Owner of Jewish News One says Ukrainian official is trying take ownership of the channel.

Posted: 31 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Interfax-Ukraine, 21 Jan 2013: "President of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress Vadym Rabynovych, who is also the owner of the first Jewish international TV channel Jewish News One (JN1), has said that members of the current authorities are trying to deprive him of his channel, reads a statement posted on the Web site of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine on Friday. Rabynovych has already submitted a respective statement to the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine. 'A senior official from the current government visited Rabynovych on January 17 and, threatening harassment, including physical violence, demanded that the JN1 television channel be transferred to them within a week,' reads the statement. In his statement, Rabynovych said he did not believe that the visit by this official was authorized, and 'believes that what is happening is the individual racketeering of a single representative of the system of government.' Jewish News One is a 24-hour news channel broadcasting programs in eight languages, and has its own correspondent centers in Brussels, Tel Aviv and Kyiv. JN1 broadcasts via satellite to Europe, the United States and the Middle East. Viewers can also watch the news online at the Web site www.jn1.tv."

JTA, 23 Jan 2013: "Alexander Zanzer, JN1’s Brussels bureau chief, told JTA that Ukrainian police recently inspected JN1's offices in Kiev, 'but it is not sure who is ultimately behind this newfound interest in us.' He added, 'It would seem like someone decided they could use JN1 to exert control. I am not sure who it is, but we are speaking out against it before it becomes more serious.'"

Voice of Russia "convinced that the world economy will be experiencing some dramatic changes in the near future."

Posted: 31 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Voice of Russia, 22 Jan 2013: "Reality Check is a special project dedicated to the state of world economy. The slogan 'The world ends tomorrow. We tell you why' should not be taken literally (most of the time), but we are convinced that the world economy will be experiencing some dramatic changes in the near future. Reality Check @ The Voice of Russia is a media platform that will give those who have something relevant to say about the state of global finance and economic trends, a chance to make their voices heard. We will strive to give a voice to those who are shunned by the mainstream media. Reality Check will adhere to the following editorial principles: · No fillers. The project covers only relevant news and relevant opinions. · Quality over Quantity. · Opinionated, hard-hitting analysis. · No pandering to the 'lowest common denominator' in the audience. It is assumed that readers are smart, educated and want to be treated as such. · Formal and informal authority is treated without undue reverence. Being a finance minister, a president of a central bank or a Nobel laureate grants no immunity from scrutiny. · Covering topics that are 'unsuitable' for the mainstream media. This includes topics like impeding [sic, impending?] market crashes, market manipulation, returning to gold standard, hyperinflation, 'currency wars' etc."

Fox Sports brand replaces ESPN in more than 100 million Asia-Pacific homes.

Posted: 30 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Worldscreen.com, 29 Jan 2013, Mansha Daswani: "The FOX Sports brand is taking the place of ESPN-branded networks in more than 100 million homes across the Asia Pacific, following News Corporation's takeover of the ESPN STAR Sports joint venture last year. The brand, currently available in 16 Asia-Pac markets on platforms such as now TV in Hong Kong, Sky Vision in Indonesia, Astro in Malaysia, Sky Cable in the Philippines and True Visions in Thailand, is being managed by FOX International Channels Asia, alongside the current STAR Sports, FOX Football Channel, STAR Cricket and STAR Cricket HD networks across various countries in the region."

Fox News story addresses news versus "messaging" in US international broadcasting.

Posted: 30 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
FoxNews.com, 26 Jan 2013: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the country must do a better job of transmitting a pro-Democracy message around the world to counteract the 'extremist jihad narrative.' Clinton made the comments Wednesday as part of her long-awaited Capitol Hill testimony about the fatal terror attack on a U.S. outpost in Libya that included debate on how the country can prevent similar attacks in the Middle East and other regions in political and civil turmoil. 'I think we've abdicated the broadcasting arena both in TV and radio, which are considered kind of old-fashioned media (but) still very important in a lot of these ungoverned, difficult places where we're trying to do business," she said during House testimony. "We have to get our act together.' Clinton took specific aim the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent, lesser-known federal agency that oversees such groups as Voice of American and Radio Free Europe. The board released a statement in response to the Clinton's comments that focused largely on funding issues, thanked her for highlighting their challenges and applauded the work of its thousands of journalists world-wide. 'The international media environment is flooded with broadcasters sponsored by other countries and by groups whose values differ from those of the United States,' the statement read. 'Many of these broadcasters are extraordinarily well funded and none of them has a mandate like the BBG's, bringing unbiased news and information to more than 100 countries in 59 languages -- and on a shrinking budget.' However, members purportedly disagree with the testimony by Clinton, who as the secretary of state serves on the governing board. Beyond the sting of Clinton saying the agency is in 'desperate need of assistance, intervention and change,' members argue that messaging is not part of their mission, dating back to the original Voice of America Charter of 1976 that states programs deliver only 'accurate, objective and comprehensive news.' ... The BBG's challenge more specifically is competing against such media groups as the Al Jazeera TV network, which is funded in part by the oil-rich nation of Qatar and has a budget that far exceeds BBG's $759 million a year. BBG members also seem think that Clinton's testimony might have a silver lining. Stations will get more money and Americans might better understand the challenges, including the need to swiftly respond to the shifting geo-political landscape by adding programs in new languages and dropping others."

The BBG statement says that the "international media environment is flooded with broadcasters." Actually, it's US international broadcasting itself that is flooded with broadcasters, often duplicating one another. The BBG's desire to "get more money" is the all-purpose solution offered by every Washington bureacracy. Before US international broadcasting gets more money, it first needs to eliminate the duplication that pervades its operations. Duplication is a significant form of waste in federal spending. The BBC World Services still have a larger audience than USIB, even though the United States spends more than the UK on international broadcasting.

This Fox news item might encourage a useful debate about news versus messaging in US international broadcasting. Many US decision makers seem to subscribe to simplistic bullet-theory notions of messaging in USIB. Understanding the role of news in the communication process of international broadcasting requires an intellectual leap, but not a very high one.

See previous post about same subject.

Kambiz Hosseini, formerly of VOA's Parazit, launches podcast distributed by human rights organization.

Posted: 30 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 27 Jan 2013: "The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has launched a new, weekly podcast on human rights in Iran by Iranian artist and satirist Kambiz Hosseini. 'Five in the Afternoon,' a half-hour of news and developments on human rights in Iran began airing on Friday, January 25. The podcast will be available every Friday on the Campaign website and on the Campaign’s Facebook page, as well as Mr. Hosseini’s Facebook page. 'One of our ongoing concerns has been to present issues related to human rights violations and topics of individual and social liberties in Iran to different layers of society and a wider group of people, using different types of expression and in language less burdened by the complexities or requirements of news reporting,' said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. ... 'Kambiz Hosseini is a familiar face to his many fans of his television programs both inside and outside Iran. For more than three years, he was one of the producers and presenters of the successful weekly program "Parazit" on Voice of America’s Persian Service, which was the network’s most popular program. Over the past few months, Mr. Hosseini has been stage acting in several New York City plays. "Five in the Afternoon," our new podcast series, is one of the first media projects Mr. Hosseini has decided to tackle since leaving his successful run with "Parazit",' he said."

This may seem like a loss to VOA Persian. However, if Mr. Hosseini desires to express his views in a manner "less burdened by the complexities or requirements of news reporting," then the nonprofit International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran would be a better fit for him. As popular a Parazit was, in the long term VOA Persian is better served by positioning itself as a news organization rather than an opposition mouthpiece.

Mr. Hosseini's internet-delivered podcast can be blocked by Iran, so he might miss the previous VOA satellite delivery of his performances.

Broadcasters, satellite operators, equipment manufacturers meet to discuss satellite jamming countermeasures.

Posted: 29 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Digital TV Europe, 23 Jan 2013: "Broadcasters, satellite operators and equipment manufacturers have begun discussing the development of countermeasures to tackle to the problem of satellite jamming. Satellite operator Eutelsat reported 340 cases of deliberate satellite jamming in the first 10 months of 2012, three times the number of incidents recorded in 2009. About 90% of jamming signals were traced to Syria and Iran. Industry participants met at Eutelsat’s Paris HQ at the end of last week to discuss possible countermeasures. Among the measures discussed were sharing of data about disruptions that could be stored in a common database. Sources of jamming can be traced by two satellites working together via so-called geolocalisation. Other possible measures include electronic redirection of satellite receiving antennas so that the source of interference is placed in a so-called dead point in the antenna’s receiving pattern."

Satellite Today, 1 Feb 2013, Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat CEO, as interviewed: "From an operational point of view, when jamming is detected, we produce geolocation data as quickly as possible whenever it is possible (currently approximately 30 percent of incidents) and ensure that administrations are formally notified so they can do their own job. Second, we have to work on new procedures like Carrier ID and, over the longer term, new satellite and ground-based technologies that create more watertight systems."

Iran arrests journalists accused of working for "counterrevolutionary," i.e. foreign, media.

Posted: 28 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
CNN, 28 Jan 2013, Shirzad Bozorgmehr: "Iranian authorities have arrested several journalists, including the editor-in-chief of a leading reformist newspaper, on accusations of collaborating with the regime's opponents and working for foreign news organizations. ... The [Mehr] news agency reported that it appeared that some of those detained had been working with Farsi-language counterrevolutionary media outlets. In Iran's tightly managed news industry, the term counterrevolutionary implies overseas involvement. Several prominent Western news groups run services in Farsi, the primary language in Iran, including the BBC and Voice of America."

AFP, 28 Jan 2013: "Iranian media said the office of Tehran’s prosecutor was to issue a statement on the arrests. Tehran deems as hostile the Persian services of various international media, including the BBC Persian, the Voice of America and Radio Farda -- a US-funded Prague-based Persian radio."

Bloomberg Businessweek, 28 Jan 2013, Ladane Nasseri and Yeganeh Salehi: "It isn’t unusual for Iranian authorities to crack down on the press in the period before elections. Iranians will vote on June 14 to determine who will succeed outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

@LetitiaKing, 28 Jan 2013: "Of the 11 journalists arrested in Iran accused of cooperation with foreign-based media none work for @VOA or @RFE/RL."

The Guardian, 24 Jan 2013, Saeed Kamali Dehghan: "In recent weeks, the pro-regime [Iranian] activists have set up a number of fake Facebook accounts and blogs, purporting to belong to BBC journalists or their Iranian colleagues. Web users who want to access the real BBCPersian.com, might accidentally visit its counterfeit at persianbbc.ir. The fake site mirrors the BBC's site in design and fonts but has completely different content. 'Death of Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein: fabricated stories by Washington,' reads the headline of a recent article posted on persianbbc.ir."

The Stanford Daily, 25 Jan 2013, Sadeq Saba, head of BBC Persian, as interviewed by Jamie Kim: "The BBC operates according to its editorial guideline, which has been there for decades, and BBC Persian is no different from BBC English or BBC’s other language services; we all have one editorial guideline, and according to that editorial guideline, you have to remain impartial, to remain accurate, to remain fair, objective, and report what is happening in the country. We do our best, despite the fact that we are not based in Iran, again to reflect the Iranian government’s views on our channel. We do our best. We monitor all Iranian TV channels, we monitor Iranian newspapers, and whatever they say, usually you can hear them or watch them on our television, on our radio, so we do our best, and as far as our viewers are concerned, we are probably the most important impartial news channel in Iran, and our audiences have been growing, all the time, over the last few years. Actually last year, there was a news survey done in Iran about BBC, how many people were watching BBC Persian, and that survey showed that now, within a couple of years, our viewers have actually doubled in Iran."

Huffington Post UK, 26 Jan 2013, Jenny Norton: "In a special Israeli election day edition of the BBC's popular Persian language interactive show, Nowbat-e Shoma (Your Turn), callers from Iran put questions to a panel of Persian-speaking Israelis in a BBC studio in Jerusalem. What came across clearly was that despite the deep tensions between their two governments, Iranians and Israelis actually have a surprising amount in common. 'Although the conversations got pretty heated at times, it was great that everyone put their points across politely and really engaged with each other,' says Leyla Khodabakhshi, the editor of the programme."

Deutsche Welle informs the world about "the USA's hollowing middle class."

Posted: 28 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Deutsche Welle, 19 Jan 2013, Christina Bergmann: "For decades, the US middle class could count on a good and improving standard of living. But the financial crisis has laid bare shifts in America's foundation, which suggest the middle class is being squeezed out. The numbers speak for themselves: Six out of 10 American adults were middle class in 1971. 40 years later, the figure was down to just half. And most middle class Americans say that they have difficulty maintaining their standard of living. That's no surprise because the income of the middle class has fallen in real terms. In 2001, a family of three earned $73,000 (54,800 euros) on average. In 2010, it was just about $70,000. The assets of the average American family fell over the same period from $130,000 to $93,000 - around the same level as 30 years ago. Three decades of growth have evaporated. ... Globalization and technological progress have also contributed to America's shrinking middle class, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, the credit rating agency's research and consulting division. US companies are outsourcing to countries where labor is cheaper. So certain jobs and skills are no longer in demand on the US market."

Why a political CEO of a news organization is a bad idea (as if this needs to be explained).

Posted: 28 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
AFGE Local 1812 (undated but recent): "What this operation [US international broadcasting] really needs is an Agency Director, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate as well as a change in the law that created this monster: the International Broadcasting Act of 1994. Ostensibly, that law created a fire-wall that was meant to prevent government (particularly the State Department) interference in the mission of the BBG and the Voice of America so that the broadcasts could remain journalistically sound. However, the senior executive staff has used this provision to justify ignoring congressional inquiries. A Director would be accountable to Congress, the overseer of the taxpayer’s money, in open hearings where tough questions should be asked and management would be required to answer honestly under oath. We have seen many letters from the BBG to members of Congress which say, in effect, you are sticking your nose in our business and that’s a violation of the separation of powers. We are part of the executive branch and you are part of the legislative branch."

I am, by way of disclosure, a dues-paying member in good standing (for now) of AFGE 1812. And what my union writes here is largely nonsense. No executive agency, BBG included, has ever been able to deflect Congressional scrutiny by saying "we are part of the executive branch and you are part of the legislative branch."

The firewall function of the BBG is to keep the administration and Congress from influencing the content of US international broadcasting. In decades past, when VOA directors were appointed by presidents (or by USIA directors who were appointed by presidents), some VOA directors went native and protected the VOA newsroom from interference. Other VOA directors shifted newsroom management to result in output in line with administration policy. This historical inconsistency of VOA's news product prevented VOA from achieving the reputation and the audience size enjoyed by BBC World Service.

Of the firewall functions of the BBG, none is more important than the depoliticization of the hiring of entity heads. The bipartisan board, and no longer the president, selects these executives.

Let's imagine what could happen with a presidentially nominated, Senate-approved CEO of US international broadcasting. A future president is visited by corporate leaders who supported him/her in the campaign. These leaders make their profit by selling cheap manufactured goods from overseas to American consumers. But now they have a problem. Unions are beginning to form in the countries where the factories are located. Workers are seeking higher wages, better working hours, and, perish the thought, benefits. This will cut into their profits. So they would like the Voice of America to help counter these union activities abroad.

The White House chief-of-staff calls in the CEO of US international broadcasting. VOA should do some stories about how much better things are in the right-to-work states. And about corruption in the leadership of US unions. And that big AFL-CIO rally planned for the Mall? Don't send a camera crew. We don't want to give folks overseas ideas about how to organize.

The CEO of US international broadcasting complies. He/she, after all, serves at the pleasure of the president. The CEO passes on these orders to the VOA director, who resists. The CEO says, okay, I'll just turn off your transmitters.

VOA journalists are dismayed that they must abdicate their professional standards, but at least they keep their jobs. The president and Congress are pleased by the content, so funding for USIB keeps coming. Who cares how big the audience is?

The next president and Congress care, and they ask for audience data. The data show that the audience for VOA has plummeted because it has obviously become a mouthpiece of the US government. Funding for USIB is cut, and massive RIFs ensue.

And, so, union brothers and sisters, be careful what you wish for.

OohRah! International broadcasters in combat boots. BBG Watch commentator wants USIB under DOD.

Posted: 27 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
BBG Watch, 27 Jan 2013, "The Federalist": "Readers know that we believe the best option at present is a process we refer to as 'transfer of function:' in essence, absorbing the agency into another department of the government. We believe the best department is the Department of Defense (DOD). We have argued broadly that the agency could be made part of the Armed Forces Network. There are other possibilities: The agency could be absorbed into DOD in its entirety, retaining the institutional name of its entities and the basic organizational chart within the entities. A transition team could be appointed to oversee the transfer. This transition team should be led by an individual with authoritative knowledge of the agency and its mission. One such person could be former VOA director Robert Reilly. Mr. Reilly knows the agency and most certainly knows its problems and could be relied upon to assemble a formidable team to work with him (as opposed to the IBB management style of working against people). There would be no need to relocate facilities. They could be kept in place, save that which may be required for renovation. The BBG would be abolished. In place of the BBG would be a director of US international broadcasting (or an assistant secretary of defense), with the entity heads replacing the IBB executive staff."

I suppose if I wrote as badly as some of the people who write for BBG Watch, I wouldn't use my name, either. On the subject of Robert Reilly, he wrote in MercatorNet, 26 Jan 2013: "Men fight to protect their women. Or, at least, that’s the way it used to be. On Thursday, however, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, 'Today Gen. Dempsey and I are pleased to announce that we are eliminating the ground combat exclusion rule for women and moving forward with a plan to eliminate all gender-based barriers to service.'" So the US international broadcasting team of the future, under the direction of Mr. Reilly, would not consist of men and women, but men and "their women."

Telesur, now available in Cuba, brought the Obama inauguration to Cuba, along with comments.

Posted: 27 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Radio Cadena Agramonte, 17 Jan 2013: "Telesur Latin American television will beam its real time and open signal to Cuba as of January 20 and for several a hours during the day. The announcement was considered another achievement of the Venezuelan TV channel which, since its inauguration in 2005, has increased its audience with 376 million people hooked to open signal and 40 millions by subscription, according to Cubadebate website. In its beginnings, Telesur hardly counted on 50 workers and five bureaus in Havana, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Mexico and La Paz. Telesur now has 700 workers in Caracas and over 100 around the world."

Los Angeles Times, 21 Jan 2013, Daniel Hernandez: "Television viewers in Cuba reportedly had the chance to watch U.S. President Obama's inauguration on Monday via a news feed from Venezuela's Telesur network. ... Obama's inauguration speech was aired Monday on Telesur accompanied by a commentator who cast doubt on some of the U.S. president's assertions, reported Mexico's state news agency Notimex from the Cuban capital, Havana."

Rapid TV News, 16 Jan 2013, Iñaki Ferreras: "Panama's main cable operator Cable Onda has now added the Latin American news channel Telesur, making it available for 75.1% of the country's pay-TV market, according to Next TV Latam. ... [T]he channel also wants to spread its international reach with a presence in Europe, and in particular Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria."

Al Jazeera English, Listening Post, 26 Jan 2013: "This week’s feature story takes us to Venezuela where who else but President Hugo Chavez could be the centre of attention – except that he is nowhere to be seen. For six weeks he has been in a hospital bed in Cuba after treatment for cancer. His supporters say he is still ruling the shop and sending kisses from his sickbed. But the state-run Telesur – or ‘Tele-Chavez’ as its critics see it – is finding it hard to fill airtime with their main man away from the cameras, especially while the opposition are raising uncomfortable questions not only about the Chavez’s health but also about the political future of the country. The Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro delves into the media battle surrounding Venezuela’s invisible president.' With video.

Miami Herald, 25 Jan 2013, Juan O. Tamayo: "Two years after a fiber-optic cable reached Cuba from Venezuela, and at least five months after it was activated, Havana has confirmed the ALBA-1 cable is working but cautioned that doesn’t mean residents will have more access to the Internet."

New distribution partners in Spain for Euronews and Euronews Network.

Posted: 27 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Broadband TV News, 18 Jan 2013, Robert Briel: "Euronews has signed deals with two TV channels in Spain in order to secure part-time terrestrial distribution. The agreements are made with two regional TV stations Aragón TV (ATV) in Aragon and 7RM in Murcia to distribute its signal and content to almost 1 million homes combined. With the deal, the recently created Euronews Network is also expanding with ATV as a new member, the first Spanish partner of the network. ATV has started broadcasting Euronews from 9.45am to 11.30am from Monday to Friday and from 7.30am to 10.00am at weekends. Besides broadcasting Euronews programming, as a member of the Euronews Network, ATV has also access to a wide selection of services and close operational cooperation such as the use of Euronews-edited news pieces and magazines, the direct connection with Euronews’ newsroom and its permanent and special correspondents benefiting from Euronews editorial bureau with 400 journalists from 25 different nationalities."

Want to see a UFO in HD? RT via BSkyB.

Posted: 27 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Digital TV Europe, 14 Jan 2013: "BSkyB has begun airing Russian international news channel Russia Today in HD. Russia Today switched its English-language transmissions to HD in December, following a move to a new facility in Moscow. ... 'The switch to HD is an important step for our network, as HD delivery is not yet offered by many other major international news channels. It’s now up to the satellite and cable TV service providers to make the HD signal available to the viewers,' said Margarita Simonyan, the channel’s editor-in-chief."

CNBC Africa selects Ghana partner and hosts forum at Davos.

Posted: 27 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
GhanaWeb, 18 Jan 2013: "Africa’s premier financial and business cable network, CNBC Africa has selected Multi TV to provide content from Ghana for is global viewers. The agreement would also see Multi TV act as an Accra bureau for the network. CNBC will also provide viewers of Multi TV live financial and business information from the major financial centres in Africa, the US, Europe and Asia. Head of CNBC Africa, Frederic Van De Vyver tells Joy Business a lot of investors are looking out for financial and economic information from Ghana."

Bizcommunity.com, 14 Jan 2013: "CNBC Africa, the business television news channel, [hosted] a live debate at the upcoming World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. The 2013 forum will take place from 23-27 January 2013. The hour-long broadcast of the debate 'De-Risking Africa' will be hosted by CNBC Africa's senior anchor, Bronwyn Nielsen ... . The panellists [included]: Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria. Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa."

With repeal of domestic dissemination ban, will US news outlets quote VOA more often?

Posted: 27 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Columbia Journalism Review, 21 Jan 2013, Emily T. Metzgar: "Spurred by a line in a New York Times article that called the US government 'the largest broadcaster that few Americans know about,' I did a LexisNexis search for and analysis of major American print media outlets’ coverage of Voice of America over a recent two-year period. Both as a subject and as a source of news, it was only mentioned 188 times during the two-year period considered. (A similar search for 'CNN' yielded more than 2,000 mentions—in The New York Times alone.) Seventy-six percent of the VOA mentions referred to the organization itself, providing context about VOA, mentioning its relationship to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and alluding to the role of VOA in inspiring the audiences of less-than-free societies. There was frequent reference to VOA’s role in the Cold War, particularly in the presentation of profiles of dissidents and leaders from that period. There were also several mentions of Voice of America’s continued efforts to provide content to audiences in China and Iran in addition to those governments’ ongoing efforts to block delivery of such content. Only 12 percent of the references to Voice of America directly quoted reporting done by the broadcaster and just another 3 percent of the references used indirect quotes from the news organization. Thus, although VOA is well regarded as a news source overseas, only 15 percent of the already-limited references to VOA in the American print media examined contained any content attributed to the broadcaster." -- When news organizations quote VOA, do they do so because they perceive VOA as an authoritative news outlet, or because they think the report reflects the official US government position on the subject covered by the report -- like quoting "the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram" to get the Egyptian government's take on a certain matter? See previous post about same subject.

