tv Communicators at Alhurra and Radio Sawa CSPAN August 15, 2016 8:00am-8:35am EDT
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we'll take you across the country visiting book festivals and author events or book parts where authors talk about their latest books. booktv only network devoted exclusively to nonfiction books. booktv, television for serious readers. next on "the communicators," interviews with middle east broadcasting network representatives. then a look at cybersecurity from the perspective of the hacker. live at 10:00 a.m., a brookings discussion on the political situation in congo. this week on "the communicators," we visit the middle east broadcasting network's headquarters in virginia. mbn provides news to 27 million people in the arab world and u.s. perspective on terrorism and democracy. it is funded by congress.
we talked to executives and producers who describe their work at alhurra and radio sawa. >> we have the pan am alhurra channel and we have eight radio sawa programing streams, three websites and numerous social media platforms. >> why a separate alhurra and alhurra iraq? >> when alhurra created, launched back in 2004 there was a tail end of the iraq war. there was belief we needed to focus iraq's centrist information. there was a need to broadcast local news about iraq while the rest of the middle east was served by the pan-arab channel. >> how big is mbn? budget, employees, bureau?
>> mbn is about 600 employees, both here in the u.s. we have correspondents all over the middle east and some in europe too. we have a budget of about 110 million that is held relatively constant in recent years to support all the different activities. we have maintained the staffing level but we've done some internal reallocation to accommodate and adapt to some of the changes that have occurred in communications in the middle east, particularly in the area of digital media. >> what kind of technology do you use? >> well, we have a hd channel. we have some, some standard definition channels but we use satellite delivery which of benefit to us because we're on the most popular channels in the middle east which allow allow
the audiences to tune us in in an unfiltered way. our radio sawa channels are on fm in the countries where they're located in countries where we're allowed to have an fm channel. of course social media is on the worldwide web available to anyone, not just people in the middle east. >> so potentially how big ask your audience? >> our audience, as we have been able to measure it, we can't measure in all the countries we're located, can't measure in places like libya or syria, is about 27 million, people who consume our products on a weekly basis of the largest portion of the audience is tv which is about 17 million. the radio audience is about 11, 12 million, and the is our digital audience. >> brian conniff, what is the mission of mbn?
>> the mission of mbn is to broadcast accurate and relative information to news audience in the middle east. we have a broader spectrum of opinions and perspectives normally available to the audience through indigenous media in the region. >> as an arm of the u.s. government, can be you critical of u.s. policy? >> certainly we can. and i would say we're not really an arm of the u.s. government. we're a private company. we receive a brandt from the u.s. -- grant from the u.s. government to support our operations but our editorial questions and issues are independent from the government. we decide what is newsworthy based on our own internal staff. our news rams are driven by news events and our other programs
are driven by what we believe are the issues that we can add value. as i said before, we're, we support democratic values. so we explore topics that other channels wouldn't. such as democracy, women's rights, government corruption and so forth. frequently those products are taboo in the local media. >> brian conniff, what is the mission of of mmbn? is it to directly counter islamic extremism? >> it is not directly to counterislamic extremism but assumed in our broader mission but a component of our content we pursue today. i wouldn't say it is our mission, the lies of violent extremism in the middle east is the dominant issue facing middle east. maybe the dominant issue facing the world. >> is it a perception that it is
u.s. government propaganda in the middle east? >> on some people's minds that is the case. we have been on the air for 12 years now and over that period of time i think the audience has come to learn that it is not propaganda. we do strife to be balanced but we also, we provide topics, we cover topics and we provide information not readily available. for instance the american perspective. we don't promote the administration's agenda or policy but we promote discussion about it. we have people from think tanks and academic organizations that maybe think differently and it is a robust conversation that the audience hears that they're not going to get from other media outlets. so at times it can be seen as critical but it also shows that in america we can discuss issues, that people aren't always in agreement and this is
