Archive for ‘Germany’

Thursday, December 4, 2014

DW director resigns “Reporters without Borders” post

Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg has resigned from the “Reporters without Borders” (RSF) board of trustees, reports Germany’s domestic broadcaster Deutschlandfunk (DLF). The report quotes RSF managing director Christian Mihr as saying that RSF had asked Limbourg to resign.

Limbourg and RSF disagree about DW’s cooperation with Chinese television broadcaster CCTV, a cooperation of which RSF is highly critical.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

German Television Interview with Deutsche Welle director: Aha, the Russians do Propaganda

After facing many inconvenient questions about the editorial independence of his multimedia broadcaster during the past months, from the media, from politics, and from Reporters without Borders, Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg got airtime this month with much nicer questions. On November 16, Berlin Direkt, a primetime political magazine on Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), one of Germany’s two national – domestic – television channels, interviewed Limbourg.

Q:   Russia currently upgrades its foreign television, and other [media] – internet, radio – incredibly, and also invests a lot of money into these. Is the restructuring of Deutsche Welle an answer to that offensive?
A:   I think that it [DW restructuring] has to do with that, because we simply noticed that very many broadcasters, internationally, spend a lot of money for their purposes, and that we obviously have to see to it that the German perspective and German values for which we stand, i. e. democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, that these are heard in the world. Therefore we have, of course to enter this competition to a degree, even if that is quite expensive.
Q:   And even if this will immediately lead to the accusation that aha, the Russians do propaganda, but Deutsche Welle spends more money, too, so Deutsche Welle, too, does propaganda?
A:   No, I think that in our place, that’s nothing to do with propaganda or counter-propaganda, but we want to score with enlightenment, and this means that we won’t explicitly try to work against someone, but we work for our values, and I think that it explains itself, that  when you stand for democracy, freedom of the press, and pluralism, that precisely therefore, we have nothing to do with propaganda, but on the contrary: we try to represent plurality of opinion. That means, too, of course, that we listen to other opinions such as opinions of the Russians, and work with these.
Q:  How is Deutsche Welle positioned in Russia, and how are you received there?
A:  We have a correspondent bureau in Russia and we have, of course, a very strong and, during the past months, yet strengthened, Russian and Ukrainian service which are in very, very high demand. The numbers of users have tripled or quadrupled. But we wouldn’t be able to launch a broadcaster in Russian in Russia; you don’t get a licence from the government for that.

I didn’t watch Berlin Direkt on television. On the ZDF internet pages, you can access both the interview and a report that provides some background information about Deutsche Welle’s Russian competitors – ZDF certainly portray Russia Today television, Radio Sputnik, and Russia’s umbrella organization for foreign media, Rossiya Segodnya, as competitors for Deutsche Welle. The Berlin Direkt report starts right from the first minute here, and there may not be a great deal of information about Russia’s foreign propaganda around at German television. “Recently, German is spoken, too”, the ZDF anchor suggests in his lead-in.

In fact, the first program by Radio Moscow that ever targeted a foreign audience was in German. That was in 1929. The German programs continued through the years of the 2nd World War, and when Radio Moscow was reorganized as the “Voice of Russia” in December 1993, the German-language tradition – many hours a day, seven days a week – continued. It still does.

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Update/Related

Putin’s side of the story, …

… in an interview with the other main German tv channel, ARD, Nov 17.

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Main tag: Deutsche Welle

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bundestag: Deutsche Welle “structurally underfunded”

German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle is structurally underfunded, according to a press release by Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, published on Wednesday. Members of parliament representing the Christian Democrats and the Bavarian CSU as well as the Social Democrats – all of whom form the current federal coalition government – said that they had “recognized the problem”.

More details in a blog next week. [Update, 20141121: or later.]

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shortwave Newbie: Parents Dead, next Generation

“The next generation of shortwave broadcasting has begun, broadcasting news, culture, and perspective 24 hours a day, on 9395 kHz.”

