New book recounts RFE/RL during the Cold War years.

Posted: 31 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Cold War Radio: The Dangerous History of American Broadcasting in Europe, 1950–1989. "During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty broadcast uncensored news and commentary to people living in communist nations. As critical elements of the CIA’s early covert activities against communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the Munich-based stations drew a large audience despite efforts to jam the broadcasts and ban citizens from listening to them. This history of the stations in the Cold War era reveals the perils their staff faced from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Romania and other communist states. ... Author Richard H. Cummings was the Director of Security for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for 15 years beginning in 1980." McFarland & Company website. See previous post about same subject.

Asian regional channels in joint ad sales project.

Posted: 31 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) today announced a groundbreaking TV industry initiative to generate new revenue streams as part of a unified channel and network strategy. The initiative is designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of using Regional TV channels to reach audiences most likely to maintain spending in an economic downturn. ... Major stakeholders in the project are CNN and Cartoon Network, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, Sony Entertainment Television, National Geographic Channel and FOX Networks, STAR, BBC Global Channels, CNBC Asia, Bloomberg Television and Australia Network." CASBAA press release, 31 March 2009.
     The 2009 Festival of Media takes place 19-21 April in Valencia, "with the theme 'An Industry in Transition'. The theme is meant to be reflective of the structural pressures the industry is under due to the fragmentation of audiences and the proliferation of digital technology and also the global economic environment." Bizcommunity.com, 30 March 2009.

New digital signal processor could help development of DRM receivers.

Posted: 31 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Tensilica, Inc. today announced the immediate availability of the Digital Radio Mondiale decoder on its popular HiFi 2 Audio DSP, which can be easily integrated into system-on-chip designs. ... Now designers of digital radio systems can use one processor core -- Tensilica's HiFi 2 Audio DSP -- to run all decoders required throughout the world for digital radio, enabling a universal worldwide digital radio receiver. Tensilica's HiFi 2 Audio DSP already has support for four other terrestrial and satellite standards: DAB, DAB+, HD Radio, and XM Radio. DRM can deliver FM-comparable sound quality on frequencies below 30 MHz (the bands currently reserved for AM broadcasting) for very long-distance signal propagation. It has the advantage of being able to fit more channels into a given amount of spectrum with higher quality because it employs digital audio compression rather than amplitude modulation techniques. ... 'Both India's and Russia's regulators just recently have taken serious steps towards digital radio and mandated DRM due to its advantages of wider geographic coverage in the sub 30 MHz spectrum. With these countries gaining momentum, the arrival of Tensilica's solution appears to be just in time for the marketplace,' stated Toni Fiedler, senior manager, business development, Dolby Laboratories. 'Tensilica's HiFi 2 Audio DSP will enable development of low cost DRM receivers by leveraging the aggregate investment in all the digital radio standards for highly integrated multi-standard SOCs. HiFi 2 provides a proven, approved, drop-in audio solution.'" Tensilica press release, 30 March 2009. "Very long distance"? More like modestly long distance, e.g. within Europe, or within India, given our experience with DRM. "More channels into a given amount of spectrum"? Analog shortwave signals from comparable distances, with similar strengths, can be tuned five kilohertz apart. DRM shortwave signals are ten kilohertz wide. Be all that as it may, this new product should help the development of DRM.

International channels via GlobeCast via Hot Bird extended to 2016.

Posted: 31 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Eutelsat Communications announced today that GlobeCast, a leading content management and delivery company has renewed to 2016 five transponders leased from the flagship HOT BIRD neighbourhood for broadcasting in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. With the seven-year extension of all five contracts, GlobeCast is continuing its longstanding relationship with Eutelsat for broadcasting free-to-air and pay-TV channels to cable and satellite homes. From several of its 12 facilities worldwide, GlobeCast uplinks five digital multiplexes to Eutelsat's HOT BIRD satellites comprising almost 70 television channels including BBC World News, CNN International, EuroNews, JSTV, Al Jazeera, RTR Planeta and Berbere TV." Eutelsat press release, 30 March 2009.

The new international broadcasting reports on the "new Taliban."

Posted: 31 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"As many groups call for a new approach which includes negotiations with those who hold beliefs from across the political spectrum, France 24 asks: who are the new Taliban?" The Independent, 30 March 2009, with France 24 video report, part of the newspaper's recent agreement with the French international channel.
     "Cyber Group Studios, best known for its animation and new-media portfolio, has expanded its operations into news and documentaries, with its first factual project recently scooped up by France 24. ... Its first foray into this space, a special report on kidnappings in Mexico, aired on France 24 this month. The company is also expanding worldwide, with two new offices in Latin America." WorldScreen.com, 31 March 2009.
     Russia Today report on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is included in an item in eHomeUpgrade, 30 March 2009.
     Link to report about a Mars simulated space craft "from the state-supported Russian satellite channel, Russia Today." New York Times The Lede blog, 31 March 2009.

Orange plans a French version of Google News.

Posted: 31 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The French telecom operator Orange has announced the launch of a new multi-media website that offers news and current affairs in text, audio and video. The service is called 24/24 actu and should compete with the likes of Google News." Broadband TV News, 31 March 2009.
     "The huge volume of news managed by 24/24 actu stems from a series of partnerships sealed between Orange and the main French media, all recognized professional media: TV (BFM TV, Euronews, France 24, LCP-AN, Public Sénat, TV5 Monde), radio (BFM, Europe 1, Radio France, RFI, RMC, RTL)... ." Orange press release, 30 March 2009.

Will rural broadband bring more noise to shortwave?

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
The American Radio Relay League, organization of amateur radio "maintains that before BPL [Broadband over Power Line] could ever be considered as a long-term source of broadband in rural America, the FCC must adopt rules that provide against BPL interference to the licensed radio services. [ARRL General Counsel Chris] Imlay said that studies have pointed out that BPL systems cause interference to licensed radio services in 'certain configurations,' such as international broadcasting, aeronautical, maritime, disaster relief, military and the Amateur Radio Service." ARRL, 28 March 2009. BPL uses shortwave (HF) frequencies via unshielded power lines, thus transmitting noise that interferes with already existing shortwave users, such as international broadcasting and amateur radio. For information about a similar power line system in the UK, see www.ukqrm.org, mentioned in DX Listening Digest, 24 March 2009.

Heard on shortwave.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Space flight, in fact, was a more tangible part of life in the Soviet Union when [Corona, Californa, guitar designer Yuriy] Shishkov was growing up in the 1960s and '70s than anything to do with the chief instrument of that most decadent of Western cultural forms, rock music. He loved the music of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and other rock bands he heard over shortwave radio, soaking up rock's core message of freedom and individual expression, even when he couldn't understand the words." Los Angeles Times, 30 March 2009.
     "My best friend heard the famous Aspartame/Neurologist, Dr. Russell Blaylock on a short wave radio telling about Aspartame and symptoms, and how to test to see if it is what you have." Cathy Alexander, OpEdNews.com, 30 March 2009.
     Bob Sewell Jr. and his father, or St Catherines, Ontario, "joined millions worldwide who turned off power at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday for Earth Hour. ... For sixty minutes, they listened to a crackling short wave radio using solar-power charged batteries." The Standard (St Catherines), 29 March 2009.

NZ relayer of international television shuts down its terrestrial channel.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Triangle Television is pulling the plug on its Wellington transmission from March 31. ... Local programming support, funding levels, sponsorship and commercial uptake of the Wellington service has been far lower than hoped for. ... 'The good news is that Wellington viewers and producers will still have the option to see the majority of Triangle programming via TriangleStratos, which is available on Sky and Freeview satellite services and Telstra Clear cable.' ... The channels screen news and current affairs services in English from Al Jazeera, Euro News, Deutsche Welle (DW), Voice of America, PBS, McLaughlin Group (US politics), Frost over the World (David Frost) and Tongan, Fijian, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, French, Swiss, Flemish, Greek, Russian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese language news." Triangle Television press release, 30 March 2009.
     "What a loss for us all. Triangle has been an oasis of sanity on Wellington’s free-to-air television system since it began transmission here in August 2006. As a counter to the inanity of top model shows, Triangle has offered informed and independent international analysis on the PBS Evening News from Washington. For every interminable and artificial non-reality cooking show, Triangle has offered unique Middle East reportage from the unchallengeable Al Jazeera English-language news service." Lindsay Shelton, Wellington Scoop, 30 March 2009.

Eventually there will be 106 DW-Punkts.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The international German radio station, Deutsche Welle inaugurated Saturday in Dakar, Senegal, its 29th news unit, named 'DW-Punkt', to facilitate access to all programmes of the channel abroad. The DW Punkt, which is a multimedia information terminal was set up in the premises of the German cultural center, Goethe Institute. ... Other DW Punkt will be set up in the German cultural centers, numbering 106 around the world." Panafrican News Agency, 29 March 2009. Modern version of the public viewing parlors? In any case, the Dakar DW-Punkt opens just as CBC is closing, for budget reasons, its bureau in the same city.

International channels compete in India.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Joining the Rs 262 billion worth TV industry is the German government-funded international broadcaster Deutsche Welle that has officially launched DW-TV Asia+ for the Indian market. Beginning with limited distribution, DW-TV Asia+ is negotiating for lower carriage fees to sustain its launch in India. For now, the channel will be available on Sun Direct, DD Direct+, DTH, InCableNet, Hathway, Manthan Broadband Services, Ortel, Siticable, Seven Star, Asianet and Atria networks. Sudeep Malhotra, head, DW-TV in India, insists that they are negotiating deals with other DTH platforms but also lets in, 'We are not looking at Indian advertisers rather bringing European advertisers an opportunity to advertise to Indian audiences.' ... A week back, Turner International also launched WB, a Warner-branded channel for India featuring blockbuster motion pictures and hit television series. WB is Turner’s brand new 24-hour, English-language entertainment channel for India, which will showcase programming licensed from Warner’s International Television Distribution. ... WB too is negotiating deals to ensure the channel’s availability across five leading DTH platforms that garner nearly 10 million subscribers." Business Standard (New Delhi), 30 March 2009.

IS BBC World News a good choice for Vietnam's tourist ads?

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Vietnam's "Prime Minister has agreed to spend VND 25 billion on promoting tourism in 2009, and a part of which will be spent on advertising Vietnam’s image on BBC World and taxis in the UK." VietnamNet, 27 March 2009.
     "Luu Duc Ke, Director of Hanoitourist, related that when he asked a Spanish senior marketing expert about the efficiency of tourism advertisement pieces on CNN and BBC, he said that the audience absolutely does not expect to get tourism information on CNN and BBC. The marketing expert said that it would be better to advertise on Discovery or Geographic, which specializes in tourism." VietnamNet, 30 March 2009.

Irish anchor of BBCWS Europe Today departs.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"It’s sad news indeed to report the departure of Ireland’s voice in Europe: Audrey Carville. Apologies to Charlie McCreevy, but it is Carville who has done the country most service in Europe in recent years, courtesy of the BBC World Service. Every weekday at 6pm, she presents the hour-long Europe Today programme, an informative and entertaining look at the day’s events on the continent." Derek Scally, Irish Times, 28 March 2009.

Archbishop of Centerbury concerned about reduced religious programming on BBC World Service.

Posted: 30 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Archbishop of Canterbury has told the BBC Director General that the corporation should not ignore its Christian audience. Dr Rowan Williams spoke to Mark Thompson at a private meeting in Lambeth Palace. ... Dr Williams is believed to have challenged the director-general during their meeting earlier this month over the decline in religious broadcasting on the BBC World Service. In 2001, it broadcast one hour and 45 minutes a week of religious programming. It now broadcasts just half an hour. ... A spokesman for the corporation said: 'The BBC's commitment to religion and ethics is unequivocal and entirely safe. Changes to the Religious and Ethics department in Manchester are being made to strengthen the BBC's offering, not diminish it.'" Press Association, 29 March 2009. The BBC World Service website shows one program under the Religion & Ethics category. It is the weekly "Heart and Soul."

The day Edward R. Murrow screwed up, and other shortwave stories.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Ada 'Bricktop' Smith played barkeep to the 'Lost Generation' of international ex-patriots living in Paris in the 1930s. ... Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt built his brilliant career on being unreliable, short tempered—and a musical genius. Bricktop had been warned against hiring him to play at her club but she followed her own instincts, and never regretted it. Together they made jazz history—winning fans on both side of the Atlantic with a live shortwave radio broadcast on June 12, 1937 hosted by radio legend Edward R Murrow. Our broadcast this week includes an audio clip of this historic broadcast, during which Django famous temper flared, when Murrow mistakenly credited Stephane Grapelli as the composer of one of Django's tunes." KUAR Riverwalk Jazz, 26 March 2009.
     "Margaret Rupli Woodward was in Holland in 1940, working for the NBC radio network. She was its first woman correspondent. She went on shortwave radio live, telling an American audience what was happening in Holland, just months before Nazi Germany invaded the country." VOA News, 26 March 2009.

Press TV's "most complete account" of reported airstrike in Sudan.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Sudan’s minister for highways, Mabrouk Mubarak Salim [recently suggested] that a 'major power' had carried out a previously unreported air strike inside Sudan in January, have reporters in several countries scrambling to find out whether such a bombing really did take place — and if so, who was responsible. An Egyptian newspaper, Al-Shurooq, first reported on Tuesday what Mr. Salim said at a news conference in Sudan — that a 'major power bombed small trucks carrying arms' headed towards Sudan’s border with Egypt in January. The state-supported Iranian broadcaster Press TV seems to have the most complete account in English of the Egyptian newspaper’s article." Roberty Mackey, New York Times The Lede blog, 26 March 2009.

Colombian scoops for Telesur, VOA.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Venezuelan admirers hailed a slain Colombian guerrilla leader as a hero Thursday on the anniversary of his death, while Colombian officials boosted cash rewards for his top two successors. Some 100 supporters marched past Venezuela's presidential palace carrying red flags and posters of Colombian revolutionary Manuel Marulanda, whose real name was Pedro Antonio Marin. The state-funded television network Telesur, meanwhile, showed video of what it said was Marulanda's funeral. Rebels were shown carrying his flag-draped coffin through a forest. Telesur did not say how it had obtained the footage." AP, 27 March 2009.
     "Two weeks ago, a report surfaced on Voice of America that warned of Hezbollah involvement in Col[o]mbian drug traffic. 'That is of concern principally because of the connections between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hezbollah,' Admiral Stavridis, commander of U.S. forces in Latin America said in the VOA report." Digital Journal, 27 March 2009. Refers to VOA News, 17 March 2009, which appears to be a co-scoop with Reuters, 17 March 2009.

The former chairman of the firewall should know.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Sen. Benjamin Cardin ... proposed a bill Tuesday that would rewrite tax law to allow newspapers to operate as tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, just as long as they don't make official endorsements of political candidates. But some media analysts say that could create government control of the news. ... Even front-page news could come under scrutiny, said James Glassman, a longtime newspaper and magazine publisher who was recently chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. 'Tax rules prohibit endorsements, but there are ways to promote specific candidates outside the editorial pages,' he told FOXNews.com. 'You will almost certainly have government tax officials examining the content of papers for telltale signs of bias and advocacy. A bad situation.'" Fox News, 26 March 2009.

Intrigue from the history of RFE Romanian resurfaces.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"My native Romania has become the second former Soviet bloc country, after Russia, to revive the KGB slogan 'America-is-the-enemy.' ... On March 13, 2009, the Romanian media announced that the country’s justice system had refused to indict the chief of Ceausescu’s domestic and foreign political police, Nicolae Plesita, despite overwhelming evidence proving he was a brutal assassin. In 2001, for instance, the general prosecutor of Berlin charged Plesita with international terrorism. The Berlin court documents prove that in 1980 Plesita brought the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal and his deputy, Johannes Weinrich, to Romania, gave them a luxurious villa, a training camp near Bucharest, 100 false passports and 20 kg of the plastic explosive EPH/88, to blow up the Romanian offices at Radio Free Europe’s headquarters in Munich. Eight RFE employees were injured in that terrorist attack, which took place on February 21, 1981. ... The Jackal and Weinrich are ending their days in prison. Plesita is free because he 'defended' his country against the anti-communist Radio Free Europe, regarded by Romania’s justice system even today as an enemy." Ion Mihai Pacepa, FrontPage Magazine, 23 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.
     "On March 11, 1989, Radio Free Europe broadcast an open letter critical of Ceausescu by six Communist functionaries whom he had marginalized. All of the authors of the famous 'Letter of the Six' were subsequently interrogated by the Securitate, Romania's dreaded secret police, and placed under house arrest. ... But opposition was largely confined to individual actions. Not all of the dissidents even knew each other. Their source of information was Radio Free Europe, which Romanians ironically dubbed 'Bucharest Four,' since hardly anyone was interested in the pro-Ceausescu propaganda on the state broadcasting company's three stations. Romanians learned via 'Bucharest Four' that Mircea Dinescu, a popular poet, was placed under house arrest in March 1989. Dinescu, who had criticized the regime in Western media, was freed only after Ceausescu's overthrow." Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 24 March 2009.

Vaclav Havel visits RFE/RL's new building.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Nearly fifteen years after inviting RFE/RL to relocate from Munich to Prague, former Czech President Vaclav Havel presided over RFE/RL's first editorial meeting at its new, state-of-the-art broadcast center today. Havel praised RFE/RL's mission and warned democratic countries against viewing human rights issues as an 'afterthought' when dealing with authoritarian regimes." RFE/RL press release, 27 March 2009. See also RFE/RL press release, 24 March 2009, with photo gallery. And RFE/RL interview with Havel, 27 March 2009.

Cuban critic of Radio/TV Martí is on hunger strike.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Former political prisoner Jorge Luis García, a.k.a. Antúnez, is on hunger strike in Cuba, demanding "adequate housing for all Cubans, particularly Antúnez's sister; the end of torture for his political prisoner brother-in-law Mario Alberto Pérez; and the ratification and publication of human rights accords. ... Antúnez has been on hunger strikes before, especially while serving a 17-year sentence for 'enemy propaganda' and sabotage resulting in a public protest in a plaza and his subsequent attempt at prison escape. ... Earlier this year, Antúnez was quoted criticizing programming on the U.S. government's Radio and TV Martí but later balked when he felt his comments were misconstrued to suggest he does not support the anti-Castro broadcasts." Miami Herald, 26 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Jay Leno leaves Africa.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Last Saturday on the Leno slot there was this glimpse of Leno's hugely entertaining Barack Obama interview and then blank. CNBC Africa is no longer showing Leno. Did CNBC Africa warn viewers? No. Jill de Villiers, programme head for CNBC Africa said: 'Due to international rights issues, we had to discontinue The Tonight Show with Jay Leno with immediate effect. We had hoped to be able to screen it until May 31 when Leno does his last show, but unfortunately it was not possible.'" Sally Scott, tonight.co.za (Cape Town), 27 March 2009.

Before she douses any flames, she should douse any misinformation about US international broadcasting.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"As the latest speaker in the University of Delaware's series 'Global Agenda 2009,' Dana Shell Smith spoke to a full house in Mitchell Hall Wednesday, March 25, about public diplomacy and the new role she will assume as the media liaison for the U.S. State Department. Her presentation was entitled 'Dousing the flames: Public diplomacy in action.' ... Fluent in Arabic, Shell Smith will be one of the select few U.S. officials who will appear regularly on Arab television, radio and regional newspapers to present the U.S. point of view on key Middle East issues. ... She ... played a clip of Radio Sawa, an Arabic radio station in the Middle East, where J-Lo's single 'I'm Real' was immediately followed by a question from a caller in Cairo, Egypt, wanting to know why the U.S. is fighting a war against Islam. ... Shell Smith said she will use several outreach tools to communicate with the public overseas in order to address these and other serious political issues. These tools include the U.S. government owned and operated television station Al Hurra, Radio Sawa and the newly created Web site America.gov.'" UDaily, 27 March 2009. I hope that Shell Smith has been sufficiently briefed to know that Radio Sawa and Alhurra are not State Department public diplomacy "tools," but autonomous news organizations under a separate entity, the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The Secretary of State has one seat on the BBG, but is not its CEO.

VOA Khmer adds television.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"VOA Khmer Discovering, a new daily Voice of America (VOA) television product showcasing news features, begins airing across Cambodia on Monday, March 30, 2009. VOA's first regular television segment in Khmer will be broadcast by National Television Kampuchea (TVK) on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m. (Cambodia time), and at 8:00 a.m. Monday and Tuesday. News feature programs on VOA Khmer Discovering will include feature stories in several areas, such as health, science, travel and life in America." VOA press release, 25 March 2009.

VOA in the palms of Kenyans' hands.

Posted: 29 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Kenyans have found a new place to watch and listen to the Voice of America's (VOA) (www.VOANews.com) news and information: the palms of their hands. In a unique arrangement with Safaricom (www.safaricom.co.ke), a leading telecommunications company in Kenya, VOA provides daily updated audio and video stories to cell phone subscribers who download the material. ... The Nairobi-based Safaricom estimates there were 800,000 attempted downloads of VOA reports between mid-December 2008 and mid-March 2009." VOA press release, 24 March 2009.
     "Armed with cameras, computers and a solar charger, a Voice of America (VOA) broadcaster is traveling to remote areas of Sierra Leone and Guinea to help document the dying Krim, Bom and Mani languages. 'There may be only 60 or 70 people who speak the language,' said Bart Childs, referring to Krim speakers in Sierra Leone. Childs will produce a video blog and offer live video streaming in French and English about the people who speak Krim, Mani and Bom, their cultures and West Africa." VOA press release, 27 March 2009.

The audacity of VOA to report the news.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Why is the taxpayer-funded Voice of America, chartered to help America's image overseas, trading in unproven allegations of CIA torture of detainees? And why illustrate the article with a picture from Abu Ghraib? Check out this article on the VOA's website, and ask yourself why your tax dollars are paying to spread leftist propaganda?" Thomas Lifson, American Thinker, 24 March 2009. American Thinkers tend to be unclear about basic concepts. VOA is not chartered to help America's image, but to provide news to places where that news is, domestically, deficient. This story, reported widely, e.g. The American Conservative, 18 March 2009, would have been a conspicuous absence if not reported by VOA.

