Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost – The Gifting Continues – BBG Press Releases October 2012


Broadcasting Board of Governors – Information War Lost – The Gifting Continues – BBG Press Releases October 2012
by The Federalist

We offer commentary on Broadcasting Board of Governors/International Broadcasting Bureau (BBG/IBB) press releases in October 2012:

In Indonesia, TV Still Rules, But Mobile, Internet Are On The Rise (October 16, 2012).”

According to the BBG – and its polling partner – the Gallup organization,

“The new data shows that use of mobile phones continues to rise, with more than eight in 10 Indonesians (81.0%) now saying they have a mobile phone in their household, up from two-thirds (67%) in 2011. Half of Indonesians (49.8%) now say they use SMS/text messages at least once a week to get news.”

The press release goes on to say,

“Any communications strategy for Indonesia has to take into account the large and growing role of social media, especially among the young,” said William Bell, Research Director at the International Broadcasting Bureau.

“The findings show that about one in five Indonesians (20.6%) used the Internet in the past week. Almost all past-week Internet users (96.2%) say they used social networking services in the past seven days. The upward shift in Internet access across Indonesia – driven largely by mobile – is national in nature, and not just confined to more affluent urban areas.”

Analyzing BBG press releases means looking beyond what they say. Clearly, the BBG/IBB doesn’t realize what a gold mine of information these press releases are for those who see the weaknesses in the agency’s “flim flam strategic flam.”

For example:

What would be of more interest to us would be: who do the Indonesian people rely upon for news content, regardless of the media platform. Is it their own domestic media or foreign media? And, do they even want BBG/IBB program content on these devices?

You have to believe that if it was the Voice of America (VOA) Indonesian Service as the go-to news source, the agency would be SCREAMING from the roof of the Cohen Building. But that’s not evident here.

We think we have the answer:

Early-on in the 21st century, the Indonesian government took the lead in developing law that forbids or limits the dissemination of news broadcasts by foreign broadcasters, including VOA.

We know that this is a problem for the service because the VOA Indonesian service chief decided to be critical of these laws when a delegation of Indonesians visited the service in DC. That didn’t go over too well either with the delegation or Indonesian lawmakers back home. As one lawmaker pointed out, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) plays by the regulations, why not VOA? The answer for the folks back in Indonesia may well be that VOA officials have that magic combination of misguided self-confidence and strong-arm tactics. The VOA Indonesian Service chief overplayed his hand. Lucky for him, it doesn’t make big news here. But it does in Indonesia.

We already know that VOA Indonesian program content going into Indonesia is subject to “editing,” (as in, censorship). If an Indonesian television station doesn’t like the content of a VOA Indonesian Service piece or if station managers feel the piece will get them in hot water with the government, the stuff goes nowhere. That leaves the agency producing “puff pieces,” as in lifestyle features and the like which are then inserted into domestic Indonesia media programs.

More than likely, the same holds true if the agency were to attempt to place its news content on mobile devices or the Internet. More than likely it is going to be blocked, by the government or the local service provider (with the government looking over its shoulder).

And then there is the pitch regarding “social media.”

The game that is being played here is the agency intimating that it should be heavier into the business of social media – and no doubt laying the groundwork for suggesting as much to the Congress.

Message to our friends in Congress -

The American taxpayer should not foot the bill for the agency’s attempt to turn itself into a social media website. If the agency wants to engage in frivolous online chit-chat and take itself offline from the VOA Charter, it can go it its own way without American taxpayer funding and try to dig up private funding as a private enterprise. The American taxpayer pays for what is embodied in the VOA Charter and it is the Charter that serves the US national and public interest.

If the agency isn’t delivering the goods as far as news and information is concerned and isn’t explaining US Government policies to foreign publics, it should no longer by funded by taxpayer revenue.

Syria – Again

The BBG followed the above-referenced press release with one dated October 19, 2012: “US, European Broadcasters Condemn Jamming From Syria.”

Here, the BBG alleges that satellite transmissions of international broadcasters intended for Syria are being jammed from within the country. It wouldn’t surprise us if this were happening. And it wouldn’t surprise us if the Iranians are aiding the Assad government in this effort, since they have expertise to do so and do it themselves in Iran.

We are well acquainted with the BBG/IBB tendency to ignore objective reality and its attempt to create its own alternative world view. Here, the BBG/IBB ignores the obvious: Syria is in the midst of an all-out, no-holds-barred sectarian civil war. Both the Assad regime and the various insurgent groups have been cited for war crimes. Fighting in places like the Syrian city of Aleppo resembles that of Stalingrad and other major European cities during World War Two: it is turning a major urban environment into rubble. The fighting is building-by-building, street-by-street, with the Syrian government using heavy artillery and airstrikes, in addition to ground troops backed by armor.

Seemingly, the “brain trust” of the IBB thinks that it should have unfettered access to the Syrian people. Guess what?

