Posts tagged ‘markets’

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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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Deutsche Welle and the Dissidents: Skeletons in the Cupboard

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Market Segmentation in International Media Coverage / 国际媒体报道中有国际市场细分

Coverage concerning DW’s China department follows some kind of market segmentation: there is news for Germans, there’s news fort he international community, and there’s news for Chinese people. The news sources aren’t identical either.

就关于德国之声中文部有媒体报道来说有一种市场细分:有消息是给德国人的,有消息是给国际社会的,有消息是给中国人的。发布消息的来源也不一样。

For example, the Zhang Danhong incident was covered by Chinese and by German media.

比如说,张丹红事件是中国媒体报道的,又是德国媒体报道的。

The events of 2010 and 2011 – the sackings of Wang Fengbo, Zhu Hong, Li Qi und Wang Xueding – were covered by the Chinese media, but hardly by German media. Although I followed the DW story rather closely back then, I only learned about a reliable report which basically confirmed the open letter of the four when I had contacted Wang Fengbo. It was a report by a church-owned press agency, Evangelischer Pressedienst or EPD. This rather comprehensive report wasn’t online, but available from a database, accessible for all interested media, according to former DW editor Li Qi’s “China Nightmare of Deutsche Welle” (published in 2012).

2010 及2011的过程 — 王凤波,朱虹,李琦,及王雪 被停职的时候 — 是中国媒体报道的,但是德国媒体所报道的有关消息很少。虽然我当时比较关注德国之声的故事,但我跟王凤波联络之后才知道有一个可靠的,基本上确定王凤波和他三个被开除的同事在他们 公开信 所描述情况的报道。那个报道是德国福音教会的通讯社,Evangelischer Pressedienst (EPD)。他们的比较全面性的报道不在线的,但是据德国之声被停职编辑员李琦2012所出版的《德国之声的中国梦魇》,德国所有感兴趣的媒体会入口EPD的资料库。看来没有德国媒体感兴趣。

The current case of Su Yutong is covered by German, international, and Chinese media.

现在展现的苏雨桐事件是在德国报道的,又是在国际媒体报道的,又是在中国媒体报道的。

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Deutsche Welle QSL card confirming reception of Kigali relay station, on September 6, 2014, at 04:00 UTC.

If you think that JR and Deutsche Welle don’t communicate with each other, you are wrong: DW QSL card

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Zhang Danhong coverage (2008) / 关于张丹红的报道

One could summarize that Zhang Danhong’s case in 2008 got some attention from German and from Chinese media. Of course, German and Chinese mainstream media looked at things differently. In Germany, there were rather many allegations of Zhang Danhong’s „communist leanings“. Most of these reports didn’t express their own views but quoted activists, politicians, etc.. Purportedly, these media had no opinion of their own. This rather subtle approach is also becoming more widely spread in Chinese media.

总的来讲,2008年的张丹红事件在德国,中国的媒体都有所反映。当然,德国主流媒体和中国主流媒体的看法和说明完全不一样。在德国,ZDH 的 „亲共“ 的指控比较多。这些媒体的报道中,大多数不表示自己的看法,但是引述积极分子,政治家,等等的说法。据称,这些媒体报道就没有自己的看法。这个微妙的做法在中国的媒体也越来越多。

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What can be compared, and what can’t (2014) ? / 什么事情可不可以比较?

DW director Peter Limbourg said in a German television broadcast last week that Su Yutong’s exit had been a single case. And Su Yutong said in an interview with Boxun that her exit could not be compared with the case of Zhang Danhong.

在上个星期播送的一个德国电视台的节目中,德国之声台长彼得•林堡说苏雨桐被离职是单一的事情。但是苏雨桐受博讯访问时说,她自己和张丹红的事件这根本没有可比性

Limbourg is wrong: Su Yutong’s exit is no single case. It can be compared with the end of Wang Fengbo’s, Zhu Hong’s, Li Qi’s, and Wang Xueding’s employment.

但是林堡说的部队。苏雨桐被离职不是单一的事情。跟王凤波,朱虹,李琦,及王雪在2010,2011年被停职的情况可以比较。

And Su Yutong, Boxun, and DW, are all silent about those four cases from 2010 and 2011.

此外,苏雨桐,博讯,其他异议人士等等和DW有一个共同的特点:虽然他们的政治观点看来不一样,他们似乎都不愿意谈到2010/2011年在德国之声被停职的编辑员。

This has become DW’s and the dissidents’ common credibility gap.

