Friday, July 05, 2013


Why does al-Hurra still exist? Al-Hurra was the Bush administration's Arab-language news channel. The administration created the channel in an attempt to compete with al-Jazeera, which it viewed as anti-American. The ploy didn't work. Al-Hurrah has never been nearly as popular as al-Jazeera, or even its Saudi-financed competitor, al-Arabia, as it has always been tainted by its U.S. financing and the notion that it is little more than an American propaganda channel.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration's premises for the necessity of al-Hurra were never accurate. Al-Jazeera certainly has its problems--its ideological slant is a kind of soft pan-Arabism with a real blind spot when it comes to the problems of Qatar, the nation that funds the channel. But I have never thought it was not specifically anti-American, although it does not shy away from critical reporting about the U.S. The Bush administration was also incorrect in believing that al-Jazeera suffered from a lack of competition. That might have been true when al-J first formed in the 1990s, but these days there are a ton of Arabic-language satellite news channels, not just the indigenous pan-Arab channels like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya, but also foreign based competitors like CNN-Arabic, BBC-Arabic, France 24-Arabic, Russiya al-Youm (Russia Today-Arabic), CCTV-Arabic (Chinese Central Television), and probably others that I have not encountered yet.

The Arabic language news field is quite crowded. Considering that that field already includes at least one American channel, CNN-Arabic, what is the point of spending tax dollars on another one?