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Censorship Communications Government The Media United Kingdom News

BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea and Eritrea (bbc.com) 64

Ewan Palmer writes: The BBC World service has announced it will expand to serve the worst countries for press freedom as part of a plan to reach a global audience of 500 million. The British government announced its "single biggest increase in the World Service budget ever committed" and promised to invest more than $128 million by 2017/18 to the service. Along with improvements in countries such as Thailand, Russia and Somalia, they will launch radio services in North Korea and Eritrea who, according to Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom index, are the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.
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BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea and Eritrea

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  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @06:43AM (#50992591)
    too bad north koreans can not afford a shortwave radio, maybe broadcast on the medium wave band and airdrop a bunch of crystal radio kits
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      North Koreans typically have radios, they're just hardwired to receive on official party channels only.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They can also easily get into a KZ-like prison camp for listening to foreign radio.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rob Lister ( 4174831 )
      I suspect there are enough resourceful folks in Dark Korea that somebody will be listening. It doesn't take many. And the fact that it is hard to get makes it somehow more attractive and trustworthy. Word of mouth will take it from there. I'm not sure what good it will do though; the strangle hold on the population is pretty complete.

      And of course the government will do everything it can to jam the signal. And of course the jamming will not be 100% effective; Things like frequency hopping and shortw
    • Hey at least The North Koreans will get to listen to the same politically biased shit that us Brits do though they might find it harder to swallow.
      • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @09:55AM (#50993411) Journal

        Hey at least The North Koreans will get to listen to the same politically biased shit that us Brits do though they might find it harder to swallow.

        So are you one of the people who think the BBC is a bastion of out-dated colonial-imperialist racist militarism, or one of the people who think the BBC is a hotbed of sacriligeous left-wing Islamophiles?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          No I'm one of the people who thinks having a DG who's also on the board of HSBC (a conservative party donor) is a conflict of interest but hey pick whichever bigoted approach you want.
          • by dave420 ( 699308 )

            So you have no examples, just a hunch based on some perceived conflict of interest. Good jerb!

        • Trick question! He's both.

    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      So they have computers, DVD players and TVs, but not radios?

  • Budget (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @06:56AM (#50992621)

    I don't know what budget funds this, but I'd be pleased if it were foreign aid rather than the BBC licence fee.

    • Re:Budget (Score:4, Informative)

      by gsslay ( 807818 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @07:04AM (#50992645)

      Funding was announced by the Government as part of its national Strategic Defence and Security Review. It wasn't announced by the BBC as part of their Christmas schedule along side Celebrity Bake-Off. So I think it safe to assume that this is not being funded out of the BBC's licence money.

      • The world service generally isn't funded out of licence fees. It's expected to pay for itself in selling programmes overseas.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          (I think) you're confusing the World Service and BBC Worldwide.

          The latter is expected to pay for itself.

          The former is basically foreign outreach, and has basically always been part of the foreign office budget. It's hugely valuable, too; the World Service is the only reason people hate the UK less than they might.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know what budget funds this, but I'd be pleased if it were foreign aid rather than the BBC licence fee.

      On the TV news yesterday, they reported that the Government is going to resume funding the World Service that was previously cut. Given the timing, I guess that this announcement of of broadcasting to N Korea et al is connected with that.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      It was the Foreign Office but in 2011 they started shifting it onto the license fee and closed a load of services as a result.

      Now that they're reversing some of those closures I don't know if that means it's being moved back to the Foreign Office budget or not but I can't see how they can foist the expense of this onto the license fee given that they've already moved some welfare for pensioners onto the license fee. Normally you'd hear the BBC vocally complain if they were, but they seem silent on the issue

      • We Aussies got rid of those fucking stupid licenses in the 60's. It's 2015 for fuck sake, a telly is no longer a luxury item, it's a cheap appliance. Just fund the BBC from consolidated revenue and save a shitload on paperwork and policing. It would also save the rest of the planet from having to listen to petty complaints from ideologues who don't want one of their license pennies ending up in the foreign service budget.
        • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

          You think most of us don't know this? The BBC is the government's mouthpiece, so no matter how much they might feign annoyance at them they never actually scrap the fucking awful licence fee. The government would rather have the BBC as a mouthpiece than not, and it's extremely convenient for them as some people still believe the BBC is unbiased for some reason.

