US-funded Alhurra TV is making inroads in the Middle East after six weeks on the air, according to a survey out today. On average 29 percent of those polled in an early April survey by the French company Ipsos-Stat watch Alhurra, with a low of 18 percent in Egypt and a high of 44 percent in Kuwait.
“Since the launch of Alhurra the big question was whether we would be able to deliver an audience,” said Norman Pattiz, the BBG official in charge of Middle East broadcasts. The figures however “are better than what we expected to see at this early stage of the game,” said Pattiz.
Pattiz and BBG chairman Kenneth Tomlinson acknowledge that the survey is limited: the information is based on a telephone survey of 3,588 households with satellite reception in major cities in Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Jordan. A more in-depth survey is currently being conducted, Tomlinson said. Nevertheless the figures “indicate a trend,” he said.
BBG officials are encouraged by the perceived level of credibility of its newscasts: according to the survey, among viewers 53 percent considered the newscasts ‘very’ or ’somewhat’ reliable, with a high of 70 percent in Saudi Arabia and low of 37 percent in Syria. “Credibility is our product in news and information. If we don’t have that, we’re dead,” Pattiz said.
Alhurra’s mission “is to present US policies accurately,” said Pattiz. The commercial-free broadcasts offer news twice an hour, plus a two-hour main news programme and roundtable discussions on regional issues. But Alhurra also offers “a wide variety of programmes to appeal to people who are not necessarily news junkies,” Pattiz added, including outsourced material such as cooking, health and sports programmes.