Only its annual playwriting competition keeps plays on BBC World Service.

Posted: 28 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
The Spectator, 23 Feb 2013, Kate Chisholm: "On [20 Feb] the BBC World Service and British Council announced the winners of this year’s International Radio Playwriting Competition. Two winners, Angella Emurwon from Uganda and Janet Veronica Morrison from Jamaica, representing the best play written in English as a first language and the best play by a writer for whom English is a second language, will be given the chance to hear their plays broadcast on air. Nothing unusual, you might think. But plays on the World Service, which used to be a regular weekly event, are now a thing of the past. Only the existence of this prize, which has been going for 23 years and has funding and support from outwith the BBC, is keeping drama on air on the BBC’s global network. The number of radio plays across all the networks has been going down bit by bit in the past few years. Yet drama is the lifeblood of British radio. It’s what makes our radio so different. Radio drama saw off its TV rival, but will it survive the insatiable advance of touchscreen technology?" -- If there still is a drama program on BBC World Service, it's nearly impossible to find out from the incomprensible new World Service website.

BBC World Service press release, 14 Feb 2013: "The competition, now in its 23rd year, invites anyone resident outside Britain, to write a 53-minute radio drama for up to six characters. This year’s competition attracted more than 1,000 entries from the widest range of countries ever received. These included plays about Gorgons in Australia, art forgery in India, men stuck in holes in Greece and cockroach races in Qatar. The breadth of imagination was limitless." See also Commonwealth Writers, 14 Feb 2013.

For pay TV, growth will be in the emerging markets.

Posted: 28 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Broadband TV News, 12 Feb 2013, Julian Clover: "The proposed acquisition of Virgin Media by Liberty Global serves to underline the internationalisation of the pay-TV market, according to Florence Le Borgne-Bachschmidt, head of the TV & Digital Content Practice at IDATE. 'Pay-TV is nearing saturation in the world’s more developed TV markets. The emergence of new OTT video services on televisions and other connected devices increases the threat of cord-cutting. For a great many pay-TV providers in the West, emerging markets therefore represent vital sources of future growth.' ... According to IDATE, the number of TV households worldwide will reach 1.544 billion in 2017 (+9.1% in 5 years). Cable will the remain the chief access channel (554.0 million households in 2017) but will gradually lose ground to satellite and IPTV which will account for 32.1% and 8.6% of TV households, respectively, at the end of 2017."

Iran targets BBC, VOA, Farda, Deutsche Welle, Voice of Russia through arrests, accusations, jamming, blocking, complaints.

Posted: 28 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
VOA News, 28 Feb 2013: "Iran has arrested a dozen journalists accused of cooperating with foreign Persian-language media organizations, in what appears to be a coordinated crackdown on the press. Iranian media said on Monday the detained journalists worked for six different news organizations, including five daily or weekly newspapers and the semi-official ILNA news agency. The reports say the journalists allegedly have links to 'anti-revolutionary' media, a term Tehran frequently uses to suggest cooperation with overseas media groups. ... Iran has repeatedly denounced as hostile the Persian services of various international media, including Voice of America and the BBC. The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency which oversees VOA, issued a statement condemning what it called 'the pattern of threats to the media in Iran,' including harassment of family members, censorship of the Internet and incidents of radio and television signal jamming."

RFE/RL, Journalists in Trouble, 26 Feb 2013: "According to [a] video, published by the Committee to Protect Journalists, 16 Iranian journalists were arrested between January 26 - 28. The media crackdown comes in advance of presidential elections scheduled to take place in Iran in June. ... Radio Farda journalists, based in Prague, have recorded more than 15 incidents in which they have been the subjects of counterfeit Facebook pages, internet viruses and misleading blog posts, and had their email accounts hacked."

Fars News Agency, 19 Feb 2013: "The Iranian Intelligence Ministry said in statement on [19 Feb] that it has summoned and later released a number of reporters and journalists after briefing them about their rather unwilling links and connections with a media spy network run by the BBC in Iran. 'During the trend of investigations, the other individuals linked to the (BBC-led) network of psychological operations were summoned and interrogated and also a number of others who were not aware of the nature of the network were also called in and were briefed about the covert goals and ill intentions of the network,' said the statement which was the third since the Intelligence Ministry embarked on detaining a number of reporters last month to investigate their suspicious connection with the BBC and some other western-led media."

Washington Post, 20 Feb 2013, Jason Rezaian: An Iranian government "statement asserted that several of the journalists had unknowingly been working for a network of foreign-based media outlets, which it said had 'covert goals and ill intentions.' he statement reflects the Iranian government’s deep distrust of foreign media, particularly the BBC’s Farsi-language station, which it accuses of illegally employing Iranian journalists who lack government permission. Sadeq Saba, head of BBC Persian Service, wrote via e-mail: 'We refute these allegations completely. We do not have, and never have had, any working relationship whatsoever with these journalists. The allegations are completely without foundation.' BBC Persian is broadcast over Iranian airwaves despite apparent efforts to block it." -- Not really "Iranian" airwaves, but international airwaves: shortwave from abroad, satellite from space.

Eurasia Review, 25 Feb 2013, GVF: "In its third statement after the government’s rounding up of journalists working for pro-reform publications, the Intelligence Ministry said that opposition websites such as the Green Voice of Freedom were tied to a 'psychological' war waged by British intelligence. Tuesday’s statement claimed that 'new and credible evidence' showed that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was now managing 'a number of radio and television networks, as well as anti-revolutionary websites linked with elements from 2009 sedition who have fled' the country. 'Sedition,' is the Iranian regime’s epithet for the opposition Green Movement. The Intelligence Ministry also named opposition sites such as Kaleme, Jaras, Mellimazhabi, Norooz, Rooz, Gozar, Khodnevis and Saham news as media outlets that form a 'network' tied closely to the BBC. The list also included the Persian service of Radio France Internationale (RFI), Deutsche Welle (DW), Radio Farda, The Voice of America (VOA) and Manoto, an entertainment channel."

Press TV, 25 Feb 2013: "BBC Persian is now focused on depicting Iran as miserable and undermine the Islamic system in the country, using what the corporation calls citizen-journalism. However, Iranian officials say the BBC has swapped journalists with spies, partly via the BBC World Service’s 'Your Story' section that trains ordinary citizens, offers them the needed equipments and pays them to prepare ‘reports’ from Iran."

Index on Censorship, 18 Feb 2013, Peter Horrocks, director of BBC Global News: "Intensive interference of our signals [by Iran] started in 2009 at the time of Iran’s presidential election. On Election Day, Iranian authorities started to jam signals of BBC Persian Television, launched only a few months before. Intensive jamming continued in the aftermath of the election during the street protests and violence. For many Iranians, whose access to free media was limited, Persian TV was the main source of news and information. Since then, the jamming of BBC Persian has continued intermittently. Some incidents have been directly related to specific types of programmes such as audience participation, documentaries or coverage of news events. The latest example of jamming is as recent as 9 February this year when the Iranian government was marking the Islamic Revolution’s anniversary and PTV was taken off-air alongside 13 other broadcasters. In response, we have increased the number of satellites carrying the channel and technical changes were made to help reduce jamming on the original signal. However, more work needs to be done."

The Guardian, 22 Feb 2013, Roy Greenslade blog: Peter Horrocks "praises Eutelsat for its decision to 'invest in technologies that identify sources of deliberate interference and make jamming more difficult.'"

Fars News Agency, 10 Feb 2013: "The Iranian mission in Berlin criticized the Persian service of Deutsche Welle for misquoting and fabricating the remarks made by Iran's top diplomat Ali Akbar Salehi. The embassy on Saturday complained to Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle for blatantly misquoting the remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi about the US-engineered economic sanctions that have been imposed on Iran. The embassy criticized the Persian service of Deutsche Welle for misquoting the statements Salehi made in an interview with the German-language business newspaper Handelsblatt on February 6 and described the action as a fabrication and unprofessional and unethical media conduct. "

RFE/RL, Persian Letters blog, 26 Feb 2013, Golnaz Esfandiari: "When it comes to official censorship, Iran doesn’t appear to distinguish friends from foes. The Persian-language website of the Voice of Russia -- the international broadcaster financed by the Russian government -- said in a statement that it has been blocked in Iran since February 13. According to the statement, access to its website in Iran is now possible only by using antifiltering software and proxy sites, which Iranians use to access 'blocked Western websites.' It didn't mention that non-Western websites are also routinely blocked by Iranian officials and agencies in charge of online censorship. Voice of Russia said it received no warning from Iranian authorities and has written to the Iranian Embassy in Moscow and the Iranian Culture Ministry asking what’s behind the move."

Press TV, 28 Feb 2013: "Attempts by Western companies to suppress Iran’s satellite channels indicate that the firms are at war with Iranian media, an analyst tells Press TV. The European satellite provider Eutelsat has forced another satellite company to pull the plug on Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam news network, as part of its war on the freedom of speech." With video.

BBC and VOA condemn Chinese jamming of their English shortwave broadcasts (update).

Posted: 27 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC World Service press statement, 25 Feb 2013: "The BBC has received reports that World Service English shortwave frequencies are being jammed in China. Though it is not possible at this stage to attribute the source of the jamming definitively, the extensive and co-ordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China. The BBC strongly condemns this action, which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information. In the past couple of years the BBC has experienced jamming of satellite services. While shortwave jamming is generally less frequent, it does affect BBC Persian transmissions in Iran and was historically used to block BBC broadcasts during the Cold War." -- While China has for many years jammed certain Western shortwave broadcasts in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, and Uighur, English has so far been unscathed. VOA English is apparently also now jammed. This audio, as received in Beijing, is VOA English frequency 9490 kHz, 23 Feb at 0037 UTC.

Update: Voice of America press release, 26 Feb 2013: "Voice of America condemns the recent start of deliberate interference with its English language shortwave broadcasts into China. Monitors listening to VOA broadcasts say this interference 'appears intentional,' and is strongest in regions around Tibet and along the Indian border. 'The Chinese government has for years jammed VOA and Radio Free Asia Chinese and Tibetan language programs and blocked VOA vernacular language websites,' said VOA Director David Ensor, 'but English language programs have historically not been blocked.' ... Monitors say the interference affects about 75% of the English language transmissions to China and is similar to the type of jamming aimed at VOA Horn of Africa broadcasts, which are targeted by equipment installed by China in Ethiopia. Reports of jamming on the VOA shortwave frequencies to China began pouring in earlier this week."

VOA News, 26 Feb 2013: "VOA broadcast engineers say Radio Australia also is being jammed. At VOA headquarters in Washington, engineers say that while the agency's Chinese-language broadcasts are routinely jammed in China, its English broadcasts usually are not. They noticed the jamming of the English programs about a month ago and say it appears to use a new technology."

The Guardian, 26 Feb 2013, Jonathan Kaiman: "China has brushed off accusations of jamming the BBC's English-language World Service radio broadcasts a day after the broadcaster announced the interference. 'I don't understand this situation,' foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing on Tuesday, when asked to comment on the allegations. She said reporters should contact 'relevant departments' for further information, but did not specify which departments or how to contact them." -- The photo accompanying this Guardian news item is of an internet cafe. Apparently there are no shortwave radio cafes in China.

The Register, 26 Feb 2013, Phil Muncaster: "The timing is particularly suspicious, coming as it does just days after BBC journalists were detained by police after trying to film outside the Shanghai Peoples Liberation Army compound alleged by security firm Mandiant to have been the home of prolific hacking group APT1."

China Digital Times, 26 Feb 2013, Samuel Wade: "The slightly anachronistic air to the news has puzzled some, not least China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which declined to comment. ... At The Washington Post, Max Fisher suggested that the jamming might be retaliation for the BBC’s coverage of a recent report on alleged hackers in the Chinese military. ... VOA’s statement points in a different direction, however, noting that the interference is particularly intense in Tibet and along the Indian border. As self-immolations continue, Chinese authorities have fought to stem the flow of information into and out of Tibet, and state media have accused VOA broadcasts of fueling the protests by glorifying self-immolators. Officials have reportedly ordered the confiscation of TVs and dismantling of satellite dishes, but portable radios are easier to conceal, perhaps making jamming a more practical option."

The Economist, 26 Feb 2013, via The Business Insider: "The potential impact of China’s alleged computer hacking ... would be far more ominous than any attempt to block listeners in China from listening to BBC news reports read aloud in English. Anyone in China who is able to understand such a broadcast in the first place is also likely able to read all kinds of news and information in many other ways. It has been years since I fired up my own shortwave radio in Beijing, or found myself within earshot of anyone else firing up his. ... This week’s news about shortwave jamming is only a fresh reminder that—in its cyber-snooping as in other endeavours—China tends to keep an eye on the lower rungs of the technological ladder, even as it climbs ever higher."

"Radio Gessen" cannot do the job of VOA, and VOA cannot do the job of "Radio Gessen."

Posted: 26 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
American Security Project, Flashpoint Blog, 6 Feb 2013, Lívia Pontes Fialho "RFE/RL has consistently come under attack from past Soviet and Russian governments. Focusing most of its broadcast online may not be the best idea, since its digital platform could be susceptible to attacks, which would have been much harder to carry out over the air-waves. In this process, the firing of journalists by the radio’s management has been met with protest and hurt the station’s credibility. The attempt to regain relevance is legitimate but doing so, using online tools, without taking into account the effects on a well-regarded brand and on the actual audience may backfire instead."

BBG Watch, 22 Feb 2013: "At the end of today’s Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) open meeting in Washington, D.C., Ann Noonan, Executive Director of the Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB –, made a short statement as a member of the public, in which she praised the BBG for addressing the Radio Liberty crisis in Russia, welcomed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty new acting president Kevin Klose and called for the reinstatement of fired Radio Liberty Russian Service journalists. ... 'In response to the GAO Report, CUSIB remains determined to defend surrogate broadcasters and the VOA at the same time. Both were clearly designed by Congress for very good reasons. Surrogate broadcasters have a special role to play as an alternative to suppressed internal media and they can’t do the job of the Voice of America. By the same token, Congress created surrogate broadcasters because VOA has a different role. CUSIB strongly believes that we need them both.'" See also video of the BBG meeting.

Alhurra is obviously in violation of the CUSIB's vision of US international broadcasting. As described in a previous post, Alhurra "provides context and analysis to give viewers a broader understanding of the actions impacting the region [and] also provides the comprehensive coverage from the United States drawing on dedicated correspondents at the White House, State Department, Congress, and Pentagon." Because Alhurra is doing both jobs when, according to CUSIB, it can only do one job, then Alhurra should be split into two channels, one reporting on the target region, and the other reporting on the United States and the rest of the world. Audiences would have to tune to two US channels to get all the news. Audiences will not put up with such inconvenience, and will tune elsewhere, but a boondoggle is a boondoggle. And what about VOA's reporting about Africa broadcast to Africa? Doesn't VOA realize it can't do that job?

