Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hi-Ho, It’s Al-Aksa TV


Craig S. Smith’s “Warm and Fuzzy TV, Brought to You by Hamas” describes a new bid by the Palestinian political party/terror group/social-service organization to increase its influence within Palestinian society: a local and, soon, a satellite-broadcast operation called Al-Aksa TV:

The current 12 hours of daily television programming, which has the unfinished look of public-access cable television in the United States, consists primarily of readings from the Koran, religious discourse and discussions of women's issues, such as Islamic fashion, child-rearing tips and the right of women to work, which Hamas supports. It will eventually feature a sort of Islamic MTV, with Hamas-produced music videos using footage from the group's fights with Israeli troops. There will even be a talent search show, a distant echo of "American Idol."

But its biggest star will be Mr. Sharawi, whose radio show for children was the Voice of Al Aksa [radio’s] biggest hit.

That would be Hazim Sharawi, a 27-year-old veteran of Hamas radio who has a way with children:

... Sharawi, whose stage name is Uncle Hazim, is a quiet, doe-eyed young man who has an easy way with children and will soon preside over a children's television show here on which he'll cavort with men in larger-than-life, fake-fur animal suits on the Gaza Strip's newest television station, Al Aksa TV.

But Captain Kangaroo this is not. The station, named for Islam's third holiest site, is owned by Hamas, the people who helped make suicide bombing a household term.

"Our television show will have a message, but without getting into the tanks, the guns, the killing and the blood," said Mr. Sharawi, sitting in the broadcast studio where he will produce his show.

"I will show them our rights through the history," he said, "show them, 'This is Nablus, this is Gaza, this is Al Aksa mosque, which is with the Israelis and should be in our hands.' "

As with yesterday’s post, Hamas takes educating the youth as its starting point.

Interestingly, Hamas needed a broadcast license from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which granted it—either in acknowledgment of Hamas’ increasing influence in the Palestinian Territories or as a belated sign of pluralism from the formerly Arafat-led Fatah.

With increasing TV competition in the region, look for Nielsen ratings—or their eastern Mediterranean equivalents—to become an important proxy for more complex and expensive public-opinion polls.

I’ll be taking some time away in the next few days but will be back in the saddle on Tuesday.

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