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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Saturday, January 14, 2006

On Al Hurra

To the arab and arabic-speaking readers of this blog: Most of you must be familiar with Al Hurra, the US backed arabic satalite news station. If you are, then you must also be familiar with how much it sucks, or to be more proefessional here, how little credibility it has amongst its targeted arab viewers. Check out its schedule to understand how irrelevant its programming is. In case you did not know, Al Hurra is going through a series case of re-shuffeling, and the people handeling it really want to make the channel significant in the arab street. And they would like your help on how to how they can do that and they asked me to ask you for your feedback and opinions. If It's possible, you can leave such opinion in the comments section or e-mail it to me. Now, I know how some of you may have porblems with that, since you view it as the channel of the american state department or you may be anti-american in general and wouldn't want this channel to gain any kind of credibility what so ever. That's fine, but hear me out here and maybe you too will see the opprutunity given to us here. Whether we like it or not, there are 3 major arabic speaking news channels: Al Jazeera, Al Aarabiya and Al Hurra. If you watch Al Jazeerah, you know its biased against america and certain arab countries, and very much advances the agenda of the islamists in the region. Not to mention, as we in Egypt know, the fact that the channel is owned by Qatar's government means that whenever one of the other arab governments doesn't want them to focus on something, they speak to the emir of Qatar and he makes it go away. The same applies to Al Aarabiyah. They rarely give air-time to any arab reformer or pro-democracy activist or opposition member unless, for some reason, they are from the MB. Either way, they suck. And the fact that AlAarabiyah was actually running a story on how people who celebrate Halloween are devil worshippers, well, doesn't add much to its credibility. Both channels have a biased ideology, and whether you like it or not, it's not one that favors common sense, let alone reform, change or democracy. And this is where Al Hurra comes in.. Al Hurra could effectively become the news channel for the opposition in all of the arab countries. It could host and give voice to discussion groups amongst the opposition in Egypt, Syria, or whatever opressive arab country is out there. It could give the syrian opposition a voice, since the Baathist regime controls all the media in the country. It could bring to light the abuses of the middle-east regimes and get more people to realize the necessity for change and reform. It could provide an alternative source for news in the middle-east, a forum that allowes those fringe voices of change a medium to broadcast their message. What I am trying to say isthis: It maybe US funded, but we can make it work for us. And that's a good thing, because god knows we need all the help we can get. So please, if you would like to see it become a positive voice for change and democracy instead of a satalite channel that no one watches, send me your suggestions and I will forward them to the people in charge there and they will do their best to follow them. So let's give them something to follow. If you are interested, please send me your suggestions a.s.a.p. and I will just forward them along to them. Hope to hear from you soon. The Sandmonkey


At 1/14/2006 02:26:00 PM, Anonymous Mohamed said...

Any media outlet advancing one single point of view regardless of reality is destined to fail, specially if this viewpoint is largely in disagreement with most of the target audience, one thing they can do is be more inflammatory like fox and aljazeera, or start adding more sexual content, which would gaurantee them everyone's attention.
Otherwise it's a big waste of money and effort, handing their funding money to people in Cairo would be a more effective mean of conveyance of their view.

At 1/14/2006 02:48:00 PM, Blogger programmer craig said...

"Otherwise it's a big waste of money and effort, handing their funding money to people in Cairo would be a more effective mean of conveyance of their view."

Yeah, right. Is that the same Cairo where journalists get arrested, threatened, "interviewed" and imprisoned?

I agree with you, by the way. People believe what they want to believe. I just don't think trying to fund an independent news channel in Cairo is very bright. Blogs are as good as it gets for free speech, in the ME. That's the way it is, and that's the way it will stay.

At 1/14/2006 03:14:00 PM, Anonymous Mohamed said...

Programmer Craig,
I was being sarcastic, I meant handing the money to people in the street in Cairo is more useful than broadcasting to non existing audience, and if the mention of cairo makes you this angry, and gives you an opportunity to criticize( completely out of context by the way) don't feel bad man, let them hand money to people on the streets of amman or any city of your choice.
I still think that apart from featuring hot topless anchors on their news, they won't be there for long

At 1/14/2006 04:53:00 PM, Blogger . said...

mostly persians, sandmonkey, and it's fucked up.