现在,这个共同的特点是德国之声及异议人士共同的信誉差距。

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Main related tag:

» Deutsche Welle

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Related

» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009

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Friday, August 29, 2014

RSF and Republican Congressman demand Sanctions against Chinese State Media

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Reporters without Borders react to Xiang Nanfu’s release

Xiang Nanfu (向南夫), a Chinese journalist, has recently been released on parole after what Reporters without Borders (RSF) suspect was a forced concession. Xiang’s “confession” was broadcast by CCTV 13, a state-run Chinese television channel targeted at a Mandarin-speaking audience beyond the PRC. According to RSF,

on 13 May, ten days after his arrest, he was shown on CCTV13 confessing to having “smeared the Party and the government”.

Announced his release yesterday, the police said he was being freed on parole “because of his poor health and above all because of a relatively good attitude in pleading guilty.”

Xiang’s forced confession was broadcast just five days after a similar “confession” by the well-known journalist Gao Yu. Broadcasting forced confessions is often used to discredit dissident news and information providers.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire calls on

the European Council to adopt sanctions against CCTV13 and its executives – China Central Television CEO Hu Zhanfan, CCTV board member Jiao Li and CCTV vice-president Zhang Changming – for broadcasting these forced confession.

Xiang Nanfu had reportedly been charged with publishing “false stories” on Boxun, a dissident website, that “seriously harmed” China’s image. The BBC, in May this year, described Boxun as a website that ran sometimes thinly sourced stories.
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China Human Rights 3 Protection Act of 2014 Bill

Note: documents linked to underneath may be removed or changed – accessed and quoted from on August 29 – JR

According to Voice of Tibet (VoT), a Tibetan exile radio station based in Norway and broadcasting on shortwave from Tajikistan, U.S. Congress is considering a bill (no. 5379) that would intend to protect internationally acknowledged freedom of speech, free flow of information and and foreign journalists and media workers in China. The bill may also limit visa for high-ranking officials in China’s state media wanting to visit the US, and could revoke visa for Chinese media workers with Chinese media in the US.

A bill text as introduced on July 31 in the House of Representatives by Chris Smith (Republican) is available online. Updates should become available from here as they are coming up.

The issue of foreign journalists and media workers is addressed on page 16 of the draft, section 4: To further protect the internationally recognized right of free expression, ensure the free flow of information, and protect foreign journalists and media personnel in China.

Section 4 also addresses competitiveness (page 19). Chinese media organizations that could become targets for sanctions are listed on page 17.

The story about the bill sponsored by Smith has so far mainly been popular on dissident websites, and the apparent lack of mainstream media interest seems to suggest that the initiative won’t develop much traction in Congress.

Opinions from readers more familiar with American politics are welcome.

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Related

» State Vandalism, July 3, 2014
» Voice of Tibet (PBS), Feb 1, 2014
» The Firedrake, Mar 17, 2012
» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Logical, Mr. Palmer!

When business is going fine, CCP cadres are partners. When it’s going less well, they are mongrels [who] shoot their own people.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sino-Russian Shanghai Summit: Natural Gas Deal “supports Russia”, but simultaneous Naval Exercises indicate no Military Alliance

On Tuesday, prospects that Beijing and Moscow would get to an agreement over a natural gas supply treaty after many years of negotiations looked good, according to Victor Larin, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Far East Institute. Societies in both countries were watching the negotiations closely and discussing them “warmly”, said Larin, and situations like these frequently indicated that two sides were close to an agreement. Russia was in a position to provide China with needed energy, and in turn, the treaty would provide Russia with the funding it needed for its own economic development. Larin was quoted by Economic Information Daily (经济参考报, via  People’s Daily, and so was a Russian sinologist whose name would read Bie’erge’er in Chinese. He was quoted as saying that energy cooperation could reach well beyond gas supplies from Russia, and include oil processing, Russian involvement in nuclear power plant construction in China, Russian electricity supplies into China, and cooperation in wind and solar energy development. The main obstacle the sinologist still saw was pricing.

Discussing Russia’s “Looking East”, Larin said that Russia was currently actively developing Siberia’s Far East, and Russia would only be able to make this happen with the help of Asian countries, and particularly with help from China. Russia needed Chinese investment, equipment, and Chinese human resources.

拉林在谈到俄罗斯“向东看”时说,俄罗斯正在积极开发西伯利亚和远东地区,只有依靠亚洲国家特别是中国的帮助,俄罗斯才能实现这一目标,俄罗斯在开发上述地区过程中需要中国的投资、设备和人力资源。

Sina quotes the Chinese website of RIA Novosti on Thursday as reporting that Russia was going to invest 55 billion USD in the implementation of the gas supply treaty, while china would invest 22 billion USD. According to the agreement, Russia will supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas over thirty years. The treaty’s overall value is 400 billion USD, RIA/Sina quote Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller.

