Posts tagged ‘censorship’

Thursday, July 3, 2014

State Vandalism on the Air: from Beijing with Fear and Loathing

It couldn’t last. NHK Radio Japan‘s Chinese programs on 9540 kHz came in with a good signal here in Northern Germany for many months, but that seems to be over now. China People’s Broadcasting Station (CPBS), aka China National Radio (CNR) from mainland China occupies the frequency now.

Radio Japan QSL card from 1986, showing a tea plantation.

Can you pick us up? A Radio Japan QSL card from 1986, showing a tea plantation.

That doesn’t make Radio Japan completely inaudible here, but it’s no fun to listen to a faint Japanese signal behind vocal mainland Chinese commercials. I’ll probably switch NHK podcasts.

To use domestic radio to block international broadcasters is vandalism.

When it comes to certain historical Chinese facts, the Communist Party of China can’t even coexist with them. It seems that Beijing can’t coexist with information from abroad – no matter if facts, lies, or propaganda – either.

The way China is jamming Radio Japan is, by the way, a pussy-footed way of spoiling shortwave. The “Firedrake” would, at least, be a candid statement, even if still as ugly.

Rebroadcasts of China Radio International (CRI) programs and other Beijing-made propaganda, like the ones via Radio Luxemburg‘s 1440 kHz, ought to be tagged with an announcement at the beginning and the end of every hour on the air, informing listeners that while they can listen to the message from Beijing unimpeded, the senders themselves are denying Chinese nationals the experience of listening to international broadcasters.

That one line would tell more about China than a one-hour broadcast by China Radio International.

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Updates/Related

» Radio Japan Mandarin podcasts, regularly updated
» Jamming of BBC continues, March 28, 2014

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Blog and Press Review: Budget work reports, Staying Ahead of the Enemy

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1. NPC Standing Commission hears Budget and Final Accounts

Xinwen Lianbo, June 24, 2014

NPC standing committee plenary session – click picture for youtube video

In his capacity as China’s top legislator (and CCP Politburo Standing Commission memberZhang Dejiang (张德江) was present at the second plenary meeting of the 12th National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee’s 9th session, reviewing the final accounts of the 2013 budget. CCTV‘s main evening news, Xinwen Lianbo:

The second plenary meeting of the 12th National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee’s 9th session was held in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People, in the afternoon of June 24. Committee chairman Zhang Dejiang attended.

十二届全国人大常委会第九次会议24日下午在北京人民大会堂举行第二次全体会议。张德江委员长出席。

Vice committee chairman Ji Bingxuan chaired the meeting. 162 Standing Committee members were attending, and the quorum as stipulated by law was therefore met.

吉炳轩副委员长主持会议。常委会组成人员162人出席会议,出席人数符合法定人数。

On behalf of the State Council, finance minister Lou Jiwei delivered a report concerning the 2013 central final accounts. In 2013, the central government had overall revenues of 6.02 trillion yuan RMB, achieving 100.2 per cent of the budgeted amount, and an increase of 7.2 per cent over the 2012 budget. Central government expenditure was at 6.85 trillion yuan RMB, or 98.5 per cent of the budgeted amount, an increase of 6.8 per cent. In general terms, the implementation of the central budget had been good, but with some problems. The next steps will emphasize the strong advance of the fiscal and taxation system, close attention to fiscal and tax policies, measures, and implementation, tangible strengthening of local government debt management, and great efforts to consolidate financial and economic order etc..

