Arabic TV Station Under Heavy Lens
An Arabic-language television network financed by the U.S. government and based in Springfield, Va., has come under heavy criticism for hiring a largely foreign and inexperienced staff that has had little impact in winning over the hearts and minds of the Arab world.
Al-Hurra has cost taxpayers $350 million and more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission, The Post's Craig Whitlock reports today.
The station -- a costly, glitzy operation with very little impact, one observer noted -- has been plagued by journalistic faux pas: One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!" After al-Hurra covered a December 2006 Holocaust-denial conference in Iran and aired, unedited, an hour-long speech by the leader of Hezbollah, Congress convened hearings and threatened to cut the station's budget.
A separate joint investigation by the new investigative reporting outlet ProPublica and "60 Minutes" found an untrained, largely foreign staff with little knowledge of the country whose values and policies they were hired to promote.
(The "60 Minutes" segment can be found here.)
Al-Hurra's reporters and commentators operate with little oversight and the station's president, Brian Conniff, does not speak Arabic and is unable to understand anything broadcast on the radio and television networks he is paid to manage, ProPublica's Dafna Linzer reports. Conniff has no journalism experience and worked previously as a government auditor.
The station's content has also produced "a steady stream of concern inside the State Department, in Congress, at the government's broadcasting headquarters," according to Congressional and internal documents released by ProPublica.
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