          • The BBC is the government's mouthpiece

            No it is not, and it is precisely for the reason that there is a separate licence fee instead of paying for it out of general taxation. The current Tory government want to get rid of the licence fee purely to diminish the BBC's independence.

            • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

              Bollocks. The currently government have guaranteed the licence fee for a further 10 years.

        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          And yet I can't think of one single notable export of Australian TV other than Neighbours and Home and Away which don't exactly have the largest of viewerships anyway.

          It's not like Australia is a shining symbol of TV export, so fat lot of good losing the license has done you. In fact, Australian news in particular is renowned for it's complete lack of plurality and this is a large reason why. The BBC allows British TV to punch well above it's weight both in terms of geopolitical influence, and in terms of t

      • They really should reverse the change in World Service funding. It should absolutely be funded by the FCO. Plenty of places around the world depend on BBC for real coverage when their own local news is just government propaganda. BBC Farsi comes to mind.

        Granted, the Intercept found some disturbing information about the BBC recently in relation to remarks by a Saudi official, but I've found the quality of the reporting to be much better than US news sources. I'm American, been reading BBC for at least 10 yea
    • The license fee payers pay for this: ie. everyone who watches broadcast TV in the UK.

      It used to be, rightly, the Foreign Office who paid for it - rightly because its aim is to spread British propaganda throughout the world, but the (Murdoch-loving, privatise everything including your mum) Tories hate the BBC and so forced them to take it under their budget (in between the other hacks and slashes at their budget). So now you have the rather absurd and indefensible position where license fee payers are fundin

  • Interesting to see the UK interest in Ethiopia and Eritrea again. Time to rebuild old relationships back into African cold war history?
    The "infrastructural environment" was great for the US and UK decades ago.
    Warming up Kagnew again? A site that gave the NSA and GCHQ great coverage of Africa and the Middle East (high-speed Morse 1950's), later submarine communications?
    That site gave great intercept coverage before Diego Garcia was upgraded.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Interesting to see the UK interest in Ethiopia and Eritrea again. Time to rebuild old relationships back into African cold war history?

      I doubt it. More likely this is so they can tell the Eritreans not to bother illegally emigrating to the UK. They seem to think it is a mythical land of milk and honey, when really it is just a reasonably dysfunctional western european country with terrible weather.

    • Ah yes. Just like providing aid to India in the hope that it just goes all Raj
  • Of course the disadvantage of the influence of the BBC is that all the refugees want to come here as a result...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeh, I have noticed that no other country has any refugees. They bypass everywhere else and swim round to the UK.

      Keep Britain white!

      • A chance to hear formal speech, listen to debates, and pick up accents is an invaluable aid to immigration. Potential immigrants do study the language quite hard when they know it will affect their income and chances of immigration.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The North Koreans will listen to the BBC and think, "hey, I don't mind a bit of propaganda but this is too much!"

    • indeed, this is the feeling in parts of Scotland (which is a separate country within the governance of the United Kingdom) where the BBC played a huge part in last years independence campaign. Unsurprisingly, the state broadcaster, funded by the tax payer, took the side of the "no" campaign instead of being unbiased in their reporting [independent.co.uk] and this is causing huge ruptures in Scotland right now and calls are being made to revolutionise [opendemocracy.net] the BBC in Scotland. There has been a lot of reporting on this situation h [theguardian.com]

    • The North Koreans will listen to the BBC and think, "hey, I don't mind a bit of propaganda but this is too much!"

      I'd be interested to hear your idea of a more balanced and neutral service than the BBC.

  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Tuesday November 24, 2015 @08:17AM (#50992823)

    Shortwave listening was a staple of my childhood. In the 70s and early 80s roughly a third all portable radios were shortwave-capable and a great many people listened to programmes from other countries on a regular basis. Of course you were listening to the raw output of world governments, but you knew this and they made no bones about it. Shortwave is expensive and power-intensive, and yet the airwaves were crowded. People were listening. James Careless has also written this informative shortwave lament which gives much needed backstory [radioworld.com] for the younger generations.

