucidates: the private lives of leaders; the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests of 1989; and the banned spiritual movement, Falun Gong." Tania Branigan, The Guardian, 3 March 2010.

Report: North Korean executed for passing news via mobile phone.

Posted: 07 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A North Korean has been publicly executed for using a mobile phone to tell a defector friend in South Korea about living conditions in the communist state, a rights group said Thursday. The man identified only as Jung was executed in late January after security officials discovered a Chinese mobile phone in his home, said the Seoul-based Open Radio for North Korea. It said Jung, a munitions worker in the northeastern port of Hamhung, confessed under torture that he had mentioned rice prices and living conditions. The friend defected to South Korea in 2001, said the station, which allows individuals and private groups to broadcast to North Koreans via shortwave radio. Jung was the first person to be shot since Pyongyang tightened a crackdown on illegal mobile phones this year, it said." AFP, 4 March 2010.

North Korea develops its own Linux-based operating system.

Posted: 07 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Not only does North Korea have “its own Internet” [Kwangmyong]-- still active?] – a national information network independent from the US-based Internet regulator – it also has an operating system, developed under by order of Kim Jong-il. Russian student Mikhail, who studies in the Kim Il-sung University and writes a blog from the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, has recently purchased the Red Star Operating System (OS) and tested it. Courtesy of Mikhail, RT gives you an opportunity to take glimpse at IT life of world’s most closed country. The Red Star is a Linux-based OS developed by North Korean IT specialists last year. Readme file, which goes with the install disc, even gives a quote from Kim Jong-il about how important for DPRK is to have its own Linux-based operating system compatible with Korean traditions. The version tested by Mikhail is the latest build, which, according to locals, still needs polishing. The OS is not popular (yet?), with most people who need one preferring Windows XP and Windows Vista. ... What is interesting for a North Korean product is the near-total absence of propaganda – unless you treat the word “red” in its name as an instance." Russia Today, 1 March 2010. Cited by PC World, 4 March 2010 and The Korea Herald, 4 March 2010. In addition to its coverage of UFOs and conspiracy theories, here's an example of Russia Today (RT) providing some really interesting and useful news. Its reference to a "US-based Internet regulator" apparently refers to ICANN.

An essay on jamming.

Posted: 06 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Deliberate jamming breaches international law, although inadvertent signal interference (as a result of a badly tuned or unduly powerful transmitter for example) is quite ordinary. Jamming is often a political act, practiced by many administrations around the world: the United States is known to have recently jammed legal Cuban radio and TV news broadcasts; Indonesia jammed Tongan satellite signals in 1997; Cuba, Libya, Syria and Egypt have all reportedly jammed foreign satellite signals for ostensibly political motivations." Sonya Shaykhoun, "New York qualified Attorney at Charles Russell LLP in Bahrain," Digital Production Middle East, 2 March 2010. I'm not aware of any US jamming of Cuban news broadcasts. She might be referring to Cuban complaints that TV Martí transmission from an aircraft over the Florida keys interfere with Cuban domestic television. Cuba, on the other hand, is one of the most active jamming nations, with most of its efforts aimed at Radio and TV Martí.

Comments on the State Department's "Global War on Censorship."

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Now, not only are we engaged in a War on Terror, but according to the U.S. State Department, apparently a Global War on Censorship. As President Barack Obama extends the hand of reconciliation to distasteful regimes, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is simultaneously declaring open war on many of these same states’ control of private-media access." Aaron Church, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 1 March 2010. See also Ken Stier, Time, 6 February 2010.

