For those interested in journalism, Zogby has a worthwhile article about the U.S. government-funded 24-hour Arabic cable TV network Al Hurra. Says Zogby, “It was a bad idea when it was launched in 2004. It has failed, and yet it won’t die any time soon. Two weeks ago, the US Senate and House of Representative appropriated another $112,000,000 to fund al Hurra operations for 2010, making the ‘bad idea’s’ cost, to date, to American taxpayer over $650,000,000.” All those zeros make it look pretty expensive, but it only adds up to a hundred million a year, about the same as the foreign aide tab for a very small country. Still, as they say, a million here and a million there….
Zogby makes additional points about Arab viewers not being denied access to western media and I can vouch for that. CNN is pretty popular in Jordan, so is BBC News. Add to that the details Zogby has unearthed that “the head its of news operations was a former leader of a partisan right wing Lebanese group and one of its featured weekly shows is hosted by a leading official in a pro-Israel think tank,” and sprinkle in some details from Wikipedia that “the station is forbidden from broadcasting within the U.S. itself under the 1948 Smith-Mundt Act concerning the broadcast of propaganda,” “on several occasions, Alhurra had broadcast terrorist messages, including “a 68-minute call to arms against Israelis by a senior figure of Hezbollah,” and “Alhurra has hired Tom Dine, a former head of Radio Free Europe and former director of AIPAC, the American-Israeli lobby group, as a consultant” (hoo boy!!) and you get a picture of an organization lacking in direction and credibility.
While they’re totaling up the costs of that program, they might as well take a look at Voice of America as well. I once heard a representative from the Arabic VOA speak in Amman, but during the whole time I lived there, I never heard the radio station even once. My desktop radio was long wave and medium wave–whatever that is. It got BBC and the pop stations just fine, but not VOA. One of my students took the VOA guy out to his car and tried to get VOA on the AM car radio–it was supposed to be broadcasting on an AM frequency–but they never did hear it. The annual price tag for VOA was $15.5 million and for its successor, Radio Sawa, $22 million.