受国务院委托, 财政部部长楼继伟作了关于2013年中央决算的报告。2013年,中央公共财政收入60198.48亿元,完成预算的100.2%,比2012年增长 7.2%。中央公共财政支出68491.68亿元,完成预算的98.5%,增长6.8%。总的看,中央财政预算执行情况良好,但也存在一些问题。下一步将 重点做好扎实推进财税体制改革,狠抓各项财税政策措施落实,切实加强地方政府性债务管理,大力整饬财经秩序等工作。

On behalf of the State Council, National Audit Office general auditor Liu Jiayi reported the 2013 central budget implementation and other revenue and expenditure audits. After reporting, item by item, central budget revenue and expenditure and final accounts drafts, central financial management, the budget implementation and final accounts at the central government authorities, government debt, key people’s-livelihood projects and mineral resources, state-owned financial institutions, state-owned enterprises and other audits as well as major clues of illegality, he made the following suggestions for the next steps in work improvement: strict financial discipline, tangible administrative achievements in accordance with the law, financial management in accordance with the law, accelerating the transformation of government functions and streamlining administration and delegating powers to the lower levels, deepening the promotion of fiscal and taxation system reform, making efficient use of assets, optimizing structures, and increasing the use efficiency of financial funds.

受国务院委托,审计署审计长刘家义报告了2013年度中央预算执行和其他 财政收支的审计情况。在逐项报告了中央财政预算收支执行及决算草案、中央财政管理、中央部门预算执行和决算草案、政府性债务、重点民生工程及矿产资源、国 有金融机构、国有企业等审计情况及查出的重大违法违规案件线索情况后,报告提出下一步改进工作的意见:严肃财经纪律,切实做到依法行政、依法理财;加快转 变政府职能和简政放权,深入推进财税体制改革;盘活存量、优化结构,提高财政资金使用效益。

The meeting heard National People’s Congress Financial and Economic Affairs Committee deputy chairman Liao Xiaojun’s report on the 2013 central final accounts review. The committee believes that the 2013 central final accounts draft reflects the good implementation of the central budget, and recommended the approval of the draft. As for the problems [the draft] also reflected, the committee suggested to accelerate the promotion of budget system reform, further standardization of budget and final accounts management, the building of a comprehensive governmental debt management system, and the strengthening of auditing and supervision.

会 议听取了全国人大财政经济委员会副主任委员廖晓军作的关于2013年中央决算审查结果的报告。财经委认为,2013年中央决算草案反映了中央预算执行情况 是好的,建议批准该草案。针对反映出的问题,财经委建议加快推进预算制度改革,进一步规范预决算管理,健全政府性债务管理制度,加强审计监督。

On behalf of the State Council, People’s Bank of China deputy governor Liu Shiyu delivered a work report concerning the strengthening of supervising and averting financial crisis. He said that in recent years, in the face of the complications and changes in the international economic situation, downward pressures in the domestic economy had become stronger, the financial crisis had led to accumulated risks, the State Council had issued a number of policies and measures conducive to averting and defusing financial crisis, safeguarding financial stability, and conducive to economic restructuring  and transformation of development methods. [The State Council] had firmly kept to the bottomline of not allowing systemic or regional financial crises. The strengthening and improvement of financial supervision and management and prudent macro-management, the continuous comprehensive promotion of macro-economic stability and a modern financial system that supports substantial economic development.

受国务院委托,中国人民银行副行长刘士余作了关于加强金融监管防范 金融风险工作情况的报告。他说,近年来,针对国际经济形势复杂多变、国内经济下行压力加大、金融风险有所积聚的情况,国务院出台了一系列既有利于防范化解 金融风险、维护金融稳定,又有利于促进经济结构调整和发展方式转变的政策举措,牢牢守住了不发生系统性区域性金融风险的底线。今后,将进一步加强和改善金 融监管和宏观审慎管理,不断健全促进宏观经济稳定、支持实体经济发展的现代金融体系。

Besides playing democracy on Tuesday afternoon, Zhang Dejiang also met the speaker of an elected parliament, Pandikar Amin Mulia from Malaysia.

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Related:

Fiscal target, Shanghai Daily, June 24, 2014
CRI, somewhere in the Budget, June 1, 2012
CRI, a pit of waste, K. Perron, ca. 2012

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2. Staying ahead of the Enemy (in Xinjiang)

Shanghai Daily, on Tuesday, quoted State Internet Information Office (SIIO) spokesman Jiang Jun as telling a press conference that terrorist forces have “turned the Internet into a principal tool for their operations.”