Will Zimbabwean pact end foreign broadcasts? Unlikely.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Zimbabwe's Global Political Agreement of 15 September, "which ushered in the inclusive government, states that 'government shall ensure the immediate processing by the appropriate authorities of all applications for re-registration and registration in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act as well as [Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act]'. ... The power-sharing pact also demands the termination of external 'hosting or funding' of radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe. If this measure is fully implemented, the US-based Studio 7 of the Voice of America and SW Radio which both broadcast through the shortwave band could cease coverage on Zimbabwe. Instead, the inclusive government 'encourages' Zimbabwean media entrepreneurs living abroad to make broadcasting applications in terms of the law.'" Media Institute of Southern Africa press release, 27 March 2009. MISA is usually a good source of information, but they did not get this right. No domestic agreement or regulation in Zimbabwe will be binding on VOA broadcasts to Zimbabwe. If these developments actually bring media freedom to Zimbabwe, VOA may decide on its own to eliminate the Studio 7 program.

VOA reaches North Korea via new South Korean medium wave rebroadcast.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Voice of America has boosted its radio broadcasts into North Korea this year by transmitting from Seoul with support from a South Korean president who has taken a hard-line stance against the reclusive communist regime. President Lee Myung-bak's administration is allowing the U.S. government-funded broadcaster to use transmission equipment in South Korea to send its dispatches into the North for the first time since the 1970s. That makes the signal much clearer than VOA's long-running shortwave broadcasts from far-flung stations in the Philippines, Thailand and the South Pacific island of Saipan. Moreover, it's an AM signal, so listening in doesn't require a shortwave radio. ... Since Jan. 1, VOA has been using the antenna facilities of the Far East Broadcasting Company-Korea, a Christian evangelical radio station, for half of its three-hour nighttime broadcast into the North. The antenna is only 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the border. ... Some radio experts say VOA's arrangement with the Christian station violates a South Korean ban on broadcasters relaying foreign signals. But Kim Jung-tae, an official with the Korea Communications Commission, justifies his agency's decision to allow the VOA broadcast on the grounds that local networks are allowed to fill up to 20 percent of their airtime with foreign programming." AP, 28 March 2009. The relay, on 1188 kHz, 100 kW, has already been on the air for a few months.

Al Jazeera: reporting the news, or tangled up in the news?

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Who will attend the Arab Summit in Doha? "Hosni Mubarak? The bad blood between the aged Egyptian President and the Qataris has become fierce indeed. Egypt feels wronged by al-Jazeera, and is deeply wedded to the moderate/rejection line which Qatar is trying to overcome. ... King Abdullah of Jordan? Despite a recent spat over an al-Jazeera broadcast, Abdallah will be there. He always attends summits, and made a pointed statement that al-Jazeera and the Qatari government were not the same thing." What will they do? "Appear on al-Jazeera. The roster of Arab leaders with complaints about the Doha based station roughly equals the roster of Arab leaders. That doesn't bother the station management -- when Mahmoud Abbas came to Doha a few weeks ago to complain about al-Jazeera's coverage of Palestinian issues, they offered him an hour live interview to make his case (he declined). Who will they offer such a courtesy to this time, and who will accept?" Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy blog, 28 March 2009.

Al Jazeera à la carte.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera Network, the Middle East-headquartered international broadcaster, announced that it is significantly stepping-up the distribution of its feature programmes. It will be offering a range of its factual and documentary programming from Al Jazeera English, the Al Jazeera Documentary Channel and the Al Jazeera Satellite Channel. ... Phil Lawrie, Director of Global Distribution stated: 'With a growing portfolio of programmes from these three acclaimed channels, we're able to market a range of compelling programming that covers a wide variety of current affairs topics and issues.'" Al Jazeera press release, 26 March 2009.

Al Jazeera English continues push for North American access.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Al Jazeera's "commercial team is on the brink of signing several contracts with cable and satellite operators to give it a reach right across the US. 'We want to rival CNN and the BBC World in size and quality,' the managing director says. 'There has been a political dimension to our lack of coverage, but with Obama in office, there has been an increased hunger for looking at the wider world.'" The Telegraph, 23 March 2009.
     Ofir Gendelman, CEO of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce: "AJE 'absolutely would not contribute anything positive to the Canadian viewer, except for the fact that they’re hosting Israelis, who speak Arabic, which up until around 1999 was still taboo,' ... Other Arab networks have followed suit and have begun hosting Israelis, because it brings viewers, he said. 'But that doesn’t mean it interviews fairly. Al Jazeera is anything but balanced. They give us three, four or five minutes, but the way we are treated is brutal. It’s like Jerry Springer; you say something, they cut you off.'" Jewish Tribune (Toronto), 24 March 2009.
     "At a meeting of the Canadian Journalism Foundation on February 17 that’s filled with famous TV faces, the audience quizzes [AJE MD Tony] Burman about political interference from the Qatari government. There isn’t any, he says. And those allegations about anti-Semitic rhetoric? Most of the controversial comments, he says, have been aired on Al Jazeera Mubashir (Al Jazeera Direct), a C-SPAN-like channel that carries live broadcasts such as news conferences." NOW (Toronto), 4-11 March 2009.
     Nominated for the International Digital Emmy Awards: "Al-Jazeera English News' 'U.S. Election Special' gave audiences the chance to contribute to the coverage and give their views on events as they unfolded." Variety, 27 March 2009.

China blocks YouTube (updated).

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"China has blocked the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube but did not offer a reason for the ban. Google, which owns YouTube, said it began noticing a decline in traffic from China about noon Monday. ... Many in the country speculated the latest ban may be an attempt to filter access to footage that a Tibetan exile group released. The videos show Tibetans being kicked and beaten, allegedly by Chinese police officers after the riots." CNN International, 25 March 2009.
     Update: "China’s State Council Information Office and related information offices launched a special internet censorship campaign in January. ... Analysts said that the regime has been using the excuse of eradicating low and vulgar content in cyberspace to crackdown on cyber-dissidents. Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that the China Human Rights Defender site (wqzgw.com) was attacked several times." Epoch Times, 27 March 2009. See also RFA, 24 March 2009.

Will the Faustralia Network get access to China? (updated)

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The propaganda chief of the Chinese Communist Party has lobbied the ABC on its coverage of Tibet, saying he wants the Chinese Government's views to be fully represented in ABC reports. The meeting between Li Changchun and ABC managing director Mark Scott came at a time when the ABC is seeking Beijing's permission to broadcast ABC news directly into China via its international service, the Australia Network. ... The ABC wants to broadcast its popular Australia Network service into China. It broadcasts to an estimated four million viewers across the Asia-Pacific region but does not beam into China, which restricts English-language broadcasters to CNN. ABC has been in discussions with China for almost two years and Australia Network chief executive Bruce Dover said this month he was 'hopeful' of winning permission to broadcast into China." The Australian, 25 March 2009.
     "Li Changchun, a senior official of the Communist Party of China (CPC), met with senior executives of Australian press and visited Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) here Monday. ... 'We hope you, as an influential news organization, can tell the Australian audience about a real China,' he said, adding that the media should report China in a 'comprehensive, well-balanced, fair and objective manner'. 'We don't hope you agree on our views but we hope you report the facts,' he said. ... Scott agreed to 'provide full range of views' about China for its audience." Xinhua, 23 March 2009.
     "While Australian reporters were excluded, the Chinese media was given an exclusive, with the meeting making the news on China's main TV network, which Mr Li runs. It's the sort of media management spin doctors dream of with Mr Li's line the only information reported to the audience at home. And it demonstrates that while the Chinese Government has got the hang of market economics, its officials still do not understand that in democracies governments cannot control the news." Editorial, The Australian, 26 March 2009.
     Update: "Kevin Rudd's office yesterday moved to shut down any further disclosures about the movements of China's fifth-most powerful man during his Australian visit this week. The Government has been under fire since it was revealed that the Prime Minister held meetings with Mr Li at The Lodge last weekend without telling the Australian media, while inviting China's state-run media to cover the event." The Australian, 28 March 2009.

Some history of the Zenith Trans-Oceanic.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Following the war, Zenith once again began producing the Trans-Oceanic radio. It was priced at $125 and was in production from 1946 until 1949. It was replaced that year by a new streamlined model that was $50 cheaper and featured updated technology that made it easier to use. ... These radios were popular, despite their high cost, for two main reasons: They were durable, and as shortwave receivers they were almost unequalled." Larry Cox, Times & Transcript (Moncton NB), 28 March 2009. See also John Bryant and Harold Cones, Zenith Trans-Oceanic: The Royalty of Radios, available at Universal Radio.

Radio Pakistan installs a shortwave transmitter.

Posted: 28 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A new 100 KW short wave transmitter has been installed and commissioned at Rawat, Islamabad to augment World & External services of [Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation] targeted to various regions of the world." Associated Press of Pakistan, 27 March 2009. Radio Pakistan already has five 100 kW shortwave transmitters, per the World Radio TV Handbook, and they are in various states of repair, per listeners.

International broadcaster enters Indian politics.

Posted: 27 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Kabir Suman is the Trinamool Congress nominee for the Jadavpur constituency, a Left bastion. ... Contesting an election for the first time, the 60-year-old candidate swears by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, and believes that the party can ride the anti-land acquisition wave against the Left Front government in the State. Mr. Suman started his career as a radio broadcast journalist with the Voice of Germany [Deutsche Welle] before moving to Voice of America." The Hindu, 26 March 2009.

So when will the new DRM receiver be unveiled to DRM listeners?

Posted: 27 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A new state-of-the-art [Digital Radio Mondiale] digital radio receiver was unveiled to DRM members at the annual general assembly of the Consortium being held in Erlangen, Germany where the world’s two biggest broadcasting unions – EBU and ABU – re-iterated their support to the DRM Consortium. The new DRM receiver is called ‘Di-Wave 100’ and has been developed by Uniwave Development SAS. This is the first DRM receiver with colour screen and will be in mass production from April 2009. The receiver has all the multimedia features offered by DRM technology including identification by station name, programme information, Journaline, MOT Slideshow and listening time shift. The radio can receive DRM broadcasts in SW, MW and LW as well as analogue FM and can store 768 stations in its memory." DRM Consortium press release, 27 March 2009. More about the receiver at Universal Radio. See previous post about same subject.

Radio Canada International will drop Ukrainian, Cantonese.

Posted: 27 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
To alleviate a C$171-million shortfall in 2009-10, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Radio-Canada is making several cuts to programming across its English and French networks. This also includes the elimination of Radio Canada International's Ukrainian and Cantonese services. CBC News, 26 March 2009. Protests are likely, as these languages are associated with two large Canadian immigrant communities.

New ABC news director has Australia Network experience.

Posted: 26 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation "has promoted the head of its Asia Pacific news room, Kate Torney, to be the public broadcaster's director of news." ABC managing director Mark Scott said: "Kate brings the unique experience of introducing cutting edge broadcast technology to the Australia Network newsroom which will be invaluable as the ABC continues to expand its capacity to deliver news to our audiences when and where they want it, be it on television, radio, online, or mobile." The Australian, 25 March 2009.
     "Kate Torney, 41, who as head of Asia Pacific News currently oversees news for Australia Network and Radio Australia, will become the corporation's director of news. ... At Australia Network she oversaw the introduction of desktop editing technology — with which TV journalists can edit their own stories — and studio automation, contentious changes that she will be responsible for implementing nationally in her new role. She said the Australia Network had been using studio automation for three years." The Age (Melbourne), 26 March 2009. See also ABC press release, 26 March 2009.
     Australia Network (a global television channel) has no radio service, but it does have its new Australian Network News web page, which is very similar to Radio Australia's Radio Australia News web page.

MultiChoice program brings international channels to African schools.

Posted: 26 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Swaziland yesterday implemented the Multichoice School resource centres project launched last September. ... It involves the provision of each centre with a television, video recoder, satellite dish, decoder, smart card, all free of charge to allow access to eight DSTV educational channels. The channels include; National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, BBC Knowledge, BBC World, Mindset Learning, Animal Planet, Discovery and History. ... Multichoice Swaziland General Manager, Phumi Drummond said the company believes in sharing the wealth it creates, both with employees and the communities in which it operates. 'Multichoice is keenly aware of the responsibility it has as an African business, not only to succeed, but to carve a path for future generations; not only to reap rewards, but to use them to help those in need. Multichoice Africa’s investment in the African continent extends far beyond the creation of digital satellite platforms'." Swazi Observer, 25 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

BBC, CNN hires in Asia.

Posted: 26 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Mark Whitehead is named general manager and senior VP of BBC Worldwide Channels Asia. "Based in Singapore, Whitehead will take on responsibility for the reach, ratings and revenue of BBC Worldwide Channels' operations across the Asia Pacific region and India, and will spearhead the distribution of the six-strong portfolio of BBC branded channels – BBC Entertainment, BBC Knowledge, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies, BBC HD and BBC World News. ... Whitehead was most recently Senior Vice President for Revenue at Discovery Networks Asia." BBC Worldwide press release, 26 March 2009.
     "With India emerging as one of CNN’s strongest growth markets for advertising sales in Asia, Kunal Bajaj, has been promoted to Account Director, Sales for West and South India region. Based in Mumbai, Bajaj directly reports to Sonali Chatterjee, Sales Director for India and South Asia and is responsible for developing the network’s fast-growing advertising business from these regions. ... With the appointment last year of Mallika Kapur as Mumbai correspondent, in addition to existing operations in Delhi with Sara Sidner and Chennai with Liz Neisloss, CNN's bureaux in India are now the most extensive in any single country outside the United States." Buzz18.in.com, 26 March 2009.
     "Julia Leong has moved into a new position as [CNN] Associate Director, Digital Sales Development and Operations, Asia Pacific. In this role based in Hong Kong, she will be instrumental in conceptualizing and developing new business whilst providing leadership and insight to drive advertising sales across CNN's digital networks in the Asia Pacific market." CNN press release, 19 March 2009.

BBC promotes its World News Today in India -- on competing channels.

Posted: 25 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"International news broadcaster the BBC is rolling out a multi-media campaign targeted towards the Indian audience for its flagship primetime property, World News Today. ... According to the channel, the objective of the India-specific campaign is to drive relevance for international news on BBC World News and build an international news genre through the channel's key property, World News Today. ... During the first phase, BBC will run its promotional campaigns across three media platforms that include the television, print and internet. For television, it will roll out two television commercials across eight channels from 24 March onwards. ... 'These include CNBC TV18, CNBC Awaaz, IBN7, Zee News, Discovery, Discovery Travel and Living, AXN and Star Movies.'" Indiantelevision.com, 24 March 2009.

Deutsche Welle rolls out DW-TV Asia+ and seeks radio partners in India.

Posted: 25 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, on March 24, 2009, officially launched DW-TV Asia+ for the Indian market with a new schedule offering 18 hours of programming in English. The new channel offers a perfect mix of European lifestyle, culture and the arts as well as in-depth reports from business and politics on major Indian cable operators. ... DW-TV Asia+ is available on Sun Direct TV, DD Direct + DTH, InCable Networks, Hathway Cable, Manthan Broadband Services, Ortel, Siticable, Seven Star, Asianet, Atria, and many other cable networks and in premium hotels in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Together with this launch, DW-TV Asia+ has specially created a unique, modern marketing icon, the ‘Velo Taxi’, a form of rickshaw – known and used across Asia in different forms and types, offering travellers a personal, comfortable, environmental-friendly and enjoyable ride." exchange4media.com, 25 March 2009.
     "Tobias Grote-Beverborg, Representative of Distribution, South Asia, DW, told The Hindu that his company was keenly looking for partners in India and South Asia. 'We are looking for partners or tie-ups in programming for television and later for our radio programmes. It is really a measure of the growing importance of the region and we feel it is the right time for us to be here,' he said." The Hindu, 25 March 2009. See Deutsche Welle web page and previous post about same subject. India does not allow news on private FM stations, so DW programming via any future partners would have to be "soft."

In the new media: find your own news.

Posted: 25 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"In the wake of 9/11 ... something rather odd happened. Traffic to the big websites dropped off back to their pre-9/11 levels. CNN fell 27 percent, MSNBC 45 percent, New York Times 23 percent. But traffic to Google rose in the same period, by 12 percent. Over the next few years traffic to Google - which, remember, was just a search engine - climbed until, in 2006, it had more or less caught up with the content giants Microsoft and Yahoo. Google had been smart. On the day of 9/11 it figured out something important: That searching didn't have to be just - was no longer - about searching for old, historical stuff. ... It was also about things that were happening. In other words, the distinction between news and everything else had blurred. ... Within a day of 9/11, Google had included a news link on its front page - the beginning of its Google News site which has now, for many, replaced the visit to CNN or New York Times. Google was, in effect, saying: Find your news here." Jeremy Wagstaff, Jakarta Post, 23 March 2009.

Public diplomacy that realizes its limitations.

Posted: 25 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Bush-style public diplomacy -- an unholy mixture of propaganda, PR, branding, tactlessness, silly 'new initiatives,' and getting public diplomacy officials at the State Department to 'implement its programs' -- appears to be, thank God, history. ... Obama provides an opening to restore one of public diplomacy's greatest qualities: that, while getting the human details right (will Obama's staff learn from its protocol mistakes?) it does not take itself too solemnly and realizes its own limitations." John Brown, Huffington Post, 21 March 2009.

Report: RSF/EU money for North Korean opposition radios.

Posted: 25 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), signed a deal to provide representatives from Radio Free NK, Open North Korea and Radio Free Chosun with 215,000 euros (292,400 dollars) over the next three years. The financial support comes partly from the European Union. ... The three radio stations, operated by defectors and their supporters in South Korea, want the Seoul government to provide financial support and allot them radio channels so that their broadcasts can reach more North Koreans. But the government has been reluctant to meet their demands, Yonhap news agency said, apparently for fear of further aggravating inter-Korean ties." AFP, 24 March 2009. I can't find any mention of this, yet, at the Reporters sans frontières website.

Zimbabwean exile radios in the news.

Posted: 24 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Despite their popularity, [Andrew Moyse, co-ordinator of the Media Monitoring Project, Zimbabwe] said, [exile] internet publications and radio stations have problems reaching the majority of poor Zimbabweans who lack internet access or transistors. Most radios in Zimbabwe, he added, do not have short wave, the platform on which exiled stations broadcast. Last year, he said, authorities seized short-wave wind-up radios that had been donated to some communities. 'In rural areas, the wind-up short-wave radios helped because most people have frequency modulation and medium-wave radios. The wind-up radios were very helpful also because people do not need batteries, which most rural communities may not afford.'" The National, 22 March 2009.
     VOA and its Studio 7 broadcast to Zimbabwe thus have an advantage because of VOA's medium wave relay in Botswana on 909 kHz. SW Radio Africa tried a medium wave relay from Lesotho in 2006, but has since returned to shortwave.
     The National is based in Abu Dhabi, but it doesn't mention another exile station, Zimbabwe Community Radio, even though it is reportedly broadcasting "from the United Arab Emirates." (See previous post.) It is not certain if this means the studio or transmitter (leased time) or both are in the UAE.

     Zimbabwe Community Radio is on the air and being heard, according to Radio Netherlands Media Network, 1 March 2009. The website is www.zicora.com, according to Jari Savolainen, DX Listening Digest, 19 March 2009.

Is Burma stepping up its internet interference?

Posted: 24 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"I was surprised when I learned that a group of hackers from the jungle capital of the low-speed intranet country attacked high-speed websites in the world's richest country. 'Yes, this cyber attack was made by Russian technicians. However, they are not in Moscow but in Burma's West Point cyber city', claimed Aung Lin Htut, the former deputy ambassador to Washington and a former spy for ousted Burmese prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt. ... Last September, which was the anniversary of the 'saffron revolution' led by Buddhist monks, the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) website and two others leading websites (of the Chiang Mai-based Irrawaddy magazine and Delhi-based Mizzima) were attacked by unknown hackers." Htet Aung Kyaw, The Nation (Bangkok), 24 March 2009.
     Reporters sans frontières lists 15 countries (including Burma) as Internet Enemies. Reporters sans frontières, 12 March 2009.

Iran's ever changing web blocking priorities.

Posted: 24 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Iran's internet filtering priorities: "Persian news websites such as BBC Persian, AmirKabir, a student news publication, and Balatarin, a popular citizen media portal. Women’s rights activists, student movements, anti-government, political, anti-filtering and human rights blogs... . Social networking: Flickr and Orkut are currently blocked, BUT in last two months Iranians have been able to access Facebook and YouTube, although they were also blocked before. Iranians also have access to MySpace and Twitter." Hamid Tehrani, Global Voices, 21 March 2009.

More discussion of Obama's Nowruz message to Iran.

