Toward Public Diplomacy : External Broadcasting in Asia (Part 1)

  Although external broadcasting started mainly among European and American countries as a product of the needs of the world wars and then the cold war, many Asian nations also have established external broadcasting services in the last several decades, either siding with their European or American allies or using it for their own political, ideological or cultural needs. But external broadcasting in Asia has demonstrated its own characteristics and new trends.


  First, Asia has a long history of external broadcasting.

  Compared with countries in the regions other than Europe and North America, a number of Asian countries have a long history of external broadcasting services starting either before the World War II or right after it. The Central Broadcasting System (CBS) in Taiwan that has a large and strong international department was established in 1928. For over seventy years the Central Broadcasting System has moved forward in harmony with the ruling political party and braved the perils of enemies, both foreign and domestic, in order to broadcast for the government. In 1926, Tokyo Broadcasting Station, Osaka Broadcasting Station and Nagoya Broadcasting Station were combined to form the national broadcasting organization Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation), and in 1935, its regular international broadcasts began. All India Radio entered the realm of external broadcasting shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War on October 1, 1939, when it started a service in Pushto and was addressed to listeners in Afghanistan. Today, the External Services Division of All India Radio serves as an important link between India and the rest of the world, projecting the Indian point of view on matters of national and international importance through its various external services divisions. Radio Korea International (RKI), the Voice of Korea, is South Korea’s sole shortwave radio network that targets the entire world. It was back on August 15, 1953, when the signal first went on the air under the station named as “The Voice of Free Korea” at that time. In March 1973, it was renamed “Radio Korea” and eventually it was named Radio Korea International, as it is now called. Radio Thailand started its foreign language service under the call-sign HSK-9 on October 20, 1938. The external broadcasting service of Radio Thailand has been continuously expanded and improved over the last several decades. Today, HSK-9 broadcasts to various parts of the world in Thai, English, French, German, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Bermee, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese and Mandarin on short wave via satellite.

  In addition to these forerunners, a number of other Asian countries also launched external broadcasting services in the wake of the worldwide national independent movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The Voice of Malaysia (VOM) is the overseas radio service of Radio Television Malaysia (RTM). It launched its first broadcast in three languages - English, Mandarin and Indonesian - on February 15, 1963. By 1978, the Voice of Malaysia had expanded its broadcast to include five more language services. The Voice of Mongolia is the country’s only overseas broadcasting service and it is operated by the Mongolian Government. Short-wave international broadcasting in Mongolia dates back over 30 years. The first broadcast in September 1964 - a half hour transmission in the Mongolian and Chinese languages- was beamed to China. In the next few years, Mongolian international broadcasting expanded in terms of languages used, broadcast hours and target areas. The English service of Radio Ulaanbaatar, which was renamed The Voice of Mongolia on January 1, 1997, was launched on January 29, 1965. Today, it broadcasts a total of eight hours a day in five languages ?Mongolian, English, Chinese, Russian and Japanese. Pakistan Broadcasting Service was born at the same time as it announced the came into being of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. In 1973, the World Service for Overseas Pakistan was inaugurated. The newest member of this group is probably Singapore. Radio Singapore international (RSI) is a shortwave radio station that broadcasts out of Singapore. RSI made its maiden broadcast on February 1, 1994. Today, it reaches out to the Southeast Asian region, namely East and West Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and countries within a span of 1,600 km from Singapore, with language services include English, Chinese, Malay, Indonesia, Tamil, Bahasa Indonesia, etc.

  Nonetheless, the Asian countries that started their external broadcasting services in the last three or two decades also include Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and a few West Asian countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. As a result of the development and expansion of external broadcasting in Asia, among the total of 80 plus countries in the world that have external broadcasting services, more than one third of them are in Asia.

Political Battlefields

  Second, Asian countries have used external broadcasting more for attacking their political enemies than for engaging in ideological propaganda warfare.