[...] China launched a campaign on Friday to rid the Internet of audio and video materials that promote terrorism and violence. The move is aimed at safeguarding social stability in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and long-term peace, according to the SIIO.

Meantime, authorities on the ground in Xinjiang are victorious, People’s Daily reported on Monday. 96 per cent of “terrorist gangs” had been detected during planning stage (or in their embrionyic stage, 在萌芽状态) and been wiped out (or knocked out, 打掉), “Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region” Public Security Bureau deputy director Wang Qianrong (王谦榕) reportedly told a press conference. High-pressure policing (打高压态势), attacks at first opportunity (主动进攻) and staying ahead of the enemy (先发制敌) had been instrumental in normalizing the situation.

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Related

32nd Ethnic-Unity Education Month, May 3, 2014
Keep calm and carry on, Feb 23, 2014

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3. Staying ahead of the Enemy (in Mainland and Hong Kong)

Despite what organisers called the biggest cyber attack in Hong Kong’s history, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to voice their opinion in an unofficial pro-democracy referendum that started on Friday, the BBC‘s Juliana Liu wrote in the broadcaster’s China blog on Monday. Some 689,000 ballots had been cast on June 23, by 14:00 GMT. It probably helped that 15 polling stations provided opportunities to cast one’s vote in person.

They had a choice between three candidates for the office of Hong Kong Chief Executive.  Occupy Central is the major force between these – unofficial – elections.

The Economist, obviously sympathetic to the elections, warns that in China’s most prosperous city, both sides have a lot to lose and should be looking for a way to climb down. Beijing shouldn’t alienate Hong Kongers who, in a free election, … would have probably chosen a pro-China candidate anyway, but many of whom moved towards the radicals’ camp after a senior mainland fgure talked about dealing with disorder by sending in the Chinese army.

Also on Monday, with the number of votes at 700,000 by then, Foarp notes that to put pressure on a free society [is] liable to back-fire by driving people to the other side. That said, Occupy Central could have made more of the opportunty afforded to them by Beijing’s intransigence. By giving the voters a choice between the central-government proposed system and their democratic cause, the voters’ message could have been made so much clearer.

An unfriendly interpretaton would be that maybe neither Beijing nor Occupy Central want to leave anything to chances. A friendlier one would be that Occupy simply wanted to demonstrate democratic practice. The turnout, anyway, was remarkable – too remarkable to be officially noted in China. The searchword combination 622 Referendum was censored on Sina Weibo as the Occupy referendum approached, Fei Chang Dao noted on Sunday.

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Related

White Paper on HK in full (English)
White Paper on HK in full (Chinese)

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 4, 25 Years Later: Drinking the Wolf’s Milk

The Communist Party of China can’t live with the facts – it can’t even coexist with them. Anyone who thinks that we can “get past” the Tian An Men massacre is wrong. China’s collective leadership itself never got past it, and may never get past it. Nor can their business friends, supporters and well-wishers, at home or abroad. Just as stone can’t rot away, the memory of June 4, 1989 lingers. This memory is the touchstone few people inside China dare to touch upon – not the Chinese nomenklatura, nor their beneficiaries, and those who are both administrators and beneficiaries least of all. You comrades have been working hard, Deng Xiaoping told military commanders on June 9, 1989. The CCP, obviously, isn’t advertising the speech, but isn’t hiding it either – People’s Daily online apparently has the speech in full in its archive.

Deng Xiaoping, June 9, 1989

The only official evaluation so far: Deng Xiaoping defends his reform policies of economic openness and political repression, June 9, 1989 (click picture for video)

Richard Burger has a piece on June 4 today, plus an interesting comment there, and a post on May 19, also on this topic.

Many Chinese people were detained after the massacre. Some are reportedly still in prison; less than a dozen according to an estimate by the Dui Hua foundation.

