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This is a searchable archive of over 15,000 international media stories published from Oct 2003 - March 2012

The live Weblog closed on Saturday 24 March 2012.

I have written a series of articles reflecting on the changes in international broadcasting since I started appearing on the Media Network radio show in 1981, and looking ahead to the coming decade. The articles are available on the RNW English website as follows:

Kenya: CCK to take back unused frequencies

The Communications Commission of Kenya may soon take back broadcasting frequencies from holders who are not using them, for redistribution to other players as demand continues to rise, especially for radio. This comes as a report by Deloitte criticised the ‘first-come first-served’ approach used to allocate frequencies saying it does not support effective use of the spectrum, as it did not take into account broadcasters’ business plans and audience demand.

The audit firm, in a Competition Study of the broadcasting industry in Kenya, recommended that the regulator ask holders of unused radio and television frequencies to hand back the unused spectrum immediately. There are 129 radio frequencies (30 percent) of the total spectrum allocation that are not currently on-air and 25 TV frequencies (23 per cent) not in use.

CCK has in the past issued a similar warning, but with no action taken so it remains to be seen if it will act decisively this time. “We will work to ensure that frequency assigned to every broadcaster is fully utilised for the benefit of the country,” said CCK acting Director General , Francis Wangusi in a speech during the release of the findings.

Notably, it is only the government-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation that is under-utilising its allocated radio spectrum. While it has been allocated 20 per cent spectrum, it only uses 10 per cent. The audit firm suggested that existing radio spectrum frequencies holders be requested to justify their proposed use of the frequency while renewing their licences by reference to business plans, market demand and share of viewers. There may be not much worry for the TV spectrum as they will have to hand back the analogue frequencies as the country migrates from analogue to digital by 2015.

(Source: The Star)

Rwanda: Parliament radio goes on air

After almost two years of preparations, the Rwandan Parliament yesterday launched its radio station, Radio Inteko, on FM 101.5. The radio station was officially launched amid celebrations from a cheerful audience comprising of senior government officials and a blend of local musicians.

During the event, the Minister in charge of Cabinet Affairs, Protais Musoni, noted that the general public will be directly connected to parliament. “This development is timely because for the public; parliament is just a call away. There is direct access, people will no longer have to wait for updates on government businesses,” Musoni who is also in charge of media, said amid applause. “This is in line with government’s desire of creating awareness by disseminating vital information regarding various policies” said Musoni.

In a similar context, Senate President Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, observed that the radio will be of great importance. “It’s an important opportunity for us to involve those who elected us in the development of the country because this radio is an important tool in communication.” He stated that that it would promote participation of the local population in good governance and enhancement of democracy.

The radio was established with the support of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UK Department for International Development (DfID).

(Source: New Times)

Radiofax audio archive to mark 20 years since closure

Andy Burnham (ex of Radiofax) writes: “We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the closedown of the shortwave station Radiofax later this year and I have taken on the task of uploading archive programmes from my weekly technical programme Sparks and others, from the early programmes, going right up until the closedown in September 1992.

“I am finding some fascinating stuff in these programmes, the period of the early 1990s when digital technologies were just starting to take off, but before the Internet took hold is often overlooked so I’m hoping to redress the balance a little.

“I’m hoping to restart the uploads over the weekend - I’m working on it now - but I thought I must get in touch in the hope you can add a mention from the Media Network blog before it closes. I will be adding more over the coming weeks and months, much like Jonathan Marks is doing on his Media Network archive blog.”

Andy Sennitt adds: The URL is www.radiofax.org and I have added it to the list of links on the right of this page. Radiofax was featured a number of times on Media Network, and of course the team included the late Bob Tomalksi, who was a friend of the programme and sadly passed away in 2001. I often wonder what Bob would have made of all the changes that have taken place in international broadcasting in the first decade of this century.

Radiofax was an unlicensed station that believed in producing quality programming rather than just playing records. Programmes included science, technology and media news.Co-founders Andy Burnham and Trevor Brook fought a valiant campaign to get a licence to broadcast on shortwave. The case even reached the International Court of Human Rights.

If you were, or maybe still are, a shortwave listener, I highly recommend this site.

Swaziland to ban anti-Mswati tweets

Swaziland plans to crack down on criticism of King Mswati III by making it illegal to bad-mouth Africa’s last absolute monarch on Facebook and Twitter, the justice minister said today. “We will be tough on those who write bad things about the king on Twitter and Facebook. We want to set an example,” justice minister Mgwagwa Gamedze told the senate. The minister said government was finalising a law that will make it illegal to speak badly of the king on social media networks and that it would soon come to the tiny mountain kingdom’s parliament, which rubber stamps legislation.