    When I surf US news sources today I can spot the bias from a mile away, and even when they strive for balance of viewpoint the result often comes off clumsily, buried in hedge-words and apologetic disclaimers as if the commentator is, well, feeling a bit insecure. I miss the clarity of sifting world news as portrayed by world governments, assembled and delivered for an English speaking audience in five minutes.

    For example, one of my daily listens was Vladimir Posner [wikipedia.org] on Radio Moscow World Service with his daily talk. At a time when US News networks portrayed Russia as a cold-hearted military threat intent on world conquest and our own President Reagan seemed incapable of anything beyond an infantile level of Cowboys 'n Indians... Posner's commentaries were thoughtful and reflective viewpoints on our cultural differences and similarities. You could even 'read' between the lines and glimpse the areas in which Russian society would later reform.

    I was lucky to grow up in a time of sunspot activity. Then you could bop over to the BBC for world news (they still cover it best) and then tune at random. You'd hear pan pipes, Romanian lover's laments and even classical music --- tortured as it was by AM bandwidth and fade --- had a certain magic to it, especially at 3 O'clock in the morning.

    Tie a long thin wire to a rock and toss the end over a tree or your neighbor's roof, pull it tight and connect it. You're listening to Tokyo, broadcasting from Tokyo. No infrastructure in between except for the ionosphere.

    Of course the Internet --- that incredibly, almost laughably fragile construct that relies on stable grid power between you and your 'station', with its hidden single points of failure like DNS and relies on an awesome amount of cooperation and due diligence of faceless corporations and governments to ensure that every little packet will arrive safely and unfiltered... is better, for everything, right?

    Sure it is. Until the very day and moment it is not better any more.
    Any number of things could happen. It could all be over in minutes.
    It would be wise to acquire at least one good shortwave radio.
    If something goes wrong with the world, you might be the only one who knows what's going on.
    While you're at it, go ahead and toss that rock and give a listen.
    We're past the heyday of shortwave broadcasting but there are still voices out there.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Heh. I've been in the BBC data center at Oxford Circus, and their "World Services" base in western London. I was very impressed with their physical security and robustness of their systems. Not so impressed with their insistence on server homogeneity, which I tried to discuss with them and got nowhere. There's a savings and ease of management in having very consistent systems, but it does leave you potentially more vulnerable to zero-day exploits and manufacturing flaws such as the old IBM "Deathstar" disk

    • These days if you pick up a strong shortwave signal in the US its either Radio Jesus or a Mexican Border blaster. It's amazing to watch the shortwave spectrum on a $15 SDR dongle (with the $40 upconverter).

  • the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence

    The BBC would not be at the top of my list of examples of "media independence".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Fuck me... it should be!

      Measured from outside the UK, sure, the BBC puts across a very British point of view; how could it not.

      Inside the UK, this is an organisation that is accused of egregious negative bias by all sides: the very definition of a successfully neutral organisation.

    • the two worst performing countries in the world when ranked on a number of criteria including media independence

      The BBC would not be at the top of my list of examples of "media independence".

      The BBC isn't perfect but it's less imperfect than almost anything else of its size.

      • The BBC isn't perfect but it's less imperfect than almost anything else of its size.

        The BBC is an instrument of the confluence between government and corporations. It's mission is to maintain the status quo. The run-up to the Iraq War and fallout from the 2008 financial crisis are two recent examples of their inability to be "independent". They are a tool of control. And North Koreans don't need more control. They already have plenty.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    > BBC World Service To Provide Radio For North Korea

    No, they won't. They will be emitting, but the DPRK will promptly jam them with a few hundred kilowatts' worth of white noise, made by big, old soviet-made vacuum tube systems. Therefore, no service will be rendered.

    Honestly said, I side with the DPRK here. Experience shows, anybody who makes concessions to the imperialists is promptly killed. Remember how Gaddhafi was ritually sacrificed on live TV just a few years after making peace with the NATO. Rem

  • Good idea, BBC. Let's topple whatever dictatorship currently running Eritrea so that it becomes an extension of Somalia. After all, one of the factors in Eritrea's secession from Ethiopia was that while inland Ethiopia is largely Eastern Orthodox Christian, Eritrea is majority Muslim. And now, w/ democracy being encouraged, it's not long before they go the way of Libya or Tunisia

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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