  Unlike the external broadcasting services in most American and European countries that have mainly been used for engaging in the political and ideological warfare during the world wars and the cold war, for decades external broadcasting in the several main Asian countries has been a political weapon of the ruling party to attack their domestic rivals or neighboring enemies. Both mainland China and Taiwan have one of the most advanced, most powerful, and most comprehensive external broadcasting services in the world, but their external broadcasting has long time used for criticizing each other. The long time conflict between Taiwan and mainland China is reflected through radio broadcasting. Although smaller than many other Asian countries, Taiwan has a much larger external broadcasting capacity than most countries in Asia. The main external broadcasters include the Voice of Free China (VOFC), the Voice of Asia, the Central Broadcasting System (CBS) and later Radio Taiwan International (RTI). And, mainland China has one of the world’s largest external broadcasting services, Radio Beijing, and later it was renamed to Radio China International (RCI).

  As well, both India and Pakistan have very powerful and large-scale external broadcasting services, but for decades the priority purpose of their external broadcasting services has been to attack each other. In the Northeast Asia, both South Korea and North Korea have comprehensive external broadcasting services, but for more than half a century the main targets of their external broadcasting have been their counterparts. The same situation also applies to a number of other Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Cambodia, etc. Consequently, over the sky of Asia there have always been constant, fierce propaganda wars among Asian countries themselves, although invisible. Thus, external broadcasting has been one of the main political and ideological battlefields of Asian countries.

Restructuring and Expansion

  Third, restructuring has been a new trend of many external broadcasting services in Asian countries since the 1990s.

  Along with the new developments of the international, regional and as well as the national situation particularly in the last two decades, most Asian countries have restructured their external broadcasting services and many of them have been moving toward technologically more advanced, content-wise more dimensional, and penetration-wise more international.

  In 1949 when CBS moved to Taiwan, it only broadcast programs in Japanese and English. The Kuomingtan controlled external radio gradually began broadcasting in the languages of Taiwan’s allies starting with Arabic in 1950, Vietnamese 1953, Indonesian in 1957, Korean in 1961, Thai and French in 1963, Spanish in 1976 and German in 1986. In 1987, with the lifting of the martial law, Taiwan’s relations with the former Soviet Union began to grow and CBS began broadcasting in Russian. In 2001, CBS also began broadcasting in Myanmar. After it being renamed to Radio Taiwan International (RTI), it started broadcasting to the entire world through nine substations around the island. Today, RTI has 15 medium-wave transmitters with 10 medium frequencies, 24 short wave transmitters with 68 short wave frequencies totaling 39 medium- and short- wave transmitters and 78 medium- and short- wave frequencies. The transmission power RTI is 270% of the total transmission power of all other radio stations in Taiwan. Altogether, Radio Taiwan International currently broadcasts in 18 languages around the world: English, German, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and the Myanmar language. In addition, it broadcasts several Chinese dialects including Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Tibetan and Mongolian. RTI broadcasts now can be heard in every continent across the world. Moreover, there are several different ways to tune in to Radio Taiwan International’s English language programs; shortwave radio, Internet and regular Am/Fm radio. In 2000, RTI created a web team, which is dedicated to improving the RTI website as well as to developing the technology for Internet broadcasts. This new initiative has greatly expanded RTI’s Internet listenership. Meanwhile, external services via regular Am/Fm radio broadcasting have been established in several countries.
  NHK started the most advanced technology for its external broadcasting well ahead than most countries in the world. Not only has satellite technology been used for Japan’s external broadcasting services, but also its external broadcasting services included both radio broadcasting and television broadcasting a long time ago. NHK World has two television world services and one radio world service.NHK’s World Radio Japan is a shortwave radio service transmitting globally via satellite for a total of 65 hours a day in 22 languages. Now, World Radio Japan’s latest news in 22 languages and major information programs are also available on the Internet in audio, and in some cases in video and text forms as well.
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