In a bid to offset the spread of anti-American messages by pan-Arab media outlets, the US government launched Al-Hurra, a satellite television station broadcasting Arabic language news and information programming across the Middle East and North Africa, on Saturday, February 14, 2004.
The broadcast schedule will expand progressively over the first month of operations to the point of providing a round-the-clock news and information service by March 14, stated a press release.
“The people will hear free and open discussions not just about conflict in the Middle East, but also about subjects critical to that region's future. We are talking about economic development and human rights and respect for minorities," said chairman of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Kenneth Tomlinson.
The BBG, a US government financed company, has received a $62 million congressional appropriation to fund the establishment and first year's operating costs for the Al-Hurra project.
Al-Hurra has been greeted with skepticism in much of the Middle Eastern press where many local pundits maintain that the station will be dismissed as government propaganda. Hostility towards the United States has reached "shocking levels” among Muslim populations, according to a recent report by the US Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World. The panel called for more money to be spent on advocating US policies.
Al-Hurra will be broadcast over the Arabsat and Nilesat satellites. It will also be available in the future over terrestrial transmission systems in Iraq. According to BBG, prime time programming will include two, one-hour in-depth newscasts, a nightly live talk show called "Free Hour," and Arabic translations of documentary and information programming from producers around the world.
Daily broadcasts will also include discussion programs, current affairs magazines and features on a variety of subjects, including health and personal fitness, entertainment, sports, fashion, and science and technology. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )