News Agencies gather and distribute news, usually for newspapers and periodicals and broadcasters. One of the oldest news agencies in the world, the Reuter Telegram Company, known in short as Reuters, had its branches in different parts of British India including Bengal. The Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) was the first news agency to operate in Pakistan in September 1949. It had its head office at Karachi and two branches in East Pakistan, one at Dhaka and the other at Chittagong. In the same year, a privately owned news agency, the United Press of Pakistan (UPP), was launched in Karachi with its branch office at Dhaka. Another private news agency, initially named Pakistan Press Agency (PPA) and later renamed Pakistan Press International (PPI), started functioning in June 1956 with its headquarters at Karachi and a branch office in Dhaka. The Eastern News Agency (ENA), the first locally owned independent news agency in East Pakistan was established in March 1970 as a private limited company. Its operations remained suspended during the 9-month long war of liberation in 1971.
After independence, APP was transformed into a state-owned news agency called bangladesh sangbad sangstha (BSS). PPI was allowed to operate with the new nomenclature of Bangladesh Press International (BPI), which was soon merged with the BSS. Other major news agencies that now operate in the country are the privately owned United News of Bangladesh (UNB), Ananda Bangla Sangbad Limited (ABAS), Bangladesh News Service (BNS), News Media, News Network, Probe News Agency, BDNews24.com, Focus Bangla, Sheershanews.com, South Asian News Agency (SANA), and the Chittagong-based Bangladesh News Agency (BNA). Most of these news agencies are now available online in the internet. International news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press (AP) and Agence France Press (AFP) have bureau offices in Dhaka. In addition, many national, regional and international news agencies such as Press Trust of India (PTI), IRNA, IINA, Antara and Xinhua have representations in Bangladesh in the shape of stringers.
Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha BSS came into being as the national news agency through a government order in January 1972. It started its journey with a skeleton staff from former APP and practically, without any equipment. Initially it did not have any links with the outside world. Its links for direct reception of news were from PTI of India and subsequently, from global wire services such as Reuters, AFP, and UPI. In 1979, the BSS Ordinance was promulgated to enable it to act as the national news agency for undertaking news agency services in the country and obtaining international news agency services.
The news gathering operations of BSS are conducted through its headquarters in Dhaka, a news bureau in Chittagong, correspondents at Khulna, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sylhet and New Delhi (India), and stringers at district headquarters of the country. It gets foreign news through satellite from international and regional news agencies with which it has agreements. It signed exchange agreements with Reuters, AFP, UPI, PTI, APP, Xinhua of China, RSS of Nepal, Bernama of Malaysia, Antara of Indonesia, APN of former Soviet Union, ADN of former German Democratic Republic, Prensa Latina of Cuba, INA of Iraq, Kyodo of Japan, AGERPRESS of Romania, IRNA of Iran, Non-aligned News Pool, Organisation of Asia Pacific News Agencies (OANA), and the International Islamic News Agency (IINA). Protocols have also been signed with AFP of France and other foreign news agencies for exchange of photographs.
BSS handles national news including activities of the government, diplomatic affairs, socio-political happenings, economy, finance, sports, culture, law and parliamentary affairs. Newspapers throughout the country, radio and television channels, and some government agencies subscribe to the news service of BSS. Banks and commercial organisations subscribe to the commercial news service of BSS that include international currency and commodity rates. The agency also runs a feature service. It is attached to the Ministry of Information and is headed by a managing director cum chief editor, while a board of directors with a chairman supervises the general direction and management of the agency. The sources of income consist of subscriptions from the subscribers and subsidy from the government.
United News of Bangladesh UNB is a private sector news agency launched in January 1988 with the Associated Press (AP) of the United States as its principal anchor. UNB gathers news from a network of correspondents dotted across the country and dispatches sent to it by international partners. In association with the Associated Press, it caters to the needs of its clients for a wide range and variety of news, information and data. In addition to news service, it also runs a feature service devoted to special reports, analyses and in-depth studies of specific events, issues and problems of significance. It supplies news photos received through satellites from AFP and Reuters.
UNB's clients include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, government and private agencies. In addition to its exclusive relationship with AP, it entered into news exchange agreements with many leading national news agencies around the globe including Kyodo (Japan), Yonhap (South Korea), Ria Novosti (Russia), ANSA (Italy), Rompress (Romania), Czech News Agency and Anadolu (Turkey). It is also a member of the regional and international news agency pools and professional news organisations such as Organisation of Asia Pacific News Agencies (OANA), Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), AMIC and Asia Net.
Eastern News Agency is the first privately-owned news agency in Bangladesh established in March 1970. It developed into a full-fledged news agency before the outbreak of the War of Liberation. The agency earned appreciation of the people for its role during the eventful years of 1970-71. Consequently, it incurred the wrath of the military government of Pakistan in 1971and the services of the agency remained suspended during the entire period of the War of Liberation. Its services were resumed in 1972. Because of financial problems, it was closed down in the early 1990s. Presently, ENA maintains a presence only in the United States, mainly catering to Bangla newspapers there. There are some other local news agencies operations in Bangladesh on live. Bdnews24.com is the leading and pioneering on live news agency of the country. There are a few news agencies in Dhaka and Chittagong who cater exclusive news items and features to newspapers. Most of those agencies do not have wire service and national network. [Helal Uddin Ahmed]