Arabic TV Proposed in FY 2004 Budget Would Reach Millions in Middle East

The Arabic-language satellite television network proposed in the President’s FY 2004 budget is a unique opportunity for U.S. international broadcasting to reach millions of viewers in the Middle East with accurate news and information, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) said today.

The President’s budget, which was sent to Congress Monday, included $563.5 million for the BBG. Of that, $30 million is for start-up costs for the proposed new 24-hour, 7-day-a-week TV network that would be distributed direct-to-home on more than one satellite.

“We’re very pleased with the requested funding for television because we need to reach Arabic-speaking people in the Middle East with news, information and programs that emphasize our values and beliefs: mutual respect, religious tolerance, democracy, freedom, the rights of women and the rule of law,” said Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the BBG’s chairman. “Television is the key to reaching households in that important part of the world,” he said.

Television ownership is virtually universal in the Middle East, with daily TV viewership over 90 percent in some countries. At present, Arabic speakers in the Middle East do not have access to a Western television network in their language.

Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of the BBG’s Middle East Committee, which would oversee the project, said, “The new television network will build on the success of Radio Sawa, the BBG’s Arabic language radio network, in reaching a mass audience by using proven American broadcasting techniques.”

He added: “The President’s budget means that plans for our television network are not just an idea any more. If Congress supports our network, and we hope it will, we can start doing the research and planning the programming.”

Pattiz, who is also chairman of Westwood One in Los Angeles, has briefed numerous U.S. private sector media and entertainment organizations, as well as industry senior executives, who have expressed strong interest in supporting the new network with programming and expertise.

As envisioned, the network would present objective news and information in a format similar to an American cable news network, including a morning show and all-news hours. Other programming would include family entertainment, children’s shows, news documentaries and news analysis by U.S. officials

The BBG is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported non-military international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); Radio Free Asia (RFA); Radio and TV Mart