Posted: 24 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The cool reception by the top Iranian leader was belied, however, by signs that the Iranian public had responded favorably to an act of public diplomacy that analysts hailed as a potentially watershed moment in U.S.-Iranian affairs." ABC News, 21 March 2009.
     Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry: "President Obama's eloquent address to the people and leaders of Iran commemorating Nowruz can be a watershed moment in public diplomacy, with a unique president using the powers of persuasion to great effect." Committee press release, 20 March 2009.
     "His Nowruz message is significant for many reasons, beginning with the fact that it was made. The message was shared among several agencies in the Middle East and was broadcast by many including the source of much international information, BBC’s international service, in this case broadcasting in Farsi. The televised message itself was in English with Farsi subtitles. The fact that a message of good wishes from the American president was directed at Iran appears to have taken the Tehran establishment by surprise; hence, their lack of an immediate, coherent response." Ernest Corea, Asian Tribune, 21 March 2009.
     "It wasn't clear how many Iranians had initially seen the video, which was not broadcast on state television on Friday, the Associated Press reported. It was shown by satellite providers from outside the country, however, including BBC's Farsi language service, and was widely available on a range of news Web sites. Some video sharing sites, such as YouTube are blocked in Iran, and many Iranian families do not watch television during the first days of two-week long Nowruz holiday, which is normally filled with family gatherings or vacations away from home." Alan Cowell, International Herald Tribune, 20 March 2009.
     "Barack Obama extended the olive branch to Iran's leaders last Friday in a videotaped message praising a 'great civilization' for 'accomplishments' that 'have earned the respect of the United States and the world.' The death of Iranian blogger Omid-Reza Mirsayafi in Tehran's Evin prison two days earlier was, presumably, not among the accomplishments the president had in mind." Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, 24 March 2009. See also RFE/RL, 19 March 2009.
     "Barack Hussein Obama's conciliatory Iranian New Year message to the Islamic Republic must -- technically speaking -- not be read into and should be taken at face value. ... Was President Obama expecting a headlong rush by the Iranian nation and government to flatter America?" Kian Mokhtari, Press TV, 23 March 2009.
     "President Obama's message to the Iranian people on the Nowruz holiday drew millions of viewers and listeners to the Voice of America (www.VOANews.com ), the largest international Persian-language broadcaster. By Monday, VOA sites had more than 134,000 views of the three-minute speech, which Obama delivered late last Thursday as Iranians prepared to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian new year. The video was posted on www.VOANews.com, www.VOANews.com/persian/, and VOA’s partner YouTube channels. VOA's Persian News Network (PNN) also broadcast the message to Iran, a country with a restricted media, on satellite television and on shortwave radio." VOA press release, 23 March 2009.
     See previous post about same subject.

The other Nowruz message to Iran.

Posted: 24 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Ynetnews, the Web site of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, reports on Friday that Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, also broadcast a message to the Iranian people: 'partly in Farsi, urging them to "return to enlightened world".' The Israeli newspaper Haaretz adds that Mr. Peres’ message 'was broadcast on Israel Radio’s Farsi channel, which enjoys a wide audience in the Farsi-speaking world.' (In 2008 Israel Radio moved its foreign-language offerings to the Web and stopped all shortwave radio broadcasts except for those in Farsi.) As Alan Cowell notes in The Times today, 'Both messages suggested that there was a place for Iran as an equal in the international community.'" Robert Mackey, New York Times The Lede blog, 20 March 2009.

A "surprising and determined" Israeli PR ministry.

Posted: 23 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"An Israeli PR ministry would not be able to change the images of destruction from Gaza, yet should the PR apparatus be given proper budget, and headed by a PR minister with the ability to effectively coordinate and manage our efforts, it may counter-balance the venomous propaganda with other images. It would be appropriate to equip the Israeli PR ministry with many dozens of video teams, editors, and producers that would generate materials and immediately distribute them to all media outlets. The PR mechanism must go on the offence, be filled with initiative, surprising, and determined, rather than one that merely reacts to provocations." Adi Mintz, Ynetnews, 22 March 2009.

The Vatican should match Al Jazeera?

Posted: 23 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"In recent weeks, stories from Rome have painted a picture not of the moderately conservative Pope that is the reality, but of a papal reactionary who does not exist. ... Much of the trouble arises from failure to modernise the media responses of the Vatican. The media have moved into a 24-hour, seven-day global news system. The Vatican has not. ... The Roman Catholic Church is a worldwide structure with more than a billion members. This Pope succeeded John Paul II who was a genius at communication. He does not have the same charisma. He should professionalise the Vatican's news operation to match Sky, CNN, the BBC or al-Jazeera." William Rees-Mogg, The Times, 23 March 2009. The content would be news-like, but not really news. It would actually be public diplomacy, or a modern form of propaganda fide. See also Holy See Press Office and Vatican Radio.

Survey: Christian channel has 2.6 million viewers in Iraq.

Posted: 23 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A new survey found that about 5.3 million Iraqis, or about 19 percent of the population, watch the Christian satellite programs on SAT-7, the ministry reported Friday. As Iraq’s tiny Christian community numbers less than 600,000, it is safe to say that most of SAT-7’s viewers are Muslims. ... Data collected in the recent nationwide study conducted by Intermedia, an independent audience research firm, found that 97 percent of Iraqis have access to satellite television, and 18.8 percent watch SAT-7. The study also found that 2.6 million are watching on a regular daily or weekly basis. ... Established in November 1995, SAT-7 aired its first broadcast in May 1996. Aside from strengthening believers, the satellite TV ministry has been working to present a more accurate image of Christianity in the Arab world, where people often associate Christians with negative images from the Western world." Christian Post, 22 March 2009. See also www.sat7.org.

Al Jazeera mentioned here and there.

Posted: 23 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Nashwa Al Ruwaini, TV presenter: "Up until four or five years ago, the media was looked down upon here in the Gulf. But the launch of Al-Jazeera changed things. The BBC Arabic crew came over and snap – there was a channel. I think the Abu Dhabi government acknowledged the power of media and is now backing it strongly." The Guardian, 23 March 2009.
     At Al Jazeera's recent anniversary celebration: "There was much al-Jazeera back-scratching, its reporters pointing out – correctly – that their station alone, in Arabic and in English, covered the bloodbath from inside Gaza. But there was a bit too much bellyaching about the international press. Why wasn't there a single Western reporter based in Gaza, one of al-Jazeera's top reporters asked? Because it was only when the story became visually exciting that foreign journalists wanted to go to Gaza – and were then banned by the Israelis. I found this a bit much. There was never any great demand by reporters to live in Gaza. But the BBC opened an office there and its full-time correspondent was then kidnapped and held hostage for months, released only when Hamas took control of Gaza and freed him (a fact that is no longer mentioned by the BBC). A Fox News camera crew was also abducted in Gaza. Journalists continued to go there – our own intrepid Donald Macintyre among them – but it's not difficult to see why news editors are a bit chary of opening an office in the Gaza Strip." Robert Fisk, The Independent, 21 March 2009.
     This season's IFC Media Project on Independent Film Channel includes a segment that "centers on the American lobbying efforts to keep Al Jazeera English off channel lineups in the U.S." Multichannel News, 20 March 2009.
     "On March 5, 2009, Al Jazeera aired a wholly unprofessional and damaging story on the drug trade in Guyana." Learie C Barclay, letter to Stabroek News (Georgetown), 20 March 2009.

Regional media boost classical Arabic as a spoken language.

Posted: 23 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Classical Arabic is catching on as a spoken language, thanks to interactive news media, and shedding its aura as the preserve of religious and official circles, according to a leading linguistics professor. ... For example, the Doha-based Al Jazeera network, one of the leading Arabic news channels, had made its airwaves available for Arabic speakers to comment on political and social issues. In most such cases, he said, the participants used a form of classical Arabic in order to be understood as widely as possible across the Arab world. ... 'Interacting with radio and TV made classical Arabic more common, but is it really classical Arabic? Classical Arabic is being slaughtered,' he said." The National, 22 March 2009.

Successful bidder for Worldspace is company controlled by Worldspace CEO (updated again).

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Worldspace Chapter 11 bankruptcy is over. The news came via a 150-page document from the Delaware Bankruptcy Court. A company controlled by Noah Samara, the founder and CEO at Worldspace, successfully bid $25,300,000 in cash in an auction for Worldspace’s pay-radio assets. The winning bid came from Yenura Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based business. However, the bid comes with some major challenges, not least the former Worldspace subsidiaries that are financially cash-strapped or may themselves be bankrupt. ... Yenura is itself mired in controversy because of Mr Samara’s other shareholder in the business. That individual, Salah Idris, holds all the non-voting shares in Yenura and thus the economic interest in the company. Mr Idris was accused in 1999 by the US of making chemical weapons at a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, and the facility was destroyed by US cruise missiles. Mr Idris has always robustly and firmly denied any involvement in chemical weapons, or of being linked in any way with Osama bin Laden. ... Part of the Court agreement states that 'no party shall make any press release or public announcement concerning the transactions.'" Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 10 March 2009.
     "A Delaware Bankruptcy Court hearing took place late yesterday (March 19) to confirm the successful Worldspace bidder. At press time that looked likely to be a company controlled by Worldspace’s founder & CEO, Noah Samara, which submitted its $28m cash bid two weeks ago. However, there’s also the matter of a nasty Class Action that’s been rumbling on for some years against Mr Samara and Worldspace. The Class Action asks Worldspace, Mr Samara and others, for damages resulting from 'violations of certain Federal securities laws, and the Securities Act 1933' and relating to Worldspace’s IPO, and the IPO Prospectus." Rapid TV News, 19 March 2009.
     Update: "WorldSpace, Inc. announced that the United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware yesterday approved the sale of substantially all of the assets related to the satellite radio business of it and its U.S. subsidiaries, WorldSpace Systems Corporation and AfriSpace, Inc. to Yenura Pte. Ltd. Yenura is purchasing the assets pursuant to an asset purchase agreement for a total purchase price of $28 million cash, the assumption of certain liabilities, and the subordination and release of certain claims. The parties expect the sale to close following the issuance of necessary regulatory approvals. Yenura is a company controlled by WorldSpace founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Noah A. Samara." Worldspace press release, 20 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

BBC World News (the half-hour version) returns to New York City.

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World News marks its return to New York City this week on NYCTV, with an exclusive one-on-one interview with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, airing on Friday, March 20, conducted by Washington-based special correspondent Philippa Thomas. BBC World News - with its new format, set and team of anchors and reporters - delivers the legendary newsgathering talents of the BBC to New York public television audiences with the newscast's return to Manhattan and the four surrounding boroughs on NYCTV." KCET press release, 20 March 2009. KCET Los Angeles is the distributor of BBC World News, a half-hour daily news program seen on US public television stations, not to be confused with BBC World News the 24-hour channel. In October 2008, the half-hour BBC World News was displaced on New York City area public television stations WNET and WLIW by the locally produced Worldfocus. NYCTV is a New York City municipally owned television channel transmitted terrestrially and via cable. BBC World will be seen on NYCTV at 6:00 p.m., followed by RAI Italian news, France 24 news, and Polsat news. See previous post.

Shortwave memories: Ceylon to UK, UK to USA.

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"On Friday, March 21, 1952, [Ceylon's Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake] was taking his usual pre-breakfast ride in the Galle Face Green in Colombo along with two friends, Sir Richard Aluwihare, the Inspector General of Police and Mr. G.G. Ponnambalam, one of the ministers of his Cabinet. He was in his sixty-eighth year but was a strong horseman. The horse broke into a gallop from a canter. After it had continued for more than a mile, the Prime Minister fell off the saddle and somersaulted twice before he alighted on his side. He was taken to a nursing home where he remained unconscious for the next 32 hours. It is believed that he was affected by a stroke. He was under the care of Dr. M.V.P. Pieris, Ceylon's senior surgeon...
At Dr. Pieris's request a broadcast message was beamed to England which was picked up by amateurs on the 19-metre short wave. The message stated: 'Will the British Broadcasting Corporation contact professor Hugh Cairns at Oxford 5813 and ask him to telephone Dr. Pieris, Colombo, 9351. It concerns the health and life and death of our Prime Minister'. The B.B.C received many telephone calls from radio hams who had picked up the message. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, was told. He gave the order: 'Spare nothing. Get a plane in the air at once'." The Sunday Times (Colombo), 22 March 2009.
     "My Everton roots are of a nomadic origin. I was born in Limerick, Ireland, but emigrated to the United States with my family at the tender age of seven. ... Of course, after moving to the US in the late 80s where football was viewed with the same skepticism as communism, the memories of Everton and its importance became less frequent. Despite our estrangement from all things Everton, there were some other pivotal moments that become etched into the psyche and still resonate: beating United in the Cup Final in 1995, listening to Everton on the shortwave radio when they miraculously came back and beat Wimbledon on the last day of the season in 1994." Andy Casey, ToffeeWeb, 20 March 2009.

Assorted VOA memories.

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Interview with Joan Mower, VOA director of public relations. "Q: You grew up in Africa. Do you remember hearing VOA? Mower: Those were the days before CNN, before satellite television. Voice of America and the BBC, Voice of America especially if you were American; we would almost have a listening club." The Examiner (Washington), 19 March 2009.
     "One of the gloomy November days of 1989, with an eerie feeling, I was listening to my own voice on Voice of America radio station. The creepiness came because this was my very first report, which could have landed one in jail not long before then." Yuriy Lukanov, Kyiv Post, 18 March 2009.
     "'By the time the State Department began to sponsor tours by noted jazz artists, Louis Armstrong had already been dubbed "Ambassador Satch," and the Voice of America's "Music U.S.A.," Willis Conover's outstanding jazz radio show, had gained thousands of fans for jazz behind the Iron Curtain.'" Rutgers University press release, 18 March 2009.
     "'At Carnegie Hall' is a much acclaimed live album by The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane. It was recorded on 29 November 1957 at 'Thanksgiving Jazz', a benefit concert produced by Kenneth Lee Karpe for the Morningside Community Center in Harlem. The recording, by Voice of America. The tape was stored at the Library of Congress where it sat, untouched, until 2005 when it was discovered by recording lab supervisor Larry Appelbaum. ... The recording has been highly praised: Newsweek called it the 'musical equivalent of the discovery of a new Mount Everest'." All About Jazz, 19 March 2009.
     "The Bush administration began taking down the Voice of America. It appears that the VOA has little chance of regaining its extensive international outreach which, of course, included a major component of jazz broadcasting." Doug Ramsey, Rifftides, 18 March 2009.

"Radio Free All" could give someone ideas for future legislation.

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Powerful Country that leads the West wages 'information wars' against the East in the name of freedom. The Formidable Rival campaigns on behalf of its official ideology. The leader of the Powerful Country—call him a President—is a former general. He doesn’t always approve of the rhetoric of his own Foreign Minister—let’s call him a 'Secretary of State'—who is known for his Manichean worldview. The Secretary of State calls for 'roll back' of the East Bloc or to 'liberate' its 'captive nations'—but 'peacefully.' He hopes, he says, to give the Formidable Rival 'indigestion' by stirring up problems within its sphere of influence. Attitudes like his often inform 'Radio Free All' (RFA), which was established by the Powerful Country’s intelligence services to broadcast into the East news and calls for liberation." Mitchell Cohen, World Affairs, Winter 2009.
     Radio Free Europe named one of ten "unusual government agencies." "We’re waiting for President Obama to appoint Michael Stipe to head the RFE." The Pulse (Chattanooga), 18 March 2009.

Shortwave radio caper results in 2 1/2 year sentence.

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A former Bush White House aide was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday for stealing nearly $600,000 from a government-funded program that promotes democracy in Cuba. ... [Felipe] Sixto pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to theft. He acknowledged overcharging the organization more than $579,000 when purchasing radios and flashlights with federal funds. ... criticized Sixto for accepting a job in the White House, knowing that he had been stealing from the center, an independent institution that receives millions of dollars in USAID funds for rent, travel and equipment such as shortwave radios and laptops." AP, 18 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

"Sniff the wind."

Posted: 22 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Public diplomacy is a waste of time and money. ... Getting more people on the ground in our region, Africa and the Americas is important. Equally important is getting people out of embassies and in places like Islamabad out of compounds. As anyone who knew me as a diplomat will tell you, I was a get-out-of-the- office diplomat. Within days of arrival at a post I had to get out and get a feel for the place. People, bazaars, sniff the wind, get a sense of the ebb and flow." Bruce Haigh, The Canberra Times, 20 March 2009, responding to the Lowy Institute report, previous post.

Madagascar unrest and international broadcasting (updated).

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The mayor of Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina, proclaimed himself as the new president Saturday afternoon before thousands of his roaring sympathizers at 13 Mai square, media said. AfricaNews' reporter said the agitated political drama would climax into a dreadful chaos. Rajoelina had earlier announced on Radio France International (RFI) Saturday morning that he was deciding to take charge of the country’s affairs by forming a transition government." AfricaNews, 1 January 2009. See also RFI, 31 January 2009, and RFI English, 31 January 2009.
     "In late January, Marc Ravalomanana, the president of Madagascar, closed the opposition radio station that Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarvio, operated. Broadcasters were airing comments highly critical of the government. The station closure touched off protests, rioting and looting." Christianity Today blog, 31 January 2009.
     "'The only radio on the air is Radio Don Bosco, it is the only source of information for all of Madagascar that has been spared from the vandalism of the masses,' [Salesian missionaries] said, adding that all television stations, including those of the state, have gone off the air." Catholic News Agency, 30 January 2009.
     This could have ramifications for two shortwave operations in Madagascar. One is a Radio Netherlands relay, which, among other things, is used for Voice of the People broadcasts to Zimbabwe. The other is Madagascar World Voice, a project of World Christian Broadcasting that is still under construction. Land for this facility was donated by now-beleaguered President Ravalomanana, who also promised to waive tariffs on materials shipped in for the project. See World Christian Broadcasting Newsletter, December 2008.
     Update: "Madagascar's new president was sworn in Saturday in a ceremony shunned by the international community. Former opposition leader Andry Rajoelina takes part in his inauguration ceremony as the new president of Madagascar. Thousands of supporters turned up at a sports stadium in the capital, Antananarivo, for the swearing-in of Andry Rajoelina. African radio stations broadcasting the inauguration live said no foreign diplomats attended the ceremony." CBC News, 21 March 2009.
     "Madagascan opposition leader Andry Rajoelina said here on Sunday that he would not mix religion with politics if and when he won presidency of the Indian Ocean island country." Xinhua, 15 March 2009.
     "The leader of the largest Protestant church in Madagascar has issued an appeal to Christian soldiers in the military not to commit murder. In a message broadcast repeatedly this morning on the radio station of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, Rev. Lala Rasendrahasina is calling on Christians in the military not to commit violence." World Alliance of reformed Churches press release, 17 March 2009.
     "The head of the largest Protestant church in Madagascar is reported to have been freed after being detained on 17 March by unspecified military personnel following the resignation of President Marc Ravalomanana." Ecumenical News International, 18 March 2009.
     No word yet on whether these events have affected the construction of Madagascar World Voice, which may be the last major shortwave broadcast facility to be built anywhere in the world. See previous post about same subject.

Arguments for Al Jazeera English on Canadian cable.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"What part of the world has a population of 325 million people from whom we get almost no TV news? Where do our well respected, proudly balanced news organizations have the fewest bureaus? Who are the reporters and photographers whose stories we don't see? 'The Arabic world' is the correct answer as you've probably guessed. There is a gap in our information flow in Toronto, the most cabled city in the world. This would change if Al-Jazeera English is put on the list of foreign services that Canadian broadcasters can carry. Al-Jazeera English (AJE) is applying to the Canadian Radio-TV and Telecommunications Commission to be put on the 'eligible satellite list.'" Rita Shelton Deverell, Toronto Sun, 20 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

RFE/RL journalists observe irregularities in Azerbaijan election.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"During yesterday's controversial referendum on abolishing presidential term limits in Azerbaijan, RFE/RL journalists reported violations of election rules throughout the country. They witnessed the busing of voters from one polling station to another, the stuffing of ballot boxes, and illegal election day campaigning. In one instance, RFE/RL obtained video of a woman in Baku who appears to be voting three times [watch]. ... Several months before the referendum, the Azeri government banned RFE/RL and other foreign broadcasters from the FM airwaves. Nevertheless, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service provided minute-by-minute coverage of yesterday's referendum and continues to broadcast comprehensive daily news and analysis on shortwave, satellite, and the Internet." RFE/RL press release, 19 March 2009.

"Press TV is a conundrum."

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Press TV is a conundrum. It's the English-language arm of Iranian state broadcasting. I've appeared occasionally on its programmes. I've seen no evidence that anything I've said on the station has been edited for later broadcast, and I like and respect the journalists who've fronted the discussions. But I've come to the decision nonetheless that it's a station to be avoided." Oliver Kamm, The Times blog, 19 March 2009.

Iranian candidates avoiding BBC Persian TV.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Iranian state "radio and television, which are under Mr Khamenei’s control, give blanket coverage to Mr Ahmadinejad, while largely ignoring his opponents. Nor will reformist candidates risk being shown on the BBC’s recently launched and widely praised Persian satellite-television service, since security officials have declared that people co-operating with such enemy propaganda could be liable for prosecution." The Economist, 19 March 2009.

CNN International free to the UK via Freesat.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Freesat, the [UK] free-to-air digital satellite TV service today announced the launch of the international news service CNN. ... Freesat managing director Emma Scott commented 'The launch of CNN International with its world-class reputation for global news and feature programming is an incredibly exciting addition to our line-up, we are delighted to have CNN on board.'" BBC Freesat HD TV Blog, 19 March 2009.

Joost adds German offer.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Joost, the global video web service, today announced that it has added eleven content partners in Germany, offering German language content. ... A selection of German language and dubbed films from Diva; documentaries and features from Süddeutsche Zeitung TV; comedy from JUM-TV; lifestyle programming from spin tv; portraits and interviews from MfG-Film; short serial formats from Casino Royale; extreme sports and music from Rebel Media; TV shows from Welt der Wunder and Turner’s Entertainment Brands [adult swim] and Cartoon Network... ." Joost press release, 19 March 2009. Thus limited international content in German. In English, Joost offers news reports from ITN and Euronews in their "News and Gossip" section. (Well, at least news has first billing.)

