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)
The scandal of Patricia Schlesinger, director of the Berlin public broadcaster RBB Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (illicit reimbursements and a rich consultancy to her husband) has been ridden by the right wing, but even some government parties are talking about reforming the public media. There are 21 television and 83 radio stations in the country, which share 8 billion in license fees (each household pays 18.36 euros per month). Deutsche Welle (financed by the federal government, however, not by the license fee) reconstructs the evolution of the German radio and television system: from the first stations opened in the four occupation zones (into which the country was divided after the Second World War) to the subsequent development and the emergence of new stations after reunification, and up to the present day. The topic of public funding and the credibility of information is also addressed: despite the scandal, 70% of citizens (2020 data) trust the public media. Here you can read the full article, in English.
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.
1 March: Moscow tries to switch off the capital’s broadcasters
At the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Russia targeted social networks, which in response raised their defences to prevent tracking of users in the occupied territories and blocked Kremlin-controlled media. But since March, the target has been extended to radio and television infrastructures, even though the Russian army is keeping Ukrainian mobile phone networks intact for use due to technical problems with encrypted military communication systems). Europe’s response is not long in coming.
Ukraine is a largely flat country, and in the capital, even if antennas were placed on a skyscraper (the tallest, the 178-metre Klovsky Descent 7A, was inaugurated in 2015), the signal would be absorbed by the ground after a few tens of kilometres, due to the earth’s curvature. A respectable transmission tower is therefore used to extend coverage. Built between 1968 and 1973, during the time of the Soviet Union, it has a diameter at the base of 90 metres and is 380 metres high. It is the tallest in the world (among those made entirely of metal) and the tallest building in Ukraine. (Wikipedia info here).
On GoogleMaps, there are several pictures and with StreetView you can ‘walk’ around the tower, changing perspective.
2 March: BBC responds by dusting off the short waves
In order to inform the Ukrainian population, the BBC is reactivating two short-wave frequencies that used to broadcast the news of the World Service for four hours a day (broadcasts to Europe had ended in 2008). These are the British transmitters in Woofferton. Built during World War II, and privatised at the end of the Cold War, it is still used by the BBC to broadcast the World Service and leased to other broadcasters (Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, Voice of Vietnam).