Those in China who remember, and want to remember publicly, are threatened. In an interview with the New York Review of Books, Hu Jia said that for entering Tian An Men Square on June 4, he could receive a twelve-year prison sentence, and that since February 24 this year, his movements have been restricted by the Beijing Municipal Domestic Security Corps and the Tongzhou Branch of the Beijing Municipal Security Detachment, the latter of who had been around since July 2, 2004.

Hu Jia’s wife Zeng Jinyan has moved to Hong Kong with their daughter. “It’s better for them to be there”, Hu said in the New York Review of Books interview, describing how the CCP flag – not China’s national flag – was hanging at his daughter’s kindergarten on the 90th anniversary of the CCP’s founding (apparently on July 1, 2011). “They taught them that the party’s red flag is color with the blood of martyrs. This is really an evil influence on children. We call this ‘drinking the wolf’s milk’.

On June 1, i. e. on International Children’s Day, party and state leader Xi Jinping visited Haidian National Primary School in Beijing. Choreography had a child convey the party’s message: “[To join the Young Pioneers] is kind of an honor.”

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Related

» Informal Discussions, Open University, Apr 11, 2014
» Xi on Teachers’ Guiding Role, Jan 7, 2012

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Updates/Related

» Two HK Vigils, Tealeaf Nation, June 5, 2014
» Hong Kong vigil, BBC News, June 4, 2014
» Take a trip, foreign friends, China University of Political Science and Law, May 29, 2014

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Start-of-Work Links: Fostering Socialist Values on International Children’s Day

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1. Why Russia Today succeeds while CCTV-9 fails: it depends on how you define and choose your target audience, on familiar faces, on the format of your programs, and on integration with the intelligence services, suggests Foarp.

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2. Ar Dee, an ethnic Tibetan, makes no apologies for her Tib-lish. This was posted nearly two weeks ago, but the topic is  basically timeless. It’s about a language we probably won’t find on Google Translate any time soon. About a moment when the author yearned to call on some supernatural power to fix her tongue.

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3. Sichuanese police held anti-terrorism drills in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, apparently late last month. The drills included the handling of self-immolations. This struck me as weird when reading about it on the exile radio station Voice of Tibet‘s website, but CCTV English actually confirms it. Foarp – see 1. – might have a point. Chinese media for foreign audiences making fun of themselves.-

 

4. June 1 was the International Children’s Day. It seems to be mostly communist folk & custom, and logically, the indoctrination of the young is a job for the top: party and state chairman Xi Jinping, last Friday, called for fostering socialist values among children while sending greetings ahead of Sunday’s International Children’s Day.

The “socialist core values” that the country now upholds embody the thoughts of ancient masters, the aspirations of the nation’s role models, ideals of revolutionary martyrs and expectation of all Chinese people,

China Radio International (CRI) quotes Xi. Xi Jinping arrived at Haidian National Primary School in Beijing at 9:30 local time, according to this Xinhua report, and a student offered him a red scarf on arrival. How his heart pounded with excitement when joining the young pioneers in 1960, Xi told the kids, asking if they didn’t feel the same way.

“Yes”, a child answered. “Why is it so?” “Because it is sort of an honor.” The general secretary [Xi Jinping] said: “I have seen hope on your faces, the hopes of the motherland and the people. It’s just as said in the oath: one needs to be always prepared, to take one’s turn on duty in the future.”

总书记继续说:“记得入队时心怦怦跳,很激动。不知你们有没有这种感觉?”孩子们回答:“有。”“为什么会这样?因为是一种荣誉。”总书记表示,“我在你们脸上看到了希望,祖国和民族的希望。正像誓言说的那样,要时刻准备着,将来接班。”

Referred to as Xi Dada (kind of Uncle Xi) on another occasion, the general secretary was Xi Yeye (Grandfather Xi) at Haidian National Primary School, maybe for the grandfatherly stories he told. The core lesson from Xi’s recollections was that to move from one stripe to two stripes to becoming a standard bearer among the young pioneers required a lot of work, a student is quoted as summarizing the listening experience.

