In BBC Radio 4 documentary, Alhurra is described as 1) funded by the US Defense Department and 2) a failure (updated: MBN response).

Posted: 16 Jul 2011   Print   Send a link
BBC Radio 4, 11 July 2011, "Soft Power Hard News": This audio excerpt (mp3, 2 min 8 sec) begins with the assertion that Alhurra is "funded by the US Department of Defense" (which, of course, it isn't). Later, Harvard professor and coiner of the term "smart power" Joseph Nye said "since it's regarded as American government propaganda, they [Nye's friends in the Middle East] don't watch it. ... I think the fact that the BBC is viewed and has credibility indicates that there is some possibility there." Another interviewee said Alhurra "was a complete failure in the Arab world." He also suggested a continuation of the VOA Arabic Service would have been "a better vehicle for disseminating the US point of view." (In part two of the series, which will discuss BBC World Service, will it be described a "vehicle for disseminating the British point of view"?)

It is to be expected that Alhurra will have audiences smaller than the intra-Arab news channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. But wouldn't it be interesting if audience research from the region were to show that Alhurra has an audience larger than that of BBC Arabic and the other Arabic news channels from non-Arab countries? See previous post about the documentary.

Update: The documentary prompted this response from Deirdre Kline, director of communications at the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc, parent entity of Alhurra:

"The BBC Radio 4 documentary “Soft Power Hard News” makes reference to Alhurra, the U.S.-funded Arabic-language television network. Unfortunately, the information contained in the documentary about Alhurra was erroneous. I am disappointed that a reputable news organization such as the BBC did not meet the basic standards of journalism, by simply checking the facts. First of all, Alhurra is not funded by the Defense Department. It is funded by Congress through a grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors ; there is no funding from the Pentagon.

"Secondly, the report claims that Alhurra did not achieve its goals. However, according to international research firms such as ACNielsen, Alhurra has a weekly reach of 26 million viewers, which is more than all other non-indigenous Arabic-language news networks (including BBC Arabic and France24) combined. Additionally, a majority of those who watch Alhurra say that they find Alhurra to be credible. The network is frequently cited in the Arabic and Western press. When protests broke out across Egypt, 25 percent of respondents in Cairo and Alexandria said they tuned into Alhurra to follow the uprisings.

"By any standards of media measurement, Alhurra is a success."