India and Russia opt for Digital Radio Mondiale on shortwave and medium wave.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"After extensive trials in 2007, the Indian state broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) has decided that DRM [Digital Radio Mondiale] is the best technology for converting its vast public service broadcasting network to digital. After conducting trials over a one and a half year period, AIR has started regular DRM transmissions from a 250 KW SW transmitter installed near the capital city New Delhi in January this year. AIR is also in the process of converting 4 shortwave transmitters (250 kW) to DRM mode by March 2009. There are plans to introduce DRM transmissions in 42 new medium wave, 36 existing medium wave and 5 new short wave transmitters. However, the cost and availability of good receivers remains the main issue in their implementation strategy for the next five years." Digital Radio Mondiale Consortium press release, 13 March 2009.
     "The Consortium has received some very positive news from Russia that its General Radio Frequency Centre has decided to introduce ‘Digital Radio Mondiale’ (DRM) in Russia in the medium and shortwave bands." DRM Consortium press release, 13 March 2009.
     "With India and Russia deciding to implement DRM as the solution for digitising radio, the technology is poised to become a widely-used open digital standard worldwide. This is the belief of the DRM Consortium which is planning its next steps for extending reach and expanding the DRM family. At its annual General Assembly to be held in Erlangen, Germany on 26-27th March at the invitation and headquarters of Fraunhofer IIS, the DRM Consortium will hear and debate how the recent decisions of these two big countries to implement DRM for SW and MW bands, will become the driving force for the rollout in the rest of the world. And this becomes a clear opportunity for manufacturers to tap into these huge markets with smart receivers offering the consumers an enhanced radio experience." DRM Consortium press release, 19 March 2009.
     "The Di-Wave receiver from UniWave Development SAS, France is expected to make its debut March 25, 2009 at the DRM General Assembly in Germany. This is a SW/MW/LW/FM radio with DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) on SW, MW and LW." 26MHz.us via Radio Netherlands Media Network, 24 February 2009, with comments. See also 26MHz.us, with links.
     For the sixth year in a row, I demonstrated the somewhat-FM-like DRM shortwave reception at the Winter SWL Fest, 13-14 March, at Kulpsville, Pennsylvania. My two e-mails to the DRM Consortium in London were, this year, unanswered. However, through separate channels, we were able to arrange special DRM transmissions with the kind assistance of Vatican Radio and TDF France.
     At the Fest, we were mostly unable to receive the Vatican Radio DRM transmission all the way from Italy at 1300-1400 UTC on 15500 kHz. However, listeners elsewhere in the United States were able to hear it. Furthermore, Vatican Radio has a regularly scheduled transmission to North America from its transmitter near Rome, 2300-2345 UTC on 7370 kHz. This I can almost always receive successfully at my home in northern Virginia.
     The TDF transmission from French Guiana, 1300-2000 UTC on 17545 kHz, was received at the SWL Fest with about 90% success. Reception would probably have been even more reliable in a location with less electrical noise than our hotel.
     In addition, we listened to the DRM transmissions from Radio Canada International, via Sackville NB, throughout the day on 9800 Khz. We also had some success with a Radio Kuwait DRM transmission on 11675 kHz.
     Alas, there is still no standalone DRM receiver available in North America. DRM reception, therefore, is a grueling process of compiling 1) a shortwave receiver with some sort of IF output, 2) a device to convert the IF to the 12 kHz required for DRM decoding, 3) an antenna up on the roof of the hotel, 4) a good PC, 5) in our case, an extra sound card, 6) speakers, 7) DRM decoding software, and 8) all the necessary cables, connectors, and power supplies. I am really getting too old for the rigors of DRM reception.
     It was, however, a bit easier this year thanks to our US-made receiver, the RFSpace SDRIQ, a software-defined small black box than connects to a PC. It also takes power from the PC via USB, so one less wall wart to worry about. Furthermore, with the proper setting, but without the need for an extra downconverter (are you with me so far?), the SDRIQ can produce the 12 kHz IF output to input input into the DRM decoding software. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to receive DRM. (See screenshot.) (The SDIRQ also receives analog broadcasts, with a spectrum display that is great fun to use.)
     At the Fest, we like to test the limits of DRM shortwave by decoding trans-oceanic signals. In reality, DRM shortwave is more reliable over modest distances, such as the new BBC and Deutsche Welle intra-European DRM transmissions. The use of DRM shortwave for reception within India also seems feasible, provided, as mentioned above, DRM receivers become available. DRM might also bring new life to medium wave and longwave in countries where those bands are no longer popular with listeners.
     On the same table as our Rube Goldberg DRM receiving setups, we also displayed and listened to five wifi internet radios. They are all standalone devices, needing a broadband connection but no external antenna. They were able to receive thousands of stations, domestic and international, as compared to, usually, one on the DRM receivers.

Obama's Iranian new year video unexclusive.

Posted: 21 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"In an unprecedented video message released Friday on the celebration of the Persian new year, President Barack Obama speaks directly to the Iranian people and government, saying his administration 'is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us' and that that the process 'will not be advanced by threats.' ... The video was distributed with Farsi subtitles to news outlets with a regional reach, including BBC Persia, Al Jazeera English, the Voice of America and others, but also was to be posted on the White House Web site and You Tube, aides said late Thursday. The video goes significantly beyond the standard practice of U.S. presidents issuing statements in celebration of Nowruz - and enables Obama to communicate directly to Iranian officials in a way he couldn't in person or in the context of a policy discussion." McClatchy Newspapers, 20 March 2009.
     "President Barack Obama, whose use of the Web helped catapult him into the White House, turned to the Internet again to launch the first major diplomatic initiative of his young presidency. In recording a video message to the Iranian people marking the Iranian New Year Nowruz and distributing it online, Obama seized one of the Web tools he used so effectively during his presidential campaign. ... The 3min 35sec video entitled 'A New Year, A New Beginning' was posted on the White House website at whitehouse.gov/Nowruz with captions in Farsi and also on the White House YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/whitehouse. It had rung up nearly 150,000 views on YouTube some 18 hours after its release and generated a stream of more than 1,300 mostly favorable comments." AFP, 20 March 2009.
     "Mr Obama’s speech was broadcast with Farsi subtitles on Middle Eastern satellite channels beamed illegally into four million Iranian homes. News of it was reported by two Iranian press agencies yesterday, but few would be paying attention. They were busy gathering in family homes or travelling to the coast to enjoy the holiday. The speech has been widely covered on foreign-based Farsi radio, such as the BBC and Voice of America Persian services. VOA’s evening news has an audience of ten million. The video’s dissemination on YouTube, unblocked only last month, will help it to reach Iran’s 23 million internet users – if the deliberately meagre bandwidth can withstand the strain. It is appearing on blogs that dissidents avidly update, even on holidays." Catherine Philp, The Times, 21 March 2009.
     "Obama's Norouz message, broadcast on Voice of America television, received a warm reception from listeners of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which broadcasts in Persian." RFE/RL News, 20 March 2009.
     "Obama made the remarks in a broadcast with Farsi subtitles by Voice of America's Persian News Network, which is widely viewed by satellite in Iran." Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 20 March 2009
     "I was thinking there was no way former Pres. Bush would have issued Nowruz greetings. But I googled, and I was wrong. The Bush Nowruz messages were of a different tone, some years more focused on Iranian-Americans, some years coupled with a Voice Of America Persian news service interview blaming the Iranian leaders for making life worse for their people. But hey." Eric Black, MinnPost.com, 20 March 2009. Full text of both messages. Washington Post, 21 March 2009.
     "'This is huge,' said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a group that supports U.S. engagement with Tehran. 'First of all, he is addressing the people and the government, which has not been done before. At one point he talks about the Islamic Republic. He's signaling he’s not looking for regime change; he’s recognizing Iran’s system. You always heard Rice and Bush say "Iranian regime,"' Parsi noted. 'It's a big difference.' That doesn't mean Obama doesn’t support Iranian democratization, Parsi said. 'But he recognizes the government that exists in Iran right now.'" Laura Rozen, Foreign Policy The Cable, 20 March 2009.
     "Obama's direct message to Iran, however, reverberated with the rhetoric of the Bush era. Acknowledging the 'serious differences' between the two countries Obama said that Tehran has 'a choice' to abandon what Washington considers as Iran's effort to sponsor terrorism throughout the world." Press TV, 20 March 2009, with link to the video at White House website.
     "Interview Mehrnaz Samimi, a television broadcaster with the Voice of America’s (VOA) Persian News Network (PNN) about why Nowruz, the beginning of the calendar year in Iran, is a significant holiday in her native country." VOA press release, 20 March 2009.
     "Moon Sun Flower Game, a documentary film about world-renowned Iranian poetess Forough Farrokhzad and the son she adopted from a leper colony in 1962, was shown for the first time in Iran by the Voice of America (VOA). VOA's Persian News Network (PNN) broadcast the 90-minute film on Saturday. It included a PNN interview with Hossein Mansouri, Farrokhzad's son who now lives in Munich, Germany." VOA press release, 17 March 2009.
     It is interesting that archrival RFE/RL, as well as DPA, gives VOA credit for the Obama video. Actually, it was distributed to many news organizations whose content gets into Iran.
     Some inside US international broadcasting are concerned that President Obama did not make this an exclusive for VOA's Persian News Network and/or RFE/RL's Radio Farda -- just as his administration earlier opted to reach Arabs via an interview on Al Arabiya rather than Alhurra.
     The distribution of this video is actually a good thing for both US public diplomacy and for US international broadcasting. From a public diplomacy standpoint, the Obama administration wanted this message to have the widest possible distribution. There is no better way to do this than to make the video available to a large number of news outlets. These redundancies of distribution are especially important given the vigor with which Iran blocks and jams information from outside its borders.
     It also worked out well for US international broadcasting, because it showed that VOA Persian News Network and Radio Farda are not President Obama's personal intercoms for reaching Iran. These stations will establish their all-important credibility not through presidential exclusives, but through the objectivity and reliability of their news, week after week, year after year.

Does the stifling of international broadcasts portend the end of democracy?

Posted: 20 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Russia isn’t the only country where it is dangerous to oppose the government these days. China has recently arrested dozens of dissidents as part of a crackdown on free speech on the Internet, which it says is necessary to protect its children from 'vulgarity.' Censored websites include those of the BBC and Voice of America. Kyrgyzstan has similarly removed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz-language programs from its national, government-owned TV and radio networks. Kyrgyz authorities said the programs were too critical of the government and would not be broadcast unless they are submitted to and approved by government censors in advance. ... These snapshots paint a bleak picture of the state of democracy and political freedom around the world. And yet it was only 20 years ago that the American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama concluded that democracy’s ultimate triumph was at hand." Michael Petrou, Macleans, 3 March 2009.

Financial diplomacy trumps public diplomacy.

Posted: 20 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Given the strong and leading role that America's financial and banking sectors had in leading the world down this path and the global perceptions about what has happened in the economy, how we clean up the financial and banking mess will matter much more in re-shaping America's public image than who becomes the next Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. What the Obama administration does on foreign policy and public diplomacy matters a great deal in improving our power and influence in places like the Middle East, but it is only part of the story - what our corporations and the private sector does speaks volumes in shaping America's image." Brian Katulis, TPMCafé, 18 March 2009.

The Dark Knight takes on VOA and BBC Persian television.

Posted: 19 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"State television in Iran says it will show the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire next week as part of the network's new year programming. It is also planning to show the Hollywood film The Dark Knight during the new year festivities. It is unusual for Iranian television to show such high-profile Western films so soon after they have been released. Correspondents say it wants to win back viewers from foreign-based satellite channels broadcasting in Persian." BBC News, 18 March 2009.

Now if someone would reinvent radio for the manual typewriter generation.

Posted: 19 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Goom Radio (www.goomradio.com) launched today with the mission of 'reinventing radio for the Internet generation.' Having already debuted in France in 2008, Goom Radio plans to launch its U.S. service later this year. ... Goom Radio France launched in 2008 and is led by Emmanuel Jayr and Roberto Ciurleo, former executives at top French radio station NRJ." FMQB, 17 March 2009. The connection to international broadcasting is that NRJ is a successful commercial international radio company, setting up stations in countries beyond France. Goom Radio, starting in France and expanding to the United States, seems to be following the same model. I can't find a website for Goom Radio in France, which is odd. The German version is www.goomradio.com/de/.

BBC World Service will present play by Arab writers (updated).

Posted: 19 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Amwaj (The Waves) is a brand new play, created by a group of Arab writers, to be broadcast on BBC World Service on Saturday 21 March at 2001 GMT. It stems from a unique Arab playwriting initiative and is the first BBC play to be commissioned from writers in the Gulf region, all working in collaboration. The play, exploring story-telling and identity, is told through the experiences of taxi driver Noor Alam. It follows the journeys of his six passengers to an unspecified coastal town in the Gulf." BBC World Service press release, 11 March 2009.
     Update: "'Radio is a powerful and intimate medium which can draw the listener in like no other medium can. A well-written script and well-produced radio show can really fire the imagination,' said Lana Kayed, project manager for the British Council in Qatar. 'We wanted the participants to see radio as part of their drama palette, by finding out more about the skills of creative writing for radio and learning from these two very knowledgeable experts. We also hope it would help find new voices for radio within the Arab world, bringing Arab stories to a wider audience and to alert writers to a number of outlets available to them for their work.'" The Peninsula (Doha), 19 March 2009. Radio drama, unless somehow subsidized, may not be a growth industry. "Al Amwaj" will be broadcast Saturday at 1900 UTC, repeated Sunday at 1100 UTC. See also BBCWS World Drama page.

BBC journalists will strike over moving BBC Scotland staff to Kathmandu. Or maybe I should read these again (updated).

Posted: 19 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Thousands of BBC journalists are to go on strike over compulsory redundancies, the National Union of Journalists has announced. BBC News services on television, radio and online will be disrupted all day on Friday, April 3 and Thursday, April 9 after NUJ members at the corporation voted 77% in favour of industrial action. The NUJ said the most 'urgent' redundancy threat was against 20 staffers in the South Asian section of the BBC World Service. ... A BBC spokesperson said that 'no-one is facing imminent compulsory redundancy at the BBC South Asian service', and added that the corporation was still in the process of seeking voluntary redundancies and redeployment opportunities." Digital Spy, 17 March 2009.
     "According to the NUJ, up to 20 jobs could be cut at the World Service's South Asian section. The broadcaster is planning to move some World Service programme-making on the Hindi, Nepali and Urdu radio services from London to Islamabad, Delhi and Kathmandu. But the BBC has questioned the ballot - which was originally called in response to the threat of compulsory redundancies at BBC Scotland, not the World Service." Press Gazette, 16 March 2009.
     "Since the ballot was called, the number of NUJ members at BBC Scotland facing compulsory redundancy has been steadily whittled away. Indeed, it is understood that negotiations are at advanced stage which could soon see no NUJ member facing compulsory redundancy at BBC Scotland." allmediaScotland.com, 17 March 2009. See also NUJ, 16 March 2009.
     Update: "One [union] member commented: 'If the BBC’s succeeds in imposing change, the tendency will be for the output to become more and more India-centric, in the case of the India service, as they try to compete with local FM broadcasters. This moves away from the World Service’s USP: impartial news with a global perspective. Why should the British taxpayer end up paying for a local Indian radio station?'" Radioandmusic.com, 18 March 2009.

BBC language-use websites in more languages (updated).

Posted: 19 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The BBC College of Journalism and the BBC World Service have launched five new language websites for Africa. They are Hausa, Portuguese for Africa, Somali, Kinyarwanda and Kirundi. All these language guides draw on the rich experience and expertise of BBC journalists built up over many years. ... The micro sites use films, interviews and written materials, to offer experts' views on the BBC's use of impartial language. Today's launch will bring up the number of the language sites created for Africa to seven. The language sites for French for Africa and Swahili were launched last year." BBC World Service, 9 March 2009. The article does not provide URLs for these sites. What look like links to the sites aren't.
     Update: "Available to journalists and general public via micro-sites on bbchausa.com, bbcgreatlakes.com, bbcparaafrica.com and bbcsomali.com, the new guides use multiple media to offer experts' views on the use of impartial language. The guides identify 'loaded' words, advise on how to unify new terminology and pronunciation and, where relevant, instruct on nuances of language when broadcasting to more than one country in the same language." BBC World Service press release, 18 March 2009.

Brazil + India + Nebraska + Illinois = ?

Posted: 18 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is pleased to announce the four winners of its online video contest, 'My Culture + Your Culture =?'. ... Members of the ExchangesConnect online community were invited to submit a 3-minute video addressing the contest theme, and they submitted more than 170 videos." Winning videos are from Recife, Brazil; Bangalore, India; Columbus, Nebraska; and Wheaton, Illinois. State Department press release, 16 March 2009.

Do we get a blue ribbon for reading the report?

Posted: 18 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Blue ribbon panel says that Australia's "public diplomacy is lacklustre, poorly integrated and untargeted." The Age (Melbourne), 18 March 2009.
     "The Australia Network and Radio Australia are key public diplomacy vehicles in the Asia-Pacific. Both produce dedicated programming for the region: the Australia Network is available in 22 million homes in over 44 countries across Asia, the Pacific and the Indian subcontinent. But their mandate specifically precludes direct support for international policy: government funds both but has little or no input into programming decisions." From "Australia’s Diplomatic Deficit: Reinvesting in our instruments of international policy," blue ribbon panel report of the Lowy Institute for International Policy (Sydney).
     The report seems to lament the fact that the Australian government "has little or no input into programming decisions" of Radio Australia and Australian Network. Later in the report there is language about "centralizing," "tightening," and "coordinating" Australian public diplomacy. Radio Australia and Australia Network, if they are to retain the credibility required to attract audiences, will want to resist any such centralizing, tightening, or coordinating, and indeed any mention of their names in the same breath as "public diplomacy."

Is that social networking site official or unofficial?

Posted: 18 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The State Department uses [Facebook] as part of its 'public diplomacy' efforts, such as a page for the embassy in Jakarta. But there are at least as many pages created on Facebook that are about the agencies that are not officially sanctioned. 'For every Facebook page that represents itself as an official State Department page, there is another unofficial page,' one participant said. The government already maintains a list of all federal blogs, and some wondered if it should do the same for social networking pages." Saul Hansell, New York Times Bits blog, 17 March 2009.

Belsat Television was created because of too much political control of Belarusian domestic television.

Posted: 18 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Polska (Times) claims that the firing of the director of Belsat television, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, proves that the new president of TVP public television in Poland supports President Aleksander Lukashenko, and is a major blow to free media initiatives in Belarus. ... The paper calls the channel a great success for all, yet, one person was very unhappy with it – the new head of Polish public television. Piotr Farfal, nominated to the post by the Catholic-nationalist political party League of Polish Families, who claims that he fired Romaszewska-Guzy for financial reasons. But Polska claims that Farfal stands in solidarity with Lukashenko." Thenews.pl, 18 March 2009.

DW-TV reaches Asia and the USA.

Posted: 18 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has on Wednesday launched two dedicated channels that would allow Indonesian viewers to access up to 18 hours of English programs on European lifestyle, culture, the arts, business and politics." Jakarta Post, 18 March 2009. These would be DW-TV Asia and DW-TV Asia+, but no mention of the platform used to reach Indonesian homes.
     "GlobeCast announced today that it has launched its second MCPC [multiple channels per carrier] platform on the AsiaSat 3S satellite. Leading European broadcaster Deutsche Welle is the new transponder’s first client. The new C-band platform on AsiaSat 3S, located at 105.5° E with a footprint covering the Middle East to East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, is a premium broadcast platform for the Asia-Pacific region reaching a potential audience of over 95 million households." TVNext, 18 March 2009. Most not directly, but via cable systems.
     New York Times' The Lede blog links to a DW-TV report about the declining use of the Irish (Gaelic) language. The Lede, 17 March 2009.

Euronews expands reach to southeast Asia.

Posted: 18 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Pan-European multilingual television news channel Euronews has launched into the Philippines and Indonesia. The news channel is now available in Metro Manila through Skycable in the Philippines to reach 170,000 subscribers. It has also launched in Indonesia through Telkomvision and has added the channel to two headends to service hotels in Bali and Jarkarta. By strengthening its presence in the region, Euronews now reaches nearly four million homes in Asia and Oceania." Media, 18 March 2009. Telekomvision is a cable and DTH satellite service in Indonesia.

"Much too much" public diplomacy.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Interview with Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations: "Do you think this administration has too much public diplomacy right now? Gelb: Much too much. They think they have to convince the world that they aren't George W. Bush, but everyone knows that. They don't have to convince the world. Barack Obama is significantly different from George Bush, and people understand that. ... The best way to send a message that there's a new leader in America is to do things that succeed, that accomplish something, that help others as well as ourselves solve problems." Interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman, CFR, 16 March 2009.

OK, but he missed seeing the photo of the cigarette butt.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Mohammad Reza, 29-year-old Iranian entrepreneur: "'I never watch Voice of America TV. I don't watch BBC or any of the channels from abroad to Iran. I just work very hard and may be watch an hour of the Iranian channel every night,' said Mohammad Reza who doesn't believe in any broadcast or opposition groups outside of Iran. He added, 'Look, if they wanted to do something, they had thirty years to do it. Obviously they can't do anything.'" Payvand, 16 March 2009.
     "Nine winners of a special photography contest examining Iranian Women in Society were shown today on the Voice of America's (VOA) Persian News Network (PNN). Winning Series PhotoNearly 400 people inside Iran submitted entries during the two-month-long contest which was judged by renowned photographer Reza Deghati. Winning pictures, including one of a ballerina and another of a cigarette butt with lipstick, were displayed during the Today's Woman show aired in Iran." VOA press release, 12 March 2009.

Fund BBC world services, but not the rest.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"David Cameron [UK Conservative leader] wants the BBC licence fee to be frozen for one year. Sorry Dave, that's nowhere radical enough. It's about time the Corporation lived in the real world, and the best way to do that would be to remove the poll tax on us all which is the licence fee. The BBC wastes so much of our dosh on unwanted programmes while at the same time its top brass enjoy the high life like fat cats in the City. Taxpayers should only fund the BBC World Service radio and BBC World television. Make the Corporation stand or fall on its own resources." Graham Dines, EADT24 (Ipswich), 16 March 2009. Ramifications, because BBC World Service and BBC World News succeed in part because of resources placed at their disposal by the BBC domestic services.