BBG Watch, 24 Feb 2013: "Even though they are not the official Radio Liberty, Radio Liberty in Exile was the first to post on the web materials marking the station’s 60th anniversary. Many in Russia see fired journalists who last September formed Radio Liberty in Exile as the real Radio Liberty upholding the traditions of the station and refer derisively to the official Radio Liberty as 'Radio Gessen.' Since October 2012, Masha Gessen has been the controversial new director of the Radio Liberty Russian Service, which is now being boycotted by many Russian opposition leaders, intellectuals, artists and journalists. Radio Liberty in Exile is planning a major event in Moscow on March 1 to mark the 60th anniversary of the first Radio Liberty Russian broadcast to the Soviet Union. It is expected to bring together many former and current Radio Liberty personalities, other independent Russian journalists, intellectuals, human rights activists and anti-Putin politicians." -- "Independent Russian journalists" and "anti-Putin politicians" perhaps do not comfortably co-exist in the same sentence.

Cold War Radios, 26 Feb 2013, Richard H. Cummings: "60 Years Ago, Radio 'Liberation' began broadcasting. On March 1, 1953, the radio station that become known as Radio Liberty began broadcasting from Lampertheim, West Germany." With history of Radio Liberty.

New York Times, 11 Feb 2013, Masha Gessen: "Moscow’s media community was shaken by the news that yet another media outlet was closing:, a political analysis Web site, had been shut down summarily by its owner. The editor in chief said he believed the reason was politics. The owner declined journalists’ requests for interviews, but some in the know wrote on their blogs that there was nothing political about the decision: The owner had just grown tired of financing a losing venture. The logic of these posts, which generally came from those on the opposition side of Russia’s political spectrum, was much the same as [the Russian government viewpoint]: A media outlet is a business like any other, and its proprietor is free to do with it as he or she pleases. This point of view, uninformed by any of the 20th century’s debates about the relationship between private ownership and profit-seeking on the one hand and the media’s role as a public resource on the other, is not unique to Russia. But here, where private business is under constant government pressure, it seems particularly shortsighted."

Newest shortwave tabletop receiver has big shoes to fill.

Posted: 26 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
The SWLing Post, 25 Jan 2013, Thomas Witherspoon: "US-based CommRadio is introducing a new tabletop, SDR-based, shortwave receiver this year: the CR-1. ... The CR-1 receives the full medium wave and shortwave spectrum (.5-30 MHz), plus some portions of VHF and UHF (FM broadcast band, Aircraft, Marine, NOAA weather radio, GMRS and FRS services)."

In other news about shortwave...

Radio World, 25 Jan 2013: "The National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters invites shortwave broadcasters, listeners, DXers and those with an interest in shortwave radio to its 2013 annual meeting, which will take place at shortwave station WEWN, May 15–17 in Birmingham, Ala. The meeting will include a visit to the WEWN transmitter site in the mountains on the outskirts of Birmingham. From this location, the 500 kW transmitters beam programs worldwide."

Mobile Life, 29 Jan 2013, Ketan Pratap: "In line with what is happening in the television world, the global radio space is set to revolutionise broadcasting in the long, medium and short wave bands with the help of DRM. Some of the few add-on features that DRM provides are – digital sound quality and the ease of use that comes from digital radio, combined with a wealth of enhanced features like surround sound, Journaline text information, slide shows and data services."

The LoHud Yankees Blog, 31 Jan 2013, Chad Jennings: "Sean McLernon, a 28-year-old former newspaper sports writer who now works as a reporter for a legal news publication in Manhattan ... recently completed a two-year Peace Corps stint in the Caribbean and West Africa. 'I would listen to static-filled Voice of America broadcasts on my shortwave radio in a (usually futile) attempt to hear Yankees results,' he wrote."

Radio World, 16 Jan 2013, Chris Imlay: "[I]t seems to me that AM will never get better in the worsening RF noise environment in the bands below 30 MHz. Some regulatory relief is necessary. ... {The federal Communications Commission] does not have a good handle on ambient RF noise levels and trends over time; it has uneven regulations governing noise-generating intentional, incidental and unintentional radiators; and its enforcement efforts in this context are both impractical and insufficient." -- Applies to shortwave as well as medium wave broadcast bands.

On shortwave, you can talk and send text at the same time. But it's not recommended.

Posted: 24 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
VOA Radiogram, 24 Feb 2013: "Can MT63-2000 (long interleave) decode even if someone is talking at the same time? Apparently yes." -- MT63-2000 is a digital text mode borrowed from the amateur radio community for these shortwave broadcast experiments.

VOA Radiogram, 24 Feb 2013: "On 24 February at about 0130 UTC, The Mighty KBC, 9450 kHz via Bulgaria, transmitted MFSK16 centered on 510, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, and 2900 Hertz." -- In northern Virginia, three of them decoded perfectly.

Alhurra celebrates ninth anniversary "with new initiatives to reach mobile devices."

Posted: 24 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
USC Center on Communication Leadership &Policy, 11 Feb 2013, Adam Powell: "The U.S. government's international TV broadcaster in the Middle East, Alhurra, celebrates its ninth anniversary on the air on Thursday with new initiatives to reach mobile devices. ... In the network's flagship three-hour nightly magazine program, with anchors in Cairo, Dubai, Beirut and Baghdad, one correspondent in Washington has the sole assignment of providing regular live updates from Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, which are displayed on large video screens on the set (see photo to the right). And one story that generated a huge [response] had nothing to do with changes in Arab governments. 'About a year ago, Secretary Clinton made a statement about women driving in Saudi Arabia,' [Brian Coniff, president of Alhurra parent entity Middle east Broadcasting Networks Inc] said. 'We had an overwhelming response, primarily from men, 50,000 [messages] in 24 hours. So there's a lot of interest on where we stand on issues like that.' Alhurra, originally created to transmit U.S. perspectives on the news to Iraq, now broadcasts a second channel to the entire Mideast region. The network was widely criticized as lacking credibility and contact with people of the region. But the network revamped its programming, and its audience spiked during the Arab spring protests two years ago, reaching eight million viewers a week in Egypt alone, according to Nielsen." -- "Where we stand"?

Broadcasting Board of Governors Notebook, 14 Feb 2013: "Today, February 14, 2013, marks the 9th anniversary of Alhurra Television! Alhurra broadcasts objective and accurate Arabic-language news and information to 22 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to reporting on world events, Alhurra provides context and analysis to give viewers a broader understanding of the actions impacting the region. Alhurra also provides the comprehensive coverage from the United States drawing on dedicated correspondents at the White House, State Department, Congress, and Pentagon." -- I.e., Alhurra fulfills both the surrogate broadcasters' "mission" and VOA's "mission," all within one television channel. More convenient for the audience, more economical for the US taxpayer.

iTech Post, 9 Feb 2013, Matthew Klickstein: "Innocence of Muslims" producer Mark Basseley Youssef "told Voice of America's Radio Sawa that he graduated from Cairo University's Faculty of Arts." -- Radio Sawa is not part of VOA, either. It's under Middle East Broadcasting Networks Inc, as is Alhurra.

USC CPD conference: International Broadcasting in the Social Media Era.

Posted: 23 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
USC Center on Public Diplomacy, announcing International Broadcasting in the Social Media Era: A CPD Conference: "International broadcasting has long been at the heart of major nations’ public diplomacy strategies as one of the most effective ways to reach international publics. Satellite technology has enabled regional and global broadcasters to transcend traditional borders and wield significant political influence. But what is the role of broadcasting in the era of social media? Will these media venues compete or coexist? For those who design and implement public diplomacy programs, answers to such questions are crucial." Friday, 1 March 2013, 8:45 AM - 1:00 PM (Pacific time), University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Part of the CPD International Broadcasting Research Initiative.

Years before broadcast satellites were common, shortwave radio "enabled regional and global broadcasters to transcend traditional borders." And perhaps with more impact, because the audience was divided among fewer shortwave broadcasters than among the later and larger number of satellite channels. Then there are the social media: While, in past years, VOA as a shortwave broadcaster could claim to have 120 million listeners, VOA as a Facebook page must face the fact that it has 1.01 billion competitors.

Representing USIB at the conference is Libby Liu, President, Radio Free Asia/Open Technology Fund. I will not be attending as I'm not feeling very, well, social.

"Propaganda tool" VOA caught up in conspiracy theory involving Kim Kardashian and Africa.

Posted: 22 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
The Guardian, Lost in Showbiz blog, 21 Feb 2013, Marina Hyde: Is Kim Kardashian "in fact, the US government's stealthiest new nation-building weapon? Consider this report for the locals, compiled by Voice of America, which you may know is the official external broadcast network of the US government. 'American reality television star Kim Kardashian is making a visit to the west African nation of Ivory Coast,' began a VOA report datelined Abidjan, 'where her family's shows have earned her a loyal following.' So far, so unremarkable. But here's where it gets a bit Operation Enduring Mindmelt. 'While the family's exploits might be seen as decadent and absurd by some Americans,' we learn, 'fans in the commercial capital of Abidjan view the shows as heartfelt family dramas featuring girls familiar with struggle and hard work.' ... 'People struggle to earn their living every day, and then when they succeed in life they get big cars, houses, luxurious things. It shows us how American people live.' Well. Voice of America has long been cited as a propaganda tool of the US government, but this seems brainwashing even by those standards." Refers to VOA News, 4 Jan 2013.

This blog entry is tongue-in-cheek, but the writer's characterizations of VOA seem intentional. Does The Guardian or anyone else refer to BBC World Service as "the official external broadcast network of the UK government" or as a "propaganda tool"?

Consider that the deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, in a recent op-ed, stated that VOA "exists to promote U.S. culture and values to the world." Or that a former acting VOA associate director and co-founder of a supposed advocacy group for US international broadcasting wrote this this about VOA: "The Voice of America is seen as being most effective when foreign audiences regarded it as authoritatively reflecting the American perspective on world affairs, reporting on U.S. official policies and independent views, and presenting and explaining what’s best or most interesting in American culture."

"What's best"? No wonder VOA has an identity problem from which it may never ascend. This is why I favor not only the consolidation of USIB, but also a complete rebranding.

Confiscation of shortwave radios by Zimbabwean police has murky legal basis.

Posted: 21 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Radio Voice of the People, 20 Feb 2013: "Zimbabwe Republic Police on Tuesday threatened to arrest anyone found distributing or in possession of shortwave radios. 'We have information that some people or political parties are engaging in illegal activities, that is to say they are distributing illegal communication devices to unsuspecting members of the public,' said National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba. 'Some are taking advantage of the needy communities and in guise of helping them they are also handing them over these communication devices,” she said. ... 'The possession and distribution of such devices is illegal. The distributors and recipients stand warned that ZRP will not tolerate any such chicanery,' Charamba added. This is not the first time the police have declared war on those found in possession of shortwave radio sets. Exiled media such as Radio VOP (Voice of the People), [VOA] Studio 7, and Shortwave Radio Africa have around one million listeners on shortwave."

SW Radio Africa, 20 Feb 2013, Violet Gonda: "Police have announced a ban on ‘specially designed radios’ that are ‘not compatible with state owned stations’, claiming the devices would be used to communicate hate speech ahead of polls scheduled for this year. ... The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) said there is no clarity on what exactly these ‘communications devices’ that were confiscated were, as well as the lack of clarity on what basis the radio sets or their distribution is also deemed illegal. 'A reading of Section 38B of the Broadcasting Services Act states that one is not prohibited from possession of a receiver as long as it is in accordance with the terms and conditions of a listener’s licence as issued by the ZBC.' ... Co-Home Affairs Minister Teresa Makoni revealed, through her Facebook page, that all radios that are receivers only, without ability to transmit, are perfectly legal and that there is no law at present which disallows anyone donating radios to the public. However the minister said she held lengthy discussions with Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, who said he is concerned that NGOs always intensify distribution just before elections."

VOA Studio 7, 20 Feb 2013, Tatenda Gumbo, Loirdham Moyo and Ntungamili Nkomo: "Zimbabwe’s Co-Home Affairs Ministers responded Wednesday to a nationwide ban of communication devices by police saying they cannot confiscate radios unless they can prove that the radios are illegal transmitters, not simply receivers. Minister Theresa Makone told VOA that she, along with co-minister Kembo Mohadi, met with Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, and instructed him to halt confiscations."

The Herald (Harare, state controlled), 20 Feb 2013, Freeman Razemba, via "Although police could not give figures yesterday, sources said hundreds of such devices, including specially designed radios, have been confiscated, especially in the rural areas. It is illegal for anyone to possess or operate signal transmission equipment other than in accordance with a licence issued by either the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe or Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe."

ZimEye, 21 Feb 2013: "Mr. Jameson Timba [Minister of State in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party] said the police action does not make sense. 'It is inconceivable that police can purportedly ban radio receivers. The only radios that require licensing before use are two-way radio communicators not receivers. This is paranoia,' he said. He said he would defy the police order and would actually be distributing the radio receivers all the more."

The Times (London), 21 Feb 2013, Jan Raath, via The Australian: "For the past eight years, Morgan Tsvangirai's party and various pro-democracy organisations have been distributing tiny short-wave radios in the country's impoverished rural areas. Mr Mugabe fears that the solar/wind-up radios, manufactured in South Africa, are enabling otherwise unconnected residents to hear broadcasts from overseas, including the BBC and other international stations. Before the radios, the only source of news and comment for rural Zimbabweans was the propaganda of state radio and its praise for Mr Mugabe, who is described as 'the liberator'. The state station is Zimbabwe's only legal one and it reaches less than 30 per cent of the country. The short-wave radios are popular, and informal 'radio clubs' have developed in villages, where people congregate nightly at the home of a neighbour who owns one." -- The radios are probably manufactured in China.

The Zimbabwean, 20 Feb 2013: "Access to information is a fundamental part of freedom of expression which will assist citizens in making informed decisions and choices during the referendum and the forthcoming elections. It is therefore critical that the police in their efforts to maintain law and order, should not unilaterally infringe the public’s right to information, especially as the country heads for the referendum and elections."

It appears that a Zimbabwean prohibition on two-way radios is being used as an excuse to confiscate small shortwave receivers. An irony of this episode is that Zimbabwe uses shortwave for its official domestic and international broadcasting.

The Bobs are back: DW's online activism award increases to 14 languages, adding Turkish, Hindi, Ukrainian.

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Deutsche Welle press release, 6 Feb 2013: "Deutsche Welle’s ninth annual international award The Bobs begins on Wednesday. The contest, which looks to honor the best in online activism in a total of 14 languages and 34 categories, is now open to submissions. Internet users around the world have until March 6 to submit candidates for The Bobs in any of 14 languages. The contest aims to honor the people and projects taking an online stand to promote integration and social engagement as well as freedom of expression on the Internet. Winners of The Bobs are decided both by an online vote - the Users' Choice Prize in all 34 categories - and by a 15-person international jury responsible for handing out the Jury Awards in the contest's six main, multilingual categories. Last year more than 3,000 initiatives were submitted to the contest and more than 60,000 votes were cast in the online poll. Turkish, Hindi and Ukrainian join The Bobs for the first time."