Thus speaks Global 24 Radio, a commercial station using a transmitter at the WRMI shortwave farm in Okeechobee, Florida. I listened to Global-24 from 03:00 to 04:16 UTC this morning. Part of the program were Feature Story News (news on the hour at 03:00), Radio France International (RFI) news (news on the hour at 04:00), and a Jazz program around the newscasts.

Glenn Hauser‘s audiomagazine World of Radio has been invited to be part of a Radio Night program on Global-24, according to WoR’s October 30 edition (WOR 1745, 27th minute), and that would be on Tuesday nights. My own first impression is that Global-24 aggregates newscasts from different stations or services (the a/m Feature Story News appear to provide quite a number of smaller radio stations with ready-to-use newscasts, but there are also big networks among their customers, according to their reference list). There are other outsourced feature programs on Global-24, too, but according to WoR, they also have a mailbag show, i. e. a program produced by Global-24 itself. Hauser, himself reportedly an agnostic, was told by the broadcaster’s general manager that there would be not .. any  religious programming on schedule.

As for the chances that the new station will be with us for many years to come, Kai Ludwig of Radio Berlin-Brandenburg‘s media magazine didn’t voice an opinion of his own in a report of October 23, some nine days before Global 24 Radio went on the air, but quoted skeptics (without naming them):

The announcement has been met with skepticism on various occasions, as even in the past, when shortwave was much more significant than nowadays, a number of projects of this kind failed economically. This starts with the broadcasting facility of Radio Miami International. [The facilities] date back to former Radio New York Worldwide. The broadcasting equipment was sold to Family Radio after [Radio New York WW’s] closure in 1974.

Der Ankündigung wird verschiedentlich mit Skepsis begegnet, nachdem auch in der Vergangenheit, als der Verbreitungsweg Kurzwelle noch eine ungleich größere Bedeutung als heute hatte, eine Anzahl solcher Projekte wirtschaftlich scheiterte. Dies beginnt schon bei der heutigen Sendeanlage von Radio Miami International. Sie geht auf das einstige Radio New York Worldwide zurück, nach dessen Schließung die Sendetechnik 1974 an Family Radio verkauft wurde.

Family Radio (aka WYFR) themselves haven’t closed down completely, but they sold their transmission site in Okeechobee to WRMI in December 2013. That’s where Global-24’s programs are now aired from, too.

Popular on shortwave, especially in Japan, but no great economic success: KYOI, a hit radio broadcaster from Saipan,  1986 QSL

Popular on shortwave, especially in Japan, but no great economic success: KYOI, a hit radio broadcaster from Saipan, 1986 QSL

More unsuccessful cases in the past would be WRNO and Super Rock KYOI, writes Ludwig,

who broadcasted from New Orleans and Saipan respectively, on shortwave, from 1982. KYOI was sold to the religious community Christian Science after a few years, who used the facilities for their spoken word programs, and then eventually sold them to the International Broadcasting Bureau, in 1998.

Weitere Fälle sind WRNO Worldwide und Superrock KYOI, die ab 1982 von New Orleans bzw. Saipan aus Musikprogramme auf Kurzwelle sendeten. KYOI wurde nach wenigen Jahren an die Religionsgemeinschaft Christian Science verkauft, die ab 1989 die Sendeanlage für ihre Wortprogramme nutzte und sie schließlich 1998 an das International Broadcasting Bureau veräußerte.

WRNO too had switched to spoken word programs in the early 1990s, writes Ludwig, and was sold to a missionary society after the turn of the century.

WRNO had been founded by Joseph Costello (Joe Costello III), born in or around 1941 in Algiers/New Orleans, Louisiana, who appears to have been very successful as a media entrepreneur in general, if this  (source unverified) 1997 obituary in the Times Picayune is something to go by. But he wasn’t terribly successful with WRNO shortwave in particular. In November 1991, he told then Radio Netherlands Media Network‘s Jonathan Marks that

The commercial viability for shortwave radio is just not there. In our country, advertising is sold on the rating-point system, and millions and millons of dollars in every city in the country are based on who has the share of the audience. They do a small sample of six-hundred to a thousand people and then project that out to represent a whole city or a whole metropolitan area, and then millions of dollars are placed on how you score in that sample. And to approach a buyer in New York or in any major advertising capital in the United States is … first off, they don’t understand it. At this point, Jonathan, it is not as economically viable as I thought it might be on the end of its first decade.