BBC's Asian Network -- domestic, not World Service -- will close.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The BBC’s Asian Network, a digital radio station which is aimed at the ethnic minorities but has suffered a sharp fall in its listening audience, is to close as part of a wide-ranging cost cutting and overall strategy review, Mark Thompson, director-general of the corporation, announced today. ... The Asian Network was an attempt by the BBC to provide a service to 2.5 to 3 million listeners of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan origin, with a focus on music aimed at Asian 'youth' and a significant Bollywood content as well. ... Although well intentioned, the Asian Network was encouraging a ghetto mentality and paid little attention, for example, to ideas, books, literature, films beyond Bollywood, education, foreign affairs, science, history, contemporary art — and the kind of treatment that finds a home either on BBC Radio 4 or BBC World Service." Amit Roy, The Telegraph (Calcutta), 2 March 2010.
     "The truth is that the majority of the Asian Network audience comes from the Midlands (around 70%) and these people are listening to it on the AM frequency, not on digital radio. As a result you're unlikely to find them on Twitter or in media-friendly places. Does that mean the Asian Network has a PR and marketing problem? Probably. Does it raise questions regarding management support and trust? Yes. Does it raise questions regarding the BBC's failure to serve and include British Asians on the rest of their "mainstream" networks? Certainly. Does that mean it should be axed to save some cash in case the Tories take it away from the BBC in a few months? No." Malik Meer, The Guardian, 3 March 2010.
     "Britain's venerable BBC is overhauling its domestic coverage, shedding radio stations, slicing the number of its Web pages by half and moving out of magazines. ... Whatever the case, the BBC's foreign audience — from Afghan listeners of BBC Pashto to American fans of 'Antiques Roadshow' — aren't likely to see much in the way of changes. And at a time when U.S. media organizations such as ABC have promised massive layoffs in their news operations, the nearly 90-year-old broadcaster says it's putting extra money into its journalism. ... The BBC's World Service — which gets its funding from the Foreign Office and broadcasts in Arabic, Pashto, and 30 other languages — isn't covered by the review." Raphael G. Satter, AP, 2 March 2010.
     BBC's "commercial subsidiary BBC Worldwide will be ordered to focus its activities overseas and dispose of its British magazines arm. This puts the future of publications such as Radio Times and Top Gear in doubt." Patrick Foster, The Times, 26 February 2010.
     "'There is an argument that it is the single most important institution in Britain,' says Luke Johnson, the recently retired chairman of Channel 4. 'It is probably more powerful than some branches of government.' John Newbigin, a former special advisor to the Blair administration's department of culture, media and sport, agrees: 'The BBC is by far the most potent brand image of Britain worldwide.'" Andy Beckett, The Guardian, 1 March 2010.
     "The BBC World Service is funded directly by the Government through the Foreign Office and this is one of the jewels in the Corporation’s crown. Britain may be a middling country with a fast shrinking economy on the edge of Europe, but the BBC helps the country punch well above its weight." Mark Seddon, Big Think, 27 February 2010.

BBC Bangla looks at digitalization, BBC Hausa at the internet.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"As the government of Bangladesh has announced its ambition to digitalise the country by 2021, in time for the nation's 50th anniversary, BBC Bangla investigates the project's chances for success in a special series of programmes. In Jogajog Bangladesh (Connectivity Bangladesh), from Wednesday 10 to Friday 19 March, BBC Bangla provides audiences with an insight in all things digital in Bangladesh – and the country's digital future. The multimedia content will be broadcast on radio, online on bbcbangla.com – in text, audio and video – as well as by Bangladesh's Channel i television. Head of BBC Bangla, Sabir Mustafa, says: 'Arguably, full digitalisation of Bangladesh, where less than one per cent of the population is currently connected, is a tall order.'" BBC World Service press release, 2 March 2010.
     "As part of the BBC's international news services' SuperPower season, BBC Hausa is launching special programming that explores the ways in which the internet is transforming the world. The BBC Hausa daily multimedia output – on radio and online on bbchausa.com – focuses on how the internet is affecting the Hausa-speaking community across the globe, from villages in Northern Nigeria to diaspora audiences in Europe." BBC World Service press release, 3 March 2010.

