Diana Muqlid has an interesting piece in al-Sharq al-Awsat today on the American satellite television station al-Hurra:
Far from the violent attacks on the American identity of the station and its propaganda goals.... what remains is the fundamental predicament facing the station, which is a predicament of professionalism... [Al-Hurra] has failed to establish itself and to confirm its identity as a media source capable of meeting the needs of Arab viewers... When major events happen such as the tsunami disaster or the death of the Pope or the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, or even security developments in Iraq or in Afghanistan - the two countries which the station covers the most heavily - when we click the remote control looking for pictures and news and analysis of the event we realize that the station is not the station which meets our desire for information."
After saying a bit more about the "trap" al-Hurra has fallen into in its news and talk shows, she continues:
It isn't enough for al-Hurra to concentrate on events in Iraq and Afghanistan and repetitive analysis from a particular point of view which confirms its media identity....
In its definition of itself on its website al-Hurra says that it will present "detailed and balanced and comprehensive news with the goal of widening the horizons of its viewers"... in other words, the station defines itself as having a news identity, but it has not established such an identity, and that is its real problem...
Al-Hurra is not the only station which tries to spread a particular viewpoint, and whose ideas arouse the reservations of many in the Arab world, for there are other stations whether political or religious which also have a particular propaganda agenda which many see as ideas far more dangerous than those spread by al-Hurra... but the success of stations such as al-Jazeera which spreads many political and religious messages which arouse controversy has to do with the fact that al-Jazeera has established its media presence and this is what allows it to spread its ideas, something which al-Hurra has failed to do.
Her bottom line: it's the singer, not the song. If al-Hurra put out a news product that people actually wanted to watch - the way that Radio Sawa, arguably, did with its pop music mix - then the ideological message might get through. But as it stands, a year and a half after launch, al-Hurra hasn't given Arab viewers any reason to watch. Given the built-in advantage for authentically Arab - i.e. not American financed and produced - stations such as al-Jazeera or al-Arabiya, al-Hurra needs to do better than just be minimally acceptable: it needs to offer news, talk shows, coverage that Arabs can't get elsewhere. According to Muqlid, it hasn't.