|29 January 2004
U.S. Prepares to Beam Arabic Satellite TV Channel to Mideast
Alhurra network aims to broadcast credible information round the
By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The U.S. government will begin broadcasting the
Alhurra satellite television network to the Middle East in the
Alhurra will broadcast its 24-hour-a-day Arabic language news
and information service over the Arabsat and Nilesat with what
the network's creators hope will set a new standard for satellite
news in the region.
"We believe there is a market there for news you can depend
on, a market for current affairs you can depend on," said
Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of Alhurra's parent company, the U.S.
government's Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
the Washington File January 28, Tomlinson stated, "In
my view, we can develop a market for the fact that the news is
Many critics of the station maintain that the network will have
a difficult time establishing independent credibility as it is
being established with $32 million in funding from the U.S. Congress
and is expected to receive an additional $30 million in congressional
appropriations for its first year of operation.
that viewers in the Middle East will make the critical decision
as to whether Alhurra's information is credible
or not. "The people aren't stupid. If we're slanting the news,
the people will figure it out," he said.
He added, "If you look at television in the Middle East,
you either have state run stations or people with an axe to grind." According
to Tomlinson, Alhurra will challenge that with "accuracy --
news and current events that are compelling, interesting to people's
needs, and meaningful."
that people will want to watch Alhurra because it will offer "real
The BBG chairman
observed that there are a lot of important issues in the Middle
are not reported. He indicated that Alhurra
will "fully report on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" but
that it will also delve into "the host of other stories that
people are concerned about."
According to a fact sheet released by the BBG, the station will
feature news and information on a variety of subjects including
health, personal fitness, entertainment, sports, fashion and science
and technology. Programming will include talk shows, current affairs
magazines and roundtables.
The fact sheet
station's news coverage and information will endeavor to broaden
the viewers' perspectives, enabling them
to think for themselves and inspiring them to make better decisions."
As an example
of such an undertaking, Tomlinson said the station would "have
a debate between a radical Islamic figure and a moderate Muslim
and let people make up their own minds."
The base for the station's production and broadcasting will be
in the United States, but the network will have bureaus in Dubai,
Amman and Baghdad. In addition, it will use stringers and correspondents
from all over the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
The BBG has begun recruiting local talent, hiring reporters and
technicians and making arrangements with other news organizations
that will give it the broadest possible access to stories and events
around the Middle East.
"We're into this for the long haul," Tomlinson said. "Satellite
television is the greatest media phenomenon and the greatest political
phenomenon of the 21st century, and we'll be there."
The BBG fact sheet notes that more than 75 percent of households
in the Gulf States have satellite access as do 30 percent of residents
in Gaza and the West Bank and 10 to 20 percent of homes in Egypt.
The station will be available over terrestrial transmitters in