Worldspace appears closer to becoming Sirius XM's ticket to global expansion.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"An SEC 'annual report' filing made Feb 25 by Sirius-XM ... talks of Sirius-XM’s long-held relationship with Worldspace, in particular a Technology Licensing Agreement dated January 1 1998 (and amended six months later). A key – but telling – phrase says bluntly: 'Other regions. We are in discussions with various parties regarding possible joint ventures in other countries.' ... As far as Worldspace itself is concerned there will be a hearing this coming Friday in a Delaware courtroom regarding the closing stages of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 1 March 2010.
     "With Worldspace having L-Band spectrum licensing globally, and both the XM infrastructure side of Sirius XM Radio and Worldspace having come from the same technologies, it’s not a big leap to speculate that the XM side of Sirius XM is a key part of the globalization planning. Worldspace broadcasts in the 1467-1492 MHz frequency range of the 'L' band, and Worldspace’s proprietary and patented technology is coincidentally used in each XM Radio receiver. ... There is already one spare Worldspace satellite in storage (was planned for launch prior to the Worldspace Bankruptcy) that can be modified prior to launch as needed. This as yet unlaunched satellite would cover a larger area of Europe than the current Afristar satellite in orbit." Steve Garcia, King of All Trades, 28 February 2010.
     "The pioneer of satellite radio is, arguably, WorldSpace founder Noah Samara. With proprietary technology and other people’s money he launched birds, assembled content and put satellite radio on the map. He also burned through a fortune, US$2.5 billion by one estimate. The WorldSpace service proved popular in Asia – largely India – and Africa. In October 2008 WorldSpace – by then renamed 1worldspace – was in US bankruptcy court." Michael Hedges, followthemedia.com, 3 March 2010. Worldspace had devotees in India, but with only 170,000 subscribers worldwide, it wasn't really "popular."
     "Liberty Media has pumped $21 million into WorldSpace since assuming control, according to documents filed with the bankruptcy court. The filings list WorldSpace assets as worth $307 million. It could be on the hook for $2.2 billion in debt, depending on how royalty payments on future profits it owes to previous investors are sorted out. ... It’s unclear what the business model will be for WorldSpace. A strategy, or at least a use for WorldSpace assets, is expected to emerge in coming weeks in bankruptcy court hearings." Greg Avery, Denver Business Journal, 5 March 2010. See previous post about same subject.

Al Jazeera Film Festival, with "Freedom" theme, includes judges from China, Iran, and Cuba.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"A total of 198 films are to compete in the sixth edition of the Aljazeera International Documentary Film Festival 2010, being held under the slogan ‘Freedom’, from April 19-22. A staggering 20 new countries are joining the contest. ... Highlighting new participating countries, the official said the festival is to feature seven Russian TVs, as well as submissions from Turkey and many other south American and African contestants. The 15-member jury is from different countries including China, India, Iran, Australia, Cuba, Argentina, Italy, Turkey, Mexico, Norway, Lebanon, Egypt and Russia." The Peninsula (Doha), 1 March 2010. See also Festival website.

International channels in Malaysia, and their accents.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Most of the evenings nowadays when I am watching the news, I will watch CCTV9, CNN, BBC, Al-jazeera, and even CNBC, and I survive the evenings because it isn’t such an ordeal to endure watching these foreign presenters. ... Newscasters from Japan's NHK or China's CCTV9 read the English news with their own accents but we in Malaysia, want to emulate the English speakers and that simply does not work. We just can’t get it right! Why can’t we read English, or Malay for that matter, in a grammatically correct way, but in our own accent?" Rusdi Mustapha, The Malay Mail, 1 March 2010. I posted this item not so much for the commentary about accents, but to show the range of international channels available in Malaysia.

Tsunami warnings via mobile phone.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Radio Australia's Ulamila Wragg says that for the first time warnings were sent via email and text messages advising of the dangers. Almost every mobile phone owner in the Cooks has registered themselves with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, she says." Australia Network News, 1 March 2010. The PTWC, in Hawaii, is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. See previous post about same subject.

The harrowing media news from Iran.