In (another) op-ed about VOA Persian, (another) critic suggests "a clear slant in favor of Iran" (updated).

Posted: 25 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Wall Street Journal, 7 Jan 2013, Sohrab Ahmari: "Critics ... charge that VOA's Persian coverage is often distorted by an editorial line favoring rapprochement with the mullahs. There is 'a clear slant in favor of Iran in terms of its involvement in terrorism,' the current production staffer wrote in response to queries for this article. The network, he said, often refuses to air criticism of Iranian terror unless it is 'balanced with the perspective of the Islamic Republic who vehemently [deny] any involvement.' And because 'no one in the Islamic Republic gives us interviews anyway,' VOA Persian abandons otherwise informative segments about terrorism. A former employee and on-screen personality summed up the network's nonconfrontational attitude by saying that VOA sees itself as providing 'a bridge between Washington and Tehran.' VOA denies these claims. Spokesman Kyle King said in a written statement that the network 'airs material about the Islamic Republic when it is newsworthy. Decisions are not contingent on Iranian officials being available for comment, and they are usually not.'"

Over the past few years, we have seen many op-eds and commentaries about VOA Persian. Some are written by inviduals apparently unhappy about the paucity of face time they are getting on VOA Persian. What is needed is not another op-ed, but a comprehensive news investigation, including analysis of a generous portion of VOA Persian content.

Perhaps the real argument here is whether VOA Persian should be a news service or "opposition media." To assuage the many critics of VOA Persian, the United States might eventually have two channels directed to Iran: one that provides news, the other an anti-regime outlet. The audience in Iran can then decide which channel better serves their needs.

Update: Wall Street Journal, 23 Jan 2013, David Ensor, director of the Voice of America: "Mr. Ahmari is wrong to claim that Voice of America's Persian Service is 'often distorted by an editorial line favoring rapprochement with the mullahs.' He Mr. Ahmari supports the claim with a pair of quotes, taken out of context from an extensive interview with former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, but the full transcript shows the former Iranian official being questioned pointedly by VOA host Siamak Dehghanpour. ... For 70 years, VOA has been a beacon of hope to people in repressed and information-denied areas, and we are proud that more than one in five adult Iranians tune in to VOA every week, making it one of the most popular international broadcasters in the country." See also VOA, From the Director, 24 Jan 2013. -- A "beacon of hope" is a very good thing. A news organization, however, is perhaps better described a beacon of accurate and uncensored information, also a very good thing.

US international broadcasting: "Defunct"? Or merely "dysfunctional"?

Posted: 25 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
BBG Watch, 25 Jan 2013, quoting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's testimony at a House of Representatives hearing on 23 January: “And finally, we need to do a better job conveying a counter-narrative to the extremist Jihadist narrative. You know, I’ve said this to this Committee before — a lot of new members on it — you know, we have abdicated the broadcasting arena. You know, yes, we have private stations: CNN, Fox, NBC, all of that. They are out there, they convey information, but we’re not doing what we did during the Cold War. Our Broadcasting Board of Governors is practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world. So we’re abdicating the ideological arena, and we need to get back into it. We have the best values. We have the best narrative. Most people in the world just want to have a good decent life that is supported by a good decent job and raise their families and we’re letting the Jihadist narrative fill a void. We have to get in there and compete and we can do it successfully.” With video.

I think Secretary Clinton saw the Office of Inspector General's reference to the Broadcasting Board of Governors as "dysfunctional," and, in her memory, it morphed to "defunct." They are, after all, both "func" words. (See previous post about the OIG report.)

"Defunct" is a wildly inaccurate description of US international broadcasting. The United States spends more than $700 million dollars a year on international broadcasting, with three thousand hours a week in 59 languages, via radio, television, and internet, to a weekly audience of 175 million. That is not "defunct." Secretary Clinton, as an ex officio member of the BBG, should know better.

In her statement to the House hearing, Secretary Clinton seems to be referring to the work of public diplomacy, which is conducted by offices in her own State Department. International broadcasting has a separate, complementary purpose: to provide the accurate, comprehensive, and reliable news that audience in many countries are not getting from their state-controlled or otherwise deficient domestic media. Such a news service allows to be well-informed about current events, and thus bolstered against the misinformation and disinformation of dictators, terrorist, and other miscreants.

The BBG's detractors will see to it that the BBG is permanently branded with Secretary Clinton's "defunct" and the OIG's also-over-the-top "dysfunctional." This might lead to Congress eliminating the BBG altogether. Then we would go back to a Presidentially-appointed, Senate-approved management of US international broadcasting. In such a scenario, USIB would not be independent and would not be able to achieve the credibility necessary for success in the modern global media environment.

If the US government injects "counter-narrative" into US international broadcasting, and throws USIB into the "ideological arena," audiences will notice. They will conclude that what they are hearing is not the news service they are seeking. They will tune instead to the BBC. Or maybe to Al Jazeera English.

Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing the next day, Senator Tim Kaine expressed concern to Senator John Kerry, nominee for Secretary of State, about Iranian broadcasting to Latin America. Kaine was referring to Iran's Spanish-language satellite channel Hispan TV. Hispan TV, however, is on virtually no cable systems or mainstream DTH satellite service in Latin America, Even if it were, Hispan TV's programming is so inept (see previous post) that it would not attract much of an audience. Nevertheless, Congress might pressure the BBG to expand VOA broadcasting in Spanish, or, perish the thought, create an entirely new channel. The fact that CNN en Español is already successful and informing the Hemisphere very well, and at no cost to the US taxpayers, will probably be ignored. The result will be more duplication, the hallmark of US international broadcasting.

Multichannel News, 23 Jan 2013, John Eggerton: "Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that she created a new unit at State to counter jihadist propaganda in social media. When Al Qaeda puts up a video saying how terrible the U.S. is, she said, the State puts up one about how terrible they are."

Malaysian politicians oppose opposition shortwave stations Radio Free Sarawak and Radio Kenyalang.

Posted: 24 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Borneo Post, 17 Jan 2013, Peter Sibon: Parti Rakyat Sarawak "president Tan Sri Dr James Masing wants (RK) to be stopped on their tracks as both these 'illegal entities' are poisoning the minds of the rural populace, especially the Ibans, and running down the government. Masing, who is also Minister of Land Development, also urged the authorities concerned to act against those distributing free radio sets in the rural areas as it formed part of the modus operandi of these two radio stations. He added that if their operations could not be halted, the relevant authorities should at least jam their transmissions so that they become inaudible to listeners."

Bernama, 17 Jan 2013: "Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud ... [described] RFS as 'naughty', Abdul Taib said the radio station, whose broadcast is mainly in Iban, had no respect for the truth while RK, reportedly linked to the opposition Sarawak Workers Party (SWP), was attempting to bank on its campaigns in the coming general election."

Free Malaysia Today, 18 Jan 2013, Joseph Tawie: Radio Free Sarawak "is the contentious bone poking at Sarawak Barisan Nasional’s native-based parties, and its Dayak leaders are helpless over what to do. The daily 6pm-8pm broadcast in Iban has gained widespread audience and given both the listeners and the opposition immense opportunities to flag abuses and failings of the ruling regime."

Borneo Post, 19 Jan 2013: "Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) founder Clare Rewcastle Brown claimed there have been previous attempts to jam its broadcast. In an emailed reply yesterday, she said these attempts were made during the last state election in 2011 but halted following protests made by RFS."

Borneo Post, 20 Jan 2013, Samuel Aubrey: "Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) will continue to distribute free radio sets to rural folk despite attempts to stop the broadcast of Radio Free Sarawak (RFS). Its state vice-chairman See Chee How said there was no reason for them to halt its distribution because RFS had proven to be an effective tool for the opposition. 'Why should we stop? We will distribute more now when we have "promoters" who make RFS even more popular,' he said ... . The ‘promoters’ referred to by See ... were leaders of the state BN who had been making calls against RFS, which broadcasts from 6pm to 8pm daily, mainly in the Iban language."

Bernama, 21 Jan 2013: "The Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Youth movement today lodged a police report against two illegal private radio stations, Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) and Radio Kenyalang (RK) for allegedly airing false news and inciting the people."

The Star (Kuala Lumpur), 22 Jan 2013, Yu Ji: "RFS founder Clare Rewcastle Brown issued an immediate media statement on the police report on Sunday. In it, she said the BBC’s World Service and US-based Voice of America were also broadcasting via shortwave internationally — not just RFS. 'We are entitled to broadcast our programmes from London and we have not committed any criminal offence. They might as well accuse Voice of America and the BBC of committing criminal offence because they also broadcast free radio on shortwave,' Rewcastle Brown said."

Free Malaysia Today, 21 Jan 2013: "'RFS is not poisoning minds, it is liberating minds. A free media is a pillar of democracy,' said [station founder Clare] Rewcastle-Brown in response to both Taib and his Senior Minister James Masing’s accusations and demand that the federal government put a halt to RFS’s transmission."

Borneo Post, 22 Jan 2013: "Folk in Ngemah constituency are not on the same frequency with both Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) and Radio Kenyalang (RK) as they know these stations are only spinning lies. Tuai Rumah Sandai Lamit claimed this was because RFS was always making wild allegations against the government. ... 'We, the longhouse folk, know that the government has always assisted us and brought development projects to uplift our quality of life. It is best that they (both stations) stop their broadcast as their efforts can do more harm than good, causing confusion to people,' Sandai asserted."

The Star (Kuala Lumpur), 23 Jan 2013, Nigel Edgar: "Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to tell lies, says a senior minister. Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing said Radio Free Sarawak and Radio Kenyalang had abused their freedom by operating in a cowardly manner."

See also radiofreesarawak.org. About Iban-language Radio Kenyalang, see Borneo Post, 21 Nov 2012.

Will audience figures match the ambition of the new BBC World News newsroom?

Posted: 24 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Variety, 20 Jan 2013, Steve Clarke: "BBC World News, the pubcaster's 24-hour global news web, has begun broadcasting from its new home -- the hi-tech hub of New Broadcasting House. The switch to new premises, in the heart of London's West End shopping district, comes with an on-screen rebrand and a new schedule offering what the Beeb claims are higher quality production values, which it hopes will help boost distribution globally. ... [I]n an increasingly competitive environment as rivals like Al Jazeera English prepare to enter the U.S., where BBC World News struggles to find distribution, it is more prosaic factors like audience figures that will determine whether the channel's performance matches the ambition of its new HQ. 'I always say that we aim to deliver the three Rs -- reach, revenue and reputation, of which the most important is reputation,' said Jim Egan, COO at BBC Global News."

BBC The Editors blog, 14 Jan 2013, Andrew Roy, head of news for BBC World News: "BBC World News has come a long way since it launched as a shoestring commercial operation in a backroom at Television Centre more than 20 years ago. Our audiences have grown massively. We're required viewing from the President's White House in Washington to the President's Blue House in Seoul. And in an era when bad mortgages in the US can trigger a global economic meltdown, we know there is a huge appetite for world news delivered fast, accurately and objectively.

BBC News, 18 Jan 2013: "As part of the move and re-design, the BBC has re-recorded the music you hear at the start of each [BBC World News] news programme. A full orchestra was used at the Abbey Road studios in London, where The Beatles also did some of their best work." With video -- that, for me, does not work on Firefox, but does on IE.

Critical Distance Weblog, 23 Jan 2013, Jonathan Marks: "It looks to me like the new BBC newsroom was built by crossing the colour scheme of Al Jazeera English with the technology that you find in Al Arabiya in Dubai. ... For me, the BBC is at its best when it is humble, just getting on with bringing in the best reports from around the world."

See previous post about same subject.

MediaMughals, 22 Jan 2013: "BBC World News announced the appointment of Linda Yueh as Chief Business Correspondent, a new Singapore-based position that signals the channel's continuing commitment to Asia and determination to expand the breadth and depth of its international business coverage."

Deutsche Welle: "Some say China aims to dominate the African media sector" (updated).

Posted: 24 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Deutsche Welle, 7 Jan 2013, Nadina Schwarzbeck: "With the introduction of a radio broadcaster, news agency, TV station and newspaper to the African market, the reach of Chinese media is rapidly expanding. Some say China aims to dominate the African media sector. In the first six months of 2012 alone, China invested $45 billion (34 billion euros) in Africa, while Sino-African trade has tripled in the last three years. Now, the Asian giant is seeking to make a name for itself in the African media sector by investing in modern technologies and giving scholarships to African journalists to work in China. ... Nairobi is the hub for East African media and Chinese media companies already have offices located there, for instance, state-run international broadcaster China Radio International, which broadcasts programs in over 50 foreign languages. The broadcaster has been in Kenya for seven years and what it does there was explained by one employee, who wished to remain anonymous, as China Radio journalists are not allowed to speak to Western media. 'We write stories in English and then we translate them into Swahili,' he told DW. 'At the moment, we do not transmit our stories live from Nairobi but we send them to Beijing, where our headquarters are. That is where they broadcast our stories.' ... He said the censorship of stories was another obstacle. 'We don't cover stories that are negative. But you see, in journalism, you have to report things as they are. Most of the time, things don't happen as you'd like them to happen. Positive stories don't always happen … we are very selective in our reporting.' He explained that the Chinese broadcaster wished to appeal to African listeners by only reporting on the positive sides of Africa."

Update: China Daily, 18 Jan 2013, Xiaoling Zhang: "Analysis of CCTV's hour-long program Africa Live ... serves as a platform for re-emphasizing China's critical stand on foreign intervention in African affairs, the need to reform international systems and the promotion of a positive image of China, while trying to win over African audiences from its Western competitors such as CNN and the BBC. ... China's media advance will not be without complications. It remains to be seen how locally employed media professionals negotiate their often Western-oriented understanding and practices of journalism within a Chinese state organization. ... With international viewers as their target, they challenge the longstanding Western monopoly on information, transmit a Chinese perspective on events and produce their own stories and images otherwise portrayed in a critical light by the Western media."

Al Jazeera English, 24 Jan 2013, Colin Shek: "'The Chinese media is much more visible now in Africa,' said Mary Harper, a veteran journalist who has been reporting on Africa for more than 20 years. 'Even though there have been Chinese media operations in Africa ever since I started working on the continent, I've noticed a really dramatic rise in their presence,' said Harper. ... Harper, too, said China's journalism about Africa has been portrayed in an 'over-simplistic' manner. 'There's a sort of myth that they only cover the positive stories about Africa. They don't ignore the big, bad news stories of the day. They might not cover them in great detail, but they do cover them, so they're not only presenting some story of Africa as if everything is perfect and happy there.'"

China Daily, 8 Jan 2013, Liu Xiangrui: "Pili Mwinyi Khamis works for China Radio International (CRI) and she is involved in the production of several programs, including the weekly China in My Eyes. ... Khamis has worked with CRI for more than five years, and before that she was both a teacher and broadcaster in Tanzania. After she was selected for the exchange program in China, Khamis was as anxious as she was excited. ... To Khamis, China was very different from what she had in mind, especially its degree of development. 'I found it's more like a developed country,' she says. Khamis began to love her job as a journalist here, which she believes helps her understand China better and faster. Her work takes her out of Beijing and around China. Last year, she had a chance to visit Ningxia Hui autonomous region, where she found herself surrounded by Muslims. 'I saw men wearing Muslim caps and women covering their heads. We had so much in common. It was like going back home,' says Khamis, impressed by the diversity of Chinese culture."

Director of China Radio International Tamil Service writes a book in Tamil about China.

Posted: 23 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
The Hindu, 17 Jan 2013, Ananth Krishnan: "For Zhao Jiang, who prefers to go by her Tamil name Kalaimakal, writing a book in Tamil would have seemed unthinkable when she first began learning what appeared to be an undecipherable script in a Chinese university classroom some 15 years ago. Today, as a fluent Tamil-speaker and the director of the government-run China Radio International’s (CRI) Tamil station, which commands an impressive audience of more than 25,000 dedicated listeners in Tamil Nadu alone, Ms. Zhao has taken it upon herself to foster closer ties between China and southern India, a usually overlooked destination for Chinese travellers. ... Ms. Zhao’s first book in Tamil — which, as far as she knows, might even be the first ever Tamil book authored by a Chinese ... provides an introduction of the history and culture of Beijing, Shanghai and Tibet. ... Her inspiration, she said, came from the listeners of CRI, who sent in thousands of letters wanting to know more about travelling in China. CRI’s Tamil station receives as many as five lakh [500,000] letters every year — more than any other of the station’s 60 international channels — from listeners in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Europe."

Rep. Rohrabacher warns Radio Free Asia "susceptible to becoming a personal fiefdom."

Posted: 23 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher website, 16 Jan 2013: "Today, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) sent a letter to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Appropriations Committee regarding serious problems in the overseas broadcast services funded by the U.S. government. Cong. Rohrabacher sites [sic] evidence uncovered after conducting a two year investigation while he was Chairman of the HFAC Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation during the 112th Congress. His concerns focus on Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA), both under the supervision of the Broadcast Board of Governors. 'In October of last year, Radio Free Asia President Libby Liu, precipitously fired Tibet Service Director Jigme Ngapo with no accompanying explanation,' wrote Rohrabacher. 'There are indications that this was the result of foreign influence, which would be a major cause for alarm. She has repeatedly failed to respond to my letters requesting details of this unwise action.' There is no effective counterintelligence or vetting procedure for hiring employees; nor does the structure of the BBG and its agencies allow for adequate accountability to the American taxpayer. RFA is particularly susceptible to becoming a personal fiefdom due to its structure and we may be seeing signs of that right now. ... Regarding China, Rohrabacher wrote, 'I have repeatedly expressed my deep concern to VOA and RFA about their failure to cover important issues such as the ghoulish crime of forced human organ harvesting of political and religious dissidents [particularly the Falun Gong] in China, which is horrific and genocidal in nature. Calling attention to this subject infuriates the Chinese Communist government and VOA and RFA leadership refuses to give it the proper attention.'"

NTD, 17 Jan 2013: "US funded media like Radio Free Asia and Voice of America have been failing to report on major issues in China, according to US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher. [Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, US Congressman, (R-CA)]: 'We also have China and the Chinese government exerting undue influence on our media because we have huge American corporations making quick and rapid profits from their association with this gangster regime in Beijing. And they're afraid to make the communists in Beijing mad at them.'"

A perusal of the RFA and VOA websites finds several examples of aggressive reporting on China by the two broadcasting organizations.

See previous posts on 16 Jan 2013 and 28 Nov 2012.

OIG cites vacancies and absenteeism on the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Solution: more boards. (Updated) .

Posted: 23 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
New York Daily News, 20 Jan 2013, James Warren: "The White House-appointed board overseeing government-funded broadcasts to 100 countries is a dysfunctional mess beset by 'acute internal dissension' revolving around a longtime friend of former President George W. Bush, according to a new inspector general’s report obtained by the Daily News. The damning investigation skewers the Board of Broadcast Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and other broadcast entities that together employ 3,500 people and reach 190 million people worldwide each week at a cost to taxpayers of $750 million a year. ... Though it names no names, the report characterizes board meetings as 'dominated by one member whose tactics and personal attacks on colleagues and staff have created an unprofessional and unproductive atmosphere.' It concurs with accusations that he impedes free board discussion and uses 'outside media to support his views and attack colleagues and staff who disagree.' Several board sources confirmed that the controversial and powerful member is Victor H. Ashe, who roomed with Bush at Yale and served under him as U.S. Ambassador to Poland from 2004-2005. He was previously mayor of Knoxville, Tenn. ... Contacted by The News, Ashe defended his record, saying he's pushed for greater transparency and asked 'the inconvenient questions for the two-and-a- half years I have served on the board.'"

You can also "obtain" a copy of the report at the State Department Office of Inspector General website. For commentaries on the OIG report, see Critical Distance Weblog, 20 Jan 2013, Jonathan Marks; BBG Watch, 20 Jan 2013; and AFGE Local 1812 (undated).

The OIG report lost me when it stated that "the inspection team takes no position" on whether the proposed CEO for US international broadcasting should be appointed by the Board or nominated by President and confirmed by the Senate. Basically, then, the team is taking no position on whether USIB is to be independent or government-controlled. Whether it is to have credibility or not. Whether it is to have an audience or not.

The present presidentially-appointed IBB director Richard Lobo prudently stays out of content matters. A future presidentially-appointed IBB director could interpret the International Broadcasting Act of 1994 as license to pull rank and direct the VOA and OCB directors to adjust content to the pleasure of a future administration. The CEO could tell the board: I don't have to adhere to your directives. I was appointed by the President.

It's unclear from the OIG report whether the CEO would have authority over all of USIB or just IBB, VOA, and OCB. If the latter, there is no need to create such a position. The CEO will be effective only he he/she can "knock heads" of all the several presidents and directors of all the several entities.

The OIG recommendation to create separate boards for the grantee corporations (RFE/RL, RFA, and MBN) would prolong and exacerbate one of the major flaws of US international broadcasting: that there are multiple entities rather than just one entity. Inevitably, Job One for each of the grantee boards will be to preserve the grantee. As a result, the duplication of effort and the division of scarce resources, which force USIB to be more expensive and less effective than it should be, will persevere.

Furthermore, the establishment of separate boards for the grantees will create more belligerents in the War of the Entities. The BBG and each grantee board will be locked in conflict from the start. Will the grantee board select the president of the corporation? That would undermine the authority of the BBG. Would the BBG continue to name appoint the corporation president? That would reduce the grantee board to a ceremonial (but costly) advisory role.

The grantee boards would be the front line troops in the War of the Entities. VOA would have no such board to protect its front. In future battles of the War of the Entities, VOA would likely be thrashed.

The OIG inspection team laments vacancies and absenteeism in the BBG. The creation of grantee boards would create even more instances of vacancies and absenteeism.

The BBG should remain the board of RFE/RL, RFA, and MBN. Furthermore, the BBG should never meet to consider, in isolation, the matters of any one entity. USIB in its entirety, and the stewardship of the taxpayers' money, should always simultaneously be considered. And even though VOA and OCB do not have boards, the BBG should consider itself the de facto board for those entities no less as for the grantees. But even this would be only a fractional solution. The real solution is consolidation into one entity.

Recommendation 3 of the OIG report addresses meeting attendance. BBG members tend to be senior executives, often of major corporations. How can they possibly have time to attend meetings and oversee USIB affairs? Elsewhere in the report, it is noted that one Governor (obviously Victor Ashe) "is retired and has more time to devote to BBG work," as if that were a problem. Ideally, all the Board members should be retired broadcasting and journalism professionals, so that they, too, would have "more time to devote to BBG work."

Recommendation 4 is about meeting agendas, criticizing the time taken up by "resolutions honoring award winners, service anniversaries, and individual contributions to the organization." But are these public meetings really meetings? I always thought the real work was done in closed session, and that the public meeting is a dog-and-pony show, in which each entity has the opportunity to out-strut the other entities. As an interested citizen, I listen to these public BBG meetings, but in the background while doing something more substantial.

In its lead-up to Recommendation 5, the report states: "To be effective, the Board should speak with one voice -- dissenting opinions should be captured in official meeting records and not aired publicly through the press or other outlets. As a collective agency head, the Board has an even greater responsibility to speak with one voice in representing the views of the agency."

I can understand that the CEO (if there ever is one) and senior management team should speak with one voice. This will be easier to accomplish of there is one senior management team and not, as now, several. The BBG, on the other hand, is the bipartisan board of a government agency. The best way to conduct international broadcasting should be a matter of debate and discussion. Disagreements should be expected as part of the process. Without public avenues for this discussion, how do we know that the Governors are taking an interest in their work, and not simply rubber-stamping the plans drafted by staff? In any case, if there were one entity with one CEO, the BBG could focus on strategic matters and function less as a "collective agency head."