Maybe the rating-point system has changed since, or isn’t a problem now. Or, maybe, Global-24 is based on a different business model. While shortwave may have declined in significance, the station is able to reach out to listeners both by shortwave and the internet, and is indeed using either medium. And, of course, leasing airtime from an existing broadcaster may not be as cost-intensive as building your own transmission site. At times, a transmission roomer may have to pay for the full costs, plus a profit margin. At times, maybe, a contribution margin will make the landlord sufficiently happy.

Costello, for one, had seemed to approach his shortwave adventure with a mixture of business sense and hobby, in the early 1980s. There was no standby transmitter, he told Marks, and the only existing one, water-cooled, was at times affected by the water taken from the Mississippi.

All the same, the station received between 1,000 and 1,500 letters a month, according to Costello. What defines the difference between failure and success for Global 24 Radio remains to be seen. For sure, the audience reach of shortwave broadcasters can be measured, if people care enough.

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Related

» Shortwave Log, WRNO, Aug 31, 2014
» The KYOI story, Calvin Melen, 2002, 2011

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shortwave Log, Northern Germany, September/October 2014

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Just a few excerpts from my logs, from September and early October, given that the schedules are going to change on October 25/26. Some or many of the frequencies listed here will not be affected by the changes though, as the trend for international shortwave stations to disappear seems to continue, and local broadcasters don’t necessarily care about long-distance propagation.

Rough, untuned and improvised - best for 15 mHz, but better than nothing in most cases

A rough, untuned and improvised inverted-V antenna and its neighborhood.

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International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:

D – Germany; E – Spain; EQA – Ecuador; G – Great Britain; J – Japan; NIG – Nigeria; PHL – Philippines; SWZ – Swaziland; TWN – Taiwan; TZA – Tanzania;  USA – USA.

Languages (“L.”):

C – Chinese; E – English; F – French; G – German; R – Russian; S – Spanish. The table underneath will appear messy unless you click the headline of this particular post. The table is broader than the two columns of the overall blog frontpage. However, it is more convenient to find with a search engine this way.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Deutsche Welle projects: “cooperating” with CCTV, “countering” Russia Today

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Main link: Druck auf die Deutsche Welle, October 1, 2014

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1. News article: “Pressure on Deutsche Welle”

Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg advocates a role for the foreign broadcaster as an English-language counterweight to Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today, according to an article published by Kölnische Rundschau, a paper from Cologne, on October 1. “It’s not about responding to massive Russian propaganda with ‘counter-propaganda’, but about conveying our free democratic concept by means of good journalism, in accordance with Western standards, the paper quotes Limbourg.

The two parties that have formed Germany’s federal government in a “grand coaliton” since December 2013 differ about the idea. While Roderich Kieswetter, a member of parliament from chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU), likes the idea that someone “counters with medial elucidation”, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) parliamentary budget commission member Johannes Kahrs is skeptical: “I don’t think much of propaganda”. He added that “to state our values should be as much a matter of course as paying the DW employees in accordance with tariffs”.

Neither CDU nor SPD have committed themselves to increasing DW funds so as to enable the station to counter Russia Today.

Either way, Kölnische Rundschau writes, Limbourg is “under heavy pressure”, “on several fronts”. German news magazine Der Spiegel had reviewed DW’s China coverage critically – ever since freelance journalist Su Yutong had been fired, a constant stream of accusations that Limbourg had “kowtowed” to Beijing kept flowing, and Limbourg’s cooperation plans with Chinese state television CCTV had been “another step on a course that was being criticized as precarious”. Christian Mihr, head of the German section of Reporters without Borders (RSF), had told conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that his organization “sharply condemned” the cooperation, and the Green-leaning paper taz pointed out that CCTV had broadcast several “public confessions” of journalists and bloggers. Markus Löning, the federal government’s human-rights commissioner, criticized Limbourg’s plans as “dangerously naive”.