Reporters sans frontières, 6 Feb 2013: "Reporters Without Borders is Bobs’ premium partner."

Critical Distance Weblog, 7 Feb 2013, Jonthan Marks: "If Blogs had just been invented, then an award scheme might be a good idea. But nine years later, I believe the Bobs have become totally irrelevant."

Euronews renews with Arabsat and adds Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat.

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Arabsat press release, 11 Feb 2013: "ARABSAT announced today that the European leading international news broadcaster 'Euronews' has renewed its contract with ARABSAT to continue broadcasting Euronews Arabic on ARABSAT Badr-4 for five more years covering Middle East, Africa and portions of Western Europe. ... Arnaud Verlhac, Deputy Director Worldwide Distribution at Euronews, said: 'ARABSAT is one of our strongest partners since the launch of Euronews on ARABSAT Badr-4 in July 2008, at the same time as we launched Euronews Arabic. In a very competitive market, we are pleased to renew our cooperation with ARABSAT and secure our deployment in the MENA area where Euronews now reaches 38 million households'."

Digital TV Europe, 15 Feb 2013: "News channel Euronews has signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat to join its platform. The deal means that Euronews will be available to the subscribers of Etisalat in the UAE, covering 450,000 households. Following this agreement, Euronews is now connected to 18 million households in the Middle East. Arnaud Verlhac, Euronews deputy director of worldwide distribution said: '... Thanks to Etisalat’s offer, the channel is available 24/7 in Arabic, but also in nine other language options for its international customers, including expatriates who constitute 38% of the channel’s Middle East audience.'"

CNN "wouldn’t rule out launching an Arabic TV channel" but "currently has no plans."

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Gulf News (Dubai), 8 Feb 2013, Manoj Nair: "CNN 'is holding the line on committing towards a dedicated Arabic channel. 'CNN currently has no plans in what is now a very crowded marketplace,' said Phil O’Sullivan of CNN International. 'While we wouldn’t rule out launching an Arabic TV channel, we would need the right editorial and commercial rationale — as well as clear consumer demand and a gap in the market — before we would enter that space. It will certainly be interesting to watch how the market develops over the next 12 months.'" -- CNN does have its CNN Arabic website.

Sky News Arabia social media hacked by pro-Assad group.

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
The National (Abu Dhabi), 7 Feb 2013: "Sky News Arabia’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were hacked by pro-regime Syrian activists early this morning. A group referring to itself as the Syrian Electronic Army (Sea) took over the 24-hour news channel’s main Twitter accounts about midnight, along with its Facebook page. ... Sky News Arabia responded later in the day saying that all of their social-media platforms had been reactivated and were functioning normally. ... Sky News Arabia began broadcasting to more than 50 million homes from its Abu Dhabi headquarters in May last year. The channel is part of a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation, a private investment company owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB)."

Sky News Arabia press release, 4 Feb 2013: "Egyptian actor and celebrity Hesham Selim will host Hiwar Al Qahira, a new Egypt-focused weekly discussion show on Sky News Arabia. An extension of Sky News Arabia’s popular weeknight Hiwar Al Laila programme, Hiwar Al Qahira, or the 'Cairo Dialogue', will feature live discussions with studio guests on key political, social and economic developments in Egypt and from across the Arab world as seen from an Egyptian perspective. ... An Egyptian icon and Cairo native, Selim has been a staple on Arab cinema screens for over four decades and is well respected for his versatility as an actor."

"Unless officials loosen their editorial grip, CCTV will remain gasping for air."

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
CNN, 6 Feb 2013, Ying Zhu: "[T]he commercial underpinnings of CCTV shouldn’t disguise the fact that CCTV is ideologically driven, and its U.S. arm is the latest effort by the Chinese government to try to project the country’s soft power. As a result, for CCTV-America, ratings and revenues are secondary to a higher calling: polishing the image of China. ... For a start, there appear to be limits on controversial news that deviates from the Communist Party script, meaning it can get left behind when Western outlets are covering major news that could embarrass China’s leaders. ... This reality encapsulates the difficulty that CCTV-America finds itself in – how can it build international credibility while ignoring major stories about China that are being talked about by mainstream U.S. media? CCTV-International was established a decade ago to emulate CNN’s 24-hour open platform of news production, and Chinese officials no doubt hoped that the expansion of CCTV-International would see the channel become something akin to an Asian version of Al Jazeera, bringing alternative voices to an international audience. But while CCTV can be accessed on cable and satellite around the globe, CCTV-America is falling short of its hopes of providing compelling alternative narratives about China. CCTV might have aspirations to playing in the same pond as the likes of CNN and the BBC. But unless officials loosen their editorial grip, CCTV will remain gasping for air – and grasping for an attractive identity – in an increasingly competitive international market.", 4 Feb 2013, onpassing apparent press release: "CCTV America, the US production arm of China's CCTV News, has expanded its programming with the launch of a new two hour edition of Biz Asia America, 7 pm to 9 pm eastern standard time beginning 4 February. CCTV America was launched on February 6, 2012 to provide both North American and global viewers, additional perspectives on China, world and U-S developments. The move was part of the effort by CCTV News to increase the quality, breadth, and reach of the its global news channel founded in April 2010. The program combines business news with in depth global news reports from an increasing line-up of Correspondents across Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe. The increase in broadcast hours allows CCTV America to explore comprehensively global issues which other news channels treat in a repetitive, headline format. The new programming team is anchored by Phillip Yin, Mike Walter, and Elaine Reyes in Washington and Michelle Makori in New York. Joining the CCTV America team, the newest addition is Anand Naidoo, former anchor at CNN International and Al Jazeera English. Special segments of the new program will highlight developments in new technology with regular reports from Silicon Valley. The two hour program also increases CCTV News' commitment to coverage of Central and South America. CCTV has also assembled a new team assembled in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to explore the growth of Brazil. An expanded operation in Mexico City will complement a continuing presence in Havana, Buenos Aires, Bogota, and Lima to provide more extensive coverage of this region than any other English language news broadcaster."

BBC's new Director, Global responsible for "developing the BBC’s international brand and editorial strategy," whatever "editorial" means.

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC press release, 14 Feb 2013: "Incoming BBC Director-General Tony Hall ... announced that following nearly five months as Acting Director-General, Tim Davie’s new role at BBC Worldwide has been expanded to incorporate a more strategic global perspective. As CEO, BBC Worldwide and Director, Global, Davie will be responsible for developing the BBC’s international brand and editorial strategy. Tim Davie added: 'I am very pleased to take on the important task of building the BBC brand globally and leading a growing, creative BBC Worldwide.'"

Apparently, "Director, Global" is not to be confused with "Director of BBC Global News," a position now filled by Peter Horrocks. I am, nevertheless, confused. I associate "editorial" with news and opinion pieces, but this use of "editorial" seems to be different. See also previous post about BBC Worldwide's new Global Editorial Director.

The Guardian, 14 Feb 2013, Tara Conlan: "Hall said of Davie's new global role in an email to staff on Thursday morning: 'He will be responsible for developing the BBC's global brand and editorial strategy. Specifically, he will lead our efforts to offer a joined-up BBC across markets and genres around the world.' ... The BBC will now advertise for a new director of news and director of television. Candidates for news are likely to include the director of global news, Peter Horrocks, and acting vision director, Roger Mosey." Also Tony Hall's email to staff via The Guardian, 14 Feb 2013.

The Guardian, Media Monkey, 17 Feb 2013: "These are sweaty times for Peter Horrocks, the BBC's director, global news, following two significant announcements last week: the rapid return of 'runaway bride' Liam Keelan to the Beeb (he agreed to run Sky1 but then jilted Stuart Murphy at the altar) as global editorial director, BBC Worldwide; and more worryingly the awarding of extra powers to Tim Davie, once he becomes BBC Worldwide boss, adding the grandiose if incomprehensible title of 'director of global'. For the moment 'Never Mind The' Horrocks is an emperor of news, ruling 2,500 people in 113 countries; but he may be getting the feeling that he doesn't figure prominently in the incoming regime's plans."

No domestic dissemination of the new sports app for iPhone.

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Advanced Television, 7 Feb 2013: "The BBC’s international website,, has launched a sports mobile application for iPhone and iPod touch devices across the globe. The free app brings together the BBC’s coverage to deliver news, live scores, stats, commentary and analysis on the go. Arriving in time for the start of a busy 2013 sporting calendar, the app’s customisable menu allows audiences to keep up with their favourite sports – from breaking football news and gossip, to live text coverage of the UK Premier League, Rugby Union Six Nations championship and the upcoming F1 season. A mobile football live scores section has been introduced, allowing users to follow the action, whether they’re at the match or out and about. ... In addition, a fixtures and results section has been developed to help users keep on top of all the major UK and international football competitions, by simply selecting any day in the season from the app’s calendar."

BBC Sport web page: "Q: Why is the BBC iPhone app only available outside the United Kingdom? A: The BBC Trust has announced a review of the BBC's plans to deliver content via dedicated smartphone apps. The BBC will therefore not be launching news and sports apps for smartphones in the UK pending the outcome of the Trust review. However, the iPhone app is a commercial activity outside the UK and is not covered by the Trust review."

@sambrook, 18 Feb 2013: "@kaedotcom there's already a UK sports app..."

Having rejected my suggestion of "Nil-Nil," CNN International names new soccer discussion show "CNN Football Club."

Posted: 18 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
CNN Press Room, 4 Feb 2013: "CNN Football Club is a new weekly, half-hour football debate show coming to CNN International, hosted by CNN’s Pedro Pinto. Each week, the sport’s most famous faces will join Pinto to discuss the hottest topics generated by the UEFA Champions League, the world’s premier club competition. ... As well as debate in the studio, the programme will offer CNN’s audience the chance to take centre stage by pitching their questions – via social media – to the CNNFC team. ... CNN Football Club will also be a fully-interactive 24/7 experience, with the debate continuing online at between the shows. A market-leading statistics service will fuel the conversation on both TV and online, with digital users able receive live game and player statistics as the big matches unfold. CNN Football Club – 'Where the global, social, soccer debate kicks off!'"

Its K Street lobbying firm, and much more news and comment about Al Jazeera America.

Posted: 16 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Politico, 12 Feb 2012, Anna Palmer: "Al Jazeera isn’t just looking to make headlines in the U.S. news market, the broadcasting company has hired a lobbying firm to make headway on Capitol Hill. The media company Al Jazeera America Holdings , which recently bought Al Gore’s progressive cable news station Current TV, has brought on DLA Piper. The firm has been making the rounds in Washington, educating lawmakers about the company’s plans to be based in New York City and open bureaus across the country. ... The firm’s lobbying registration states that the firm is providing 'informational communications regarding client’s cable television channel.'", 14 Feb 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "DLA’s top lobbyist on the Al Jazeera account is a Republican, Mark R. Paoletta, who used to work for President George H.W. Bush. ... Al Jazeera critic Jerry Kenney points out that these discussions are being held 'behind closed doors' and that Congress is getting only one side of the story. 'This is proof of why we need public hearings into Al Jazeera,' he said. ... The term 'informational communications' is a euphemism for making sure that Congress does not stand in the way of the deal. The lobbying activity suggests that the thousands of telephone calls to Congress about stopping the deal, or at least investigating the transaction, are having some impact and that Al Jazeera is starting to get worried."

Politico, 14 Feb 2013, Dylan Byers: "Naomi Wolf, the author and activist, is in early-stage talks with the global news network Al Jazeera, POLITICO has learned. Wolf, who currently writes a column for The Guardian, confirmed the news late Thursday night but stressed that the talks were in the earliest stages and that no job offer was on the table. ... "It's notable and kind of sad that non-U.S. based news sites are able to run pieces of mine that don't as easily find a home in American publications. As an American who cares about civil liberties, it's good for all of us that the Guardian and Al Jazeera are doing the work they're doing,' she said. 'It is good for civil society in America.'"

ShowbizSpy, 6 Feb 2013: "Ann Curry is in talks with Al Jazeera America. The former Today show co-host has been approached by Al Jazeera America about the possibility of working for the soon to be launched U.S. branch of the Qatar government owned company."

Al Jazeera English, The Stream, 12 Feb 2013: "On Tuesday, a writer for the Washington Post mistakenly reported that former governor of Alaska and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was hired as a host for the upcoming Al Jazeera America channel. The article, which has since been corrected, cited claims from The Daily Currant that Palin had been tapped for a key role in the new network. Writer Suzi Parker did not notice, however, that The Daily Currant is a satirical site."

The Daily Caller, 12 Feb 2013, Nicole Lafond: "Aides to former Democratic Vice President Al Gore have failed to respond to a recent Al-Jazeera [Arabic] TV broadcast, in which a top imam affirmed the Death Penalty for anyone who quits Islam. ... Western critics of Islam highlighted a recent broadcast of the network’s regular 'Shariah and Life' show, which has an estimated audience of 60 million viewers worldwide. The show’s host is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Sunni Islamic cleric."

Pierce County (WI) Herald, 13 Feb 2013, letter from Jennie Hanson: "I’ve lived in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia for six years. At first I, too, was skeptical about Al Jazeera, but soon learned that Al Jazeera English is considered worldwide to be an outstanding news station. ... Al Jazeera is best compared to BBC. It recognizes there is a great, big world 'out there' and reports from all corners of the globe. There is no Hollywood fluff, no nonstop coverage of one big story for days on end or talking heads’ extremist viewpoints passed off as 'news.'"

The Guardian, 10 Feb 2013, Bob Garfield: "Trrrrrrrinnnng. Al-Jazeera calls. Yes, calling you. You are being offered a job funded by the Emir of Qatar, a petro-rich sheik. Al-Jazeera is one of the most significant news organizations of the past 20 years, covering the Arab world with a degree of depth and scope unprecedented in the region, where otherwise redlines abound for national media in every country. It does a pretty good job covering the rest of the world, too. But to repeat, it is bankrolled by petro-royalty in a country that is nobody's idea of a liberal democracy."

Variety, 9 Feb 2013, Nick Vivarelli: "In the U.S., Al Jazeera English will feature 'more U.S. news than foreign,' according to Al Jazeera U.S. spokesman Stan Collender, who characterized the new entity as 'a completely new all-news channel.' Some 60% of the news content will be produced in the U.S., and the remaining 40% will come from Al Jazeera English."

GOPUSA, 4 Feb 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "[A]n aide to Rep. Michael McCaul, newly appointed chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, says he does not want the 'agenda' of the committee driven by the hundreds of Americans calling his office at 202-226-8417 and requesting an investigation of Al Jazeera’s terrorist ties."