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5. Fei Chang Dao has the latest about efforts to block June-4-related information. Online censorship reportedly includes May 35th (May 31 + 4).

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6. The BBC has a Chinese press review: China media criticise US and Japan leaders …

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7. … but there’s no need to fear Japan anymore. This, anyway, could be the positive message you might extract from the second picture in Chang‘s collection: nearly seven decades after America won the 2nd World War in the Far East, Japan finally submits to Washington, in in the shape of Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s minister of defense. People slightly familiar with China and/or Japan will know that many Chinese and Japanese men hate to be hugged, and might flinch if it happens, but neither Chang nor South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo could apparently resist the temptation. At least, the South Koreans didn’t openly doubt Onodera’s manhood: U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (left) chats with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera ahead of a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Eaten rat

A rat once eaten and then returned …

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cat

… probably in a fit of bulimia.

Chang, if you find one of these pictures repulsive, you aren’t a man either!

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8. And as we started with propaganda (see “1.“),  let’s wind up with propaganda, too:

Some say that [from] the West is propaganda … - In the U.S. it is called public diplomacy (public diplomacy). We do not do it in sufficient quantities, to be honest.

Attributed to David Kramer, Freedom House executive director, by John Brown who seems to be quoting Kasparov.ru.

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Related

» Previous Monday links, May 25, 2014

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Update/Related

Adjustments at General Staff Headquarters, Oct 25, 2012

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Monday Start-of-Work Links: Kim Jong-un “not the real Actor”?

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1. A Deity doesn’t need to have a mind of his own,

argues Korhonen Pekka, a Finnish political scientist, in a post for Sino-NK. Nor does Kim Jong-un, he writes. Pekka interprets Kim’s reign as rather ceremonial, and that the bureaucracy is calling the shots. That however doesn’t appear to bode well for the future.

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2. Lawyers should not Overestimate their Political Clout,

Fei Chang Dao quotes an editorial by Shan Renping (which is the pen name of Huanqiu Shibao‘s editor-in-chief, Hu Xijin). Fei Chang Dao (there appears to be a lawyer behind the blog) also explains the differences between the Chinese version of the article, and one published by Huanqiu’s sister edition in English, the “Global Times”. More recently, Fei Chang Dao explores how June-4 related searchwords are censored.

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3. Public Diplomacy and its Limits

Obama’s Policies on Syria and Egypt, as well as on intelligence operations of U.S. administrations as revealed by Edward Snowden [...] will have serious impacts on U.S. popularity in the world, Kilic Kanat, a political scientist, wrote on May 12, in an article for the English-language Daily Sabah from Istanbul. If Obama kept following his current policies especially on Syria and Egypt, [...] the U.S. may face another downward trend in its standing. Under those circumstances, public diplomacy campaigns will only waste money on U.S. foreign policy.

Russia, Ukraine, or the Far East don’t seem to matter at all.

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4. Meantime, on Capitol Hill …

… American senators and retired propaganda apparatchiks are trying to make sure that money spent on public money gets wasted indeed, by demanding that the language of Voice of America’s mission [..] explicitly state that the outlet has a role in supporting American “public diplomacy” and the policies of the government. To bring it down to a round figure, Fulbright scholarships are apparently being targeted by budget cuts.

No need for international exchange when you can broadcast linear propaganda, be it on shortwave, be it on “social media”.

This is the Voice of America, signing on. Hello World, shut up and listen!