Shortwave and the early history of Sony.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"After the war, the Japanese were hungry for news around the world. Many had war-damaged radios, or ones that had had the shortwave unit disconnected by the military police to prevent from tuning into enemy propaganda. [Masaru] Ibuka’s factory repaired radios and made shortwave converters or adapters that could easily make medium-wave radios into superheterodyne [sic], or all-wave receivers. Demand for such radios was rapidly increasing. The shortwave adapters attracted wide attention, and the Asahi Shimbun featured them in its 'Blue Pencil' column. As a result, demand increased even further. This article also brought Ibuka and Akio Morita back together again. ... Ibuka and Morita, the founders of Sony, first encountered each other at the meetings of the Wartime Research Committee that was studying new types of weapons during the war. The two men became close friens, though Ibuka was more than a dozen years older." Christopher MacManus, Sony Insider, 16 March 2009.

The Vatican hopes its news Chinese website will get through to China.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Vatican said on Monday the Chinese version of the website www.vatican.va will be launched on Thursday. It already has versions in seven other languages. The pope's speeches and other content will be available in both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. ... While the Vatican statement said it hoped the site would be used by 'Internet users from throughout the world,' Church sources and diplomats said they feared the site would be blocked." Reuters, 16 March 2009. See also Vatican communiqué, 16 March 2009.

RFA impersonator in Beijing.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"With the great boondoggle of the Olympics now fading into a distant memory, it is becoming clear that not much has changed in China. Or if things have changed, it's because the Communist Party is more adept at propaganda and control. ... The latest bit of bad news is currently up on the Chinese part of the Radio Free Asia website. They were told last week that someone in Beijing pretended to be a RFA reporter in order to convene a meeting of petitioners against the government; people who have had their houses seized or been unable to pay for healthcare for their family and so on. ... Indeed, RFA has no Beijing-based reporter and its website is blocked inside China." Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph blog, 12 March 2009.

Not exactly jamming: the great solar flare of 1989.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"On Friday March 10, 1989 astronomers witnessed a powerful explosion on the sun. Within minutes, tangled magnetic forces on the sun had released a billion-ton cloud of gas. It was like the energy of thousands of nuclear bombs exploding at the same time. The storm cloud rushed out from the sun, straight towards Earth, at a million miles an hour. The solar flare that accompanied the outburst immediately caused short-wave radio interference, including the jamming of radio signals from Radio Free Europe into Russia. It was thought that the signals had been jammed by the Kremlin, but it was only the sun acting up." Sten Odenwald, NASA, 13 March 2009. The Soviets ended jamming in November 1988. Some may have thought it resumed on 10 March 1989. The solar flare would have caused, for a few hours, the absence of shortwave radio signals rather than jamming-like noise. The present very minimal minimum of the eleven-year sunspot cycle is also causing a less dramatic absence of audible shortwave broadcasts, but lasting for months, indeed years, rather than the hours caused by a solar flare."

And then again, she might not.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Hillary Clinton who as the serving Secretary of State sits on the Board of Directors of the Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), might be asked to testify before [the Czech] Constitutional Court on employment practices of that U.S.-funded radio station in Czech Republic. Petition to question Hillary Clinton is submitted to Constitutional Court by Snjezana Pelivan, Croatian citizen suing in that court U.S. Congress-funded RFE/RL for infringement of her labor and human rights resulting from violation by RFE/RL the legislative sovereignty of the Czech Republic, its host country." AZG (Yerevan), 13 March 2009. The Broadcasting Board of Governors is, among other things, the board of directors of RFE/RL Inc. See also ČTK, 11 March 2009.

Accused of attack on RFE, sentenced for insurance fraud.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A Czech court today sentenced Pavel Minarik, a well-known former agent of the Communist secret police (StB), to 4.5 years in prison for an insurance fraud. In 1996 Minarik had an overpriced consignment of optical fibres, belonging to his company, set on fire in Ukraine in order to claim insurance money worth many millions of crowns from the Kooperativa insurer. ... The Communist[s] presented Minarik as a hero in connection with his plan to carry out a bomb attack on the Munich headquarters of the Radio Free Europe (RFE) station. Czech courts have dealt with the attack after the 1989 collapse of the communist regime, but they acquitted Minarik in the end." ČTK, 13 March 2009.

End of history: Russia Today commentator via RFE/RL.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The changes we face will be very hard for the West so accustomed to its 'special place in history.' That place in history is changing, and in the most dramatic way. The rest of the world has funded Western prosperity for decades, making the United States the greatest debtor state in history. As we can see today, this was a failed model and ideology. Now everyone must pay and be rewarded equally an idea the West abandoned long ago. ... History never ends, but bankrupt ideologies do. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was buried two decades ago. In light of recent history, Fukuyama's 'Western liberal democracy' should now be preparing for its own burial ceremony. I won't weep at the funeral -- nor will most of the world." Peter Lavelle, political commentator for Russia Today television, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Commentary, 13 March 2009. "The views expressed in this commentary are his own, and do not necessarily represent those of Russia Today or RFE/RL."

Echo of Moscow founder is back at Voice of Russia.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Famous journalists are going to work for the 'Voice of Russia,' which is, in essence, a foreign service. ... Sergey Korzun is back at the Foreign Broadcasting Service, where the brightest of minds used to come together—the mature Vladimir Pozner, the young Yuri Lyubimov and Vladislav Listyev. It was from here that he went on to found the 'Echo of Moscow' radio station." RIA Novosti's Russia Profile.org, 16 March 2009.
     I can't find anything at the Voice of Russia website about the reported plans to drop a third of its languages at the end of this month. (See previous post.) Of the affected languages, the one I could remotely understand is Romanian. Nothing there, either. But the VOR website has an interesting video report about old Russian radio sets.

Al Jazeera editor-in-chief needs a second source.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Al Jazeera's Gaza correspondent, Ayman Mohyeldin: “'We succeeded where the western media failed miserably. Our correspondents risked their lives to be with the affected people of the region,' he said. 'While the western media left the place the day Israel announced their withdrawal, our correspondents chose to stay on in the area,' added Mohyeldin. Countering Al Jazeera’s claims, Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of the UK newspaper The Independent, said not only his newspaper but most other western media had accorded prominent coverage to the Gaza turmoil. ... Fisk said there was a great difference in the coverage by Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels. While the English channel tried to strike a balance, airing the views of both the aggressors and residents of the area, even though the residents received a much higher coverage, the Arabic channel aired mostly views of Palestinians. [Al Jazeera channel editor-in-chief Ahmed] El-Sheikh pointed out that the BBC had aired no views of the Argentine side during the 1982 Falkland crisis." Gulf Times (Doha), 16 March 2009. Listening to BBC World Service on my shortwave radio during the Falklands war, virtually every newscast would begin with excerpts from the British government communiqué, followed by excerpts from the Argentinian government communiqué.
     "Despite a repetitive cycle of belligerence, the online Israeli-Arab border continues to be built upon reciprocal interest. The political turbulence among the Israeli and Palestinian national leadership bodes ill for the diplomatic process. But while the victors at the [Israeli] polls boast of their unwillingness to compromise, the online give-and-take may suggest a wider capacity for mediation in real time." Ethan Pack, Foreign Policy in Focus, 11 March 2009.

Media Helping Media hopes not to be a ticked box.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A new English language journalism training Web site has been launched with the aim of providing journalists with training materials on a variety of topics, including media management, investigative journalism and editorial ethics. Media Helping Media (MHM) aims to provide a platform for journalists in transition states, post-conflict countries and areas where freedom of expression and media are under threat. The Web site is maintained and updated by David Brewer, a journalist actively involved in international media development who worked with BBC for over 20 years. Brewer is a currently a content strategy consultant with Al Jazeera English." International Journalists' Network, 11 March 2009. "'Too much media development is project-led,' Brewer told APN. 'Once these project funds have run out, the report written, the boxes ticked and the contracts paid, the media development organisation will move on to the next project.'" Arab Press Network, 11 March 2009. See also www.mediahelpingmedia.org.

Press TV reporter killed in Kandahar Province.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran calls on the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai to investigate the killing of a Press TV reporter in the country's volatile south. Press TV correspondent Javed Ahmad Kakar was killed Tuesday in a drive-by shooting in the southern Kandahar Province. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the killing of the 23-year-old, who had restarted his journalistic career in 2008 after being held at the Bagram airbase for a year." Press TV, 14 March 2009. See also Press TV, 12 March, 12 March and 10 March.

A need for more psyop and fewer syllables in job titles.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. Defense Department this year should formally determine a need for more aviation, civil affairs and psychological operations in its special operation forces, according to" Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities Michael Vickers. "'We find shortages in ISR, rotary lift or aviation, or civil affairs and psyops,' Vickers said, which complicates completing missions in theater. ... This mix is crucial in order to defeat the 'hybrid threat' presented by enemies like Hezbollah, who use a mix of insurgent and conventional tactics which they combine with savvy media operations and social programs for the local population, on which they rely for support." Aviation Week, 12 March 2009.

The more information they have, the less they like us.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"An examination of the relationship between the Gallup Communications Index, which measures the extent to which respondents are connected via electronic communications, and U.S. leadership ratings shows a relationship at the quartile level in some regions with disapproval of U.S. leadership. ... Gallup's data suggest that, in some regions, the more likely respondents were to report they had household access to telecommunication technologies such as the Internet, telephone, and television, the more likely they were to disapprove of American leadership. Gallup also compared other factors, such as income, education, and age, to American approval ratings, but the relationship was not as clear as with communications. These findings are relevant in light of the prospect that if enacted by the White House, the proposed budget would mean a sizeable increase over the 2008 budget. This includes an increase in public diplomacy exchanges and broadcasting, which could increase the visibility of U.S. diplomatic messaging in many parts of the world for those with access to communications media." Gallup Inc, 12 March 2009. There are, of course, correlation versus causation pitfalls here.

Worldfocus: classic, classy, and nowhere near a sure thing.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Worldfocus went on the air in October, as an alternative to the BBC’s nightly news syndicated to PBS stations (the BBC has its own news channel and is still available on many public television stations). Hosted by Martin Savidge, formerly of CNN and NBC, and backed by experienced broadcasters, the core of the show is reports from 'affiliates' such as Britain’s ITN, Germany’s Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera English, and Australia TV [sic, Australia Network?], as well as telephone interviews with correspondents from the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and GlobalPost, plus studio interviews with experts. The rundown on a recent night featured several longer reports, including one from 'special correspondent' Peter Eisner in Cuba and short film pieces with voiceovers by Savidge. ... But Worldfocus is nowhere near a sure thing financially as yet. This is not an effort to reinvent television news, although there is a good Web site where you can see archived pieces and get background. What you get with Worldfocus is a classic and classy half-hour of foreign news." Peter Osnos, The Daily Beast, 16 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

CNN International allowed on Canadian cable.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a broadcasting decision handed down today, the [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] has approved a request by Shaw Communications Inc. that would allow Canadian cable and television service providers to offer CNN International (CNNi) in Canada. ... The Commission received only two comments, both of which came from individuals who supported the addition of CNNI to the digital lists." Digital Home, 10 March 2009. See also CRTC, 10 March 2009.

Nigerian bank will sponsor CNN's "African Voices."

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Nigeria's "Bank PHB has emerged the exclusive sponsor of CNN International’s brand new weekly half-hour interview programme ‘African Voices’, which debuted over the weekend. The commercial partnership positions Bank PHB against CNN’s newest, most ambitious personality-driven editorial commitment to Africa yet, and in front of CNN’s upscale audiences across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The advertising campaign will also reach millions of online users globally via CNN.com." This Day (Lagos), 12 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

DW trains broadcasters in strategically positioned Nigeria.

Posted: 17 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of Germany, Deutsche Welle, has trained 12 media practitioners in Nigeria with a view to exposing them to the rudiments of modern broadcasting techniques. ... Mr. Christopher Springate of Deutsche Welle Akademie, who was one of the instructors said at a ceremony to mark the end of the training that Nigeria was selected for the project because of its strategic position on the African continent." Daily Trust (Abuja), 16 March 2009.

DW prepares its second Global Media Forum.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Deutsche Welle's Global Media Forum "will focus on conflict prevention in the multimedia age from June 3 – 5, 2009 at the World Conference Center Bonn. ... Howard Rheingold, Professor at Stanford University, will be giving a keynote speech on the opening day of the conference. He is one of the world’s foremost experts when it comes to Web 2.0 and future developments and has been exploring topics related to the Internet and computer usage for more than 20 years now." Also participating: "Salim Alim’s – founder of the first pan-African news channel, A24 Media in Kenya, which experts have been calling the 'YouTube of Africa' ... and high-ranking representatives of the BBC, Voice of America and Radio France Internationale." DW press release, 16 March 2009. See also DW Global Media Forum website. A three day registration is €195, or €245 if registering after 1 April. I will be attending vicariously.

Vietnamese distribution for DW-TV.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle has launched a new channel in Vietnam with" 18 hours in English. ... The new channel will be available on seven Vietnamese TV platforms including Vietnam Cable Television (VCTC), Saigontourist Cable Television (SCTV) and Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV). Deutsche Welle said they will maintain the mostly German language channel DW-TV ASIA, which came to Vietnam a year ago." Thanh Nien News (Ho Chi Minh City), 14 March 2009.
     "This year the orchestra from the Music Academy of Hanoi will be performing at the Beethovenfest in Bonn as part of the Orchestra Campus – as proposed by Deutsche Welle. ... In cooperation with Deutsche Welle, the Beethovenfest has also planned to return to Vietnam in January 2010. This will be part of the German-Vietnam Culture Year, which has been developed by the governments from both countries. Joint concerts and workshops with Vietnamese musicians will be part of the program in Hanoi. As media partner, Deutsche Welle is continuing to make the Beethovenfest a globally-recognized event with the help of DW-RADIO, DW-TV and online at www.dw-world.de/beethoven." DW press release, 10 March 2009.

Radio Khyber: alternative to mullahs and RFE/RL.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Radio Khyber, launched in 2006 with government support, provides an alternative to the hard-line clerics with its medley of local news, talk shows, and music. But it treads carefully, trying to avoid backlash from either the militants – who criticize the playing of music – or the Pakistani government, which dislikes its news coverage in this sensitive region. ... The Pashto-language broadcasts of Radio Pakistan are not transmitted throughout FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]... . In any case, 'where they are heard, they're viewed with suspicion because they promote the national viewpoint without acknowledging the diversity of listenership.' Residents of FATA are thus forced to choose between Radio Azadi, the Afghan Service of Radio Free Europe that broadcasts from Afghanistan, and the illegal transmissions of FM mullahs. ... Not surprisingly, many are calling in to Radio Khyber instead." Huma Yusuf, Christian Science Monitor, 13 March 2009.

Swissinfo, now ten years old, will add Russian.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Friday marks the tenth anniversary of swissinfo.ch, a multimedia platform that produces news about Switzerland in nine languages for an international audience. Based in Bern and part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the enterprise was created by federal mandate. The portal replaced shortwave radio broadcasts produced by Swiss Radio International for decades. ... Teams produce content in three national languages – French, German and Italian – as well as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. A pilot programme for a tenth language, Russian, will launch in time to cover to the World Ice Hockey Championships in Switzerland next month." swissinfo.ch, 13 March 2009.

Shortwave: "cheap, battery-powered, and worldwide."

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"When the strapping farmboy guerrillas in the Wolverines turned on their radio and heard that John had a long mustache, they damn sure weren’t listening to NPR. That was shortwave radio, buddy. Cheap, battery-powered, and worldwide. For decades, it’s been used for transmissions by hobbyists, spies, evangelists, and legitimate news networks like the BBC World Service and Voice of America. And it helped save our star-spangled butts in Red Dawn." Woot!, 13 March 2009.
     "And if you'd like to see if your powerline [broadband] network is polluting the spectrum, as ham radio operators regularly complain, today's Woot! (a Grundig AM/FM/shortwave portable radio) will do the trick." Brian Dipert, EDN blog, 13 March 2009.

From the Netherlands, via shortwave, to Darfur.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"For an hour each morning, two small rooms in central Netherlands become a lifeline for refugees in war-torn Darfur, cut off from the world and massed in dire camps thousands of kilometres away. At 7:30 am Sudanese time (0430 GMT), Radio Dabanga starts broadcasting its daily programme in five local languages to the remote western Sudan region witness to one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies. ... It operates out of facilities at Radio Netherlands Worldwide, a public radio and television network based in the city of Hilversum. ... Radio Dabanga, which transmits over shortwave, is funded by governments and donors and has a budget of two million euros (2.5 million dollars) for 2009. As of next month, it will extend to three hours daily, adding music and cultural programmes." AFP, 15 March 2009.

Ireland's RTÉ launches "old fashioned" shortwave to Africa.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"St Patrick's Day will see the launch of a daily shortwave radio broadcast from RTÉ to the Irish in Africa. The link with home is in response to requests from Irish people scattered throughout the continent, and working in fields such as aid, peace-keeping, construction projects, and missionary work. According to the Irish government there are many thousands of Irish working in Africa. Although RTÉ has long been available on satellite and via the internet, those in remote regions of Africa have asked for old fashioned short-wave transmissions which will reach portable radio sets in areas that do not even have electricity supplies let alone easy access to satellites and the web." Radio Today, 15 March 2009. Expats are one the remaining, though often overlooked, shortwave audiences.

"Is Twitter the future of news?"

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Twitter has gone further than any previous Web 2.0 service in answering the question: what is the future of news? Let me explain. We read newspapers- or watch TV or listen to the radio - because we want to rely on someone to collect and filter the news for us. ... We rely on the newspaper (or other mainstream media construct) to gather, filter and deliver in a timely and comprehensive manner. ... Twitter works on a filtering process too. And the filters are humans too. The difference, of course, is that we choose those filters: We select those people we follow. But otherwise the process is remarkably similar. ... Twitter has other attractions. It's simple, which was something RSS hasn't quite managed to do. It's short: Twitter was designed for mobile phone SMS messages, and so each message has to be 140 characters or less. As we found with SMS some time ago, this enforced brevity is a blessing, not a limitation. There's another key part to this too: identity. Twitter users are usually not anonymous. Some are, but the vast majority are either clearly identified individuals or institutions. This makes it a lot easier to filter out noise-why trust what someone has to say if you don't know who they are? - and also brings Twitter closer to what a newspaper editor does. ... Once you start following other Twitterers, you quickly get a sense of who is worth listening to." Jeremy Wagstaff, Jakarta Post, 16 March 2009.

BBC World News and DStv join in Lagos to market their products.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The ad sales department of South African-owned Africa-wide satellite bouquet DStv teamed up with BBC World News on 12 March to host a media event in Lagos with CBE and BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson. Attended by advertisers and their media agencies, the event was hosted BBC World News executive director Sean O’Hara and BBC World News senior account manager Katie Waxman. Said O’Hara: 'It was a pleasure to be back in Lagos and hear about the future plans of the agencies and clients who shared their time with us. We were delighted to offer our unique three-screen solution to advertisers seeking to promote themselves to the elusive and exclusive BBC audience in Nigeria, across the African continent and worldwide. BBC World News, bbc.com and bbc.com on mobile devices are hugely popular destinations for the kind of upscale audiences the established and emerging Nigerian powerhouses are targeting.'" ScreenAfrica.com, 13 March 2009.

Petition asks for investigation of BBC World Service.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The government has increased its Grant-in-Aid funding of the BBC World Service by about 20% over the past five years. Despite this, the BBC axed much of its quality feature and cultural programming in favour of cheap news coverage across the World Service, significantly reduced its funding for Russian broadcasts and is in the process of offshoring South Asian language services 'closer to their audiences', to countries where intimidation of journalists is widespread. Therefore, we call on the Prime Minister to launch a full and independent investigation into the BBC World Service." Petition to the Prime Minister, Number10.gov.UK. Over 500 signatures so far. Only British citizens or residents may sign.

BBC Russian introduces "something a little different" for the weekend.

Posted: 16 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC Russian service has introduced a new programme in its newly refreshed radio schedule. From tomorrow, 14 March, live weekend news and current-affairs programme, Pyatiy Etazh (Fifth Floor) will go on air every Saturday and Sunday. ... Head of BBC Russian, Sarah Gibson, comments: 'In an increasingly competitive environment and with fast-changing audience demands, we have decided to focus our services on what audiences primarily expect from the BBC – high quality news and current affairs, and strong analysis of global events, in whatever area of life they occur. But at weekends audiences want something a little different. We also know that they are very interested in British life. I think Pyatiy Etazh will bring audiences the content they expect in a format that they will enjoy.'" BBC World Service press release, 13 March 2009.

Your Story, BBC's equipment.

Posted: 15 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Your Story is the BBC World Service's citizen journalism project, running since June 2008. Anyone can send in ideas for stories and news reports, or personal stories, photos, audio and video. Nina Robinson, a senior broadcast journalist at the BBC World Service, runs the project and works with individuals to pursue report ideas and will provide them with recording equipment, and training and advice, she says. Robinson then edits material received. Some of it ends up on the blog and some of it ends up on air: on Newshour, The World Today, Europe Today, World Update and Outlook. Other bits are featured online." journalism.co.uk, 12 March 2009.

Gorbachev still has BBC on his friends list.

Posted: 15 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Mikhail Gobrchev visits London. "When I asked him how much freedom the press and media now have in Russia, Gorbachev replied by first flattering the questioner. 'BBC? My old friends!' he said. His enthusiasm dates back to the attempted coup against him in 1991 when he was imprisoned in his holiday home in the Crimea with only the BBC World Service to keep him abreast of events." Nick Higham, BBC News, 12 March 2009.

Bin Laden includes Alhurra, BBC in his enemies lists.

Posted: 15 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused conservative Arab leaders of plotting with the West against Muslims and urged his followers to prepare for jihad (holy war), in a recording posted on Islamist websites. ... He also called for the creation of a body of devout clerics to draw up a list warning Muslims about 'enemies, hypocrites, their media such as newspapers ... radio stations and satellite channels, of which the most dangerous are the latter two.' The list, he said, should include the British Broadcasting Corporation, U.S.-funded Arabic-language television al-Hurra in Iraq, and the Saudi-funded Al Arabiya channel in Dubai." Reuters, 14 March 2009.