Mswati has faced growing criticism and unprecedented public protests over the last year due to a financial crisis that has pushed the kingdom to the brink of bankruptcy. Gamedze was responding to Senator Thuli Msane, who on Thursday said people continuously wrote terrible things about the nation and its authorities on social media. “It’s like the moment Swazi people cross the border to neighbouring countries they begin to go on a campaign to disrespect their own country and king,” said Msane. “Surely there is something that must be done with them. There must be a law that can take them to task.”

The minister said he too had noted that the reputation of the country and that of the king was being tarnished hence the law. The announcement came as students and labour unions are planning a series of protests in the coming weeks, beginning with a student protest Monday against the collapse of higher education.

(Source: AFP)

Web address controversy deepens after US warning

A controversial attempt to expand Internet addresses far beyond the likes of .com, .org or .net has provoked a rare threat from the US government to withdraw a key licence from the body that runs the Internet’s core functions.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) depends on its US government contract to coordinate the unique addresses that tell computers where to find each other, without which the global Internet could not function. But this month the government warned that the non-profit body’s rules against conflicts of interest were not strong enough and only temporarily extended ICANN’s contract - which it has held since its formation in 1998 - instead of renewing it as many in the industry had expected.

A failure to secure the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) contract would severely damage ICANN’s ability to implement its address expansion programme, the most radical move in the organisation’s history.

The conflict of interest concerns arise from the fact that some past and present board members stand to benefit financially from the liberalisation of Web addresses through ties to organisations that make money from registering new domain names or consulting on the expansion. Currently, organisations are restricted to a couple of dozen so-called top-level domains, such as .com, .org or .net, or country code domains such as .co.uk. ICANN wants to enable brands, cities or firms seeking to build new Internet businesses to apply to own and run their own domains, for example .apple, .nyc or .gay, giving them more control over their Web presence and a greater choice of names.

“Not to award ICANN the IANA contract would be to completely knock it off its foundations,” said Philip Corwin, who is legal counsel for the Internet Commerce Association, an organisation for domain name investors and developers. “ICANN needs that contract to have the authority they need to really make this programme work.” The contract has been renewed until September.

(Source: Reuters)

New company building a search engine for television

A company called Boxfish, which just came out of stealth mode and is gearing up for a public launch, has built a system that captures every word spoken on television in the US, UK, and Ireland in real-time.

“We believe that there’s another internet that isn’t being captured, and it’s in real-time,” co-founder Eoin Dowling said. “Right now we’re sitting here and there’s hundreds of TV channels broadcasting relevant information right now, and it’s not accessible online.”

Though Boxfish is based in Palo Alto, Dowling and co-founder Kevin Burkitt are originally from Ireland. They previously built Red Circle, a company that provided digital entertainment like ring tones to mobile devices, and sold it to Zamano in 2007.

EU willing to support Portuguese on Euronews

Brussels is willing to bear the costs of Portuguese language broadcasts on Euronews for two years so long as state-owned broadcaster RTP maintains its shareholding in the pan-European news channel and pays its annual fees, Vice-President of the European Commission Viviane Reading said.

RTP will also have to guarantee to keep the broadcasts going long after the two-year period of assistance comes to an end. Portugal, through RTP, pays about €1.8 million a year to ensure the multilingual news channel broadcasts in Portuguese, but government cutbacks have put that service at risk. RTP has a 1.4% stake in Euronews and pays €360,000 a year in fees.

(Source: theportugalnews.com)

Kenya to ban analogue TV imports

The Kenyan government plans to ban importation of analogue television sets into the country in the next four months as a way of speeding up uptake of digital TVs locally, it has emerged. Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo yesterday said that the move will help reduce use of analogue TVs and help the country meet the June deadline for migration from analogue to digital broadcasting. “The more we import these analogue TVs the more we complicate uptake of the new technology,” Mr Ndemo said.

The planned ban comes as the government also prepares to launch a new DVB second generation terrestrial platform next week in Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. According to Mr Ndemo the current digital platform being used in the country has been DVB-T but next week the digital broadcasts will move to DVB-T2. “We also need more and different content on the digital platform because what is there now is the same as what is on the analogue platform and it makes it impossible for migration because people do not see the difference,” Mr Ndemo said.

Those who have analogue TVs can access programmes on digital broadcasting through set top boxes. Mr Ndemo said the boxes may cost less in future if his ministry is successful in lobbying for scrapping of duty on these gadgets by Treasury. New content would entice more people to migrate to digital broadcasts, he added. He was speaking during the launch of LG Kenya’s new Sh35 million service centre in Nairobi. LG, a consumer electronics manufacturer, said its factories abroad have already started producing TVs compatible with digital broadcasting and that the firm plans to start importing these sets into Kenya before June.