Posted: 05 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Iranian student activist Iman Sadighi, sentenced to ten months in prison: "Regarding the charge of contacting satellite TV stations, I was interviewed on BBC, VOA, and Radio Farda, but according to law, contacting foreign media is not a crime and they can’t imprison anyone for being interviewed." International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 28 February 2010.
     "The [Iranian] daily Etemad was suspended on 1 March and the weekly Iran Dokht's licence has been cancelled. At the same time, journalists continue to be arrested in Tehran and many others throughout the country have received summonses. ... Etemad was suspended after publishing the reactions of pro-reform parliamentarians to video footage broadcast by BBC Persian [see previous post] showing police and militiamen beating and clubbing students during a raid on the Tehran university campus on 15 June that was apparently filmed by the security forces themselves." Reporters sans frontières, 3 March 2010.
     "Ghanbar Naderi, a journalist for the Iran Daily, an official government newspaper, told Al Jazeera that journalists have to censor much of what they write, irrespective of their political background. 'The press law in this country is very tough and unforgiving, it doesn't make any difference if you are a reformist or a conservative media outlet,' he said. 'In these sensitive times, with the country under constant political pressure, as a journalist your first mistake will be your last.'" Aljazeera.net, 2 March 2010. See also BBC News, 1 March 2010.
     "'I have to change my phone number every month because Iranian intelligence are threatening to kill me,' human rights activist Ahmad Batebi, who fled to the U.S. from Iran in 2008, told FoxNews.com. Now working with the Voice of America, the international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government, Batebi says he spent nine years in Iranian prisons, where he was tortured for his affiliation with student groups working against the Tehran government." Richard Byrne Reilly, Fox News, 4 March 2010.
     "[T]he intellectuals and politicians of [Iran's Green] movement have created a discourse that equates revolutionary change with violence and despotism, and reformism with nonviolence and democracy. In the present climate of censorship, their voices are the loudest. They have been successful in colonizing media outside Iran, like BBC Persian service and Voice of America, which are then beamed back into the country." Mahmood Delkhasteh, Huffington Post, 1 March 2010.
     "RFE/RL's Radio Farda has obtained an audio recording that offers disquieting insight into the methods being employed by Iranian officials during the current clampdown. The listener, who called the station's voicemail service on the uneasy anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution (he says SMS service was not working on February 11), recorded a phone call he received a week later from a man claiming to be from the Isfahan offices of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. The listener is summoned -- in no uncertain terms, including a threat of 'scalping' -- to appear for questioning at the Intelligence Ministry's local offices." RFE/RL Watchdog, 25 February 2010.

New VP/GM for CNN en Español "underscores CNN's commitment to the Latin American marketplace."

Posted: 04 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Award-winning Spanish-language television executive and journalist Cynthia Hudson has been named senior vice president and general manager of CNN en Español and Hispanic strategy for CNN/U.S., it was announced today by Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International. Hudson will relocate from Miami to CNN’s global headquarters in Atlanta, and report to Maddox. In her new position, Hudson will oversee newsgathering, editorial content, programming, production, operations and personnel, of CNN en Español, CNN en Español RADIO and the recently launched CNNMexico.com, a joint venture Web site produced in conjunction with Grupo Editorial Expansión. ... 'Her appointment underscores CNN's commitment to the Latin American marketplace, where CNN en Español consistently ranks as the region’s leading pan-regional news network, and positions us to best serve the growing Hispanic market in the U.S.' ... CNN en Español, CNN’s independently produced 24-hour network in Spanish, is currently available in 23 million cable and DTH households throughout Latin America, and more than 4 million households across the United States." Kevin Allocca, mediabistro.com, 1 March 2010.

In new CNN International environmental program, president of Maldives will debate model.

