When writing about international broadcasting, Washington think tanks can be comedy clubs.

Posted: 28 Mar 2011   Print   Send a link
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 21 Mar 2011, Patrick Clawson and Mehdi Khalaji: "Iranians face great difficulty getting information about what is happening in their country. More than half of the population has access to satellite television, and even more to foreign radio. Outlets such as BBC Persian television and Voice of America's Persian News Network (PNN) are among the most important ways Iranians receive news, while the private Fars One satellite network is the most popular station for entertainment programs. Yet Tehran devotes a great deal of effort to jamming these stations -- a clear sign of how threatening they are to the regime.

"The U.S. government funds both PNN and Radio Farda, the Persian section of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In recent years, Farda's twenty-four-hour news and music programs and Persian website have been quite successful in attracting an audience.

"For its part, PNN has begun a fresh phase under new director Ramin Asgard, a foreign service officer who previously ran the U.S. Iran-watchers office in Dubai. The network is scheduled to undergo dramatic changes in structure, management, and the format and content of its programming, all in order to gain credibility and popularity. For example, PNN's Parasit -- an exceptionally successful weekly satire that has become popular in Iran -- shows how far the network's other programs have to go in terms of professionalism and solid journalism. From its inception, PNN's style has been largely old-fashioned (e.g., long shots of a single talking head), its journalism unimaginative at best, and its credibility at risk of politicization in favor of royalists. ...

"As for the regime's signal-jamming efforts, the United States should work with its EU partners to ameliorate the problem. Such jamming violates agreements of the International Telecommunications Union, to which Iran is a party. In March 2010, the EU foreign ministers called for 'defin[ing] and apply[ing] strong measures that may be implemented' if Tehran does not immediately end 'this electronic interference,' but little has happened since."

"Solid journalism"? Parazit is a satire program. It mostly makes fun of the Tehran regime. Is that what VOA PNN should do during the rest of its schedule?

Heritage Foundation, 23 Mar 2011, Helle Dale, re reported plan BBC World Service Trust to apply for State Department grant to study anti-internet-blocking and anti-satellite-jamming techniques: "It will be, of course, absolutely appalling if State does decide to award the money once the proposal arrives at the office of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) in Foggy Bottom. At a time of soaring budget deficits in this country and cuts in U.S. radio transmissions to key areas of the world, a U.S. grant given to the BBC World Service would have been a snub of enormous proportions to the BBG, which overseas [sic] not only U.S. international broadcasting, but also the Internet circumvention efforts of the U.S. government itself. ... Is the Obama administration and the State Department really so enamored of the BBC that it prefers the British broadcaster over its own U.S. government-funded and globally respected broadcasting services? So it seems. After all, President Obama went on the BBC to give an important message to the Arab world in June, 2009, but has never given one to Voice of America — the only U.S. president since the founding of VOA not to do so. Possibly the president might find the BBC’s often anti-American point of view more in sync with his own thinking." See previous post about President Obama's June 2009 interview with the BBC's North American editor Justin Webb. ("Went on the BBC" links instead to President Obama's September 2010 interview on BBC Persian.)

So, while Clawson and Khalaji of the Washington Institute write that the United States should "work with its EU partners to ameliorate" jamming, Dale of Heritage scoffs at the idea that the State Department should provide money to the BBC World Service Trust, in the EU-member UK, for that purpose.

As I wrote in a previous post, "the State Department has funds for internet freedom projects which must be granted to someone." Would Mrs. Dale prefer that the money be given to two high school kids working out of a basement? BBC World Service has the knowledge to work on these problems, but, given their recent huge budget cut, probably not the funds.

Dictators are getting the upper hand in blocking the internet and jamming satellite broadcasts. The viability of international broadcasting is at stake. One of the best hopes is for the experts of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and its International Broadcasting Bureau, and for the boffins of BBC World Service, to work on these problems, then get together to compare notes. See previous post about same subject.