Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking Member Delahunt, and members of the Subcommittee- Thank you for inviting me here today for this hearing.
Can you imagine if on the day after 9/11 someone had told us that within two and a half years the United States would have a TV network broadcasting in Arabic from Morocco to Iraq to Yemen, that the network would have 20 million weekly viewers, that the majority of its audience would call the news reliable? Can you imagine if someone would have said U.S.-sponsored television would be sent to the Middle East unfiltered and uncensored-and that U.S. policy would be reported truthfully to millions of Arab TV viewers every week?
We would have called all this astonishing.
Today Alhurra Television broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week to viewers all over the Middle East. In a typical week, more than 150 Alhurra journalists around the world produce 40 hours of news, 24 hours of debates and talk shows, 33 hours of current affairs programs, as well as groundbreaking town hall meetings carried live from places like Damascus, Beirut, Cairo, Khartoum-and even from a Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon. These town hall meetings feature debates and intelligent discussion on issues few others in the Arab media would dare tackle: freedom and democracy in the Middle East, women’s rights in the Arab world, and the challenge of global terrorism.
As one of Alhurra’s first supporters-President Bush-himself foresaw, we have to recognize the ultimate truth about the war on terror: “[T]his war will not be won by force of arms alone. We must defeat the terrorists on the battlefield and we must also defeat them in the battle of ideals. …. In the long run, the only way to achieve lasting peace is to offer a hopeful alternative to the terrorist ideology of hatred and fear by spreading the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East.”
That’s why President Bush’s White House supported the launch of a new satellite television channel called Alhurra. Chairman Frank Wolf and a bipartisan coalition of Senators and Congressmen kick started the project by adding it to a war-time supplemental. As ever, we had the strong support of Senator Joe Biden, the political father of this Board. In the summer of 2003, we went to work.
I am in a good position to tell the Alhurra story because my role has largely been that of a cheerleader. The real heroes are in the Bush White House and in the House and Senate and my colleagues Norm Pattiz and Mouafac Harb, about whom I’ll have more to say later on. They also deserve our praise for the heralded success of Radio Sawa, our youth-oriented service to the Arab world.
We started with nothing. No building. No equipment. No cables, no lights. No programs, no TelePromTers, no newswires-and no employees. All the while, the anti-American Arab media continued to spew out hatred on a daily basis and distort America’s policies and what America stands for. And within months after establishing Alhurra, we were on the air. Even the private sector doesn’t work that fast.
We found our home in 27,000 square feet of leased space in an industrial park in Springfield, Virginia. Over the next four and one-half months, electricians and engineers working intensely 24 hours a day laid over 200 miles of wiring connected to 13 broadcast servers and 200 computers and desktop news editing stations, plus ten incoming fiber optic video lines and four news gathering satellites. We installed news studios, control rooms and edit facilities-all in the shell of a building.
Of course, getting Alhurra Television on the air in record time wasn’t just about laying miles of wire and installing state-of-the-art-studios and control rooms. It was about creating a new organization from scratch and designing and launching a 24/7 news and information TV channel in the second-most competitive TV market in the