Posted: 04 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"‘Earth's Frontiers' is a new monthly environmental programme on CNN International, which will bridge the gap between science fiction and the reality of managing the planet's finite resources. Cutting edge, investigative and futuristic, 'Earth's Frontiers' promises to expose the challenges the planet faces from changing global resources; tests technologies being developed which will change ordinary people’s everyday existence; confronts businesses consuming irreplaceable resources and debates the best way forward for the future of the planet. ... The monthly programmes will be punctuated by quarterly studio debates, from major cities around the world, beginning in South Korea in April. Confirmed guests in the April debate include: director James Cameron; model Gisele Bundchen; the President of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheen, plus the entrepreneurs and business leaders, Virgin’s Richard Branson and Puma President Jay Pioccola will come together to discuss and debate, moderated by a CNN correspondent." Press release via BI-ME, 28 February 2010.
     "The Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar begins its 2010 commercial association with CNN International with the exclusive sponsorship of the network's newest monthly environmental series, 'Earth's Frontiers', due to launch to international audiences on 25th February. As CNN seeks to set the agenda for moving the sustainability debate forward, the multi-platform advertising campaign extends the Masdar brand footprint, with their first international programme sponsorship, connecting with CNN's audience of opinion leaders on air, online, in print and through a series of global debates." Press release via AMEinfo, 28 February 2010. Will the UK's Ofcom have a problem with this sponsorship thing?
     "Lotus Racing has secured a high-profile sponsor on the eve of its maiden Formula 1 season in the form of the global news giant CNN. The Malaysian-backed entry has signed what it is calling a 'long-term agreement' with CNN International, with the tie-up to see the news network’s famous logo appear on Lotus’s cars, driver overalls and team clothing." ITV, 2 March 2010.

Winston Churchill, grandson of Winston Churchill, helped create Radio Free Kabul.

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The former Conservative MP Winston Churchill, who has died of cancer aged 69, perhaps tried too hard to emulate the grandfather whose name he inherited. ... He exploited the Soviet Union's brutal attempts to suppress its Afghan insurgents in all sorts of ways, both open and covert. He was a sponsor of the rebels' illegal Radio Free Kabul." Andrew Roth, The Guardian, 2 March 2010. Radio Free Kabul was a black clandestine radio station, something the British have a knack for organizing. See, among other sources, Henry S. Bradsher, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 1985), pp. 190-192.

Hand over the source code, China tells US manufacturers of routers, firewalls, etc.

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"China is pressuring foreign makers of high-tech products for sensitive information at a time of growing concern over computer hacking, experts say. ... Some makers of products like secure routers and firewalls face the choice of providing source codes and opening possible 'back doors' to information or losing market access, industry officials said. John Neuffer, vice president for global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), told the paper that U.S. companies 'are feeling less welcome' in China, although they want to keep doing business there. The Washington-based group represents over 40 U.S. suppliers of computer and communications technology. ITI officials declined a Radio Free Asia request for an interview, but experts say the pressure is part of a pattern of cybersecurity conflicts with China." Michael Lelyveld, Radio Free Asia, 1 March 2010.

China labor organization communicates via Radio Free Asia.

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"China Labor Bulletin (CLB), [is] a non-governmental organization founded in 1994 by activist Han Dongfang. Han and his colleagues are pushing hard for grassroots change in China -- and they're doing it openly. But they are also doing it within the existing system, not against it. ... One of the group's most potent tools is its thrice-weekly radio program, beamed into China by Radio Free Asia. (The Chinese authorities block CLB's website on the mainland, but staffers say the group manages to quietly advertise its services on other sites.) Workers call in or send emails explaining their legal travails. Then, Han responds on the air, explaining the cases, discussing possible legal strategies, and sometimes actively intervening." Christian Caryl, Foreign Policy, 28 February 2010.

Bernie Lo returns to CNBC Asia.

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"CNBC has announced that Bernard (Bernie) Lo will rejoin the network as an anchor based out of its Hong Kong Studio. His new assignment will include coverage during core business day programming, as well as a weekly 30-minute talk show. In this new capacity, Lo will report to John Casey, VP, News and Programming for CNBC Asia. ... Over the last 6 years, Lo has been the lead anchor on Bloomberg television, based out of Hong Kong. Prior to that, he was with CNBC, also based in Hong Kong, where he hosted several of its flagship programmes including Squawk Asia and talkshow Lo & Co." Press release via News on News, 1 March 2010.

Saudi channels influencing the Iraqi election?

