network_name = Alhurra
network_type = Satellite
owner = Middle East Broadcasting Networks (US Government)
website = [http://www.alhurra.com/ www.alhurra.com]
Alhurra (Arabic: الحرّة; strict transliteration al-Ḥurra IPA2|ɛ̈l ħʊrrɛ̈, "The Free One") is a
United States-based satellite TV channel, sponsored by the U.S. government. It began broadcasting on February 14, 2004in 22 countries across the Middle East. U.S. Government sources generally refer to the channel as Al-Hurra. Like all forms of U.S. public diplomacy, the station is forbidden from broadcasting within the U.S. itself under the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act.
Alhura's "founding father" was Norman Joel Pattiz, at the time a member of the
Broadcasting Board of Governors(BBG), which oversees the government’s nonmilitary international broadcasting services, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europeand Radio Free Asia.Craig Whitlock, [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/22/AR2008062201228.html "U.S. Network Falters in Mideast Mission"] , "Washington Post", June 23, 2008]
The budget for its first year was
US$62 million, and $40 million more for an Iraq-specific station. $652 million has been requested for international broadcasting in 2006, which would include specific coverage for European Arabs. Dafna Linzer reports that "So far, U.S. taxpayers have spent nearly $500 million to fund these broadcasts."Dafna Linzer, " [http://www.propublica.org/feature/alhurra-middle-east-hearts-and-minds-622 Lost in Translation] : Alhurra—America’s Troubled Effort to Win Middle East Hearts and Minds," " ProPublica: Journalism in the Public Interest" (22 June 2008).]
This network is operated by a non-profit organization called The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc., which in turn is funded by the BBG.
* Alhurra has a staff of about 200 people, most of whom moved to the United States from Arab countries where many had worked for competing television channels.
* Other related American-funded projects include the Arabic-language
Linzer writes of the Alhurra staff: "Alhurra’s president, Brian Conniff, does not speak Arabic and is unable to understand anything broadcast on the radio and television networks he is paid to manage. Conniff has no journalism experience and worked previously as a government auditor. His news director, Daniel Nassif, grew up in Lebanon and has no background in television."
Alhurra broadcasts 24 hours a day, and, similar to other BBG-owned properties, is commercial-free. In addition to shows the network produces itself, it has broadcast Arabic-subtitled versions of programs familiar to U.S. (and global) audiences, such as "Frontline" and "
Inside the Actors Studio". A dedicated version of the channel called Alhurra Iraq is broadcast on the Nilesat 101satellite. [ [http://www.lyngsat.com/nile101.html Nilesat 101 at 7.0°W - LyngSat ] ]
Formerly the top executives at Alhurra did not speak Arabic. In May 2007,
ABC Newsreported that "That left decisions over al Hurra's content in the hands of its reporters and producers, who are, according to [Joaquin] Blaya, hastily-hired Arabic-speaking journalists with insufficient understanding of Western journalistic practices or the network's pro-Western mission." [http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/05/us_government_g.html "U.S. Government Gave Airtime to Terrorists, Official Admits"] , "ABC News"]
Blaya, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was testifying in May 2007 before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The hearing was prompted by revelations that, on several occasions, Alhurra had broadcast terrorist messages, including "a 68-minute call to arms against
Israelis by a senior figure of the terrorist group Hezbollah; deferential coverage of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial conference; and a factually flawed piece on a splinter group of Orthodox Jews who oppose the state of Israel...." Blaya told the subcommittee that the problems were being addressed. [ [http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/110/bla051607.htm Testimony of Joaquin Blaya ] ]
Alhurra has over the years hosted a number of prominent politicians, journalists and intellectuals in one-on-one long format interviews. Guests have included Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Francis Fukuyama, Palestinian President Dr. Salaam Fayyad, Ahmed Qurea, Silvan Shalom, Meier Shetrit, Tom Friedman, David Brooks, Mary Matalin, Jalal Talabani, Paul Volker, John Bolton, and President Bush. Others who have appeared on Alhurra's political coverage include Terry McAculiffe, Joe Lieberman, Susan Turnbull, Robert Zimmerman, Steve Murphy, David Corn, Peter Fenn, Michael Steele, Tony Coehlo, and Eleanor Clift.
