Posts tagged ‘media’

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fond Memories and Grinding Teeth: AM Closures in Australia and France

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Radio Australia leaves Shortwave by End of January

Radio Australia is signing off with the end of January, if things keep going in accordance with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation‘s (ABC) schedule. A press release on December 6 quoted the head of ABC’s radio section as saying that

“While shortwave technology has served audiences well for many decades, it is now nearly a century old and serves a very limited audience. The ABC is seeking efficiencies and will instead service this audience through modern technology.”

20161209_radio_australia_message_received

There are people in Australia who disagree. There are others who support the decision. In an interview with Richard Ewart, co-host of Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat, former Australian High Commissioner to Fiji and the Solomon Islands, James Batley, defended the closure of shortwave transmissions to the Pacific, but came across as somewhat unprepared for that role:

Batley: The shortwave transmissions have had a very long and distinguished history. But I suppose I can’t help thinking now that … I guess this is a thing of technology really overtaking that form of broadcasting. And it’s a very different world these days, than sort of the heyday of shortwave broadcasting in past decades. But it’s a pity, because I guess we’ve all got fond memories of tuning in to Radio Australia by shortwave radio in the past.

Ewart: Isn’t one of the key elements of this decision, though, that the risk that it may pose, particularly during times of emergency? We’ve seen two huge cyclones strike in the Pacific over the last couple of years, and during an emergency like that, a shortwave broadcast could be a life-saver.

Batley: Yeah, look, I think the whole media and communication scene has really changed pretty dramatically, over several decades, in the Pacific, and there are now … I think there are more options available for public broadcasters, for governments’ communities, to access information. So I certainly … you know … there will be some people who still listen on shortwave, but I think it is a diminishing audience. I think you’d have to say that. And certainly, people of my acquaintance, fewer and fewer people would use shortwave radios.

Ewart: But what about those who continue to rely on shortwave, particularly, for example, in rural areas of Papua New Guinea, the numbers, we understand, are pretty high for those who can’t access digital technology. They would rely, still, on shortwave to get any sort of broadcast coming out of Radio Australia.

Batley: Yes, look, I don’t actually know the numbers. I’m not sure what the figures are. […] But like I said, I think there are a lot more options available these days, for governments, for broadcasters. And I think there is a sense in which shortwave may be a technology that’s been, perhaps, superseded.

Ewart: Our understanding is that accurate figures are in fact being gathered by the ABC right now, which makes me wonder why would they make this decision if they don’t already have that information. Could it be a little bit precipitate?

Batley: Well, look, it’s not for me to question the management’s decision on this. I’m not sure what considerations they may have taken. I don’t know all those numbers.

[…]

Wavescan, Adventist World Radio‘s (AWR) media magazine, compiled a number of voices and programs from Australia, New Zealand, and the Asia-Pacific region in December, including the a/m interview with James Batley. It starts in the ninth minute of the podcast dated 18/12/2016 (currently available for download).

In an interview with ABC, Batley said that the money saved by abandoning shortwave broadcasts should be re-invested in a more robust FM transmitter network and increased regional content. The issue was also touched upon in the a/m Radio Australia interview. The shutdown is said to save some 2.8 million Australian Dollars a year.

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France Inter no longer on 162 kHz

This January 1rst must be a happy day for controllers at Radio France: the demise of longwave broadcasts on 162 kHz is said to save the broadcaster six million Euros per year, Sud-Ouest, a French regional newspaper, wrote on Friday. The longwave broadcasts ended last night, around midnight. During 2016, Radio France had already saved seven million Euros, also according to Sud-Ouest, thanks to switching off the medium wave transmitters carrying France Bleu and France Info programs.

Some five to seven percent of the audience, or some 500,000 people, had still been listeners to the longwave broadcasts, writes Sud-Ouest, suggesting that teeth were grinding among the more nostalgic listeners.

The end of the longwave broadcasts also marks the end of the meteorological service being carried to adjacent and more distant waters, writes the paper. They had been part of the daily programs, every evening after the 20-h journal, and had been dropped on FM much earlier, in 2009.

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Related

France Inter / RFI history, May 31, 2014

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The U.S. Democrats’ Red Herring: Blaming the Russians

Mattathias Schwartz of The Intercept suggests a statement different from the one US President Obama actually made at his last press conference. That statement, as scripted by Schwartz, would have deviated from the actual statement indeed. But it wouldn’t have provided America with moral and political leadership, as the teaser suggested.