Huffington Post, 2 Feb 2013, Danny Shea: "Can Al Jazeera make it in America? Former CNN/US president Jon Klein thinks so, as he told HuffPost Live host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin Friday. ... 'So you hire Matt Taibbi, and now you have an American who casts a critical eye. Hire half the staff of "60 Minutes," and now you have Americans who are telling these stories,' Klein said. 'That part of it is not the difficult part of it. The difficult part is what they've already mastered, which is doing the substantive reporting.'" With video.

Policymic, 2 Feb 2013, Sabith Khan: "While the U.S struggles to win 'hearts and minds' in the Middle East, I think letting Al Jazeera operate freely and with little interference will boost American credibility more than setting up failed propaganda machines such as Alhurra TV. I believe Al Jazeera’s recent expansion is a positive move and will do America a lot of good, both politically and in terms of increasing the diversity of perspectives. It would also perhaps help many Americans learn the value of questioning authority – something that seems to be absent in the media landscape here. While there are no laws restricting foreign ownership of a cable channel, this expansion of Al Jazeera and the resulting push back can be seen as a negative consequence of globalization in reverse – something that American businessmen and politicians are not appreciating very much. While American firms are present around the world and CNN and Alhurra TV (the propaganda network set by the American administration in the Middle East) post-Iraq War continue to operate with relative little interference, the same freedom has not been given to Al Jazeera. This is rather unfortunate."

Huffington Post, 29 Jan 2013, Nikolas Kozloff: "Fatigued by CNN's centrist mediocrity and predictable rancor between MSNBC and Fox, the U.S. public just might be ready for a more fearless cable voice. Perhaps, Al Jazeera America can succeed by rising above the fray and appealing to a more thoughtful constituency which is post-partisan in nature. ... If it is shrewd, Al Jazeera America might frame [its] debates in a manner that is inherently radical but not overtly politicized. In the event that network programming avoids shrill theatrics while incorporating decent production values, then Al Jazeera America just might gain traction."

Huffington Post, 23 Jan 2013, Nida Khan: "If there were ever any doubt as to the magnitude of the dumbing down of our society, one need only look at the case of CNN. CNN international -- globally respected and recognized for its extensive reporting, coverage and analysis -- is in stark contrast with CNN domestic. Aside from one hour dedicated to international news, CNN domestic has lost sight of many of the core principles that brought viewers to tune in decades ago. ... As long as they remain committed to their ideals of substantive newsgathering, as long as they don't water down their coverage, as long as they remember to prioritize disseminating information before corporate dollars and as long as they are not afraid to continue pushing the envelope, Al Jazeera America could finally offer a tangible bridge between 'us' and 'them.' Now imagine that.", 23 Jan 2013, Danny Schechter: "Al Jazeera can't rest on its laurels or even its current Third World-oriented programming mix. It can't be seen just as a better BBC with more Arabic flavoring or show how well it can cover an uncovered serving crew of haircuts and info pretension. An Al Jazeera America needs to plug into and resonate with American sensibilities and our mix of opinion from A to Z, not just A to B."

See previous post about same subject.

Charges of bias "would place Al-Jazeera on a par with Fox News."

Posted: 16 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Spiegel Online International, 15 Feb 2013, Alexander Kühn, Christoph Reuter and Gregor Peter Schmitz: Al Jazeera "has recently suffered an exodus of prominent staff members. Reporters and anchors in cities like Paris, London, Moscow, Beirut and Cairo have left Al-Jazeera, despite what are seen as luxurious working conditions in centrally located offices. And despite the fact that the network is investing an estimated $500 million (€375 million) in the US, so as to reach even more viewers on the world's largest television market -- one in which its biggest competitor, CNN, is at home. Al-Jazeera has over 3,000 staff members and 65 correspondent offices worldwide -- and viewers in some 50 million households throughout the Arab world. But it also has a problem: More than ever before, critics contend that the broadcaster is following a clear political agenda, and not adhering to the principles of journalistic independence. Such accusations have been leveled against Western broadcasters as well, of course. But the charge would place Al-Jazeera on a par with Fox News -- which pursues the agenda of conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch in the US -- rather than CNN." -- Al Jazeera's attempts to differentiate its Arabic and English channels will not succeed. A brand is a brand for a reason, and Al Jazeera's brand cannot have two (or more) global visions. The notoriety of any component under a brand name will visit upon all other components under the same brand.

Columnist writes that Alhurra, Radio Sawa, and Hollywood can transform Egypt.

Posted: 15 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Washington Times, 1 Feb 2013, J.D. Gordon: "[W]e must reach out to the Egyptian people directly. News and entertainment programs broadcast via Al Hurra TV and Radio Sawa, launched a decade ago as an outreach tool in the Middle East to showcase the United States in a more positive light, thus should be expanded. Hollywood also could play a role, producing worldwide blockbusters that embrace modernity, tolerance and sexual equality in Middle Eastern settings. 'Argo' was a terrific reminder of the challenges posed by a fanatical Iranian regime. We could use more films like it." -- If the content of USIB is designed to "showcase the United States in a more positive light," the audience will dismiss it as propaganda and tune elsewhere. If USIB provides a comprehensive and credible news service, which is what I think Alhurra and Radio Sawa are doing, that's a better "showcase" of the United States than anything that sets out for the purpose of being a "showcase."

Ahram Online, 5 Feb 2013: "BBC Arabic on [5 February] denied reports that it had carried out an opinion poll on the popularity of the National Salvation Front, Egypt's largest coalition of secular-leaning opposition groups. On Monday various Egyptian media outlets, including the Muslim Brotherhood's official website, reported that BBC Arabic television carried out a two-day opinion poll that revealed that 82 per cent of Egyptians are opposed to the NSF. ... According to the statement, [a BBC Arabic] programme's routine e-voting process merely reflects views of participating audience members, rather than public opinion."

IDG News Service, 15 Feb 2013, John Ribeiro, via Computerworld: "Egypt's telecom regulator says it is not viable for it to follow a court order to block YouTube in the country, and is appealing the ruling. The order banning YouTube and some other websites for 30 days was issued by a Cairo court after it was brought to its notice that there was a proliferation of links to clips of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which is said to portray the Prophet Muhammad in a derogatory manner. The country's Ministry of Information Technology and Communications and the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority decided after a meeting that to block YouTube would technically affect the use of Google search in Egypt with economic consequences to the country, according to a ministry statement."

In the War of the Entities, NYT sides with RFA over VOA.

Posted: 15 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
New York Times, 12 Feb 2013, editorial: "China and the United States should be working to covertly disrupt the North’s nuclear program, as was done with Iran. The United States should invest more in Radio Free Asia so that more outside information could reach North Korea’s people. Still, it should keep seeking dialogue. No good comes from ignoring North Korea."

I suppose "Radio Free Asia" makes the editorial's point better than the more vanilla "Voice of America." But VOA was broadcasting news about North Korea into North Korea years before RFA came along. Furthermore, only VOA presently has access to a medium wave transmitter in South Korea.

If the NYT's advice is heeded, RFA will get more money for coverage of North Korea, but VOA will have the medium wave transmitter in South Korea. This is the way it is with US international broadcasting. It's always an unassembled kit. The pieces never come together for effective mass communication. This is because the partisans in the War of the Entities are striving to preserve the entities, thus maintaining the inefficiency of USIB.

BBG Watch also sides with RFA over VOA in the War of the Entities by providing more disinformation about VOA...

BBG Watch, 15 Feb 2013: "Surrogate broadcasters like Radio Free Asia (RFA) provide local news content and specialization that other broadcasters, including the Voice of America (VOA), which is important for other reasons, simply cannot offer. Voice of America is important because it offers an authoritative presentation of American policies and opinions, which is critical for countries like North Korea, whose regime is both unpredictable and controls nuclear weapons. Radio Free Asia has a much more focused mission of in reporting on and analyzing internal political, social and economic developments in North Korea. Both missions are important in keeping the population of North Korea informed about both external and internal developments that affect the lives and security of both North Korea and the United States."

Of course, VOA is much more than "an authoritative presentation of American policies and opinions." The word "presentation" makes it seem like VOA is an infomercial for the United States. Actually, VOA reports on US policies towards North Korea. But more than that, VOA is offering the news about North Korea that BBG Watch says that it "simply cannot offer." Have a look this page of the VOA Korean website, and Google-translate it.

And, so, VOA and RFA are chasing many of the same stories about North Korea. This is duplication, a significant form of waste in federal spending. The duplication could be ended by ordering VOA to cease all of its reporting about North Korea. Then the North Koreans would be forced to tune to two stations, different times, different frequencies, to get all the news that they need (as if listening to foreign radio is not difficult enough in North Korea). Such a ridiculuous concept makes sense only to bureaucrats and to the anonymous commentators of BBG Watch.

VOA gets Ted Nugent scoop, but how to translate his adjective into 43 languages?

Posted: 14 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
AFP, 13 Feb 2013: "As promised, rocker and gun enthusiast Ted Nugent was on his best behavior at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, but he let loose with some colorful criticism afterward. ... Nugent, who was surrounded by fans wanting a photograph with him, said 'spirit and attitude and freedom' were what brought him to hear the speech, but added that he was pained to hear Obama’s comments on gun control. ... Nugent was eventually introduced to a reporter from the Voice of America. The rocker grinned and interrupted: 'I’m sorry, I’m the f—ing voice of America!' he boomed."

News about China's censorship of news is probably censored in China.

Posted: 14 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Wall Street Journal, 13 Feb 2013, Paul Mozur and Carlos Tejada: "Discontent has risen in recent months as Chinese authorities appear to have ratcheted up their censorship efforts amid a once-a-decade change of top government leaders. ... Stepped-up censorship efforts in recent months include a crackdown on so-called virtual private networks, or VPNs. While companies use commercial VPN services routinely for secure data, foreigners, China's elite and other tech-savvy users can use personal VPNs to leap the Great Firewall to use services like Facebook. But it is illegal for foreign companies to operate a VPN in China without a local partner, according to lawyers and state-run media, and several VPN services say their access has been blocked increasingly in recent months. In a departure from previous practices, the blockages have continued even after the recent transfer of power to a new generation of Chinese leaders. ... China's censor also have stepped up their scrutiny of foreign media websites following a series of articles last year on a scandal that led to the fall of former Communist Party star Bo Xilai and on ties between business and politics among China's top leaders. The Wall Street Journal's Chinese site has been blocked at times over the past year, while sites run by Bloomberg News and the New York Times remain blocked."

Radio Free Asia, 30 Jan 2013, Xin Lin/Luisetta Mudie: "China has one of the world's worst records on press freedom, with controls on state-run media and netizens showing no signs of abating, according to a new report Wednesday by Paris-based global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF)."

Reporters sans frontières, 5 Feb 2013: "Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the Chinese government’s readiness to violate the confidentiality of sources, which has jeopardized the safety of New York Times journalists and their sources in China. The newspaper has been subjected to growing harassment in recent months. An article about outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao’s fortune was censored. The authorities refused to issue or renew visas and accreditation for its journalists. And now it turns out that it has been the target of cyber-attacks for months."

The Hollywood Reporter, 1 Feb 2013, Patrick Brzeski: "News that The New York Times and other major U.S. news organizations have been targeted by Chinese hackers suspected to be affiliated with the country's government has captivated U.S. media and foreign policy observers. But back in China, TV news audiences have been left in the dark. CNN International's coverage of the story was blacked out by Chinese censors when it aired [31 January] in China, a CNN spokeswoman said in confirming a report by the Huffington Post. 'Yes, our CNNI signal was blocked in China while we reported on the New York Times hacking story,' she said without commenting further."

Record-setting US web traffic for The Guardian, maintaining "lead over BBC news."

Posted: 13 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Guardian News & Media press release, 12 Feb 2013: "Today the Guardian announced record-setting US traffic, which topped 12.5 million monthly unique visitors in January 2013, and is growing at a year over year rate of 31%. The latest figure surpasses the Guardian's previous US record of 11.8 million monthly unique visitors in October 2012, and is up from 10.9 million visitors in December 2012. This growth maintains the Guardian US's lead over BBC news and Reuters for the fourth consecutive month, according to industry analyst ComScore. ... January's record-setting traffic was led by the Guardian's distinctive live coverage of global and breaking news events, including the Mali conflict in the run-up to French intervention; as well as a unique range of incisive US voices at the Guardian's Comment is Free site; and indispensable reporting on the economy and fallout from the fiscal cliff deal and Washington's budget negotiations. The Guardian's groundbreaking interactives led the way with innovative coverage of the gun control debate with 'Gun laws in the US, state by state,' as well as the NFL playoffs in the lead up to the Super Bowl with 'NFL salaries by team and position.'"

Director of the Voice of America writes that the state of VOA is strong.

Posted: 13 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Voice of America, From the Director, 12 Feb 2013, David Ensor: "In a time honored tradition, the President of the United States today delivers a State of the Union address to Congress. It is an opportunity to take stock of where we are, and where we are going. Taking advantage of the news peg, here is a look at how the Voice of America is doing and some of our plans for 2013. First of all, VOA gives America real global impact. The nation’s oldest and largest U.S.-funded international broadcaster has an estimated weekly audience of 134 million people. ... VOA currently broadcasts in 43 separate languages (plus two pilot projects in Africa). It is a complex multi-media broadcaster providing world-wide coverage, with eight 24-hour television satellite network streams, numerous AM, FM and shortwave radio transmitters, and many radio and TV affiliate stations around the world. VOA provides music, cultural, news magazine and language teaching programs, and a wide variety of podcasts and specialty shows in both conventional radio and TV formats as well as on social and broadcast media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and iTunes. In the past year, we started simulcasting certain radio shows -- in Pashto, Kurdish and Farsi -- on television. Since 1942, Voice of America has been a beacon of hope for people in places like Iran, North Korea or Mali, suffering from government repression, censorship, and turmoil. ... Around the world, VOA remains a trusted source of unfiltered news, and of information about America. For millions of people, it is a source of hope."

Recommended reading. This is a good overview of VOA's present activities. I think, however, "beacon of hope" and "source of hope" are not the best words to describe a news organization, if VOA wishes to be perceived as a news organization.

On World Radio Day, a word on behalf of shortwave.

