Posts tagged ‘industrial relations’

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, February 28, 2014

Shortwave Log, Northern Germany, February 2014: Bremen loses its Voice

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1. Radio Bremen – some history

Radio Bremen‘s medium wave transmitter near Oberneuland, northeast of Bremen, has been torn down. The about six hectares of the former transmission site will be recultivated, but won’t be turned into building ground, Bremen’s daily Weser Kurier wrote on January 30. The site is surrounded by a natural preserve area. A citizens association reportedly expressed “great joy” about the removal of the 45-meters tall radio tower and the surrounding equipment as it had been a disfigurement of the landscape (“eine Verschandelung der Landschaft”).

Medium wave transmitter Oberneuland

Medium wave transmitter, Oberneuland, summer 2010

The Oberneuland site was built in 1998/1999. It replaced a previous transmitter site in Horn-Lehe, also located northeast of Bremen, but somewhat closer to the city than Oberneuland.

The Oberneuland transmitter was switched off in March 2010, which led to some listener protests just less than  200, according to Radio Bremen four years ago.

The Caller, Radio Bremen / studio Bremen, HInter der Mauer. Sculpture by Gerhard Marcks. Inscription: "The Caller empathises with the Stentor character who, with a magnanimous and brazen voice, shouted as loud as fifty men."

“The Caller”, Radio Bremen / studio Bremen, HInter der Mauer. Sculpture by Gerhard Marcks. Inscription: “The Caller empathises with the Stentor character who, with a magnanimous and brazen voice, shouted as loud as fifty men.” Created in 1967, commissioned by Radio Bremen.
At the time, Radio Bremen could be heard on VHF/FM, on medium wave, and on shortwave.

The Oberneuland site had been unable to provide supraregional reception of the medium-wave programs in a satisfactory quality, Radio Bremen wrote in a soothing press release of February 9, 2014. Also, the rather small number of less than 200 responses to the transmitter’s switch-off on March 10, 2010 had suggested that most people who tuned in to medium wave were actually rather radio hobbyists than real listeners. The Weser Kurier on January 30 quoted a Radio Bremen speaker as saying that hopes for medium wave as a carrier for digital radio had remined unfulfilled.

Certainly, Oberneuland’s medium wave was no match for its predecessor in Horn-Lehe. Almost fifteen years prior to this small one-tower site in Oberneuland, on January 31, 1999, the VHF/FM radio tower (211 meters high) and the medium-wave radio tower (110 meters high, probably plus a smaller reserve tower) in Horn-Lehe had been demolished. Hundreds of people had their savage amusement that day, looking on from a pedestrian bridge across the highway Autobahn A27.

Until seventeen years ago, Radio Bremen even ran a shortwave transmitter, also on the site in Horn-Lehe, in cooperation with Sender Freies Berlin (SFB, “Free Berlin”). The shortwave broadcasts from Horn-Lehe came from a horizontal rhombic antenna, carried by four radio towers of 25 meters height each. The shortwave broadcasts started in 1961, on 6195 kHz,  and ended on October 1, 1996, on 6190 kHz. The shortwave transmitter was then sold to south-western Germany, to Madascar from there, and may now still be in operation from east of Africa, German shortwave listeners magazine Radio-Kurier wrote in 2012.

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2. Radio Riyadh

BSKSA Saudi Arabia, also known as Radio Riyadh or, in French, as Radio Saoudienne Internationale, has dropped English as a broadcasting language on shortwave, along with a number of French transmissions, reports the British DX Club, in its February 2014 Shortwave Guide for the Middle East. One of the station’s French broadcasts on shortwave continues, however, daily from 14:00 to 15:55 hours UTC on 17660 kHz.

Saudi Arabia shortwave radio, February 26 2014, 09:00 UTC, 21670 kHz. Please let me know if you can identify the language.

Saudi Arabia shortwave radio, February 4 2014, in French. Click symbol for soundfile.
May be removed ten days after posting.

