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From WaPo

Al-Hurra — “the Free One” in Arabic — is the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East. Taxpayers have spent $350 million on the project. But more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission.

Beyond all the dingbat problems with Bush-era ‘public diplomacy, this seems like the key point …

According to critics, the U.S. government miscalculated in assuming that al-Hurra could repeat the success of Radio Free Europe during the Cold War, when information-starved listeners behind the Iron Curtain tuned in on their shortwave radios.

Al-Hurra, by contrast, faces cutthroat competition. About 200 other stations beam Arabic-language programming to satellite dishes reaching even the poorest neighborhoods in the Middle East and North Africa. More rivals loom, including an Arabic-language news channel that the BBC is set to launch this year.

Symptomatic of a much broader and more profound failure of comprehension.

Late Update: It turns out that ProPublica, the new non-profit investigative journalism site that is among other things the new home of TPM alum Paul Kiel, also has an extensive new report on the al Hurra trainwreck. It would seem here too there’s plenty of Bush administration failure to go around.

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