New Taliban crackdown after the March 2022 clampdown on foreign TV stations: BBC News, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and CGTN (China Global Television Network). Since 1 December 2022, the broadcasts of Radio Ashna (the local version of the Voice of America) and Azadi Radio (produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) have been banned. On 30 November 2022, the Taliban Ministry of Information and Culture stated that it had received complaints about the content of the programmes, but without giving details. VOA protested that a multi-year contract with the Taliban for the use of FM and mediumwave transmitters had been broken. However, the two radios, financed by the US government, continue to be receivable in the country on medium wave (972 kHz from Tajikistan) and short wave, the TV is receivable on the satellite channel Yahsat 469, and can also be received via digital platforms on the internet. (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
Why did the North Korean regime turn on a new shortwave transmitter with the digital DRM standard (Digital Radio Mondiale)? And, above all, who listens to the transmissions, given that the receivers cost at least a hundred dollars, an enormity for a population starved by the supreme leader. RedTech, a French technology magazine, examines various hypotheses and concludes that there is nothing strategic about it. It will probably distribute the signal of KBCS (Korean Central Broadcasting Station) to repeaters (a system already used in the past in analogue) without setting up an expensive network of terrestrial transfer links. The transmitter operates on 6140kHz with an estimated power of 50 to 100 kW and is in addition to the one on 3205 kHz that has been on air for more than a year. It uses AAC+ compression because the engineers used software that does not support the latest standards. More details in the RedTech article.
Within six years, more than 90% of Japan’s commercial stations (44 out of 47) will leave medium-wave to switch to frequency modulation. In September 2028, only three stations will remain active in northern Japans Hokkaido and Akita Prefecture. But the airwaves will begin to empty from next year: the first channels will be turned off in the fall of 2023. The advertising crisis has prompted broadcasters to ask the communications ministry to migrate to FM to reduce operating costs: AM systems are energy-intensive, maintenance expenses are high, and antennas at least 100 meters high are needed to transmit. The last to leave the airwaves will be three Tokyo-based broadcasters-TBS Radio, Nippon Cultural Broadcasting and Nippon Broadcasting System-and some will continue to keep AM transmitters on after 2028. In Japan, the FM band goes from 76 to 95 MHz because the higher channels, before the digital switchover, were occupied by television. Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini
Since 28 March, the Taliban have banned the possibility of repeating foreign broadcasters’ programmes on Afghan territory. The first to stop broadcasting was the BBC, which asked for the decision to be revoked because programmes in Persian, Pashto and Uzbek are still only receivable by those with a satellite dish: 20% of the estimated six million listeners. Before the American withdrawal, the BBC also had dozens of FM installations in various parts of the country, including two in Kabul, on 89.0 and 101.6 MHz. The blockade makes no distinction and also affects the Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and the China Global Television Network.
Free speech in free fall
According to a survey conducted by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in collaboration with the Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA), in four months (15 August to 20 December 2021), 231 media outlets ceased operations, putting more than 6,400 journalists out of work. And women are the hardest hit: four out of five have been ‘sent home’. And who knows how many positions Afghanistan will lose in the world press freedom rankings drawn up by the World Press Freedom Index, which measures press freedom in 180 countries around the world: in the 2021 report, Afghanistan was already in 122nd place.
On 26 October 2021, one hundred days before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the first professional sports channel broadcast via satellite in 4K high and ultra-high definition began broadcasting. The Olympic Channel is the result of cooperation between China Central Radio and Television (CCTV) and the International Olympic Committee, and is the only channel authorised to use the Olympic name and logo with the five rings. CCTV16 will use the maximum transmission capacity to allow viewing: 5G + 4K and 8K + AI (upscaling with artificial intelligence) while the digital platform will be accessible from PCs, apps and the WeChat and Weibo multimedia platforms.