The target area for the only remaining shortwave broadcast in French are Senegal, Mali, and Cameroun, according to the station’s announcement. While this broadcast still included news during the summer months of last year, at 15:30 UTC, this program item, too, seems to have been dropped now. The focus is on religion, and sometimes on culture, in programs like “the Saudi woman” (La Femme Saoudienne).

According to the British DX Club’s Shortwave Guide for the Middle East, shortwave broadcasts in Arabic to North Africa, to Europe and the Mediterranean, the Middle East, to a number of Asian regions are continued. The transmissions also include Swahili, Indonesian, Urdu, Bengali, Persian, Turkmen, Uzbek, Tajik, and Turkish. For details and frequencies, please go there.

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3. Recent Logs

If you want to try reception, try now.  Some or many of the frequencies may change on March 29/30, with the usual, twice-a-year, adaptation to winter/summer propagation conditions.

International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:

AFS – South Africa; ARG – Argentina; ARS – Saudi Arabia; BOT – Botswana; CAN – Canada; CHN – China; CUB – Cuba; D – Germany; DJI – Djibouti; EGY – Egypt; G – Great Britain; IND – India; IRL – Ireland; KRE – North Korea; PHL – Philippines;  RRW – Rwanda; SWZ – Swaziland; TIB – Tibet, TUR – Turkey; USA – USA.

Languages (“L.”):

? – unknown; A – Arabic; C – Chinese; E – English; F – French; G – German; J – Japanese; R – Russian; S – Spanish; T – Tagalog.

kHz

Station

Ctry

L.

Day

GMT

S I O
 4905 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
2
 16:06 3 4 3
 9615 CRI
Beijing
CHN G Feb
2
 18:00 3 4 3
 9525 Radio
Pilipinas
PHL T/
E
Feb
3
 17:30 4 4 4
11890 Radio
Pilipinas
PHL T/
E
Feb
3
 17:30 2 3 2
15190 Radio
Pilipinas
PHL T/
E
Feb
3
 17:30 1 3 1
 7850 CHU
Ottawa
CAN E/
F
Feb
4
 04:42 3 4 3
17660 BSKSA
Riyadh
ARS F Feb
4
 14:01 4 4 4
 4905 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
4
 16:16 3 4 3
11710 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
6
 02:00 2 4 2
 3995 HCJB
Weener-
moor
 D R Feb
6
04:00 4 5 4
 7550 AIR
Delhi
IND E Feb
8
 17:55 4 5 4
 3995 HCJB
Weener-
moor
 D G Feb
8
 19:14 4 5 4
 4905 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
9
 16:00 4 4 4
 4920 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
9
 16:00 3 4 3
 4905 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
10
 16:00 4 4 3
15235 Channel
Africa
AFS E Feb
10
 17:02 4 5 4
 7550 AIR1)
Delhi
IND E Feb
10
 18:15 5 5 5
11710 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
13
 02:01 2 4 2
11710 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
13
 02:15 3 4 3
 9410 R. Cairo EGY G Feb
15
 19:00 4 5 12)
 5060 PBS
Xinjiang
CHN C Feb
16
 02:49 2 3 2
 4930 VoA
Botswana
BOT E Feb
16
 03:00 4 5 3
 4780 Radio
Djibouti
DJI A Feb
16
 03:30 3 4 3
 7425 Deutsche
Welle
Kigali
RRW E Feb
16
 04:00 3 5 3
 5040 Radio
Habana
Cuba
CUB E Feb
16
 06:00 4 5 4
 4905 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
16
 16:00 3 2 23)
 3985 R. Prague  D G Feb
16
 16:30 4 5 4
 3985 R. Poland  D G Feb
16
 17:00 4 4 4
 9720 R. Cairo EGY ? Feb
17
 01:57 4 5 1
 9720 R. Cairo EGY ? Feb
17
 02:00 4 5 1
 6155 Channel
Africa
AFS E Feb
17
 03:00 3 3 3
11710 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
21
 02:40 4 5 4
15235 Channel
Africa
AFS E Feb
21
 17:00 4 5 4
 7550 AIR
Delhi
IND E Feb
21
 17:40 5 5 5
 7550 AIR1)
Delhi
IND E Feb
21
 18:30 4 5 4
11710 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG J Feb
22
 01:00 4 5 4
11710 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
22
 02:00 4 5 4
 3215 WWCR USA E Feb
22
 03:30 3 4 3
 3240 TWR
Swazi-
land
SWZ ? Feb
22
 03:34 3 4 3
 3413
(USB)
Shannon
Volmet
IRL E Feb
22
 03:42 4 4 4
 2872
(USB)
Shan-
wick
 G/
IRL
E Feb
22
 03:53 4 4 4
 3995 HCJB
Weener-
moor
 D R Feb
22
 04:10 4 4 3
 4765 Radio
Progreso
CUB S Feb
22
 04:16 3 4 3
 4905 PBS
Tibet
TIB E Feb
22
 16:03 3 4 3
 4500 PBS
Xinjiang
CHN ? Feb
23
 17:30 4 4 4
17660 BSKSA
Riyadh
ARS F Feb
24
 14:00 4 5 4
15235 Channel
Africa
AFS E Feb
24
 17:00 5 5 4
17540 Radio
Impala
?4) E Feb
24
 17:30 5 5 4
 3950 PBS
Xinjiang
CHN C Feb
24
 23:10 4 5 4
 3950 PBS
Xinjiang
CHN C Feb
25
 00:00 4 5 4
15205 BSKSA
Riyadh
ARS A Feb
25
 16:42 5 5 5
 6170 Stimme
Koreas
KRE G Feb
25
 19:00 4 5 4
15190  Radio
Pilipinas
PHL T/
E
Feb
26
 19:04 4 4 3
15345 RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG G Feb
26
 21:00 3 2 2
11710
5)
RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
27
02:00 4 3 3
11710
5)
RAE
Buenos
Aires
ARG E Feb
27
 02:40 4 4 4
 4775 TWR
Swazi-
land
SWZ ? Feb
28
03:42 3 4 3

