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2011/02/21 / Horace

About International Broadcasting (I)

In the following blogs, I would share some of my views about international broadcasting. In the new semester, I would try to blog more in English to enhance my writing. Some of my writings are published without careful checks, so if you see any mistakes, please show your tolerance.

Today online, I read an article about the cuts the BBC World Service and the Voice of America made on their Mandarin services. The article said such international broadcasters were of not much use since they had not actually toppled any regime and predicted that these broadcasters would disappear sooner or later.

Of course, I was shocked by such a comment. As a loyal listener of the BBC World Service, I really appreciate all the efforts the BBC has made in offering comprehensive news to a global audience and their impact on politics and public opinions. Of course, international broadcasting cannot topple any regime, but it has an impact on those who topple a regime – the public.

If you have ever read the novel 1984, you could hardly forget the totalitarian system of Oceania. The whole system sustains its legitimacy via the Ministry of Truth, the propaganda machine working 24/7. Through a tight control of news and information, the government decides what the people should know and what they shouldn’t, thus deciding the attitude and impression the people have towards the government. Opinions are based on raw materials mainly comprised of what is going on. If one could control what the people know about the going-ons, that is, news, he could control people’s minds and their opinions. If one could have people’s minds and opinions in his hand, he could make them do whatever they want.

So, offering alternative voices to regions occupied by unfavorable news and information is very important to any country in the world. By giving the audience alternative but attractive news and other services, a country could turn the public opinion in its favor, influence the policy-making in the target country, and even a revolution.

Let’s look at the on-going Middle East unrest as an example. If we could only see information from the state-run Nile TV transmitting pictures with people bored with oppositions, pro-government protests and ‘patriotic’ songs and videos, we could only form the opinion that the anti-government protests were unreasonable. However, with international broadcasters like the BBC World Service and regional but highly internationalized broadcasters like Al Jazeera, people have the access to some hidden truths about the 3 decade rule of Hosni Mubarack and we more or less echo the protesters in the Tahrir Square.

Such sources not only serve Egyptians with latest updates but also provide information to other countries’ public and influence other countries’ decision makers via public pressure as well. Yes, the BBC or Al Jazeera did not remove Hosni Mubarack from office. However, after seeing those protesters fighting for democracy and a general resentment against Mubarack’s rule which echoes their own hearts, the majority of Egyptians would stand on the anti-government protesters’ side. With the latest pictures from the Tahrir Square, few outside Egypt would think it moral to support the long serving president in Cairo.

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