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Related

» Umstrukturierung des US-Auslandsfunks, Radio Eins, April 5, 2014

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Monday, April 28, 2014

An Open Letter from Malaysian Politics: Universal Virtues

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Some analysts see Obama’s visit to Malaysia, a close trading partner of China, as a strategy to dilute China’s influence in Southeast Asia, writes the “Global Times”, a state-owned English-language paper from China which is mainly written for a foreign audience (and possibly for Chinese learners of English, too). However, quoting Qu Xing (曲星), director of the China Institute of International Studies, the article suggests that Kuala Lumpur was in fact taking a balanced attitude and showed that Malaysia is trying to avoid confrontation with China on this issue. The article suggests that the American president didn’t make much headway in promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade project that, if put into practice, would manage trade between its original member states of Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam. If the trade pact would benefit or damage the interests of the nations involved is contested, as is a trade project between America and the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The (English-language) “Global Times’” headline is implicitly about censorship: US TV shows removed from popular streaming websites / The removal of several popular American TV series from Chinese video streaming sites over the weekend may indicate stricter online monitoring. Huanqiu Shibao, the Chinese-language sister paper for a mostly domestic readership, carries a headline about the Ukraine crisis. Huanqiu also prominently features a short news article from Jilin: Unearthing the whole story of Japanese invasion has made many experts suffer from depression (日本侵华档案发掘始末:很多专家患上抑郁症). According to the news article, the files in question were some 100,000 volumes of Japanese files in an archive in Jilin, northeastern China, concerning the invasion, 90 percent of them written in Japanese.

Underneath the top headlines, another article of today quotes an American official – or American officials – as saying that America was working on several military plans to contain or deter China (美国官员:美国拟定多套军事方案遏阻中国). Huanqiu quotes a quote from the Chinese edition of the Wall Street Journal (also of Monday) which is avaliable online.

The Wall Street Journal:

American officials say that the American military prepares several plans to strongly respond to future provocative actions in the South China Sea (called Southern Sea by china) and the East China Sea (called Eastern Sea by China). These plans include dispatching B-2 bombers to places close to China, and holding aircraft-carrier exercises in the range of China’s coastal waters.

美国官员称,美国军方准备了多种方案,将强有力地应对中国未来在南中国海(中国称南海)和东中国海(中国称东海)的任何挑衅行动。这些方案包括向靠近中国的地方派遣B-2轰炸机,以及在接近中国沿海水域的范围举行航母演习。

Apart from the explanations in brackets, the first paragraphs are identical at WSJ and Huanqiu. From the second paragraph, Huanqiu cuts a long WSJ story short, with only two more paragraphs:

Security issues play an important role on president Obama’s tour of four Asian countries. On April 28, the American president will sign an agreement in the Philippines which allows American military to return to the Philippines after more than twenty years. The Philippine opposition parties had previously forced America to abandon its military bases on the Philippines.  Equally, Obama stood side by side with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Japan, saying that America’s promise to guarantee Japan’s security was “absolute”.*)

美国总统奥巴马近日 访问亚洲四国,安全问题是他此行的一个重要议题。4月28日,美国总统将在菲律宾签署一项协议,允许美军在二十多年后重返菲律宾。此前,菲律宾反对党曾迫 使美国方面放弃了在菲律宾的军事基地。同样,巴马访问日本时与日本首相安倍晋三并排站在了一起,并表示,美国在条约中对日本的安保承诺是“绝对的”。

Besides military aspects, the Huanqiu account of the WSJ argicle also mentions contingency plans and humanitarian aid operations. Surveillance of areas near China would be strengthened, calls of American navy vessels to allied countries’ ports be intensified, so as to demonstrate American military strength (加强对中国附近地区的监视、增加美国海军对盟友港口的停靠等,以展示美国的军事实力).

A major issue mentioned by the WSJ Chinese edition, about Washington trying to alleviate doubts among its Asian allies in its security assurances, especially after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula (尤其是在俄罗斯吞并克里米亚半岛之后), are not quoted by Huanqiu Shibao.

The full WSJ article (which has been put behind a registration wall by now) quotes Pacific Command public affairs officer Chris Sims as a source.

But it’s not all about the U.S. Navy. Under China’s lead, eight countries’ navies carried out the “Maritime Cooperation 2014″ military exercises off the coast of Shandong province last week. China, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Singapore and three other countries participated, reports a Beijing Youth article republished  by Huanqiu Shibao on Monday. Beijing Youth in turn quoted Xinhua newsagency as reporting that the exercise featured reactions to non-traditional security issues (非传统安全的内容) such as piracy, terrorism, natural disasters as well as other threats faced by countries in the region and everywhere in the world.