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Footnotes

1) received with a Silver XF 900 and its built-in telescopic antenna (SIO 555). All India Radio had occasional blackouts early in February (usually for around or less than a minute), but the signal rarely leaves anything to be desired otherwise. All other broadcasts received with a Sony ICF 2001D shortwave receiver and a simple wire antenna (12 meters length) or a dipole (east-west) respectively.
2) great signal, but modulation remains the usual disaster, hence O=1.
3) strong interference from upper-side band.
1) either from Uganda (which seems to appear unlikely when you looking at their program which is critical of the Ugandan government, but but Uganda is their location according to their website), or from Madagascar.
5) Possibly around 11710.7 kHz. However, it may also have been tries to escape interfering signals that made RAE appear to be more than 0.5 kHz above nominal frequency.

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Related

» Logs January 2014
» Logs December 2013
» Führungskrise, Frankfurter Rundschau, Dec 5, 2008
» Teilprivatisierung und Tarife, verdi, June 30, 2006

Main Tag: » shortwave radio

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

World Radio Day, and how did Li Wai-ling get Fired?

February 13 (Thursday) was World Radio Day. That was an adequate day for the Hong Kong Journalists Association to bring Li Wai-ling (or Li Wei-ling, 李慧玲) and the press together. But let’s go through the issues one by one.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

If everyone is happy, who needs a free press?

China’s growing economic weight is allowing it to extend its influence over the media in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, writes Reporters without Borders, in their 2014 report, published earlier this week. The BBC added a palpable story on Friday, about the sacking of Li Wei-ling, a radio talk show host at a commercial station in Hong Kong who has been sacked and who, on a press conference on Thursday, accused the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of having put pressure on her employer.

Organizations like Reporters without Borders have their merits. This may be even more true for the Hong Kong Journalists Association who organized Ms Li Wei-ling’s press conference. Reporters, talk show hosts and all the people who are critical and daring in the face of power deserve solidarity.

But this goes for reporters and journalists in Western countries, too. The problem with stories like the BBC’s, served to an American or European audience, seems to be that they blind people for problems at home. Here, too, broadcasters need to apply for frequencies. Here, too, they need to rely on political decisions when they are public broadcasters. On licence fees, or on public budgets. Advertisers, too, may exert influence.