The report singles out Governor Victor Ashe (without naming him) for particular criticism. Governor Ashe can be exasperatingly verbose. He often slows the pace of BBG meetings -- but, on the other hand, he also turns ceremonial meetings into real meetings. It is also true that the meetings (such as they are) are too short. I would rather a Governor err in showing too much interest in USIB than err on the side of "mailing in" his/her participation. Governor Ashe is also (interestingly, given he is a Republican) the voice of labor on the Board, and in USIB, the workers need all the help they can get. Perhaps instead of trying to stifle Governor Ashe, more Governors should join in the fray. Especially useful would be a Governor who interrupts meetings to call for real reform of USIB: consolidation into one entity and an unambiguous commitment to independent journalism.

Update: Washington Post, 22 Jan 2013, Al Kamen: "It’s not often that an inspector general’s report uses the word 'dysfunctional' several times. But the Broadcasting Board of Governors — which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and (the un-watched) TV Marti, Radio Free Asia and so on — has managed to earn that. And, after reading the 20-page report, it’s hard not to conclude that the chronically troubled agency desperately needs a top-to-bottom overhaul. The BBG’s 'dysfunction stems from a flawed legislative structure and acute internal dissension,' the report concludes, noting that a part-time board 'cannot effectively supervise' the operations." -- A "top-to-bottom overhaul" is needed, but there is danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There is no substitute for a multi-partisan board to keep a publicly-funded broadcasting entity independent. If the managers (other than the board members themselves) are presidentially appointed and Senate approved, the broadcasting effort is not really independent.

Washington Post, Joe Davidson, 22 Jan 2013: "'Having spent two years in meetings and discussions with Victor Ashe, I think the OIG gave him a very light going over,' said S. Enders Wimbush, a former member of the board. Ashe quickly came to his own defense. Upon learning the Federal Diary was covering the inspector general’s report, he volunteered a link to a union statement in his support. He also called the report 'unwarranted, unfair and factually incorrect.' 'I feel my membership at BBG plays an important role in these difficult times for employees,' he added. No matter who is correct about Ashe, it is clear that the Broadcasting Board of Governors is a terrible mess and not just because of this latest report. That’s a shame because the employees practice 'journalism of the highest caliber,' according to the report issued by Deputy Inspector General Harold W. Geisel. They do so despite one report after another that, when taken together, can easily lead to the conclusion that the BBG is beyond hope."

Radio World, 22 Jan 2013: "We asked the BBG for a response. It responded: 'The BBG appreciates the work that the Office of the Inspector General has put into this report, and we respect the integrity of the OIG team. We take their findings seriously and have enacted some of the recommended actions, including devising guidelines for travel. We will work to implement others. ... Some of the reforms can come about only through legislation, which the BBG intends to propose for congressional consideration this year, and we will look to Congress to support this effort.'"

Al Jazeera reporter killed by sniper fire in Syria.

Posted: 21 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Al Jazeera English, 19 Jan 2013: "A sniper has shot dead Al Jazeera freelance reporter Mohamed Al-Massalma in the southern Syrian province of Deraa, the Qatar-based media network has said. 'The Syrian journalist, 33, used the pseudonym of Mohamed Al-Horani. He was shot with three bullets, during covering the fights at the front lines in the town of Busra Al-Harir in the countryside of Deraa.' the news channel said in a press release on Friday. An Al Jazeera Media Network spokesperson affirmed that 'targeting its collaborating journalists and crews will not change the editorial method and guidelines adopted by the network since it was launched 16 years ago for the sake of delivering the truth'. Before joining Al Jazeera, al-Horani was an activist in the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad."

Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 16 Jan 2013: "Alhurra Correspondent Bashar Fahmi remains missing and incommunicado 150 days after disappearing in Aleppo, Syria. Fahmi was on a reporting trip there on Aug. 20, 2012 when he was caught in the crossfire that led to the murder of one journalist and capture of another. Few clues have emerged concerning his whereabouts and wellbeing. ... The Alhurra correspondent was traveling with his cameraman Cuneyt Unal in Syria on Aug. 20th when a firefight erupted. Unal was captured and released 90 days later." See previous post about same subject.

"Al Jazeera America should not become another Al Hurra."

Posted: 20 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
The Peninsula (Doha), 17 Jan 2013, Khalid Al Sayed: "As it prepares to enter the US, the management of Al Jazeera must realise that America has a thriving and vibrant media market. Therefore, they should have a clear vision and policy so as not to become like Washington-sponsored Al Hurra TV channel which lost credibility a long time ago, forcing the US government to rethink its huge budget and the necessity of its continuation. ... Access to an unlimited budget alone will not guarantee success, in the same way it didn’t bring success to Al Hurra channel. Al Jazeera network should appoint qualified and talented staff to manage its operations and win the confidence of American audiences and build credibility." -- Commentators often dismiss Alhurra as a failure, but its audience numbers (which the BBG should be more willing to share) point to a different conclusion. To be sure, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have the largest audience among Arabic-language news channels in the Arab region, but Alhurra along with BBC Arabic lead the tier of non-Arab Arabic-language channels, with respectably large audiences.

Wall Street Journal, 16 Jan 2013, letter from Robert R. Reilly: "After serving as the director of the Voice of America, I joined the civilian side of Operation Iraqi Freedom as senior adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Information in 2003. On April 9 that year the statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down in Firdos Square. I was still in Kuwait, where we had electricity, so I was able to watch the international television news coverage. Of the score of channels I fanned through, every single one was showing footage of the toppling of Saddam's statue, except Al Jazeera. It showed a procession of carts carrying baby coffins of children purportedly killed in the coalition bombing of Baghdad. Al Jazeera failed to provide any context for this moving scene by reference to the mortuary freezers in which Saddam's regime kept children's corpses especially for use in displays such as this. I had to hand it to Al Jazeera. It kept up broadcasting Saddam's propaganda until the very end. I wonder if, in his 'due diligence,' Al Gore was able to review any of this footage."

Ibid, letter from Brian Douglas: "Progressives generally think that state-run journalism is a step up from free-market bias; and, until there is an American World Service, Mr. Gore may have decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Heritage Foundation, 16 Jan 2013, Helle Dale: "The common denominator for Current TV and Al Jazeera is a profound anti-American slant. Current TV is characterized by a strident left-leaning agenda, and Al Jazeera tends to ascribe the worst imperialist motives to any U.S. foreign policy move. Gore reportedly refused to sell the network to Glenn Beck, but found the Al Jazeera leadership more compatible. Anti-Americanism is not unheard of in American mainstream media, but there are limits, also shown by the lack of audience share of MSNBC. And anti-American bias coming from a foreign broadcaster delivered in strident tones straight to their living rooms will probably turn most Americans off."

BernardGoldberg.com, 14 Jan 2013: "Of course, Gore and Hyatt – and their supporters – will say there’s a difference between Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera English. And they’re right. But what is the difference? Does Al Jazeera save the vile bigotry for its Arab audiences because it knows that kind of venom will be received well in the Arab world? ... The so-called mainstream media ... couldn’t muster even a little outrage. By and large all they did was cover the business story — Al Gore sells to Al Jazeera. The Wall Street Journal did more and so did CNN and Fox. But that’s about it."

Forward, 18 Jan 2013, Gal Beckerman: "Let’s not imagine that Al-Jazeera, until 2011 owned by the government of Qatar and still not entirely editorially independent, doesn’t have a credibility gap to overcome when presenting itself as anywhere near a serious news station. ... The English-language channel, however, has kept the Arab populism at bay. In fact, there are many American media analysts who consider it to be a reliable and useful news source, covering events — like the fall of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak — in a much more comprehensive and serious way than Western outlets. Robert Kaplan, a national correspondent for magazine The Atlantic magazine, praised the channel, writing that it 'is what the internationally minded elite class really yearns for: a visually stunning, deeply reported description of developments in dozens upon dozens of countries simultaneously.' There is every reason to think that Al-Jazeera America will continue in this direction; it’s the best chance it has at building an audience. And if it does, there is nothing to be scared of."

Right Side News, 18 Jan 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "Playing a familiar role, Al Jazeera has been airing sympathetic coverage about the Muslim terrorists and running 'exclusive' interviews with terrorist leaders from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), whose symbol is an AK-47 rifle and a black flag rising from the globe."

Right Side News, 17 Jan 2013, Cliff Kincaid as interviewed by Ryan Mauro: "The taking over of an American cable channel by Al-Jazeera is tantamount to giving American broadcast facilities during World War II to 'Tokyo Rose' and 'Axis Sally.' Tokyo Rose was the name given to an American broadcasting on Tokyo shortwave radio, while Axis Sally was 'The American voice of Nazi Germany' and was broadcasting on Berlin radio. Both of them, incidentally, were apprehended and prosecuted for treason and sent to prison. The purpose of the broadcasts was to demoralize the American side in the war. In Al-Jazeera's case, the channel, through the acquisition of Current TV, is seeking to establish a more permanent base on U.S. soil, in order to undermine the U.S. war on Islamic terrorism and provide support for President Obama's embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood. We are not at war with Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, but we are at war with thejihadists being supported by Qatar, Al-Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar openly supports Hamas and Hezbollah and protected 9/11 mastermind and bin Laden lieutenant Khalid Sheik Mohammed from apprehension by U.S. authorities. [Congressional] hearings should examine why Al-Jazeera's current broadcasts into the U.S. are not being labeled by cable and satellite providers as foreign propaganda under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and why public television stations are turning their broadcast time over to Al Jazeera and other foreign channels, in violation of Federal Communications Commission rules."

World Tribune, 15 Jan 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "The Al Jazeera story on [Chuck] Hagel was titled, 'Obama defeats the Israel Lobby.' The author, MJ Rosenberg, is identified as a former 'Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network,' the George Soros-funded group. But if Al Jazeera likes Hagel, the feeling is mutual. The Washington Free Beacon has posted a clip from the Al Jazeera interview, in which Hagel agrees with the observation from a viewer that America has an image as 'the world’s bully.' He clearly enjoyed the appearance on the Qatar-owned propaganda channel and thought nothing about bashing his own country. At the very least, as the favorable coverage of Hagel shows, the new 'Al Jazeera America' network that is supposed to replace Al Gore’s Current TV will be extremely left-wing in its political orientation, possibly further to the left than MSNBC."

American Thinker, 16 Jan 2013, Andrew G. Bostom: "Fox's well-paid media personalities behave hypocritically when they ignore the morally cretinous Saudi/Rotana/Al-Risala dealings of their owner Rupert Murdoch, while lashing out at Al Gore's sale of Current TV to Qatar's Al-Jazeera English."

Portales (NM) News-Tribune, 19 Jan 2013, Wendel Sloan: "After much research, including watching Al Jazeera online, I hope providers don’t repeat the knee-jerk reactions of myself and Time Warner. I found the English version to be professional and objective, with in-depth stories from around the world. Sure, we’d prefer the U.S. be portrayed as always being welcomed with open arms, but that’s not reality."

Daily Maverick (Johannesburg), 15 Jan 2013, J. Brooks Spector: "[T]his whole bet might really pay off for Al Jazeera. American TV watchers, and especially news junkies, might well decide an Al Jazeera America news programme was just the thing to get yet another view beyond the usual suspects. If that happens, the lucrative advertising market the US represents could turn their gamble into a profitable venture. Success in America would also mutually reinforce Al Jazeera’s expansion globally, even if it also encourages more energy and investment by other international broadcasters into their own footholds in the American market. Moreover, if there was a big international story it could jump on hard and fast, American viewers might well tune in to it the way they did with CNN and its coverage of events leading up to the first Gulf War. ... In any case, if it all works out as everyone plans, American television viewers may be the ultimate beneficiaries as they get to see the world, and how others see them, through yet another set of eyes. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing."

Al Arabiya, 19 Jan 2013: "[C]ommentators expressed surprise that Al Jazeera chose to invest so much in a TV network with so few viewers, when it could instead have chosen to build up its already popular Web-streaming service in the United States. 'Congratulations, cable guys! You’re in a business that’s so valuable that even a failed network with partial distribution and no audience is worth some $500 million,' wrote media commentator Peter Kafka on the AllThingsD website. 'Al Jazeera would have been a perfect candidate to bypass cable and go digital-only.' And so the issue of why Al Jazeera spent $500 million on Current TV is not the only question. For its fate also rests on whether the U.S. public will watch Al Jazeera America on their TV screens, or whether they already get their fix of the broadcaster’s shows via the Web."

See previous post about same subject.

Gem TV and its soap operas are missing. And other items about broadcasting to and from Iran.

Posted: 20 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
New York Times, 15 Jan 2013, Thomas Erdbring, via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "One of Iran's most popular satellite channels, GEM TV, operating from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and broadcasting illegally into the country, was taken offline without explanation. Its Web site was also down, adding to the mystery. ... On Monday, with the Iranian news media silent, wild rumors flew about the causes of the blackout, with some describing a technically complicated government crackdown and others a shrewd plot to get people to subscribe online for a monthly fee. 'First, they made us addicted [to its soap operas], and now, they are trying to get money out of us,' said the doorman of a building in West Tehran. ... Millions of Iranians in possession of illegal satellite equipment smuggled into the country and sold for less than $150 can watch an array of news programs, political talk shows and sometimes raunchy soaps. On Monday, another popular channel, Manoto, operating out of London, broadcast the Golden Globes. ... There are indications that GEM TV has closer ties with the Iran government than do other satellite channels based abroad. On Dec. 16, the semiofficial Tabnak Web site reported the arrest in Tehran of several people doing Persian voice-overs for the channel's other hit series, 'The Sultan's Harem,' another originally Turkish production popular in the Middle East." -- Gem TV is "broadcasting illegally" in the eyes of the Tehran regime, but any past international laws requiring the permission of the recipient nation are now generally and globally ignored. The exception would be Western satellite companies that have recently removed Iranian channels in response to international sanctions against Iran. See also gemonline.tv, and especially this announcement, suggesting that there has been a recent change or satellite and/or satellite frequency.

The Majalla, 7 Jan 2013, Farahmand Alipour: "In November 1997, the leaders of the Islamic Republic decided to launch new TV channels to propagate their Islamic views and broadcast the self-professed ‘voice of the revolution’. These satellite TV channels started their work under the name Sahar, literally meaning “dawn”; programs were broadcast in Russian, Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Azeri, French, Bosnian, and Kurdish. All of these continue operating and expanding their broadcasts, except those aired in Russian and Turkish. ... Al-Alam is a Tehran-based, Arabic-language television network that began its work at the start of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. From its birth, it was evident that the main target audience was Iraq’s Shi’ite population. Although Al-Alam lags far behind Al-Jazeera and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya in terms of popularity and penetration, it has been influential among the Shi’ite populations of Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen. ... In 2007, Iran launched its 24-hour English-language television channel Press TV, with the aim of breaking the monopoly of Western media. This was Iran’s first serious attempt at entering the arena of Western media. It has thus far failed in this mission, unable to breach the popularity of regional rival Al-Jazeera and certainly unable to compete with the quality of Western media. ... Hispan TV, the latest international 24-hour news channel launched by Iran, mainly targets South American countries. ... The channel appears to be totally out of touch with its target audience, mainly airing low-budget Iranian shows dubbed into Spanish and religious documentaries. ... Iranian officials have made costly mistakes in prioritizing their target audience. Instead of focusing their efforts on the domestic audience, they are trying to win over viewers abroad. In dealing with the needs of their own citizens, Iranian officials have so far excelled in jamming satellite signals and prohibiting the ownership of satellite dishes, while monopolizing the running of any kind of TV or radio station." -- Recommended reading. This is a good overview of Iran's international television broadcasting.

RFE/RL, 15 Jan 2013, Golnaz Esfandiari: "Stop writing about Iran, or face the consequences. That's the message being sent to Iranian journalists working outside the country, along with warnings that their reputations, finances, and families are at risk should they refuse to comply. ... One of the most recent examples is a claim made on January 3 by the hard-line 'Bultannews,' which is said to be close to security bodies. The website quoted an 'informed source' as saying that an intelligence body is aiming to create judicial cases against Iranians working for 'counterrevolutionary' networks supporting 'terrorists,' and obtaining international arrest warrants against them. The unnamed source added that all of the belongings and bank accounts of those individuals would be investigated and 'dealt with.' The website said those working with Persian-language media -- including Radio Farda, BBC, and VOA -- would be subjected to the measures."

Reuters, 15 Jan 2013: "On Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, Iran's ground forces commander, said that Iran was now capable of disrupting its enemies' communications. ... It was unclear whether Pourdastan was referring to military targets that Iran might consider a threat or civilian targets, such as what it considers to be subversive foreign media. Satellite operators and broadcasters have repeatedly accused Iran of jamming their satellite signals. European satellite provider Eutelsat complained to international regulators last year that Iran had jammed signals from Persian-language channels broadcast by the BBC, Voice of America, and other operators."

Inauguration will be covered by VOA. And RFE/RL. And Alhurra. And Radio Sawa. Radio and TV Martí. And RFA. (No mention of pool coverage.)

Posted: 19 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Broadcasting Board of Governors, 17 Jan 2013: "As the public swearing-in of U.S. President Barack Obama for his second term takes place, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) journalists will be there to provide complete coverage of the day’s events along with expert commentary on U.S. policy, the 44th President and the road ahead. Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa, Radio and TV Martí and Radio Free Asia (RFA) will all cover the January 21 historic event, capturing the U.S.’s role as a model of democracy, for their audiences around the globe." -- Maybe I'm the only one, but I think reporting the inauguration is a sufficient undertaking. "Capturing the U.S's role as a model of democracy" goes without saying, and probably should have gone unsaid.

@LynnWeil, 17 Jan 2013: "@BBGgov to bring #inaugural events to 100+ countries, informing & engaging w/people hungry for news of #democracy." -- With families huddled around their mobile devices.

The future of US international broadcasting: "Be sure that you have clean metadata."

Posted: 19 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
BBG Innovation Series, 10 Jan 2013, April Deibert/Addie Nascimento: "VOA’s Urdu Service, Indonesian Service, and Khmer Service are using SoundCloud in a pilot project. These uploads can take place daily, weekly, or biweekly—but they must be done manually—but once they are uploaded, all content plays automatically and functions like a radio station. Their staff uploads content to SoundCloud manually pushing metadata-rich podcast feeds (VOA’s Urdu, Indonesian, and ___ are already doing this) to the SoundCloud server. There are upcoming changes that will allow this process to happen automatically. However, their users are accessing the content through SoundCloud’s main website, through a Play Store app, through an iTunes Store app, as well as directly on Facebook ... Be sure that you have clean metadata. You always need unique titles and descriptions for your media files. Make this a common practice. This will help your content perform better in search engines. This will also help identify one program from another; users will look for a person’s name or topic of which they are interested."

BBG Innovation Series, 10 Jan 2013, April Deibert: "A few months ago, I posted about HTML5 video and Randy Abramson (Director of Product and Operations) posted about News On Location (NOL). In this post, however, we want to take a look at how HTML5 mapping is evolving and how BBG’s NOL may make use of the technology in the near future. Knowing the location of users (with their permission of course) can be a good thing both for them and for one’s service. Not only do users often feel that they’re receiving personalized results, but there is potential for them to contribute to live maps and live feeds—making their entire interaction with your site more relevant."

GCN, 17 Jan 2013, Greg Crowe: "The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency responsible for such broadcasts as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, recently announced that it put all of its content on the Google Currents mobile platform, giving its users a magazine-like experience. Because of the nature of its work, BBG’s feeds are delivered in 40 languages to a populace that’s increasingly mobile."

AOL Government, 10 Jan 2013, Judi Hasson: "The Currents application comes preinstalled on many Google Android devices and can give government agencies enhanced access to audiences on all mobile platforms. The app is available for both Apple iOS and Google Android supported devices. Users can find the BBG editions by downloading the application in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and search for VOA, RFA, RFE/RL, Marti and MBN respectively. 'Syndicating content to Google Currents can be as easy as simply providing an RSS feed. However, in our case, it got little more complicated due to the many languages and the fonts they required,' said Addie Nascimento, BBG's syndication product lead, who built all the BGG Current editions. In just a few months, BBG's Google Currents has brought in over 10,000 subscribers to VOA English alone, about 7,000 to VOA Mandarin and 3,500 subscribers to Radio Free Asia, all without any real marketing."

Reporter takes issue with VOA story on DR Congo conflict.

Posted: 18 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Black Star News, 10 jan 2013, Ann Garrison: "The Voice of America's DRC Blames Insecurity on Rwandan Rebels, reported, on 01.09.2013 ... reported that ... 'The M23 militia has, since April, been the focus of most every statement the [Democratic Republic of Congo] has made about security in the eastern part of the country, but "analysts" now say that the group has been "surpassed" by the FDLR.' ... Does the VOA expect us to believe that none of these groups, including M23, are highly armed so as to control eastern Congolese resources and resource smuggling across Congo's eastern borders into Rwanda and Uganda? That all are, instead, armed to protect themselves and the people from the FDLR? ... I often recommend The Voice of America, particularly its stellar 'Straight Talk Africa' broadcast, as one of the best sources on Africa. And, Pacifica's WBAI AfrobeatRadio, the weekly radio hour I contribute to, has had the VOA's excellent Ugandan journalist Paul Ndiho on as a guest, so I know that the VOA can do better."

FOIA release of VOA emails in ongoing UN Correspondents Association dispute (updated).

Posted: 18 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Inner City Press, 6 Dec 2012, Matthew Russell Lee: "For four months, Inner City Press has not published one additional word about the United Nations Correspondents Association, even after the organization's treasurer Margaret Besheer had US government Voice of America on behalf of her and so-far unnamed others meet with and ask the UN to 'review' Inner City Press' accreditation to enter and cover the UN. Documents obtained this week under a Freedom of Information Act appeal prove that Besheer wrote that her Reuters and Agence France Presse colleagues, Lou Charbonneau and Tim Witcher, supported ousting Inner City Press from the UN. Only this week did the overseer of Voice of America, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, finally rule on Inner City Press' FOIA appeal, and release additional documents."

Update: Inner City Press, 10 Jan 2013, Matthew Russell Lee: "BBG's lawyers argued that it was somehow a 'personnel matter,' although Inner City Press did not and would not work for VOA. [VOA director] David Ensor wrote to the Governors and then Congress (but never Inner City Press or the UN) admitting that the request to get the UN to dis-accredit Inner City Press 'was not appropriate.'"

AP, 7 Dec 2012: "New Yorkers do care: A fellow rider helped a man who wound up on the subway tracks. It occurred days after another man was pushed to his death in front of an oncoming train. No one seemingly came to his aid. Voice of America journalist Margaret Besheer says it happened Thursday night at Bowling Green station in Lower Manhattan. She saw a disoriented man sitting between the rails. People on the platform were screaming 'a train is coming!' Next, she saw another man on the tracks helping the victim to his feet."

VOA to Mali: New FM relay in Bamako and pilot mobile newscast in Songhai language.

Posted: 18 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Voice of America press release, 15 Jan 2013: "Audiences in Mali can now get the latest news from the Voice of America (VOA) on an FM transmitter that went on the air today — part of a stepped-up response to the Malian crisis by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. ... The new transmitter [on 102 MHz] will allow 24/7 broadcasting of targeted news and information in French to listeners in Bamako, Mali’s capital. ... In response to the crisis in Mali, VOA has increased its on-the-ground reporting and has placed additional news and information on the new Mali1 mobile platform. The Mali1 mobile service was added in August to take advantage of the large and growing number of mobile phone users, and as a way to get news to regions where extremists have shut down independent media. The BBG is also testing a pilot program that since September has been providing mobile newscasts in the Songhai language, which is commonly used in areas of northern Mali that are now controlled by Islamist extremists. The agency is consulting with Congress as the results of this pilot project come in to discuss its expansion and additional broadcast options for the rest of Mali. VOA’s French to Africa Service currently broadcasts to Mali on shortwave, FM, TV, and online. It will provide news by SMS to Mali later this year to offer breaking news to mobile phone users in the most cost-efficient way possible."

