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“There is no secret agenda”
Governor Blaya, a member of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors- which funds media outlets like the Arabic-language Alhurra channel - emphasizes that the US doesn’t dish out propaganda through broadcasts.
May 21, 2009 12:58 by Aarti Nagraj
Alhurra, the Arabic-language news channel funded by the US government operating across the Middle East, recently started a new show called Al Youm, a program which it claims is unique to the region. The three-hour show which broadcasts from Sunday to Thursday shuttles between studios in five cities including Dubai, Beirut, Cairo, occupied Jerusalem and Alhurra’s headquarters in Virginia, US.
“No competitor is doing something so technologically difficult,” says Fran Mires, the executive producer and creator of Al Youm. “But we are doing this because it allows us to connect in a true sense with the Middle East. We actually have everybody talking to everybody.”
So doesn’t something so technology advanced cost the US government a lot of money? Especially considering the current economic situation, and the fact that Alhuraa is commercial-free?
Yes, admits Mires. “But we are funded in advance so all of our 2008- 2009 funding is complete, and I think even 2010 funding is done. Not a dollar has changed,” she says.
And the show is worth investing in, says Governor Joaquin Blaya, one of the members of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees the channel. “Firstly because a majority of that investment is already here. Secondly because I believe it’s not only about providing news and information, not only about broadcasting a window to our world, but is as much or more to serve as a platform for people in the region, to communicate to each other, to develop dialogue, to have new voices participate in the discourse. I think that goes to the core of what we want to do.”
But what exactly is it that the US government wants to convey through the show, and the channel?
“The aim is cultivating understanding and establishing long term relationships with the world,” says Blaya. “As a major country in the world, you need to do that with the rest of the planet.”
So, does the channel have a secret agenda?
No, he says, quite emphatically. When Alhurra was launched, critics accused the channel of being the voice of the US government. “In five years, Alhurra has gone from one million to 27 million viewers on a weekly basis. And I can assure you those numbers are growing,” he says.
“They [the US government] never tell us anything. We are on our own,” adds Mires.
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