Meanwhile LG, a big player in the market, said it has no immediate plans yet to set up a manufacturing unit in the country yet but said that it would evaluate the possibilities. Korean ambassador to Kenya Chan-Woo Kim said LG’s quest to grow in the local market through its latest strategy of opening up customer service centres “could be a starting point of transforming Kenya into a manufacturing country.”

(Source: Nairobi Star)

Christian TV Network bosses accused of massive fraud

The Trinity Broadcasting Network, which bills itself as the world’s largest Christian network, is embroiled in a legal battle involving allegations of massive financial fraud and lavish spending, including the purchase of a $100,000 motor home for family dogs.

Brittany Koper, a former high-ranking TBN official and the granddaughter of its co-founder, Paul Crouch Sr, was fired by the network in September after discovering “illegal financial schemes” amounting to tens of millions of dollars, according to a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.

Apps could fence in free-range Internet: US study

The free-ranging Internet is under assault by mobile applications that connect people exclusively to content kept in “walled gardens” online, according to a US study released on Thursday. While 59 percent of the experts surveyed for the study felt that the Web would continue to thrive, they also thought “apps” for gadgets such as smartphones and tablets would power an “anti-Internet” used only to connect to services such as films or Facebook feeds instead of for open exploration.

“Instead of couch potatoes you’ll have app potatoes,” European Broadcasting Union head of institutional relations Giacomo Mazzone said in survey response. “There will be again a digital divide. This one will be between those who will prefer to use ready-made applications and those who are building ways or searching on their own to find the needed solutions.”

The Internet could give way to a hybrid model that combines open-ended quests for information or content with the use of “apps” tailored to plug efficiently into offerings hosted on online servers, survey respondents said. “Tech experts generally believe the mobile revolution, the popularity of targeted apps, the monetization of online products and services, and innovations in cloud computing will drive Web evolution,” the study said. “Some survey respondents say while much may be gained, perhaps even more may be lost if the ‘appification’ of the Web comes to pass.”

Slightly more than a thousand experts were surveyed for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project study that took a non-scientific look at how people will share and gather information online by the year 2020. “Apps’ ability to meet specific needs becomes a double-edged sword; they simplify life and create ‘walled gardens’ and a lack of serendipity,” venture capitalist Richard Titus is quoted as saying in the survey. “The Web is about discovery and serendipity, it’s about finding something you weren’t looking for… To lose that would be to take a step back in our progress as intellectual humans, the equivalent of burning a digital book.”

(Source: AFP)

China bloggers skirt censors with noodles, Teletubbies

Chinese web users frustrated by the blocking of sensitive terms have come up with a system of bizarre code words to allow them to post on a political saga that has gripped the blogosphere. China blocks all information deemed sensitive under a vast censorship system known as the “Great Firewall”, but the huge rise of weibos - microblogs similar to Twitter - is making this task increasingly difficult.

In recent days censors have been working overtime to remove references to the dramatic sacking last week of rising political star Bo Xilai and rumours of a coup led by security chief Zhou Yongkang, said to have been close to Bo. Bloggers have tried to get round this by referring to Zhou as “Master Kong” - a brand of instant noodles - because the names share a common character in Chinese.

“Played too big, Master Kong is now in trouble,” posted one weibo user under the name Engineer Zhongyu. Premier Wen Jiabao, who criticised Bo on the eve of his sacking, is referred to as “Teletubbies” because his name shares a character with the Chinese name for the popular children’s television series. And President Hu Jintao has been given the name “carrot” because “Hu” uses the Chinese character for the vegetable. “For today’s tug of war, carrot and Teletubby have patiently waited for years, which is not easy,” posted a weibo user called Long Long River, in an apparent reference to the political divisions in the ruling Communist Party.

Censors have blocked all forms of search on the weibos for terms linked to Bo, who was removed as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing last Thursday. Search terms such as “Bo Xilai”, Bo’s son “Bo Guagua” or his wife “Gu Kailai” have all been censored on Sina.com’s popular weibo. References to “Ferrari” have also been deleted after an unknown driver crashed his Italian sports car in Beijing and died, sparking speculation he may have been the son of a top leader.

Political analysts say Bo’s ousting has exposed deep divisions in the Communist Party ahead of a generational handover of power later this year. The lack of an official explanation for the move has served to fuel the online rumour mill, which has this week buzzed with groundless speculation of a a military coup, gunshots and even tanks rolling into central Beijing.