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Iraqi observers have noted that TV satellite channels supported by Saudi Arabia, such as Al-Sharqiya, Al-Baghdadiya, and Al-Babiliya, or ones financed by the Kingdom, such as Al-Arabiya, are expanding coverage that takes aim at Iraq's two key Shi'a coalitions – Al-Maliki's State of Law and Al-Hakim's Iraqi National Coalition. These channels appear to be supporting slates supported by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. – in particular, those headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi, Interior Minister Jawad Al-Boulani, and 'the controversial personality' and MP Ayad Jamal al-Din." MEMRI Blog, 1 March 2010.

Psyop soldier makes sure "the right people get the right information."

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
Spc. Brittney Hunt, a 2007 Yale B.A. in religious studies with a concentration in Islamic studies "deployed to northern Iraq in the summer of 2009 and returned to Fort Bragg last month. Her job was to do research and analyze the 'target audience,' the people that they were trying to influence. 'A lot of what pys op is is the war of ideas, trying to make sure the right people get the right information and making sure we tailor what we are saying to our audience,' she said. 'A lot of what I do is the research that's the basis of that.'" Henry Cuningham, Fayette (NC) Observer, 28 February 2010.

VOA health journalism training goes to Panama City.

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"More than 20 reporters from every country in Central America attended a two-day Voice of America (VOA) training session on critical health issues related to influenza and natural disasters. Organized by VOA’s Office of Development in Panama City, Panama, the Feb. 24-25 training exercises included roundtable discussions, analysis and knowledge-sharing by panelists from several International Organizations ... . Topics discussed included the creation of simple and direct messages in cases of critical health emergencies under a possible pandemic and during a natural disaster. ... One of the mandates of the Voice of America is to provide training in critical journalism skills around the world, particularly in issues pertaining to health." Rohini Singh, Media News International, 26 February 2010. VOA doesn't have an "Office of Development in Panama City." It should have been written that VOA’s Office of Development in Washington organized the event in Panama City, as it has done in other cities, e.g. Kingston (see previous post).

Report: Obama administration will spend on Pakistani media "to reverse anti-American sentiments."

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Obama administration plans to spend nearly $50 million on Pakistani media this year to reverse anti-American sentiments and raise awareness of projects aimed at improving quality of life, confirms a Washington insider. ... The US Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke believes that a substantial amount of monies spent on media- especially private TV channels will reduce tension and may even bring Pakistan-US relations back on the right path. Senator John Kerry, the main architect of Kerry-Lugar bill also supports the idea of claiming credit for all 'the good work being done to improve infrastructure, energy and education,' said a source in Senator’s office. ... Voice of America, a radio and TV platform that speaks for the government of the US already has a tie-up with Geo TV and now they have aligned with Express TV as well." Ibrahim Sajid Malick, 27 February 2010. No details on how the $50 million would be spent. Spot ads on Pakistani television, perhaps.

Experimenting with shortwave, now and then.

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"At a facility in a remote part of south-central Alaska, the largest radio transmitter on Earth sends high-frequency [shortwave] signals into the ionosphere to better understand the influence of charged particles on radio communications and satellite surveillance systems. Surprisingly, it also is able to create a mini-ionosphere. 'The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, a program known as HAARP, is basically a joint Air Force-Navy program to investigate ionospheric physics and radio science,' explained James Battis, HAARP program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory, in a Feb. 24 interview on Pentagon Web Radio’s audio webcast 'Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military.'" Bob Freeman, American Forces Press Service, 26 February 2010.
     "On 26 February 1935 a radio receiver was taken, in a small van, to a field near the village of Litchborough a few miles north of Towcester on the A5. Today on 26 February 2010 on a wet, very cold and windy day the event was celebrated and recreated. The original purpose was to try to detect a Handley Page Heyford bomber, a modern aircraft was used today. The bomber had been directed to fly through short-wave (49 metre) transmissions from the nearby Daventry radio transmitter. The Heyford was detected by the vehicle & was tracked for some 9 miles. At the time known as RDF this was the 'Birth of RADAR'." James Rudd, About My Area, 26 February 2010. "The original experiment was carried out on the 49 metre short wave band. Using the BBC Empire transmitter at Daventry, hence this being The Daventry Experiment." G8GMU website. The re-enactment was done on the 2-meter amateur radio band, between 144 and 148 MHz, thus higher in frequency than shortwave (3-30 MHz).