Kölnische Rundschau also points out that some 200 employees have lost some or all of their work at DW. Freelancers are said to be particularly affected by saving measures.

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2. Assessment

Are Limbourg’s plans doomed already? Not necessarily. While recent decisions are controversial, Limbourg might still see them through – or back down in certain, but not all fields, depending on how support and opposition develop. When it comes to “cooperation” with party mouthpieces from China, there’s probably a lot of silent support in Germany that isn’t always reflected in the media. At least some circles in German business, the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA), criticized German media this summer for being “inaccurate” in their China coverage, according to a report by Deutsche Presseagentur (dpa),:

It was “the common task of governments and companies on both sides to promote a good reputation of Chinese companies in Germany”, the recommendations, on hand at dpa newsagency in Beijing on Tuesday [July 8], say. This was about a “fair and accurate” presentation. Background [of these recommendations?] is Chinese criticism of German media which “irresponsibly and inaccurately report about Chinese human rights and political issues”, a position paper still in progress says.

APA chairman Hubert Lienhard, talking to journalists, resolutely denied the existence of this paragraph in the raft. However, only a week ago, a draft of the paper containing this criticism circulated in the German embassy in Beijing. Accusations like these were, however, not adopted in the recommendations to the two heads of government, recommendations the APA commission does not want to publish. […]

It is this kind of climate where business interests gain weight, and where principles go down. That said, at least publicly, the German federal government wasn’t sympathetic towards the APA recomendations.

While former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, chairman of the board at Nord Stream AG, a consortium for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany, tirelessly advocates cooperation with Russia, Moscow doesn’t appear to have nearly as much sway over German published opinion or business as Beijing.

This doesn’t seem to suggest that countering Russian propaganda should be a priority. But it’s an easier target than Chinese propaganda.

And many Western “opinion formers” have apparently felt haunted by Russian propaganda, or by what they consider to be the effects of it, right at home.

Confucius Institutes are apparently much less offensive.

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Related Tag

» Deutsche Welle

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Related

» Chinesische Rochade, FAZ, Sept 26, 2014
» Weichgespült, DJV, Sept 15, 2014

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Spanish Foreign Radio abandons Shortwave, and Opportunities

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Radio Exterior de Espana (REE/RTVE) plans to close down its shortwave radio transmission site near Noblejas. This means that Spanish foreign radio would no longer be on shortwave at all. There had been guesses that REE shortwave would close down on September 30. Now, it is suggested that broadcasting may continue until mid-October, according to Glenn Hauser‘s audio magazine World of Radio, October 2 edition (downloads here).

Some places are too slow for online streaming

Some places are too slow for online streaming

One may wonder how many means of communications are abandoned because they aren’t considered cool anymore. And one may also wonder how many things may be kept in use without a great deal of debate because their virtues seem go without saying.

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The World doesn’t revolve around Europe

It depends on where you are. When it comes to shortwave broadcasting, it depends on whether you are in Europe, or whether you are in Asia. Try the cheapest shortwave receiver you can lay your hands on, wherever in this world you may currently be, and you will get tons of signals from China – some from the domestic service for the need to reach remote areas within the country, some for the external service China Radio International (CRI), and some simply to jam “hostile” stations like Falun-Gong operated shortwave transmissions from Taiwan.

Either way, Beijing demonstrates that shortwave matters in China.

India, too, depends on shortwave for reaching remote territories within the country (and in some areas, Naxalite activities, too, may make it advisable to bridge certain distances by AM signals, be it medium- or shortwave). According to Adventist World Radio‘s (AWR) Wavescan program on August 10, quoting statistics from four years earlier, All India Radio (AIR), the country’s main radio network, operated 54 shortwave transmitters, 149 medium-wave transmitters and 172 FM transmitters in about 2010.

