Trouble with Al Hurra

Both the Washington Post and 60 Minutes have major pieces on Al Hurra, the U.S. taxpayer-funded satellite television station that is supposed to provide a more American-friendly perspective on the world to the Arabic-speaking masses. The channel was intended to be a major plank of U.S. efforts to improve its image in the Middle East and a vital weapon in the propaganda war against Al Qaeda. But as both pieces show, the station has not lived up to its promise.

60 Minutes reports:

The channel got off to a bad start in 2004. After Israel assassinated the founder of the militant group Hamas, Al Hurra stuck with a cooking show.

“They were doing a program on how to make salmon sandwiches for weddings. Well, how can you be credible if you don’t cover one of the biggest stories of the day, in the Middle East?” asks Larry Register, a former CNN executive with 20 years of experience, who was brought in a-year-and-half ago to rescue the channel.

But Register says he found his staff of Arabs, imported from the region, divided along religious, ethnic and political lines. Asked what state the channel was in when he first walked in the Al Hurra newsroom, Register tells Pelley, “Dysfunctional, extremely dysfunctional.”

“Words like militias were thrown around,” he explains. “There was this militia that was in charge of this, and this militia in charge of that.”

“It felt like you were living in the Middle East. It felt like somebody had picked up the Middle East and brought it to Springfield, Virginia, of all places,” Register remembers.

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