A U.S. government-funded Arab language television network, Al Hurra, has been the focus of recent criticism over both its lack of viewership and content choices. Two experts discuss how the network has fared and its ties to U.S. diplomacy efforts in the Middle East.
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Al Hurra, Arabic for "The Free One," is a 4-year-old U.S. government-funded satellite television channel, part of an ambitious effort in public diplomacy, to win hearts and minds in the Arab and Muslim world in the aftermath of 9/11.
From its headquarters in Springfield, Virginia, Al Hurra broadcasts its news by satellite to 22 Arab countries, from Morocco to the Persian Gulf, with a total population of some 170 million people. But the effort has been controversial from its inception.
On CBS last night, "60 Minutes" reported that, after spending nearly $500 million, the channel has been mismanaged, has broadcast unchecked anti-Israel rhetoric, and is not competing effectively in an ever-growing Arab media market.
SCOTT PELLEY, Correspondent, "60 Minutes": The U.S. government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this, and we don't know what's on the channel?
LARRY REGISTER, Former News Director, Al Hurra:
Well, the State Department has a team that watches it, but in the chain that you just mentioned, no fluent Arabic speakers.
The report was a joint investigation with ProPublica, a new nonprofit journalism effort that partners with print and broadcast organizations.
Al Hurra was also the subject of a critical front-page report in today's "Washington Post" that states that, quote, "The station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission."