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[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] http://search.ft.com/search/article.html?id=040109006100&query=Iraq&vsc_appId=totalSearch&state=Form Iraqi threat to overturn US broadcasting contract By Nicolas Pelham in Amman and Joshua Chaffin in Washington FT.com site; Jan 09, 2004 Iraq's communications minister on Friday threatened to overturn a politically sensitive contract awarded to an American company to run Iraq's national broadcasting service. The Harris Corporation, a US manufacturer, was selected on Friday with the Lebanese Broadcasting Company and a Kuwaiti-Iraq group, Al-Fawares, to carry out a $100m (£60m, ?78m), one-year contract to rebuild and operate a newspaper and a group of Iraqi television and radio stations used by Saddam Hussein's regime. But Haider Abadi, communications minister, said he was not consulted about the contract and threatened to overturn it when the US-led administration hands power to a sovereign Iraqi government in July. "We very much welcome the help of others to reshape our media, but to relinquish our responsibilities and to give control to foreign media is politically and socially wrong," said Mr Abadi. He called the contract "temporary". If the handover goes to plan Iraqi ministers will have responsibility for deciding the fate of the licences. The contract was awarded by the Pentagon and funded from the $87.5bn Congress appropriated for funding reconstruction and the US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under the deal, Harris, which manufactures broadcasting transmitters, will rebuild the country's national broadcaster. The LBC and Al-Fawares will train 1,000 Iraqis to run two television channels and two radio stations. Al-Fawares will also publish the state newspaper, Al Sabah. Microsoft, the computer giant, will aid the consortium. Danny Benjamin, a vice-president at Al-Fawares, said that as an Iraqi-American, he respected Mr Abedi's comments. "This is a very strategic job. It's not like rebuilding a road or a bridge." He promised to preserve Iraqi culture, and said he had not received any pressure from the Pentagon to censor or slant news coverage. The media contract has been a source of controversy for the US-led coalition. SAIC, a US defence contractor first recruited by the Pentagon, was widely criticised for poor quality and pro-American bias. Critics dubbed its television operation "the Pentagon's Pravda" for its broadcasting of English-language press conferences with an Arabic voiceover. Several prospective bidders, including the BBC, withdrew from the tendering process amid concern that the contract would not guarantee the independence of the broadcaster from state interference. Without firm regulations, broadcasters said they feared they would be subject to political influence from both the Pentagon, which provided the funds, and an incoming Iraqi sovereign government expected to be anxious to assert its authority. "The GC [Governing Council] wants a role in running the IMN, because the culture of the people needs someone who knows what is going on," says a participant on the Governing Council's media committee. ----- Original Message ----- From: <info@uncoverIraq.com> To: <email@example.com> Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2004 12:50 AM Subject: [casi-analysis] Harris (*not* Rendon) to develop Iraqi Media Network [ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ] Everyone, Florida-based Harris Corp has won the $96M-US contract to rebuild the Iraqi Media Network. Harris won over competitors including WorldSpace, whose proposal included The Rendon Group (TRG) as a partner. A Reuters report says a Harris spokeperson said "the company would work hard not to be a propaganda machine for anyone, a charge leveled against the network both under Saddam's rule and since the US-led CPA took it over". TRG is controversial for its ties to Ahmed Chalabi and the INC, and to the US intelligence community. In the early 1990s TRG ran a publicity campaign in Europe to downplay coverage of the effects of economic sanctions on Iraq. The banner to TRG's website reads: "Information as an element of power" (see www.rendon.com). Concern over the independence of the IMN has moved increasingly into the mainstream. Journalist Don North recently wrote scathingly (below) of the IMN's lack of funding and ineptness, noting: > Program acquisition glitches caused illegal airing of copyrighted Hollywood film videos confiscated from Uday Hussein's mansion. > Lack of funds for basic equipment such as batteries, tripods or editing equipment. > IMN staff twice went on strike for higher wages. Here's hoping Harris Corp obtains the funds and independence to do a better job. Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA === http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s1022989.htm Last Update: Friday, January 9, 2004. 4:15pm (AEDT) Florida company wins Iraqi media contract US communications equipment maker Harris Corp says it has won a $US100 million contract from the Pentagon to transform Saddam Hussein's state-run media into a "world-class" news operation. The Florida-based company told Reuters it had been informed late on Thursday by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority it was the winning bidder to develop the Iraqi Media Network and an official announcement would be made on Friday. "This is a tremendous, historic opportunity for us to be part of something that really helps the Iraqi people. It will replace their antiquated system with a world-class network," said Youssef Sleiman, managing director of the Iraq Initiative for Harris Corp. The CPA in Washington could not be reached to comment on the media deal. Mr Sleiman said his company had teamed up with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp, which would help train Iraqi broadcasters, as well as al-Fawares, the Iraqi-Kuwaiti company that was part of a winning consortium for an Iraqi mobile phone license signed last month. "We have one year to get the network up and running and the programs in good shape and Iraqi employees trained," said Mr Sleiman. Under the one-year contract that can be extended for two six-month periods, Harris would run two television stations, one for 24-hour news and the other for entertainment, he said. There would also be two FM radio stations, one focusing on news and the other on entertainment. The contract also calls for transforming the country's national newspaper "to a significantly higher level of quality" and increase readership. He said the company would work hard not to be a propaganda machine for anyone, a charge leveled against the network both under Saddam's rule and since the US-led CPA took it over. "We will try to serve two masters ... one the CPA and the other the Iraqi people. We don't want to be a puppet of the CPA or an extremist network. We want to take the middle road," Mr Sleiman said. Danny Benjamin, North American vice president for al-Fawares, said that as an Iraqi-American he was overwhelmed by the opportunity given to his company. "This is a very humbling experience to know that as an Iraqi-American, our company can go in and help bridge the ignorance gap," he said. Other bidders for the contract included WorldSpace Corp, a Washington-based company that submitted a proposal in partnership with nine other companies and institutions. --Reuters see also: http://www.fcw.com/print.asp Harris hired to build Iraqi media BY Frank Tiboni Jan. 9, 2004 === http://www.tvweek.com/topstorys/121503iraqproject.html Iraq: Project Frustration One Newsman's Take on How Things Went Wrong By Don North Special to TelevisionWeek In the chill January days when Pentagon officials were mapping the blueprint for a new Iraq, a paper was circulated here in Washington proposing a free, impartial and independent Iraqi Media Network. The paper stated, "Whilst democracy requires a free press, at the same time it requires one that is accountable to the society and the individuals within it, which it serves." It was a good plan. It would model IMN as a public broadcast network similar to PBS or the BBC, two of the most respected broadcasters in the world. So I joined a small group of American and Iraqi expatriate journalists who signed on to bring honest and professional radio and TV to Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. The Iraq Media Network went on the air with radio April 10 and television May 13. It was greeted with great anticipation by Iraqis, who expected that after 35 years of Saddam Hussein's self-serving propaganda, a new free and democratic media would be created that would make the new governing elements transparent and accountable and generate credible debate on the reconstruction of Iraq. Iraqis were already grumbling that they were not safe in the streets, that it took three hours waiting in line to buy a tank of gas and that electricity had not been effectively restored. Even so, there were high hopes that American know-how would at least deliver what Americans do best-innovative, interesting television entertainment and reasonably honest news. Now seven months later, like so many of the goals and hopes for the new Iraq, a credible media has not been realized. The failure to establish television "accountable to the society" is strongly felt. Instead, IMN has become an irrelevant mouthpiece for Coalition Provisional Authority propaganda, managed news and mediocre programs. I have trained journalists after the fall of tyrannies in Bosnia, Romania and Afghani-stan. I don't blame the Iraqi journalists for the failure of IMN. They daily ignore