Time will show how serious DRM – digital radio mondiale – will get as a technology in India – four years ago, there were discussions to convert some ten percent of the existing shortwave transmitters to DRM capability.

On the 2014  National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters (NASB), an American organization, George Ross, frequency manager at the shortwave broadcasting station KTWR in Guam, told an audience that besides India, the largest group of listeners to the station’s DRM shortwave signals were Japanese. On August 31, AWR broadcasted excerpts of the talk earlier this year in Greenville, N.C., where Ross enthused about India going DRM – and how Japanese shortwave listeners responded to tests actually targeted at India. It was also Japanese listeners, according to Ross, who conducted a survey that eventually justified KTWR DRM broadcasts in Japanese.

If there is an industrialized country where shortwave still matters, it’s Japan. The survey provided from KTWR’s Japanese listeners suggested that there would be 11,000 listeners to Japanese DRM broadcasts from Guam right away, with a lot of growth potential once such broadcasts began. The two most likely locations in Asia where shortwave would be listened to, in Ross’ view, were India and Japan.

The story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that both Jeff White the producer of Wavescan, and George Ross, are dedicated to shortwave. Jeff White owns WRMI, a shortwave station in Florida, and both he and George Ross take a great interest in DRM as a measure to make signals both more reliable and much more energy-efficient. If Indians will start to use DRM receivers to a large scale any time soon, if a critical number of Indian listeners can afford DRM receivers or if the Indian state would subsidize DRM-ization of the audience side remains to be seen – these are a lot of “ifs”.

But to me, the most thought-provoking issue here isn’t if the future of shortwave will be analog or digital. It is that there seems to be a future for shortwave at all. And what is even more food for thought to me is that India, Japan and China are places where shortwave broadcasting matters and where it continues to matter. Places where – according to conventional wisdom – the future is.

 

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Where’s the Strategy?

Rhein-Main-Radio-Club from Frankfurt, confirming a broadcast via HCJB Weenermoor, a 1.5 kW transmitter in northwestermost Germany.

Rhein-Main-Radio-Club from Frankfurt, confirming a broadcast via HCJB Weenermoor, a 1.5 kW transmitter in northwestermost Germany

When Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, discontinued shortwave both to Europe and to the Far East, at least they had a strategy. It wasn’t a smart one – or, at any rate, to tell the world that old listeners didn’t matter anymore – unless they were opinion formers or opinion leaders in the target areas (guys considered to have regular access to the internet) doesn’t look terribly smart to me. You can be pretty sure that many of those people who are going to make big decisions in China tomorrow do not have access to the internet today.

But REE doesn’t even seem to have a strategy at all. They just want to save – reportedly – 1.2 million euros per year. That’s why they want to close down their shortwave transmission site.

That’s no intelligent decision. And at home, it isn’t helpful either.

After all, shortwave is technology that is easy to grasp, even for absolute beginners. If engineering is an interest Spain wants to encourage among the kids, to throw shortwave away looks like no great idea. To retain existing listeners is much more effective than gaining new ones – although the latter business shouldn’t be neglected either.

In terms of tech, it’s hardly a coincidence that Japan is one of the most avidly shortwave-listening countries. Nor does it look like a coincidence that Germans, people from a comparatively successful economy, on a private basis, keep their country on the shortwave map with a number of small shortwave transmissions (rule of thumb: 1 kW-transmitters).

In the words of Ralph E. Gomory, a mathematician from the U.S.,

[w]e need successful industries and we need to innovate within them to keep them thriving.

Gomory didn’t mean to make a case for shortwave. But if you want to keep an interest in technology awake, among the public in general, and among the young in particular, make sure that there’s applied, easily comprehensible communications technology around.In that light, even during times of economic and political troubles, a transmitting site like Noblejas should be considered an opportunity, not a liability.