part of the american democratic experience which we think is one of our important topics. >> the importance of social media. >> can't be understated. it is growing rapidly, way beyond even my expectation. in fact i herd a statistic last week that in iraq over 50% of the population in iraq, the adult population, access the internet in the past week, which is a phenomenal statistic and, as a result, we're, we have a robust presence on the various platforms in the middle east. facebook is the preferred platform. all our facebook pages combined have followers in the realm of 13, 14 million people. we have on a monthly basis, monthly average we have about
1.7 reactions, facebook term, of people engaging on the topic. we have about 8 million video views own facebook on a monthly basis on an average. so it is rapidly becoming the important way to get to the audience. >> are you letting people who watch mbn see the presidential election here? >> absolutely. one of our key -- this is our they are presidential election since we've been on the air and it is a tremendous opportunity for us to show democracy in action. maybe more action than some of the prior years. but it is the process that we cover, the selection of a candidate, the primaries, the conventions, the actual campaigns themselves. our audience really enjoys that, really, they can't fathom because it doesn't happen in that region where we have this
peaceful transition from one administration to the next and i think it is one of the great benefits of alhurra. present it in a way other, other arab outlets don't have the capacity or the understanding to do. >> are there any countries that prohibit alhurra or radio sawa? >> nobody prohibits radio alhurra because it comes through a satellite. there are some countries don't make it easy to report. some are just dangerous that limit our ability to move around, places like libya and others but we have the ability to report from almost every country. sawa is a little different, because people listen primarily to radio through fm and we have
a large number of fms and by no means in all countries and a number of countries will not give us the frequency and will not allow us to broadcast despite our efforts to the contrary. so that does limit it a little bit. digital media people can stream sawa even where we don't have an fm. so, once again the driving force seems to be digital in the middle east. it is opening up new horizons for us. >> what does alhurra and sawa mean? >> alhurra means the free one and sawa means together. >> how much time do you have to spend with congress or working with the administration? >> well, as i said earlier, we're a private company. we're not part of the government. we are accountable to our stakeholders.
the administration requests the budget in congress, appropriates the money. so we're answerable to them. so when they have questions we answer those. they respect our editorial independence and i never had a case in 10 years where somebody from the state department or the hill has told us what to do. and they give us the ability to have an independent, editorial approach to these very difficult issues and the system works. the system of giving us a grant and allowing us to practice with proper due diligence journalism. ♪ >> what a al hum.
>> that is three hours news and entertainment program in march 8th, between. it's a big show it comes on in cairo and jerusalem and it was created to connect us from here to there. >> what does al youm mean? >> it means today. >> it is three hours. >> monday through friday. >> sunday through thursday, friday is the holiday for islam. we do sunday through thursday and 16 to 19 gmt. we're basically live from 4:00 p.m. in morocco all the way to yemen 11:00 at night. >> five different locations? >> including washington, d.c. washington d.c. is our fixed live location. the show, what makes it unique,
coming out of all those areas and they're all seasoned journalists. we take whatever content we're talking about, everybody discussing it across the region since alhurra is a transregional television network, this really salutes what it is that we're doing. we take the conversation. we're getting, if we're talking about terrorism, terrorism as it relates to yemen, to israel, to morocco, to cairo, to every country within the 22 countries that we broadcast in. >> in the last week or so we're taping this interview at the end of april 2016, last week or so, what are some of the topics that you have discussed? >> well, we discuss, currently we're discussing everything from the presidential elections which is huge, obviously our president, whoever is going to be, plays a significant role in a global politics. we discuss syria every day. you have to discuss syria every
day. when you discuss all of the iraq and what is going on with isis every day as that relates of course to the middle east. we're unfortunately the sad story of isis in existence, anti-terror, the syrian war, dominates a lot of news coverage. al youm is 40% news and best of it is information and lighter side entertainment. that is what makes al youm al youm. >> who are some of the competitors in the different time frames? >> in the different time frames, alhurra, that is a kind of a different answer. but in television time you have, because we're a 24 hour news network. there is al arabiya. that is saudi station. they're a good saudi station. they're the not radical. they're contrary in terms of