The Intercept's presidential statement

The Intercept’s presidential statement

There’s no question to my mind that Donald Trump and his supporters (professionals and “ordinary people”) have made substantial contributions to brutalize the campaign, and political culture. But there is no question either that the Democratic Party’s establishment has shown its contempt for democratic principle, by pushing Hillary Clinton‘s nomination campaign, at the expense of Bernie Sanders‘. Clinton and her supporters showed quite the “sense of entitlement” once ascribed to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

That – not the Russian exposure of it – is the problem.

Were there American media that exposed the Democratic National Committee’s conduct? I haven’t heard of any. There was no Bob Woodward of our times who would have dug up that pit. The American media didn’t perform. They didn’t pick up their essential role. Moscow simply filled the vacuum.

Maybe that’s what Obama should have said (if he could have). He could have tried to talk some sense into those democrat functionaries (and press people) who are now trying to make the public forget their own role in their candiate’s undoing.

Obviously, there’s no reason to thank the Russian leadership for what they did. But there is no reason to flame them, either. America wasn’t treated like a banana republic this year, it acted like one.

If you want more of the same, shoot the messenger. But if you want democracy that works, do your homework.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

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

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

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

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Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

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Monday, November 28, 2016

A few Thoughts about Castro

Fidel Castro, in the course of about half a century, became an icon for people who would have liked to challenge America’s leading global role. And he was hated by many Americans. When I asked an otherwise friendly American friend (by letter, back then) in the early 1990s why the embargo was still in place, I got a long and angry answer, as if I had I had trespassed. And when I made some not-too-critical, but not really reverent remarks about Castro the other day, I got an angry answer, too. What you get in a conversation about Castro really depends on your interlocutor (and, of course, on your diplomatic skills).

What is frequently ignored however, is the Cuban people. It is true that fear, intimidation and human rights violations has helped to keep the Cuban Communist Party in power. so have state and party propaganda. Decades of getting the same stories told over and over and over again, in school, the media, and  arguably by Grandpa at home, won’t fail to leave  traces on most human harddisks.

Few political leaders of the 20th and – so far – 21st century trigger as strong emotions as Fidel Castro does. Castro is idolized, and demonized. And more frequently than not, peoples’ reactions to his memory depend on where they belong, or who they side with: America, China, or Russia, for example.

It would take biographic research to judge Castro and his rule. It would require reading one or two biographies, at least. The information that daily mass media offer won’t provide insights into how Cuba has endured, or profitted from, Castro rule since early 1959.

But you wouldn’t run into too many people without clear-cut opinions about Castro.

That’s why countries and civilizations can be surprising to outsiders (and even to insiders). Things happen, and they may appear to be unlogical or bizarre. But they happen for reasons – good or bad -, and the driving forces behind them aren’t necessarily idiocy.

To understand Castro’s rise to power, and the reasons as to why the Cuban Communist Party has been able to cement its dictatorship to this days, we would need to walk the Cuban streets of the 1940s and 1950s, not those of the 2010s.

Research – scientific or journalistic – needs to take us there.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Election Observation by the Way

6080 kHz would be a great frequency to listen to the Voice of America‘s (VoA’s) election coverage – if the Voice of Turkey wouldn’t start to interfere with their English program, at 04:00 a.m. UTC. That drowns VoA completely.

4960 kHz, also from the VoA’s Sao Tome and Principe relay, offers an acceptable alternative, provided that you live in the countryside and have some outdoor wire in the air.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shijiazhuang: Falling over each other to Express their Love for the Motherland

Thirty flag communities were created in Shijiazhuang, and along with more than ten flag streets, they attracted participation by a hundred-thousand citizens, Shijiazhuang Daily, the local party newspaper, reported on September 30.

Tomorrow is national day, with the provincial capital’s big roads and small alleys, communities and schools all flying the bright-colored five-starred red flag, spreading deep patriotic feelings in every place! Organized by the Shijiazhuang Municipal Committee’s propaganda department, the flag-raising activity carried out by Yanzhao Evening Post continued from September 19 until now and earned positive responses from all parts of society, with numerous citizens raising or hanging out the national flag in a wave of enthusiasm. In less than half a month, a total of fifty-thousand national flags were given to the provincial capital’s citizens, and the creation of thirty flag communities, five national-flag schools, more than ten flag streets etc. attracted onehundred-thousand citizens’ passionate participation. It is worth mentioning that when a huge 38 meters long and 25.3 meters broad flag with a weight of two-hundred kilograms appeared at a rebuilt school in the Liangxiang disaster area, all teachers’ and students’ eyes were brimming with tears of emotion, and they loudly exlaimed: “Motherland, we love you!” These words, so plain and sincere, were an expression of all the citizens’ good wishes and ardent love for the motherland!

