The Rosett Report

Well, It Was Almost Worth Watching...

Having now seen the full CBS “60 Minutes” segment on Al Hurra that I recommended in the post below, I am contemplating the perils of praising anything on TV based on previews. It was so encouraging to see CBS express concern over an anti-Israel rant that I assumed the entire broadcast would be as lucid as the teasers.

No such luck. What came across was such a muddle of priorities that the only real salvation may be to look to the blogosphere to sort this out. CBS is disturbed– and rightly so –by Al Hurra’s record of broadcasting the kind of propaganda it is meant to counter. But CBS is also disturbed — and wrongly so — by the notion that having created a taxpayer-funded Arabic TV channel to broadcast into the Middle East, the administration might actually want it to broadcast an American government line. So which is it? Is Al Hurra supposed to be an exercise in faithfully reflecting a U.S. government message — and let the audience make of it what they will? Or an exercise, never mind the resulting message, in wholesale subsidizing of select reporters to explore the frontiers of free speech?

On the tangle of personalities and allegations shown in this broadcast, I’ll defer to Joel Mowbray, who has invested considerable time in exploring this state-broadcasting labyrinth. In an article in The Wall Street Journal last year, he described as one of the chief villains in the subverting of Al Hurra’s original mission the same man, Larry Register, who unexpectedly popped up in the full-length “60 Minutes” piece as one of the saints. (Update: On Powerline, this morning, Mowbray — who knows in detail the who’s-who of this Washington turf war — slams CBS and says that Al Hurra since getting rid of Register has largely cleaned up its act. Good, but if anti-Israel rants like that aired last month are still slipping by under the U.S. government label and on the U.S. taxpayer dime, still not good enough).

Where I end up is much worried that until Washington does a better job of sorting out what interests Al Hurra is meant to loyally serve, and how, we would all be safer to unplug the taxpayer-funded broadcasting. I can see good reasons for a TV station that would beam into the Middle East, unapologetically, such illuminating material as Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” (over and over), and investigative pieces on the lavish living styles, London and Paris townhouses, and fat Swiss bank accounts of the Middle Eastern potentates who control so much of the Middle Eastern media. It’s a good bet that in-depth, well-documented reporting on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Tyrannical” would be watched with deep interest in the Middle East. I’m not hopeful that’s what lies ahead. In the real world, the question is what’s going to be going out over Al Hurra after the next U.S. election?