their broadcast an television. sky tv comes out of abu dhabi. that's newer. they have very buttoned up and good screen. al. >> sear raw was once -- al jaw sear raw, so many happened since the arab spring. france 24, i don't call it competitor. i don't think bbc arabic, different kind of tv. at end of the day are locals. they're local egyptian and, lebanese, ever since the arab spring, not before, ever since the arab spring a lot of viewers go local, what is going on. meaning if iraq, although we do very well in iraq. >> are there any special issues that you deal with as a woman executive producer, producing a
middle east show or that you do segments that women on issues women face in the >> you're asked to do the show, it's a bigger mission but for me it is always been personal women and children's issues. i'm a mom with three kids so the middle east, by our standards it is not a friendly place for women and kids. so we have done inordinant amount of stories about the difficulties of life across the middle east. i have a show which, i didn't make up the title, but called one woman is worth 100 men. okay. so, and that is, we just launched it. we're getting some nice press out of it already and there isn't, there aren't enough
people telling the stories of how difficult it is to be a woman and a girl child. so how many stories have we done on child marriages i can't count. over the seven years on high amount and other talk show i do. nine-year-olds getting married and why. when the traditions and when will it change and government, some governments don't do it but everybody looks the other way. you know, not allowing the women to drive in one country, that is nothing compared to yazidi girls who isis decided are going to be sexual slaves. these girls are 10, 14 years old. i've done several stories on award series on this and that. so you can't do enough because women, they're not telling that story. too sensitive, too close to home. too many issues and cultural issues and tribal issues and all
kinds of issues regarding it so everybody kinds of look the other way. well, we're not going to allow that. example, egypt, female circumcision against the law, 80% or something, which is unbelievable statistic. right now egypt is so dangerous, sexual harrassment completely out of control. in my show called one woman is worth 100 men. a woman brought in a pink taxi. the taxi as pink. order them not hailing in the street. drivers are only women who pick up only women because there is so much sexual harrassment et cetera. i try to dot stories in context to the overall mission. if i had to do one, that's it, it will always be that. because it is not being, volume of content, i don't know. >> we have one of the anchors for alhurra. what are some stories you're reporting today? >> we have a bunch of topics today. we have a president obama's
speech in germany. we have developing stories in yemen and egypt. yemen there is a speech, sorry, there is a peace talk in kuwait, held in kuwait. we are our correspondent right there. we do have as well the demonstration in cairo in egypt. >> you're a formerly journalist in iraq. how different it is at the middle east broadcasting network? >> it is much different working here than the middle east. you're more free. you don't have any, like i'm a news anchor. working here nine years. nobody is asking me what to say and what to avoid actually. >> and now on "the communicators" we're joined by hassan shiki. executive producer after alhurra news what do you do? >> i make sure we have
comprehensive as news agenda for the day as possible. i make sure we have selected the right news items about the stories that are making headlines around the world. that are to our target region. to make sure we are treating those items in the best possible way to provide accurate information, in depth analysis. to make sure that we have good line of questioning, whether we have interviews, if we have interviews. and to follow up on all of the issues that are, you know, related to news making. >> how many hours of live newscast today on alhurra? >> combined together we have four 1/2. the news shows, after hour shows and news summaries that
punctuate the transmission on top of the hour, bottom of the hour. collectively these add up to one other hour 1/2. we're talking about six or seven hours collectively of the news coverage. >> when you look at your coverage and compare it to your old employer. al-jazeera or al-arabiya, what is the difference? will people see a difference between the networks? >> absolutely. this is what we hear from friends and family. we hear that from former colleagues at al-jazeera and al-arabiya. i hear this in the news that i participate. i think the basic difference is the narrative. i think the basic difference is that we don't have a political agenda which we're pursueing in our newscasts. content, form, narrative, select shun. news, everything about the news
making process is not driven by a preset or pre-planned news agenda. it is driven by newsworthiness and relevance to the region. >> where are you from originally? >> originally i'm from syria. >> when you see what's going on -- well, first of all, how heart is it to cover what is going on in syria? >> it is very hard because it is an armed conflict. it is very hard because it is very complicated. there are so many local, regional and international players. it is very hard because media organizations are barred from the country, are not allowed free access to all events and sources of information. so it's, the major difficulty as with any other war or any other conflict in the world and throughout history, for any news organization is the conflict itself because there are so many conflicting views. there are so many parties