Apparently you won't find BBC Autos on the M25.

Posted: 18 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC Worldwide press release, 10 Jan 2013: "BBC.com has kicked off 2013 by announcing plans to roll out a number of bespoke feature sections to sit alongside the hugely successful BBC Travel and BBC Future. First up is BBC Autos, an entertaining, insightful daily read focused on the passionate side of the motor industry, including design, technology and community. The site will complement and build upon the vast motor industry content offerings from BBC News, BBC Sport and key BBC Worldwide branded sites such as TopGear.com. Brought to you by a stable of writers and photographers, BBC Autos will explore the cultural and technical differences in cars from countries across the world. ... Overseas users will be able to continue their journey and conversations with Autos Editors and other fans via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. ... Over the coming year BBC.com will continue to build on the number of feature sections it offers audiences outside the UK, ensuring they can enjoy a relevant and engaging take on trends across the worlds of culture, business and wellness. The launch of BBC Autos will be supported by Cadillac in North America as the lead advertiser." -- So, apparently, no domestic dissemination in the UK. This is to prevent BBC residents, who pay the BBC license fee, from having to endure advertising on the BBC's international commercial websites. UK readers: can you access BBC Autos?

Meanwhile, "lead advertiser" Cadillac might be interested in this review of one of its products in BBC Autos...

BBC Autos, 10 Jan 2013, Jonathan Schultz: "The strengths of the [Cadillac] ATS ... only make its flaws that much more regrettable. Here was the best chance in two decades not only for Cadillac, but for the United States, to deliver a compact luxury car that could seize a Michigan-size chunk of the market dominated by German and Japanese models. The ATS may only rival those players, where it might have surpassed them. ... Perhaps a mid-cycle refresh in a couple of years will bring forward the segment champion the ATS is so clearly capable of being. Until then, it may merit a very close look, if not a purchase."

BBC Worldwide press release, 11 Jan 2013: "HISTORY announced today that new episodes for Season 3 of the U.S. version of Top Gear will premiere Tuesday, January 29 at 9PM ET/8C. The second season of the critically-acclaimed and popular series broke into the millionaire’s club with 1.1 million Adults 25-54 and 18-49 (+30 and +22 vs. S1, respectively) and is the youngest skewing series on HISTORY. Season Two was seen by nearly 60 million viewers. Top Gear is hosted by comedian Adam Ferrara, champion race car driver Tanner Foust and racing analyst Rutledge Wood. ... Top Gear is a produced for HISTORY by BBC Worldwide Productions and is co-production between HISTORY and BBC Worldwide. ... The U.S. version of Top Gear is currently seen in over 90 countries."

Chinese authorities clamp down on satellite receivers "to stifle information on self-immolations."

Posted: 17 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Radio Free Asia, 9 Jan 2013: "Chinese authorities have launched a seize-and-destroy operation against foreign broadcasting satellite equipment in a Tibetan area. Chinese authorities in a Tibetan-populated prefecture have launched a crackdown on satellite equipment used by Tibetans to tune in to foreign radio and TV programs, according to residents and other sources. The move is part of a government clampdown on communications to stifle information on self-immolations protesting Chinese rule. Hundreds of satellite dishes and receivers have been seized from homes in Malho (in Chinese, Huangnan) prefecture in Qinghai province and destroyed or burned as part of a 'cleansing' operation launched on the orders of the ruling Chinese Communist Party following a surge in Tibetan self-immolation protests. ... Those found with the satellite equipment, which Tibetans have also used to listen to Radio Free Asia and Voice of America programs, are given stiff fines, residents said. Chinese authorities are giving rewards to those who can pinpoint homes using the equipment. ... [A] Tibetan resident said the authorities are encouraging Tibetans to buy smaller satellite dishes and new receivers to replace the usually large dishes that had been confiscated. Some suspect the new equipment, which can be used to receive only state controlled programs, are doubling up as surveillance devices."

AP, 27 Dec 2012: "Huangnan prefecture in western China's Qinghai province is beefing up security and taking steps to shield the area from outside influence to deter self-immolations, the state-run, web-based Qinghai News reported. ... Authorities will confiscate illegal satellite dishes that allow local residents to receive anti-China programs from abroad, register every business that sells satellite signal receiving devices, and replace 3,000 television sets in monastery dormitories."

South Korean international channel and South Korean TV manufacturer partner on VOD app.

Posted: 17 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Digital TV Europe, 9 Jan 2013: "Korean international channel ArirangTV has launched a video-on-demand application on Samsung’s Smart TV platform – the first such service to be launched by the broadcaster. The Arirang app will offer a range of entertainment, culture and current affairs programming on-demand, with subtitling provided in up to six languages for K-Pop programmes. The app is available for the first three weeks via Samsung’s newly launched Smart Hub, meaning that users will find it listed automatically when they update their TV. After the initial promotional period it will be available to download from the Samsung Smart TV app store free of charge. Arirang Radio is also available via the app."

Kim Andrew Elliott is wrong, wrong, wrong about international broadcasting, say unnamed experts.

Posted: 17 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
BBG Watch, 17 Jan 2013: "BBG expert Kim Andrew Elliott is ... largely wrong in his analysis as to why some people, especially in countries experiencing severe repression, are interested in U.S. international broadcasts and what attracts an audience in such countries.

"'The transaction between the listener and the broadcaster is really quite simple, and has nothing to do with persuasion theories: the audience wants news that is more comprehensive, reliable, and credible than the news they get from the state-controlled or otherwise deficient domestic media. International broadcasters that provide such a product attract an audience. That’s International Broadcasting 101?' -Kim Andrew Elliott

"Kim Andrew Elliott no doubt honestly expresses his strongly-held personal opinions, not the official BBG position, but it’s rather obvious that he has never lived under an oppressive regime that practices press censorship.

"We asked international broadcasting experts, who actually experienced life in countries ruled by dictatorships, for their views on Kim Andrew Elliott’s and David Ensor’s comments about Iran:

"'Some of us who had lived under repressive regimes can tell Mr. Ensor and Dr. Elliott that accurate and objective news, while much needed and appreciated, were hardly enough for those of us who wanted freedom. What we also needed was a thoughtful but hard-hitting commentary, which Radio Free Europe and BBC were much better at providing than Voice of America, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.

"'We wanted all the lies of the communist regime and all the guilty of hypocrisy exposed and our faith in truth reaffirmed. Truth was an absolutely essential part of it, no doubt about it, but it was hardly everything we expected from these broadcasts. We were looking for a voice we could consider as our moral supporter, a friend and an ally with a message of freedom and hope. Mr. Ensor does not like 'hard-hitting' and that’s a shame because great journalism that made a big difference during the Cold War was very much "hard-hitting."

"'As a supporter of eliminating surrogate broadcasters and merging them with Voice of America, Kim Andrew Elliott is equally wrong that accurate and comprehensive news is enough to attract a larger audience in media restricted countries. Specialized analysis and hard-hitting commentaries by well-informed experts and journalists are also essential. That is why Radio Free Europe was more popular in Eastern Europe during the Cold War than the Voice of America and why BBC foreign-language programs with their hard-hitting expert analyses were also more popular than VOA.

"'But Kim Andrew Elliott does not have to look back at history because he can see it right now in the United States if he would check the relative popularity of various broadcasters like CNN, FOX, and CNBC. It appears that those with strong partisan commentaries usually do better than others. He should then imagine what people who are really deprived of freedom and support for their views feel like, what they need and where they can find it."

During the Cold War, VOA had larger audiences than RFE/RL in the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia and was virtually tied with RFE/RL in Poland.

See previous post about same subject.

Former RFE/RL president Kevin Klose will return to Prague to be RFE/RL's acting president.

Posted: 17 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 16 Jan 2013: "The Broadcasting Board of Governors announced today that distinguished journalist and broadcast executive Kevin Klose will be the Acting President and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Acting in its capacity as RFE/RL’s corporate board of directors, the Board voted unanimously to ask Klose to take on the position for up to one year, starting January 26. ... Klose was president of NPR from 1998 to 2008, and was named President Emeritus in 2008. Before joining NPR, he was president of RFE/RL from 1994 to 1997, overseeing its relocation from Munich to Prague. In 1997-98, he directed the International Broadcasting Bureau at the U.S. Information Agency. Prior to this, he was an editor and reporter for The Washington Post for 25 years, including stints as Moscow bureau chief, city editor and deputy national editor. A tenured professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, Klose served as dean of the journalism college from April 2009 to July 2012. ... The Board plans to engage a professional search firm during the coming months to identify and hire a successor president."

University of Maryland Merrill College, 16 Jan 2013, Sean Mussenden: "Merrill College Dean Lucy Dalglish said the Broadcasting Board of Governors made a terrific choice in asking Klose to return to Prague to help Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty through these difficult times."

National Review, 17 Jan 2013, John O'Sullivan, former RFE/RL executive editor: "He is ... a very comfortable fit for the job description I suggested two weeks ago for the next RFERL president — which is to say, 'someone experienced editorially and internationally but detached from recent BBG politics (former NPR president Kevin Klose would be ideal), [who] can determine what went wrong in the course of putting it right.' So I can’t very well not welcome his appointment; my reputation is riding on it."

Taiwan-based international broadcaster's new shortwave transmitting facility will begin testing in February.

Posted: 17 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
PCJ (Taiwan), 14 Jan 2013: "The first phase of PCJ’s own relay is completed. There are four phases to be completed until the station will be up and running to full capacity. Technical Data: 1 x 20kw, 1 x 5kw, 2 x 1kw, 2 curtain type antennas, 2 horizontal dipole type antennas, 4 Orban Optimods. On February 16, 2013 we will conduct our first test. It will begin at 1600UTC until 1800UTC. The test will be done using the 2 1kw transmitters. Both will be directed to South East China. One frequency to be directed to Fujian Province and the second frequency directed to Guangxi Province. Frequencies for this test will be published closer to the date of transmission. We have been given permission to use out of band frequencies. At the moment we are looking at around 12100 to 12500khz and 11400 to 11500khz. This was decided since these will be running 1kw and to reduce any type of interference it would be better to transmit in this range." -- "Out of band" means outside of the shortwave frequency segments allocated for international broadcasting. Operating out-of-band is a way to escape interference. However, because most inexpensive shortwave radios tune only the shortwave broadcast bands and small ranges of frequencies above and below those bands, care must be taken not to transmit too far out-of-band.

Rep. Rohrabacher discusses Chinese-American media reciprocity, or lack thereof.

Posted: 16 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Foreign Policy, 8 Jan 2013, Dana Rohrabacher: "[I]n September 2011 I introduced the Chinese Media Reciprocity Act, designed to enforce existing legislation in the Immigration and Nationality Act stating that nonimmigrant visas for members of foreign press shall be issued upon a basis of reciprocity. My bill requires visas for reporters who work for state media organizations from China to be issued on a one-for-one basis. This would force China to issue visas for Voice of America and Radio Free Asia in a timely manner. To control the media and information space in China, the Communist Party does more than deny visas; reporters and those who cooperate with them are harassed, sometimes violently. The situation is far worse for Chinese journalists, but the party's harassment still hamstrings foreign reporting in the country. Voice of America and Radio Free Asia cannot place any of their television or radio products on Chinese stations, and their radio transmissions from outside China are jammed." See previous post about same subject.

Deutsche Welle Chinese quits shortwave, continues via internet.

Posted: 15 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Shortwave Central, 9 Jan 2013: "As predicted earlier, Deutsche Welle has proceeded with their plans to cancel the Chinese service" on shortwave. -- DW Chinese continues via internet. See also Shortwave DXing from Bulgaria, 7 Jan 2013.

Deutsche Welle press release, 13 Dec 2012: "China’s largest financial TV Channel China Business Network (CBN) launched earlier this week its new media project dedicated to the topic of sustainability. Under the title The Future We Want, it will include, among others, five reports from DW's Global Ideas multimedia series, which showcases projects from around the world geared towards promoting climate protection. A three-hour live TV show will be broadcast on CBN on December 31. It will also air a 24-hour video live stream on the topic in cooperation with online partners YouKu and BestTV. Along with DW, The Future We Want is supported by several prominent international media partners, including the BBC Worldwide, CNN, TV5MONDE, Sky News and Earth TV. It also has the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF)."

"Al Jazeera America will not win hearts and minds like that."

Posted: 15 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
The Economist, 12 Jan 2013: "Ironically, the Arab revolutions that Al Jazeera gleefully promoted have produced a challenge to its dominance. Audiences in countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia are now gripped by fast-moving local events more ably covered by independent national channels that have proliferated rapidly in a freer political climate, along with internet-borne social media. Moreover, Al Jazeera Arabic’s vaunted reputation for even-handedness has withered in recent years. ... Al Jazeera’s breathless boosting of Qatari-backed rebel fighters in Libya and Syria, and of the Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have made many Arab viewers question its veracity. So has its tendency to ignore human-rights abuses by those same rebels, and its failure to accord the uprising by the Shia majority in Qatar’s neighbour, Bahrain, the same heroic acclaim it bestows on Sunni revolutionaries. ... Even Al Jazeera English, with a solid reputation built since its birth in 2006, is not immune. In September its staff protested after being told to promote a speech by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, at the United Nations in New York as its lead item. Al Jazeera America will not win hearts and minds like that."

Al-Monitor, 13 Jan 2013, Ali Hashem: "Many intellectuals and media professionals ... were questioning the standards [Al jazeera] was abiding to in covering certain revolutions whilst ignoring others, namely Bahrain. When faced with the allegations, seniors at the Qatari channel gave one answer: 'We have no access' in Bahrain. That answer could have had some weight if Al-Jazeera's English Channel hadn’t produced a masterpiece that will always be referred to as one of the best documentaries about Bahrain, Shouting in the Dark. The Al-Jazeera English Channel had undercover reporters in Manama covering the unrest, while the Arabic channel tended to derive its news from agencies. When a reporter was given the permission by the Bahraini authorities to cover, the reports seemed more like messages of reconciliation than field coverage of an ongoing uprising, a rhetoric that differs much from the one the channel adopted in approaching the Arab Spring. Al-Jazeera's main competitor, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, had a different approach to the situation in Bahrain. The channel reflected the official point of view, accusing the activists of being Iranian proxies accusing demonstrators of being armed. The channel's editorial line wasn’t of a surprise to many given the fact Saudi troops entered Bahrain, to help put an end to the ongoing unrest."

Al Jazeera America is the international broadcasting story of the year (and it's only January).

Posted: 14 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 11 Jan 2013, Heather Maher: "Al-Jazeera is expanding again, this time into the United States. Al-Jazeera America will reach 40 million households when it launches this spring. The channel finally won entry into the U.S. market with the purchase -- for an undisclosed sum reported to be $500 million -- of Current TV, a struggling cable network started by former Vice President Al Gore. ... Media analysts say now is a good time for Al-Jazeera to try and capture U.S. viewers because its reputation in America is on the rise. ... The network’s coverage of the Arab Spring was a high point, impressing Americans who appreciated its in-depth coverage of a story U.S. broadcasters covered lightly, if at all."

Haaretz, 10 Jan 2013, James Kirchick (former RFE/RL writer-at-large): "[V]ital to understanding Al Jazeera is acknowledging that it does have an ideology. This is something that many of its Western fan boys choose to ignore. Calling the network’s ethos an 'ideology', however, gives its modus operandi a little too much credit; the network, despite its protestations, is ultimately a tool of Qatari foreign policy. ... Al Jazeera’s standpoint is just as pronounced, if not more so, than that of Fox News."

Columbia Journalism Review, 9 Jan 2013, Vivian Salama: "Al Jazeera English reaches 250 million households in 130 countries, but North American remains a place with potential for tremendous growth; officials with the company say that its English-language website receives some 50 percent of its daily traffic from the United States and Canada. ... Many questions remain about Al Jazeera’s American enterprise at this juncture, including whether the Qatari government will seek heavy involvement in its content, as well as about the news executives who will become the architects of this new network. 'There is an enormous interest in Qatar to have a greater presence in the US, and having that blackout is very harmful to that interest,' says Everette Dennis, dean of the Qatar campus of Northwestern University, on the fact that Al Jazeera is mostly unavailable to viewers here."

Politico, 12 Jan 2013, Dylan Byers: "In retrospect, the $500 million buy-in appears to have been the easy part. Now, Al Jazeera must convince American audiences that a Middle Eastern-based news network — owned by the Emir of Qatar, and therefore funded largely by foreign oil wealth — can be both credible and compelling. That effort is complicated by the network’s flagship Arabic channel, which is radically different from its English-language counterpart."

NewsBusters, 13 Jan 2013, Tom Blumer: "The burning question on the mind of Dylan Byers Saturday afternoon at the Politico -- a question that somehow merited over 2,000 words of content -- was 'Al Jazeera America (AJA): Will they watch?' He could have answered his question in eleven words: 'Except for segments of America's Muslim community, the answer is "no."'"

GOPUSA, 11 Jan 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "If Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) lets the Al Jazeera-Al Gore deal go through without scrutiny, then every broadcast entity or communications facility in America is ripe for the plucking by any of our nation’s enemies and adversaries. ... First, there are unresolved complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) about Al Jazeera’s operations in the U.S. Jerry Kenney of Kenney Broadcasting has asked that the DOJ enforce the law by requiring that foreign propaganda pumped into American homes by Al Jazeera be labeled as such. He says, 'Why is it that if I buy a pair of tennis shoes made in China, it has to be labeled made in China? But foreign propaganda which is being aired in the U.S. is not being labeled as foreign propaganda, with its country of origin, in violation of the law?'"

CBC News, 11 Jan 2013, Neil McDonald: "Most Westerners have no idea where N'Djamena is. Al Jazeera English operates a news bureau there (it's the capital of Chad). AJE also has correspondents in Juba, Diyarbakir, Harare, Khartoum, Nouakchott, Skopje, and about 65 other cities, including a North American metropolis all but ignored by big U.S. media: Toronto. The network, owned and operated by the Emirate of Qatar, no longer has anything to prove about the quality of its journalism. It has won all sorts of prestigious awards and broken all sorts of stories. ... An old colleague of mine (there are no end of Canadians at AJE) thinks the key is to consciously look and sound as starkly different as possible from the rest of the American pack. '"I'd put up a picture of [reality star] Kim Kardashian,' he said, 'with a voiceover saying "Take a look at her. Because this is the last time you will ever see her on this station. Welcome to Al Jazeera."' That's a pitch I'd buy."

Toronto Star, 12 Jan 2013, Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English: The sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera "is certain to shake up the U.S. media world. It challenges the selective fealty of the American political and corporate class to the principle of true free expression. It reveals how aggressively the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, wants to expand its global profile and influence in the U.S. And Al Jazeera, which has always had an ambivalence about its mission in the U.S., will be forced to take America and its story seriously if it truly wants to attract American viewers. ... Al Jazeera’s challenge won’t be an easy one. My sense of Al Jazeera today is that it is becoming a more 'top-down,' centrally driven news operation than ever before. All news programs and most editorial decisions now come out of Qatar. Al Jazeera America will force it to change if it wants to succeed. For news channels to thrive in the U.S., America’s story must be 'made in America.' Al Jazeera has time to turn it around before 'the lights go on' in these 40 million homes, but not much time. The American TV marketplace waits for no one, and rarely grants a second chance."

US News & World Report, 10 Jan 2013, Leslie Pitterson: "For those who lament the lack of international news coverage, Al-Jazeera America is a promising development. Its coverage of global stories has guided the network's growth from the first uncensored network in the Arab world to a major voice in the global south. Today, Al-Jazeera can been seen in over 220 million households and in more than 120 countries. From reporting on the war on terror to unrest in sub-Saharan Africa, the network has reported world news from a unique perspective. But perhaps it is in the early stages of stories like the U.S. use of drones and the Arab Spring, which often required truncated history lessons from many American cable news outlets, that best illustrate the value of Al-Jazeera in the media landscape."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10 Jan 2013, editorial: "Americans ... who saw the value of checking out Al Jazeera's coverage of the Arab Spring, for instance, had to be content with accessing the network via the Internet. Those who tuned in were pleasantly surprised by the depth, sophistication and evenhandedness of a news network U.S. politicians have demagogued for years. At a time when U.S. news networks are shutting down foreign bureaus and reducing the airtime devoted to international news, Al Jazeera is expanding its coverage of the Middle East, Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Once Americans are exposed to credible alternatives to news coverage of international events, there may be pressure on their homegrown media to take other perspectives seriously. The world is a very complex place."

Baltimore Sun, 9 Jan 2013, David Zurawik: "[T]o those who wrote ... asking if I understood how biased Al Jazeera is. The answer is yes... . But you should know it's not the kind of bias some fools are talking about when they recklessly throw around words like 'terrorist' and 'terrorism.' The bias is toward a geographic orientation or consequent set of narratives described as 'Global South.' And given U.S. history, it is one we desperately need to understand and think about if we are truly going to function globally in the new world order. In some ways, it is a reaction to the history of 'Global North' colonialism, which is the underpinning of the structure and the orientation of the BBC. Think of it as a counterbalance to that bias, particularly in the Middle East." -- Mr. Zurawek's negative assessment of the BBC suffers from the same cause as the negative assessment of "some fools" of Al Jazeera English: he hasn't watched enough. In the past two decades, at least, BBC's coverage of the global South has been comprehensive and fair. Furthermore, BBC has the advantage of Al Jazeera by not claiming to be "the voice of the voiceless," but instead maintaining the detachment that befits a true news organization.

Forward, 9 Jan 2013, M. Berger: "In the Middle East, networks financed by Western countries — such as France24, the BBC’s Arabic Service, Russia’s RT and Voice of America — have long been a staple of local airwaves. Now, the United States may be about to experience a Middle East-owned network talking back."

The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8 Jan 2013: "Al Jazeera is from Qatar. Al Jazeera gave us the Arab Spring. Look how it turned out. Al Jazeera was the coverage there."

Human Events, 7 Jan 2013, David Harsanyi: "The problem with Al Jazeera isn’t just that it might be left of the mainstream or anti-American in perspective, it’s that it is anti-American in the purest sense – a network that is state-owned and operated. And not just any state, but Qatar an absolute theocratic monarchy and terror booster (I wonder how many New Yorkers would liked [sic] contribute to a network, whose owner just handed Hamas a $400 million check?)"

The Jewish Press, 9 Jan 2013, editorial: "In his Council on Foreign Relations blog, former senior State Department official Elliott Abrams said this about the sale: 'Henceforth, tens of millions of Americans will receive Al Jazeera English in their homes. It would be nice if the channel carried a little warning label to viewers, clarifying who owns Al Jazeera so that they understand they are getting all the news…that the Qatari government wants them to have.' Abrams went on to note that the British government owns the BBC, Deutsche Welle is owned by the German government, France 24 is controlled by a French government agency and even the Voice of America is owned by the U.S. government. But, he said, they and others like them openly disclose their provenance on their websites. Yet this is what Al Jazeera’s website declares: 'Al-Jazeera English is an international news channel with over sixty bureaus around the world that span six different continents…. Al Jazeera English is part of the Al Jazeera Network – one of the world’s leading media corporations, encompassing news, documentary and sport channels….' Nothing at all about the Qatar connection. Abrams summed up: 'Every government has the right to present a news channel, and has the right to decide whether that channel will be fully independent of government policy – like the BBC – or will reflect government policy – like Al Jazeera. The answer is not censorship, but candor; if Al Jazeera were called Voice of Qatar, and clearly labeled as that nation’s international broadcaster, the situation would be clear to its viewers."