At 1/14/2006 08:20:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


1. A call in show where a pro-american host defends Americas positions... except for vulgarity, no caller should be rejected... no topic too taboo.

2. The "Daily Show" translated into arabic daily (seriously, its a great demonstration of humility)

I think the show should not hide the fact that it is pro-american, it should make it front and center... perhaps in its tagline.

At 1/14/2006 09:17:00 PM, Blogger Egypeter said...

Good for you SM - That would be a very good thing for the ME if Al Hurra can work. Al Jazeera and Al Arabaya suck...badly..they're on in my house fairly often and some of the shit they say is ridiculous...

The arab world needs a legitimate news outlet...Al Hurra can be it.

At 1/14/2006 09:47:00 PM, Blogger programmer craig said...

Mohamed, I didn't see the sarcasm, and frankly I think it would be more in Americas interests to STOP throwing money at Egypt. It hasn't helped us in the past, has it? I have nothing against Cairo, or Egyptians... I've known Egyptians all my life. My best friend as child was an Egyptian kid in Indiana. If we want to talk about countries that piss me off, Saudi Arabia and Jordan top my list. Handing out money in Amman?

... no, no thank you. I'd rather my tax money was spent on something worthwhile.

By the way, please don't respond to me, SM started this thread to hear from his Arab readers about Al Hurra, not to hear my opinions (or yours) about international politics :)

At 1/14/2006 10:37:00 PM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

How about a program like "It's your blog" or some other title with blog in it.

Have listeners call in comments or articles on different blogs, give a brief description and their opinion (all the while displaying the blogs web address on the crawler at the bottom of the screen.) The Station person could be an attractive nympomanic who breaths heavy and wears little clothes.

Or something like that.

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 1/15/2006 12:28:00 AM, Blogger programmer craig said...

Papa Ray, I think they shoulkd hire this woman, myself:

Saudi Mistress

Be warned, that's a porn site that my favorite Iranian blogging pervert linked :P

At 1/15/2006 04:42:00 AM, Blogger Tomanbay said...

I dont know if SM is on hiatus or something, but nobody (in Egyptian blogosphere at least) is talking about the Egyptian-cia-exposing fax yet. Anyways, check it out

At 1/15/2006 05:16:00 AM, Anonymous Don Cox said...

The important thing is to make sure the news bulletins are free of any pro-US bias or comment. That needs a high standard of journalism. Over the years, I think the BBC World Service has done quite well in this respect.

Separating news from comment is the key. Whether any journalists can be found who understand this, I don't know. It involves hard work, such as checking facts.

At 1/15/2006 05:37:00 AM, Blogger Deltron Blonde said...

thank u

At 1/15/2006 09:38:00 AM, Blogger Crazy Girl said...

I don't know SM even if you do get your idea's across and you get them to make something good of it, how many Arabs do you think will watch it? I know my dumb sister and family wont watch it because its "American funded".

Even if something was done fair and showed both sides of the coin, we both know that most of the Arabs wont listen.. Because after all its the Jews that are behind it... As long as the Jews are around Arabs will always be able to play victim and they will never reason with anything else...I agree with PC Id rather my tax money go to something more useful.

At 1/15/2006 10:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm just going to wait for the new Arabic BBC satellite news channel.

At 1/15/2006 10:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they should add entertainment like Oprah. Adding " The Daily Show" is a great idea. What about an arab Antiques Roadshow or John Bradshaw on the Family translated?

but I'm not arab...so I don't know.


At 1/15/2006 10:42:00 AM, Blogger CMAR II said...

Put in less political programming and more dramas and sitcoms in Arab language and settings that show liberty and tolerance in a positive light. They should all be developed by Arabs in the Middle East.

Interspersed (sparsely) in those shows, give reformers an opportunity to run their own politically-focused shows. Don't try to hide the American connection. It cannot be shaked off. But the American's behind it should recognize that American interests are forwarded by promoting ARAB reformists and ARAB liberty rather "getting the American message out".

At 1/15/2006 10:47:00 AM, Blogger programmer craig said...