(Source: AFP)

Polish radio announces end of English on shortwave

Polish Radio carries the following announcement on its English website: “From Sunday 25 March, the English Section of Polish Radio External Service is changing its broadcast times and the nature of its transmissions. As of Sunday, the English Section will NOT be available on Short Wave, ending almost 80 years of broadcasts on this spectrum. Many thanks to all our listeners who tuned in via these means over the years.

“However, the English Section is continuing ALL its transmissions via satellite and online, with podcasts also available via our RSS feed and through the iTunes platform. Additionally, the English Section of Polish Radio External Service is available in London on DAB Spectrum 1 daily at 1900 local time.

“Major changes are our LIVE transmission at the time of 1400 CEST (1200 UTC), with our main broadcast moving to 2000 CEST (1800 UTC). Our flagship production, News from Poland, will move to the time of 1400 CEST, with a second edition at 2000 CEST. All magazine premieres will also air at 2000 CEST.”

The new schedule is detailed on this page.

(Source: thenews.pl)

Mali: Soldiers shut down news media

Reporters Without Borders says it condemns the occupation of the headquarters of the state radio and TV broadcaster ORTM in Mali by renegade soldiers since Wednesday, and the interruption of broadcasting by many other radio and TV stations as a result of an apparent military coup against President Amadou Toumani Touré.

“Whether this is a real coup or just a mutiny, we are appalled that soldiers have occupied the state broadcaster and taken control of its broadcasts,” Reporters Without Borders said. “As it is often the case in such circumstances, control of news and information is primordial and the media are among the mutineers’ first targets.

“The state media are now broadcasting the same message over and over, while the privately-owned broadcast media were suspended to prevent independent coverage of what is going on. All the journalists who cannot go to work have our support, and our thoughts go out to the people of Mali, who have been deprived of so many sources of information.”

Soldiers overran ORTM at around 4 pm on Wednesday, firing into the air inside the complex and forcing all the personnel to leave. At around 4 am on Thursday, they broadcast a communiqué announcing a curfew and the dissolution of state institutions. This communiqué has been broadcast repeatedly on state radio and TV ever since.

Broadcasting by all the privately-owned radio stations in Bamako was suspended. Some of them, such as Radio Kledu (101.2 FM) and Radio Kayira (104.4 FM), resumed broadcasting on Thursday morning. Transmission of the regional TV channel Africable has been suspended since yesterday.

The only reaction from the president has been to post a Tweet saying: “There has been no coup d’état in Mali. It is just a mutiny.” The mutineering soldiers have criticized the lack of resources available to the armed forces to combat the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and other Tuareg and Islamist rebel groups in the north of the country that have been staging armed actions for several months.

A presidential election was due to be held on 29 April.

(Source: Reporters Without Borders)

SES/Samsung to provide free TV broadcasts for Africa

SES announced at the Samsung Africa Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, that it is collaborating with Samsung to drive digital broadcasting via satellite in sub-Saharan Africa. Samsung will introduce an LED television with an integrated free-to-air satellite receiver, the Samsung LED TV Free Satellite, that will be distributed in Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon in August 2012. Distribution to additional countries will follow.

The integrated satellite receiver will allow consumers to receive free-to-air television channels without the need for an additional set top box as the LED TV will be directly connected with the satellite dish. In preparation for the launch, SES and Samsung will jointly arrange training sessions with distribution partners and installers to ensure the proper connection of the TV device to the satellite dish. Both partners will also run a joint marketing campaign in June 2012.

As a leader in the free-to-air digital TV market, SES delivers more than 60 free-to-air channels in more than 40 African countries. The launch of the new Samsung LED TV Free Satellite coincides with more channels becoming available in Africa.

“This collaboration is the first of its kind and will drive digitalization in Africa” said Christoph Limmer, SES’s Senior Director of Marketing Development and Marketing in Africa. “Today, one out of three households in Africa has a TV set but less than 10 million homes receive content in digital format. Our cooperation will not only help to improve access to digital content for African consumers but it will also encourage African broadcasters to launch more content. In servicing more than 40 African countries, we are well aware of the huge demand for more and higher quality TV services. The opportunity lies in providing an increasingly sophisticated African viewership with a significantly increased number of TV channels - a first for many African countries”

“The Samsung LED TV Free Satellite is our contribution to the continent’s efforts to ‘go digital’, providing African consumers with greater choice and broadcasters with the opportunity to grow the region’s media industry” said Dae Hee Kim, Regional Product Manager at Samsung Africa.

(Source: SES)