The Jewish Press, 9 Jan 2013, Jonathan S. Tobin: "It’s not clear that the oil-rich magnates of Qatar will make their money back on this deal. Nor is it likely that Al Jazeera’s news with an Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel slant will transform the discussion of the Middle East. But it may provide a bully pulpit to voices that have heretofore been confined to the fever swamps of U.S. politics and become another beachhead into the U.S. for those seeking to heighten international isolation of the Jewish state."

Washington Times, 8 Jan 2013, Ivan Kenneally: "Al-Jazeera has earned a reputation for its extreme illiberalism. First, the network is state-run and so premised on the rejection of free speech and an independent press. It has intimidated dissent and manipulates the news to serve despotic state ends. ... Al-Jazeera hates American conservatives and Israel. ... Tune in to Al-Jazeera U.S. soon to see for yourself."

Washington Post, 9 Jan 2013, Paul Farhi, via Philly.com: "Al-Jazeera says it will operate AJE and Al-Jazeera America as separate channels, although about 40 percent of AJE's content will appear on the new channel. It will utilize some of the resources of its existing Washington bureaus when it launches this year. In addition, it plans to add five news bureaus across the country to the 10 that AJE already operates. The deal could mark a new era in a new hemisphere for a news organization that helped smash apart government control of information in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera - the name means 'the peninsula' in Arabic - transcended national censors when it began broadcasting across the Middle East via satellite in 1996."

Huffington Post, 9 Jan 2013, Geri Spieler: "Are we uncomfortable with news that has not been sanitized by our own American-based networks? Is that the reason there is so much pushback to Al Jazeera English on U.S. network TV? I think so. It seems we don't want to see anything that doesn't show the U.S. in the best light. We don't want to see what really happens in the field. We don't want the visions of war in our faces. We only want to hear of casualties, not see them. We only want to hear how the good guys (us) win and the bad guys (them) are being defeated. American media sanitizes war. None of the violence or carnage is ever seen on American television. This selectivity blinds us to real world events. We sit safe in our homes only to hear about numbers of people killed, but never seeing the death and destruction. ... The jury is still out that their English version will not be biased in favor of the Arab world. It will, however, offer an alternative view from our own of the Arab world."

National Review Online, 10 Jan 2013, Clifford D. May: "I’ve appeared on AJ English quite a few times. Like Current TV and MSNBC, it presents itself as a voice of the Left. AJ English does not overtly promote the ideology of Islamism, but it does present it as mainstream, suggesting an affinity between Islamist and leftist values. Whenever I’ve been on a program, I’ve had an opportunity to provide my analysis and opinions. But, invariably, I will be outnumbered: At least two other guests, as well as the interviewer, will vehemently disagree with me. Anyone versed in Strategic Communications 101 will recognize this as a technique designed to marginalize one set of views and promote another."

The Daily Beast, 8 Jan 2013, Patrick N. Theos: "Al Jazeera, however, has faced down the opposition to become a media powerhouse and the voice of the region. I have no doubt that it will overcome the small-minded ignorance that seeks to block its entry into the U.S. Al Jazeera deserves a place on the U.S. broadcasting spectrum. More important, the American viewer deserves the opportunity to experience the network’s high-quality, uniquely positioned look at the Middle East and the world."

KCET (Los Angeles) , 10 Jan 2013: "Al Jazeera's English newscast runs here on KCET. From the start, Al Jazeera has had its share of controversy and more than its share of difficulty breaking into the larger American market." With video interview with Brian Stelter of the New York Times.

New York, 11 Jan 2013, Caroline Shin: "As the ink still dries on the Current TV-Al Jazeera deal, Fox News has unsurprisingly sounded the alarm on Al Gore's 'anti-American' nature. However, as Jon Stewart pointed out on last night's Daily Show, somehow they've overlooked boss Rupert Murdoch's twenty-percent stake in Rotana, an Arab station co-owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and accountable for airing Valley of the Wolves, a film in which American soldiers massacre Iraqi civilians and sell their organs to Jews. 'Rupert Murdoch profiting from the airing of that type of anti-American propaganda?' says Stewart. Say it ain't so." With video.

Times Union (Albany), 11 Jan 2013, Lloyd Constantine: "There are some positive signs that Al Jazeera America may be able to overcome its propagandistic past to become a major source of hard and objective news. It won high praise from Sen. John McCain and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for its objective coverage of the Arab Spring and more recently for its reports about suppression of revolutionary movements in Arab countries. And while Al Jazeera's ownership still raises disturbing questions as it seeks a major audience in American homes, hard news on cable is something we really need — not partisanship, sensationalism and gossip."

Washington Post, 11 Jan 2013, letter from Shannon Sollinger: "About two years ago, whoever was masquerading as a news person on whichever network broadcast I happened to be watching at that moment said the words 'Charlie Sheen' one time too many. I fled, surfed channels in desperation and stumbled upon Al-Jazeera English. I’ve never left. By concentrating on and reporting news, Al-Jazeera English provides blissful relief from the info-pap that prevails on our so-called news shows. The reporters seem to be everywhere, including ducking incoming fire in Libya and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The televised discussion groups bring diverse viewpoints and informed exchanges — but not once, since I have been watching, has one of the panelists giggled. Or even chuckled."

See previous post about same subject.

VOA director David Ensor: "The best answer to propaganda is not more propaganda."

Posted: 12 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Voice of America, Straight Talk Africa, 9 Jan 2013, VOA director David Ensor as interviewed by host Shaka Ssali: "What over the years, over the 70-odd years of VOA's history we have learned, is that -- and I say this often to people who say why aren't you hitting harder on the ayatollahs in Iran or something like that -- I say, look, the best answer to propaganda is not more propaganda. It is truth. We're in the truth business at the Voice of America. We may not get it a hundred percent right all the time, but that's always our goal. That is our goal.

"And, you know, when America sometimes has a story to tell that isn't altogether positive about itself, you know, issues of race, or Abu Ghraib, actually our credibility, Voice of America's credibility, we've discovered, grows when we tell the truth about ourselves. And that is when we build an audience around the world, when people say, ah, these Americans realize they're not perfect, they are analyzing their own flaws, trying to figure out how to make their selves a better country. That makes the Voice of America, which talks in these terms, worth listening to on other subjects, besides America, perhaps what's going on my country.

"So I think there's a real power to old fashioned journalism. We have to do it on an increasing number of different media. We have to stay with the times.;But the old-fashioned values of journalism I believe in. And that I think is what we're really based on now."

Mr. Ensor was responding to the other guest on the program, a communication professor who was, as communication scholars are wont to do (and is a reason I am no longer a communication professor), obfuscating the role of international broadcasting. The transaction between the listener and the broadcaster is really quite simple, and has nothing to do with persuasion theories: the audience wants news that is more comprehensive, reliable, and credible than the news they get from the state-controlled or otherwise deficient domestic media. International broadcasters that provide such a product attract an audience. That's International Broadcasting 101.

With repeal of the Smith-Mundt domestic dissemination ban, de jure catches up with de facto.

Posted: 11 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Voice of America press release, 4 Jan 2013: "Voice of America will soon be able to make its programs available to the U.S. public following passage of new legislation signed by President Obama Wednesday. The legislation, which is part of the National Defense Authorization Act, eliminates the longstanding ban on domestic distribution of VOA programs that was part of the original U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (known as Smith-Mundt). In the coming months, Voice of America and other U.S. international broadcasters will draft regulations governing how they will fulfill domestic requests for release of original programs and materials. The legislation will not change the focus of the agency’s broadcasts, which are aimed exclusively at international audiences. The new rules will only affect programs broadcast after July 1st, 2013."

BBG Strategy, 4 Jan 2013: "As content offerings grew, so did requests for that content from a rising number of U.S.-based ethnic broadcasters serving diaspora populations. Under the domestic dissemination ban, those requests, which ranged from Sudanese broadcasters in Minnesota to Cuban community broadcasters in Miami, were officially denied. The truth is, however, that many ethnic broadcasters used them regardless. As internet distribution became available, keeping a lid on BBG content in the U.S. became even more difficult. The BBG could certainly geocode the content to prevent U.S. audiences from accessing it, but censoring the internet in a country with a founding tenet of freedom of the press was seen as a non-starter." -- This "non-starter" was the obvious way to adhere to domestic dissemination ban, had the BBG chosen to observe the ban. Moot point now.

Heritage Foundation, 9 Jan 2013, Helle Dale: "Incongruously for a country founded on democratic values and freedom of expression, Americans have until now been banned from accessing information and programming produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) for foreign publics—as though it was too toxic for domestic consumption. With the new revision, programming may be broadcast in the United States, though it may not be specifically produced for American consumption. ... The consequences have been unfortunate anomalies. Americans are now able to access via cable television the programs of government broadcasters from around the world: China’s CCTV, Russia Today, the BBC World Service, and France 1, to name a few. But Voice of America and the government’s other broadcasting units remained off-limits. At the same time, Congress has not been able to perform proper oversight, having Smith–Mundt conflicts cited to them by State Department and BBG lawyers. The BBG is famous for its defiance of congressional directives, and mismanagement of its services has been rampant.

The Heritage Foundation serves an important research function. When someone reads an essay at the Heritage website, he/she must then do research to learn what the facts really are. The fact here is that all Americans always had access to everything in all the websites of all the BBG entities. And I'm not aware of any content of US public diplomacy websites being blocked within the United States. Furthermore, I would be stupefied if any member of Congress had ever been denied access to USIB content in the name of Smith-Mundt.

American Security Project, 10 Jan 2013, Matthew Wallin "This is NOT the equivalent of passing a law approving the production of propaganda for domestic use. These materials must be produced for use overseas, and not made for a domestic audience. ... Ultimately, this is good news for the people of the United States, opening up our nation’s public diplomacy for more oversight and allowing us to better understand what is being 'said' in the name of the American people. This creates transparency, and gives the American people and Congress the ability to better understand how public diplomacy is being conducted by the State Department and the BBG. Inevitably, this will lead to the discovery of reporting by American news outlets such as Voice of America or Alhurra that is not necessarily flattering to U.S. policy. Yet in the course of providing objective, credible news, it is vital that we do not restrict our overseas broadcasters from reporting on the truth, even when it may not initially appear beneficial to the U.S."

Sabith Khan, 7 Jan 2013, Sabith Khan: "While the intent of the act seems to be to counter the propaganda of Al-Qaeda and other groups intent on false anti-American propaganda, the logic of 'countering fire with fire' seems a bit far-fetched. The American public is getting wiser, and one hopes that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not spent on propaganda campaigns." -- It is actually the writer's explanation of the repeal of domestic dissemination ban that is "far-fetched."

Blogger News Network, 3 Jan 2013, Ted Lipien, citing BBG Watch: “'There will be a very strong pressure on the part of the BBG government bureaucracy to focus on the domestic U.S. media market to increase their audience. Over the years, the BBG bureaucracy grew while international news programs and the number of journalists and international experts declined. Government bureaucrats will feel more comfortable doing business with people like themselves, people they know,' [Ted] Lipien said."

Another advantage of the repeal that I forgot to mention in the previous post is that USIB can now barter content with US domestic news organizations. For example, VOA could exchange its coverage of its target countries for a US news outlet's coverage of the United States.

RFE/RL Russian "kerfuffle" continues as "a battle of the narratives."

Posted: 11 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
National Review, 7 Jan 2013, John O'Sullivan, former RFE/RL executive editor: "What will now ensue, as the [Broadcasting Board of Governors] considers a new or interim president [of RFE/RL], is a battle of the narratives. This battle has very little to do with new technology. Both sides favor the best mix of technologies and platforms to get their message across. Essentially, the dispute is over the message, a.k.a. the mission. Those who favor the recent Moscow reforms [implemented by Korn and Gessen] believe that Radio Liberty should pursue a more 'normal' journalism of social and softer political features over a harder-edged news approach with an 'opposition' feel. Those who oppose them believe that this strategy would have been a moral and political abdication at any time but that it is especially mistaken at the very moment when younger Russians are joining an older generation of dissidents and human-rights campaigners in opposition to Putin’s growing authoritarianism.

"Harder-edged news" is good, but if it has an "opposition feel," then it may not really be news. RFE/RL will have to decide if it wants to be a better news service than Russians can get domestically, or an "opposition media" service. If the latter, the Russians can probably do it themselves, at no cost to the US taxpayers.

Putin has intensified his control of and restrictions on Russian media, but as long as there is a modicum of independent journalism left in Russia, Russians will generally turn to it rather than foreign sources. The foreign news organization with the best chance in Russia (and largest comScore numbers) is the BBC, because, in contrast to US international broadcasting, the BBC's resources are concentrated in one organization, and the BBC has more of a reputation for independence and credibility.

Newsmax, 10 Jan 2013, Todd Beamon and John Bachman: “'This is not just a question of soft power,' O’Sullivan ... tells Newsmax. 'It’s not just a question of cutting back on soft power. It’s a question of whether or not the kind of journalism that is ... subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer is going to be journalism that makes a difference in Russia — or whether it’s going to be journalism that the Kremlin will be quite happy with,' O’Sullivan said. 'Any amount of soft social stories, they can live with.'" With video interview.

Forbes, 9 Jan 2013, Mark Adomanis: "With the benefit of hindsight and distance, it seems obvious to me that this whole kerfuffle is not about democracy, autocracy, liberty, or anything nearly that elevated or important, it’s about a bunch of people who are angry because their jerk boss fired them and who want their jobs back. Like I said in my original piece, I find it perfectly plausible, perhaps even likely, that Masha Gessen is a terrible editor who is very unpleasant to work for. And having seen people be unceremoniously canned, I understand that it’s not very fun (though I confess to finding it terribly funny that a right-winger like O’Sullivan would suggest that employers have anything other than complete discretion in selecting their employees)."

UPI, 4 Jan 2013: "Russian listeners of American-financed Radio Liberty say they are disappointed the station, which had been on-air since 1953, is no longer available. ... Radio Liberty will still be available online via partnerships with a few other independent sites, including TV Rain, an online television channel, said Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen. 'It's extremely easy to shut off access to a single Web site,' Gessen said. 'We need to have a lot of alternative ways to get our content out.'"

Voice of Russia, 6 Jan 2013, Natalya Kovalenko: "President of Radio Liberty Steve Korn and the head of the Moscow office Masha Gessen are convinced that [Radio Liberty] needs change badly. Russian journalist and public figure Alexey Chadayev is speaking: 'Frankly speaking, with the Echo of Moscow and the Russian News Service, Radio Liberty did not stand out on the air at all. As for the contents, they are rather an old-fashioned propaganda radio. Their only chance of survival on today’s market is to provide better quality contents.'"

BBG Watch, 10 Jan 2013, quoting "a former high BBG official, who ... spoke off the record": "Does [Masha Gessen] maintain a security clearance? Has she compromised it? If she does not have a clearance—-why not? Can she be trusted with confidential or classified information? There may be a breach here."

I can understand that a present employee of USIB might want to write anonymously, although an anonymous essay has only a fraction of the impact as one that is signed. But why would a former official have to write without identification? This seems to be taking caution to a ridiculous extreme. Anyway, it was good of BBG Watch to provide the complete record of a statement by this former high BBG official who spoke "off the record."

Assuming it really is a former high BBG official who made the statement, it's remarkable that he/she asks why Masha Gessen does not have clearance. Could it have something to do that she is now supposed to be a journalist in charge of what is supposed to be a news organization? If this is how high BBG officials think about news (note that the new BBG mission statement does not even have the word "news" in it), then BBG Watch may have unwittingly identified what ails US international broadcasting.

See previous post about same subject. The Masha Gessen saga was first reported by this website on 18 Sept 2012.

Bloomberg Businessweek, 4 Jan 2013, Bryan Bradley: "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s opposition to Russia’s growing economic might in Europe wasn’t practical, Vydas Gedvilas, the head of Lithuania’s new parliament, said in an interview with Russian radio. The international influence of Russian businesses is an economic reality that European countries must separate from politics and deal with pragmatically, Gedvilas, whose Labor Party joined a coalition government after October elections, said on Radio Svoboda yesterday." -- Radio Svoboda is probably pleased to be referred to as "Russian radio," but it is, of course, the Russian serice of US-funded RFE/RL.

BBC World News will unveil "dramatic new look" as BBC aspires to be "world’s best international news provider."

Posted: 11 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC World News press release, 8 Kan 2013: "[T]he BBC’s international television news channel, BBC World News, is unveiling a dramatic new look next week when it re-launches from new studios in central London. The channel will feature a refreshed line-up of programmes and presenters, and will be investing heavily in additional newsgathering capacity around the world. From 12:00 GMT on Monday 14 January the channel will be broadcast from new state of the art High Definition studios in the BBC’s new London headquarters, the redeveloped Broadcasting House. BBC World News is the first English language channel to go live from the new building. BBC World News journalists will be at the heart of ‘the world’s newsroom’ where the BBC's UK and international journalism teams have come together to provide output across digital, radio and television and 27 different languages, reaching an audience of 239 million people around the world each week. Eventually, 6,000 people - more than a quarter of all BBC staff - will be based in Broadcasting House, one of the world’s largest broadcast complexes. ... Jim Egan, COO of BBC Global News Ltd, said: “This re-launch marks the biggest change for BBC World News in at least a decade and is part of a sustained commitment by the BBC to build on our long history of delivering high quality international news by enhancing our TV and digital offers to viewers, advertisers and distribution partners. We aspire to be recognised as the world’s best international news provider and will be making a series of investments this year to support that ambition.”

BBC World Radio and TV web page, 10 Jan 2013: "On screen, BBC World News will look sharper and more dynamic than ever before, with high definition and virtual reality studios and innovative multi-platform content helping to bring the news to life like never before. The BBC employs more journalists than any other international broadcaster and produces news in 28 languages. The World's Newsroom is a melting pot for the best journalism in the world, using five custom-built studios with new sets and fresh creative graphics and cutting-edge cameras with virtual reality and 3D capabilities to create news that's immersive, dynamic, and more engaging than ever." With video.

The BBC aspires to be "the world’s best international news provider," while the US Broadcasting Board of Governors aims to be "the world’s leading international news agency by 2016" (see previous post). Let the competition begin. But USIB will not begin to compete with the BBC until the War of the Entities is concluded, USIB is consolidated, partnerships are forged with US domestic broadcasting, and the BBG commits unambiguously to journalism.

France 24 now available in Burma and expands distribution in Singapore, Thailand, Singapore, Denmark.

Posted: 09 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
MediaMughals, 3 Jan 2013: "FRANCE 24 has concluded a series of new distribution agreements, allowing the channel to strengthen its worldwide distribution in Denmark, Burma, Singapore, Thailand and Australia. In Burma, FRANCE 24 English version has just launched on the new IPTV network Skynet (channel 45), allowing the channel to be available to 50 000 subscribers across the country. ... In Australia, FRANCE 24 has partnered with SBS, allowing its English version to be broadcast 30mn per day at 3pm on SBS ONE."

CCTV (in 6 languages) and Radio Free Asia provide their respective "facts about self-immolation" in Tibet.

Posted: 09 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Xinhua, 26 Dec 2012: "National broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) has released a documentary on self-immolation in the country's Tibetan-inhabited areas. The documentary debuted at 9:27 pm on Sunday on CCTV-4, an international channel mainly targeting overseas viewers in Chinese language. It also aired on CCTV's English channel, Spanish channel, French channel, Arabic channel and Russian channel on Monday. The documentary, titled 'Facts About Self-Immolation in Tibetan Areas of Ngapa (Aba),' discloses the truth about self-immolations that have occurred in Aba, a Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture in Sichuan Province. The documentary contains interviews with the masterminds and victims of the self-immolations. It states that the monks in Aba were acting on orders sent from overseas to convince people to self-immolate, as well as sending information about the self-immolations abroad, as they have claimed that the acts were a form of 'protest' against Chinese authorities in Tibetan areas. The documentary also states that the Dalai clique masterminded the self-immolations."

Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 12 Dev 2012: "Radio Free Asia (RFA) continues to be in the forefront of coverage of self-immolations and other demonstrations in Tibet, with The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and major wire services relying on RFA content. Almost daily, ordinary Tibetan men and women, including a nun and young mothers and fathers, set themselves on fire to protest China’s rule and demand the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. By Dec. 3, the number of self-immolations had risen to 92. RFA reported exclusively last month that more than 1,000 Tibetan students held a mass demonstration in Qinghai province to protest the release of an official Chinese booklet that ridiculed the Tibetan language as irrelevant and condemned self-immolations as acts of 'stupidity.' Chinese authorities arrested four students and opened fire on the demonstrators, wounding 20 and leaving five in critical condition, according to another Tibetan source. The students were also angered by statements by the Chinese authorities calling the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, 'the main cause for the split between Tibetans and Chinese,' the source said."

Digital text via analog shortwave broadcast this weekend on The Mighty KBC.

Posted: 09 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Netherlands-based The Mighty KBC will again include transmissions in digital text modes during its broadcast UTC Sunday, 13 January, at 0000-0200 (Saturday 7-9 pm EST in North America) on 9450 kHz (via Bulgaria).

At about 0130 UTC, the Olivia 8-1000 mode will be centered on 1000 Hz, MFSK16 on 2000 Hz, and PSK63F (a.k.a. BPSK63F) on 2500 Hz. Decode one mode from the radio, the others from your recording.

At just before 0200 UTC, the Olivia 8-2000 mode (requires Fldigi custom setting) will be centered on 1500 Hz, and PSKR125 on 2800 Hz. This transmission will be formatted for Flmsg and will contain html. If everything is installed and set correctly, this transmission will open a new window of your web browser.

To decode, download Fldigi and Flmsg from www.w1hkj.com.

The Mighty KBC will also conduct test transmissions: Thursday, 10 January, at 1000-1200 UTC and Friday, 11 January, at 1300-1500 UTC, both on 6150 kHz. The content will be previous broadcasts of The Giant Jukebox, so digital text will be transmitted at 90 and 120 minutes into each transmission.

See previous post about same subject.

Al Jazeera America detractors say "Congress must inject itself into the matter," etc.

Posted: 08 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Jan 2013, Tim Goodman: "When the Qatar-owned 24-hour news channel bought Current for a reported $500 million, it was an attempt to get into the U.S. market, where it had barely penetrated and is seen mostly through its website and some streaming sites. Time Warner Cable first announced it wouldn't carry the channel but now seems more on the fence about that decision. ... It’s not a 'terrorist' channel, it’s not run by al-Qaeda, it’s not trying to convert Christians into Muslims – pick whatever instilled bias you’d like. Americans can find out all they want by simply watching the newscasts and reports – you can go online and do that. Or they could research a bit and have their worries erased (though they are unlikely to). The hope here is that Al Jazeera America does break through into our market because international news coverage is the weakest link in this country’s televised news landscape. CNN is far and away the best provider of that coverage, but one look at either BBC News or Al Jazeera will tell you that they cover the rest of the world with a vigor not seen through your screen if all you watch is CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. Beyond that, foreign coverage of this country gives a vastly different perspective of what’s going on. That kind of variety would be mighty useful – and potentially very popular. ... If CNN dismisses Al Jazeera America as a minor player, it does so at its own peril. That’s because Al Jazeera America covers the world better than CNN and if it wins on that front it will seize more viewers – primarily from CNN. ... Al Jazeera America ... could really push CNN in one of two directions – both diametrically opposed. Take on the newcomer toe-to-toe or shift the camera to something a lot lighter and more popular."

