The SF Chronicle's Robert Collier reports on a new front-runner in the familiar struggle for Operation Iraqi Television Freedom: Iran's Al-Alam 24-hour news channel. Al-Alam appears to be winning the field by default. The State Department's radio and tv efforts are going nowhere, while the Iraqi Communist Party was first out of the gate with a post-Saddam newspaper. A copy of Al-Hayat costs a buck on the newsstand. So it's left to the journalistic integrity of the Iranians to sway Iraqi news consumers: "I will give a chance to Washington," says Al-Alam correspondent Haidar Al-Assady. "But now, I speak against the American forces because they are not doing anything to help the people's suffering."
My question: Why does the U.S. insist on competing with state-run media through more state-run media? Wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective to set up a few VHF-relay stations in Iraq, and open them to all comers? Most Americans wouldn't watch a news channel put together by Norman Pattiz on the State Department's dime; why should any Iraqis?