Dead Air

Jaffe, Sam
June 2003
New Republic;6/9/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 22, p10
Focuses on the failure of the United States military in Iraq to launch a television network for Iraqis, the Iraqi Media Network (IMN). More than six weeks after Saddam's fall, the United States is lagging behind in the struggle over the airwaves for Iraqi hearts and minds. They are not totally to blame; Iran had a nearby broadcasting infrastructure already set up, while the United States has had to contend with Iraq's lack of electricity and an infrastructure damaged by looters. But the American broadcasting specialists have made things worse by overestimating their goals, planning poorly, ignoring local mores, and squabbling amongst themselves. By the time they get their network going, Tehran's mullahs may have won the public relations war. Armed with a multimillion dollar budget, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) called for a new Iraqi TV station headed by Ahmad Al Rikaby, a former correspondent for Radio Free Iraq, who would lead a staff of technicians and engineers hired before the war. The promises about IMN, American officials say, may have been too ambitious, and, when the station did not quickly launch, Iraqis were left wondering whether the Americans could not deliver. While IMN grasps for its bearings, viewers are growing accustomed to getting news from Iranian television, which denigrates the American presence in Iraq.


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