Tomanbey, a top secret FAX? And people actually believe this garbage? That's a very good point to bring up in discussion of media reform, though I'm not sure you intended it that way?

Proof that people really will believe just about anything, no matter how far fetched it is, if they WANT to.

At 1/15/2006 11:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SM,Al Jazeera is biased against America and advances the agenda of Islamists in the region? Hmm...I thought that was merely American propaganda.
Mohamed,I don't think hot topless news anchors would be allowed in muslim countries.Come to think of it,they wouldn't be tolerated here in the U.S. either.Too bad,as something like that might suddenly cause millions of otherwise disinterested males to watch the news.

At 1/15/2006 04:23:00 PM, Blogger freefalla said...

6 o'clock world update hosted by the sandmonkey...

At 1/16/2006 12:29:00 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

I always thought that Islam needs its own "Will & Grace". Something with humour and humility to promote tolerance.

Maybe a sitcom about a Jew and Muslim roomates or lovers... and yes, it MUST include an overbearing Jewish mother.

Speaking about that, I have to remember to call my mother. :)

At 1/16/2006 07:52:00 AM, Blogger GC said...

They should increase the dose of entertainment in the channel. Nothing will get people to watch like better entertainment. Then, they have to improve the news: make it more professional, more up to date, better correspondents, etc...

At 1/16/2006 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous Hicham said...

Since when did al Jazeera have Muslim fundamentalist bias? Do you even watch the channel ya Sand Si3dan? If you did watch it, you would have noticed it champions hollow slogans of Arab nationalism, not Islamism. Just because Fox News says they are Islamic terrorists doesn't mean it's true. Did you know many in the Arab world call AJ al-Khanzeera (the Pig) because they think it has too much of a Pro-US bias? Did you know that the govt of Bahrain accused al Jazeera of having a pro Israel bias because it dared to have Israeli officials come and debate on their news programs (only arabic channel that does this). Did you know that that several Algerian cities lost power simultaneously to keep residents from watching a program that implicated the Algerian military in a series of massacres.

Ya Sand Si3dan, AJ might not be perfect, but it is certainly better than the pro-Saudi Al-Arabiyya that never ceases to pile enough praise on Malik Abdullah and his "democratic" reforms. Many western news stations could learn alot from al-Jazeera, such as pitting an US army spokesperson against a backer of the Iraqi resistance.

And as far as Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and Al Hurra being the big 3, your not even close. Hurra is irrelevant in the Middle East its not even funny.

Check out this poll by Shibley Telhami.

"Al Jazeera was by far the most watched Arab news source - it ranked as the primary station for 62% of Jordanians, 54% of Moroccans, 44% of Lebanese, 44% of Saudis, and 46% in the UAE; and the secondary station for (on average) about 20% more in each country. Al Arabiya was next, averaging about 7-8% in most (but 19% in the UAE), while LBC did well only in Lebanon (29%) and Abu Dhabi TV did pretty well in Saudi Arabia (22%) and the UAE (17%). Al Hurra did not show up in the rankings... at all."

At 1/16/2006 11:54:00 AM, Blogger programmer craig said...

"Did you know many in the Arab world call AJ al-Khanzeera (the Pig) because they think it has too much of a Pro-US bias?"

Hashem, that's the most disturbing comment I've ever seen about Al Jazeera. How much would somebody have to hate America, to think that Al Jazeera is too pro-US? An amazing statement, if true.

At 1/16/2006 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Hicham said...

The reason many Arabs dislike Al Jazeera is because they feel it gives too much airtime to American and Israeli officials. They are not used to this since state sponsored news never shows any side except that of the ruling President/Emir/King. While many in the US bash AJ for giving anti-Americanists airtime, the Arab world bashes it for giving American and Israelis airtime.

In my opinion however, they have the winning formula (better than most western news sources, especially US ones). In the Arab world, we really need to see both sides, and everything in the middle too. My only critic is that AJ should try to tone down their Arab nationalist undertones for the sake of being "fair."

At 1/16/2006 12:39:00 PM, Anonymous Hicham said...

Angryarab has a pretty interesting breakdown of the news operations in the Middle East

At 1/16/2006 01:09:00 PM, Anonymous Mohamed said...

