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The Middle East Television Network: An Overview

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Publication Date: August 2005

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RS21565

Topic: Media, telecommunications, and information (Television)


With the United States engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terrorism, Congress and the Bush Administration have created a U.S. government-sponsored Arabic-language television station to bolster U.S. public diplomacy efforts in the Middle East. Supporters of this initiative have asserted that there is a receptive audience for U.S. television, which could counterbalance negative perceptions of U.S. policy that are commonly found in the Arab media. Critics maintain that the Arab media market is already saturated with Western stations and that U.S. public diplomacy funds would be more effectively used in other programs.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, "the government has begun some promising initiatives in television and radio broadcasting to the Arab world, Iran, and Afghanistan. These efforts are beginning to reach large audiences. The Broadcasting Board of Governors has asked for much larger resources. It should get them." The Administration has requested $79 million for FY2006, a figure that incorporates operations for the satellite television network AlHurra (Arabic for "the free one"), which began broadcasting in February 2004. For more information on U.S. public diplomacy in the Middle East, see CRS Report RL31889, The Al-Jazeera News Network: Opportunity or Challenge for U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East? This report will be updated periodically.