serious threats branding them "American collaborators" and work for insufficient salaries. Although unschooled in the basic principles of democratic journalism, once they realized it was OK to responsibly confront authority, they caught on fast. It was in this geographic region that the first written words were recorded 5,000 years ago and where the first laws, the Code of Hammurabi, were enacted. This highly literate society hungers for intelligent communication and a responsible media. There is a saying in the Middle East that Cairo writes, Beirut publishes and Baghdad reads. Few people take pride in a free press more than Americans. Since the fall of Baghdad, more than 207 new publications have sprung up along with IMN and a handful of radio stations. It was a complicated media world I joined in Iraq. Most publications are sponsored by political or religious interest groups with rigid agendas. Some Iraqi editors even embraced the advice of a Chicago Tribune editor during the Civil War; "If no news, send rumors." Some 5,000 employees of the old Ministry of Information were sent packing after the war. Many were trained propagandists for Saddam. They simply went home and continued writing lies and disinformation. Obviously, journalism training was urgently needed. A brutal form of training was delivered by the U.S. Army and CPA officials when they found stories offensive. They visited the offices of offending newspapers and often left them padlocked and in ruins. No mediation, no appeal. If The Washington Post reported terrorist threats or bin Laden statements in Baghdad today, it would probably be closed down. My Iraq journalist friends tell me that CPA's "Code of Conduct," which bans "intemperate speech that could incite violence," is "selective democracy," similar in spirit if not in effect to censorship by Saddam Hussein. Iraqi journalists also tell me they suspect it was at the urging of CPA that the Iraqi Governing Council banned Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya satellite news from its news conferences for two weeks last October, which only served to further diminish credibility for the council, already regarded with suspicion by many Iraqis. Since then, Al Arabiya's office in Baghdad has been closed by the CPA and the Governing Council. What should be America's greatest exports to the world-our Bill of Rights and the First Amendment-could have been effectively transplanted here and encouraged to grow as one of the foundations of a just society. It didn't happen. The original plan for IMN appears to have been jettisoned by officials at CPA who were more interested in managing news for both Iraqis and Americans. The United States has a responsibility to effectively explain its positions and policies to Iraqis, to Americans and to the world, but not at the price of making IMN into another Voice of America. Through a combination of incompetence and indifference, CPA has destroyed the fragile credibility of IMN. Once diminished, credibility is hard to restore. The reasons are many: --A revolving door of officials with no credible television or journalism experience dictated plans and policy to IMN. --A surprising lack of operating capital, in spite of IMN's being the most expensive U.S. government media project in history at an estimated $4 million a month, forced IMN to run on a shoestring and look like it. There were no funds for basic equipment such as camera batteries, tripods or editing equipment. A $500 request for a satellite dish to downlink the Reuters news feed was refused. A $200 request for printing my training manual in Arabic for reporters was turned down. --Lack of planning for program production or acquisition resulted in illegal airing of copyrighted European and Hollywood film tapes confiscated from the mansion of Saddam's son Uday. --IMN staff were ordered to cover endless daily CPA news conferences, interviews and photo opportunities, leaving little time and few facilities to cover genuine news stories initiated by IMN reporters on the street. --The right of "collective bargaining," another American concept, was trashed by CPA management when IMN staff twice went on strike for higher wages. IMN staff were told in effect, "Our way or the highway." CPA based staff salaries on the old Ministry of Information pay scale, which paid a reporter the equivalent of 120 U.S. dollars a month. Some staff members have already quit to join agencies that pay market rates. --The first news director, Ahmad Al Rikaby, a sort of Arabic Tom Brokaw, was a respected and credible Iraqi expatriate journalist, well known as the voice of Radio Free Iraq. Al Rikaby had resisted CPA dictates demanding managed news. When he fired staff troublemakers or Baathists, CPA rehired them and insisted only it could hire or fire IMN staff. Al Rikaby's authority