U.S.-Funded Radio and Television Make Significant Gains in Middle East Despite Anti-American Sentiments

After just six weeks on the air, the new U.S.-funded Arabic language TV channel Alhurra (Arabic for “The Free One”) has established itself as an important source of news and information for adults over the age of 15 in major cities across the Middle East, according to recent telephone surveys conducted by Ipsos-Stat, the well-respected French research company.

The surveys were conducted in Lebanon (Beirut), Syria (Damascus, & Aleppo), United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Egypt (Cairo and Alexandria), Kuwait (Kuwait City), Jordan (Amman, Irbid and Zarka) and Saudi Arabia (Riyadh and Jeddah) in early April and show that an average of 29 percent of adults had watched Alhurra in the previous week. Past week viewing in Lebanon was 40 percent; Syria 29 percent; UAE 19 percent; Egypt 18 percent; Kuwait 44 percent; Jordan 37 percent and Saudi Arabia 19 percent. In the surveys, randomly selected adults (15+) who live in houses with telephone and satellite dishes were questioned about their TV viewing.

The survey also reported that in spite of increasing anti-American attitudes and suspicion of the motives of the United States in the region, 53 percent of Alhurra viewers consider its news “very or somewhat reliable.” Reliability figures were 70 percent for Saudi Arabia; 54 percent for Lebanon; 40 percent for Egypt; 44 percent for Jordan; 61 percent for Kuwait; 65 percent for UAE and 37 percent for Syria.

Additionally, the U.S.-funded Radio Sawa has proven once again to be the most successful network of radio stations in the Middle East with 38 percent of adults in five key countries tuning in to Radio Sawa, according to surveys conducted by ACNielsen in February 2004. Radio Sawa provides listeners an upbeat mix of Arabic and Western pop music and comprehensive up-to-the-minute news.

Surveys conducted in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, come on the heels of the survey out earlier this month that showed 73 percent of Moroccans aged 15 and older were listening to Radio Sawa on a weekly basis. The latest survey reveals that 42 percent of adults (15 and older) in Kuwait, 35 percent in UAE and 27 percent in Jordan are listening to Radio Sawa on a weekly basis on FM. In Egypt, where Radio Sawa is only available by medium wave, 11 percent of the adults were tuning in on a weekly basis. Qatar, which was surveyed in August of 2003, reported that 41 percent of adults tune in on a weekly basis.

The news credibility on Radio Sawa was also surveyed, with an average of 80 percent of the listeners saying that Radio Sawa’s news is “very or somewhat reliable.” In individual countries, the numbers were 88 percent in Egypt; 70 percent in Jordan; 77 percent in Qatar; 84 percent in UAE; 83 percent in Kuwait and 77 percent in Morocco.

“We are very encouraged by the preliminary results that we just received, but realize that many hurdles still exist. This job will not be easy, but with this research in hand we are much more confident that Alhurra can replicate the success that Radio Sawa has achieved in just two years,” said Norman J. Pattiz, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s Middle East Committee.

“These preliminary results are a wonderful indication that we are succeeding in the Broadcasting Board of Governors mission to bring reliable and credible news to the people in the Middle East,” stated Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. “We are seeing progress everyday and are in it for the long-term.”

Alhurra, launched on February 14, 2004, is the latest and most technologically advanced television organization to enter the crowded Middle East satellite television market. The satellite channel is a 24-hour news and information network broadcast in Arabic. It and can be seen in 22 countries throughout the region via Arabsat and Nilesat, the same satellites used by all major Arabic channels.