The Scope of Foreign Broadcast Information Service and BBC Open-Source Media Coverage, 1979–2008

Communities of Practice, Government, Media, Misinformation & Propaganda
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by Kalev Leetaru

For nearly 70 years, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) monitored the world’s airwaves and other news outlets, transcribing and translating selected content into English and in the process creating a multi-million-page historical archive of the global news media. Yet, FBIS material has not been widely utilized in the academic content analysis community, perhaps because relatively little is known about the scope of the content that is digitally available to researchers in this field. This article, researched and written by a specialist in the field, contains a brief overview of the service—reestablished as the Open Source Center in 2004—and a statistical examination of the unclassified FBIS material produced from July 1993 through July2004—a period during which FBIS produced and distributed CDs of its selected material. Examined are language preferences, distribution of monitored sources, and topical and geographic emphases. The author examines the output of a similar service provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), known as the Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB). Its digital files permit the tracing of coverage trends from January1979 through December 2008 and invite comparison with FBIS efforts.

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