Posted: 13 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
UNESCO World Radio Day website, Oldrich Cip, chairman of the High Frequency Co-ordination Conference (HFCC): "The current multi-platform media environment has created both challenges and opportunities for shortwave radio. While a number of shortwave broadcasting services have recently been severely cut or completely phased out, this distinctive medium remains relevant for a large critical audience interested in programming that focuses on both regional and international affairs and is broadcast from the perspective of different communities around the world. A shortwave transmitter can reach both local and global audiences. This is due to the unique long-distance propagation property of shortwave radio by means of multiple reflections from layers in the upper earth's atmosphere. Shortwave radio can provide service where other platforms such as satellite, FM or Internet are unavailable due to high cost, geographical location, lack of infrastructure, or even during natural or man-made disasters. Receivers are inexpensive and require no access fees. Shortwave radio is important for people living or travelling in isolated regions. It reaches across the digital divide to the most disadvantaged and marginalised societies. This is in keeping with the Declaration and Action Plan of the World Summit on the Information Society." See also

UNESCO World Radio Day website, Vasiliy Strelnikov, host of "From Russia With Love" on Voice of Russia: "Radio is my old love, from childhood. I was born and grew up in the United States and there I felt in love with radio. I was always impressed by the process itself when on the one side there is a person in front of the microphone and on the other side, somewhere far away from him, there is a listener in front of the radio. And it keeps surprising me how one can influence another at such a great distance. In this sense, radio was always something magical for me. ... In the Soviet period when there was only propaganda on-air I managed to make an entertainment rock-n-roll music radio show amid all this propaganda, the program was called the 'Listeners’ Request Club'. This time we just wanted to make something the same."

See also the World Radio Day home page.

Broadcasting Board of Governors press release, 13 Feb 2013: "Today is World Radio, and BBG would like to celebrate our radio broadcasters as they work to provide news and information to those who need it most. In 2012, our broadcasters produced thousands of hours of radio programming to 96 million people around the globe, many of whom live in oppressive societies and who depend on us for news and information. BBG and its broadcasters need to be flexible and adapt rapidly to developments in communication technologies and the censorship efforts of hostile regimes. In addition to short wave and AM/FM frequencies, programming is distributed in non-conventional ways, such as over satellite, streaming audio on the Internet, podcasts and even thumb drives! Our broadcasters also use social media, email and SMS to further engage their audiences in issues that affect them."

Reporters sans frontières, 13 Feb 2013: "The intermittent blocking of local retransmission by foreign stations such as RFI in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the BBC in Rwanda or Voice of America in Ethiopia and the jamming of exile radio stations such as Radio Erena in repressive Eritrea highlight the problem of government hostility to radio. ... [R]adio broadcasting, like TV broadcasting, is closely controlled by the most authoritarian governments in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. There is no sign of political or social debate on Turkmenistan’s radio stations, which are all state owned. There is no criticism of the government on Azerbaijani, Uzbek or Kazakh FM radio. But foreign-based stations broadcasting mainly on the Internet – such as Echoes of Moscow, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and the BBC – play a key role in breaking the news blockade in these countries. The local-language services of RFE/RL and the BBC (some of which are threatened with closure) provide rare job opportunities to Belarusian, Azerbaijani, Turkmen and Uzbek independent journalists."

Cubans now have access to Venezuela's "relatively unfiltered" Telesur 12 hours a day.

Posted: 12 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
AP, 10 Feb 2013, Andrea Rodriguez: "There have been some strange sights on Cuban TV sets recently. News-starved viewers watched an Ecuadorean opposition candidate liken the government of President Rafael Correa, one of Havana's staunchest allies, to a moonwalking Michael Jackson: He walks like he's moving ahead, but he's actually going backward. On another day Cubans learned a quarter-billion of their fellow Latin Americans have access to the Internet – something less than 10 percent of islanders can say themselves. Cubans even watched a live broadcast of U.S. President Barack Obama's inaugural address. Such images would be unremarkable in most countries, but they're a break from the stodgy, tightly scripted state-run television that has long been the only fare in Cuba, with its mind-numbing tributes to efficiency, constant diatribes against the U.S. economic embargo and remembrances of minor anniversaries from the early years of the 1959 revolution. The change has come not from U.S.-funded TV Marti, which few Cubans can see, but via the left-leaning Latin American news channel Telesur, which is bankrolled primarily by Venezuela. Since Jan. 20, it has broadcast live about 12 hours a day in Cuba. Telesur's outlook may be sympathetic to Cuba's socialist model, but it's still a relatively unfiltered news source, and many say the decision to carry it here is as groundbreaking as other recent reforms, such as legalizing more private businesses and allowing greater travel freedom."

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 30 Jan 2013, Alejandro Tur Valladares: "Gualdo Ramírez, who represents teleSUR in Cuba ... noted that teleSur seeks to disseminate the ideas of the Bolivarian Revolution, the movement led by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez."

Huffington Post, 22 Jan 2013, Yoani Sanchez, Cuban blogger: "The 'leaked' satellite TV or the biased vision of TeleSUR are not, today, our only choices. For months now the alternative market offerings have been widening, with collections that join documentaries and series. A kind of on-demand television, a programming for every taste, distributed on digital media such as hard drives and USB flash memories."

See previous post about same subject.

Whatever a Global Editorial Director is, BBC Worldwide now has one.

Posted: 12 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC Worldwide press release, 11 Feb 2013: "Liam Keelan, currently Controller BBC Daytime, will join BBC Worldwide in a newly created position as Global Editorial Director. Reporting to Chief Content Officer, Helen Jackson, Keelan will be responsible for developing a strong editorial and creative vision for BBC Worldwide across its entire global channels and branded services portfolio. Keelan will oversee the editorial direction of BBC Knowledge, BBC Entertainment, CBeebies and BBC Lifestyle and shape the editorial vision for new channel brands. In addition, he will work with BBC Worldwide’s Genre Directors and Brand teams to identify and galvanise creative partnerships with the BBC and independents as the company looks to grow new brands and franchises around the world. The new Content Group at BBC Worldwide will bring together the content demands, desires and priorities for all BBC Worldwide’s regions and as Global Editorial Director, Keelan will ensure this is done in a way that enhances and cherishes the values, standards and quality of the BBC brand." -- Most of these BBC international channels have no news programming, so the term "editorial director" has thrown me off. Could someone enlighten us on this aspect of corporate media?

BBC Worldwide press release, 30 Jan 2013: "BBC Worldwide has inked a deal that will see the inaugural launch of three of BBC’s pay TV channels in Cambodia– BBC World News, BBC Knowledge and BBC Lifestyle on Cambodia’s newest digital pay TV platform, One TV."

At confirmation hearing, senator uses Al Jazeera English video to make point against Chuck Hagel.

Posted: 12 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Washington Post, Post Politics, 31 Jan 2013, Ed O'Keefe: "Using charts and video clips from a 2009 interview with Al Jazeera English, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sought to highlight concerns with previous statements, or perhaps the lack thereof, made by Chuck Hagel during appearances on the international news channel. Departing from the normal format at Senate hearings, Cruz had the committee staff play a clip of Hagel’s appearance on an Al Jazeera call-in program, during which a caller suggested that Israel had committed war crimes. During his response to the question, Hagel did not anything to refute the caller's statement. 'Do you think the nation of Israel has committed war crimes?' Cruz asked Hagel after the clip was played. 'No I do not, senator. I’d want to look at the full context of the interview, but to answer your question, no,' Hagel said. ... After Cruz’s questions, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked Cruz’s staff to transcribe the interview clips in their entirety so they could be included in the formal record of the hearing."

TPM, 31 Jan 2013, David Taintor: "One woman wrote in to ask, 'Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the United States is that of the world's bully? Don't we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms, nuclear or otherwise?' Hagel responded on-air, 'Well, her observation is a good one and it's relevant. Yes to her question.' Cruz used the woman's question -- and Hagel's answer -- to suggest that the defense secretary nominee agreed with the statement." -- My interpretation of the woman's words is that the United States has the image of a bully, not that the United States is a bully. It appears that Senator Hagel was agreeing with that interpretation of what the woman had written.

TPM, 12 Feb 2013, Tom Kludt: "Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) on Tuesday commended Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for playing a footage of an 2009 appearance that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel made on Al Jazeera during last month's testy confirmation hearing. Inhofe thanked Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) for 'bending the rules a little bit' in allowing Cruz to play the footage during the hearing." With video.

US Treasury Dept sanctions include Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

Posted: 11 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
New York Times, 6 Feb 2013, Rick Gladstone: "The United States blacklisted Iran’s state broadcasting authority, Internet-policing agencies and a major electronics producer on Wednesday, an action that widened the American sanctions effort to pressure the Iranian government over not only its disputed nuclear program but also over the stifling of domestic dissent and access to information. ... The new sanctions targeted Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which is responsible for broadcast policy in Iran and oversees production at Iranian television and radio channels. Its director, Ezzatollah Zarghami, was included in the action. Also targeted were the Iranian Cyber Police, which the Treasury Department described as an authority created three years ago to filter Web sites, monitor Internet behavior and hack into e-mail accounts of Iranians deemed to be subversive; and the Communications Regulatory Authority, which the Treasury Department described as an enforcer of Internet filtering and the blocking of Web sites deemed objectionable by the Iranian government. In addition, the Treasury targeted Iran Electronics Industries, a producer of electronic systems and products, which the Treasury said was responsible for 'goods and services related to jamming, monitoring and eavesdropping.'"

US Department of the Treasury press release, 6 Feb 2013: "According to human rights groups, Iran is using state-media transmissions to trample dissent. They point to distorted or false IRIB news reports and the broadcasting of forced confessions of political detainees, such as one involving Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who was forced to give a false confession in front of state media outlets while jailed in 2009. In March 2012, the European Union placed individual sanctions on Zarghami for authorizing, as head of IRIB, the broadcast in August 2009 and December 2011 of forced confessions of detainees and 'show trials' that constituted a clear violation of international provisions on fair trial and the right to due process. Additionally, Iran is engaged in a campaign to filter out unwanted TV content and broadcast its own propaganda. After the 2009 presidential election in Iran, jamming of foreign channels, particularly the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Voice of America (VOA), increased in intensity. Then, in the wake of the Arab Spring movements, Iran increased its jamming of the BBC, VOA, and other Western networks with Persian-language news channels. The move was intended to prevent Iranian audiences from seeing foreign broadcasts that the Iranian government found objectionable. Zarghami has admitted using such tactics, according to Iranian state media reports."

Reuters, 11 Feb 2013: "Iran's English-language Press TV channel has been dropped from the satellite platform that allowed it to broadcast in the United States and Canada, the channel said. The state-owned, 24-hour network broadcasts world news and pro-government views beyond Iran's borders. Press TV had broadcast in North America on the Galaxy 19 satellite platform. The channel did not say when it was dropped."

Press TV, 9 Feb 2013: "Press TV has announced a new frequency for viewers in the United States and Canada after the Iranian channel was removed from the Galaxy 19 satellite platform. ... In order to watch Press TV in the US and Canada, viewers can use the following frequency on Galaxy 19: Frequency 12028 MHz. Polarization H (horizontal polarization). Symbol rate 21991Msym. FEC 3/4."

Pravda, 5 Feb 2013: "Iran's ambassador in Madrid, Morteza Saffari, rejected the attitude of the Spanish authorities to prohibit the transmission of the channels Hispan TV and Iranian Press TV. He also warned about avoiding the worsening of bilateral relations between the two countries. The Iranian government presented a formal complaint against Spain before the Court of the European Union, following the suspension of the transmission of channels Hispan TV and Iranian Press TV within Spanish territory."

Press TV, 30 Jan 2013: "First anniversary of Iran’s Hispan TV. On January 31, 2012 The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) inaugurated the Spanish-language international HD channel, Hispan TV, which broadcasts round-the-clock news, entertainment, and educational programs."

Concern that international funding for Afghanistan media could "dry up."

Posted: 11 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Huffington Post, 30 Jan 2013, Michael Calderone: "By supporting Afghan media, the U.S. also helps ensure that its policy positions aren’t missing from coverage of and debate over the war and continued presence of troops in the country. The U.S. has funded foreign media before, most notably in broadcasting Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty into Soviet-occupied countries during the Cold War. Because there isn't a thriving advertising market or potentially large subscriber base in Afghanistan, news outlets have often relied on foreign aid for support. But as coalition forces prepare to withdraw troops in 2014, Afghan journalists are concerned that international funding could also dry up, potentially reversing the upward trajectory of their industry since the Taliban was toppled. ... Since 2002, USAID and the State Department have supported numerous media projects in Afghanistan, such as the Salam Watandar radio network, which includes 53 independent FM radio stations, and Tolo TV and Arman FM, the most popular TV and radio stations."

Khaama Press, 29 Jan 2013, Sajad: "[L]ack of reading culture specifically newspapers has paved the way for majority of Afghans to listen programs and news broadcasted by various radio stations which can be accessed easily by ordinary Afghans. Among the various radio stations which are actively operating in Afghanistan is Jawanan (Youth) FM which is being operated by a group of young Afghan women. Youth FM is broadcasting 24/7 that broadcasts news, entertainment, music, literature and social programs. ... Previously Afghan media consumers were receiving news via the BBC Pashto and Persian services, as well as the Voice of America on medium- and short-wave broadcasts from neighboring countries. The Taliban had its own medium-wave religious broadcasts out of Kabul and major cities, on antiquated Soviet-era transmitters." -- "Previously"?

Iran repeats accusations against journalists accused of working for "psychological operations organization" BBC.

Posted: 11 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
AP, 5 Feb 2013: "Iran's official news agency is reporting authorities have arrested another group of local journalists accused of links with the BBC. The report by IRNA quotes a statement by the Intelligence Ministry. It did not say how many were detained. Last week Iran said it arrested 11 journalists on the same charge. Iran has repeatedly denounced the Persian services of the Voice of America BBC over the past several years, describing them as arms of U.S. and British intelligence agencies. It has warned of severe repercussions for Iranian journalists and activists caught having contacts with the outlets."

Radio Zamaneh, 6 Feb 2013: "Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has issued a second statement regarding the arrest of a number of journalists in the past week, once again accusing them of having links to foreign media. In a statement issued on February 5, the ministry accused the detainees of having connections with the BBC and claimed their case is similar to those of documentary makers and voice actors involved in dubbing films who’ve faced arrest in recent years. ... The arrest of documentary makers in September of 2011 was also attributed to collaboration with Persian BBC. BBC denied having any employees in Iran and disputed the charges put forth by Iranian authorities."

Fars News Agency, 9 Feb 2013: "[M]ember of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Nozar Shafiyee [said] that the US and British intelligence agencies try to identify potential assets via BBC Persian, the Voice of America (VOA) and media organizations, and use them against Iran. In a statement released last month, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry dismissed the western media ballyhoo about the recent arrests in Iran in the last few days, and said it is conducting thorough investigations into the case, which has already led to an established link between the detainees and the BBC. The statement said the intelligence ministry 'has succeeded in uncovering one of the biggest networks (of informants and agents) linked with the media camp of the arrogant powers'. The ministry statement said 'the network was run by the British government's psychological operations organization (known as the BBC) in cooperation with several western governments and used a multilayer, extensive and well-equipped structure and very special methods of communications for sending its reports', adding that the BBC and its western co-conspirators used the experience they had gained in the post-election unrests in Iran in June 2009 to better run the network."