» The Negarakuku Saga, August 2007

Tony Pua (潘俭伟), a member of Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) and member of parliament for Petaling Jaya Utara, published an open letter to Barack Obama on Saturday, the day of the American president’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur:

Mr President, with all due respect, we do not need you to visit our country to tell us that our country is a standout example of moderation, because it is not.

Or for you to praise our government that it is a model plural society living in peace and harmony, because it is a façade.

We need you, Mr President, to speak of the universal virtues of humankind, of the principles your forefathers upheld and sacrificed for.

We want you to speak of the importance of basic human rights, equality, freedom and fundamental democratic principles.

We want to know that the president of United States still believe in the protection and promotion of civil liberties throughout the world – those very liberties which allowed you to be in your position today.

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Footnote

*) this apparently refers to this statement by Obama: And let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands.

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Related

» Pivotal state, BBC, April 26, 2014

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

“Optimizing Something”: Russia centralizes Propaganda, scraps Shortwave Broadcaster and other traditional Institutions

As the end of March drew nearer, central Europeans could still hear the station from afar, a muted signal behind some gentle, steady noise. The “Voice of Russia” targeted Australia and New Zealand with an English-language program of four hours daily, from the transmission site of Angarsk, near Irkutsk. Those appear to have been the last programs in English. Chances are that some programs in Japanese were also still aired at the time. A shortwave listener in Taipei kept listening to VoR’s Chinese programs on shortwave, right to the end on March 31 (his post contains some recordings).

Listeners who wrote inquiries to VoR got a reaction. But overall, very little, if anything, was mentioned in the programs on shortwave, about the nearing end of the service. For sure, no words of respect were lost about the medium’s use during some eighty-five years of Russian external broadcasting. Maybe they hadn’t been of much use after all, as the message never seemed to sink in in the target areas? In that case, you could hardly blame shortwave.

On April 1, all of VoR’s shortwave transmissions had become history.

APN-Verlag, via Radio Moscow

The old-fashioned way: propaganda booklet by mail, Ria Novosti via Radio Moscow, March 31, 1987.

The “Voice of Russia” (VoR), formerly known as Radio Moscow or Radio Moscow World Service, only exists as a brand now, within the media empire of Russia Today, which also swallowed Ria Novosti. “We will use the old brand for the time being, but leading international specialists are already working on the new brands and they will be ready soon, the “Voice of Russia” and/or Interfax quoted Russia Today’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan. A renewed English newswire would be launched on April 1, and it would be available round-the-clock on June 1.

No additional funding would be needed, the editor-in-chief was quoted as saying: “We are not asking additional money for all that, which means we will have to optimize something to get resources for the creation of something more modern. We will stop using obsolete radio broadcasting models, when the signal is transmitted without any control and when it is impossible to calculate who listens to it and where.”

Indeed, this had been the message of Vladimir Putin‘s presidential decree in December, on certain measures to raise the operational effectiveness of state-owned mass media.

Radio Moscow QSL, apparently featuring the Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

Radio Moscow QSL, Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

On the same day, December 9, Ria Novosti offered a comparatively candid interpretation of the decree: The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape that appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector,

Ria Novosti wrote, and added that

In a separate decree published Monday, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter and media manager recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks, to head Rossiya Segodnya.

Russia Today is the English translation for the actual Russian name, Rossiya Segodnya. Rossiya Segodnya, however, is apparently not related to the English-language television channel whose name had also been “Russia Today”, Ria Novosti wrote.

Ria Novosti then added some more information, beyond its own dissolution:

RIA Novosti was set up in 1941, two days after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, as the Soviet Information Bureau, and now has reporters in over 45 countries providing news in 14 languages.

