Technicians for Independence Radio and Television monitor production at their recently constructed facility in Burhiz , Iraq , Sept. 25. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Mike Humphreys, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, Sept. 25, 2006)FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2006
by Spc. Amanda Morrissey
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BURHIZ, Iraq (Sept. 26, 2006) -- The voices and the faces of freedom are making their way onto the airwaves in the Diyala Province of Iraq for the first time since coalition forces arrived in 2003.
The Independence Radio and Television news station, an Iraqi broadcast station in Burhiz, began broadcasting television and radio programs Sept. 22. The station’s goal is to help build a media infrastructure that is run by and for the local public.
“I really do believe that (freedom of the press) is the key to a peaceful, democratic Iraq. I think they’re off to a good start here in Diyala,” said Maj. Mike Humphreys, the public affairs officer for Fort Carson’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Lightning.
Humphreys has been acting in an advisory capacity for IRT during his unit’s deployment to the province, which envelopes communities north of Bagdad, such as Baqubah and Muqdadiyah.
The challenges facing IRT come from many different fronts. One such obstacle is the separation of the media from government controls. The concept of freedom of press is a new one to many of the journalists working at IRT, said Humphreys.
“We’ve been actively working with them to help establish a television and radio station, one that is run by the Diyala people, for the Diyala people and not a state-run organization,” said Humphreys, who is currently helping the IRT management negotiate with a local construction contractor to improve its facilities.
However alien the concepts of a free press and free speech may be to Iraqi people, the IRT staff is eagerly taking advantage of the opportunity to turn these visions into reality.
“The folks at IRT and the local newspaper, they all want it. They all want to be separate from government, they want to have their own independent press, they want to be able to do their own stories without oversight from government officials,” Humphreys said.
The newness of an independent press is not the only obstacle facing the burgeoning Iraqi news station. IRT management must also address the more mundane difficulties of dealing with contractors in order to convert their building into a working studio.
“I read the contract, and there are no details in this contract,” said Ruqaya Allol Hussain, the assistant to Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Jabori Hafith, about the arrangement between building contractors and the studio. Hafith is the assistant governor of administration for the province.
Contractors dropped off the material for the studio and left the construction to the IRT staff.
“We did this here with our own hands, but this is only temporary,” said Mohammed Yousif Mohammed, an English speaking assistant at the station, touching one of the office walls. “He (the contractor) brought wood and all the stuff here, and this is what he called a gift.”
Funding affects more than just the material aspect of building their studio. One task facing IRT management is the development of a marketing plan as a means to produce an income from sales and advertising over the airwaves.
The lack of independent revenue from advertising results in the studio relying on government subsidies and coalition funding to pay for its products.
The station will be fully independent once the IRT is able to completely fund its operations using successful marketing strategies, said Humphreys.
Despite the many obstacles facing the IRT staff, they are eager to push forward with the station and to do their jobs as journalists.
“This is the first time I’d been out to the station since the project was completed, and I was surprised today to see a level of professionalism I hadn’t seen before,” said Humphreys.
IRT currently airs three hours of television and seven hours of radio programming, according to Humphreys. The television station uses programming from other Iraqi stations. It currently broadcasts previously-aired entertainment shows as well as new test programs, many of which center around political issues affecting the local population.
The radio side of the house broadcasts four hours of programming in the morning and three hours in the evening. It plays popular music and entertainment shows, as well as daily news shows and talk radio in the morning.
Eventually, the station plans to air 24 hours of its own radio and television programs, said Humphreys. The radio programming is progressing at a much quicker pace than television, but there is no set timeline for getting both operations up and running around the clock, he said.
“They are well on their way, and I think they will accomplish that very soon,” said Humphreys.
The grand opening of the Independence Radio and Television station is scheduled to take place Oct. 2, when the station will begin broadcasting locally-produced programs.
A radio technician mans the control board druing a broadcast at the Independence Radio and Television news station in Burhiz , Iraq . The IRT is a non-government broadcasting station that is scheduled for an official opening Oct 2. US Army Spc. Amanda Morrissey, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Det.
A television technician mans the control board during a broadcast at the Independence Radio and Television news station in Burhiz , Iraq . The IRT is a non-government broadcasting station that is scheduled for an official opening Oct. 2. US Army Spc. Amanda Morrissey, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Det.