Malfunctioning shortwave transmitters prevent reception in remote areas of Zambia (updated).

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) shortwave transmitters that carry the Radio 1 and 2 signals in the short wave band have developed a technical fault. ZNBC Public Relations Manager Miriam Mtonga disclosed the development in a statement to ZANIS in Lusaka yesterday. Ms. Mtonga said the situation means that listeners in remote areas will not be able to access the service." Lusaka Times, 10 February 2010.
     Update: "Speaking at the China-Zambia Investment Promotion seminar held at the China Nonferrous Metal Corporation (CNMC) headquarters in Beijing yesterday, [Zambian] President [Rupiah] Banda ... said the Chinese had been involved in the implementation of some important projects in Zambia such as the construction of the TAZARA , construction and rehabilitation of roads, supply of shortwave transmitters to Zambia’s national broadcaster... ." Lusaka Times, 27 February 2010.

Has scoop about (of all things) cricket put VOA in a sticky wicket?

Posted: 03 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The International Cricket Council (ICC) has provided match fixing proves to Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) against alleged involvement of wicket keeper Kamran Akmal and medium pacer Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan. ... On investigation, a highly placed official in PCB exclusively told Voice of America on the condition of anonymity that 'the two players were wicket keeper Kamran Akmal and medium pacer Rana Naveed-ul-Hasan'." The News (Karachi), 27 February 2010.
     "The 28 year old Lahore based wicketkeeper/batsman has represented Pakistan on 191 occasions in all forms of the game, but was named on Saturday along with Rana Naved-ul-Hasan by Voice of America as two Pakistani players allegedly involved in match fixing." Asian News International, 1 March 2010.
     "A day after Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt said two players were under investigation for match fixing, the Voice of America television and radio network reported Akmal and Naved-ul-Hasan were the players under scrutiny." ANI, 1 March 2010.
     "'I will be consulting the board and my lawyer also to decide what action to take against the Voice of American for making these false allegations,' the 28-year-old [Kamran Akmal] told the Times of India. ... Kamran and Rana were both named in Pakistan's preliminary squad for next month's Twenty20 World Cup, but Voice of America reported that the Pakistani board had decided the duo would not be in the final squad." Jesse Hogna, The Age (Melbourne), 1 March 2010.
     "The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is seeking an apology from a foreign broadcasting service over its report that two Pakistan cricket team players are involved in match-fixing. A well-placed source in the PCB said on Monday that senior board officials are unhappy with match-fixing accusations against two national team players and have decided to sue Voice of America if it did not apologize for the report." Indo Asian News Service, 1 March 2010.

Heritage Foundation advice about broadcasts to North Korea. Much clean-up required.

Posted: 02 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The most effective medium into North Korea today remains short-wave radio, a medium that unfortunately has become undervalued by the Broadcasting Board of Governors overseeing U.S. international broadcasting. New and sexier venues, such as television and the Internet, is where the focus is today. Vis-à-vis North Korea, medium wave broadcasts from Russia were an option in the past, but were closed down owing to pressure from Pyongyang on the Russian government. Meanwhile, short-wave can be beamed from South Korea and received primarily at night, when most underground users are able to take the risk and when climate conditions are optimal. ... Broadcasts from South Korea also have a strong Christian content, understandably so given that Christian missionaries often are instrumental in facilitating defections." Hell Dale, The Foundry blog, Heritage Foundation, 25 February 2010.
     Most radios in North Korea are of domestic manufacture and receive only AM (medium wave). They are fixed on the frequencies of North Korean government radio. These sets can be modified to tune other frequencies, but only within the AM (medium wave) band. For this reason, medium wave, not shortwave, is the most effective waveband to reach North Korea. VOA Korean still transmits via the Russian MW transmitter on 648 kHz (according to this schedule). More importantly, VOA Korean is also now available on 1188 kHz medium wave from South Korea.
     Some Chinese-manufactured shortwave radios get into North Korea via the black market, and high level officials probably also have radios with shortwave bands. Both VOA and RFA have always had multiple shortwave frequencies to North Korea. The only shortwave transmitters in South Korea belong to the public Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), which has no history of providing transmitter time to VOA or RFA on any waveband. In any case, it would probably be better to transmit on shortwave from a location more distant than South Korea, for reasons of propagation, and to help overcome any North Korean jamming. Shortwave signals can reach North Korea day or night, depending on the frequency used.
     The broadcasts from South Korea that have a "strong Christian content" are, tautologically, from South Korean Christian stations. The more popular broadcasts from KBS are secular.