RFE/RL, 30 Jan 2013: "Like their counterparts at the BBC and other international media, at least three Radio Farda journalists have been the subject of fake Facebook profiles and blogs that post false and even scandalous information with the aim of discrediting them. Radio Farda’s Facebook page, which has more than 300,000 fans, has also been hacked. ... Radio Farda journalists have also suffered synchronized attacks by Trojan horse viruses, which come cloaked as legitimate e-mail correspondence or attachments that, when opened, can mine the user's computer for contacts, passwords, and other sensitive data. In some cases hackers have used the data to pose as Radio Farda contacts and attempt to communicate with radio employees. 'It’s ridiculous,' said Radio Farda Editor-in-Chief Niusha Boghrati. 'We believe this is the work of Iranian security agents. Although we can’t prove it, it is in line with their goal of undermining Radio Farda. And of course it won’t work.'"

RFE/RL, 28 Jan 2013: "Human Rights group Amnesty International has called on Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release 14 journalists who were detained as part of raids on Iranian newspapers. The journalists are reportedly accused of cooperating with 'antirevolutionary' Persian-language media organizations based outside of Iran, such as RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, the Voice of America, and the BBC."

Allvoices, 28 Jan 2013, Stephen Manual: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is notorious for crackdowns against media and journalists. Reporters are not allowed to work for foreign media or even Persian-language newspapers and TV channels based in the United Kingdom and other European countries."

New York Times, 28 Jan 2013, Rick Gladstone: "The Mehr news agency said the arrested journalists had been accused of 'collaborating with some of the Persian-language foreign media' -- apparently an allusion to the Persian services of both the BBC and the Voice of America. The Fars news agency, without citing any sources, said the suspects had tried to contact the foreign media and had sought training on photography and filming with cellphone cameras. 'Moreover, they wanted to learn how to assemble the pieces and send them to the BBC,' Fars said."

BBC News, 28 Jan 2013: "Iran-based family members of BBC journalists have been called in for questioning by the intelligence services, and false websites and Facebook accounts have been created to smear presenters and other personnel with various allegations, including sexual misconduct. The head of BBC Persian, Sadeq Saba, said it was not the first time the Iranian authorities had resorted to such tactics, but that the number of incidents and level of harassment had increased in the last few weeks. Iran accused the BBC of inciting unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. BBC Persian broadcast online videos and interviewed protesters, who described deaths, injuries and arbitrary arrests carried out by security forces."

Salon, 28 Jan 2013, Ali Akbar Dareini: "In recent years, Iran has denounced Voice of America and the BBC’s Persian service, describing them as arms of U.S. and British intelligence agencies, and has warned of severe repercussions for Iranian journalists and activists caught having contacts with these outlets."

AP, 31 Jan 2013, Jason Rezaian: "Iran's Intelligence Ministry issued a statement [that] said, 'The collected data from the detained individuals' links to the BBC are strong and undisputable in court.' The ministry went on to say that it had been tracking a network of individuals who worked for the BBC, warning that there would be more arrests in the coming days in its fight against what it called a 'psychological war' being waged against Iran by its foreign enemies."

See previous post about same subject.

US embassy "concern" over Tajikistan's refusal to accredit RFE/RL reporter.

Posted: 11 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Interfax, 5 Feb 2013: "The U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe has voiced concern over the Tajik Foreign Ministry's refusal to grant accreditation to Radio Liberty Tajik service correspondent Abdukayum Kayumzod. ... Radio Liberty, for its part, has dismissed the refusal to prolong its journalist's accreditation as an attempt to intervene in the policy of an independent radio station. Access to the websites of Radio Liberty's Tajik service was blocked for several days at the end of last year and in early 2013, and was restored only after the U.S. Embassy publicly expressed concern." See also RFE/RL press release, 22 Jan 2013.

Wilson Center event will discuss the organization of US international broadcasting in the 21st Century (updated again).

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: "In any given week, from North Korea to Iran and across the Middle East, from China to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Myanmar, through Africa and India to Russia, Belarus, Central Asia and Cuba, 165 million people—equivalent to more than half the U.S. population—tune into the radio and television programs of U.S. International Broadcasting (USIB) by satellite, Internet and in some cases cooperating local radio stations. After more than half a century, Congressionally-funded U.S. broadcasting remains the leading edge of American soft power—the principal means by which the United States speaks directly to less free and impoverished nations. Yet while the content and methods of delivering America’s 24/7 conversation with the world have kept abreast with the 21st century, Wilson Center Senior Scholar A. Ross Johnson and retired Director of Audience Research and Program Evaluation at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty R. Eugene Parta argue in their new HAPP Occasional Paper, 'A 21st Century Vision for U.S. Global Media,' the organization of U.S. International Broadcasting has not. Using this Occasional Paper as a point of departure, the Wilson Center has organized this roundtable discussion on the future of U.S. global media. Expert panelists will include Tom Dine, former president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague; D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, executive vice president of the Northeast MAGLEV and former governor of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors; A. Ross Johnson, Wilson Center senior scholar; R. Eugene Parta, retired director of audience research and program evaluation at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; and Sanford J. Ungar, former director of Voice of America." With link to the paper (pdf) and RSVP for the event on 12 February.

I congratulate Ross Johnson and Gene Parta on this important paper (and I should have paid more attention to it when it was published in November 2012). I support their two main proposals: 1) consolidation of the entities of US international broadcasting into a single single, non-federal, congressionally-funded broadcasting organization, and 2) the positioning of USIB as "distinct from public diplomacy and from strategic communications."

For years, I felt like a voice in the wilderness. I have also advocated consolidation and journalistic independence for US international broadcasting, starting with "Too Many Voices of America," Foreign Policy 1989/90, and more recently in "America Calling: A 21st Century Model," Foreign Service Journal, October 2010. It's good, finally, to have some company.

I have only a few differences with the Johnson/Parta recommendations:

Johnson and Parta, while consolidating US international broadcasting, would preserve the brands of US international broadcasting. The present array of USIB brands, however, is confusing. All of the present brands of USIB have fine accomplishments, but they also have checkered histories. USIB needs to start fresh with a single brand, signaling to the world and to domestic stakeholders that USIB is in the business of news-- not public diplomacy, not a mix of news and public diplomacy, but news. The new brand name should befit an organization that is devoted to journalism and not to regime change.

BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera are global brands for a reason. Success for the BBC in the UK or any part of the world adds to the stature of the BBC throughout the world. This is the sort of global additive effect that USIB needs.

I also disagree with Ross and Gene on the role of US private international media. They write:

"USIB should avoid entanglement with commercial media networks, such as CNN International, Fox International and CNBC International. These for-profit organizations do not fill the same function as USIB and should not, in any way, be linked to it. These commercial media networks, despite claims of objectivity, often do present a point of view and broadcast style that would be detrimental were it to be identified with USIB. Co-mingling USIB with commercial broadcast operations would diminish its role of supporting freedom and democracy and compromise USIB’s independent identity as congressionally-funded in the national interest."

If the private US media and USIB are doing news correctly, then they do "fill the same function." One side is funded through advertising, the other by the taxpayers, but otherwise the product is the same. It is to the advantage of US taxpayers that US international broadcasting be conducted as much as possible by the private sector, at no cost to US taxpayers.

Yes, Fox News Channel and MSNBC are not good role models. The authors, however, do not give CNN enough credit. The hard-news, non-talking-heads part of CNN does attempt to be balanced and comprehensive. CNN International has even more news, and much more coverage of international affairs. It is unfortunate that CNN International is not available in more American cable TV homes. CNN International has a larger global audience than BBC World News, Al Jazeera English, or any other global English news channel. It is a great American success story. USIB should not duplicate, compete with, or undercut the profit potential of any private US international media effort that provides serious news.

One of the major advantages that BBC international broadcasting has over USIB is that BBC World Service has a partnership with the domestic BBC. BBC World Service can avail itself of the domestic newsgathering resources of the BBC, and vice versa. USIB will not be in the same league as the BBC world services until USIB too can enjoy similar synergies with US domestic broadcasting. Access to the domestic newsgathering resources of US private media will bolster USIB. The language and country knowledge of USIB journalists, if put to good use by US private news media, would greatly increase Americans' understanding of world affairs.

The last sentence in the paragraph cited above is troubling, and not just because it is laden with oxymora. Private US news media absolutely are "supporting freedom and democracy." This is why the news media are referred to as the "fourth estate." On the other hand, if the authors mean "supporting freedom and democracy" in a more activist way, then it would be USIB whose "claims of objectivity" are in doubt.

If the Johnson/Parta recommendations are not heeded, USIB will remain a feudal confederacy of overlapping bureaucracies, and an untenable mix of news and public diplomacy. In this case, the only successful and meaningful US international broadcasting in an increasingly complex global media environment will be from the private sector.

Update: Critical Distance Weblog, 10 Feb 2013, Jonathan Marks: "In the current tide of vitriolic personal and very public battles that seem to have engulfed the US Broadcasting Board of Governors, it is refreshing to discover a new discussion paper with a different approach. In fact, it's a 24 page road-map which is a considered contribution to the discussion of where-to-next. ... •USIB as a single independent entity could make much more use of access to other resources which broadcasters are often blind to. I would argue that the goal should be to set up US International Media, a trusted independent foundation. It does anything that is necessary to ensure that citizens of the world have access to intelligent thoughts, ideas and discussions. ... •There are areas of the world where access is blocked by local government, for whatever reason. These are the targets where the US needs to focus on its broadcast strategy - using any relevant mix of media that the audience is already using." -- The media that can get into a country where access to foreign media is blocked may not be the media that (most of) the audience is already using. This necessitates a communication strategy that involves a small audience coupled with a "multiplier effect."

BBC World News and "overtook CNN" in attracting high-net-worth Asians.

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC World News press release, 25 Jan 2013: "The BBC has reinforced its position as the most popular news brand among Asia’s high net worth consumers. The latest Ipsos PAX survey says that BBC World News and, the BBC’s commercially funded international news and information services, had a larger reach than any of their competitors for their combined television, online and mobile services. The Ipsos PAX survey (Q4 2011-Q3 2012) found that BBC World News and rank as the #1 news brands in cross-platform reach among Asia’s high net-worth individuals (HNWIs). In reaching the #1 spot among this audience group, the BBC overtook CNN by posting the strongest increase in unduplicated reach across TV and digital. In addition, ranks as the leading digital news brand among top income earners, corporate executives and luxury product consumers in Asia, according to PAX. This position is confirmed by comScore’s Media Metrix which also reports as the #1 international news website in 2012 in APAC. Significantly, when compared to the last PAX survey published in October 2012, the BBC registered the fastest growth in reaching Asian top managers who consume media content on mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones."

TV5Monde USA documentary topics include Libya and Afghanistan, in French with English subtitles.

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Monsters and Critics, 29 Jan 2013, April MacIntyre: "Tales of fate and tales of turmoil premiere this month on TV5MONDE USA, including Benghazi, au-delà de la ligne de front, a gripping documentary that delves into the details of the Libyan civil war that broke out in February 2011; Le Piège Afghan, a modern day military film set in war-torn Afghanistan; Le Bonheur, a classic film of the French New Wave movement; and Fragile(s), a dramatic telling of the intersecting lives of strangers. All of these films are presented with English subtitles and available in all major markets via DISH, Time Warner, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse and other local cable providers."

Rapid TV News, 24 Jan 2013, Pascale Paoli-Lebailly: "France Télévisions' president Rémy Pflimlin has been named president of TV5Monde's board of administrators. Pflimlin replaces Marie-Christine Saragosse, former TV5Monde managing director and new CEO of Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France (AEF). The appointment is part of TV5Monde's shareholder shake-up planned by the French Government and approved by other country partners Canada, Belgium, Quebec, Switzerland. Next month, TV5Monde stakes will be majority owned by France Télévisions and French-speaking partners. The French pubcaster, which contributes to TV5Monde's programming grid for around 1/3 of the schedules of the network's nine international feeds, will then hold 49% of the shares. AEF will have 12.58% and be represented by an administrator. RTBF and SSR own 11.11%, Radio-Canada 6.67%, Télé-Québec 4.44%, Arte France 3.29%, l'INA 1.74% and company managers 0.06%."

Deutsche Welle expands distribution in Kenya and names a new head of its Africa region.

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Broadband TV News, 25 Jan 2013, Robert Briel: "German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has gained airtime in Kenya by partnering with the Standard Group. The new partnership with the Kenyan media consortium will make Deutsche Welle radio and television programming available to more viewers and listeners in Africa. DW’s Swahili radio programming will be available on Radio Maisha and English television programming will be broadcast on KTN. DW’s English television programming will also be part of the partnership deal. KTN will rebroadcast selected DW programming for its viewers. KTN is a privately run television station which broadcasts throughout Kenya in English. ... A promotional campaign will accompany the partnership featuring billboards, radio and newspaper ads to introduce DW programming to the Kenyan audience."

Deutsche Welle press release, 5 Feb 2013: "Claus Stäcker, 45, is the new head of DW’s Africa program, which targets listeners and Internet users in Sub-Saharan Africa. It offers shortwave radio programs and online content in six languages: Amharic, English, French, Hausa, Kiswahili and Portuguese. The shows and reports, produced by DW, are rebroadcast by around 280 partner stations in the region. Stäcker studied journalism in Leipzig. He first travelled to South Africa as part of a university exchange program in 1992. In the same year, he started to work for German public broadcasters MDR and DLF. In 1994 he witnessed the end of Apartheid and the resulting South African parliamentary elections as a freelance correspondent for the German press. After further study at the US School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Stäcker worked as a freelance correspondent for ARD in South Africa until 2008, when he officially became the ARD correspondent for southern Africa."

French-language pan-African channel Africa 24 now available in North Africa via Arabsat.

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Bikya News, 3 Feb 2013, Joseph Mayton: "Arabsat continues to boost its services and options for television viewers. This week it announced that it has added Africa 24 to its group of channels as part of the increased interest in African affairs. ... With large portions of North Africa now being home to African migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Arabsat said the decision was a positive way of improving access to information pertaining to those who are interested in the services. Arabsat also announced earlier this month that it was boosting its satellite services with a new satellite that should provide clearer and better reception for users in North Africa." See also press release via, 29 Jan 2013.

Al Jazeera's beIN sports channel tries to compete in the US, despite "soccer saturation."

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Adweek, 5 Feb 2013, Andrew McMains: "In its bid to become a bona fide player in the U.S., the fledgling network beIN Sport has a lot going for it: deep pockets (thanks to the backing of Al Jazeera), the rights to choice soccer leagues like France's Ligue 1, and distribution via Comcast, Dish Network and DirecTV. That said, beIN's initial reach and programming slate pale compared to giants like ESPN and NBC Sports Network. Still, the newbie is betting that smart marketing can help it compete. ... [A] potential obstacle for beIN is soccer saturation. While the growing U.S. Hispanic population has fueled demand for soccer on TV, that demand already is served by sports nets and broadcasters like Telemundo, Univision and Fox Soccer Channel. So, acquiring the rights to other sports such as Nascar or college football will be key to beIN's long-term success, said John Ourand of Sports Business Journal. Despite the headwinds, Ourand is bullish about beIN's chances in America, simply because the Al Jazeera-affiliated net is well-funded. 'That means they can afford to pay rights fees, and that means they can afford to get cable carriage deals that maybe aren't the best,' he said."

