Four years ago, the US government had a bright idea: "Let's launch a propaganda-spouting TV news network in the Arab world," the government said. "We'll spend $350 million on it, but we'll staff it with incompetent people, ensure the programming is dull and clumsy, and hopefully create a counterproductive and ill-conceived boondoggle that will go down in history as one of the stupidest 'hearts and minds' campaigns of the new century!" And that's exactly what they did. Except it didn't turn out quite that well.
The Washington Post has a fantastic rundown of the failure of Al-Hurra, the most superfluous station on the Arab television dial. Despite an enormous budget, a succession of non-Arab bosses have succeeded in making it even less impactful than the average propaganda stations. Some highlights:
One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!"...
In 2004, when an Israeli airstrike killed the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, virtually all Arabic news channels interrupted their regular programming. Al-Hurra continued with a cooking show.
Not to worry, though; surveys show Al-Hurra pulling down a solid 2% of the viewing audience, "tied with al-Manar — Hezbollah's satellite propaganda channel." Nice. Maybe because they hired a producer from Casey Kasem's radio show to run the place. Read the entire ridiculous saga at the WP. [UPDATE: Even more on the Al-Hurra fiasco, from ProPublica]