Smartphones may not outsmart China's "harsh censorship system."

Posted: 02 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Chinese censorship system could make it difficult for international vendors to penetrate the Chinese [smartphone] market. In particular, Google's threat to leave China has triggered a heated debate about the censorship system. With smartphone users mostly interested in various value-added services including video, mobile gaming and other content-rich services and applications, the Chinese market is becoming attractive to overseas Internet and content service providers. However, under the strict Chinese censorship rules, Western vendors have begun to perceive risks and challenges in the Chinese market: the delayed launch of Google-branded handsets by China Unicom is one example. We anticipate that the harsh censorship system will remain in place in the short term. The argument between Google and the Chinese government will benefit Chinese vendors such as ZTE and Huawei in terms of their smartphone market share. Also, the censorship restrictions are unlikely to prevent China Mobile from using Google's Android platform for its own open mobile operating system (OMS) platform, which is used in the OPhone." Ovum, 26 February 2010.

More difficult to start a website in China.

Posted: 02 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"China on Feb 23 began implementing strict new controls on internet by requiring all individuals wishing to operate Web sites to first of all meet in person with regulators from the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology." TibetanReview.net, 26 February 2010
     "A number of websites are now being registered overseas in an attempt to avoid controls." BBC News, 23 February 2010. See also RFA, 24 February 2010.

A Texas fiddler-singer's ancestral connection to VOA (or, at least, USIB).

Posted: 02 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"For years [Texas fiddler-singer Carrie] Rodriguez has performed the song 'La Puñalada Trapera.' It was a song Rodriguez's great aunt, Eva Garza, a well-known recording artist and Voice of America radio personality, recorded decades ago." Stewart Oksenhorn, The Aspen (CO) Times, 25 February 2010. About Eva Garza, see the Wikipedia article about the shortwave radio program Viva América, especially the part about 78 rpm recordings "that have since passed into private collections." Hmm. I'm not sure if US broadcasts to Latin America during the 1940s were called "Voice of America," at least at first. See also references to Eva Garza at the Carrie Rodriguez MySpace page.

Radio del Sur, radio version of Telesur, inaugurated.

Posted: 01 Mar 2010   Print   Send a link
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez officially inaugurated Radio del Sur (Radio of the South) on Thursday, a network of radio stations aiming at the peoples of the South in Latin America and other parts of the world, according to its promoters. ... With a network that includes over 100 radio stations in the continent, Radio del Sur will be broadcast in Argentina, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Colombia, the United States, Angola, Iran, Vietnam, Libya, Algeria, Gambia, Benin and China. Sixty percent of the programming will be made in Caracas and the rest will be shows prepared by the associated radio stations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Conceived by Chavez in 2007, the radio network had been on a trial period for four months before its official inauguration on Thursday. Cuban leader Fidel Castro sent the Venezuelan president a message of congratulation for the establishment of a radio of the South." Periodico26.cu, 26 February 2010. See previous post about same subject.
     "'La Radio del Sur tiene la misión de ofrecer la mejor alternativa en materia de información, entretenimiento y educación, a través de una Red de emisoras de alcance internacional, que permita romper con la escasa información que se divulga por los medios tradicionales de comunicación y así poder contrarrestar las manipulaciones mediáticas de las cuales son víctimas los pueblos del mundo'". Radio del Sur, 26 February 2010.