Voice of Russia will drop a third of its language services, expand elsewhere.

Posted: 12 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"DXing.ru reports that starting March 29, 2009 [Voice of Russia] will be going through some major changes. They include both the output increases and numerous language cuts. Programming increases: --VoR World Service in English becomes a 24x7 service again! (Currently, VoR broadcasts in English for 16 hours daily) --Spanish to Europe and Latin American goes up from 3 to 6 hours daily; --Kurdish increases from 1 to 2 hours; --German, Serbo-Croatian and Hindi Services will be increased by 30 min. to 7.5, 3.5 and 2 hours correspondingly. VoR's Russian World Service and Sodruzhestvo (Commonwealth) Service will be merged into one, round-the-clock channel (just like back in the end of 1980s - the very beginning of 1990s). Russian International Radio (Russian pop-music and news service) will continue operating as a stand alone 24x7 channel. The language cuts: About a third of VoR's language service will be shut down. They include Albanian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Korean, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Some of those services are over 50 years old." Sergei S. in Moscow, reporting to DX Listening Digest Yahoo! group, 12 March 2009. Voice of Russia is successor to the old Radio Moscow.

Cuban commentary on the internet as Martí replacement (updated).

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The interest of the United States that Cuba has the Internet has nothing to do with fostering technological, scientific and cultural development. Internet media is the ultimate weapon that has to replace the failed Radio and TV Martí, which even more reports declare as obsolete and useless, to follow the frenzy of wanting to change the minds of Cubans." ahora.cu, 3 March 2009.
     Update: "In an interview with U.S. News, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, director of the North America division of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, ruled out undertaking political changes in exchange for improved ties with the United States, calling such a proposition 'a nonstarter.' ... Vidal said that Cuba would like to see the U.S. government stop funding TV Martí and Radio Martí, broadcast outlets that, she said, 'we have been very successful in blocking.'" US News & World Report, 10 March 2009.

France 24 reporters detained in China.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
In Chengdu: "Turning around, we found around 15 to 20 policeman and officials standing in the adjoining room, motioning for us to come out. They asked for our passports and journalist cards, and started making notes of our details. Handing them back, we asked if we were under arrest, and they said no. We asked if we could leave, and they asked if we could please wait for a bit, while making it perfectly clear that we could not leave." Henry Morton, France 24, 10 March 2009.
     Reporters sans frontières "is outraged by the way the Chinese authorities are breaking the rules for foreign journalists by arresting those visiting Tibetan regions in the west of the country." RSF, 10 March 2009.

Press TV reports its SNG truck was attacked.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Assailants linked to Egypt's security agency have attacked 'Viva Palestina' aid convoy, damaging Press TV's Satellite News Gathering truck. ... Egyptian authorities in al-Arish insisted that only medical supplies could cross through the Rafah crossing and other supplies must enter Gaza through Israeli-controlled border points. The organizers of the convoy, who include Press TV's Yvonne Ridley and George Galloway - who is also a British Parliamentarian -- refused to heed Egypt's demand." Press TV, 9 March 2009.

Disney products to India via IPTV.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Indian IPTV service provider Aksh Optifibre has agreed a video-on-demand deal with Disney-ABC International TV, the second the provider has signed with a Hollywood studio. ... Rob Gilby, senior vice-president and managing director, Disney-ABC International Television (Asia Pacific), said: 'The Indian television and film audience is vast and sophisticated and we see huge growth opportunities in the next 5 to 10 years for new media initiatives. This new deal means that Indian viewers can enjoy more quality Disney entertainment at the touch of their remote.'" Rapid TV News, 10 March 2009.

Why are people looking at their radios?

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"With Streamezzo-enabled T-DMB devices, consumers can now access information such as artist or song details, latest news or weather headlines while listening to their favourite radio channel." Streamezzo press release, 9 March 2009. This probably won't pertain much to international broadcasting, except for placement in the target country using this new technology. However, Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) on shortwave offers similar text accompaniment to audio. As noted in a previous post, I was listening to Radio New Zealand International DRM audio while reading RNZI Pacific news headlines on the display.

Mobile internet growing, but most still watch CNN on a television.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A consumer behaviour study by Ericsson and CNN has revealed that the international business elite are increasingly accessing the internet while on the move. ... Branded websites are the most popular online destinations for survey respondents accessing TV content online. Broadcaster websites (60%) emerged as the #1 choice for accessing TV content online. This is followed by broadcaster sections on video sharing sites such as YouTube (13%). Television remains the most popular viewing device for CNN's audience of global citizens. 35% watched their television set for more than 10 hours a week, whereas viewing for this length of time is considerably lower for PC (9%) and mobile devices (5%)." CNN International/Ericsson press release, 10 March 2009.

US public diplomacy reports on US international broadcasting.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The U.S. government’s premier international radio and television broadcast organization — the Voice of America (VOA) — will continue to provide timely news and information to more than 130 million people worldwide while pursing innovative ways to engage this audience, says VOA Director Dan Austin. 'Everything I have seen or heard from the new [Obama] administration and from people [in Congress] is that there is an understanding that what we do, dollar for dollar, is one of the better investments the American taxpayer can make,' Austin told America.gov March 4. ... 'Our strategy for reaching audiences is market- and research-driven,' Austin explained. 'People in Nigeria get most of their news via shortwave radio, so we’re there in that market with radio. Many people in Iran get their news through satellite TV, and we’re there in TV. If mobile devices [cell phones] are what young people in key markets are using, we’re going to be there' broadcasting to them in that format too." Jim Fisher-Thompson, America.gov, 10 March 2009.

RFE/RL executive editor on Republicans, Conservatives, and the economic crisis.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Spectator's Alex Massie and former Thatcher advisor and current Radio Free Europe Executive Editor John O'Sullivan are having an interesting back-and-forth about whether the Republicans have anything to learn from David Cameron [British Conservative Party leader]. It's good reading, especially considering there is only one mention of Rush Limbaugh between the two of them." Nick Greene, The Telegraph, 10 March 2009.
     "The editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, John O’Sullivan told us the economic crisis is the same on both sides of the Atlantic and that European finance ministers are approaching the crisis differently." Vatican Radio, 10 March 2009.

Georgian, Russian, Ukranian intrigue in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has officially informed Georgian public broadcaster GPB that the lyrics of their song for the 54th Eurovision Song Contest We Don't Wanna Put In do not comply with the rules of the competition. The EBU Reference Group of the Eurovision Song Contest has now offered GPB the opportunity to either re-write the lyrics of the song, or to select another song for the contest. This year's contest will be hosted by Channel One Russia and will take place on 12, 14 and 16 May at the Olympiyski Arena in Moscow." Eurovision Song Contest press release, 10 March 2009.
     "A sign perhaps that Russia is above the pettiness of (Eurovision) politics. From the BBC: 'Russia has swallowed its national pride and chosen a Ukrainian singer as its entry for the Eurovision song contest. ...' Or alternatively, a brilliant plan to shame the Georgians for going with an overtly political entry. Either way, hats off to the Russians." Luke Allnutt, RFE/RL Transmission, 9 March 2009.
     I've always wondered why the Eurovision Song Contest is not shown on US television, at least on public television. With its combination of campiness and suspense, it would draw a respectable niche.

Development in RFA GC murder case (updated).

Posted: 11 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
A wrongful death lawsuit involving the 2006 murder of Radio Free Asia general counsel Robert Wone is stayed "while related criminal charges move forward." The Blog of Legal Times, 27 February 2009.
     Update: "Lawyers for three men accused of crimes related to the 2006 murder of lawyer Robert Wone are demanding more information about a three-count indictment that the attorneys say is vague and factually deficient." The Blog of Legal Times, 9 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Talking to RFA brings threat of treason charges.

Posted: 10 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Petitioners in an eastern Chinese village who aired their grievances publicly say they were forced to attend reeducation sessions known as 'law study groups' where they were subjected to harassment and abuse. ... Feng Shouling said police had held and intimidated her from Feb. 22-23 and threatened her with charges of treason because she talked to foreign media about her reeducation experience. ... According to Feng, police interrogated her about an Internet article Radio Free Asia published detailing her experience at the study group as well as her access to foreign media coverage. The police threatened to charge her with 'using foreign forces to smear the country,' Feng said." Radio Free Asia, 4 March 2009.

Commentaries mention Radio Free Afghanistan.

Posted: 10 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"At the offices of Radio Free Europe, founded in 1949 (in part by the CIA) and today reaching 25 million people, I met with the Afghanistan branch known as Radio Free Afghanistan, or Radio Liberty. RFA began with funding from the U.S. Congress in 2001; in the years since, they have become the most popular radio station in Afghanistan. In most parts of the country, they are the primary source not only of outside news, but also of education and inspiration. I explained to the nine men standing in the center of the room my keen interest in promoting the voices of Afghan women. On cue, four women came forward from their carrels and joined the group." (Former) Ambassador Swanee Hunt, Huffington Post, 6 March 2009.
     "Many nations do overthrow dictatorships and become more democratic, or at least more open, as a result. In the past, we have sometimes helped this process along. The Obama administration, if it starts now, can do so again... . Certainly, we can help by directing small, even tiny, amounts of money at the people who promote debate, not armed rebellion, inside repressive countries. One could argue that the pennies we spent funding Radio Free Europe or anti-communist magazines such as the now-defunct Encounter during the Cold War were far more effective than the billions we spent on military equipment. Although the modern equivalent, Radio Free Afghanistan, reaches more listeners in Afghanistan than any other broadcaster, we aren't increasing its funding; to the contrary, we've been slashing its budget in real terms." Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 24 February 2009.
     RFE/RL has an audience because of its very good news service. It is not merely a convenient vehicle for promoting the favored causes of ambassadors, present or former. And, again, I must disagree with a conservative (as in cut taxes, reduce government) commentator who wants to increase spending on a favorite bureaucracy. The United States spends more on international broadcasting than Britain, but has less audience. USIB should catch up with the BBC with the budget it has.

Al Youm tests Alhurra's limits, in a relaxed environment.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"On Sunday, March 8, 2009, Alhurra Television will launch Al Youm (Arabic for 'Today') a ground-breaking live new television show originating simultaneously from five countries in three continents including Dubai, Beirut, Cairo, Jerusalem and Alhurra’s headquarters in Springfield, Va. Al Youm takes the American morning show format and tailors it to evenings in the Middle East. The three-hour program will provide viewers a window to the world through its coverage of the latest news from the Middle East, the U.S. and the world; as well as topics such as health, entertainment news, sports, technology, social and cultural issues. Al Youm presents straightforward news in a relaxed, engaging environment. ... 'We wanted to test our limits to have a program that was not only technologically advanced but also engaging for the viewers. The audience will contribute to the dynamism of the show and tie it to the issues of today,' stated Fran Mires, Al Youm’s Executive Producer." Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. press release via Broadcasting Board of Governors, 8 March 2009.

Taking issue with VOA's adjectivology.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Leaked memo dated March 2 from head of the Voice of America Urdu service "insists on no connection being drawn from Islam to politics. In gist: Islamic terrorists: DO NOT USE. Instead use simply: terrorist. Islamic Fundamentalism/Muslim Fundamentalists: AVOID. Islamist: NOT NECESSARY. Muslim Extremists: NOT NECESSARY. Extremist serves well." Daniel Pipes, FrontPageMagazine.com, 6 March 2009.

Hillary Clinton's public diplomacy targets everyone, including the doorman.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Selling America abroad also remained a high priority and Mrs Clinton's public diplomacy, which she started in Asia, continued throughout this trip, as she held events with women and young people in the Middle East and Europe. She was personable, shook hands, smiled, talked about her personal life, and showed she could be quick on her feet, unfazed by gaffes. ... But her approach to public diplomacy also raised eyebrows. One Arab leader in private confided he was puzzled by Mrs Clinton's reaching out and shaking hands with everyone she met on her way into her meeting with him - including, apparently, the doorman." BBC News, 8 March 2009. Never underestimate the agenda-setting influence of a doorman.
     "Appearing on a popular Turkish television chat show, Hadi Gel Bizimle (Come and Join Us), Clinton tackled a few diplomatic questions but the main focus was on her personal life, such as when she 'last' fell in love. 'It was so long ago, with my husband,' she told the studio audience.'" Reuters, 7 March 2009.
     "The Turkish people were ready for the dose of warmth and candor offered by Clinton, says Huseyin Bagci, a professor of international relations at Ankara's Middle East Technical University. 'This is good for American public diplomacy. Whoever planned this did it well,' he says. 'She is reducing the damage to the American image here in Turkey. I think Turks are ready to take a different look at America.'" Christian Science Monitor, 9 March 2009.
     "Turkey and the United States have launched a new initiative called 'Young Turkey/Young America: A New Relationship for a New Age'. The initiative has been launched during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Turkey March 7 and announced in a joint press conference by Secretary Clinton and Turkish foreign minister Babacan in Turkish capital city of Ankara. It aims to diversify broad based bilateral relations between the Turkish and American people. The initiative, which is first in kind between the two countries, is likely to have been established to improve the image of the United States in Turkish public opinion, which has suffered a blow since the Iraqi war, while opening up new cooperation areas as a public diplomacy effort." londravizyon.com, 7 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

US Marshall Plan films finally safe for domestic dissemination.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"What about when ... propaganda is made by a democracy? More specifically, what about when the democracy is the United States? Well, it tends then to get called 'public diplomacy' rather than 'propaganda.' But the basic question remains, and it's implicitly raised by the series 'Selling Democracy: Films of the Marshall Plan, 1948-1953.' ... The series represents a cross-section of the 282 films extant that the US government funded to make the case for the Marshall Plan with European audiences. ... An estimated 50 million people saw the films. Until recently, few viewers were Americans. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the domestic screening of US government-funded films that were made to disseminate political messages abroad. In 1990, US Senator John Kerry wrote legislation to waive the prohibition as regards the Marshall Plan films." Boston Globe, 8 March 2009. At the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA, 12-17 March. See previous post about same subject.

Army solicits bids to occupy old USIA territory.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Army wants a private firm to provide a seven-member media team to support the public affairs officer of the 25th Infantry Division, now serving as Multi-National Division-North in Iraq -- at least three media specialists, two Arab speakers, a Web manager in Iraq and a media specialist stateside. ... The statement of work accompanying the solicitation for the 25th Infantry Division contract says the services to be provided include 'engaging Western and U.S. external audiences; informing our internal and home station audiences with aggressive media relations; as well as command information and outreach programs that support Iraq's steady growth in its government.' ... Except for informing division personnel and home station audiences, those tasks are normally handled by the State Department's public diplomacy officials and before that by the U.S. Information Agency, not the military." Walter Pincus, Washington Post, 8 March 2009.

Israel's plans to drop medium wave will affect foreign-language and cross-border broadcasts.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Israel Broadcasting Authority is gradually eliminating AM (medium-wave) broadcasts, a cost-cutting measure that will seriously harm Israel Radio's news in English and a dozen other foreign languages, The Jerusalem Post has learned. ... Informed sources voiced particular concern about the future of REKA, the foreign-language network that serves immigrants, the diplomatic community and anyone else whose Hebrew is insufficient to follow regular broadcasts. They said that FM reception for REKA is poor or non-existent in many parts of the country due to the location and limited power of IBA transmitters. ... Because they are broadcast on AM - which [has wider range] than FM - Israel Radio's news programs in English and French are heard in neighboring Arab countries. ... When the IBA switched off its shortwave transmitters two years ago, it promised that its Web site, iba.org.il, would provide better service. But during Israel's recent assault on Hamas in Gaza, high listener demand - especially for English news broadcasts - often made it impossible to log on." Jerusalem Post, 7 March 2009.

Al Jazeera English wins award for Cyclone Nargis coverage.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Al Jazeera English has won the prestigious Concentra Breaking News Award for Subina Shrestha's 'Up the Irrawady'. ... Al Jazeera English was given the award last night at a ceremony at the Brussels Le Plaza Hotel. For this year's competition the Concentra Award received 114 entries from 46 news organizations from around the world. The Concentra Breaking News award is presented to the best piece that is shot, edited and broadcast in one day with a maximum duration of 5 minutes. Subina Shrestha's courageous journey up the Irrawaddy following Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar won the Breaking News award by a unanimous vote from the international panel of Concentra judges." AMEInfo, 7 March 2009.
     "Al Jazeera’s Richard Gizbert ... presents a weekly show called ‘The Listening Post,’ which looks at how the news is covered by the world’s media. The programme looks at the impact of blogs, online video and podcasts, as well as media in traditional formats. ... There simply is very little media analysis of media, he explains, adding that Al Jazeera English as a channel provided him with the freedom he wanted for the show." journalism.co.uk, 6 March 2009.

Australia Network back to the private sector, again? (updated)

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Tensions have ignited between the ABC and Sky News, with ABC managing director Mark Scott suggesting pay-TV's push to operate Australia's international television network could harm diplomatic relations. Mr Scott's comments follow remarks by Sky News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos at a broadcasting conference yesterday, when he said Sky would re-tender to provide the Australia Network TV service next year when the current contract with the ABC expires. ... The Australia Network aims to promote the nation's interests internationally. Defending the ABC's role, Mr Scott told The Australian last night there had been 'significant growth in investment by governments around the world in broadcasting as part of their diplomatic activity, and it's being delivered by the public broadcasters. There is an agreed understanding that you can't outsource your diplomatic activities, and you can't outsource it to Rupert Murdoch's international operations,' he said." The Australian, 6 March 2009. Successful international channels can be publicly funded, but they succeed by providing an independent, credible news service, not by being "part of diplomatic activity." Australia's international television, previously called Australia Television, then ABC Asia Pacific, has gone back and forth between ABC and private control. See Wikipedia entry on Australia Network.
     "For its part, Sky News is keen to contest to provide the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with its international channel when the current contract with the ABC expires in 2010. The 'Australia Network' is funded by DFAT with the aim of promoting Australia’s interests internationally. It’s clear and stated purpose is to be a channel for DFAT. We were an unsuccessful bidder to provide the channel to DFAT under a tender in 2005. We plan to contest again and we believe it is the best way for Government to get best value for taxpayers and for DFAT – regardless of who wins." Angelos Frangopoulos, Sky News CEO, speech to Australian Broadcasting Summit, 5 March 2009 (pdf). See also Sydney Morning Herald, 6 March 2009.
     Update: "With Sky sniffing around Australia Television it's perhaps worth having another look a Radio Australia and the odd stuff it churns out to its hapless listeners. The Asia Pacific footprint is huge, going from around Laos to the far flung islands of the south Pacific. In Vanuatu recently, I was forced to listen to it and was left wondering WTF? Who is this station aimed at? ... Over at BBC World we have good newsy analysis and the Francophones have three stations to choose from. Radio Australia should have access to the vault of wonderful material from Radio National." Alan Kennedy, letter to Crikey, 9 March 2009.

BBC roadshow in Nigeria covered by BBC affiliates outside of Nigeria.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"BBC World Service has announced the launch of a major roadshow which further expands its outreach among audiences in rural Nigeria. From Monday 9 March 2009, in what is BBC Hausa's most ambitious editorial initiative yet, the BBC Hausa A Karkara roadshow will embark on a journey of around 30 villages across 11 states in Northern Nigeria. ... Throughout the duration of the initiative, the BBC's rebroadcasting partners in Ghana (Zuria 88.7 FM in Kumasi and Fiila 89.3 FM in Tamale) and Niger (R&M 104.5 FM in Niamey, Radio Anfani 100.0 FM in Diffa, Birnin Konni, Maradi and Zinder, and Radio Tarmamuwa 97.0 FM in Tessaoua) will run daily 10-minute reports about BBC Hausa A Karkara." BBC World Service press release, 6 March 2009. So the road show is in Nigeria, but the reports will be broadcast by stations outside of Nigeria. That's because Nigeria does not allow rebroadcasting of foreign broadcast news programming on its domestic stations. Some of the FM outlets in Niger might be audible in northern Nigeria. Unmentioned in the press release is that BBC reaches Nigeria primarily via shortwave.

To BBC Somali, via VOA, via stroke recovery.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Mohamed Hussien was living the kind of up-by-the-bootstraps American dream that would have prompted Horatio Alger to turn a cartwheel. Until a month ago, when his plans suddenly got put on hold. ... At age 37, with no prior health problems, he had just had a stroke. ... In early January, before his stroke, he recalled his journey from daydreaming child to international broadcaster. As a young man in Mogadishu, Hussien and his uncle listened to the BBC on the radio every day. 'I always wanted to work for the BBC,' he said in an interview before the stroke. 'It's where the big boys play, the place to be once you've reached your greatness. I thought the announcers talked like elderly cousins. I would imitate their voices.' ... In 2006 he got his first big break. He tried out for the Voice of America news service, and despite his lack of professional journalism training, they took a chance and hired him to present programming on-air. Hussien's second break came the next year, when he snagged an interview with Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, then-president of Somalia's transitional government. ... The interview was widely disseminated, and his career took off. The BBC hired him." Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6 March 2009.

Ted Roberts, host of VOA's Nightline Africa, to retire.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The popular Sierra Leonean presenter Ted Folarin Roberts of the weekend Nightline Africa programme broadcast to Africa from the VOA studios in Washington is finally retiring after a long and successful stint. ... Ted Roberts is 'Uncle Ted' on his signature 'Nightline Africa,' a family magazine on VOA that has been a staple for Africans and Caribbeans all over the world for years. Known for his wisdom and compassion, Roberts has carved his way to success in the highly competitive world of international broadcast journalism." Awoko (Freetown), 3 March 2009.

The dapper host of Afropop, and his VOA years.

