International Broadcasting of Bangladesh: An untapped weapon

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Bangladesh has been in international broadcasting for quite sometime. Information available on the website suggests both state-run Bangladesh Television through its ‘BTV World’ and Bangladesh Betar (Radio Bangladesh)  through its ‘External Services’ are communicating the external public on behalf of the Government. And information so far made available also suggests Bangladesh is yet to make its international broadcasting a strategic one. This essay, based on information collected from BTV and Betar’s website, will highlight what they offer at present and what opportunities are there for sustaining foreign policy goals.

In brief, international broadcasting is basically propagating information deliberately to foreign audience in order to inform and persuade them. This is not aimed at domestic audience at all. Usually the broadcast takes place over long-wave, medium-wave, or shortwave radio. In recent years, use of direct satellite broadcasting and the Internet as means of reaching audiences has yielded better results for many countries. If anyone is interested to know more about why Bangladesh should be engaged in such propaganda, keep reading this blog. This is obviously for ideological and strategic reasons. Ask yourself why Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, BBC, RT and NHK, to name a few do it. According to Dr Nicholas Cull, public diplomacy practices and elements are: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchange diplomacy and international broadcasting.

Anyway, let’s start with BTV World.

BTV World is the extension of BTV (Terrestria l) in the field of International Broadcasting service. BTV has flown in the Satellite-Air through Test Transmission from the 24th February 2004 as BTV World. Quite late isn’t it? I think so. However according to their website info, the Foot Print of BTV World is a quite ‘large one’ that spreads- “in the East from the Sea of Japan; to the West up to Cyprus of (Turkey) & in the South from New zealand-Australia to the North; crossing Mongolian Plateau & the Great Siberian Plain up to Tundra region of Russia.”

The Foot-print of BTV World covers the following regions :-

Numerous small Islands of Micronesia area of Philippine Sea of Pacific Ocean region

The Islands of the total Melanesia area of Oceania region

Few Island Countries of Polynesia region

Total region of Asia

All countries of Middle East region

Few countries of Africa

The accumulated numbers of Human settlement are approximately 100. Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, People Republic of China, Mongolia, Vladivostok (Russia), Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Turkey, Armenia, Libya, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Solomon Island, New Caledonia Island, Tonga Island, Cook Island, Funafuti Island, Ellice Island, Nawru Island, Fiji Island, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, East Indian Islands, Sri Lanka, Maldives Islands, Philippine, Palm Island, Guam Island, Marshall Island, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Caucasus, Ajarbijan, Somorkhand, Tashkent, Moscow & Great Plain of Siberia up to Tundra region are the prominent human habitation.

I have selected and made bold some of the names above. I am going to discuss it very shortly. The signal of BTV World can be received free of cost and the broadcast can be projected by any body, any where, any time without any prior permission from BTV World.

BTV ( Terrestria l) & BTV World have got 4 parts of transmission schedule :-

07:00 am ( Local time+6 UTC ) to 09:00 am everyday: [ BTV (Terrestrial) + BTV World ].

09:00 am to 12:00 pm everyday:[ BTV World only ].

12:01 pm to 12:01 am everyday: [ BTV (Terrestrial) + BTV World ].

12:01 am to 07:00 am everyday:[ BTV World only ].

Quite a long broadcast time indeed!

The BTV website says: “BTV cherishes the committed Love for the Country, its Land, Society & People. Keeping this motto in mind; BTV World takes partial feed from BTV ( Terrestrial ) to serve & to slacken off the satisfaction of the Bangladeshi immigrant or dwellers of abroad as well as the International viewers / friends. Each & every Programme of BTV { as well as BTV World } has got some notion to serve its target audience. BTV utterly emphasize on Info-tainment & Edu-tainment than that of; so called currently trend set Entertainment; in other ward- Biz-tainment. BTV feels the duty to flourish & project the achieved Tradition, Heritage, Cultural progress, Socio- Economic environment of its Nation to the contemporary modern World through its International wing- BTV World.”

Now I would like to take some information from the Bangladesh Betar’s (Radio Bangladesh) website. On Frequency : 7250, Band : Short Wave 41.38 M, Betar External Services run programmes in different languages such as English, Nepali, Urdu, Hindi and Arabic. The programmes include, News, Views, Economic review, Song, Press Comments, Magazine Programme, Radio News Relay, Sports review, Letters From Dhaka – From Us to You, Interviews etc. In different languages other than English, Betar broadcast Drama, Short Stories, Cultural Statistics, Women related Program, Children Programme, Special Programme (National & International) etc. It also air recitation from Holy Quran, Hamd, Nath etc.

So much of information! A little bit more.

I would like to take Bangladesh-Myanmar relationship as an example. The official relations started off following Myanmar’s recognition to Bangladesh on 13 January 1972 and Myanmar was one of the first few countries in the world to accord recognition to Bangladesh. If anyone is interested to read further about BD-Myanmar relationship in detail, this is the link:  [http://www.mofa.gov.bd/Statement/PRDetails.php?PRid=14].

There were several agreements signed relating to trade and commerce. Demonstration of ‘soft power’ by Bangladesh in 2003 also took place when a cultural troupe consisting of 116 members performed cultural show for four days. In December 2011 (5-7 Dec), Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Myanmar and held bilateral talks. Some important developments regarding foreign office consultation, joint trade commission meeting and fighting narcotic drugs took place apart from discussion on energy cooperation, tackling the issues of refugees of Myanmar living in Bangladesh and establishing direct banking arrangements. Most importantly, as the Joint Statement at the end of her visit suggests, both Heads of Government suggested that “businessmen and entrepreneurs of Bangladesh and Myanmar explore investment possibilities in Bangladesh and Myanmar and take advantage of the enormous opportunities for extending bilateral cooperation in the area of tourism development in providing opportunities for ‘people-to-people’ contacts”.

Myanmar has been going through lots of changes over the last two years. Bangladesh has taken the opportunity and its diplomatic engagement has increased. Obviously, the outcomes were not small. At least, things were moving well. While changing channels at home, I saw MTV International – state-run international TV service of Myanmar here in Dhaka. I am not sure, if cable operators in Myanmar broadcast BTV World there or not.

How far Myanmar’s people know about Bangladeshi people? Bangladesh is a democracy and Myanmar has been experiencing the wave of democracy with various developments taking place. Traditional diplomacy has been doing its work, but propagation of Bangladeshi secular and democratic values would obviously make it more popular there. But that would not be possible so quickly, I suppose. Why not celebrating what unites both the countries? Why not Bangladeshi and Myanmar’s tourists find more about what each of the countries can offer on television screen for them?

Strategically, peoples of Bangladesh’s two-next door neighbour India and Myanmar, and in second step, Pakistan Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives should know more about Bangladesh, its values, and subsequently feel for its cause as the fate of the people of these countries are intertwined.

To be continued ….

Links:

http://www.betar.org.bd/externalservices.html

http://www.btv.gov.bd/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=337&Itemid=129

The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2008 616: 31, Nicholas J. Cull Public Diplomacy: Taxonomies and Histories

Graphics: Asiasat 3S-5 that Bangladesh uses for BTV World. Photo credit RRsat.

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