In the face of bombed out buildings, looting, uncertain security and late or non-existent pay, some Iraqi broadcasters have managed to maintain rudimentary radio and television service in the post-Saddam era, a recently concluded report from the BBC World Service Trust said.
The report, “Iraqi Media Audit Eight-City Report, The Current State of the Broadcast Media in Iraq,” focused on broadcast activities in Baghdad, Basra, Umn Qasr, Al Amara, Hilla, Kerbala, Najaf and Kut. It is based on the findings of a team of BBC representatives that visited the sites between late April and mid June. According to the report, there are three immediate priorities for Iraq’s broadcasters:
“Building a technical infrastructure for a new federal broadcasting network, by establishing a central broadcaster with regional radio and TV stations.
“The production of distinct Iraqi programming that reflects the new situation in a free, independent and responsible manner. This will be additionally critical once any new constitutional or election process gets under way, to explain the functions of government.
“Facilitating a series of training programs in Iraq for editorial, technical production and journalism skills. Identify a small number of senior staff to receive training in strategic planning and management.”
While the report recommends specific steps to bolster Iraqi broadcasters’ fledgling post-Saddam operations and promote free political discourse, the findings of the BBC auditors during their field visits were also very interesting.
During their visit to the Iraqi Media Network (IMN) in Baghdad, the auditors found discontent. “The day the group visited, the journalists were on strike because they had not been paid for 40 days of work,” the report said. “This was resolved later in the day when emergency payments of $20 were distributed and promises of regular salaries for permanent staff were made.”
In Amara, war devastation hit broadcast operations hard. “Once again the TV and Radio station has been targeted and extensively destroyed,” the auditors said in their report. “The mast is down and irreparable, and the building is uninhabitable with considerable looting. All external air-conditioning plant, the standby generator and power lines have been equally destroyed.”
According to the report, one of the brighter spots on Iraq’s media landscape is in south central Iraq. “There is no question that the opportunities in this region for supporting the emergence of an indigenous independent media are very good,” the report said.
“In Kerbala, Najaf, Kut and Hilla we met many enthusiastic and determined people trying to establish TV and radio stations in post office premises and relay stations belonging to the former national broadcaster. Technically, the engineers are often highly skilled and ingenious in managing with very basic facilities. Production and editorial skills are by comparison very weak. In the central region of the country, we found that there were no women working in the media at all.”
To read the full report, please visit: http://www.reliefweb.int/library/documents/2003/bbc-irq-31jul.pdf.