My window on press freedom is small. The case I really looked at rather closely during the last years was that of the Chinese department at Deutsche Welle. I’m looking at these issues as a listener to and reader of the media.

This post might serve as the short version, and here is a longer one. They are about German politics, and the media.

The freedom of the press isn’t necessarily the freedom of a journalist to speak or write his mind, or to publicly highlight whatever scandal he or she may discover. This depends on a reporter’s or journalist’s employer, and frequently, reporters and editors-in-chief in the free world are very aware of when to better censor themselves, so as to keep their jobs.

This tends to be particularly true when a journalist’s contract is non-permanent. You don’t need state authorities to censor journalists when journalists’ employment is as precarious as is frequently the case in Western countries.

There is no point in pitting Chinese journalists against Western journalists, or the other way round. But there is a point in looking at every situation without ideological blinkers. Suppression of freedom from commercial organizations (and, sometimes, public-private networks) may still allow media that offer valid criticism of suppression in totalitarian countries – after all, that’s “them”, not “us”. Media in totalitarian countries can also, at times, provide valid criticism of media in freer countries. It is useful to read and listen to as many different outlets from as many different political systems as you can.

But there is no need or justification to blindly trust either of them. Without a broad global audience that develops criteria to judge press reports, freedom will get under the wheels of authoritarianism, even in – so far – free societies. The internet has become a place where journalists and their listeners and readers should meet, and be as honest with each other as they can. Its also the place where the struggle for freedom on the airwaves has to begin, time and again, whenever powers of whichever color try to weigh in on them.

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Related

» Radio Sparsam, Jan 26, 2014
» Authentic, Feb 16, 2013

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Societal Governance: Falling Growth, Rising Vigilance

The Chinese economy grew by 7.7 percent in 2013, 0.2 percent more than the central government’s target of 7.5 percent, but marking a 14-year low, according to the BBC. The story doesn’t explicitly say that there will be a further slowdown, but suggests that more growth would hardly be investment-led (as it was in the past), quoting an economist as saying that the government’s moves to curb shadow banking and local government debt will cap the growth of investment.

What may be rising further are “public-security” budgets. In November, party and state leader Xi Jinping had announced the establishment of a national security committee, and Chinese media were frank in announcements or interpretations right away. Tasks and challenges had become more complicated in the fields of national security, and the coordination and standardization (or unification, 协调和统一), innovative societal governance (社会治理), innovation of effective systems to defuse contradictions in society were needed, and it was easy to see that the new security committee needed to have both internal and external functions to react to both internal and external challenges.

A report by Central People’s Broadcasting  Station System (CPBS, aka China National Radio) pointed out that processes like these were going on not only in China, but in the United States, Japan, France, and other countries, too. Not least, the report quoted Ruan Zongze (阮宗泽),  a researcher and diplomat, the creation of a national security committee indicated the growing dynamics of Chinese diplomacy.

Such growing dynamics can certainly be visited in the German press. The home minister of the Free State of Bavaria, Joachim Herrmann, announced in a press release in March 2013 that China and Bavaria would cooperate yet more strongly in combatting international terrorism and drug trafficking. Herrmann issued the release after meeting Guo Shengkun, who had become minister for public security in December 2012, i. e. three months earlier.

Early this month, People’s Daily (online) published an article by Guo, which describes public-security work as safeguarding political security, security of state power, issues that relate to the ruling position of the party (事关党的执政地位) as well as national core interests mattered in Guo’s article, emphasizing several times that his position was based on prior speeches of party secretary general Xi Jinping, which indicated the party’s new height in understanding of how to maintain national security and social stability (我们党对维护国家安全和社会稳定规律特点的认识达到了一个新高度).

Guo’s article mentioned lots of ideological ingredients for these new heights of insight, but little or no recognizable threats. It doesn’t seem far-fetched however that incidents like these are among those on Guo’s mind.