明天就是国庆节了,省会大街小巷、社区、学校都飘扬起鲜艳的五星红旗,处处传递着浓浓的爱国情怀!由石家庄市委宣传部主办、燕赵晚报承办的“五星红旗飘起来”活动从9月19日启动至今,得到了社会各界的积极响应,广大市民升国旗、挂国旗的热情如潮。不到半个月时间,共向省会市民赠送50000面国旗,打造了30个国旗社区、5个国旗学校、十余条国旗街道等,吸引了10万市民激情参与。值得一提的是,当长38米、宽25.3米、重200公斤的巨幅国旗亮相灾区重建学校时,全校师生激动得热泪盈眶,高呼:“祖国,我爱你!”这句最真挚、最质朴的话语也说出了全市人民对祖国的祝福与热爱!

This year’s “flying the five-starred red flag” activity, from the start, ignited the enthused participation of citizens. Day after day, this newspaper received three-hundred registrations from community neighborhood communities, properties, schools, companies, citizens, etc.. They fell over each other in their eagerness to apply for a flag, to create “flag communities”, “flag streets”, etc., in their desire for practical action to express their deep good wishes for the land, their mother. The most enthusiastic among those registering were the community neighborhood communities.

今年“五星红旗飘起来”活动一启动,就点燃了市民的参与热情,连日来,本报共接到报名电话三百来个,涉及社区居委会、物业、学校、企业、市民等。他们争相来电申领国旗,打造“国旗社区”“国旗学校”“国旗街”等,想用实际行动表达对祖国母亲的深深祝福,其中报名最踊跃的就是社区居委会。

There are tons of trivia and atmospheric fuel for the reader, before the article returns to the monster flag, which was apparently taken to several schools in a row, among them the once disaster-stricken, rebuilt school, previously mentioned within the first blockquote:

The way the huge flag was passed on was a wonderfully vivid lesson in patriotism for the children, but it also touched every teacher. […..]

巨幅国旗的传递,给孩子们上了一堂精彩生动的爱国主义课,也感动着每一名参与传递的师生。[…..]

In addition, different from past years, under the unified arrangements of the City Transportation Department, [Shijiazhuang’s] more than 6,000 cabs and buses also flew the flag, becoming the most beautiful circulating sight in the capital city’s streets.

此外,与往年不同的是,在市交通局的统一安排下,今年全市6000多辆出租车和公交车上也悬挂起国旗,成为省会街头最美的流动风景线。

[…..]

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lu Wei “name-dropped” by State-Owned Newspaper(s)

(Former) State Internet Information Office director
Lu Wei and federal interior minister
de Maizière, photo op, July 2, 2015.
Click photo for more info.

Lu Wei (鲁炜) made his first public reappearance today after his resignation as CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China) director. He didn’t appear in person, but was mentioned in a news article as a participant in meeting of a Central Committee special working group for the prevention of juvenile deliquency. The article was published this morning by state-owned Legal Daily (法制日报 / 法制网), reports the Financial Times. Lu’s resignation in June reportedly came as a surprise. While giving way to Xu Lin (徐麟) as CAC director, Lu maintained his position as the CCP’s deputy propaganda director.

According to its “About” page, Legal Daily’s website is under direct guidance from the party’s central propaganda department and the CAC. It is published by the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China.

People’s Daily also published the article (or rather, its first seven paragraphs), but mentioned China Youth Daily as the original source.

Given the topic, this appears to make sense – however, China Youth online’s article, just as People’s Daily’s, is shorter than Legal Daily’s.

Anyway – who cares. The CCP, and only the CCP, is the author of those articles.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

RAE suspends Foreign-Language Broadcasts until October 5

No foreign-language programs will be broadcast by RAE (Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior) from September 19 to October 5, according to an announcement by the German service last Friday. The reason given was that planned changes would be implemented during this period.

Indeed, only Spanish continuity announcements were to be found on 11710.6 kHz shortwave and RAE’s internet livestream this (Monday) morning.

If according to schedule, the foreign-language broadcasts would be back on the air on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

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Related

» RAE – How to listen anyway, July 13 / Sept 8, 2016

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