India’s broadcaster Prasar Bharatihas ordered the Doordarshan television division, which is also in charge of infrastructure, to switch off analogue TV transmitters by March 2022. Channels have already been switched off in large cities, and in areas where the switch-off is planned, financial aid will be provided for the switchover. However, it has been calculated that by now 98% of the population already use digital channels or DD Free Dish satellite TV. With the switch-off, Prasar Bharati will be able to auction the frequencies that become free, thus increasing the supply of digital channels. The analogue frequencies will remain on air only in strategic areas: Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Sikkim; the Andaman Islands, Nicobar and Lakshadweep. The shutdown will also have an impact on employment because the staff is redundant: 50% of the technicians will be dismissed and only a fraction will be replaced by more qualified elements.
In anticipation of the switchover to digital terrestrial TV in 2023, three of the Asian country’s major broadcasters have teamed up to operate the national digital TV platform. After signing a memorandum of understanding in February, the agreement was finalized in August by Bayon Media High System Group, Hang Meas Group and Cambodian Broadcasting Service Co Ltd (CBS). The partnership resulted in the Cambodia TV Alliance, a public-private partnership (PPP) company that will manage the transition phase. The broadcasters will transmit in DVB T2 but will also keep analogue signals on the air for a few years, which are scheduled to be switched off by the end of 2025.
More details and statements from the presidents of the broadcasters in The Phnom Penh Post article.
The American military disengagement has left the field open to the Taliban, who have resumed their ground offensive in three large cities in the south and west of the country: Herat, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. In the course of the advance, the terrorists occupy the radio stations, using some of them to rebroadcast their radio signal, and intimidate the others, forcing them to switch off.
As happened on 2 August 2021 in Lashkar Gah, a city of 200,000 inhabitants in the south of the country, capital of the province of Helmand, which has been under attack for days by the Taliban, who now control several neighbourhoods. The Taliban started to broadcast Radio Voice of Sharia (Shariat Ghag) on 95.0 and 105.2 MHz of the former state radio station and switched off all other stations.
Before the American intervention, when the Islamic State controlled 90% of the country, there was only one radio station controlled by the Taliban, which broadcast religious messages. In the last twenty years, however, information has opened up to pluralism: television stations, 170 radio stations and over 100 newspapers have been set up. An interesting report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism takes stock of the situation. More than 50% of the population (a total of 38 million) is under the age of 19, and around 6.5 million Afghans are active on social networks.
Radio is once again the voice of the opposition against authoritarian regimes, because unlike the web and social networks, it is less traceable. The origin of a signal can only be identified with equipment that allows triangulation of the point of emission. In the case of Myanmar, after the army’s coup d’état against the government of Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February 2021, the opposition opened the pirate station Federal FM because only the technicians and operators who make the programmes are at risk.
Listeners remain anonymous, whereas if they read messages posted on the Internet or social networks, they can easily be identified. The military junta controls social media and regularly interrupts internet connections. Policy Maker magazine devotes an extensive article to Federal FM, a pirate radio station that has been covering the main region of Myanmar and the economic capital, Yangon, for some weeks now, operating on 90.2 MHz..
After the great enthusiasm for digital broadcasting in the DRM standard, the Indian government is rethinking the technology to be chosen for the future. Digitization began in 2010, and since then three shortwave and 35 mediumwave systems have been activated; the latter can serve an area of 300-350 km each and two or three are sufficient to cover one of the 29 federal states. However, there are few listeners because the receivers cost too much for the purchasing power of the average Indian: the price is at least 3000 rupees (equal to 42 US$), a huge amount considering that in the country one person out of four lives on 12 US$ per month (below the poverty line). India has been penalized by the fact that it was among the first countries to choose DRM because the industry, concentrating on DAB+ (a technology not considered usable in the country, given the vastness of the areas to be covered) has not realized economies of scale and the price of receivers has remained high. Yet the DRM technology could also be used for the FM band.
Further details in the interesting article by Sreejiraj Eluvangal appeared on ultra news, which reports the statements of Ruxandra Obreja, president of the DRM Consortium and Prakash Javadekar, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.