It took almost a decade to conclude the negotiations, the Washington Post wrote on Wednesday. While Russia believes that gas supplies to China can start in 2018, the Christian Science Monitor quoted a consultant who warned that after the political declarations are made this week, and even if Putin comes home waving a huge new gas deal with China, Gazprom may prove unable to deliver the goods, and that 2020, rather than 2018, might mark the beginning of gas supplies at the earliest. The olifields that would have to serve the contract were running behind schedule, and any diversion of existing supplies to serve the expanding Chinese market risks disrupting ties with another priority customer, Japan. It could become necessary to pipe gas from more distant fields, and in the worst case, a costly measure like that could mean that Russian taxpayers are committed to subsidizing Chinese consumers well into the future.

Sino-Russian naval exercises in the East China Sea are taking place for the third time this year, but without intentions to form a Sino-Russian military alliance, a RIA Novosti report quotes both sides. The exercises began on Tuesday.

Guancha, a Shanghai-based website and therefore at the scene of the Sino-Russian summit, suggests that the 400-billion deal between Beijing and Moscow is “a blow to the West”, or rather, that this was the view of much of European and American public opinion (….. 欧美舆论大多认为,中俄走近对西方来说是个打击). The gas treaty would strengthen Russia’s ability to resist Western pressure. Guancha also quotes the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) as saying that the gas supply treaty provides Russia with support at a time when its relations with the West are worsening. While the EU was looing for gas suppliers beyond Russia, the treaty with China strengthened Russia’s position. (A word of warning: I haven’t found the quoted WSJ article online and can’t tell if Guancha quotes it correctly.)

The support the treaty offers Russia might come at a price – two WSJ reporters took the data available about the treaty on Wednesday and computed an implied price for the gas of about $350 per thousand cubic meters, which would spell a good deal for China. If true, that is – other guesswork quoted in the article suggests that Russia would nearly get 380 USD, i. e. basically what it gets from Europe, too.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Norway: “appeasing China seems to take precedence”

Norway’s prime minister and foreign minister are not going to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits next month, as part of an effort to ease tensions with the world’s second-largest economy, Bloomberg reported on April 23. Views and News from Norway wrote on April 9 that Parliamentary President and a long-time supporter of Tibet, Olemic Thommessen, said he would not be meeting with the exiled spiritual leader because it was more important to repair relations with China. Relations between Oslo and Beijing had been frigid ever since Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, reports the Norwegian English-language website. It was Norway’s – now ruling – Conservative Party, including now prime minister Erna Solberg, who spoke up for human rights issues and Tibet in 2008. The Dalai Lama himself is a Nobel  laureate and visits on the 25th anniversary of being awarded the peace prize.

According to the Views and News report,

Olav Gunnar Ballo, another former leader of the Tibet committee, said it’s a shame Norway’s leading politicians haven’t come out in support of the Dalai Lama, and it’s cowardly that appeasing China now seems to take precedence over human rights issues that were so actively brandished in the past.

According to the Voice of Tibet, a Norway-based broadcaster and website operator, demonstrators protested, on Wednesday, against high-ranking politicians’ decisions not to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among the demonstrators – about 400 according to News and Views -, were Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande, MP Rasmus Hansson of the Green Paerty, and rock musician Lars Lillo-Stenberg. Norway should not cave in to force and threats, one of the organizers reportedly told Norway’s public broadcaster NRK. According to Views and News, Liberal Party leader Grande said that

the Dalai Lama would not be received “in the basement” [...] but would be brought to parliament to meet “as many politicians as we can manage to scrape together. We will show that people are concerned about the cowardice shown.”

These are strong words of criticism – and as they come from Norwegians, these words are laudable. But before Europeans elsewhere join the condemnations easily, they should pause and think what they or their countries were doing while Norwegian business was kept in the cold by Beijing. In fact, Oslo resisted the pressures for a remarkably long time.

But it is also true that the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo – independent from government in formal terms, but not when it comes to membership and influence – has made a joke of itself in recent years. Awarding Liu Xiaobo was a brave choice, but the award that had preceded it a year earlier – to Barack Obama -, and the one that followed in 2012,  to the European Union, were silly (to put it mildly).

Are the current (small-scale, but still bigger than elsewhere) protests only the last echoes from Norway’s better days? Or are they an indication that civil society is picking up important issues where the elites are failing? The Dalai Lama himself has turned more to people-to-people diplomacy in recent years, at least formally.

That’s where the future is.

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Related

» press conference, FMPRC (English), April 28, 2014
» press conference, FMPR (Chinese), April 28, 2014
» Dalai Lama in Oslo, schedule May 7-9
» Out of the Flames, Woeser/High Peaks, April 15, 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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