Sina Weibo, according to reports, is losing users – the BBC links the decline to a crackdown on “online rumors”. It remains to be seen if innovation will come from Chinese media – “social” or other. Earlier this month, in a review of China’s media landscape of 2013, or China’s political discourse in 2013, Qian Gang, a contributor to the China Media Project, found a trend which in his view, went from some kind of constitutionalism to the two must not rejects. The two must not speaks as a term

summed up a new political position emerging from the Party leadership, that “the historical period after economic reforms [in 1978] must not be used to reject the historical period before economic reforms; and the historical period before economic reforms must not be used to reject the historical period after economic reforms.”

A number of terms in the media were checked by Qian, suggesting that terms associated with constitutionalism and democracy were reaching new lows. And while Qian considers the term “Chinese Dream” mainly motivational, he believes that media reference to “Mao Zedong’s Thought” is a measuring stick that can be used to look at Chinese politics.

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Related

» Edward Bernays, NYT obituary, March 10, 1995

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Update/Related

» Fresh Cash, Jan 21, 2014

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

New Deutsche-Welle Director: Great Challenge, Fascinating Task

Peter Limbourg, previously in charge of news and political information at ProSiebenSat.1 TV Germany, became director of Germany’s publicly-owned foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) on October 1. He succeeds Erik Bettermann. Deutsche Welle spokesman Johannes Hoffmann published a press release on Monday (edited by press officer Xiaoying Zhang), quoting Limbourg:

It is a great challenge and a fascinating task to be at the helm of Germany’s international broadcaster. Deutsche Welle is a media organization that enjoys an excellent reputation with its audiences worldwide. In a world, where a large number of international broadcasters are now promoting a variety of views, it is all the more important for us to persistently stand for our shared values. We will continue to ensure the credibility that DW’s staff, with great commitment, has established over the last 60 years by providing quality journalism. We will also consistently enhance DW’s multimedia profile.

Limbourg is considered “close to the Christian-Democratic Union”, the ruling party of German chancellor Angela Merkel. Limbourg’s predecessor, Erik Bettermann, is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and had been in several political functions on the party’s federal level and in the city state of Bremen before becoming DW director. He had been DW director from 2001 to 2013 (September 30), starting during Gerhard Schröder’s (SPD) chancellorship, and getting a second six-year term in November 2006, when the SPD was a junior partner in a “grand coalition” with the Christian-Democratic Union. At the time, Deutsche Welle was funded with 270 million Euros annually, according to Der Tagesspiegel, a paper from Berlin.
Deutsche Welle, as a public broadcaster, is supposed to be autonomous in its decisionmaking, but this autonomy appears to be constrained by political influence on the appointment of its directors, and budgeting and task planning are subject to consultation procedures with the federal government and the lower house of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag.  Deutsche Welle itself does, however,  have  the last word concerning the task planning.

In 2013, the DW budget was still (or again?) at about 270 billion Euros, the same amount as reportedly in 2006.

Deutsche Welle saw a major change in its tasks in 2009, when then director Bettermann announced that the broadcaster wants to reach people who influence opinion making and democratic processes. Prior to that, in 2008, a brawl in the broadcaster’s Chinese department had caught the attention of both the German and the Chinese press. A collection of links of blogs reflecting the aftermath can be found here. A second round of disputes at the Chinese department, including labor disputes, started by 2010. Contrary to 2008, the disputes ended with the termination of contracts with four Chinese or German-Chinese members of DW staff, and went almost unreported in the German press, while getting a lot of coverage in the Chinese press.

An aspect that was usually not emphasized in the Chinese coverage, but played an important role in the weak position of the Chinese or German-Chinese staff appears to be the nature of their work contracts. Probably in or around 2011, Michael Hirschler, a labor union officer, described how DW had frequently succeeded in getting rid of quasi-employees. This seems to apply in all or most cases in the Chinese department of 2010/2011, too.

Peter Limbourg’s statement as quoted in the DW press release of October 7 does not seem to suggest big changes in the broadcaster’s policies. He wants to conduct extensive talks with DW’s staff, the Broadcasting Board, the Administrative Board as well as political and social groups and then set out a new strategic plan for Deutsche Welle for the period from 2014 to 2017. The emphasis appears to be on “shared values” and “multimedia”.

For some information (based on German press) about how the new director was elected, and other impending changes at DW, click here.
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Related

Federal Labor Court, June 22, 2013
Interview: Wang Fengbo, Jan 26, 2012
Different platforms, Deutsche Welle press, June 2011
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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reforming China’s Financial System: who will bear the Costs?

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

This is not the first time that a “financial crisis” is predicted for China, and certainly not so in Western media, which seem to have become aware of problems in China’s financial system by 2011. It doesn’t seem unlikely that the times of export-led growth in China are coming to an end – a new policy needs to be found, and it will need to be more specific than these.

The third wave of the global financial crisis is likely to occur in the emerging markets, and it is in its preliminary (or brewing) stage in China, Hong Kong’s Beijing-leaning Wen Wei Po (文匯報) quoted Guan Qingyou (管清友), assistant dean of the Minsheng Securities Research Institute, on June 21. However, it hadn’t started yet, Guan added, and there were two reasons for that. America’s Federal Reserve Bank hadn’t sufficient reason yet to exit its quantative easing policy, and the Bank of Japan, Japan’s central bank, was firm in its radical easing policies.

But that was no reason to lean back, Wen Wei Po continues to quote Guan Qingyou. The longer the brewing stage of the crisis lasted, the more fiercely it would become once it broke out. For the time being, there were three firewalls, Guan suggested: China’s current account suprlus with a corresponding amount of foreign-exchange reserves, a capital account that hadn’t yet been completely liberalized, and short-term capital flight would therefore be limited, and thirdly, China’s financial system was relatively stable – this third aspect had allowed China to escape the Asian financial crisis (of 1997) rather unharmed. Despite these reassuring short-term “firewalls”, an aging population, growing financial risks and excess production capacity stemming from overinvestment as well as high housing/property prices were burdens that made it difficult for China to prosper.

It would therefore be possible to avoid an acute currency crisis, Wen Wei Po quotes Guan Qingyou.

On July 2, China News Service quoted excerpts from Hong Kong’s Ming Pao‘s (明報) July 2 edition. Here, too, the Federal Reserve got a mention: there was no fixed end to the third round of quantative easing, and it would continue until the US economy’s recovery was really steady. This positive change would occur later this year, the Federal Reserve is quoted as predicting – “we hope that the Fed is right”, China News Service quotes Ming Pao.

The Fed’s “quantative easing” was at times cussed in the Chinese media (I can’t tell if that was also true for Hong Kong media) during the first years of the financial crisis, for destabilizing the global economy (and, presumably, for devaluing both the dollar and the U.S. bonds China holds  as America’s creditor). But few Chinese observers appear to be waiting for an end to quantative easing too impatiently.
Ming Pao, according to China News Service, uses some stronger language than Wen Wei Po in describing the need for Chinese financial market reforms: just as the economy was slowing down in China, and while the global markets weren’t stable, the Chinese central bank was trying to defuse the bomb in China’s financial system:

To meet their needs for working capital, mainland private enterprises are often seriously dependent on short-term funding. And if Chinese everywhere scramble for working capital, the whole Asian supply chain may become affected. This is bad news for the close regional ties between exporting and processing enterprises in mainland China. If the tightening period drags on, this will also negatively affect northeast Asian countries depending on Chinese growth.

内地的私营企业为满足营运资金的需求,往往 严重依赖短期资金。因此,若中国供货商到处争夺营运资金,整条亚洲供应链都可能会受到干扰。对于与内地出 口加工企业关系密切的地区出口商来说,这是个坏消息。若内地的紧缩周期拖长,对于那些俨如中国经济增长寒暑表的东北亚国家来说,将会不利。

The more resolute China’s [financial?] reform plans, the more painful the labor pain will be. The decision makers will try to increase the efficiency of capital use within the financial system. There is no “painless” way of dealing with the problem of debt dependence.

