Not the Last Hurra, Unfortunately


So how's that whole winning-hearts-and-minds-through-government-broadcasting thing working out in the Middle East? About as badly as you'd expect, according to the Washington Post.

Al-Hurra ? "The Free One" in Arabic ? is the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East. Taxpayers have spent $350 million on the project. But 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. […]

Since its inception, al-Hurra has been plagued by mediocre programming, congressional interference and a succession of executives who either had little experience in television or could not speak Arabic, according to interviews with former staffers, other Arab journalists and viewers in the Middle East.

It has also been embarrassed by journalistic blunders. 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.

Whole thing here. The cynic in me wants to say that the truly bad news here is that the station seems to be making marginal improvements, which sounds like a recipe for throwing money down this sinkhole in perpetuity.

I wrote about the on-its-face ludicrous idea that you could make a Radio Free Europe for the Middle East back in March 2006. Michael Young attacked the idea two years before that.