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Public Diplomacy – Turning Al Hurra into Al Jazeera November 19, 2010

Filed under: Posts by Kristin,Uncategorized — Kristin R @ 12:54 pm

I personally am having a difficult time discussing the subject of public diplomacy in a way that hasn’t been touched upon either during class yesterday or by my fellow bloggers. But I’ve decided I’ll talk about a practical comparison and how our public diplomacy media outlets could emulate popular media to become more successful.

Television Al Hurra is the US’ public diplomacy channel in the Middle East and, for several reasons, is rather unliked in the region. The primary reason for this is that the intended viewers see the channel as serving US interests alone (as discussed in Philip Seib’s New Media and the New Middle East).  Conversely, there are several reasons why Al Jazeera is so overwhelmingly popular – while the majority of this preference relates to it being a “home-grown” product with counterflow views to major Western outlets, another aspect is how Al Jazeera features participation in many of its programs.

By holding large segments of call-in or live audience A&A, Al Jazeera has created a public sphere for the region’s otherwise voiceless people. It is my firm belief that this one aspect of Al Jazeera is one of it’s most positive, and also something that the people in the area appreciate and love. As such, it becomes clear that any outlet trying to compete with Al Jazeera should also feature this type of participation. If Al Hurra were to have discussions, debates, Q&A, and call-in segments, it might increase their popularity because audiences in the region have a proven interest in that.

Furthermore, this would alleviate the problems discussed by Tretheway, Corman, et al – of focusing too much on the message rather than the act of communicating and sharing dialogue. If public diplomacy outlets launched by the United States focused on promoting dialogue between themselves and the residents, some positive outcome would be more likely.

As I examine this concept more, the main block to this process is that, in order to engage in a mutual dialogue, both sides have to be open to discuss and possibly change their viewpoint. I sincerely doubt that foreign policy practitioners, as well as the United States as a country, are seriously interested in changing any aspect or even in learning from the exchange. This brings to light another facet implied by the theorists we discussed – public diplomacy as a shared learning experience. That is what we’re really lacking, and also what we really desperately need to strive for to have a successful, positive relationship.

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2 Responses to “Public Diplomacy – Turning Al Hurra into Al Jazeera”

  1. laurawry Says:

    One additinoal challenge in engaging viewers in the Middle East through a medium such as Al Hurra is the task of transforming an existing narrative and inserting one’s message within it. The nature of the medium requires particupants to insert themselves into a new space rather than negotiate opposing or alternate views within their existing public space and discussion. Participation is significant, but the context is even more crucial.

  2. Noor Says:

    I also think that one of the factors that contributed in Aljazeera’s popularity is that it came in a time where news makers were limited to state’s channels. At that time there was no news channel that addressed people’s different lives aspects objectively. In addition, being a pioneer in the field enabled Aljazeera to proceed to its success, and open the chance to other channels to come up like Alarabiyah. Aljazeera’s development strategy is very progressive by expanding their channels in the region by making children’s channel Baraem, and the sport channel to meet the public need in media. Impressively, Albaraem channel is preferred by parents because its a channel that only broadcasts educational and clean entertaining materials with very strong Arabic programs. The programs are selected carefully and most of them are produced by intellectual Arabic producers that focus on the pedagogic process. One more thing I see my sisters praise about Baraem is that It stops its broadcast at 9 PM, unlike most children channels that work 24/7. Addressing the actual public needs and setting them in the top of the agenda is very essential in the success of media production in general.


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