中国的改革计划愈有决心,这种阵痛的时间就愈长。决策者试图提高资金在金融系统内的运用效率。要处理之前遗留下来的债务依赖问题,实在没有“无痛”的方法。

Access to loans had long been a problem for smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Occasionally even the press seemed to confront the central bank with the issue. A Zhejiang Satellite TV reporter asked People’s Bank of China (PBoC)  governor Zhou Xiaochuan in March 2011 how, under a tightening policy, harm for the SMEs can be avoided, given that banks could easily raise interest rates, and the SMEs had absolutely no bargaining power. Zhou’s answer amounted to a speech, rather than to an answer, and the only “practical advice” it contained basically amounted to a one-liner: We also encourage small companies to choose from the market.

The central bank hasn’t earned itself better grades very recently either, at least not by the Economist‘s standards: stirred by one trillion yuan added to the commercial banks’ loanbooks during the first ten days of June, the PBoC concluded that some banks were expecting a fresh government stimulus to revive a slowing economy and had “positioned themselves in advance”. But rather than going into another illicit lending orgy, the commercial banks had – arguably – only recognized existing loans in deference to the regulator’s instructions.

The message the BBC‘s Laurence Knight reads into the PBoC’s decisions is that the newly-ensconced government of President Xi Jinping is deadly serious about “rebalancing” China’s economy. (Knight’s story also contains a history of China’s recent “cheap-money era”, i. e. the stimulus package, and how small borrowers have been marginalised from the mainstream financial system.

But if the Xi leadership is indeed deadly serious about addressing the reform of the financial system, the question remains who will need to bear the pain Ming Pao (as quoted by China News Service) predicted on July 2. Michael Pettis, finance professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, can think of one sector which must not take the burden:

You can only resolve a bad debt problem by assigning the cost to some sector of the economy. In the past it was the household sector that implicitly paid to clean up the debt, but if we expect rapid growth in household consumption to lead the economy going forward, and this is what rebalancing means in the Chinese context, we cannot also expect the household sector to clean up the bad debt in the same way it has done so over the past decade.

But if growth led by domestic demand – instead of export-led growth – is indeed the goal, neither Guan Qingyou’s comments as quoted by Wen Wei Po nor Ming Pao’s article as quoted by China News Service seem to hint at such a solution.  And when it comes to China’s colonial possessions, investment appears to remain the only answer, to economic and political problems alike. But then, excess production capacity may hardly be the main issue there, in the short run.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Shortwave Log, Northern Germany, May / June 2013

When the Greek government suspended ERT broadcasts, the shortwave frequencies were an exception. The Voice of Greece kept broadcasting there. As I don’t understand Greek, I can’t tell if the programs were live, or from the archives, i. e. produced prior to closing ERT down.

"Music contest between Apollo and Marsyas", Voice of Greece QSL card, 1985.

“Music contest between Apollo and Marsyas”, Voice of Greece QSL card, 1985.

There may be different possible ways to explain why the shortwave broadcasts up – to me, the most likely one would be that shortwave frequencies are obtained in international negotiations in the framework of the International Telecommunications Union, and given that shortwave frequencies are considered a scarce resource (even though much less scarce today, probably, than during the Cold War), a country may need to use such frequencies with international reach in order to keep them, and not losing them to other interested countries. The same mechanism is at work within countries regulatory processes, as described with Kenya as a case in the news, in 2012.

My log list for May and June is short – it’s the outdoor season.

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============

Recent Logs

International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:
AUS – Australia; ARG – Argentina, CVA – Vatican;  CUB – Cuba; RRW – Rwanda.

Languages (“L.”):
C – Chinese; E – English; G – German; I – Italian.

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kHz

Station

Ctry

L.

Day

Time
GMT

S I O
12045 Deutsche
Welle Kigali
RRW E May 5 04:20 5 5 5
21640 IRIB Tehran IRN E May 5 10:27 5 4 4
 4835 ABC
Alice Springs
1)
AUS E June 3 19:51 4 3 3
17590 Vatican
Radio
 I I June 4 12:00 5 5 5
15345 RAE
Buenos Aires
ARG G June 10 21:00 4 5 4
11710 RAE
Buenos Aires
ARG C June 12 04:37 2 2 2
15345 RAE
Buenos Aires
2)
ARG C June 12 10:35 3 3 3
 6000 RHC Habana
Cuba
CUB E June 24 03:00 4 4 3

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____________

Notes

1) Recording »here.
2) Recording »here. Details about Chinese service »here.