CNN, 7 Jan 2013, Howard Kurtz: "[W]hen I went to the home page of Al Jazeera English the other day, there was video of David Frost, the acclaimed British journalist who now works for the main network, interviewing Israeli President Shimon Peres. That's not to say Al Jazeera America, the working name for the new channel, won't have its own biases. Al Jazeera English is sometimes determined to paint the U.S. in a negative light. During a report on President Barack Obama signing a renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which entails a legitimate controversy over civil liberties, the reporter said flatly that the law 'violate(s) U.S. constitutional rights in the name of national security.' ... I [don't] want to prejudge Al Jazeera America. The marketplace will decide its fate. But there is something unsettling about Gore making off with such a big payday from a government-subsidized channel after making such bad television. Nice work if you can get it."

WND.com, 6 Jan 2013, Aaron Klein: "Al Jazeera, which this week announced it purchased Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million, has a long history of close ties to and support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera’s founders, themselves close to the Muslim Brotherhood, have long attempted to gain influence in the U.S., including through the financing of Arabic classes in American public schools via a Muslim Brotherhood-linked charity."

NPR, 6 Jan 2013, Bob Wheelock, Al-Jazeera's executive producer for the Americas, as interviewed by Rachel Martin: "What we do is try to produce news broadcasts that are editorially correct. They're not always politically correct. We take a couple of hits for that. You know, there's a certain hypocrisy involved in some of the people who've criticized, you know, you got a tape from al-Qaida and you've ran it. First of all, it's not run until it's authenticated, and I happen to know being at another network at the time, you know, the foreign desk was often calling and trying to see if they could get that tape."

Washington Examiner, 6 Jan 2013, Sean Higgins: "The Washington Post ran a fascinating op-ed column ... by Gary Wasserman ... [who] concedes that Al Jazeera’s reporters – who strive to 'appear' to be balanced, remember – are 'a bit' obsessed with Israel. Other than that? Nothing to fear."

Gannett News Service, 6 Jan 2013, Michele Chabin: "Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli research institute that studies Palestinian society and the Arab world through its media and educational materials, said there is 'a big difference" between Al Jazeera's Arabic programming and its international English-language broadcasts. The Arab broadcasts very often promote a very radical Islamist approach,' he said. 'What's brilliant,' Marcus said, is the way the company 'binds this in with all the latest technology and even occasionally interviews with differing opinions, including Israeli leaders.' This creates a 'perception' of balanced reporting, Marcus said, 'but in fact, the overall underlying agenda is very radical.'"

TriplePundit, 7 Jan 2013, Leon Kaye: "Not only was this the best possible deal for a dying cable TV news channel, but the acquisition of Current TV could be positive news for a TV audience who struggle to find a decent source of news."

Journal Register (Connecticut), 7 Jan 2013, Andy Thibault: "Why do I want the opportunity to see Al Jazeera English or the fledgling Al Jazeera America via my local cable provider? Because they cover a lot of stories I won’t see on ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS or CNN. Europeans have easy access to news networks from Japan, France, China and Russia. It shouldn’t be a problem for diversity of thought and reporting to be a part of the basic cable package here at home – even outside the major markets."

OneNewsNow, 8 Jan 2013, Becky Yeh: "California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has announced that he will not work for Al Jazeera -- the network that has purchased Al Gore's Current TV. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsom says he will not work for the pro-Arab network because of possible legal issues. The Democratic public official doubles as the host of the 'Gavin Newsom Show,' and working for a network owned by a foreign government could present legalities."

Washington Times, 7 Jan 2013, Frank J. Gaffney Jr: "Let’s call it Al Goreera. This seems a fitting title for the new network that former Vice President Al Gore is launching with the jihadists’ favorite television outlet: Al-Jazeera. The effect will be to create vast new opportunities for our enemies to propagandize the American people, a key ingredient of their 'civilization jihad' against our country. It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this treachery. ... Regrettably, the Federal Communications Commission has washed its hands of this transaction claiming, in the words of a spokesman, it 'doesn’t have regulatory oversight of transactions relating to ownership of cable networks.' It’s a safe bet that the deeply Islamist-penetrated Department of Justice won’t intervene, either. In light of the stakes, Congress must inject itself into the matter. At the very least, Al-Jazeera America should be obliged to register as a foreign agent."

Quartz, 7 Jan 2013, Christopher Mims: "[I]t shouldn’t come as a surprise if some House Republicans decide to cast a spotlight on the US expansion plans of a network still associated by many Americans with its early broadcast of al-Qaeda videos."

Los Angeles Times, 7 Jan 2013, Daoud Kuttab: "Some might argue that the differences between Al Jazeera Arabic and international Al Jazeera amount to deception or hypocrisy. But CNN has an international version, a Turkish version and a Mexican version. If you watch the U.S. domestic version versus the international broadcast, you will see a marked difference in the news lineup and the time spent on various topics."

Huffington Post, 7 Jan 2013, Emily Swanson: "By a nearly 2-to-1 plurality, Americans approve of Time Warner Cable's decision to drop Current TV from its lineup after the news channel was acquired by Al Jazeera, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll found. According to the new survey, 41 percent of Americans said they approve of Time Warner's decision, while 22 percent said they disapprove. Time Warner announced the decision to drop Current TV almost immediately after the Al Jazeera sale was made public, but then said it would consider carrying Al Jazeera America, which will be replacing Current TV. Republicans in the survey approved of the Time Warner decision 65 percent to 13 percent, and independents backed it 42 percent to 22 percent. Democrats, however, divided equally between those approving (26 percent) and disapproving (27 percent). Older Americans were more likely than younger Americans to support the cable giant's decision."

Huffington Post, 7 Jan 2013, Courtney C. Radsch: "I think it is unlikely that people who were not already inclined to watch foreign broadcasts, such as BBC or Al Jazeera English, or stream Al Jazeera online, are going to rush to check out Al Jazeera America. France 24, CCTV, Russia Today and a host of other English-language news stations barely make a blip on the radar and it is unclear what Al Jazeera's editorial plan is. ... If AJ focuses on the plight of the disenfranchised in America, and gives voice to the voiceless here at home, it would certainly be doing a service but would undoubtedly lead to further charges of anti-Americanism. I think it is the rising number of children living in poverty, the proportion of homeless families and veterans, the citizens unable to afford healthcare and education, that is truly anti-American, not the coverage of such issues. But it remains to be seen what the plan for coverage in the U.S. will be and what, precisely, Al Jazeera's goals for the U.S. are. Stay tuned."

Al Jazeera English, Listening Post, 5 Jan 2013: "This week: A Listening Post special - Whistleblowing and the US media. On the campaign trail four years ago, US presidential candidate Barack Obama said: 'Often the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government is a government employee committed to public integrity, willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism ... should be encouraged rather than stifled.' As president, the reality has been very different. During his first term in office, six whistleblowers have been charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. That is twice as many as all previous presidents combined. ... In the first half of this full edition special, we blow the whistle on President Obama's America."

See previous post about same subject.

Neurophysical conflict inside the human amygdala, and shortwave numbers stations, on display in Brooklyn.

Posted: 08 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Proteus Gowanus gallery, 29 Dec 2012: "Secret Wars, the second exhibition in Proteus Gowanus’ yearlong exploration of Battle, explores the cryptic ways of warfare waged behind the cloak of invisibility. From neurophysical conflict deep inside the human amygdala, to the broadcast signals used by spies and intelligence agencies, to the everyday observation of ordinary citizens by omniscient bureaucracies, Secret Wars reveals covert communications hiding in plain sight. Curated by Proteus Gowanus co-creative director Tammy Pittman and anthropologist Thomas Ross Miller, the exhibition brings artists from New York, Amsterdam and Berlin to trace the gaps, silences, and blackouts that conceal vital and deadly knowledge. ... Inside a special room, mysterious and hypnotic short-wave radio messages in unbreakable codes are beamed to hidden spies. ... Artists and works include: ... David Goren – 'Atencion! Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero': The Mystery of the Shortwave Numbers Stations." Opening reception is 12 January at 7:00 pm EST at the Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York.

At the same location on 16 January at 4:30 pm, David Goren will give a talk: On the Air: Tuning in to the Secret Wars. "Under deep cover, a spy waits by a shortwave radio ready to copy down a long string of numbers. Dictatorships jam signals beaming in from clandestine stations operated by opposition groups. The first act of a conquering rebel group or invading army is to take over the radio station. During World War II the sarcastic and seductive voices of Lord Haw Haw, Tokyo Rose, and Ezra Pound tried to demoralize the troops and the folks back home. Urban gladiators like Skyhawk, Lt. Columbo and Switchblade take to Channel 6 on Citizens Band radio for a keydown. The winner takes the frequency. The loser is a 'Mud Duck.' Radio producer and audio archivist David Goren hosts a listening session and informal discussion about the way radio is used in battles of ideology and territory. The session will include a live tuning of a Cuban numbers station intended for Cuban spies in the United States."

"Strange proxy war" of ads in UK and Argentinian newspapers over Falklands dispute.

Posted: 07 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
The Guardian, 2 Jan 2013, Luke Harding and Uki Goni "Thirty years after Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falklands, Argentina's populist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has returned to the fray with a blistering attack on British 'colonialism' and a demand to hand back 'Las Malvinas'. In a stinging letter to David Cameron, Fernández urges the UK to abide by a 1960 United Nations resolution urging member states to 'end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations'. ... Her letter is published as an advert (pdf) in Thursday's Guardian and other newspapers. ... The advert in Thursday's Guardian seems to have been prepared in absolute secrecy to ensure maximum impact. A source at Fernández's press office said that even they had been kept in the dark about it."

The Sun, 4 Jan 2013, Alex West, Neil Syson & Graeme Wilson: "We have published our own letter in a Buenos Aires paper to warn her: Hands off our territory. ... We fired off our newspaper message to Kirchner in her native Spanish. She accused Britain of stealing the islands in adverts placed in left-wing British papers The Guardian and Independent. But in an open letter today in the Buenos Aires Herald ... The Sun tells her Britain has had sovereignty there before Argentina even existed."

Metro, 4 Jan 2013, Mark Molloy: "Argentines have reacted angrily by burning adverts and British flags after the Sun newspaper took out a full page advert in an Argentinian newspaper warning president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to keep her ‘hands off’ the Falkland Islands."

Politics.co.uk, 4 Jan 2013, Ian Dunt: "British newspapers entered into a strange proxy war over the Falklands Islands today, after the Sun published an advert in Argentina's Buenos Aires Herald addressing the territorial dispute. ... While the Guardian was widely criticised yesterday for allowing the ad space to be sold, the Sun also won few plaudits for its move."

Ukrainian PM congratulates Euronews on its 20th anniversary, calling it "the world's leading news channel."

Posted: 07 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
ForUm, 3 Jan 2013: "Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov has congratulated the Euronews international channel on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its broadcast, the Cabinet’s press service informs. 'On behalf of the Government, I sincerely congratulate the Euronews international channel on the 20th anniversary of the broadcast. During these years, the channel has become stronger, expanding its audience. The channel has become one of the most popular international media due to the high professional skills of its staff,' he said. Azarov also noted the attention of the Euronews channel paid to the events taking place in Ukraine, and the start of its broadcasting in Ukrainian. 'We appreciate the fundamental principles of democracy - freedom of speech and the independence of the media, we are open to dialogue and look forward to the objectivity of the representatives of the world's leading news channel,' Ukrainian PM said."

Advanced Television, 19 Nov 2012, Chris Forrester: "The Ukrainian version of EuroNews is in financial trouble and has reportedly not paid its fees for the current year. BBC Monitoring is reporting text from Russia’s Kommersant newspaper that the channel owes some $3.81 million which is supposed to be paid by the end of this year. If the bill isn’t paid then – says the report – the Lyon headquarters of EuroNews will cease transmitting the Ukrainian version." -- The Euronews Ukrainian website is operating as of today.

New book calls for funding BBC World Service from the UK overseas aid budget.

Posted: 07 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Civitas, Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 3 Jan 2013: "A new book by foreign correspondent and senior research fellow at Westminster think-tank Civitas, Jonathan Foreman, urges the [UK] Government to revolutionise its approach to overseas aid. Among its recommendations is a shift of one third of the UK’s £8 billion overseas aid budget to the military to ensure that Britain is capable of mounting swift and effective emergency relief operations in the wake of disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and famines. ... Other key proposals include funding the BBC World Service foreign language services out of DfID’s budget. Those broadcasts which cost only £272 million a year provide an invaluable service to listeners, promote democratic values abroad, and win more influence than conventional aid. ... These broadcasts are relied on by many millions of people around the world for their accuracy and have played a vital role in movements for liberty and better governance. The World Service genuinely wins influence for the UK."

Voice of Russia says it has "revealed the truth about EU/US intervention in ... Romania."

Posted: 07 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Voice of Russia, 29 Dec 2012, Valentin Mândrăşescu: "Throughout 2012, the Voice of Russia’s broadcasting in Romania has caused Bucharest to react in numerous fits of anger. The President of Romania, Traian Basescu, was the first to be up in arms: he accused the Russian broadcaster of instructing and coordinating the Romanian opposition. Since then, accusations from russophobic segments of the Romanian press began to follow. Journalists of the Voice of Russia were called 'KGB officers who use their journalistic documents as a cover', and readers of the Voice of Russia’s Romanian site were declared 'Moscow’s fifth column'. Romania’s former Minister of Justice accused Voice of Russia journalists of 'making lists of Romanian politicians, whose reputation it was necessary to destroy', and of 'destroying it later'. In addition, some German journalists were deeply hurt by the successes of the Voice of Russia. The Romanian site of the German Deutsche Welle radio station published an article accusing the Voice of Russia of undermining the constitutional order of Romania. ... The Voice of Russia has revealed the truth about the EU and the United States’ intervention in the internal political life of Romania, has spoken out on the 'forbidden' topics of the results of privatization, and many of the forecasts by the Russian broadcaster’s analysts have come true. Naturally, all this has led to strengthening of the Voice of Russia’s influence in Romania. Western propagandists feel that they have lost the monopoly in the ideological sphere, and only this can explain their impotent rage against the Russian broadcaster." See previous post about same subject.

Among media of international broadcasting, Al Jazeera America will be a victory for pay TV, defeat for internet video streaming.

Posted: 06 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Wall Street Journal, 3 Jan 2012, John Jannarone and Keach Hagey: "Al Jazeera used the Web to build a following in America, which it hopes to exploit on cable television through Wednesday's purchase of Current TV. But to keep cable operators happy, Al Jazeera may have to make a difficult bargain: Giving up on the Web. The Qatar government-backed television news operation, which acquired Current TV for a few hundred million dollars from investors including Al Gore, said Thursday that it will at least temporarily stop streaming online Al Jazeera English, its global English-language news service, in about 90 days. That's when it plans to replace Current TV's programming with Al Jazeera English. ... And it is unclear whether the original English service will reappear online: the spokesman said Thursday a decision about that was dependent on negotiations with cable operators. The network's decision to pull its service off the Web is at the behest of cable and satellite operators. It reflects a broader conflict between pay television and online streaming that other TV channels face. Because cable and satellite operators pay networks to carry their programming, the operators don't want the programming appearing for free online. Aside from older series available through services like Netflix, most cable programming is available online only to people who subscribe to cable TV. "We'd love to be able to do both" cable and Internet distribution, 'but the deals with distributors prevent it,' the Al Jazeera spokesman said. 'The economics are better on cable.'"

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this will be. Will the Al Jazeera English stream be unavailable worldwide? Or geoblocked only in the United States? Will Americans eventually have streaming access to Al Jazeera English but not to the programs specific to Al Jazeera America?

Access to pay TV (cable, DTH, IPTV, fiber) channels limits the number of internation al channels that can be players in international broadcasting. However, as "cord cutting" becomes more popular, many viewers are starting to use OTT (over-the-top) services such as Netflix and Hulu to download individual programs. They are no longer bound to appointment viewing on 24-hour channels. International broadcasters such as VOA, which do not have 24/7 channels, can now make individual programs available through free apps. This will be a game-changer in international broadcasting.

Washington Post, 5 Jan 2013, Dominic Basulto: "At a time when many Americans are cutting their cable TV cord, foreign media outlets seem to have figured out a better mix of social media, live streaming and citizen journalism to keep visitors coming back again and again. ... This new competitive threat from abroad could be a good thing, if it forces U.S. cable TV news operators to re-think how to create, distribute and package video content for the YouTube generation. As a result, here’s one more item to place on your Out/In list for 2013. Out: cable TV talking heads sitting behind desks. In: curated news and views from intrepid journalists of the world."

The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Jan 2013, Paul Bond: "Al Jazeera America, the yet-to-launch network that will replace Current TV, might have to drop its license fee to zero in order to encourage a meaningful number of U.S. cable operators to carry it, according to a study released Friday from a research analyst at SNL Kagan. ... 'With the evaporation of 9 million Time Warner Cable subs and the license fees that go with it, this brings the channel closer to breakeven,' Derek Baine of SNL Kagan wrote in a research note released Friday. 'We think Al Jazeera may have to drop the license fee to zero to gain widespread support for carrying the channel in the U.S., a move that would certainly imperil its economic model, which relies upon license fees for 80 percent of the network’s revenue,' Baine wrote. 'But maybe this is the only way for Al Jazeera America to gain a solid foothold in the U.S.'"

Seeking Alpha, 6 Jan 2013, Felix Salmon: "CNN International [is] a cash cow which almost nobody watches unless they're in some far-flung hotel room. It doesn't matter what the viewership is or what the ad revenue is. The important thing is that TV providers around the world all feel compelled to offer it. ... While cable companies know they have to have Fox News (because it gets good ratings), and CNN (because it's CNN), they need to be persuaded to buy Current TV, and they have no particular desire at all to have Al Jazeera. Foreign stations are, well, foreign: even the BBC has had real difficulty making serious inroads on the distribution front. ... Al Jazeera isn't in this business for profit: this is more about projecting soft power into the world, demonstrating that the Arab countries can produce valuable, first-rate, uncensored journalism. For the prize of two Cézannes, Al Jazeera is buying the Arab world a significant measure of credibility in the single most important country on the planet. Or it's attempting to, anyway. Al Jazeera probably won't be able to persuade most of the cable companies to pay 12 cents per subscriber per month. It doesn't care much about that; it would happily take the slots on offer even if they generated no revenue at all. Indeed, it might even pay the cable companies, in the first instance, if it needs to do so in order to keep its potential viewership high. The important thing is that America is given the opportunity to discover what Al Jazeera is capable of. Then, if and when it starts getting traction, it will be Al Jazeera America which will have the upper hand in any future negotiations. Because there's something very special about high-quality news, and the cable companies know it."

See previous post about same subject.

MediaDailyNews, 18 Dec 2012, Wayne Friedman: "The worldwide pay TV market keeps growing in terms of subscribers, increasing 6% this year over 2012, with pay TV customer growth slowing down a bit next year. Some 47 million subscribers were added this year, to reach a total of 864 million subscribers, according to ABI Research. Next year, the company estimates a 5% rise, or 43 million to 907 million subscribers. IPTV (Internet-Protocol TV) services will grow at a faster pace -- 11% of 9 million subscribers to 79.3 million in 2013, with much of this coming from the Asia-Pacific region. By itself, China will add more than 3 million. Cable will continue to have the biggest market share this year at 66.2%, but will decline slightly to 65.4% next year. ... Overall revenue is projected to keep growing. ABI Research says the worldwide pay-TV market is expected to reach $236 billion in revenue by the end of the year, up from the $223 billion mark from last year. Pay TV revenue will continue to climb -- estimated to reach $281 billion by 2017."

Sale of Current TV to create Al Jazeera America has Americans talking about international broadcasting.

Posted: 05 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Al jazeera English, 4 Jan 2013, Rory O'Connor: "Welcome to America, Al Jazeera! Sounds good, right? And it is, both for American audiences, starved for real news about what's going on in the world around them but plagued instead with a surfeit of gossip, celebrity doings and opinionated bloviators from both the right and left on such putative cable 'news' channels such as Fox and MSNBC, and for Al Jazeera itself, which will only extend its global influence by finally gaining a foothold in two crucial American marketplaces - that of commerce, of course, but also that of ideas. ... The final challenge for Al Jazeera, of course - the proof of the pudding, as it were - will come when we see the tenor and quality of the programming AJ America produces. Will its executives focus on offering another and fresher perspective to America's abysmal domestic news sources, in the mode of Russia Today or the BBC World News, now available in 25 million US homes after a recent deal with Time Warner Cable?" -- He's equating Russia Today (RT) and BBC? I would put RT with Fox and MSNBC, and BBC World News with CNN International and France 24.

New York Times, 3 Jan 2013, editorial: "Al Jazeera often brings a nuance to international stories that can be lacking on American networks, because it has more foreign correspondents and overseas bureaus than many established Western networks. Its coverage of the Arab Spring won a George Foster Peabody Award and its English-language service is broadcast to more than 250 million homes in 130 countries, including Britain, South Africa and India. Doubts about the independence of Al Jazeera do not justify removing it from cable and satellite systems. With the exception of a few places, like Washington and New York City, Al Jazeera English is not available to most American viewers. Why not let them make up their own minds about the network and its journalism?"

New York Daily News, 4 Jan 2013, David Hinckley: "My own research, consisting solely of my instinct, says if Al Jazeera English were giving away a Cadillac Escalade to the first 100 viewers every day, Americans still wouldn’t watch. Sad but true, branding today is everything. Al Jazeera’s brand is that it was the go-to network for video messages from Al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11. Way too many Americans make that association way too readily for them to ever take a step back and say what Al Jazeera wants to hear, which is, 'Here’s a network that gives us a perspective we won’t get anywhere else. Let’s give it a try.'"

Baltimore Sun, 4 Jan 2013, David Zurawik: "What’s important is that Al Jazeera has found a way into an estimated 40 million American homes through the purchase of Gore's mismanaged channel, and that is a good thing – a very good thing. In fact, the cable industry’s success in keeping Al Jazeera English off all but a handful of systems in the U.S. was one of the great wrongs of American media. And no one, it seems, wanted to address it. Media critics who looked the other way for whatever reasons should be ashamed. In August, Al Jazeera English offered a powerful documentary, 'Baltimore: Anatomy of an American City,' on the politics and sociology of Baltimore’s war on drugs. In reporting on the documentary, I became outraged that viewers in Baltimore would not be able to see it on cable TV. I had been a fan of Al Jazeera for its coverage of the Middle East for years, but this hit much closer to home. This was an informed and provocative critique of urban life, and viewers who could be enlightened about the city in which they lived were denied access to it."

Ha'aretz, 4 Jan 2013, Chemi Shalev: "American Jewish leaders have expressed 'concern' about the impending entry of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera network to the U.S. television market, citing its record of anti-Israeli coverage and support for extremist Muslim regimes. Both Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents and Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League publicly voiced their apprehensions on Friday in the wake of reports that former U.S. Vice President Al Gore had sold his Current TV network to Al-Jazeera for $500 million. The sale will allow Al Jazeera to gain access to tens of millions of American homes in which Current TV had been available through various cable providers. Hoenlein said that although the network’s English-language coverage has been more balanced and had given a platform to Israeli spokesperson, 'their general coverage has served to destabilize regimes and favor some of the more extremist elements in the Arab world.' Foxman was even harsher in his criticism of the station, saying in an official ADL communiqué that 'Al Jazeera has a troubling record and history that is very disturbing, particularly in its Arabic language broadcasts. It has exploited and exaggerated the Arab-Israel conflict in a heavy-handed and propagandistic manner, and always at the expense of Israel, while giving all manner of virulent anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic extremists access to its airwaves.' Both Hoenlein and Foxman, however, stopped short of calling for any public campaign or legal intervention in the sale. Hoenlein told Haaretz that according to legal advice he had received, there was no way to prevent the 'merger' between Al Jazeera and Current TV anyway."

Anti-Defamation league press release, 4 Jan 2013: "The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has ongoing concerns about the pan-Arab satellite network Al Jazeera, which it says has 'a troubling record' of providing a platform to all manner of virulent anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic extremists, and of serving as a propaganda tool against the State of Israel, particularly in its Arabic-language broadcasts. While it is true that Al Jazeera has toned down its anti-Israel propaganda in the network's English broadcasts, ADL said the Arabic-language channel's content 'continues to be of great concern.'"

Washington Post, 4 Jan 2013, Gary Wasserman: "With its alleged positions against U.S. foreign policies and wars, al-Jazeera is just too 'left' to be allowed access to our fearful public. Has anyone noticed that much of the world is 'left' of the United States? Because of my occasional appearances on al-Jazeera news shows, and having written opinion pieces for its Web site, I can be accused of knowing on which side my pita is being buttered. Fair enough. And my experiences with al-Jazeera will only confirm the obvious. In its selection of stories and editorial slants, it is to the left of mainstream American media. So what? Al-Jazeera is also an outlet of professional journalists, generally well-informed and seeking to at least appear balanced. No one has ever suggested to me what to say or write. The network may present Arab voices, but its coverage includes more of the world than this parochial image allows."

Ad Age, 3 Jan 2013, Jeanine Poggi: "Critics often complain that cable-news networks in the U.S. lack enough 'real news' and carry a surplus of opinion and fluff. Now enters Al-Jazeera and its tendency toward serious reporting. But will viewers prove the critics right? And what about advertisers? ... [T]he big three in U.S. cable news -- Fox News, MSNBC and CNN -- aren't funding global reporting on the scale of either Al-Jazeera or the BBC. CNN, which enjoys a large international presence compared with its domestic rivals, has 33 international news bureaus. Al-Jazeera and the BBC each have more than 70."

BBG Strategy, 4 Jan 2013, Paul Marszalek: "[T]he AJ America channel is likely to be shunned by many advertisers at first — a common practice known sometimes as a 'no controversy' edict. This hurts both the channel as well as the MSO. You can see this in practice on Fox, MSNBC, and Current as ad inventory is soaked up not by blue-chip advertisers, but often by bottom feeder ad categories such as buying gold coins, or 'as-seen-on-TV' wonder products. But again, the real money is in carriage fees. Unfortunately for AJ America, 12 cents per household is going to be a tough sell. Unlike the famous 'I Want My MTV' campaign that got hordes of kids excited in the early days of cable, almost no one is asking for Al Jazeera. ... A straight-ahead international news channel is more likely to be in the ballpark of the channel it is replacing, Current, or Fox Business Channel, which posts just 50,000 viewers in prime time. Deep pockets may help change the game. If Al Jazeera is willing to offer the channel for free, or even pay MSOs to carry it, they may get the distribution they seek. But as one can see from Current, distribution hardly guarantees viewers. A better play is to go after talent. Olbermann would double the ratings instantly, if they have the management skills to keep him happy. But that’s something no one else has been able to do."

Accuracy in Media, 3 Jan 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "Al-Jazeera was regarded by the Bush Administration as hostile to American interests after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 when information surfaced showing that the channel’s managing director, Mohammed Jassem al-Ali, had been acting as an agent of the Saddam Hussein regime. The Obama Administration, however, has praised Al-Jazeera, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the channel had provided 'real news' coverage of the Middle East riots and revolution that ushered in a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt and the rise of Islamists in such countries as Libya and Syria. Although the channel masquerades as an independent 'news' operation, the U.S. State Department’s own human rights report on Qatar notes that 'the government exercised editorial and programmatic control of the channel through funding and selection of the station’s management.' As such, the assumption is that the Obama Administration encouraged the sale of Current TV, since it financially benefits not only Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, the other co-owner who is also a prominent Democrat, but the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers in Qatar."

CNN, 5 Jan 2013, Hugh Miles: "Compared to the tens of billions [the Emir of Qatar's] neighbors spend on U.S. arms, the influence afforded by Al Jazeera represents very good value for money. ... Lots of state-sponsored channels broadcast news channels around the world, mostly from the U.S. and Europe in the direction of the 'Global South.' But Al Jazeera English, and soon Al Jazeera America, broadcast in the opposite direction, will give quite a different perspective on events to U.S. news channels, especially when it comes to Arab affairs. In particular Al Jazeera's reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is both more in depth and in line with the rest of the world's thinking than that usually found on U.S. TV."

New American Media, 4 Jan 2013, Uchenna Ekwo: "[I]t is expected that the United States being a strong advocate of free flow of information should support visible attempts to change the culture of secrecy that have permeated the Middle East for too long. Providing all practical assistance to Al Jazeera might be an effective strategy to achieve just that. The channel has demonstrated in different occasions its readiness to open up closed societies of the Middle East through accurate and independent reporting of issues and events around the world. Moreover, Al Jazeera will also help to open the eyes of most Americans who remain ignorant of international affairs and other civilizations. Americans need to learn more about other cultures, events, and issues happening overseas. Majority of US based news organizations are not able to cover the rest of the world effectively due to different reasons we cannot discuss in this piece. BBC America is no doubt filling that gap in the American media environment. The inclusion of Al Jazeera America with its vast financial power may just move the coverage of the world for US audiences to another level."

The Weekly Standard, The Scrapbook, 14 Jan 2013 issue: "Al Jazeera, contrary to the belief of many, is not just another cable channel with a distinct political perspective, like MSNBC or Fox. It is the strategic communications arm of Qatari foreign policy. For those many media experts who make careful distinctions between Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera English, decrying the excessive rhetoric, frequently anti-American and anti-Semitic, of the former, while praising the reportorial acumen of the latter, the reality is that the English station exists to lend legitimacy to the Arabic channel. The Al Jazeera America brand is a means to consolidate Qatar’s baleful worldview and extend it further into the American consciousness. ... We hope Al Gore enjoys the hundred million pieces of silver he pocketed in the transaction."

Time, 4 Jan 2013, Ishaan Tharoor: "Even if it never achieves top ratings in the U.S., Al Jazeera has in many senses already stolen a march on mainstream American competitors. For example, Al Jazeera English’s Washington-based social media news show 'The Stream' is the progenitor of other internet broadcasts such as HuffPost Live that may well become the norm in the decades to come. Yesterday, as detractors elsewhere bloviated over Al Jazeera’s mythical terrorist ties, The Stream hosted famous epistemologist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan. The show’s anchors quizzed him on systems of governance and the political dysfunction behind the fiscal cliff with the help of myriad viewers who joined in via a Google hangout or on Twitter. Questions came from a remote town in western Texas, New York City and many places in between. Al Jazeera knows that there’s already an American audience for a serious news network that manages to be at once both local and global. And it also knows there’s no other major American news network capable of matching that feat."

BBC Radio 4 Today, 5 Jan 2013: "Media analyst Claire Enders explains that Al Jazeera's decision to expand its distribution in the US 'makes sense because the US is the biggest TV market in the world and is a very important nation. It represents about 50 per cent of our total TV revenues, whether by advertising or paid TV.' She compares the US to Qatar: 'Al Jazeera doesn't generate revenue now anyway, it is a cost to the Qatari government, it's not a commercial decision, it's a very long term decision from an oil rich state.' She continues: 'Al Jazeera wishes to compete with CNN and the BBC...it presents a different perspective on the Arab Israeli conflict.' Nevertheless, Claire Enders believes that Al Jazeera will not do very well because '[it's] been very hard for Al Jazeera to develop any kind of audience in Europe, apart from when there are major events in the Middle East.'" With audio.

Saudi Gazette 6 Jan 2012, editorial: "The big question now is what Al-Jazeera plans to do with its new reach into America. It has to convince Americans to tune in. The problem is that people in America associate Al-Jazeera with the Muslim and Arab world and do not view the link as favorable. There’s a fair amount of paranoia when it comes to Arabs and Al-Jazeera. The challenge will be persuading Americans to watch — a daunting proposition given the crowded television marketplace and the stereotypes about the channel that persist to this day. Al-Jazeera has to override that and persuade people to watch it by providing quality news and analysis and maybe toeing the American line more often. In trying to attract Americans, Al-Jazeera will at times look more American than Arab which will cloud its identity and purpose. But it might also air a more moderate and compassionate Arab view of the West which will hurt neither side. However, although it will be called Al-Jazeera America, the name alone will not be enough to sway American public opinion."

See previous post about same subject.

International Twittercasting: world leaders tweet in multiple languages. But please don't call it "social media."

Posted: 04 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Tazpit News Agency, 27 Dec 2012, Anav Silverman: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now tweeting in Arabic on a new Twitter account opened in mid-December. The development caught the attention of the Saudi Internet news service, Al Arabiya, which reported this week that Netanyahu’s Twitter account has drawn new followers from Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon, currently numbering 671 followers. ... In general, Middle East leaders are increasingly utilizing Twitter to engage people and one another, according to a study, called Twiplomacy conducted by the global public relations consultancy Burson-Marsteller in August of this year (twiplomacy.com). According to the Twiplomacy study, 'Twitter has become a new way to communicate with world leaders and a way for these leaders to communicate with each other.' ... One of the most active accounts in the Middle East belongs to Jordan’s Queen Rania who has 2.2 million followers, making her the fourth most followed world leader. The Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has one million followers including 13 other world leaders, which makes the Dubai ruler the most followed by world leaders. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has 54,782 followers and is considered the most conversational, personally engaging in Twitter chats with his followers regularly. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s Twitter account has little more than 1,551 followers while Netanyahu’s English account has over 129,000 followers. ... US President Barack Obama, the first world leader to sign up to Twitter in March 2007, is the most followed world leader with over 17 million followers and has the fifth most popular account, sandwiched between pop-stars Rihanna and Britney Spears. The second most followed leader is Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez with over 3 million followers." -- PNM Netanyahu's Arabic Twitter account is now up to 817 follows, but his account follows only 3. This is the typical pattern among such Twitter accounts of world leaders. The tweets are no doubt written by staff, and the very few who are followed are, if at all, read by staff. See also video report by international television channel Jewish News 1, 30 Dec 2012.

International Radio Belarus adds weekly program in Chinese.

Posted: 04 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Belteleradiocompany press release, 4 Jan 2013: "Starting from January 1 the programs of international broadcasting of the Belarusian radio are also broadcasted in Chinese. According to the Chief Director of the International Radio 'Belarus' Naum Galperovich, this took place within the framework of the new program 'Your Friend - Belarus' which will air weekly and will narrate about the relations of Belarus and the People's Republic of China, joint projects in economy and other spheres and the contacts of the citizens of the two countries. The creative team which prepares the programs includes Belarusian journalists and their Chinese colleagues working in Belarus. Thus, starting this year 'Belarus' broadcasts on international air in 8 languages: Belarusian, Russian, English, German, Polish, French, Spanish and Chinese." -- No frequency listed for the Chinese, but Radio Belarus transmits on shortwave in the other languages.

International Radio Belarus, 31 Dec 2012: "In addition to Belarusian journalists, the team working on that project includes their Chinese colleagues Li Zuo and Wang Yuhong."

Repeal of Smith-Mundt domestic dissemination ban is good, unless it goes over to the Dark Side.

Posted: 03 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 3 Jan 2012: "The Broadcasting Board of Governors today hailed a new law that updates one of the founding statutes of public diplomacy in the United States, a change that the Board has long supported and had incorporated into its strategic plan.

"The defense authorization bill that the President signed last night includes a provision that reduces restrictions on the dissemination of materials within the United States that were originally intended for audiences overseas. This means that news and information programs produced by BBG journalists for people in more than 100 countries can also be made available for broadcast within the United States; many already are available worldwide via the Internet. The provision was originally known as the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act when it was first introduced in Congress in 2010 and re-introduced last year.

"Presiding Governor Michael Lynton said the new law will allow the BBG to accept requests to provide its programs to organizations which, until now, it could not share them with, including U.S.-based broadcasters, publications, universities, non-governmental organizations, and others that have requested these materials over the years. ...

"The legislation updates the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, a section of which prohibited the State Department and U.S. international broadcasting from disseminating within this country any program materials that have been produced using funds appropriated for public diplomacy. A subsequent amendment to the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 prohibited using such funds to influence public opinion in the United States. These two provisions together are popularly known as Smith-Mundt, named after the primary Senate and House authors of the 1948 bill, who could not have anticipated the advent of the World Wide Web or dramatic shifts in the population of the United States, including large communities of people from other countries seeking information via a variety of media in their native languages.

"'The new law is a major breakthrough for U.S. international media,' said Susan McCue, a member of the BBG Board’s Communications and Outreach Committee. 'All Americans will now have access to the vital and informative reporting of our accomplished journalists around the world who are working under difficult circumstances in closed societies and developing countries. The news and programs they produce every day will benefit many US audiences, including diaspora communities.'

"The BBG has been expanding its programming options overseas as more media platforms become popular among its key target audiences – emphasizing broadcasting via radio and TV where they have the greatest impact, while ramping up digital outreach in places where audiences increasingly indicate a preference for receiving news through websites, blogs, mobile devices or other means. The new law allows this process to continue without regard to whether these programs might also be watched or heard by people within the

United States, and expands the options for these programs’ distribution.

"The law makes no change to the BBG’s enabling statute, the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, which does not authorize the agency to create new programs solely for U.S. audiences."

The widespread mistaken assumption is that the internet has obsoleted the domestic dissemination law. In fact, the internet has finally rendered it practicable. Through geoblocking, the content of USIB entities' websites could simply be made unavailable to US internet users. This, however, was never done. The most obvious way to observe the domestic dissemination ban was ignored. The new law, therefore, won't change much except to forestall any member of Congress or government lawyer from making mischief by calling for the old law to be enforced.

Claims that there have been impediments on the distribution of USIB content via the internet because such content could also be accessed via the internet in the United States are specious, for reasons cited in the previous paragraph.

The BBG should have always been neutral about the "Smith-Mundt Modernization Act." Instead, it is "hailing" the new law, which signals that the BBG is adding the United States as its newest target country (as long as the content is intended for at least one other country). This should make many people very nervous.

The repeal is good, in that it allows the content of USIB to be used by US ethnic media. Immigrant communities can now get USIB news about their home countries in their native languages. In this way a valuable public service is provided at no extra cost to the US taxpayers.

Also, the repeal allows American access to the content of USIB without having to resort to the Freedom of Information Act. Although, as noted above, internet access to such content has not been impeded in the United States.

The repeal, however, could have its dark side. Language in the legislation notwithstanding, future administrations might be emboldened to borrow the facilities and talent of USIB for domestic information campaigns.

Furthermore, it is the goal of every bureaucracy to increase its budget every year, regardless of the broader public interest. USIB could well be tempted to disseminate more and more of its content within the United States as a way of nurturing domestic constituencies. The more resources that are devoted to such a purpose, the fewer that will be available for the real audience, beyond our borders.

Finally, US private media, if they ever notice this provision in a Defense authorization bill, should be concerned. More and more newspapers are going behind paywalls in a bid to remain solvent. Local news outlets must decide whether they can continue to afford to subscribe to news agencies.

If US international broadcasting were ever to be consolidated and unboondoggled, it could be a competitive news organization, not just internationally, but domestically. Why should an American pay for access to a newspaper website when the USIB website is free? Why should a small town newspaper in the Midwest pay for AP when it can reprint USIB stories?

The US private news media and the BBG need to have a parley about the division of their responsibilities, domestically and internationally. The International Broadcasting Act wisely prohibits USIB from competing with private US international broadcasting efforts. It is fiscally prudent for US international broadcasting to be accomplished as much as possible by the private sector, at no cost to the taxpayers.

Fortunately, private US international media are expanding. Global English-language television news? CNN International. Spanish-language television news? CNN en Español. Global English news website? New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, and many others. Website in Arabic? CNN Arabic. Website in Chinese? New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Website in Portuguese? New York Times.

US government-funded international broadcasting should not duplicate and compete with US domestic media. On the contrary, they should cooperate as much as possible. This will be possible only if the latter is convinced that the former is truly and unambiguously in the news business.

With RFE/RL president Steven Korn departing, what is the future of RL Russian director Masha Gessen?

Posted: 03 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
@LLHelsinnki, 2 Jan 2013: "Masha Gessen: will not leave Radio Liberty. 'That's impossible' Her American boss got fired for the bad reorganization http://izvestia.ru/news/542511" See also BBG Watch, 2 Jan 2013.

Forbes, 2 Jan 2013, Mark Adomanis: "You can say that Gessen is a bad editor, a poor manager, or someone who ought never to have been put in charge of Radio Liberty. I don’t know if any of those things are true, but could easily believe them if provided with evidence. I have, in the past, heard murmurs that Gessen can be difficult to work with because of her penchant for taking non-negotiable moral stances, and I wouldn’t find it shocking that the journalists at RFE/RL didn’t particularly care for her. But it is absurd, and remarkably tasteless, to portray one of Russia’s bravest and most outspoken voices of political opposition as a soulless apparatchik complicit in the Kremlin’s campaign to muzzle press freedom."

Washington Post, 3 Jan 2013, Kathy Lally: "Lyudmila Telen, editor of the Radio Liberty Web site, was among those told in September that she would get severance through the end of the year if she resigned immediately. 'Over the weekend they let us in the office for an hour to get our things,' she said, 'and they sent security guards to watch us.' 'When I was editor I understood very well we had to find a new audience, but I thought it would be wrong to throw out the old one,' she said, noting that the station had been becoming more innovative and was widely quoted for its scoops, interviews and political analysis. Gessen, speaking by telephone Thursday, said the station couldn’t ignore that its Web audience was dropping while the Russian Web audience was growing. 'We were preaching to the converted,' she said. 'Our job was to deliver content, and that’s what we’ve started to do.' She has formed partnerships with a few other independent sites, including TV Rain, an online television channel, which will use Radio Liberty content. 'It’s extremely easy to shut off access to a single Web site,' Gessen said. 'We need to have a lot of alternative ways to get our content out.'"

World Affairs, 31 Dec 2013, Judy Bachrach: "'This will be a fantastic, exciting time,' [RFE/RL VP] Julia Ragona promised RFE/RL journalists in the fall. It certainly was exciting, in its own Putinesque way. By late November, Ragona was warning all staff against posting entries on the mass purge on Facebook. ... Last week, Elena Polyakovskaya, yet another journalist openly supportive of the purged correspondents and critical of the new Russian website, found her contract was not going to be renewed. When I discovered this, I immediately phoned a person of considerable authority and rectitude, who questioned [new RFE/RL Russian director Masha] Gessen. Lo and behold, Polyakovskaya was informed her services would still be needed. 'You can see how journalists who come from totalitarian countries feel when we see the same kind of treatment at RFE/RL,' says one source. I can indeed. To that end, I am writing a fuller and much longer investigative essay on this and other related subjects come mid-January. Thanks to all of you who are helping to end the outrage. Even more sources welcome." -- In this piece, she also writes: "No one could understand ... why Korn and Ragona made the meek decision in September to shut down the organization’s Russian medium wave radio broadcasts." Perhaps a larger protest could have been mounted, but, ultimately, there is no getting around a nation's communications laws. If the news can't be transmitted within, then it must be transmitted into, the target country. This can be done via shortwave, no longer popular in Russia, or (until it's blocked) via the internet, which is popular there. See previous post for Judy Bachrach's previous article about the same subject.

Steven Korn letter sent to the Wall Street Journal in response to op-ed by John O'Sullivan: "[W]e had to lay off a number of Russian-based staff, in some cases because of the shift from radio that had been forced on us by Russian authorities and in others because it had become clear their skills were not well suited to the demands of our new approach. This process was inevitably wrenching both for those who were affected as well as for those who continued in their positions. However, suggestions that any staffers were treated harshly in this process are patently false."

RIA Novosti, 2 Jan 2012: "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Stephen Korn said in a statement on Tuesday he resigns 'solely for personal reasons' starting from January 25. In the past months, the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) whose members are also members of the RFE/RL Board of Directors, have repeatedly criticized Korn for poor management of the Radio Liberty Russian service."

MetroPulse (Knoxville), 2 Jan 2012: "At the November meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Victor Ashe, Knoxville’s former mayor and U.S. Ambassador to Poland, criticized Korn’s management and called on him to resign. Ashe said the firing of 41 staffers in Russia had led to dissidents there viewing the American radio network 'not as a friend but a foe.' Hits for information from the broadcasters have dropped from 110,000 to 30,000 and Ashe says the current management is buckling under to Vladamir Putin and losing its audience."

See previous post about same subject.

Steven Korn letter to the Wall Street Journal.

Posted: 03 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Dear Editors,

In response to John O'Sullivan's op-ed ("Turmoil Over America's Radio Voice in Russia," printed December 31, 2012/posted December 30, 2012), I would like to point out that I was not available when he sent me an e-mail asking me a few questions yesterday. I had intended to respond today, but he clearly was not interested in waiting to engage in a discussion with me as he had already written his one-sided, factually inaccurate piece.

After publication of his piece and other recent opinion pieces and blogs speculating about changes at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I felt it was necessary to set the record straight.

A few months ago, I made the decision, after consulting widely -- including with all the members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) -- that we needed to reconfigure our operations in Russia in light of the new realities confronting us in that very important and very challenging media environment.

Russian authorities had taken steps that were about to close down our medium wave radio broadcasts serving the area around Moscow. This followed years of actions by authorities to end in-country AM, FM, UKV and cable re-broadcasting efforts nationwide. As a consequence, between 2002 and 2012, our share of weekly adult listeners nationwide dropped from 5.2 to 0.8 percent.

After exploring all possible ways of continuing our in-country broadcasting (our external short wave and satellite broadcasts continue) it became clear that expanding our digital media efforts was the best way to revitalize and continue Radio Liberty’s long-time mission of providing surrogate news and information in the increasingly restrictive Russian press landscape. Doing so required making difficult but necessary changes to Radio Liberty’s staff and programs in Russia, placing our resources where our Russian audience could best access them; namely in rich, on-line, and multimedia digital communications. Reliable research, which showed that over 50% of Russians go on-line weekly to gather news and information, fully supported this strategy; the need for change was reinforced by a slide in web audiences from 1.3% to 0.3% between 2010 and 2012.

To carry it out, we had to lay off a number of Russian-based staff, in some cases because of the shift from radio that had been forced on us by Russian authorities and in others because it had become clear their skills were not well suited to the demands of our new approach. This process was inevitably wrenching both for those who were affected as well as for those who continued in their positions. However, suggestions that any staffers were treated harshly in this process are patently false. Indeed, severance packages were larger than required, above and beyond what is provided by U.S. law, Russian law, and RFE/RL's own policy.

We anticipated that these changes would initially create a negative reaction among some, particularly if they were misunderstood as a weakening of our central mission of providing accurate and needed news and information for our Russian audience. I personally forewarned all the members of the BBG of this before they gave their unanimous approval of the changes. We sought to reassure skeptics inside Russia, but I emphasized to the BBG that it would take some time before the transformation of our media presence would win over the doubters.

In the time since, many allegations have been made, among them that our actions were an effort to curry favor in the Kremlin, or that we were abandoning our role in covering human rights issues. Both fears should have been allayed by the selection of Masha Gessen as the new Director of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service. Anyone who knows Ms. Gessen knows of her intelligence, abilities, seriousness, and courage. Since coming on board in October, she has begun effectively implementing the new strategy, hiring new staff, and creating a new vision for content that is forward looking and yet embraces the central mission that Radio Liberty has always played. After an initial and expected dip in page views since the new website and new URL were launched just over a month ago, numbers are improving and in some areas (such as time-on-site and the number of Facebook fans) we are already exceeding the levels reached before the transition began. We will move into better facilities in Moscow in February and will then begin video production, which will include input from across Russia, taking fuller advantage of what is possible in digital media.