was so compromised he resigned. --IMN was envisioned to help Iraqis talk to each other. It was to be a national media voice that would give them a sense of nationhood and identity. It was to be a chance for communicating among the regions, political factions and religions of Iraq. It was to be an answering voice to those who would keep enmity alive by exploiting the differences and continuing to fragment the society Saddam built. It was to have established credible news and public affairs programs in regional stations that could be rebroadcast on the network, allowing Kurd, Shia and Sunni to hear each other's points of view. This would have at least helped bandage old wounds. It would have encouraged discussion and debate for the direction of a new Iraq. Although CPA improved transmitter and broadcast facilities throughout Iraq, it failed miserably to persuade staff in many regional stations to cooperate with IMN. The 101st Airborne, using contingency funds, has largely sponsored the broadcast station in Mosul, Iraq, which has resisted being folded into the IMN family and accepting the base salaries being paid in Baghdad. --Incredibly, the vital training of IMN reporters was turned over to Dubai satellite stations Al Arabiya and Al-Jazeera, which often produce slanted, biased and anti-American news. --Instead of creating and encouraging local TV productions, CPA bought old programs from Middle East Broadcasting and Lebanese Broadcasting. --CPA didn't allow its journalists to edit, analyze or otherwise "filter" its news conferences, interviews and photo ops. Public diplomacy is one thing, but CPA has ignored our own democratic ideals in its role as the overseer of IMN. Destroying the credibility of IMN has left CPA without an effective communications conduit to the Iraqi people. A recent State Department poll revealed that little more than one out of every 10 Iraqis watches IMN. Two out of three said they watch Al-Jazeera or Al Arabiya on satellite. If Ambassador Paul Bremer wants his views heard by the Iraqi people, he should buy time on Al Jazeera. --The British government program "Toward Freedom" was scheduled daily in spite of strong objections of the IMN staff. This hour-long program, directly financed by No. 10 Downing Street, is aired without attribution. Iraqis conditioned by 35 years of Saddam's State Television recognize propaganda when they see it. Instead of effectively controlling the problems, CPA in November changed IMN's name to Iraqia Network and hired the J. Walter Thompson company to mount a publicity campaign to convince Iraqis that IMN or Iraqia was credible. The stakes are high and getting higher every day. President George W. Bush has spoken of "engaging in the battle of ideas in the Arab world." But in Iraq we have already lost the first round by failing to establish credible media, let alone influencing the rest of the Arab world. In 1968 on the wall of the U.S. Embassy lobby in Saigon, I noticed a framed quotation from "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," by T.E. Lawrence: "It is better that they do it imperfectly than that you do it perfectly. For it is their war and their country and your time here is limited." It seemed like a good idea to Lawrence in 1917, and it seemed like an even better idea to me in Vietnam in 1968. So 35 years later I gave that same quote to both Jay Garner and Paul Bremer, our proconsuls in Baghdad, and respectfully suggested they keep it in mind. There is no evidence that either of them ever did. Forget the colonial attitude of "Lawrence of Arabia" and his heirs that the locals would only do it "imperfectly." Iraqis are in fact much better suited to repairing 1950s technology in electric power stations and collecting street intelligence to combat terrorism, and yes, Iraqis are entirely capable of reporting and producing television news and entertainment for their fellow Iraqis. It is time to show Iraqis the respect due by letting them do it themselves. It is time to help them to select their own path to a democratic new Iraq. As John Milton urged in 1644 before the British Parliament, "Let truth and falsehood grapple. Who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?" # Don North is an independent producer, journalist and journalism teacher based in Fairfax, Va. He was a correspondent in Vietnam, Washington and the Middle East for ABC and NBC News. He accepted a position with the defense contractor Science Applications International in January 2003 and arrived in Baghdad April 20 as senior TV adviser and trainer for IMN. He left Baghdad on July 24. _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk _______________________________________ Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-analysis All postings are archived on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk