A segment about Alhurra Television that aired Sunday night on the CBS program 60 Minutes distorted facts about the station’s audience research, its coverage of Israel, and its editorial practices.
“60 Minutes unfairly portrayed Alhurra, which is watched by 26 million Arabic speakers in the Middle East each week,” said James Glassman, until recently the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting, including Alhurra. Glassman now is Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. “Independent research tells us that Alhurra is relevant to people who value its balanced news and information about the region and about the United States.”
60 Minutes dismissed the facts about Alhurra’s audience – research conducted by ACNielsen, the respected firm that does similar research for CBS and others. Instead the program gave credence to less relevant opinion polls. (Details about Alhurra’s extensive audience research are available online in our Other Reports section at Radio Sawa and Alhurra TV: Performance Update.)
This independent research indicates that Alhurra has the largest weekly audience of any non-Arab broadcaster in the Middle East, up from 21 million in 2006 to 26 million today. In the strategically critical countries of Iraq and Syria, Alhurra’s weekly reach rates are 56 percent and 55 percent, respectively. A majority of viewers find Alhurra’s broadcasts to be credible: 90 percent of Egyptian viewers say that Alhurra is “very” or “somewhat” trustworthy.
The CBS segment claims that Alhurra displays a pattern of anti-Israel rhetoric. To support its conclusion, 60 Minutes cited a single comment from one of three guests on a live hour-long talk show that aired on May 18, 2008. The Alhurra program was focused on President George W. Bush’s speech at Sharm El Sheik that morning, which Alhurra broadcast live.
The discussion panel consisted of a Palestinian journalist, an Egyptian journalist and an American Middle East expert, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service. When the Palestinian journalist veered off topic criticizing Israel in harsh terms, the program