[R-G] Iraqi TV was coalition's 'stuff of dreams'
u_majeed at straight.com
Sat Jul 12 20:05:49 MDT 2003
Iraqi TV was coalition's 'stuff of dreams'
Wednesday July 9, 2003
Towards Freedom: weighted in favour of US
A former adviser to efforts by the US and Britain to set up a post-war media
network in Iraq has lifted the lid on the high degree of political control
exerted over broadcasts by coalition authorities.
Stephen Claypole revealed that the Iraqi Media Network was originally
intended to be run by Bob Reilly, a former director of the Voice of America
radio station, giving it what he describes as "a degree of independence".
Although the station is US government-owned, it was considered relatively
However, amid Washington concerns that Jay Garner, the director of the
post-war reconstruction effort in Iraq known as the Office of Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance, was "not relating" to the Iraqi people, the
Iraqi Media Network was kept firmly under US government control.
"It was the stuff of dreams for the White House and No 10 - direct control
over the content of the evening news," Claypole wrote in the latest issue of
Television, the journal of the Royal Television Society.
Veteran news boss Claypole, who was the founder of the TV news agency APTN
and chairman of broadcast advisory company DMA-Media said all attempts to be
independent was lost.
While IMN attempted to give the impression that it was conveying the views
of ordinary Iraqis, it was heavily weighted in favour of the official US
line, Claypole claimed.
"'We have got to have vox pops,' became the mantra, so that the Iraqi people
can see themselves talking in an atmosphere of liberty.
"When the vox pops came back to the temporary studios with anti-American
opinions, they were shelved for a day or two to be intercut with official
Into this "dodgy mix", wrote Claypole, came a woman called Hero Talabani,
the "exotic and cosmopolitan wife of the leader of the Patriotic Union of
Mrs Talabani, according to Claypole, managed to convince Margaret Tutwiler -
the American ambassador to Morocco who had been drafted in to assist in the
roll-out of the new civilian administration - "that she was the arbiter of
"After one morning meeting with the IMNtv team, it was decided to take a
taped package to Mrs T's house for her to comment on the editorial content.
The Iraqi exiles who formed the majority of IMNtv's staff threatened to
strike," Claypole revealed.
As if tight government controls and the influence of exotic characters were
not enough, IMN was also hampered by squalid surroundings and lack of
communications equipment following attacks on Iraqi TV and radio stations
during the war.
ORHA was located in a rambling palace, called the "Four Saddams", that had
no running water or electricity, was covered in sand and infested by
"mosquitoes, sand fleas and large black rats".
To make matters worse, those working for ORHA were not allowed to go
anywhere unless accompanied by soldiers and special forces.
"No thought was given to why the military had precision bombed most of the
TV and radio stations and transmission systems in Iraq," wrote Claypole.
"On the ground, the only means of communication was Thuraya satellite phones
that worked so poorly they were known as 'Thuraya Heaps'."
In the immediate aftermath of the war in Iraq, the Americans broadcast
Towards Freedom Television from a Hercules transport plane flying above the
country, showing Fox News, NBC, ABC and CBS dubbed into Arabic but otherwise
CNN declined to participate in the transmission because it did not feel it
was appropriate for an "independent global news organisation" to participate
in an American government transmission.
The inaugural broadcast on Towards Freedom TV featured Tony Blair and George
Bush delivering messages in a bid to reassure the Iraqi people that the US
and Britain wanted "the government of Iraq and the future of your country"
to belong to Iraqis.
Britain also made its own hour-long contribution to the channel, produced by
independent TV company World Television at a cost of £10,000 to the MoD.
As only around 10% of Iraqis have access to television, according to a US
military spokesman, the American and British authorities have also set up
radio stations and newspapers in the aftermath of the war.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has, and it never will.
If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor
freedom, and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing
the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the
ocean without the awful roar of its waters." (Frederick Douglass)
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