Public Diplomacy Department

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Microphones-2-.jpg This article is part of the Propaganda Portal project of Spinwatch.

The Public Diplomacy Department was set up in 1999/2000 as a successor to the Information Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


Managing the Middle East

The British government is trying to establish a dialogue with local community in a bid to establish mutual respect and understanding between Britons and residents in the Arab world and the Gulf region, said the British Consul General. This emerged from an informal reception hosted by the British Embassy in Dubai recently and was the outcome of a private conference attended by Press Officers from the British Embassies in the Middle East, along with Gerard Russel, the Head of the British Government's Islamic Media Unit, and  officials from the Public Diplomacy Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Simon Collis, the British Consul General, said: "Britain is trying to bring together the public diplomacy of the Middle East and North Africa with the public diplomacy in London and the related councils in the British Community.[1]

Propaganda in Iraq

Towards Freedom
Towards Freedom (TF) are radio and television services broadcast in Arabic direct to the people of Iraq. The radio service started broadcasting a daily one-hour Arabic-language programmes to Iraq on 20 March 2003.
The television service begun to broadcast daily hour-long Arabic-language television programmes designed to complement the radio on 10 April 2003.
The first episode will feature addresses by the president of the United States and the British prime minister to the people of Iraq. These were recorded especially for the programme on 8 April, during the president's and prime minister's talks in Northern Ireland.
There was a real need to fill the information gap that materialised in Iraq under Saddam's regime. The people of Iraq had no balance in the interpretation of events that was fed to them and there was no mechanism to allow the Coalition to explain its intentions.
In the long term, Iraq needs a free and open media sector which engages people in the debate needed to build a free and open society. But more immediately, the Coalition needs to be able to explain its activities, achievements and intentions direct to the people of Iraq. The mechanisms to do this didn't exist under Saddam.
No. Although the Coalition wants to build support in as many ways as possible, as far as Towards Freedom goes, we think that balanced, timely, relevant and interesting information is the best way of doing this. Towards Freedom TV and radio services are designed to deliver this for the people of Iraq while Iraq gradually builds a free and open media sector.
What will be broadcast?
Presented by Iraqi journalists, the programmes include regular items, highlights and features likely to interest an Iraqi audience, as well as Coalition public service announcements.
Regular Items
News: Towards Freedom's first news bulletin will bring its Iraqi audience up to date on developments so far. The aim is gradually to start to fill the information gap that Saddam's propaganda allowed to develop. Towards Freedom's news aims build a balanced picture of developments in Iraq. This will include giving the international Coalition the opportunity to explain its intentions direct to the people of Iraq. Supporting analysis and comment by Iraqis will explain what this means for Iraq.
Press Review: The first programme will feature a review of the London press. It will also review a regional newspaper from Basra, the first publication to report about developments in Iraq in a way that shows that it is independent of the Ba'th regime and Saddam. As an independent press develops in Iraq, we plan to review other publications as well.
Public Service Announcements: Towards Freedom will include these announcements designed to address immediate practical issues. For example, to encourage people to stay at work and carry on working normally; to warn them about paramilitary activity and let them know about newspaper distribution.
Features: Towards Freedom will include feature items about key issues for the people of Iraq, including reconstruction, healthcare, women and children, political and economic developments, culture and personal stories. The first television programme will feature an interview with Laith Kubba, a representative of the Iraqi National Group, a report on the recent meeting between the prime minister and Iraqi opposition leaders, a report on humanitarian aid for Iraq, a report on Umm Qasr and an arts feature.
How will people know about it?
The programme will be broadcast on one of the frequencies of existing Iraqi television channels so Iraqi television sets will already be tuned in to receive it. The radio service is publicised through leaflet drops which list the frequencies on which it is broadcast. As more channels open to us we will let people know about the television service using the radio service, leaflets, by word of mouth and other Iraqi media as these become available.
An alternative to Iraqi television
This will be the first time that most viewers will have had an alternative to Iraqi state TV and the first direct opportunity to get honest news and information about their country. For years the regime exercised absolute control over the media, except in the Kurdish enclaves in the north. Satellite dishes were illegal. And the subscription fee for the very limited and censored satellite television was that was only recently provided was well beyond the means of all but those who were close to the regime. The media could be described as "totalitarian". Characteristics included a flood of slogans and propaganda to citizens; efforts to persuade people that Saddam was a God-like figure who never made mistakes and news bulletins which reported mainly on Saddam's activities.
How will the programme be brought to the people of Iraq?
Towards Freedom is a remarkable team effort. It is the first time so many UK government departments and international Coalition partners have worked so closely together on such a project.
The concept of Towards Freedom came from a cross-government information working group, supported by the UK National Contingent Headquarters in Doha.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's public diplomacy department commissioned and runs Towards Freedom. The Ministry of Defence's Permanent Joint Head Headquarters (PJHQ) at Northwood is meeting the television programming costs.
The programming is outsourced to World Television, the company which also produces British Satellite News. The production team was set up, and the first programme produced, in just eight days. The first programme will be seen in Iraq at 1200 gmt (1300 bst) on 10 April.
The United States of America's Department of Defence assets are delivering the broadcasts in Iraq. The programme will be broadcast primarily from a US aircraft called Commando Solo, a highly modified C-130 (Hercules-type) aircraft that has flying radio and television transmission capability.
Careful consultation
The programmes' content is agreed in close consultation with Iraqis, across government, with Coalition headquarters in Doha, staff in Iraq and other stakeholders, including Iraqis in Iraq. A consultative group or Sounding Board of members of the Iraqi community in London advises us about the content of the programmes to help make them relevant.
Cutting-edge technology
World Television sends the completed programme daily by satellite in the late evening to the US base of 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. From Fort Bragg, it is rebroadcast by military satellite to Qatar, recorded on to videotape and loaded into a video player on board Commando Solo. Fort Bragg can also send the programme to mobile US radio and television broadcasting systems called SOMS-B (Special Operations Media System-B) which allow it to be rebroadcast from different locations in Iraq. Commando Solo broadcasts on 693 kHz mediumwave, 9715 kHz shortwave and 100.4 MHz FM; SOMS-B on 756 kHz mediumwave and 11292 kHz shortwave.
The television signal will be broadcast from the aircraft and SOMS-B systems to ordinary television sets on frequencies that were used by the regime's domestic television services. So the people of Iraq will be able to turn on their televisions and view news and information about their country from the Coalition, as though it were coming from their local terrestrial transmitter. In due course the programmes will also be broadcast by US Special Operations Command mobile radio and television stations.[2]




  1. Gulf News March 29, 2002 DIALOGUE TO ESTABLISH MUTUAL RESPECT BYLINE: Bassam Za'za'
  2. Source: 10 Downing Street web site, London, in English 12 Apr 03 cited in BBC Monitoring International Reports April 12, 2003 US-UK BROADCASTS TO IRAQ DETAILED