International broadcasting and the Burmese election: "enough funds" for VOA Burmese?

Posted: 30 Oct 2010   Print   Send a link
AP, 26 Oct 2010, Jocelyn Gecker: "The popular and charismatic Aung San Suu Kyi is right where the [Burmese] ruling military junta wants her: locked away under house arrest. ... Her days follow a strict routine of meditating until 5:30 a.m., then turning on the four radios in her bedroom to listen to the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and a dissident overseas station, the Democratic Voice of Burma. No phones or Internet connections are allowed in her home, though Suu Kyi said through her lawyer recently that she looks forward to joining Twitter one day to chat with the younger generation."

The Irrawaddy, 28 Oct 2010, Saw Yan Naing: "The Burmese military junta regularly utilizes the country's media to blame the pro-democracy opposition and armed ethnic groups for bomb blasts in the country, and routinely refers to the groups as 'terrorists.' The regime also routinely blames media organizations such as the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC), Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) for causing violence, generating public outrage and sowing hatred among Burmese people."

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 25 Oct 2010, "May": "Websites based in Thailand, India and Norway operated by three news organizations run by Burmese exiles experienced distributed denial-of-service attacks in September that shut them down for several days. In the attacks, hackers unleashed a flood of incoming messages to the sites, essentially forcing them to shut down and denying access to legitimate users. ... The Sept. 27 attacks were engineered by foreign hackers contracted by the regime, according to a Burmese IT employee of Yatanapon Teleport, a new Internet provider established in Mandalay, Burma’s second-largest city, who declined to be identified for fear of government retribution. ... The military regime harshly censors all domestic newspapers and blocks news websites from outside the country, including the BBC, Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America. Broadcasts from those outlets do reach local radio receivers and provide Burmese listeners with unfiltered news."

Democratic Voice of Burma, 20 Oct 2010, Dan Withers: "Just days after Burma’s election commission announced foreign journalists would be denied visas to cover this year’s controversial elections, a Paris-based media watchdog has ranked the country’s media environment one of the five most repressive in the world."

Washington Post, 27 Oct 2010, editorial: "The Voice of America should rethink its plan to cut back broadcasting hours to Burma the month after the election, while Congress should provide the VOA with enough funds to carry out its mission."

VOA Burmese is now on a "surge" schedule of six hours per day (includes repeats), plus 60 minutes of television per week. After the election, it will return to its normal schedule, though I'm not sure how many hours that is. In 2006, VOA Burmese transmitted only 1.5 hours a day.

It's interesting that the Post did not mention Radio Free Asia's Burmese service. The VOA and RFA Burmese services divide and compete for scarce resources, and report on many of the same stories. To complicate things, television has become popular in Burma, and many Burmese are seeking out foreign television channels via satellite. For US international radio to Burma, the division of resources is harmful. For US international television, it will be fatal. If US international broadcasting can be reformed, it will probably discover that it already has "enough funds." See previous post about same subject.