Last month Gazprom-Media, which is closely linked to state-run gas giant Gazprom, bought control of Russian media company Profmedia from Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin. In October, Mikhail Lesin, a former Kremlin advisor, was appointed to head Gazprom-Media.

Reuters also reported the Gazprom-Media story, in November last year.

Radio Moscow, the “Voice of Russia’s” predecessor as the Russian (or Soviet) foreign broadcasting service, was a superpower on the air, during the 1980s. 2094 program hours per week are said to have been produced in that decade,  compared with 1901 hours per week by their American competitors at the Voice of America (VoA).

The discrepancy was even greater when it came to transmitters and kilowatts,according to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel at the time: while Radio Moscow had threehundred transmission sites at their disposal, it was only 110 on the American side – and VoA only had one-twentieth the budget of Radio Moscow.

That was to change, at least in relative terms: the Reagan administration had convinced Congress to provide considerable funding. But as the Cold War came to an end, government interest on all sides in foreign broadcasting faded.

As far as Russia’s external broadcasters, now named “The Voice of Russia”, was concerned, not only the financial or technical equipment weakened, but so, apparently, did their self-image. Religious and esoteric organizations populated many last quarters of the Voice’s – still numerous – broadcasting hours in German, and at least among German-language broadcasters, there seemed to be different concepts of what would be successful or professional coverage of Russian affairs, a feature by German broadcaster DLF suggested.

The broadcasting house certainly no longer came across as the elites’ jumping board, as a place where Egon Erwin Kisch or Bertolt Brecht once worked.

The Kremlin, apparently, saw neither glory and soft power, nor a sufficient degree of checkability in VoR and put an end to the station. It’s hardly conceivable that it could still be revived as a mere “brand”, without actual radio whose signals would reach beyond a few square miles.

But “daily Russian life” – something Russia Today is supposed to cover – may still look different from the ideas of the “new generation” of media planners. On ham radio bands with wide reaches, Russian operators are active above average. And even if Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s new propaganda mega-medium, may be unaware of ham radio or finds it uncool, her boss, Dmitry Kiselyov, should still like it: a ham radio contest commemorating Yuri Gagarin’s 80th birthday.

After all, the internet is a rather non-traditional form of propaganda.

Will Putin’s message sink in, where Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s, or Brezhnev’s mostly failed? If not, don’t blame shortwave – and don’t blame the internet, for that matter.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Jamming of BBC World Service on Shortwave continues

Tuned in to the BBC World Service last night, on 15,335 kHz (Singapore relay) and on 15,755; 13,725 and 9,410 kHz (all Thailand relay) respectively. Apart from the transmission on 9,410 kHz, all wavelengths were beamed into the direction of China, if Shortwave Info is correct.

If the jamming originates from China, it is still different from the “Firedrake” recorded here. The noise jamming the BBC isn’t a tune, but a blunt row of monotonous sound waves – click the Soundcloud symbol underneath for a recording.

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The BBC’s broadcasts from Singapore start with a very traditional interval tune – the bells from St Mary-le-Bow. This interval was recorded in 1926 and has been used by the BBC World Service since the early 1940s, according to Wikipedia. If the signal is still the original from 1926, the bells don’t even exist anymore, as they were destroyed during the German “Blitz”, and replaced by new ones, cast in 1956.

Apart from China, Vietnam, too, is said to jam foreign broadcasters – Radio Free Asia (RFE) is said to be the target in the case recorded here. If it is indeed RFE should be hard to tell, because you don’t hear anything but the jamming signal.

In a statement thirteen months ago, on February 25, 2013, the BBC issued a statement saying that

[t]hough it is not possible at this stage to attribute the source of the jamming definitively, the extensive and co-ordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China. The BBC strongly condemns this action, which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying (华春莹) referred reporters to relevant departments at the time when asked about the BBC’s accusation on a press conference.

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Related

» China vs BBC, Kim Andrew Elliott, March 9, 2013
» Particularly intense in Tibet, CDT, Febr 26, 2013

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