Posted: 09 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Twentieth anniversary of the public radio program Afropop Worldwide, with host Georges Collinet. "The dapper Cameroonian host's lightly-inflected French accent is so radio perfect, you'd be gripped just to hear him read the Fruit Loops nutrition label." Concierge.com, 5 March 2009., with link to this piece about Collinet's VOA years...
     "From 1965 until the late nineties, Collinet, now the host of Afropop Worldwide, hosted a hugely popular morning show broadcast by the Voice of America, the country’s international radio service. Every morning 120 million Africans living under socialism tuned in to hear James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Georges Collinet’s motor-mouth ramblings about girls, cars, and life in America. ... VOA’s success was a testament to the power of music and the politics of fun—not what one would expect of a station broadcasting from warships. Brutal dictators like Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea railed against 'this infamous Georges Collinet,' but their peoples couldn’t get enough. Collinet’s first goodwill trip to Mali in 1970 sparked a Beatlemania-style frenzy." Dan Scheuerman, Humanities (NEH), March/April 2008.
     "Living under socialism"? A few African countries professed socialism, but most just labored, non-ideologically, under too much government involvement in the economy. "Broadcasting from warships"? VOA transmitted from one ship, the US Coast Guard Cutter Courier, off the Greek coast, from 1952 to 1964.
     But the article was correct that Georges Collinet was a major talent and hugely popular in Africa. During the 1980s and early 1990s, I listened, too, to Collinet's "Sound of Soul" program, via the Monitron in the VOA building. He was supporting the hypotheses in my doctoral dissertation, written in 1979, which was about the power of personality in international radio broadcasting.

Azerbaijan will launch a five-language international channel.

Posted: 08 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic that borders the Caspian sea in the Caucasus, is to launch a foreign language TV service as part of a bid to increase its profile internationally. Broadcasting in English, Russian, Azeri, Armenian, Turkish and Farsi the channel will widen access to news and information about the oil-rich country. Nushiravan Maharramli, head of Azerbaijan's national radio and television council, said that an open competitive tender would be launched this month for companies interested in operating the service. ... Maharramli said the decision to set up an international channel under Azerbaijan control was prompted by the cessation of Russian language and other foreign language radio and TV broadcasts following last year's spat between the two countries over reciprocal transmission rights." Variety, 4 March 2009.
     BBC Monitoring cites the Baku newspaper Azadlik (in Azeri), 5 March 2009: "'In October 2008, the BBC World Service signed an agreement with the Azerbaijani government on installing three transmitters in Agsu, Lerik and Daskasan Districts with the aim of improving the quality of BBC radio broadcasts. However, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America and the BBC have stopped broadcasts on FM frequencies in Azerbaijan following the 30 December 2008 decision by the National Television and Radio Council (NTRC). How did that affect the agreement? Clarifying the issue, Togrul Mammadov, an aide to the NTRC chairman, said that the agreement signed with the BBC World Service had become invalid after the council's aforementioned decision.' In a separate report, Azadliq quoted Turan news agency as saying that posters with information on the frequencies on which the Voice of America is now broadcasting in Azerbaijan had been removed from the underground and other public transport in Baku.'" See previous post about same subject.
     "Azerbaijan's parliament Friday gave courts the power to shut down media outlets for up to two months by approving new amendments to media laws. Under the amendments, a media outlet can be forced to close if its editor is a foreign citizen or doesn't have a higher education, if publications don't provide complimentary copies to the authorities and if their journalists are fined under rules on abuse of media power more than once a year." AFP, 6 March 2009.

The useful irrelevance of Smith-Mundt.

Posted: 08 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Why on earth would Uncle Sam want to keep something from his own citizens but share it with the rest of the world? There may not be any Smith-Mundt police, and the controversial provision in the law may be irrelevant, but it’s still on the books. ... Nevertheless, don’t repeal Smith-Mundt. It creates a statutory firewall between resources intended for foreign audiences and those used domestically. Tear down that firewall, and it will be a matter of time before resources and personnel who focus on talking about America overseas are diverted in favor of domestic 'public affairs,' the short-term political imperative of any administration." Gregory L. Garland, American Diplomacy, 3 March 2009. There is some enforcement going on, as lawyers for the public diplomacy and international broadcasting agencies will occasionally remind employees about what materials can be distributed within the United States. For example, VOA does not send program schedules to shortwave listeners in the United States. See previous post and another previous post about Gartner v. USIA.

"Some American perspective along with their grammar" (updated).

Posted: 08 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Nearly all of the popular 'American Centers' that spanned the globe, attracting throngs of students and young people who immersed themselves in American publications and ideas, have been closed or drastically downsized and restructured thanks to policy decisions, security concerns, and budget constraints. ... The United States should not abandon this part of the public diplomacy field to others. Iran, for instance, has opened some 60 Iranian cultural centers in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe that offer Persian language courses and extensive library resources-and a platform for anti-American propaganda. As part of a broader overhaul of its public diplomacy effort, the United States should reinvigorate the old American Centers concept-putting, when possible, new ones that are safe but accessible in vibrant downtown areas-support active cultural programming, and resume the teaching of English by American or U.S.-trained teachers hired directly by embassies. That would help draw people to the centers and ensure that students got some American perspective along with their grammar." Senator Richard G. Lugar, Foreign Policy The Argument blog, 26 February 2009.
     "To be clear, the internet and other modern information tools as well as private sponsors are and should be a big part of public diplomacy. But can and should they replace a live forum, a marketplace of ideas where people in cities across the world can meet, talk and debate with Americans, not in a virtual chat room, but in a real reading room? I think not.' Michael Knigge, Deutsche Welle Across the Pond blog, 27 February 2009.
     Update: "Senator Lugar suggests sending Foreign Service officers out into some of the cities most dangerous to American Foreign Service officers, presumably without large numbers of armed Marines and certainly without the advantage of reinforced concrete blast shields. ... Voice of America has been sliced back, bit-by-bit, to project into the Middle East and Asia. Unfortunately, there are other continents, including 'Africa,' 'South America,' and 'Europe,' that are critically left out of this equation. Why we would spend men and materiel where we cannot even bother to broadcast radio signals is lost on me and, from the obvious omission in Senator Lugar’s piece, him as well." Christopher Badeaux, The New Ledger, 5 March 2009. VOA is still broadcasting to Africa and South America. In most of Europe, people no longer listen to "radio signals" from abroad. They have about a hundred channels of television.

Starry-eyed expectations for public diplomacy.

Posted: 08 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Public diplomacy is the practice of influencing public opinion abroad in order to achieve America's foreign policy goals. It's primarily the responsibility of the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. ... If our military victories aren't coupled with public diplomacy victories (i.e. winning over mutual respect and muting hatred), then our foes will be armed with not just the means, but the motivation to do America harm. Without effectual public diplomacy gains, the specter of cyber-terrorism will grow more vivid as a new digitally savvy generation of would-be terrorists comes of age." Mark Hannah, PBS MediaShift, 5 March 2009.
     These experts are beginning to wear me down. And via our colleagues at PBS, no less.
     I wish they would turn on a shortwave radio or click on an internet stream of U.S. international broadcasting. They would not hear propaganda talks "influencing public opinion abroad in order to achieve America's foreign policy goals." Well, OK, they might heard the editorials on VOA, which are about three minutes in length. But mostly they would hear news and current affairs, which is what audiences for international broadcasts are seeking.
     And isn't it too late for "public diplomacy victories" if there are "military victories" going on?
     World public opinion will be affected by US policies and actions, not by any public diplomacy sophistries. The realistic job of public diplomacy is to combat misinformation and disinformation, in order to keep opinions about the United States from getting worse.

Glassman on Obama and the "war of ideas."

Posted: 08 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Interview with former undersecretary for public diplomacy James K. Glassman: "Q: What do you think the presence of Barack Obama in the Oval Office will do for the war of ideas? Glassman: Obama's presence is very helpful. The world is very excited about President Obama, there is absolutely no doubt about that. But I do think there will be some disappointment because there is anticipation a) that President Obama will solve all the problems in the world, and b) that his foreign policy -- I don't think it's going to be all that much different from what we've seen. Q: Would you have wanted to stay in the job under Obama? Yes. Q: Did it ever come up? Glassman: There were a lot of people advocating my staying, including Newsweek. But did it ever come up, like, did I ever have a conversation with anybody about it? No."
Washington Post, 8 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Are US officials in an Al Arabiya rut?

Posted: 07 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "is to be commended for making the time for another high-profile interview with a top Arab satellite TV station. She didn't tailor her remarks to Arab sensitivities -- I'd reckon that she talked more about missiles from Gaza and Israel's self-defense than Arab audiences really want to hear, but if that's her position then so be it. More broadly, it would have been better if she had chosen al-Jazeera this time, after Obama gave al-Arabiya the first shot. Al-Jazeera has a larger audience, and more credibility with the Arab publics that the U.S. presumably wants to reach. The choice to go with al-Arabiya again (in conjunction with the strong identification with Mahmoud Abbas) reinforces the old 'moderate vs rejection camp' divide which Arab reconciliation efforts have been trying to overcome. Going on to Arab satellite TV as a matter of course is a crucial part of public diplomacy, and a tip of the hat to Clinton for doing it... but now's the time to start widening the range of outlets for such interviews." Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy blog, 4 March 2009.
     "Hillary Clinton, in her visit to Turkey this week, is going to be a guest on private news channel NTV’s talk show 'Haydi Gel Bizimle Ol,' (Come on, be with us). Pinar Kür, a prominent author, Müjde Ar, an actress, Çigdem Anat, a journalist and Aysun Kayaci, a model, run the program, which has a freer format than a news program and covers a wide range of contemporary issues with guests. Clinton, who is already familiar with Turkey, will try to improve the U.S. image in Turkey, presenting a great example of an old American tradition in diplomacy: 'public diplomacy,' some experts said." Hürriyet, 4 March 2009.

BBC in bouquets to Belgium.

Posted: 07 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"In a landmark agreement, the Belgian IPTV operator Belgacom TV has secured the rights to distribute all the BBC domestic channels on its network. Until now these channels were only available on cablenets in the country. Subscribers to the Belgacom TV Classic bouquet, the basic tier, will receive BBC One, BBC Two and the internationally available BBC World News. Subscribers to the Belgacom TV Select bouquet receive an additional six channels: BBC Three, BBC Four, Cbeebies, CBBC, BBC Prime and BBC HD." Broadband TV News, 3 March 2009.

Plan to lay off 206 RFI employees runs afoul of the "plan social."

Posted: 07 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Le tribunal de grande instance (TGI) de Paris a examiné jeudi la demande du comité d'entreprise de Radio France Internationale (RFI) de suspendre le plan social de la direction, affirmant que la procédure prévoyant 206 suppressions de postes était entachée d'irrégularités." AFP, 5 March 2009. About a fifth of the thousand RFI employees, resulting from the decision to eliminate RFI services in German, Albanian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, and Laotian. See previous post about same subject.

Competition for the Arab broadcast audience: Radio Bari to the present.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
According to a lecture by Dr Adel Iskander, a Canadian scholar of the Middle East media: "When broadcasting began in the 1920s around the world, the first attempt at intercultural, multi-linguistic communication started with the establishment of Radio Bari in Fascist Italy, which built a significant following among those who had access to electronic communication (via shortwave radio), in those days. Radio Bari, he said, was the first ever to broadcast in the Arabic language... From the mid 1960s until the early 90s ... was the time when the Voice of America became a significant player with the Voice of Monte Carlo another major player among the various other broadcasters that serviced the region. ... The 1990s, according to him, became a major turning point — almost a revolutionary renaissance, in Arab broadcasting partly because of the increase in investments in satellite programming, that saw the rise of MBC, Nilesat and other Egyptian satellite channels, and the growing competition between various political polarities in the Arab world led to a competition for audiences, content and dominion." Arab Times (Kuwait City), 3 March 2009.

Assessing the international channels' coverage of the Bashir indictment.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Many in the West may be surprised to learn that Al Jazeera was the first international television broadcaster to break the Darfur story back in 2003 -- an explosive scoop that got the Qatari-based station booted from Sudan for a time. They got back in, and they currently have a correspondent in Darfur, but their coverage is now toned down and not victim-focused. But Arabic channels were not the only ones who forgot the victims yesterday. Following the ICC press conference, BBC World TV incomprehensibly had as one of its first studio guests a Western mouthpiece for the Khartoum regime, moaning about how this was white-man's justice etc. ... In general, however, the English-language media, including the BBC, have been reasonably good on the ICC indictment, with the announcement interrupting normal programming or the issue taking top billing with lots of print articles in the run-up to yesterday. Al Jazeera English ran with the press conference from The Hague for quite a long time, including into the journalists' question period, which was useful, I think, but even more so was their time chart on Darfur on the studio back wall, which gave a great overview of the long-running conflict. Most importantly, the Western media mostly put the victims first, which is what journalism should always keep front and centre in these matters. It was a stark contrast with the Arabic-language channels, which portrayed Bashir as the victim in all this." Andrew Stroehlein, AlertNet, 5 March 2009.

"Mosaic" provides Americans with otherwise unavailable Middle East coverage.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"To San Francisco-based Middle Eastern media watcher Jalal Ghazi and other analysts, few Americans saw as many of the devastating images from Gaza as the rest of the world did. Ghazi did. He is an associate producer for 'Mosaic,' a Peabody Award-winning daily aggregation of Middle Eastern news programs produced by San Francisco's Link TV. 'Mosaic' culls broadcasts from 36 stations in 22 countries in the region. ... Link TV is available on Channel 375 on DirecTV satellite TV service and on Channel 9410 on Dish Network. ... 'Mosaic' is available online at www.linktv.org/mosaic." San Francisco Chronicle, 4 March 2009.

Al-Jazeera for sports fans (updated).

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"No one is hoping the network al-Jazeera hits the Canadian airwaves this fall more than sports reporter Brendan Connor, if only so family and friends can see him at work. Connor, a Queen's University [Kingston, Ontario] grad who got his start in local radio and who came back to spend his summers in Kingston even after getting jobs in the Toronto market, has been with al-Jazeera's English language service since 2006. He travels the Americas as a sports reporter for the network, but his reports, as well as the rest of the 24-hour channel, can now only be seen online in North America. ... 'I can hear the eyebrows go up over the phone when I say "I'm Brendan Connor from al-Jazeera English," and can I have credentials for your event?'" Kingston Whig-Standard, 2 March 2009.
     Update: "'The value of the CRTC process is that it will allow us and our supporters, as well as our critics and Canadians in general, to discuss this in a kind of thoughtful and informed way,' [Al Jazeera English MD Tony] Burman said. 'We are confident that once that happens, people will say there's absolutely no reason, in the 21st century, why Canada has to be one of the few countries in the world that denies Canadians the right to decide whether or not they want to watch this channel.'" Embassy, 4 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

AEI calls for several more radio stations in addition to the several already broadcasting to North Korea.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"It is only a slight exaggeration to say that Eastern European Communism was brought down by shortwave radio, which delivered citizens of the Soviet bloc a regular serving of the truth. Radios remain quite uncommon in North Korea, where they are still illegal, but in recent years, their numbers have grown rapidly. The United States, Japan, and South Korea should collaborate to create more programs and more radio stations presenting a variety of viewpoints. Every time a North Korean switches on his smuggled radio, there should be several programs to choose from, all explaining life as it is outside North Korea's state fantasies. Radio stations are especially useful for shaping future North Korean elites, like educators and journalists." Andrei Lankov, American Enterprise Institute, 3 March 2009. If Eastern Europe Communism was brought down by shortwave radio, it took shortwave radio 45 years to do so. Radios are not illegal in North Korea, although tunable radios are (except to a privileged few). The United States already broadcasts ten hours per day in Korean (five each for VOA and RFA), NHK almost three hours a day, and there are a number of exile stations. The only thing missing is a BBC Korean Service. It is a typical Washington thinktankism to think of international radio as "shaping" rather than informing.

Zambia invests in domestic shortwave.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
The Zambian government last year purchased two new shortwave antennas for the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation-ZNBC "which will enable the national broadcaster transmit better radio signal across the country." ZNBC.co.zm, 4 March 2009. So, one country that is still using shortwave to reach remote areas of its own territory. See previous post about same subject.

Polskie Radio via DRM digital shortwave.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"German transmission-services provider Media Broadcast has begun transmitting digital shortwave broadcasts for the external service of Polish public broadcaster Polskie Radio using the Digital Radio Mondiale standard. 'The introduction of DRM is considered a renaissance for shortwave radio,' Media Broadcast said in the announcement. 'The Polskie Radio broadcasts can be heard with DRM throughout Europe in considerably better sound quality.' A member of the TDF Group, which operates transmission facilities and networks across Europe, Media Broadcast launched the service in December. An English-language program is broadcast on 6015 kHz from 6 p.m. to 6:59 p.m. UTC; a German program is broadcast on 3975 kHz from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. UTC." Radio World, 5 March 2009. See also Media Broadcast press release, 4 March 2009.
     DRM as renaissance for shortwave? We'll see. There is still no widely available standalone DRM receiver. However, I have been listening to DRM shortwave the past few days using an RFSpace SDRIQ sofware-defined black box receiver, attached to an old laptop computer with an extra soundcard. Although few DRM transmissions are audible in North America, I did enjoy 100% audio copy from Radio New Zealand International, all the way from New Zealand (i.e. no relay), on 4 March, 1100-1200 UTC, 9870 kHz. Pacific news headlines on the text display, too. We'll be displaying the US-made RFSpace SDRIQ at the Winter SWL Fest, 13 and 14 March.

More satellite services bringing international channels to Africa.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"While South Africa-based MultiChoice and its DSTV service remains the dominant pay-TV platform in sub-Saharan Africa, numbering 700,000 subscribers in the region, Nigerian newcomer Hi-TV had managed to grow its subscriber base to some 200,000 by the end of last year. Screen Digest estimates MultiChoice's subs at 205,000 in Nigeria.... Such is the size of the Nigerian TV market, a third pay-TV satellite platform has recently emerged: DaarSat. Launched in the fourth quarter of last year, DaarSat is operated by Daar Communications and carries channels including Al-Jazeera News, MTV Base, Fox Entertainment, EuroSport, Nickelodeon, KidsCo, Nat Geo Music, BBC World, CNBC Africa and Setana Sports." C21Media.net, 6 March 2009.

Pakistan's media environment since 2001.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"On post–9/11 annual visits home, I witnessed Pakistan’s rapid economic transformation. Independent television channels, private radio stations, newspapers, and magazines sprang up like mosquitoes after the monsoon. What in the mid–’90s had been my monthly salary as a features editor in a national newspaper, magazines now casually offered me for a single article. When I drove past the slums of Lahore, I saw rows of gleaming satellite dishes. Everyone tuned into CNN, Sky, Al Jazeera, and the BBC, in addition to Pakistani channels—Geo, Aaj, Dawn. There were Internet cafés at every corner. Shops were full of the latest goodies—iPods, mobile phones, laptops, home theaters—and thronged with customers. But other developments shadowed the new prosperity. Alongside reruns of Baywatch on PrimeTV, programs extolled the virtues of jihad. Maulana Fazlullah, a hard–line cleric in the northern territory of Swat, recruited jihadis openly through his three radio stations." Moni Mohsin, Boston Review, March/April 2009.

HCJB reaches one million Arab households.

Posted: 06 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Recent research shows HCJB Global, an international media and healthcare ministry, is now reaching more than 1 million Arab households weekly across the North Africa/Middle East region via radio broadcasts through its strategic media outreach. The research was conducted by Intermedia (www.intermedia.org), an international media research organization." Undated HCJB press release. See also HCJB Arab FAQ.
     "HCJB Global will be challenging the households of America and the world to pray for unreached households and to give $1 to reach one household in the Arab world for one year." HCJB press release, 9 February 2009.

New Russian radio stations could compete with international stations.

Posted: 05 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Billionaire Alexander Lebedev announced his intention to set up two new Russian radio stations – one of which would broadcast in English. They would offer talk-based, 'public-service' style programs and be self consciously uninterested in chasing a profit. ... Lebedev’s comments (and they are so far little more than that—his press service declined to comment on the remarks) come months after the BBC Russian service came under fire from British Russia watchers for scaling back its broadcasts in favor of its Internet service. Is it possible that this new station could represent a resurgence of public service broadcasting? It will enter a market already dominated by Radio Svoboda [RFE/RL, on medium wave in Moscow], funded by the U.S. Congress, and Echo of Moscow, the outspoken opposition station that is funded by advertising, but is majority owned by Gazprom. ... But could it compete with Echo of Moscow or Radio Svoboda, the two analytical stations that tend to compete for the audience that is Moscow’s intelligentsia?" Roland Oliphant, RussiaProfile.org, 4 March 2009.

Yes, come to think of it, American culture is just an X-Life Game™.

Posted: 05 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
MetroStar Sytems' "latest endeavor, X-Life Games™, harnesses the power of mobile gaming to demystify the United States to an international audience, specifically Middle East, Persian Gulf, and Arab youth. His path-breaking mobile application is reinventing public diplomacy, using an emerging new media platform to engage the minds of foreign audiences by educating them about the realities of American culture." Maktoob Business, 5 March 2009.

Now an XM twist to the Worldspace bankruptcy.

Posted: 05 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Worldspace’s managers, still drawing down millions of dollars each month as ‘Debtors in Possession’ during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, have managed to upset a major client in the shape of XM Satellite Radio. While Sirius now owns XM, there are still XM legal contracts in existence, one of which is with Worldspace. ... XM alleges that Worldspace is now in material default for no longer providing these 4 channels. Moreover, Worldspace didn’t seemingly have the courtesy of informing XM that the 4 stations would be going dark. They just vanished from the air at midnight on Feb 6." Chris Forrester, Rapid TV News, 4 March 2009. The four channels are, or were, UPOP, WorldZone, Ngoma [no longer listed at the Worldspace website], and The System, according to kgore, XMFan.com, 8 February 2009.
     "On March 4 New Satellite Radio presented a last-ditch motion to persuade the Delaware Bankruptcy Court to permit NSR to examine 'and conduct Due Diligence' on the winning bidder, and BEFORE the formal sale is approved by the court. NSR is/was the partner of Worldpace’s European operation, and is alleging that Worldspace is selling assets that it does not own." Rapid TV News, 5 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Euronews adds Turkish (updated).