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Related

» Previous Log, April 2013, May 4, 2013

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Freedom of Opinion on Workdays

In Zhu Hong‘s (lost) case against Deutsche Welle, there are two factors that may matter most. One would be the difference between conviction or Weltanschauung on the one hand, and differences in opinion on the other. As I understand it, communism, atheism etc. would be Weltanschauungen. Someone employed by a church or a church institution may get fired when he or she declares to be atheist, and that may be legal, as churches are Tendenzbetriebe. Media and publishers, too, are Tendenzbetriebe. However, mere differences of opinion won’t lead to getting sacked that easily, at least not in theory, and employers who give it a try anyway may have a hard time in the labor courts.

The other factor to be reckoned with in Ms Zhu’s case would be her weak position as a quasi-employee (arbeitnehmeränlich beschäftigt). Neither of the four editors at the Chinese department [addition: who lost their jobs or contracts in 2010/11] had a permanent contract. At least one of them, however, was fully employed, but as a temporary employee, not as a permanent employee.

The member of the DW employee committee who basically confirmed the content of the [addition: open letter by] former Chinese-department staff published by Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 2011, was – my interpretation – no temporary employee, let alone only a quasi-employee. He was in a position to differ. Zhu Hong wasn’t.

I was made aware of the two (possible) factors, mentioned in the first paragraph here,  in the commenter thread on my German-language blog, over the weekend. This discussion changed my perception in some ways – the commenter is apparently a lawyer, and was quite prepared to share his views – he noted, however, that it was too early to arrive at final conclusions, as the federal labor court hasn’t published its written opinion yet. The federal labor court argued that Ms Zhu had not been fired for a Weltanschauung. She was no communist. However, if Deutsche Welle wanted more  journalistic distance between itself and the government in Beijing (and the court didn’t try to judge if this was so), even that would be sufficient legal justification to end cooperation with Ms Zhu.

The commenter himself didn’t see the major issue in the concept of Tendenzbetriebe. A labor court case, he wrote, was similar to civil suits in that only the material and arguments brought forward in the proceedings right in court were considered by the judges. That made these proceedings different from administrative courts that may frequently carry out investigations on their own, to get a comprehensive picture.

For an employee with no permanent contract, it won’t be easy to find a point against the (former) employer that would lead a court’s objection to the dismissal of a quasi-employee like Ms Zhu. This is the status of many journalists in Germany. It is a status that makes it easier for papers or other media to fire staff who work on non-permanent contracts, once the deadline is reached, be it for differences or disputes, be it for economic reasons (downsizing). And this, in turn, may lead – an obvious conclusion, in my view -, to a large number of editorial or reporting staff who are afraid of conflicts, with – obvious, I think – drawbacks for freedom of opinion.

In an article not related to the Chinese department in particular, Michael Hirschler of the labor union Deutscher Journalistenverband wrote (undated, but apparently posted early in 2011) that when downsizing is the reason for dismissals, Deutsche Welle has frequently succeeded in getting rid of quasi-employees. The same was true for many other German broadcasters. Hirschler’s advice for freelancers, including quasi-employees, was to join one of the unions – Deutscher Journalistenverband or verdi – to get entitled to the benefits of legal counsel.

Certainly, politicans needed to do their share, too, to keep Deutsche Welle going, wrote Hirschler. In the world of international broadcasting, Deutsche Welle wouldn’t be competitive without sufficient funding. Both freelancers at Deutsche Welle, and permanent employees, should address politicians to this end.

But the next problem may be right there. German federal parliament itself, a place for many lofty speeches condemning questionable avoidance strategies of permanent employment contracts, employed de-facto permanent employees as seemingly self-employed (scheinselbständig), Süddeutsche Zeitung reported earlier this month.

Freedom of opinion and social justice are great topics for Sunday speeches. But they may be very different stories from Monday through Saturday.

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