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Related

» A new SDR receiver, Oct 2, 2014
» A chat with the International Space Station (German), Merkur Online, June 29, 2014
» HAM Flower, Idealli, June 2008

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Deutsche Welle China Strategy: Statement by Reporters without Borders (RSF)

September 25 / September 30

25.09.2014 – Reporters without Borders Germany (ROG) calls on the director general of Deutsche Welle (DW), Peter Limbourg, to change Deutsche Welle`s strategy on China. During the last few weeks, the tax-financed German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has taken some alarming decisions related to its Chinese programme. Furthermore, Peter Limbourg has decided to agree on a highly controversial co-operation with CCTV – the Chinese state broadcaster.

The executive director of Reporters without Borders Germany, Christian Mihr, states: “We highly condemn the co-operation agreement between Deutsche Welle and the Chinese State broadcaster CCTV.” He continues: “This co-operation is incompatible with Deutsche Welle`s statutory mission as CCTV is part of the repressive apparatus directed against Chinese journalists. Deutsche Welle should not try to increase its reach in China at the expense of freedom of the press. As a member of the Reporters without Borders Germany board of trustees, we urgently call on Peter Limbourg to reconsider his decision.”

In a press release dated September 4, Deutsche Welle announced its intention to work with CCTV in the future. According to the statement, Deutsche Welle will produce music and business-related content together with CCTV. In addition, CCTV will broadcast an adaptation of Deutsche Welle`s lifestyle magazine Euromaxx (see: http://bit.ly/1sXLxjk).

CCTV IS A FUNDAMENTAL PILLAR OF CHINESE STATE PROPAGANDA

CCTV is China`s largest television broadcaster. At the organisational level, CCTV forms part of China`s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Consequently, CCTV is directly connected to the government and plays a fundamental role in Chinese state propaganda. In fact, regulations force all other Chinese TV stations to broadcast CCTV`s 7pm main evening news.

During the last few months, CCTV has repeatedly broadcast “forced confessions” (see: http://bit.ly/1j3J0EI). During these broadcasts, critical journalists and bloggers were made to publicly criticise their own behaviour. On May 8, this was even done to a Chinese freelancer working for Deutsche Welle – to Gao Yu. The 70-year-old journalist has been held in criminal detention in China since she was arrested at the end of April (see: http://bit.ly/1yqVPB7).

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS GERMANY`S LETTER TO PETER LIMBOURG

On September 16, Reporters without Borders Germany wrote to Peter Limbourg, the general director of Deutsche Welle, calling on him to answer a number of questions concerning Deutsche Welle`s cooperation with CCTV. This letter, available in German, can be accessed under: http://bit.ly/1ptN1jp. His answer is available in German under http://bit.ly/1vkzYFO.

Deutsche Welle describes the co-operation agreement with CCTV as a dialogue. However, numerous previous cases experienced by Reporters without Borders demonstrate that similar forms of communication and co-operation have usually been skilfully put to work for state propaganda. Reporters without Borders Germany doubts, that Deutsche Welle will be able to avoid such instrumentalisation.

Despite Peter Limbourg’s answer, certain questions remain unanswered:

How have the agreements between Deutsche Welle and CCTV been formulated? What exactly has been agreed to? Will Deutsche Welle supply content for CCTV and enable its Chinese partner to select what it wishes to broadcast? Or will CCTV have to broadcast all of Deutsche Welle`s contributions? How would this affect, for example, a China-critical programme on the artist Ai Weiwei? Could CCTV decide to reject such a programme?

Furthermore, it is still unclear why Su Yutong, who was working on Deutsche Welles`s China programme, was dismissed. Officially, she is said to have publicised internal matters. However, Reporters without Borders Germany is extremely worried that Su Yutong`s dismissal is related to Deutsche Welles`s new approach in its China-programme.

Our letter to Peter Limbourg included an invitation to participate in a panel discussion organised by Reporters without Borders Germany on “The Chinese media” aimed at clarifying these questions. Peter Limbourg made no mention of our invitation in his letter of response.

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Related

» Sanctions against Chinese State Media, Aug 29, 2014

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