Eritrean authorities forbid access to Al Jazeera.

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Reporters sans Frontières, 5 Feb 2013, via "Reporters Without Borders deplores the Eritrean government's censorship of the Qatari TV news network Al Jazeera since 1 February. According to the Qatar-based newspaper Al-Sharq, the Eritrean authorities were annoyed with Al Jazeera for carrying reports about demonstrations by Eritrean exiles outside Eritrean diplomatic missions in Cairo, London, Frankfurt, Rome, Stockholm and other capitals in opposition to the government and in support of the soldiers who stormed the information ministry in Asmara during a brief mutiny on 21 January. The information ministry issued a decree on 1 February forbidding anyone in Eritrea to provide access to Al Jazeera. Public places such as restaurants, cafés and hotels were specifically targeted. To ensure compliance, Al Jazeera's English-language channels were jammed." -- RSF does not specify how Eritrean authorities jammed AJE.

New USC CPD paper discusses the "illogical patchwork" of US international broadcasting, and calls for a single executive.

Posted: 10 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
University of Southern California, Center on Public Diplomacy, 5 Feb 2013: "CPD Contributing Scholar on the International Broadcasting Research Project, Emily T. Metzgar, discusses the structural arrangement of the BBG and its implications in the newest CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, 'Considering the "Illogical Patchwork": The Broadcasting Board of Governors and U.S. International Broadcasting.' The piece analyzes each of the five broadcasters that the BBG manages, the impact of the Smith-Mundt Act, and the composition of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, all while looking ahead to the potential role of the BBG in U.S. International Broadcasting and public diplomacy efforts in the future."

From Dr. Metzgar's paper:

"Until legislation that creates a single executive for the BBG and then authorizes that executive to make decisions reaching across the five broadcasters and other BBG administrators, debate about everything from content delivery to budget requests to implementation of the strategic plan risks looking like wasted energy. Indeed, barring passage of such transformative legislation, it seems unlikely that any decisions that manage to emerge from the current structure could do more than nibble around the edges of the 'illogical patchwork' that is contemporary U.S. international broadcasting.

"Of all the issues surrounding USIB, this is the one most worthy of prompt Congressional intervention. The status quo allows various interests to play against one another in an effort to influence broadcast efforts for personal, political or bureaucratic gain, but such intragovernmental infighting benefits no one, least of which the audiences that this American public diplomacy tool purports to serve or the country in whose name the tool is wielded. One hopes that 2013 will bring the introduction of legislation and with it Congressional hearings that will result in substantive oversight, transparent policy debate, establishment of meaningful performance indicators, and ultimately, a measure of order to the 'illogical patchwork' that has been American international broadcasting in the post-Cold War era."

Dr. Metzgar's paper provides a very good and thoroughly documented overview of US international broadcasting. Each of the entities of USIB is described in a separate section. There is also useful history of recent legislation pertaining to USIB. The section on Radio Free Asia does not discuss the false premises about VOA that were used to justify the creation of RFA. This topic, however, would require a paper unto itself. Of course, I agree with Dr. Metzgar's recommendation about the creation of a single executive for USIB. As discussed in a previous post, that CEO must be appointed by the BBG, not by the president.

See previous post about another paper on the organization of US international broadcasting.

"Curiosity may be what [the Pyongyang] regime most has to fear."

Posted: 07 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
The Economist, 9 Feb 2013: Escapee from North Korea "Jeon Geum Ju ... [watched] illegal South Korean and American TV dramas smuggled in from China and shared among her friends on memory sticks which they plugged into black-market computers, some made by South Korea’s Samsung. ... Last year an American government-backed report by InterMedia, a consultancy, welcomed the deluge pouring into the North through digital media and old-style broadcasting such as Voice of America and the Korean Broadcasting System. 'North Koreans can get more outside information…than ever before,' it said, 'and they are less fearful of sharing that information.' ... [A] severe crackdown is in force on TV dramas from South Korea... . Pressure is ... growing for other forms of engagement—especially ways around North Korea’s information blockade. Some North Korea-watchers welcomed the visit by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, to the country in January as a step forward. The BBC World Service, too, is being urged to develop a Korean-language channel. In such endeavours, experts say, information on other ways of life is more valuable than political indoctrination. [Defector Lee Seongmin] believes that information should be as high a priority as food aid. 'It is only when people can tell the difference between truth and lies that their curiosity is stimulated,' he says. Curiosity may be what this obsessively secret regime most has to fear."

North Korea Tech, 30 Jan 2013, Martyn Williams: "Pyongyang Broadcasting Station (평양방송), North Korea’s Korean-language radio station aimed at nearby countries, is launching a website this week, according to announcements made Tuesday on domestic and international broadcasts. The new website will be called 'Grand National Unity' and will be available at from February 1st, according to the announcements. That site currently holds a test page for the Apache web server. The site is the latest from the country carrying national news and propaganda to international audiences. While its adoption of the Internet for propagation of information has been slow, it has been steady and new sites have slowly been appearing. Other prominent sites include the Rodong Sinmun, the country’s main daily newspaper, and the official Korea Central News Agency. ... ... [Multilingual shortwave broadcaster] Voice of Korea currently has a web site. Pyongyang Broadcasting Station, with its overseas audience, is a natural second candidate for a home page."

BBC World Service launches responsive mobile websites for Indonesia, Hausa, and Russian.

Posted: 07 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC World Service press release, 29 Jan 2013: "BBC World Service has announced the launch of new mobile sites for BBC Indonesia and BBC Hausa in Responsive Design – a technology which tests mobile users’ screen sizes and ensures they download the most optimised version for their device. With the launch of these two 'responsive' sites, all mobile users who visit the BBC Indonesia and BBC Hausa mobile sites automatically will be routed to the mobile optimised versions, thus getting the best possible user experience their device can deliver. ... The BBC is at the forefront of the move into Responsive Design in the Asian and African mobile news markets. In February, BBC World Service is planning to launch this technology for its Russian-language news website,"

TV partnership with Express News brings BBC Urdu to the "next generation" in Pakistan.

Posted: 07 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC World Service press release, 6 Feb 2013: "From Monday 11 February, the BBC’s new TV programme in Urdu will air three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at 11pm PST on Express News. Sairbeen draws on the strength of the BBC’s international newsgathering operation, which commands levels of trust, relevance and reach unmatched among international news providers. Sairbeen brings Express News viewers the best of the BBC’s journalism, analysis and interviews to get behind the stories on the global news agenda that resonate with Pakistani audiences. The programme also features regular items covering Pakistan’s latest cultural developments, social-media trends, as well as travel, business and economy. The new BBC TV programme builds on the longstanding success of the flagship daily BBC Urdu radio programme brand, Sairbeen, which is a household name in Pakistan. The launch of the new TV programme with the same name further strengthens the BBC’s offer to the region and commitment to audiences in Pakistan. ... Mazhar Abbas, Director of Current Affairs, Express News, says: 'For years, millions of people in Pakistan have grown up listening to Sairbeen on BBC Urdu radio. We now look forward to seeing the next generation make the new BBC Urdu programme essential viewing on Express News. By carrying Sairbeen on our channel, we will be able to present something people are currently missing on television in Pakistan - the in-depth and independent analysis from the BBC on national and international issues with leading experts.'" VOA Urdu programming is also seen on Express News: see previous post.

BBC Media Action programs address health issues in South Sudan.

Posted: 07 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC Media Action website: "Our Tukul is a radio programme addressing reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health in the world’s newest country, South Sudan. It packages interviews, opinion and expert advice from around the country into an entertaining and interactive radio magazine programme. A tukul in South Sudan is a traditional circular mud dwelling with a thatched roof – the kind of home that is recognisable across the country. Our Tukul is produced by BBC Media Action’s South Sudanese team in English and Simple/Juba Arabic. Partner radio stations from the Catholic Radio Network are trained to conduct field interviews and feed these back into the programme. The programme is being broadcast nationally in all 10 states in South Sudan. ... In April 2013, a companion radio drama, Life in Lulu, will take the audience to Lulu, a fictional village where residents deal with the same health challenges that face people all around the country. ... Our Tukul and Life in Lulu are made with funding from the UK Department for International Development and supported by the Ministry of Health, South Sudan."

CCTV documentary accuses VOA of inciting Tibetan self-immolations.

Posted: 07 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Outlook India, 6 Feb 2013, KJM Varma: "China's state-run CCTV has aired a second documentary on self-immolation protests in Tibet accusing the Dharamshala-based Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) of sending its cadre into the restive Himalayan region to instigate more youths to commit suicide. The 30-minute documentary mainly focussed on a string of self-immolations in Gannan in Gansu Province close to Tibet and charged the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia of carrying out anti-China propaganda through their broadcasts. At the instance of the Dalai-clique, VOA broadcast secret instructions to its contacts in Tibet, the documentary claimed. The VOA broadcast featured a number of ceremonies held in Dharamshala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, to commemorate those who committed self-immolations and Dalai Lama's praise for them, it claimed."

NBC News, 7 Feb 2013, Ed Flanagan: "A controversial new documentary released by Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, is alleging that the American government’s official broadcaster, Voice of America, is encouraging Tibetans to set themselves on fire. The story comes as China braces itself for the 100th Tibetan self-immolation since 2009. The 25-minute documentary ... showed a Tibetan man in a hospital bed who allegedly attempted to self-immolate. Seemingly prompted to explain why he had attempted to light himself on fire, the man says, 'I did it after watching VOA, I saw the photographs of self-immolators being commemorated. They were treated like heroes.' ... Citing the example of one 18-year old Tibetan named Sangdegye, who attempted to self-immolate last December, the China Daily noted that he 'adored the self-immolators VOA reported on,' citing them as 'heroes.' In addition to accusing VOA of inciting Tibetans to self-immolate, the CCTV piece also sensationally accuses the company [VOA] of employing secret codes to send messages to people inside Tibet. VOA Director David Ensor categorically denies the accusations. In a press release issued by Voice of America on Wednesday after the Chinese stories came out, Ensor called the documentary’s accusations 'totally false' and called the self-immolations a sign of distress in Tibet. ... Calls by NBC News to the VOA office in Beijing were referred back to their U.S. headquarters. VOA is asking that CCTV and the China Daily both retract their reports."

VOA News, 6 Feb 2013: "VOA’s Tibetan Service chief, Losang Gyatso, also denied that any news reports were influenced by the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan government in exile. He noted that VOA Tibetan's news reports often present the views of Chinese officials." With video.

VOA press release, 6 Feb 2013: "VOA was not contacted for a response to the allegations made in the CCTV documentary report."

Phayul, 7 Feb 2013: "According to Xinhua, the documentary will also be aired on CCTV's French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian channels on Wednesday and Thursday."

See also Xinhua, 6 Feb 2013. And China Daily, 7 Feb 2013, video on self-immolations.

See also Radio Free Asia's web page devoted to the subject of Tibetan self-immolations.

Shanghaiist, 7 Feb 2013, James Griffiths: "The exiled Tibetan community, especially the Dalai Lama, should be more vociferous in its condemnation of these horrible suicides, despite the ultimate blame lying with the CPC for creating the environment that fostered them. That being said, blaming 'outside forces' like VOA is the the laziest play in the book, and one Chinese officials come back to time and again. Accusing VOA of using "secret code" to send messages from the Dalai Lama to people inside Tibet, as the CCTV program did, is beyond absurd. Everyone involved in the production of this 'documentary' should be embarrassed to call themselves journalists."

If it has not already done so, the US State Department should issue a statement urging Tibetans to find ways to protest other than self-immolation. That statement would then be reported by VOA and RFA as part of their news coverage.

Which animal has nine heads, five legs, and won't survive in the international media jungle?

Posted: 06 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
National Review, 5 Feb 2013, John O'Sullivan: "There was a plan, under long gestation but finally on the table, to create a joint CEO at the head of a new BBG/IBB leviathan to whom both the presidents of the broadcasting entities and the agency bureaucrats would report. He would inevitably be a very powerful figure, formally reporting to the governors but in reality running them. ... The grand CEO scheme that seemed merely businesslike common sense a few months previously suddenly looked ominous in the eyes of some governors. At least one of them said of the proposed CEO: 'Will he report to us or will we report to him?' It’s a good question. Indeed, it’s the question that should be asked of any proposal for the managerial reform of USIB... . [R]eform should ensure that the broadcasting heads report ... directly to the governors with the intervening bureaucratic level reduced to a subordinate advisory role."

Five broadcasting heads reporting to nine Governors. And here I thought the National Review favored small government.

Aren't there tens of thousands of corporations around the world with boards of directors, who hire, and can fire, the CEOs of those corporations? Why would members of the BBG be afraid of a CEO they hire and can fire? Why would there be any question of who reports to whom?

If the CEO of USIB is appointed by the president with Senate consent, as some have advocated, there would be a big question of who reports to whom. Confusion would ensue, because the CEO could choose to "report to" to the administration rather than the Board. The independence that is necessary for any genuine news organization would be lost.

Mr. O'Sullivan writes: "reform should ensure that the broadcasting heads report ... directly to the governors." That's pretty much the inefficient situation that exists now. A BBG-appointed CEO who has authority over all of the entity heads is necessary in the short term. The consolidation of all the entities into one corporation is the step that must come after that.

Huffington Post, 5 Feb 2013, Michael Calderone: "Regarding the mass firing of [RL] journalists in Russia, [former RFE/RL president Jeffrey] Gedmin said that 'even if it does make sense, in some fashion or form, the way it was executed was universally acknowledged as a completely unmitigated disaster. [New acting RFE/RL president Kevin Klose is] going to have to develop his own strategy to fix it, and I don’t want be melodramatic, but it will take years for wounds to heal,' Gedmin said. 'People feel very damaged and very betrayed.'"

Boston Globe, 20 Jan 2013, Martha Bayles: "During the Cold War, American popular culture played a key role in alienating Soviet youth from stodgy communist regimes, so it made sense for RFE-RL and its sister organization, the Voice of America, to include jazz, rock, and other pop culture in their programming. But today, the authoritarians are onto us. To varying degrees, Russia, China, Iran, and others now do their best to keep their own media amusing. And while American pop culture retains its appeal, the people in these countries don’t need more entertainment from America. What they need is the kind of news and public-affairs programming that their rulers don’t want them to have." -- Generally-speaking, news and public-affairs programming makes the most sense for US-government-funded international broadcasting. There are, however, a few instances where entertainment programming can bring in audiences. Radio Sawa has been one example, and might still be.

