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Re: [casi-analysis] Harris (*not* Rendon) to develop Iraqi Media Network



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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: <casi-analysis@lists.casi.org.uk>
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.

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