involved in the conflict and they all want to influence your coverage, so it is very difficult. it takes a lot of effort on our part to check and verify, to pursue sources of information in a place where sources of information are very scarce. >> one of the things we've learned while we're here at alhurra, middle east broadcasting network, is that while the broadcasts are done in arab, control rooms are spoken in english. >> that's, that's actually among the best practices across all newsrooms in the world. this is how it was in al-jazeera for instance. i can speak from past experience. it's, i think because the system was initially, was put by
english people, i think it went on to be among the best practices in the control room to select this international language of communication inside of the control room an it just went on. i wouldn't have it any other way >> what's your role here at middle east broadcasting networks? >> i oversee the current affairs shows. domestically and overseas. all the shows of mbn. >> what are some of those current affairs show that you described? >> we do have many types of shows. we have daily or weekly shows that delve deep into current issues and issues also we have dedicated shows with women's rights, human rights, freedom of speech. they talk about technologies. and sports.
>> do you ever produce programs that reflect life here in america? >> yes, we do. actually i do have dedicated show that produces the arabs, arab-americans in the u.s. and this is dedicated for the people in the middle east to see how arabic person from any nationality because it is cosmopolitan in this country, you have all types of people, how an arab can come to the country and build herself or himself and achieve whatever their actual lives as arab-americans in the u.s. and how they are trying to adopt between their traditions, where they come from, relidge -- religiously. >> and there are folks who have become u.s. citizens have gone to fight for isis or attempted to fight for isis. can you tell those stories as well. >> yes. in one of our shows, the vision
of paradise, we did do, we did have an amazing mother who spoke about her son. she is canadian and her son is canadian, not originally arab but canadian. she spoke how her son joined isis. from her we managed to get other stories of people who are in the u.s. or in europe, not only u.s. because it is global, how they are going back to fight and what really enticed them to go there. we've done the same thing in the middle east. >> the name delusional paradise, are you editorializing a little bit? >> yes, in a way, yes, when you want to say things, you name it as they are. so it is a delusional paradise these people are being promised. at the end it's not. >> you're from lebanon originally. >> yes. >> how different is lebanon from syria or from tunisia?
we often think of it here in the u.s. as one region but what are some of the differences? >> there are a lot of differences. for example, in lebanon it is subjectively, i can say it is one of the, one of the arab that has freedom of speech, but better than any other arab countries. we are multi-ethnic. we have 18 religious sects you don't find anywhere in the world. it is a very small country. we are 4 million and accommodating refugees. and we live on day-to-day basis because of the war we already had. so we've been there. we've done the war. we've done the revolution. so we've done all that. so we're living now day-to-day. >> omar what is your role here at middle east broadcasting? >> i'm the managing it are to of raise your voice digital.
>> what is raise your voice? >> raise your voice is a campaign we launched in to be part of discussion of important issues in the region, extremism, i'm sorry, men's rights, women's rights, all issues important to the arab street. and raise your voice includes, or has several weekly and monthly tv shows. a daily call-in radio show and the backbone for the campaign is our digital including website, our facebook page, twitter page, instagram and all the social media platforms. >> what are we looking at here right now, and how do you say raise your voice in arabic. >> [speaking arabic]
>> which you see right there. >> this is our facebook page where most of our engagement with the audience happens. >> facebook? >> the facebook page, yes. as i said we have tv and radio shows and a website. we put all of our contents on our digital platforms including the facebook page, and we ask people to interact with the content and to support that we have a team of communication managers who are working 24/7 to keep the discussion happening and give information to people when they have questions about the contents or about the circumstances where we guard the contents. this is our twitter page. we tweet every, roughly every 30 minutes. we tweet important news from the, around the world that are, you know, linked to extremism or important issues in the middle east.
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