international broadcasting

Why Do Arabs Ignore Al Hurra?

The complementary roles of U.S. international broadcasting and U.S. public diplomacy

American journalists, writers, scholars, decision makers, and other experts tend to be confused about the relationship between international broadcasting and public diplomacy. For example, in article about President Bush's nomination of Karen Hughes to be under secretary of state for public diplomacy, Fred Kaplan wrote:

In what can only be described as anti-climactic, Al Jazeera International is starting its English channel broadcasts to North America November 15 with a whimper, rather than the desired flourish. After failing to meet several self-appointed inaugural air dates over the past year, the controversial Arabic TV channel kicked off its service to the U.S. via bottom-tier, off-the-beaten-track delivery services on which Al Jazeera International's audience in America will be miniscule to start.

Worldcasting noted last week the need for that "vision" thing to be injected into America's international broadcasts. It should be the first order of business for those who oversee America's non-military TV and radio programs abroad. Instead, the attention these days is diverted to intramural turf battles that accomplish little to advance U.S. efforts to communicate with international publics.

Events moved rapidly this week at Voice of America. VOA director David Jackson decided to give his managers a heads up, shocking them with the news that he was planning to move on soon That's exactly what happened. Within days the entire VOA staff saw the announcement that Jackson was indeed leaving. The supervisory Broadcasting Board of Governors accepted Jackson's resignation and approved a successor, who would arrive on the job a couple of days after that.

The BBG acted faster and more efficiently than it had in years.

The American government's satellite news channel, Alhurra, while still well below the audience ratings of the well-entrenched Arabic TV news channels, appears to be catching on with audiences in the Middle East.

The public scolding took place right after the long Labor Day weekend, perhaps not to spoil anyone's vacation. Setting atop the office desks of those who manage the U.S. government's Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) when they returned to work was a terse report on their failings. It was not that their charges, America’s Arabic-language Radio Sawa and TV Alhurra, were putting out inferior broadcasts. Rather, the folks in charge of those broadcasts were not running things like good bureaucrats. What exactly does that mean?

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