Viewership and reception
As of 2005, polling data on Alhurra's viewership levels is somewhat contradictory. A BBG-commissioned, seven-country survey showed that 29 percent of the adult satellite-viewing audience had tuned in to Alhurra during one week in April 2005. However, a Zogby Internationalsurvey done in June 2004found that none of the surveyed Arabic audiences turned to Alhurra as a first choice for news, and only 3.8% picked it as a second choice. A poll of satellite users in the greater Cairoarea found that over 64% felt Alhurra was not a trustworthy news source, while 86% and 67% considered al-Jazeera and CNN, respectively, to be trustworthy. [cite web|url=http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2005/Nov/baylounyNov05.asp|title=Strategic Insights - Alhurra, the Free One: Assessing U.S. Satellite Television in the Middle East] (The apparent discrepancy may lie in the difference between Alhurra's success with entertainment-oriented programs and its relative failure in winning over regional viewers to its news programs.) Alhurra recently purchased a one-year package of 45 BBC Worldwidedocumentary and current affairs programs in an effort to boost ratings. [http://www.diplomatictraffic.com/debate.asp?ID=494 Dead link|date=June 2008] Scholars at the Heritage Foundationhave argued that Alhurra should be allowed to broadcast within the United Statessince private, non-US government Arab television news networks are permitted to broadcast there. [cite web | author=Juliana G Pilon | title=Obsolete Restrictions on Public Diplomacy Hurt U.S. Outreach and Strategy | publisher=The Heritage Foundation| date=December 3, 2007 | url=http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/bg2089.cfm | accessdate=2007-12-11]
*David Frum's Diary, "About al Hurra", http://frum.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NmFjMTY5NWJkMmExOGQ5NzZkMTU1MjYzZmVjYzc0ZjU=
*Chris Forrester: " [http://rapidtvnews.com/index.php/switch-off-al-hurra-call.html ‘Switch off Al Hurra’ call] ," "Rapid TV News", March 10, 2008.
*David Chambers: " [http://www.metimes.com/Opinion/2008/03/10/op-ed_david_chambers_-_bbc_arabic_tv/5221/ BBC Arabic TV will Rock the Arab World] ," "Middle East Times", March 10, 2008.
*Tatham, Steve (2006), "Losing Arab Hearts & Minds: The Coalition, Al-Jazeera & Muslim Public Opinion", Hurst & Co (London), January 1, 2006, ISBN 978-1850658115
* [http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2005/Nov/baylounyNov05.asp Alhurra, the Free One: Assessing U.S. Satellite Television in the Middle East] , Center for Contemporary Conflict,
Naval Postgraduate School, November 2005
* [http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117932458?categoryid=14&cs=1 "Inspector general puts Al Hurra under microscope"] , Variety, November 6, 2005
* [http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-11-11-voa2.cfm "Broadcast Officials Defend US-Funded Arab Television"] ,
Voice of America, November 11, 2005
* [http://www.menafn.com/qn_news_story_s.asp?StoryId=116426 "Al Hurra's struggle for legitimacy"] ,
Jordan Times, December 1, 2005
* [http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Alhurra Alhurra on SourceWatch]
* [http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Al_Hurra A longer Sourcewatch page filed under Al Hurra]
* [http://www.propublica.org/feature/alhurra-middle-east-hearts-and-minds-622/ Lost in Translation: Alhurra—America’s Troubled Effort to Win Middle East Hearts and Minds] by
Dafna Linzerof ProPublica
* [http://www.alhurra.com/index.aspx Official Site] ar icon
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.