|Iraq citizens watching TV before the start of the U.S. war effort. Only 10% of Iraq's population has access to a TV set.
The U.S. government's Broadcasting Board of Governors plans to set up a new Baghdad TV channel next week and air Arabic-captioned broadcasts of U.S. news programs. These include the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, the ABC Evening News with Peter Jennings, the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, PBS's News Hour and the Fox News Special Report with Britt Hume.
Tomorrow, Congress is expected to approve the initial $3 million needed to jump-start the project, said Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of radio company Westwood One and chairman of the broadcasting board's Middle East Committee.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is a semi-autonomous communications program of the State Department. Aside from overseeing operations of the Voice of America, it also runs Radio Sawa, which beams music and information at youth in Arab countries.
Along with American TV newscasts, the new Iraqi channel, which is expected to air five or six hours of nightly programming, will also carry two hours of news from Radio Sawa.
The channel won't contain advertising.
"Our job is simply to provide fair, balanced and credible news," Mr. Pattiz said. "We are going to be broadcasting complete unedited shows, showing how the U.S. media talks to the U.S."
The American networks are providing the nightly programming without charge.
The move is also a prelude to U.S. government's planned December launch of the Mideast Television Network, an Arabic-language satellite TV operation.
Second American channel
The new U.S. broadcast station in Baghdad will actually be the second American channel on the air in Iraq.
The U.S. military, which has been broadcasting TV and radio into Iraq from a C-130 plane dubbed Commando Solo, is scheduled to establish its own broadcasting facilities on the ground in Baghdad this weekend.
That military station will initially carry entertainment shows interspersed with news clips and informational messages about where to get supplies or how to avoid dangerous areas, said U.S. Central Command spokesman First Lt. Josh Rushing.
While TV is a focus of the U.S. effort, Lt. Rushing said only 3% of Iraqis own a TV set and only 10% have access to TV at other locations in their communities. For this reason, radio remains a major focus of the military's efforts.
"We're working very aggressively to find the contacts within the city and in the country who would like to begin an Iraqi broadcast network," Major Gen. Victor Renuart said today at a briefing in Qatar. "Over the coming days and weeks we hope to allow the free Iraqis to begin their own TV, radio throughout the country."
There was also a report of plans by the military to start a newspaper for Iraqis.