Posted: 05 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Euronews and TRT have signed an agreement paving the way for the launch of a Turkish language version of Euronews in January 2010. The service will be produced at the Euronews headquarters in Lyon and be made available to all 17 million+ TV households in Turkey. It will include local ad windows for the Turkish market and be introduced onto euronews.net, which already carries eight existing language versions of Euronews." Broadband TV News, 2 March 2009.
     Update: "Euronews’ Turkish-language version is the ninth version on air over greater Europe. From the launch date, the news channel will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on Euronews' satellite network all over the world to more than 253m households in 142 countries. Euronews will commercialize the new version to Turkish-speaking people around the world, particularly in neighbouring countries of Turkey: North of Cyprus, Caucasus and Central Asia, and also to Turkish communities in Europe especially in Germany." Rapid TV News, 3 March 2009.
     "'We fight against the monopoly of the English language and of the Anglo-Saxon vision of the world. We are the only true counterbalance of this Anglo-Saxon vision of the world. And I think the Turks will appreciate this, because for the time being, they don't have such a counterbalance,' [Philippe Cayla, president of the executive board of Euronews] stated. As for his evaluation of the services launched most recently (Russian and Arabic), Cayla said that for Russia the impact is excellent, in Moscow and in the Russian-speaking world, and it has been measured since 1999. The Arabic service was only launched in July 2008 and there are no reliable impact assessments available yet. However, there has been one such assessment made in Lebanon, showing that Euronews is ahead of its competitors CNN and BBC World. 'We were behind Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, but we cannot really compete with those channels, which are so deeply anchored in the Arab world,' said Cayla. He made no secret of the fact that Euronews has more ambitions for other language services. 'It's perhaps too early to be specific, but we have projects for new European and extra-European languages.'" EurActiv.com, 4 March 2009.

Not many plays about international broadcasting.

Posted: 03 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Review of Isfahan Calling: "This tense, engrossing play by Philip de Gouveia shines a light on the murky world of psychological warfare. It raises pointed questions about America’s use of rogue radio stations to beam propaganda and false reports to Middle-Eastern countries during the Global Terrorism age. Gouveia, an investigative reporter who worked as a BBC World Service foreign correspondent, obviously has direct experience of these strategies and Isfahan Calling enjoys the ring of authenticity until it is spoiled by a climactic lurch into an unbelievable frenzy of melodrama." Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard, 27 February 2009. See also Old Red Lion website.

Human Terrain, and bureaucratic terrain.

Posted: 03 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Major Ben Connable ... thinks the Human Terrain approach -- employing civilian social scientists as commanders' cultural advisors -- is all wrong, and that most of the assumptions behind the program are 'broadly inaccurate.' ... Connable isn't exactly a disinterested observer, however. He's a 'Foreign Area Officer,' or FAO. They're the troops who are supposed to their 'linguistic, historical, and cultural knowledge about particular regions' to aid commanders. Which makes the Human Terrain program his bureaucratic nemesis. Much of Connable's article reads like a cry for the Pentagon to provide more cash to FAOs, rather than the competing social science project." Noah Shachtman, Wired Danger Room, 2 March 2009.

Africa: good news, bad news, no news.

Posted: 03 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"From the outset, it is important to acknowledge that Africa does not only receive negative press. One only has to watch CNN's Inside Africa or read the Washington Post to see positive stories emerging from the Dark Continent. ... However, research by Media Tenor between April 2007 and March 2008 indicated that Africa receives very little coverage from the international media, and the little that it does is predominantly negative, with Africa receiving the worst overall rating of positive stories versus negative stories of all the continents. The research also found that Arab and French TV channels broadcast the highest number of reports on Africa. Unites States channels, perhaps unsurprisingly, are at the bottom of the list, showing the least interest in Africa." Ian Macdonald, South Africa: The Good News, 2 March 2009.

New CNN programs and expanded news coverage for Africa.

Posted: 03 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
From CNN statement: "CNN International demonstrates its continuing commitment to Africa with the launch in March of brand-new weekly programming dedicated to showcasing the continent`s cultural, sporting, and business highlights. The programmes, 'African Voices' and 'Africa Inc' will respectively focus on engaging African personalities and vibrant business stories and will serve together with the popular 'Inside Africa' strand to give increased prominence to Africa in all its diversity. The new programming complements the existing news, economic, political and social output which itself has increased notably since the network expanded its news gathering presence in Johannesburg, Kenya and Lagos a year ago. Further expansion and investment is planned to support existing Johannesburg bureau staff in the coming months." The Guardian (Dar es Salaam), 3 March 2009. See also ScreenAfrica.com, 2 March 2009. And CNN website.

Thirty years of Muryar Amurka (VOA Hausa).

Posted: 03 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Hausa Service of the Voice of America (Muryar Amurka) recently marked its 30th anniversary amidst a massive recognition that once more highlights the tremendous role the station plays in the provision of information to the fast growing Hausa-speaking people of Africa. ... We also find it necessary to add our voice to the call for an increase of the airtime used by Muryar Amurka from 30 minutes to 45 minutes or even one hour." Daily Triumph (Kano), 2 March 2009. Actually, VOA Hausa transmits two hours a day on shortwave, according to this schedule, although there might be some repeats. See also VOA press release, 29 January 2009.

Zimbabwean rights activist freed; VOA connection.

Posted: 03 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Jestina Mukoko, Zimbabwe's top human rights activist, was released from custody Monday, she announced. Mukoko heads the Zimbabwe Peace Project. Kidnappers who it was later revealed were state agents abducted her December 3 from her home in Norton, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Harare. ... She said [assaults on her] began after she denied ever working for the Voice of America, a broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government. Mukoko worked for the Voice of the People, a radio station that broadcasts into Zimbabwe from abroad." CNN International, 2 March 2009. See previous post about same subject.

VOA report differs from others about Chinese officials' meetings with church leaders.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America released [a] report on January 28, 2009 regarding the December 2008 meeting between Beijing house church leaders and government officials. While many news sources have reported that these meetings indicate a change of attitude by the Chinese government, Voice of America sources, along with ChinaAid contacts, have emphasized the meetings were not actually arranged by government officials." Christian Newswire, 26 February 2009, with said VOA report translated from Chinese. See also The Christian Post, 1 March 2009. Christian Newswire also translates from Chinese a Radio Free Asia report about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to China. Christian Newswire, 26 February 2009.

War of words: free publicity for the competitor?

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
On the strengths and weaknesses of a "war of words": "Firstly, the more you talk about a competitor’s brand, the more attention it is going to receive — either giving it free publicity or indirectly lending weight to a competitor’s claims. This does not suggest that one should ignore potentially dangerous expressions found on the media to avoid endorsing the groups propagating such thoughts. Rather, it is a reminder that a war of words may not reap any positive returns. It either reinforces an extremist view or the narratives could be lost in the information jungle. Moreover, such discourses usually do not engage the audience, who are the true consumers of information. The consumers still hold the decision to believe or to reject a thought." Ng Sue Chia, Todayonline.com (Singapore), 2 March 2009.

A strategy for the counterrationalization of US international broadcasting.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
From the task force report, "Rewriting the Narrative: An Integrated Strategy for Counterradicalization": "Reorient the [Broadcasting Board of Governors] for strategic communication. International broadcasting is an essential element of U.S. efforts, already consuming more than half of the public diplomacy budget. It is essential that BBG members commit their media outlets to this goal. Therefore, policy considerations, emphasizing a commitment to and appreciation of counterradicalization, should drive the decision making in filling vacancies in the BBG. With so many vacancies, there is an opportunity to create a BBG of outstanding Americans committed to the spread of enlightened values. At the height of the Cold War, for example, Ronald Reagan infused international broadcasting with a sense of national purpose and strategic mission. Today, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton should seek to endow the board with a comparable stature. The result will be U.S. international broadcasting to Arab and Muslim societies that reaches over governments to give voice to the peoples of this region and to build — through satellites and radio waves — a network of human connections between them and their American partners in the effort against radical extremism. With proper leadership, mission, oversight, resources, and personnel, America’s broadcasting outlets to Arab and Muslim societies can be a powerful tool in this undertaking." Washington Institute for Near East Policy, March 2009.
     It looks they want a full-time U.S. public diplomacy informercial channel. How would that compete with Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and BBC?
     It takes an intellectual leap, but one of only about six inches, to understand the communication process of international broadcasting. Audiences seek news that is more reliable than that from their state controlled domestic media. Because credibility is key, the governments that fund international broadcasting outlets must give them the independence to pursue their journalistic missions. Stategically steering content for the "spread of enlightened values" will relieve US international broadcasting of the burden of having an audience.
     See "Air of truth," New York Times, 4 June 2007 and "Is There an Audience for Public Diplomacy?" New York Times, 16 November 2002.

Zimbabwe's achieves pluralism in exile broadcasting.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"A new radio station, Zimbabwe Community Radio will start broadcasting today joining several privately owned stations forced to transmit their programmes from overseas because of the country’s prohibitive licencing regulations. The station run by Zimbabweans will initially broadcast for an hour everyday from the United Arab Emirates on short wave, 5935 [kHz]. It is expected to add impetus to calls for the new government to prioritise the opening up of the airwaves monopolised by the grossly under funded and inefficient Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). ... Zimbabwe has four-licensed radio stations all state owned and subsidiaries of ZBC. But a number of radio stations have been operating from Western countries after the government banned Capital Radio, which began broadcasting after it successfully challenged the ZBC Act. Some of the prominent stations include Short Wave (SW) Radio based in London, VOP Radio Africa operating from South Africa and Voice of America’s Studio 7, which are run by Zimbabwe’s exiled journalists." Zimbabwe Standard (Harare), 28 February 2009. "The broadcasts were scheduled to begin on shortwave 5935 KHZ on 1 March 2009 but experienced technical hitches necessitating a switch to 5995 KHz on 29 March 2009." Undated press release, Media Institute of Southern Africa. There are shortwave transmitters for hire in the UAE. It is unclear where the studions are. I have not been able to find a website for this new station.

Sudan expels France 24 reporter.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Sudanese government on Sunday expelled a foreign correspondent who had been covering the civil war in Darfur ahead of an expected decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on whether to pursue legal proceedings against the president. Zuhir Latif, a Tunisian who worked for the Arabic service of France 24 television as well as the pan-Arabic daily Al-Hayat, was detained on Friday. 'He was expelled this evening,' a senior Sudanese official told AFP." AFP, 1 March 2009.

US journalist in Iran accused of gathering news "illegally."

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Iran said on Monday that a freelance US journalist with Iranian nationality who is reportedly being detained in the Islamic republic has been gathering news 'illegally.' Foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi did not confirm or deny whether Roxana Saberi, 31, was being detained by the Iranian authorities, but said her activities were 'illegal'. US-based National Public Radio and Fox News, citing Saberi's father, reported last week that the US-born journalist was arrested in late January on charges of buying alcohol, which is prohibited in the Islamic republic. ... The journalist, a former Miss North Dakota, is a US national who also holds an Iranian passport because her father was born in Iran. Saberi, who has reported for NPR, BBC and Fox News, has been living in Iran for six years, both working as a journalist and pursuing a master's degree in Iranian studies and international relations." AFP, 2 March 2009.

BBC and Zeesen: international radio rivals of 1939.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"By night and day, with scarcely a break throughout the 24 hours, the German short-wave station at Zeesen – said to have cost £1,000,000 – is pumping out programmes to the world, with announcements and news in English, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and, of course, German. The scale of its ceaseless activity is matched only by Daventry, the BBC Empire station, with the difference that the BBC uses English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Italian and French. Today many countries speak to other nations through broadcasting – Italy, for instance, uses 20 different languages – but Britain and Germany have superior facilities and reach the widest audience. ... Zeesen is much more intimate and personal in its methods than the B.B.C. and it may be that the British programme-makers could learn something on this score. Overseas listeners are encouraged to write to Zeesen; their letters are quoted, their names mentioned, and their questions are answered at the microphone. American towns have special programmes dedicated to them." L. Marsland Gander, Daily Telegraph, 2 March 1939, reprinted in The Telegraph, 2 March 2009.

BBC Arabic: "We do not have views, we report views."

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Hosam El Sokkari, head of BBC Arabic services, is asked, "How does the channel distinguish itself from the competition?" El Sokkari: "We are not just a TV channel; we are a multimedia operation that includes radio, online and television. Audiences are served on a free platform, and we offer complementary services that you won’t find on one single platform. One of our key differentiators is that we don’t consider ourselves as party to the events; we do not make the news. We do not have views, we report views. Our success lies in our ability to take a distance and make it possible for various parties to express themselves the way they want, and in our ability to bring detailed facts and comprehensive views." Kipp Report, 2 March 2009.

Nigel Chapman looks back at his BBCWS tenure.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Nigel Chapman, who last week departed as director of BBC World Service, "seems irritated by those who remind him that the World Service is a precious vase to be protected. Chapman thinks of it as something more organic. 'I've always believed in the end that you've got limited resources and have to examine the effectiveness of everything and be prepared to change quite radically,' he argues. ... In the Middle East, the BBC was being out-punched by Arab language television news. 'How can we compete for attention in the Middle East without a satellite television news service? If we didn't have one we'd just be batting on with radio and new media, how could you compete with Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah in that way? You can't.'" Ian Burrell, The Independent, 2 March 2009.

Introducing chat to the broadcast studio.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"More and more, Livestation’s partner broadcasters began to realise that here was a new audience consuming news in a new way and demanding a say in how that news was analysed and presented. One partner in particular, Al Jazeera English, grabbed this opportunity by the horns and used the Live Chat to enlist the audience in the programme production, placing producers in the chat room to stimulate debate, sift through the comments and use the most interesting in the live output." Matteo Berlucchi, CEO of Livestation, New Europe, 1 March 2009.

Blogs versus traditional media.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"What separates blogs from traditional media? The answer to this is, sadly, the historically-established branding, and I write sadly, because this, as I mentioned above, is dissolving. So eventually it will be nothing but a label. If a blog says – 'Internet newspaper,' it will be perceived as such. What it always will come down to is traffic, and with the interaction and social networking element of blogs and other social media available, traditional media face a tough future." Alexandros Koronakis, New Europe, 1 March 2009.

"Me media" versus official reports.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
BBC presenter Nik Gowing paraphrased: "With ordinary citizens filming sometimes controversial occurrences - for example demonstrations in Chinese-occupied Tibet - it has highlighted inaccuracies in governmental information released to the world press. While this sometimes causes problems for governments and organisations, it can also spur further investigation in specific incidents, which can eventually result in official reports being redone or amended." Gulf News, 1 March 2009.

VOA interview with Hillary Clinton widely cited by other news media.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Egypt on her first visit to the Middle East since President Barack Obama took office in January, is reportedly carrying a cheque for $900 million. ... 'I will be announcing a commitment to a significant aid package, but it will only be spent if we determine that our goals can be furthered rather than undermined or subverted,' she told Voice of America radio." AFP, 2 March 2009. This interview with Secretary Clinton is cited by many news organizations. See VOA News, 27 February 2009. And transcript, State Department, 27 February 2009.

Recurring theme: VOA jazz memories (updated).

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
Russian jazz musician Igor Butman: "His father introduced him to classic, American jazz, much of it taped recordings made from smuggled albums. Radio broadcasts from 'Voice of America' were another source of American jazz." Seattle Times, 18 February 2009. Butman "listened to jazz on Voice of America radio late at night. His American musical heroes included great sax men Cannonball Adderly, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane." Cleveland Scene, 11 March 2009 issue.
     Jazz drummer Louie Bellson: "I went over with Pearl [Bailey, his wife] and played the American embassies in Moscow and Leningrad, and they just loved it. You know, music knows no barriers. They asked if we would play with these Russians, and we said sure. They were just marvelous musicians. And I asked, 'How did you learn this music?' They told me they'd picked it up listening to Willis Conover on the Voice of America. These players were absolutely fantastic." Los Angeles Times, 23 August 1991, reprinted in the LA Times The Daily Mirror blog, 17 February 2009 to mark Bellson's recent death.
     "The very existence of Soviet jazz, of artists who could play or write it, was virtually unknown outside the USSR until 1959. That was the year when two intrepid Americans named Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff, in the guise of Yale choral group members, entered the Soviet Union and let it be bruited around that they were really jazz musicians. The resultant impromptu concerts led them to discover that a cadre of young musicians existed whose interest in the American jazz world, bolstered by Voice of America broadcasts, was as deep and intense as their feeling for the music." Leonard Feather liner notes to The Victor Feldman All-Stars Play Soviet Jazz Themes (1963), via Steven Cerra, All About Jazz, 17 February 2009.
     Update: "As a child in Odessa, Ukraine, Tamara Georgievna Swanger listened to American jazz broadcasts on Voice of America. But, as she told fellow immigrants gathered at a naturalization ceremony Friday, her love affair with America was dangerous." PNJ.com, 28 February 2009.
     "Leon 'Swoop' West ... didn’t remember the late night back in September of 1952, when a group of Howard University [Washington DC] freshmen were in his room at Cooke Hall Dormitory. It was during 'Freshmen Week' at Howard and we were listening to the ever-popular disc jockey Willis Conover. Conover was broadcasting on the Voice of America during his jazz program called: Voice of America Music U.S.A. Conover was a legend amongst jazz lovers primarily due to the hour-long program. In those days, all of my friends were into jazz and familiar with Conover. Sadly, he passed away in 1996 after more than 40 years of broadcasting jazz. Anyway, on that night, Conover played a Count Basie tune with Louis Bellson out front on drums. It was the very first time that we had ever heard Bellson play, and he was simply magnificent." Rick Gee, The Weekly Challenger, 28 February 2009. Conover did not come to VOA until later in the 1950s, so they must have been listening to one of his programs on a US domestic radio station.

International broadcasters cover the Bangladesh mutiny.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America’s (VOA) Bangla Service actively covered the mutiny of the Bangladesh Rifles border guards this week, providing listeners with news, information and interviews with experts on the tense situation. ... Among others, the service interviewed retired Major General Muniruzzaman, Director of the Institute of Defense and Security; retired Major General Ibrahim, a military analyst and several leaders of the border guards." VOA press release, 28 February 2009. See also VOA Bangla website. আন্তর্জাতিক সহায়তা চেয়েছেন প্রধানমন্ত্রী. BBC Bangla website, 1 March 2009.
     "The BBC's Mark Dummett, in Dhaka, says the fugitive border guards can expect little mercy from the army, which has now been ordered to fan out across Bangladesh to apprehend them." BBC News, 2 March 2009. "Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque reports from Dhaka." Undated AJE video report. See also VOA News, 1 March 2009. And CNN News, 1 March 2009.

"Iranians are not cut off, like Cubans or North Koreans."

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"Most of Iran's population is under 30; it's an Internet-connected generation. Access to satellite television is widespread. The BBC's new Farsi service is all the rage. Abdullah Momeni, a student opponent of the regime, told me, 'The Internet is very important to us, in fact it is of infinite importance.' Iranians are not cut off, like Cubans or North Koreans." Roger Cohen, International Herald Tribune, 1 March 2009.

TWR to UK via Freesat, to Russia via MW.

Posted: 02 Mar 2009   Print   Send a link
"International Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) has launched a UK-wide Freesat service to allow listeners to tune in to programmes 24 hours a day without having to pay a subscription." Inspire Magazine, 28 February 2009.
     TWR is raising money to increase the power of a medium wave transmitter in Estonia "from 100,000 to 200,000 watts [to] allow TWR programming to reach a potential of 159 million spiritually needy people in Russia. In 2008, TWR broadcasts on two large Russian nationwide networks were terminated, ending Christian radio programming for large areas in Russia. ...the current signal strength is too weak to penetrate the large cities in Russia. Once the upgrade occurs, a strong signal will penetrate places like Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg and Minsk." TWR press release, undated February 2009.
     Lauren Libby is commissioned new president of TWR, promising to "continue leveraging innovative technology to advance the gospel message." TWR press release, 16 February 2009.

Chronicling the decline of shortwave with "sadness but not bitterness."

Posted: 28 Feb 2009   Print   Send a link
Review of Jerome S. Berg, Broadcasting on the Short Waves 1945 to Today: "I was pleased to see, at the end of the book, a chapter called 'The Changing Shortwave Environment,' which puts all the events of recent years into context, explaining how the end of the Cold War and the emergence of new technology have lessened the need for shortwave broadcasting to some regions. In my experience, too many shortwave listening hobbyists have put themselves inside a timewarp, in which these external factors are not recognised, and any reductions in shortwave usage by international broadcasters are given a hostile reception, with no regard for how the decision fits into the bigger picture. It was reassuring to see the situation so eloquently described by Jerry Berg, with a degree of sadness but not bitterness." Andy Sennitt, Radio Netherlands, 27 February 2009. See previous post about same subject.

Radio Netherlands' Shout with Short Wave to Zimbabwe.

Posted: 28 Feb 2009   Print   Send a link
"You've read about the crisis in Zimbabwe - now send your message to the country. ... And this week we will bring you a series of special programmes on Zimbabwe and you can have your say too. Send us your messages by SMS or via the reaction form at the bottom of this page, include a phone number and you may get to be in the live Newsline Shout with Short Wave special on 6 March. Your messages will also appear online." Radio Netherlands, 27 February 2009.

RFI informs the Gabonaise about their leader.

Posted: 28 Feb 2009   Print   Send a link
"News that a judge in France froze the private bank accounts of Gabon's President Omar Bongo was all over the international media but barely a word appeared in the national press. I have spoken with several independent journalists in Gabon since France-based daily Sud Ouest detailed a ruling freezing 4.2 million Euros (US$5.3 million) of assets belonging to Africa's longest-serving leader. They told me the unprecedented ruling, the outcome of a court case between a French businessman and Bongo, reached the capital Libreville through Radio France Internationale." Mohamed Keita, Committee to Protect Journalists blogs, 27 February 2009.