Hicham has a good point though, regarding how everybody just keeps repeating like a parrot how al jazeera is pro so or anti so, based on hearsay or on what they hear from a demagogic prostitute like Bill O'reilly, or the fat slimey drug addict Limbaugh, or the used car sales man Hannity, all the time while forgeting that they don't even speak arabic, and have never watched al jazeera, which tells a lot about how easy brainwashing could be.
PS:Nice nickname for the SM Hicham, he is really infinitely mostafez.

At 1/16/2006 07:44:00 PM, Blogger programmer craig said...

OK, Mohamed... Bill O'Reilly is the most popular talk show host on US television, and Rush Limbaugh is the most popular guy on the radio... if you disagree with them (and I often do) it may be better to defate their statements than to call them names, you know? Is what you just said about the most popular "news" personalities any differnt than the AJ bashing that you complain about?

What O'Reilly and Limbaugh say, seems like propaganda to you, right? Well, what I read on the ENGLISH Al Jazeera site sounds like propaganda to me. Yeah, but AJ is wildly successful in Arab countries, so they must be right! Well, O'Reilly and Limbaugh are wildly successful in the US, so they must be right!

*) Americans are too stupid to know that the most popular news station in the US, Fox News is lying to them.

*) Arabs are too stupid to know that the most popular News station in the ME, AL Jazeera, is lying to them.

Sign off on both of those statements, Mohamed, or NEITHER.

At 1/16/2006 08:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al Hurah could get off to a much better start by not looking like an Arabic lanugage MTV. Arabs don't need Al Hurrah to know that America is a country where you're free to be frivolous. Only Bhutanese people under the age of 4 are unaware of that. They could do things like broadcast reports on the seriously conservative Christian churches in the country, like the Amish and Mennonites. They could show the cramped wooden houses real Americans live in (got to love the New England homes with the galley kitchens..) There's a hell of a lot more they could do instead of talking about American "metrosexuals."

At 1/17/2006 10:11:00 AM, Anonymous Mohamed said...

Programmer Craig, you've said " Is what you just said about the most popular "news" personalities any differnt than the AJ bashing that you complain about?", well yes, it's different, for the two exact reasons I've mentioned, because first of all I watch Fox news, and second because Fox news is in english, although I confess, I rarely listen to Rush (sorry, same time slot as Al Franken). So, I'm in a position to judge Al Jazeera and fox news.
Second, I was stating facts about O'Reilly, this guy is a textbook demagogue, who invents fake news, then fakes outrage over this fake news (war on christmas for example), all the time while relying on the absolute ignorance and gullibility of his faithful followers (remember when he mentioned that according to "The Paris Business review" the french economy lost 10 billion dollars due the boycott of france that he called for? And as it turned out, there's no such thing called the Paris Buisiness review).
And by the way, I wasn't defending al Jazeera, I was criticizing, the herd mentality of criticizing something, because someone told you so, while you haven't watched it or even know it's language.
Regarding signing on your last two statements, about Arab and American stupidity, I'm in a grey area here, so I don't think that I can completely agree or disagree, because both statements have some but not all the truth, and also because I prefer ignorant and gullible to stupid.
A third statement I'd like to add to those two, is that both stations deliberately gives their target audience a sense of a moral highground wrapped in an inflammatory rhetoric, ie. they act like cheer leaders giving this feel good illusion that we're better than they are, ie.propaganda.

At 1/17/2006 01:17:00 PM, Blogger programmer craig said...

Mohamed, AJ has an english news site as well, you know. Which, according to you, makes me qualified to judge Al Jazeera.

"Second, I was stating facts about O'Reilly, this guy is a textbook demagogue, who invents fake news, then fakes outrage over this fake news (war on christmas for example), all the time while relying on the absolute ignorance and gullibility of his faithful followers (remember when he mentioned that according to "The Paris Business review" the french economy lost 10 billion dollars due the boycott of france that he called for? And as it turned out, there's no such thing called the Paris Buisiness review)."

Al Jazeera does all that. I spent about a week last month arguing about dishonest news coverage that AL JAzeera has engaged in. The Falluja "war crimes" for instance.


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