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Palestine b’caster signals for help

The recently formed Palestine Broadcasting Corp. (PBO) isn’t exactly topping the Mideast sweeps.

In fact, hardly anyone can tune into the fledgling telecaster even if they want to, and PBC chairman Radwan Abu Ayyash blames Israel for this, charging that protracted negotiations over transmitter sites, frequencies and equipment imports have hindered the station’s development.

When the PLO was granted control over the West Bank town of Jericho under its 1993 Oslo accords with Israel, one of the first things the Palestinians envisaged was their own TV station as a symbol of national identity.

Enter the PBC. But the broadcaster, presently operating from Gaza, says it lacks transmitters powerful enough to cover all of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

Even though the PBC has been putting out up to eight hours a day of “experimental” telecasts from Gaza, only viewers living close to a mobile transmission van parked near PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s headquaters in Gaza City can receive the signals.

In effect, the situation has left the PBC talking largely to itself.

Foreign donors have supplied some equipment to the PBC, but Abu Ayyash charged that Israeli customs held up a gift of studio equipment from Germany because of unpaid duty – which he claimed was in violation of the Oslo accords.

“The agreement stipulates that donations of television equipment are free of duty,” Abu Ayyash told foreign reporters recently in Gaza. He also charged that qualified Palestinians needed to help run the PBC were being prevented by Israel from returning home.

The Gaza station is seen as only a temporary venue for the PBC.

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