Monday, June 23, 2008

Carlin obit, Al Hurra running away with what?

A sad morning, with the news that comedian George Carlin died last night. What can be said about him that already hasn't? I'm sure right wingers like Brent Bozell and Bill Donohue will be clicking their heels this morning; but you already know how I feel about both of them. Since American network television, technically, still won't allow the use of the Seven Words you can't say, I'll say them here in bandwidth:
  • Shit
  • Piss
  • Cock
  • Cunt
  • Fuck
  • Motherfucker
  • Tits

There. I said it.

Now, a story in today's WaPo covers what must be one of the biggest broadcasting flops since Marconi invented broadcasting and is part of Dubya's "Hearts and Minds" propaganda campaign. Al-Hurra, Arabic for "the free one," is an Arabic language television service run by the same agency that brings us the Voice of America (the latter of which I confess I have listened to on occasion via shortwave). It was set up by the Bushies in an attempt to counter what was seen as the "bias" show by such nets as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Mecca. The neo-conservatives thought the cold war was still on, and there'd be a hunger for an audience for American programming. However, they were thinking along the lines of the mission statement for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the European arm of VOA which alongside the BBC, Radio Canada and Deutsche Welle were the only reliable sources of information in the Communist world. (RFE/RL has since shifted its focus to the remaining regressive states in Europe as well as the Middle East.)

In a 200 channel world which does exist in the Middle East, however, Al-Hurra has proven to be a minnow and an expensive one at that. $350 million in taxpayer money has been spend the last few years, about what is blown on the services aimed at Cuba -- TV and Radio Marti. Moreover, the BBC, a much more trusted source for information in that region, is about to start its own Arabic language TV service.

It also hasn't helped that the crew at AH has made some huge on-air gaffes -- such as the time when an anchor began Easter by saying "Jesus Christ is risen today!" Muslims of course view Jesus as a prophet but a mortal one at that -- as with the other prophets they write Jesus PBUH (peace be upon him). Or the time they covered a Holocaust-denial conference in Iran; or when an incendiary speech by a Hezbollah leader was broadcast, uninterrupted.

The fact is, more people in North America and the EU watch Al-Jazeera or browses its website, than the corresponding population in the Middle East watch Al-Hurra. American entertainment shows dubbed in Arabic get more water cooler chat in the Middle East than on AH.

Heck, if I was living there, I'd watch CNN over AH -- and given the crap CNN is spewing these days, that's saying something. Mind you, it is CNN International, whose production values are better than the domestic network but is rarely if ever seen in the US or Canada.

How's that for hearts and minds, Dubya?

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