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February 11, 2005



Yeah, I agree. Although Jazeera and Arabia also show programmes produced in the west, they are almost always dubbed, not subtitled. It makes a difference.

Al-Hurra really is useless. I thought it would be interesting to see the US govt employ their great propaganda skills to win over the Arab hearts and minds, but this just isn't being done.


Al-Hurra also carries a lot of Inside the Actors Studio with subtitles. Is there an American public figure more unlikeable than James Lipton?


Isn't Vlade with the Kings?


Okay, I have to register a dissenting voice, here. Al-Hurra is self-important, and its ads (for itself!) are beyond ridiculous. If it was only meant to compete with al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya, I would find it lacking, for reasons mentioned by many here in the past.

BUT...Al-Hurra does more than (failingly) compete on news coverage. By bringing a range of US programming, especially documentary-type pieces on a variety of features of US society and culture, it IS helping to diversify images of the US in Arab popular imaginings. This assumes that it's being watched, but according to a fair number of my Egyptian friends (more than Lebanese friends, I have to admit), it is being watched - just not for news. Believe it or not, some people like to watch Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton be damned. On the subtitles issue - obviously, the station is attempting to impact literate middle classes first. But if these people are opinion-makers in the ME, why is that bad?

I'm no US policy apologist, and I can smell propaganda as well as the next guy, but breaking down relatively monolithic images of US culture and society is a good thing.

the aardvark

Stacey - that's the best defense of al Hurra I've heard yet... but it doesn't really get us very far I don't think. For the al Hurra management, the news/ political programming is the hot fudge sundae and the documentaries are the plastic container they come in. And my experience for the last decade has been that I could watch as many American TV shows as I wanted on various satellite television stations and often even on the older official stations. Access to American popular culture - movies, TV, music, even nature documentaries - just isn't the problem.

So while I'm certainly open to the idea that the documentaries and other programming are offering some kind of expanded vision of America, I'm not convinced that (a) this is actually what al Hurra is trying to do; (b) that this is a cost-effective way to do it, if it were the mission; and (c) that those programs wouldn't be available via the existing non-USG stations anyway.

I'm interested to hear that your Egyptian friends are watching it at all, though, since I've rarely heard that from anyone else.

Interesting cut at the problem, though...


Cher Abu,

Thanks for considering it, at least. I posted a longer version of my take with a few better examples on al-Hiwar.

I'm basically in agreement on points (a) and (b), and your sundae analogy is certainly and ufortunately apt. But on point (c), I don't see quality alternative US programming on the satellite channels (paid or free) that we get, and we get a boatload. We get TONS of "Reba" and "According to Jim," and even old reruns of classics like "Benson," but little non-fiction. So in this way, al-Hurra's not a TOTAL waste of your taxes. Still, point taken.


Al-Hurra is really similar to Egypt's Nile TV, which runs news and talk shows in French and English - with more of English. They also play Arabic documentaries and movies with French or English subtitles.

No ones going to watch Nile TV for actual news - they'll turn it to CNN or the BBC. But they might watch Nile TV's news just for the novelty of it or watch the odd Arabic program because of the rare subtitles.


Benson is the greatest show ever created.



Oh, and this story's right up your alley.


I live in Cairo, and would love to know when and on what channel "Benson" airs. I'm sometimes nostalgic for the days of my youth.

Abu Aardvark: This was a very interesting post, and it's inspired me to undertake a side-by-side comparison of the various satellite channels myself.

As for the hotness of the presenters, I think Khadija, who appears on "al-sharia wal-haya", is attractive too, and she has that husky-voice thing going on.

Just my two cents.

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