May 17, 2007

"That's the difference between a free media and propaganda."

One of the prime problems with US policy in the Mid East (if not the world) is that everyone believes that the US hates all of them, wants to bomb everybody, and generally couldn't give a dead rat what happens elsewhere. This is called "public relations," and we suck at it.

In (insufficient) response to the PR deficit, the US established "Al Hurra," a US-financed TV station to compete with Al Jazeera. Hearing were held in DC this week to let idiotic Congresspeople complain that the station puts people on the air who are unfriendly to US interests, and might even be hostile to the US:

In recent weeks both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats have attacked Al Hurra for, in the words of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page last week, providing "friendly coverage of camera-ready extremists from Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups."

In particular, critics of the network, which was founded in 2003 as an Arabic-language, American-financed counter to Al Jazeera, are particularly annoyed that the network broadcast a 30-minute speech by the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, in December.

[Representative] Ackerman also complained during the hearing that the network gave extensive coverage to Iran's conference in December on denying the Holocaust and, more recently, showed Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister (and Hamas leader), discussing the faltering Palestinian unity government.

"How does it happen that terrorists take over? Is there no supervision?" Mr. Ackerman asked.

Uh, folks, it's called "news" and any station (especially one that wants to compete with Al Jazeera) had better show the people from the region who make the news. If we don't like them, that 's fine, but banning everyone from the TV who is antithetical to US policy will quickly make the station worse than useless, as all it will turn into will be a parrot for official US government views (in other words, "Fox News"). The way to win the PR battle is to let the people onto the air, then challenge their (incorrectly held) beliefs with actual facts (or in interviews). Banning them will only cause loss of viewers, not help the overall problem. Limiting the programming (and the people you are willing to put on the air) moves the station from news to propaganda, and that certainly won't work.

On the other hand, I'd guess that "Al Hurra" is doomed. See if you can figure out why:

For decades, the United States has provided funds for radio and television stations dedicated to promoting American values and views. During the cold war, Radio Free Europe sought to counter the state-controlled Soviet media by broadcasting pro-American views.

The first President George Bush created TV Marti, to beam American programming into Fidel Castro's Cuba, though Mr. Castro managed to jam it for years so people in Cuba could not actually see it.

Al Hurra was supposed to follow that tradition. But the station's executives admitted Wednesday that they could not be completely sure that Al Hurra was doing so, because none of the top executives speak Arabic.

"How do you know that they're being true to the mission if you don't know what's being said?" [Representative] Ackerman demanded.

Joaquin F. Blaya, a Hurra executive, testified that network officials made sure to question the Arabic-speaking staff about what went on the air.

Yes, none of the people actually running the station speak Arabic, and thus have no idea what is being said on their station. I'm sure this organizational structure is working splendidly.

I wonder if someday we'll discover that what we think are interviews with Rice, Bush, and other US officials are actually elaborate "Crank Yankers" spoofs. We certainly have no idea today if that is true.

Posted by baltar at May 17, 2007 11:52 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Corporate Bullshit | Free Speech | International Affairs | Iraq | Media | You Can't Make This Stuff Up


Maybe they could get Ali G?

Posted by: binky at May 17, 2007 12:25 PM | PERMALINK
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