It isn’t going to happen. The last thing the Assad government would be willing to do is have external broadcasters give vent to their opinions regarding the conflict.

Let’s be clear: we are not taking sides. There is plenty to find abhorrent by the conduct of the Assad regime and also by the insurgents, which include jihadist elements perhaps linked to al-Qaeda. It’s a bad situation all the way around.

On October 28, 2012 the BBG issued a press release (“Photo of Cameraman Surfaces: BBG Renews its Call for the Release of Bashar Fahmi and Cuneyt Unal”) including a picture of Cuneyt Unal, the Turkish cameraman who went missing along with al-Hurra correspondent Bashar Fahmi.

The photograph was produced by a Turkish humanitarian organization. The photograph is undated. There was no indication of contact being made with Unal.

The BBG renewed its call on the Syrian government to produce information regarding its al-Hurra employees. To date, the Syrian government hasn’t come forward with information regarding either individual. For now, as we have suggested previously, it is likely that the best course of action remains with third parties, such as the Turkish humanitarian organization that produced the photograph. They may have more leverage and credibility than the BBG – and we hope so, for the sake of the missing al-Hurra employees. The best thing the BBG can do is drop down below the radar and let these other groups do their work.

The Big Picture

In all the BBG self-serving chatter about alternative media, there is an important missing ingredient. Its absence is intentional.

The BBG/IBB, with their “flim flam strategic plan,” has created a major strategic vulnerability for the US Government. They have abandoned the basic, fundamental means of delivering news and information to global publics:

Radio – shortwave radio in particular.

The BBG/IBB has gone for the “glitz.” They want to move away from radio (which by its nature, is optimized to deliver broadcasts with the largest communications footprint over a ranging land mass) in favor of television and the Internet.

From an “inside the USA” perspective, this seems logical.

It is not logical when the perspective becomes global and moves in the direction of strategic communication.

The reason being that delivering BBG program content via both television and the Internet to foreign audiences (a) requires unrestricted/unfettered access, (b) an electrical infrastructure that is 24/7 in the target area, (c) reliance upon who is in control of the downlinks in-country necessary to access these technologies and (d) a substantial per capita income on the part of the general population, not just a limited proportion of societal elites to acquire the technology and pay for it.

And then –

Governments in Russia, Indonesia and elsewhere have developed a strategy: put laws into effect that inhibit, prohibit, obstruct or otherwise control the dissemination of foreign news broadcasts to their publics.

Add to that the fact that they can control the Internet, block sites they don’t like and disrupt the ability to downlink satellite transmissions and place restrictions on domestic service providers and you have a formidable and cost-effective way of messing with the BBG and anyone else who has developed the same kind of flawed broadcast strategy.

And the worst of it is:

This is going to be the playbook for a long time. One wouldn’t expect the comedy-in-progress of the IBB to leap ahead of these countermeasures for some time to come. Of course, you can expect the BBG/IBB to ask the Congress for a TON of money for an R&D response to these countermeasures, but guess what? That money isn’t there. And in the meantime, in Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere, you can best believe that the intent is to stay as far ahead of the BBG as they can. They are not the least bit concerned with the IBB and its temper tantrum complaining that, in essence, these other countries are not playing by the same rules as the IBB.

If anything, the IBB is first class as an enabler and facilitator of effective measures against its “flim flam strategic plan.” It has abandoned its most important strategic component critical to its mission, when one remembers what that mission is.

And on top of all this, keep in mind that there are resolutions floating through the United Nations that would allow national governments to limit and control Internet access within countries.

In short, the BBG/IBB has put itself in a weakened position where its programs can be easily interdicted or restricted. In addition, by adopting the approach of “US Government international broadcasting as social media,” the BBG/IBB has put itself in the position of having to compete with hundreds, thousands and perhaps millions of websites.

And they are not doing a good job of it at all.

Remember:

The BBG/IBB has lost the information war.

We don’t like losing. We like winning.

Winning is better.

It’s time to reject and eject the BBG/IBB losers.

The Federalist
October 2012

 

In Indonesia, TV Still Rules, But Mobile, Internet Are On The Rise (Video)

OCTOBER 16, 2012

The popularity of mobile and Internet rose significantly in Indonesia, and television continues to be the dominant source for news and information, according to new data issued by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup.

Read the Research Brief

View the Presenation

The BBG, in partnership with Gallup, presented the findings today about Indonesian media consumption habits from a nationally representative, face-to-face survey of 3,000 Indonesians done in the country from July 1 to August 1, 2012.

The new data shows that use of mobile phones continues to rise, with more than eight in 10 Indonesians (81.0%) now saying they have a mobile phone in their household, up from two-thirds (67%) in 2011. Half of Indonesians (49.8%) now say they use SMS/text messages at least once a week to get news.

“Any communications strategy for Indonesia has to take into account the large and growing role of social media, especially among the young,” said William Bell, Research Director at the International Broadcasting Bureau.

The findings show that about one in five Indonesians (20.6%) used the Internet in the past week. Almost all past-week Internet users (96.2%) say they used social networking services in the past seven days. The upward shift in Internet access across Indonesia – driven largely by mobile – is national in nature, and not just confined to more affluent urban areas.

At the same time, though, television remains the dominant form of mass media in Indonesia. The vast majority of Indonesian adults (95.9%) use TV at least once a week to get news. Interestingly, there are substantial regional variations in how Indonesians get their television signals, with terrestrial antennas prevalent across Java and in the Bali region, but satellite use more common on Sumatra, Sulawesi, and particularly Kalimantan.

The BBG’s global audience research program is conducted in partnership with Gallup. The data on Indonesia, like that on Iran, Tibet, Burma, and Nigeria released earlier this year, shows how communications technologies are evolving even as traditional broadcasts in TV and radio continue to play a significant role as news distribution platforms. This research informs the current and future operations of the agency’s broadcasts in 59 languages to more than 100 countries.

 

 

US, European Broadcasters Condemn Jamming From Syria

OCTOBER 19, 2012

Washington, D.C. — Major US and European broadcasters are charging that deliberate electronic interference, known as jamming, that has intermittently disrupted satellite signals across Europe and the Middle East since the start of this week is emanating from Syria.

The jamming has hit satellites operated by Eutelsat, a European satellite operator, affecting TV and radio programs reaching millions of households. The Paris-based Eutelsat confirmed that the disruptive signals originate from Syria.

The Directors General of five major public-service international broadcasters in Europe and the United States, known as the DG5, expressed strong criticism of the jamming, which has disrupted broadcasts in an arc from Russia through Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and other U.S.-funded international broadcasters, said signals to a number of countries, ranging from Iran to Iraq to Ukraine, lost audio and video. Other members of the DG5 – Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France – France 24, British Broadcasting Corporation, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW), Radio Netherlands Worldwide – also suffered from interference, and joined in protesting.

“We strongly condemn this deliberate interference with news and information programs,” said Richard M. Lobo, Director of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau. “While it may be targeted to prevent the free flow of information in countries with restrictive media environments, the widespread and indiscriminate nature of this jamming denies millions of people access to information. The outrageous jamming of our satellite signals and those of other broadcasters is a violation of international agreements,”  Lobo noted.

“Deliberate interference such as the jamming of transmissions is a blatant violation of international regulations concerning the use of satellites and we strongly condemn any practice designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information,” the BBC said in a statement issued Oct. 18.

Deutsche Welle Director General Erik Bettermann accused Iran of repeated efforts to jam satellite broadcasts from reaching an Iranian audience.

A previous episode of jamming, on October 3-4, was traced to Iran. That coincided with reports of street demonstrations and mass arrests of Iranians protesting falling currency exchange rates.

The latest round of jamming began on October 15; it has escalated steadily since then, according to the broadcasters. That’s the day Eutelsat announced it was terminating transmission of 19 channels belonging to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

Jamming is prohibited under the rules of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  Iran is an ITU member and a participant at the organization’s meetings.  It has interfered with U.S.-sponsored civilian broadcasting overseas in the past, including an incident in early 2010.

At its February 2012 meeting, the ITU called upon the world’s nations to take “necessary actions” to stop intentional interference with satellite transmissions. Earlier, the DG5 members called for action against jamming.

The BBG oversees all US non-military international broadcasts. BBG services affected by the latest round of jamming include: VOA, RFE/RL and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

 

Photo Of Cameraman Surfaces: BBG Renews Its Call For The Release Of Bashar Fahmi And Cüneyt Ünal

OCTOBER 28, 2012
With the surfacing of a recent photo of cameraman Cüneyt Ünal, who disappeared in Syria two months ago while working for Alhurra TV, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today renewed its call for the immediate release of Ünal and Alhurra correspondent Bashar Fahmi.

The Turkish humanitarian organization IHH obtained the photo, dated Oct. 24, and posted it online on Saturday.

Ünal appeared briefly on Syrian television on Aug. 26 looking exhausted and with bruises under his eyes. There has been no information regarding Fahmi since both journalists were reportedly captured by Syrian forces in Aleppo on Aug. 20, according to a YouTube video released by the Syrian Free Army that day.

“We continue to demand the immediate release of Ünal and Fahmi,” said Richard M. Lobo, Director of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau. “They were in Syria to report on the news strictly in a journalistic capacity.”

Fahmi and Ünal are not the only journalists that have disappeared recently in Syria. American freelance reporter Austin Tice was last heard from in mid-August outside of Damascus. According to news reports, Anhar Kochneva, a freelance Ukrainian journalist, disappeared from Homs on Oct. 9. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called Syria the world’s most dangerous assignment for journalists.

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