See previous post about same subject.

Is reported DOJ scrutiny of US companies that relay Voice of Russia related to loss of RFE/RL outlet in Moscow?

Posted: 06 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
RAPSI Russian Legal Information Agency, 5 Feb 2013: "Counterintelligence officials at the US Department of Justice have asked a major Russian broadcasting company to submit all records of its contacts with Russia, Russian daily Izevestia reported Tuesday, citing a copy of the department's request. The authorities have demanded a description of all dealings and transactions that LLC RM Broadcasting, which organizes the broadcasts of the Voice of Russia radio station in the United States, has provided to Russia or any other foreign country. The company will be required to provide copies of any relevant written contracts and detailed descriptions of any relevant oral contracts. Depending on the results of this investigation, LLC RM Broadcasting may be required to register as a foreign agent in the US, in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). ... A similarly worded but differently aimed law took effect in Russia in November." See also, in Russian, Izvestia, 5 Feb 2013, and RIA, 5 Feb 2013.

And that Russian law resulted in RFE/RL losing a 24-hour medium wave outlet in Moscow. Would this US attention to the Voice of Russia leases have anything to do with that? Other international stations, including China Radio International, lease time on US AM (medium wave) stations. Similar deals involve television stations. Will the owners of those stations come under similar scrutiny? (Thanks to Sergei in Moscow for the news tip.)

Some Malaysian politicians are not wearing We Love Radio Free Sarawak T-shirts.

Posted: 05 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Borneo Post, 26 Jan 2013: "Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) and Radio Kenyalang (RF) should operate within the state and not abroad if they were really run by genuine Sarawakians. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang opined that 'if these people (the broadcasters) are really true sons and daughters of Sarawak, let them operate locally.' 'Here in Malaysia, we believe in democratic processes. Some of these "personalities" have tried elections, failed, lost their deposits and then ran out of the country and make use of foreigners,' he told reporters... ."

Bernama, 26 Jan 2013: "Native Customary Rights (NCR) landowners in the state will be the ultimate losers if they allowed themselves to be influenced by instigation and opposition from Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) radio station. Deputy Minister of Information, Communications and Culture Datuk Joseph Salang ... said if Clare Rawcastle Brown, the owner of the radio station, could understand and speak Iban, its main language used, she would find that the radio was not always telling the truth."

Radio Free Sarawak website: "Esteemed listeners, BN spokesmen have made clear they want to get us off the air and to ban and jam us, so here is your opportunity to show the 'naughty' Radio Station, RFS some positive support over the coming weeks and prove we have some fans as well. How about investing in a We Love Radio Free Sarawak T-shirt that you can wear as a positive statement to show your support for a free media in Sarawak?"

Bernama, 31 Jan 2013: "The Information, Communications and Culture Ministry will rebut allegations made by Radio Free Sarawak to prevent the people, especially in the rural areas, from being hoodwinked into believing false news. ... Among strategies that will be unleashed include updating the content of RTM radio stations and Radio Kenyalang service for rural areas under Astro Njoi satellite service... . An independent radio station established by social activist and journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown (sister-in-law of former British prime minister Gordon Brown) in 2010, Radio Free Sarawak, which is operated by three locals, portrays land and NCR issues, and aired in Iban, Malay and English. Meanwhile, in a dialogue, Kamaruddin said the ministry did not plan to provide rural residents with free radio as a measure to counter accusations made by Radio Free Sarawak, but would strengthen existing medium such as extending the Njoi service in the interior as well as making changes in RTM radio stations. Kamaruddin said the Njoi service enabled the people living in remote areas to get better radio and television reception.

Free Malaysia Today, 4 Feb 2013, Joseph Tawie: "Said state PKR chairman Baru Bian: 'I remember that the Minister of Information, Communications and Culture (Rais Yatim) last year had promised to give us an air time over RTM for us to broadcast and televise our polices. We are still waiting for this. If the BN is given one hour, we should also be given one hour.' ... Bian who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman was reacting to comments made by BN leaders that they are going to rebut ‘lies’ broadcast by online Radio Free Sarawak (RFS). 'There was even a proposal that RFS should be jammed as mentioned by the secretary-general of the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture.'"

Borneo Post, 5 Feb 2013: "Trouble seems to be brewing within PKR in Betong as two potential election candidates bicker over comments made by one of them in Radio Free Sarawak (RFS). PKR Betong information chief Eddison Eddy Tinggi, who has been trying to get himself nominated, said he was upset by a recent RFS broadcast which favoured another potential candidate – Noel Changgai Bucking. He condemned RFS for being biased and unprofessional in their reporting, and blamed some personalities in the station for touting names of people who are their friends or relatives to be potential candidates."

See previous post about same subject.

Op-ed: VOA "exists to promote U.S. culture and values," hence need for "objective journalism" from RFE/RL.

Posted: 05 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Washington Post, 3 Feb 2013, Jackson Diehl: Broadcasting Board of Governors member Victor Ashe "understood what most of the rest of the board and staff did not: that Radio Free Europe was failing to deliver on its most essential mission — and the only one that really justifies its existence. Unlike Voice of America, which exists to promote U.S. culture and values to the world, RFE/RL’s mandate is 'surrogate broadcasting' — the provision of objective journalism, diverse commentary and open political debate to societies whose local media, because of censorship or state pressure, cannot provide it. For decades during the Cold War, the radios did this job superbly, attracting an audience throughout the Soviet Bloc and becoming the go-to medium in times of crisis. Since 1991, however, they have been subjected to serial attempts to revamp their programming, supposedly to accommodate a post-Cold War or post-Internet era. The idea, often peddled by board members and executives drawn from the entertainment industry, is that the audience needs to be broadened, radio downplayed in favor of digital offerings and ratings boosted. Hard-core journalism and political discussions should be leavened with lifestyle features, cultural offerings — or maybe just pop music."

In this op-ed, RFE/RL is described as "surrogate broadcasting" which provides "objective journalism ... to societies whose local media, because of censorship or state pressure, cannot provide it." This website,, is a surrogate website. It provides the accurate information about US international broadcasting as an antidote to the misinformation and disinformation about USIB that is endemic in US government circles, think tanks, and op-ed pages.

Who told Jackson Diehl that VOA "exists to promote U.S. culture and values to the world," as if VOA does no news, including news about its target countries? Who libeled VOA in an effort to justify the continued existence of RFE/RL? And why didn't Mr. Diehl do even a tiny bit of research instead of swallowing whole the story that was given to him?

RFE/RL is given credit for, during the Cold War, "attracting an audience throughout the Soviet Bloc and becoming the go-to medium in times of crisis." VOA's Cold War role was much the same, a fact conveniently omitted by Diehl's misinformer. A recent GAO report (see previous post) confirmed the obvious: VOA and the Radio Free stations have been duplicating each others' efforts since the Cold War. That's a much bigger story than the problems at RFE/RL Russian but, so far, reporters and op-ed writers seem to be ignoring it.

BBG Watch, 5 Feb 2013: "[I]n one of the most bizarre displays of Washington bureaucratic arrogance, Diehl was immediately attacked in a private blog by an obscure IBB staffer who is known to be close to some of his bosses." Being called "an obscure IBB staffer" is the most fun I've had since a French-language publication referred to me as a "fonctionnaire."

Anyway, as for RFE/RL Russian, I'm still not certain if it's moving from hard news to an op-ed page, or from op-ed page to hard news. The following item by a former RFE/RL executive editor adds to the confusion....

National Review, The Corner, 17 Jan 2013, John O'Sullivan: "Here’s the money quote [from RFE/RL Russian director Masha Gessen]: '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.' Ms. Gessen here distinguishes among three kinds or styles of journalism. Naturally she rejects pro-Kremlin journalism. But she also rejects a journalism that is 'polemical,' which is how she sees 'opposition media.' What she endorses is what she calls 'normal journalism,' which she defines negatively as 'not polemical.' And those are the choices in the debate over Radio Liberty. No one favors pro-Kremlin journalism on Radio Liberty; not even Putin thinks it a possible outcome. Ms. Gessen and those RFERL senior managers who appointed her favor what they call a 'normal journalism' of softer social features. The dismissed journalists and the Moscow human-rights community prefer the harder-hitting and, yes, polemical style of opposition journalism."

"Opposition journalism" is an oxymoron. How does the listener know when the news ends and the polemics begin? Is there a musical signature tune when that happens? Is Radio Liberty supposed to limit itself to an audience in the "Moscow human-rights community"? If that's the case, an anti-Putin website doesn't need US government funding. It will consist of commentaries off the top of the heads of anti-Putin activists, rather than the more expensive coverage by reporters who gather all the facts, not just opposition facts.

Masha Gessen's "money quote" -- "Something that’s not polemical, like opposition media, and something that’s not controlled by the Kremlin" -- seems to me right on the money. It's an excellent description of what could be a credible news organization. Mr. O'Sullivan's "polemical style of opposition journalism" is much scarier, especially coming from no less than the former executive editor of RFE/RL.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The World Today, 1 Feb 2013, Andrew Greene: "[F]ormer staff members have ... accused [former RFE/RL Steven] Korn of wasteful personal spending, including elaborate furnishings for his Prague flat. It's an allegation he angrily rejects. STEVE KORN: I have no idea to what you're referring. I haven't misused anything, okay. Whoever says that doesn't know what they're talking about. So that's absurd. These people are beneath contempt frankly. ANDREW GREENE: One Radio Free Europe broadcaster, who would only speak to the ABC anonymously, says despite the problems in Russia the organisation's other language services are all working well." With audio.

The Prague Post, 23 Jan 2013, Andrew Greene: "Some former employees at the embattled international broadcasting service have accused Steve Korn of gross mismanagement and say his tenure was 'disastrous.' In an exclusive interview with The Prague Post, the former lawyer has hit back at his critics and says he may even take legal action against them."

Voice of Russia, 22 Jan 2013, citing Interfax: "The employees of the Radio Liberty Russian Service have declared that their radio station lost its popularity in Russia over recent years due to slipping into ‘soft journalism’ and called the management to correct this mistake. They wrote an open letter to the US Secretary of State, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) in the US government and the new head of the radio station Kevin Klose. The letter reads that the management moved the principle of protecting human rights to the background in favour of ‘soft journalism’ convenient to the authorities."

BBG Watch, 4 Feb 2013, translating letter from human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeeva to new RFE/RL acting president Kevin Klose: "Like in the Soviet era, Radio Liberty is becoming the principal source of alternative information; however, the new management in Moscow, headed by M. Gessen, and Vice-President J. Ragona seem to be in cahoots with our oppressors. They insist on making our programming more entertainment-oriented. We are more than adequately entertained by government-owned television networks and radio stations. Human rights reportage and cogent political analysis is what we are lacking. The demand for coverage of these issues by the progressive part of our citizenry is not even closely satisfied by what is currently available. It is Radio Liberty’s responsibility to fulfill this role. Gessen and Ragona do not understand the organization’s mission, and, in my opinion, should leave their posts."

See previous post about same subject.

Dubbed and subtitled, Sundance Channel expands its international distribution.

Posted: 03 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Jan 2013: "AMC/Sundance Channel Global ... has concluded distribution agreements with key pay TV platforms in Poland, Hungary, Spain, the Philippines and Thailand. In Poland, Sundance Channel has launched on Multimedia Polska, one of the country’s leading cable providers as a 24/7 channel in high definition and standard definition. In Hungary, the Sundance Channel is launching as a subtitled 24/7 SD linear channel on Magyar Telecom via cable and IPTV services. The channel is also available locally on UPC. In Spain, the channel will launch in the coming weeks as a 24/7 SD linear service in dubbed format on cable operator R. The network is also available locally via Movistar Imagenio and Euskaltel. AMC/Sundance Channel Global has recently secured distribution for both of its Asian brands, Sundance Channel and WE tv, on pay TV platforms throughout the region. ... These recent developments follow numerous other distribution deals secured across Europe and Asia over the past few months, including additional carriage in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, Korea and Taiwan."

Crossings TV, channel for Asian Americans, expands to Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.

Posted: 03 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Sacramento Business Journal, 24 Jan 2013, Kelly Johnson: "A Sacramento Asian-language television station has landed a deal to expand distribution of its programming into three additional Comcast Corp. markets. Crossings TV will expand in April into Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco through Comcast Xfinity, said Frank Washington, the TV station’s CEO. ... By expanding to those new markets, Crossings TV adds three to four million viewers to its existing 1.25 million, Washington told the Business Journal. He projects the company will triple its revenue this year. Crossings TV, which went on the air in 2005, finished 2012 with its first very small cash-flow profit. ... Crossings TV and Comcast didn't disclose terms of the deal, which was signed in December. ... Content for Crossings TV comes from three sources, [Washington] said. The company produces its own news and entertainment programming, including covering local events such as the Chinese New Year parade and the Yuba City Marysville Sikh Festival. It pays for movies and other high-level entertainment. In addition, other programmers pay to get their content on Crossings TV." See also Crossings TV has content in Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hmong, Russian and, for South Asian communities, English.

"They want pensions, not Pulitzers." Self-criticism at China Radio International.

Posted: 03 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
Poynter, 23 Jan 2013, Thomas Rippe: "The first time I got in trouble at China Radio International was for saying it’s OK to drive over the speed limit as long as that’s the speed of traffic. ... [M]y producer informed me we would all have to stay late that day for a 'sound check.' She told me this involved listening to a segment of the show and then discussing what worked and what didn’t. This sort of made sense because unlike radio stations elsewhere, staff at CRI generally don’t listen to the radio. Aside from my co-host, the sound tech, and myself, most of my coworkers would be hearing the segment in question for the first time. I was one of the last to enter the room, and as I strolled in I asked my producer what we’d be listening to. 'You,' she said. They saved a single chair in the corner of the room opposite the door. That was for me. Everyone else was arranged in a semi-circle around me. ... The people who work for government media in China are not journalists, and the vast majority aren’t dedicated propagandists. They’re actually a lot like the people who work for the government in other parts of the world. They have all the drive and passion for their work that the people at your local DMV have. They want a steady paycheck and decent benefits without fear of a layoff – China’s 'Iron Rice Bowl.' They want pensions, not Pulitzers."

Bernama, 31 Jan 2013: "Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and China Radio International (CRI) today presented merit awards to 110 of their news writers, including prizes for the top 10 best news items broadcast by them. The awards presentation marked the climax of a two-way collaboration between CRI and RTM where they had shared expertise, information, news, documentaries and personnel to sharpen their profesionalism [sic] in the broadcasting industry."

Xinhua, 26 Jan 2013: "Nepal and China on Friday stressed the need for promoting the Chinese language in Nepal for bilateral tourism prosperity. In a discussion program organized by the Nepal China Language & Cultural Exchange Academy and China Radio International (CRI) Confucius Classroom Nepal, at Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu Friday, the two sides agreed to narrow down the linguistic differences between the two neighbors."