BROOKE GLADSTONE: We're back with On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.
BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. America's military operations in Afghanistan offer a preview of what coverage from the battleground in Iraq might be like. Miniaturization and satellite technology enabled reporters to reach military operations, successful and unsuccessful, they never could have reached before. But new technology brings both greater opportunity and more risks. Steven Livingston [sp?] is senior research fellow at the University of Washington's Center for American Politics and Public Policy. He recently reviewed the new technology available to war correspondents, and he joins me now. Professor Livingston, welcome to OTM.
STEVEN LIVINGSTON: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Well let's start with the obvious question --how has technology changed in the past 11 years.
STEVEN LIVINGSTON: Technology has made reporters far more mobile, and in a measure, uncontrollable. Obviously a good place to begin as a point of comparison is the nature of reporting in 1991 and the nature of reporting in 2002. CNN of course made tremendous strides in using technology in 1991. Peter Arnett [sp?] used an MR-Sat satellite phone to offer audio reports. If we think back, one of the things that we saw often was a picture of Arnett tethered to a rather large satellite phone. A new MR-Sat phone can run off the batteries in the device itself as opposed to the generator that was required to operate Arnett's satellite phone 11 years ago.
BOB GARFIELD:It's my understanding that the Iraqi government is not all that keen on letting satellite telephones and digital cameras and small laptop editing systems into the country for reporters to use during the coverage of the war. How do you sneak this by the border agents who are greeting the American reporters?
STEVEN LIVINGSTON: There are interesting stories that, that actually came out of the war in Kosovo. There were certain instances such as an American aircraft hit a convoy in 1999 of refugees, and we found in that instance when the Serbs took the journalists on a tour of the site where this unfortunate event occurred, all of a sudden satellite phones came out of various pieces of luggage all over the bus and the Serbs turned a blind eye to the availability of pieces of equipment that were banned from use. Something like that may also happen in Iraq. If, for example, there is a collateral damage incident, the Iraqis may have a, a sudden change of heart about the ability of western news crews to broadcast images that they think are to their strategic advantage.
BOB GARFIELD: Well that makes sense, but what about in the first instance of letting the stuff in the country. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
STEVEN LIVINGSTON:[...?...] -- lot of this stuff looks like a laptop computer. Now this isn't to say that the Iraqis aren't interested in controlling laptop computers, but the difference between getting an MR-Sat Mini-M which is a small satellite phone or getting even new generation MR-Sat phones in is a much different proposition than trying to get a C-Band or KU-Band satellite uplink which fills much of a balcony and this is the sort of thing that was used in 1991. It required permission to get it through. It was 50,000 or plus dollars just to ship the equipment there. So the difference today is, is that if you can stick the equipment in a bag - get it through Customs, that's a relatively much easier proposition.
BOB GARFIELD:Do you think that the, the miniature nature of this material and the temptation for news organizations essentially to smuggle them behind enemy lines will lead to espionage arrests and trials of the sort that we've seen a few of but not many of in military engagements over the last decade or two?
STEVEN LIVINGSTON: Sure, there were two corr-- at least two correspondents who were arrested by the Taliban for espionage, so that is certainly a possibility. This is something we should keep clearly in mind -- that on the one hand technology such as the video phone or satellite broadcasting more generally, that's - that's smaller, more mobile - offers the possibility of covering things from a different perspective than before. On the other hand, to do that journalists are going to be putting themselves in tremendous risk.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Steven Livingston, thank you very much!
STEVEN LIVINGSTON: It's been a pleasure!
BOB GARFIELD: Steven Livingston is a senior research fellow at the University of Washington's Center for American Politics and Public Policy. [MUSIC]