Alhurra and the challenges of public diplomacy

July 27, 2011

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(Getty Images/Chris Hondros)
Alhurra was the first to announce Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.

Eager to promote their distinct worldviews, powerful nations like the United States, China and Russia spend billions on international radio, TV and the internet. However, much of this public diplomacy falls on deaf ears.

That’s largely the case for the U.S. government’s most expensive foreign broadcasting effort: the Arabic-language news channel Alhurra.  Since the television station was founded in 2004, the U.S. has sunk close to a billion dollars into it.

Alhurra, based in Springfield, Virginia, has garnered sharp criticism and allegations of mismanagement. But the station's also had some recent successes to point to during the Arab Spring uprisings.  We speak with Philip Seib, lead researcher for a 2008 report on Alhurra and director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California, about the news channel and public diplomacy efforts around the world.