Change is difficult, not least because some will misunderstand the intent and others may be inconvenienced by it. But in the modern media age, those who fail to adjust to new realities will inevitably fail those they intend to serve.


Steven Korn.

Al Jazeera purchases US cable channel Current, but can it keep Current's US cable outlets?

Posted: 03 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
AP, 3 Jan 2013: "Al Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Current TV, boosting its reach nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the left-leaning news network that co-founder Al Gore couldn't make relevant. ... The acquisition lifts Al Jazeera's reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a new channel called Al Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists. Al Jazeera spokesman Stan Collender said there are no rules against foreign ownership of a cable channel - unlike the strict rules limiting foreign ownership of free-to-air TV stations. He said the move is based on demand, adding that 40% of viewers on Al Jazeera English's website are from the U.S. ... Al Jazeera has long struggled to get carriage in the U.S., and the deal suffered an immediate casualty as Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable TV operator, announced it would drop Current TV due to the deal."

The Guardian, 2 Jan 2013: "Al-Jazeera's reach in the US has struggled to move beyond the few large metropolitan areas, where some people can watch Al-Jazeera English. The network's managing director, Tony Burman, in 2010 blamed a 'very aggressive hostility' from the Bush administration for reluctance among cable and satellite companies to show the network. Al-Jazeera has attracted respect for its ability to build a serious news product in a short time. But there may be a culture clash at the network. Dave Marash, a former ABC Nightline reporter who worked for Al-Jazeera in Washington, said he left the network in 2008 in part because he sensed an anti-US bias there."

Wall Street Journal, Speakeasy, 2 Jan 2013, reprinting memo to staff from Current co-founder Joel Hyatt: "As you may know, Al Jazeera is funded by the government of Qatar, which is the United States’ closest ally in the Gulf Region, and is where the United States bases its Middle East Air Force operations. ... While considering this decision, I spent a week in Doha, Qatar, where Al Jazeera is headquartered, and I am pleased to tell you that I could not have been more impressed with their operation. First of all, they are bringing large-scale resources to journalism – something which we have not been able to do. Al Jazeera has more than 80 bureaus around the world, and is seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries. Al Jazeera has a staff of over 4000 people, including 400 journalists. Its journalists hail from more than 50 countries, with every conceivable nationality and religion represented on its professional team. Al Jazeera is a major global media player. ... All of this is compelling, but what really convinced Al and me that Al Jazeera would be a great home for the people of Current was their publicly stated Values and Core Capabilities. Their mission includes the following: Diversity ('bringing stories from the underreported communities, societies and cultures from across the globe'), Journalistic Integrity ('committed to the uncompromising pursuit of truth and the ideals of journalism'), and A Voice for the Voiceless ('promoting the basic human right of the freedom of expression for people everywhere'). Al Jazeera is planning to invest significantly in building 'Al Jazeera America,' a network focused on international news for the American audience. Al and I will both serve on the Advisory Board of Al Jazeera America, and we look forward to helping build an important news network."

New York Times, Media Decoder, 2 Jan 2012, Brian Stelter: "Al Jazeera did not disclose the purchase price, but people with direct knowledge of the deal pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Mr. Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current. Mr. Gore and his partners were eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31, lest it be subject to higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1, according to several people who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But the deal was not signed until Wednesday. ... Going forward, the challenge will be persuading Americans to watch — an extremely tough proposition given the crowded television marketplace and the stereotypes about the channel that persist to this day. 'There are still people who will not watch it, who will say that it’s a "terrorist network,"' said Philip Seib, the author of 'The Al Jazeera Effect.' 'Al Jazeera has to override that by providing quality news.' ... News channels financed by Britain, China and Russia are especially hungry for American cable deals. To date, the BBC has had the most success; its BBC World News channel is now available in about 25 million homes thanks to a deal struck last month with Time Warner Cable. But the takeover of Current brings Al Jazeera to the front of the line. In recent weeks, Mr. Gore personally lobbied the distributors that carry Current on the importance of Al Jazeera, according to people briefed on the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly. Distributors can sometimes wiggle out of their carriage deals when channels change hands. Most consented to the sale, but Time Warner Cable did not, Mr. Hyatt told employees."

Huffington Post, 2 Jan 2013, Michael Calderone: "'Time-Warner cable shows abject political and journalistic cowardice by dropping Current because of Al Jazeera deal,' tweeted Dan Gilmor, a technology writer and founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University."

Tampa Bay Times, 2 Jan 2013, Eric Deggans: "For years, I and other critics have argued that Al Jazeera, the newschannel founded and funded by the government of Qatar, has earned a prominent place in America's array of cable news outlets, thanks to their incisive coverage of the Arab Spring revolts and war in the Middle East. But even though Al Jazeera now has a foothold in the U.S. market following its purchase of Al Gore's floundering Current TV cable channel, many Tampa Bay area TV viewers may not get to see the America-based outlet anytime soon. Current TV will be dropped by the area's biggest cable TV provider, Bright House Networks according to spokesman Joe Durkin, who emailed: 'Our agreement with Current TV has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service.' Bob Elek, a spokesman for the area's other big cable TV company, Verizon FIOS, declined to comment on whether it would continue carrying whatever Current TV becomes, saying the situation was under review."

Fox News Opinion, 3 Jan 2012, Dan Gainor: "How much does presidential election loser Al Gore hate conservatives? Enough that he wouldn’t sell his little-watched Current TV to conservative Glenn Beck, but he would sell it to anti-American terror mouthpiece Al Jazeera for half a billion dollars. ... Al Jazeera, known as the network of the Arab street, is also known for taking anti-American, anti-Israel and pro-terror positions."

Al Jazeera, 2 Jan 2013: "The new U.S.-based news channel will be the latest addition to the Al Jazeera Media Network which consists of: Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera Documentary, Al Jazeera Balkans, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr (Egypt Live), Al Jazeera Mobile, the English and Arabic Al Jazeera web sites Al Jazeera.net and Al Jazeera.com, and supported by the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center, the Al Jazeera Center for Studies, and the Al Jazeera Public Liberties and Human Rights Department. As part of the Network’s expansion it is also planning to launch Al Jazeera Turk for the Turkish-speaking region in 2013."

Gigaom, 3 Jan 2013, Janko Roettgers: "Cord cutters won’t be able to tune into Al Jazeera America, the new cable news network that was announced Wednesday in conjunction with the news that Al Jazeera has purchased Al Gore’s Current.tv. At least not live, anyway: An Al Jazeera America spokesperson confirmed Thursday that the network won’t be live streaming its programming online. ... Cable TV providers don’t like to compete with free online distribution, and instead want content to be made available only to authenticated subscribers."

Changes in China's "communications concepts" do not yet include a two-way information flow.

Posted: 03 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
China Radio International, 1 Jan 2013, Wang Gengnian, Director-General of CRI, New Year speech to CRI listeners: "In 2012, our efforts were mainly focused on increasing the capacity of international communication. We made large changes in our communication concepts, reformed our working mechanism and improved our media awareness and service. We spared no efforts to promote the development of overseas media outlets. Not only have we established stations overseas, we also strive to localize our radio content according to our audiences' demands and to cater to their taste and style. Also, we spared no efforts to modernize and diversify the forms of media in order to provide better and more convenient information service. Of course, all our efforts can be reflected on the improvements of the programs, through listener surveys and on the answers and responses to the questions from our audiences."

China Radio International, 31 Dec 2012, Chinese President Hu Jintao: "I'm delighted to extend New Year wishes via China Radio International, China National Radio and China Central Television, to Chinese of all ethnic groups, to compatriots in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region and Taiwan, to overseas Chinese and to friends all over the world!"

China Media Project, 3 Jan 2013, David Bandurski: "The big breaking media story in China today concerns the 'New Year’s Greeting' (新年献词) at Guangdong’s Southern Weekly, a newspaper with a longstanding reputation for harder-hitting journalism. According to accounts on Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, Southern Weekly‘s 'greeting,' an annual tradition with notable precedents (including Chang Ping‘s 1999 letter, which is being actively shared today), was censored directly by propaganda officials without the knowledge or consent of editors. We have not yet independently confirmed how the changes to the 'New Year’s Greeting' as Southern Weekly occurred. But if the internal chatter among Chinese journalists is accurate, this direct interference by propaganda leaders is indeed unprecedented."

VOA News, 1 Jan 2013: "China has forced the departure of a New York Times journalist after failing to renew his visa, prompting fresh accusations that Beijing is retaliating against foreign media because of coverage critical of the Communist Party. The Times says correspondent Chris Buckley 'was forced to leave mainland China' Monday after authorities declined to issue him a visa for 2013 by year's end, despite 'numerous requests' by the U.S. paper. The paper also says its new Beijing bureau chief Philip P. Pan, who applied for a visa in March, has yet to be accredited. It said the visa and credential process normally takes only weeks or a couple months. ... Beijing blocked both the Chinese and English websites of the Times in October, after the paper published a blockbuster story detailing the massive alleged wealth of the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Just months earlier, China responded similarly to the reporting of Bloomberg News, which published an investigation into the riches of the Communist Party's new leader, Xi Jinping. ... In May, Al-Jazeera journalist Melissa Chan, who had reported on China's network of extralegal detention centers, was forced to leave the country after the Chinese government failed to renew her credentials."

TV channel Sky News Arabia audio available on mobile devices.

Posted: 02 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
AMEinfo, 19 Dec 2012: "Sky News Arabia - 24-hour, Arabic-language rolling news channel broadcasting from Abu Dhabi - has added TuneIn to its portfolio of multi-media offerings, enabling viewers to access live audio of the channel's broadcast while online or on the go. TuneIn allows users to stay up-to-date with the latest news from Sky News Arabia via their mobile devices without sacrificing the bandwidth required for full video live streaming. The service is available on a wide range of mobile operating systems including iOS, Android, Palm, Blackberry and Windows Phone as well as online. ... Video broadcast of Sky News Arabia is available through the channel's app for iOS and Android devices as well as on skynewsarabia.com and livestation.com. Native apps are also available for Blackberry and Nokia mobile devices."

The Walking Dead: international broadcasters. Rather successful international broadcasters.

Posted: 02 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Fox International Channels, 24 Dec 2012: "Following AMC's Season 4 renewal of The Walking Dead, FOX International Channels (FIC) is excited to confirm the global pick up of the show for a 4th season. FIC will follow its global release model as in previous years, making the series available in all major international TV markets. The zombie drama continues to break ratings records both domestically on AMC and worldwide across FIC's 200 entertainment channels in 122 countries. Internationally Season 3 consistently ranks as the number one show on pay-tv, beating out all other completion in major markets and over-preforming all prior season averages."

China Daily newspaper launches weekly Africa edition.

Posted: 01 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
China Daily, 14 Dec 2012: "China Daily [launched] its Africa edition, the first English-language newspaper published in Africa by a Chinese media enterprise, on Dec 14. China Daily Africa Weekly marks a significant milestone in the overseas development of China Daily and joins the paper's international stable of publications in the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific as well as Hong Kong. 'The relationship between China and the African continent is one of the most significant relationships in the world today. It is growing and complex and not always understood - not just by those in other parts of the world but Africans and Chinese, too,' said Zhu Ling, China Daily's publisher and editor-in-chief. 'We hope to set that straight, and that is why China Daily, China's largest English-language newspaper, is launching an Africa edition.' The newspaper, which will be circulated throughout the continent and also be available in a digital format, will look at the precise nature of Chinese involvement in Africa and also the prominent role many Africans play in China. ... China Daily Group is an authoritative provider of information, analysis, comment and entertainment to global readers. China Daily has firmly established itself as the leading English-language news organization in China since its founding in 1981."

Radio Free Asia reports stepped up North Korean jamming of foreign broadcasts.

Posted: 01 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
Radio Free Asia, 19 Dec 2012, Joon Ho Kim: "North Korean authorities have intensified their jamming of foreign radio broadcasts since the beginning of December, blocking signals from South Korea and the United States almost every day during the last month of a year-long period of mourning for the country’s former leader Kim Jong Il, sources in China say. North Korean jamming is usually sporadic due to electricity outages and the cost of special facilities, but has now been continuous since Dec. 1, said a source in the border city of Dandong, in China's Liaoning province. 'Listening to RFA [Radio Free Asia] and VOA [Voice of America] is almost impossible due to static, which has continued since the first of this month,' the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A source in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China’s Jilin province confirmed that static had disrupted reception of RFA broadcasts, adding that broadcasts of South Korea’s KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) were also 'getting harder to hear.' North Korean jamming signals have also interfered with Chinese broadcasts, leaving state-run CRI (China Radio International) programs hard to listen to, said another source, who recently moved to China."

AP, 31 Dec 2012, Tim Sullivan: "The warning came from Kim Jong Un, the North Korean ruler who sees his isolated nation, just across the border from this busy Chinese trading town, as under siege. The attack, he said, must be stopped. ... The assault that he fears? It's being waged with cheap televisions rigged to receive foreign broadcasts, and with smuggled mobile phones that - if you can get a Chinese signal along the border - can call the outside world. Very often, it arrives in the form of wildly popular South Korean soap operas smuggled in on DVDs or computer thumb drives. In North Korea, a country where international phone calls and Internet connections exist only for a tiny fraction of a tiny elite, and televisions and radios must be permanently preset to receive only state broadcasts, it's Korean-language TV heartache they crave. 'South Korean dramas, that's what everyone wants,' grumbled a Seoul-based Christian missionary who runs a string of safe houses in this part of China, where his network helps people living underground after fleeing North Korea. ... Soap operas, at first, might not seem like conduits of underground information. But they are threats nonetheless, offering windows into worlds that North Koreans both lack and desire. ... [A]nalysts say smugglers appear to have shifted to new techniques, at least for videos: carrying recordings on tiny thumb drives, and then transferring the programs to DVDs inside North Korea."

Daily Yomiuri Online, 26 Dec 2012, Akihiro Takeda: "Broadcast of the shortwave radio program Shiokaze (sea breeze), which has been sending messages to Japanese abduction victims in North Korea since October 2005, has entered its eighth year. The Tokyo-based Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (COMJAN), which runs the radio program in spite of repeated jamming believed to have come from North Korea and financial difficulties, plans to start middlewave [medium wave, or AM] radio broadcasting if the necessary funds can be mustered. ... Shiokaze broadcasts messages from abductees' families and news twice a day in four languages--Japanese, Korean, Chinese and English."

Makeshift, 12 Dec 2012, Chris Duffy: Groups sending messages via balloons to North Korea "have a variety of motives. Some overtly encourage revolution and defection. Others, such as North Korean Peace, focus on messages of friendship. The group uses balloons to send warm socks to North Korea. A leaflet is affixed to the socks: 'The world has not forgotten the current hardships of our fellow brothers and sisters in North Korea.'"

See previous post about calls to start a BBC Korean service.

"Redoubled" harassment of BBC Persian journalists' families in Iran.

Posted: 01 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, 20 Dec 2012: "In a news program aired on BBC Persian on Dec 18, 2012, Sadeq Saba, the director of BBC Persian, said that Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents have redoubled their harassment of employees’ families over the last two weeks, pressuring them to ask their relatives to stop working for the BBC. ... Saba said the harassment began following a screening of documentary filmmaker Maziar Bahari’s Forced Confessions, which aired on BBC in early December 2012. In the two weeks since, Intelligence Ministry agents have contacted the family members of half a dozen BBC employees in several cities throughout Iran, summoning them to the Ministry of Intelligence offices in each city, Saba reported. ... Since 2009, BBC Persian, an important news source for millions of Iranians, has emerged as an alternative source of information and analysis besides the state-run media. It covers a variety of areas, including Iran’s domestic politics and its struggle with the international community. Iranian officials repeatedly cite BBC Persian’s reporting as evidence of a foreign plot to undermine the regime."

"Auntie, watch out – the Chinese, Arabic and Russian BBCs are after you."

Posted: 01 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
The Telegraph, 31 Dec 2012, Colin Freeman: "CCTV-9 is just one of a number of well-funded 'transnational' English-language news channels that have sprung up in recent years, among them Al Jazeera English, Russia Today, France 24 and Iran's Press TV. Another, in the same vein, is Euronews, which is quarter-funded by the European Commission. All have been created, to some extent, to provide an alternative 'world view' to CNN and the BBC, whose British-American perspective is seen as dominating international news broadcasting. ... However, one of the pleasures of covering international news is that it isn't always that tangled with domestic political agendas, and on a lot of stories, these channels' approach is no different from the BBC's or CNN's. Besides, in the case of Al Jazeera English, for example, a lot of their reporters tend to be ex-BBC, ITV and Sky hacks, for whom basic impartiality is fairly ingrained. ... But while it may be sometime before Al Jazeera overtakes Auntie in the nations' affections, another recent chance encounter suggested to me that he may have a point. This was in the back of a cab in Ireland, when the driver, upon learning that I worked for the Telegraph, informed me matter-of-factly that he now got all his daily news by watching Russia Today." -- The "CCTV-9" he refers to changed its name to CCTV News in 2010. The CCTV-9 brand remains, but it now airs documentaries, mostly in Mandarin with English subtitles.

RT (Russia Today) and its sledgehammer approach to international broadcasting.

Posted: 01 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
GlobalPost, 20 Dec 2012, Jennifer Rankin: "Like other government-funded international channels such as Al-Jazeera English and China's CCTV, however, Russia Today has expanded far beyond its modest beginnings. It adopted its more anonymous name and opened its Washington studios in 2010 to run a dedicated American service, and soon added broadcasts in Spanish and Arabic. RT America airs a mix of news and talk shows during prime time, with roughly four-fifths of its content devoted to American domestic affairs. On a program called 'Breaking the Set,' host Abby Martin delivers scalding reviews of US 'corporate media.' The opening credits show her dressed in high heels and a cocktail dress swinging a sledgehammer into a TV set playing CNN. ... RT's 32-year-old editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan defends such hyperbole as part of her channel’s drive to be 'the alternative to the mainstream media.' Speaking in an interview in her central Moscow office, she says RT sees its mission as presenting news and opinions others don’t. 'Ninety percent of our viewers say, "I’ve never seen this story,"' she says. '"Why do I have to tune into Russian television for stories about my own country I wouldn’t see otherwise?"' ... RT's American audience, like that of other foreign cable stations, is too small to be measured, according to a press official at Nielsen, the company that measures TV ratings in the United States."

Indiantelevision.com, 19 Dec 2012: "Russia Today (RT), the global international news network, has switched all of its English-language news broadcasting to High Definition (HD) format, effective 16 December. The switch to HD was enabled by RT's move of its studios and headquarters offices to a brand new facility in Moscow, the news broadcaster said in a statement."

Voice of Russia, 14 Dec 2012, citing RIA: "Russia’s television channel Russia Today has opened a round the clock broadcasting service in Georgia. RT will partner up with Silknet, one of the leading cable TV operators in Georgia."

Broadcasting Board of Governors accepts resignation of RFE/RL president Steven Korn.

Posted: 31 Dec 2012   Print   Send a link
Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 31 Dec 2012: "The Board of Directors of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) today accepted the resignation of RFR/RL’s President and CEO, Steven Korn, to be effective January 25, 2013. The Board thanked Mr. Korn for his service and noted his work to enhance RFE/RL operations. 'We appreciate the passion and energy Steve devoted to RFE/RL through a difficult time of change in the global media landscape, including strengthening its presence on digital platforms,' said Michael Lynton, presiding governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. 'He was crucial to negotiating a new lease for our Prague headquarters and establishing a Journalists in Trouble fund, among other important advancements. Steve’s background in the private sector, especially in broadcasting, made him our top choice, and he brought innovative approaches to his leadership. With his resignation, we will immediately begin a search for a replacement.' Korn was appointed in June 2011 and had previously worked for 17 years for Turner Broadcasting Systems, Inc., serving as Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. From 1996 to 2000, he was Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of CNN. Interim leadership will be announced shortly, and the Board voted today to establish a search committee led by Governors Susan McCue, Michael Meehan, Victor Ashe and Dennis Mulhaupt."

RFE/RL press release, 31 Dec 2012, message from Steve Korn to the BBG: "If there is one lesson that I hope to have imparted to my colleagues it is that change is inevitable, constant, and necessary to the continued vitality of RFE/RL. To be frank, when I arrived I found a degree of institutional inertia and insular self-satisfaction that I thought could be harmful to the future of the company. The company had become too comfortable with its past successes and current methods. Despite the expressed desires of some, RFE/RL is not a think tank. We are a news and information company with a very specific mission that competes against highly focused, better resourced competitors that often play by rules that we reject and abhor. We cannot rest on our reputation, past successes or the righteousness of our mission. As George Romney prophetically told his son Mitt in reference to the U.S. auto industry: 'there’s nothing as vulnerable as entrenched success'. ... At every turn since I joined RFE/RL I have supported and, indeed defended, the Board’s strategy for USIB, even as others have resisted your vision for the agency. Your vision for consolidation and elimination of language service duplication was rejected by many, but I thought it was smart and necessary and said so publicly when doing so was not the most popular position to take. Unfortunately, these efforts are, at best, stalled. ... It is all too painfully known to everyone involved with U. S. International Broadcasting that the organization suffers from structural dysfunction that has a significantly negative impact on the entire agency. There is constant internecine warfare over issues large and small. There are indeed serious battles to be fought. If, however, we spend all of our time fighting among ourselves over petty issues, then our real adversaries and competitors will waltz to victory in the 'information war'. I hope that you will find a way to heal USIB so that the good people who have devoted their lives to the agency’s important mission can do their jobs and receive the Board’s support. Perhaps the imminent public release of the Inspector General’s report on the BBG will provide the impetus for the change that is so sorely needed if the mission is to be accomplished. At my initial meeting with the Presidential search committee I said that if they wanted to hire someone to merely babysit RFE/RL, that I was not the person for the job."

Wall Street Journal, 30 Dec 2012, John O'Sullivan, former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty executive editor (2008-11) and vice president (2011): "Two external critics invited to critique RL—a BBC World Service veteran and a Daily Telegraph Internet pioneer—concluded that the service was doing the right things. The outsiders' verdict annoyed those managers who wanted more popular fare. But the managers were bureaucrats, not program-makers. They needed a simpatico editorial vision. They found it in Masha Gessen, the Radio Liberty director appointed by RFE/RL President Korn after the September housecleaning. 'I want to do a kind of journalism that no one is doing at the moment. I would describe it as normal journalism,' she told the Moscow Times shortly after her appointment. 'Something that's not polemical, like opposition media, and something that's not controlled by the Kremlin.' In practice this journalism has turned out to be softer news features in which liberty is likely to mean sexual liberation (with illustrations) rather than 'political' aspects of human rights. Five years ago when young Russians were alienated from politics, there might have been a case for Radio Liberty to take that approach. But other news outlets are doing such journalism in Moscow today—with Mr. Putin's blessing. As for normality, well, normal journalism in an environment of worsening authoritarianism surely includes the kind of 'opposition media' that Ms. Gessen disdains."

"[N]ot polemical, like opposition media, and something that's not controlled by the Kremlin," sounds to me like an ideal formula for US international broadcasting to Russia. It's also probably the reason why the BBC is the most successful international broadcasting website in Russia. One can argue whether RFE/RL's execution of such a formula is as it should be. But I also disdain "opposition media," because it is really just the other side of the coin of the dictators' media. It is not really journalism. And something that tries to mix news with opposition media is not really journalism, either.

See previous post about same subject.